Jay Z and Weinstein Co. to Make Trayvon Martin Film and Documentary Series

Trayvon Martin (photo via variety.com)

article by Justin Kroll and Brent Lang via variety.com

Shawn “Jay Z” Carter and the Weinstein Company are partnering on an ambitious series of film and television projects about Trayvon Martin.  The indie label and the rap icon won a heated bidding war for the rights to two books — “Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It” and “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin.” The 2012 shooting of the 17 year-old Martin sparked a national debate about racial profiling and inequities of the criminal justice system that brought about the Black Lives Matter movement.

The African-American high school student was killed by George Zimmerman, 28, who was a member of the neighborhood watch in his Florida community. He claimed he shot Martin, who was unarmed, in self defense after the two became involved in a physical altercation. Zimmerman’s acquittal on a second-degree murder charge inspired protests around the country.

“Suspicion Nation” is by Lisa Bloom and recounts her experience covering the trial for NBC. She looks at the mistakes made by prosecutors that caused them to lose what she describes as a “winnable case.” “Rest in Power” is by Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. It tells a more personal story, looking at Martin’s childhood and the aftermath of his death.

The plan is to make a six-part docu-series with Jay Z producing as part of a first-look deal he signed with the studio last September. The indie studio will also develop a narrative feature film. The Weinstein Company earned critical raves for “Fruitvale Station,” another true story, about the death of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man who was killed in 2009 by a BART police officer.

To read more: Jay Z to Make Trayvon Martin Film and Documentary Series | Variety

Obamas Make Eight-Figure Book Deal With Penguin Random House

Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama in Washington last year. They plan to donate a portion of the advances for their books to charity. (Credit: Drew Angerer for The New York Times)

article by Alexandra Alter via nytimes.com

Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures.

Robert B. Barnett and Deneen C. Howell of Williams & Connolly represented the Obamas. Penguin Random House acquired world rights to the books, and worldwide sales could be substantial. No decision has been made yet as to which of the company’s major imprints — which include Random House, Doubleday, Alfred A. Knopf and Crown — will publish the books.

Mr. Obama’s previous books were published by Crown, which also published Mrs. Obama’s book “American Green,” about the White House garden. A spokeswoman for Penguin Random House would not say whether the books would be memoirs and referred questions to representatives of the Obamas. Speculation about the Obamas’ books and how much they would sell for have been circulating in the industry in recent weeks, as executives at the top publishing houses met separately with the former president and first lady.

Some publishing executives who followed the bidding process said that the opening offers for Mr. Obama’s book alone were in the $18 million to $20 million range. The publisher plans to donate one million books in the Obama family’s name to First Book, a nonprofit organization that provides books to disadvantaged children, and Open eBooks, the Washington-based partner for the 2016 White House digital education initiative. The Obamas also plan to donate part of their advances to charity, including the Obama Foundation.

To read more, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/28/business/media/obama-book-deal-penguin-random-house.html?_r=0

Columbia University Professor Alondra Nelson to Be Next President of the Social Science Research Council

Columbia professor Alondra Nelson (photo via news.columbia.edu)

Columbia University professor Alondra Nelson (photo via news.columbia.edu)

article via jbhe.com

Alondra Nelson, a professor of sociology and dean of social science at Columbia University in New York City, will be the next president of the Social Science Research Council. Founded in 1923, the Social Science Research Council is an independent, international, nonprofit organization which supports research and development of social scientists. Professor Nelson will serve a five-year term as president of the organization, beginning September 1.

Professor Nelson joined the faculty at Columbia University in 2009 after teaching at Yale University. She is the author of the award-winning book Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) and a co-editor of Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History (Rutgers University Press, 2012) and Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life (New York University Press, 2001). Her most recent book is The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome (Beacon Press, 2016).

Professor Nelson is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of California at San Diego, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She holds a doctoral degree in American studies from New York University.

BOOKS: “Never Caught” Tells Story of Ona Judge, Enslaved Woman who Escaped and Defied President Washington

512y-xth0ilarticle by Jennifer Schuessler via nytimes.com

MOUNT VERNON, Va. — The costumed characters at George Washington’s gracious estate here are used to handling all manner of awkward queries, whether about 18th-century privies or the first president’s teeth. So when a visitor recently asked an African-American re-enactor in a full skirt and head scarf if she knew Ona Judge, the woman didn’t miss a beat.

Judge’s escape from the presidential residence in Philadelphia in 1796 had been “a great embarrassment to General and Lady Washington,” the woman said, before offering her own view of the matter.“Ona was born free, like everybody,” she said. “It was this world that made her a slave.”

It’s always 1799 at Mount Vernon, where more than a million visitors annually see the property as it was just before Washington’s death, when his will famously freed all 123 of his slaves. That liberation did not apply to Ona Judge, one of 153 slaves held by Martha Washington.

But Judge, it turned out, evaded the Washingtons’ dogged (and sometimes illegal) efforts to recapture her, and would live quietly in New Hampshire for another 50 years. Now her story — and the challenge it offers to the notion that Washington somehow transcended the seamy reality of slaveholding — is having its fullest airing yet.  Judge is among the 19 enslaved people highlighted in “Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon,” the first major exhibition at Mount Vernon dedicated to the topic (it runs through 2018, check link above for details).

She is also the subject of a book, “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” by Erica Armstrong Dunbar.

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the author of “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” at George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon, Va. (Credit: Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the author of “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” at George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon, Va. (Credit: Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)

Most scholars who have written about Judge’s escape have used it as a lens onto Washington’s evolving ideas about slavery. But “Never Caught,” published this Tuesday by 37 Ink, flips the perspective, focusing on what freedom meant to the people he kept in bondage. “We have the famous fugitives, like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass,” Ms. Dunbar, a professor of black studies and history at the University of Delaware, said in an interview in Mount Vernon’s 18th-century-style food court. “But decades before them, Ona Judge did this. I want people to know her story.”

Research on slavery has exploded in the two decades since Mount Vernon, Monticello and other founder home sites introduced slavery-themed tours and other prominent acknowledgments of the enslaved. “Lives Bound Together”  was originally going to fill one 1,100-square-foot room in the museum here, but soon expanded to include six other galleries normally dedicated to the decorative and fine arts, books and manuscripts.

An installation about Ona Judge, often referred to by the diminutive Oney, in the exhibition “Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.” (Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)

The exhibition makes it clear just who poured from the elegant teapots and did the backbreaking work on the 8,000-acre estate. But integrating the harsh reality of slavery into the heroic story of Washington — “a leader of character,” as the title of the permanent exhibition across from the slavery show calls him — remains unfinished work, some scholars say. Continue reading

30 of the Most Important Articles by People Of Color in 2016 | The Huffington Post

(photo via huffingtonpost.com)

article by Zeba Blay via huffingtonpost.com

Between the deaths of greats like Prince and Mohammed Ali, the destruction in Aleppo and the circus that was the U.S. presidential election, 2016 was the year of one awful thing after another.

But despite the awfulness, stellar writing by people of color provided clarity, comfort and insight in even the darkest moments this year.

For the second year in a row, we’ve curated a list of essays and articles that defined conversations about race, pop culture, politics and identity in 2016. They cover a wide array of topics, from reactions to the election of Donald Trump, to the huge role young black people play in internet culture, to the genius of James Baldwin. The criteria is simple: all pieces on this list were written by a person of color and published within the last year online.

As a look back, this year-end list is by no means fully comprehensive of all the stellar work written by writers of color in 2016. Feel there’s a glaring omission? Nominate your favorite pieces in the comments. In the meantime, check out these powerful, thought-provoking and entertaining reads from this year:

How Journalists Of Color Plan To Survive Trump’s America
Wilfred Chan, Fusion 
What will it mean to be a journalist in the age of Trump? How will journalists of color get through the next four years? Wilfred Chan writes about the “psychological tax” many journalists of color are forced to pay in order to do the work, and the ways in which continuing to write is not only a form of self-care but also a form of survival.

Black Life And Death In A Familiar America
Eve L. Ewing, Fader
Published in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, Ewing explores the deep racial divides in America by way of Chicago. Using the shooting death of Joshua Beal as a connective thread, Ewing deftly explores the correlations between black death in America and the so-called “rise” of hate.

I Will Never Underestimate White People’s Need To Preserve Whiteness Again
Damon Young, Very Smart Brothas
For many black people in America, the election of Donald Trump felt like a rude awakening, a harsh reminder that the racist wounds of this country go far deeper than any of us wanted to admit to ourselves. The ever-brilliant Damon Young perfectly captured that feeling in this essay for Very Smart Brothas, where he bluntly explains how white supremacy works on a systemic level.

Mourning For Whiteness
Toni Morrison, The New Yorker
Toni Morrison breaks it all the way down in this post-election essay where she quite matter-of-factly calls out the reason that Donald Trump won the presidential election: the fear of losing white privilege. “So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength,”Morrison writes. “These people are not so much angry as terrified.”

What I Said When My White Friend Asked For My Black Opinion On White Privilege
Lori Lakin Hutcherson, The Huffington Post
The concept of “white privilege” is constantly debated, challenged, and questioned, particularly by white people. What is it? Is it even real? And what about “black privilege?” HuffPost contributor Lori Lakin Hutcherson shares her own candid views on the topic of white privilege, and the realities of being black in America today.

Interview With A Woman Who Recently Had An Abortion At 32 Weeks
Jia Tolentino, Jezebel
This brilliant conversation conducted by Jia Tolentino delivers a powerful glimpse into the mind and motivations of one woman after a recent late-term abortion. Thanks to mostly Republican legislators who use rhetoric that implies women who get late-term abortions are just flippantly changing their mind about pregnancy, late-term abortion continues to be widely misunderstood. In a year when there were a myriad of threats against reproductive rights in America, hearing one woman’s very personal story about a complicated pregnancy provides the kind of context we desperately need more of.

My Father’s House
Reggie Ugwu, Buzzfeed
After the death of his brother and the deteriorating health of his father, writer Reggie Ugwu made an important journey of discovery and self-reflection, returning to his ancestral home in Nigeria and helping to take care of his ailing father. Ugwu delves into the Igbo-American identity and experience, capturing the visceral feelings of obligation and grief. On his brother’s death he writes, powerfully: “In the weeks and months after Chidi died, still engulfed in darkness, I felt ready to die, too; by which I mean that losing the person I loved most in the world seemed equivalent to losing the world itself.”

What I Pledge Allegiance To 
Kiese Laymon, The Fader
In the year that Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, and Donald Trump threatened jail-time to flag burners, Kiese Laymon wrote about the concept of pledging allegiance to a country that he doesn’t feel is allegiant to him. One of the most powerful sentences: “I pledge to perpetually reckon with the possibility that there will never be any liberty, peace, and justice for all unless we accept that America, like Mississippi, is not clean.”

Now Is The Time To Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The New Yorker
Celebrated as much for her work as a novelist as she is for her work as an outspoken feminist and activist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie unsurprisingly had one of the best post-election responses this year. Her reaction: in the wake of Trump’s election, we must become even more determined to fight bigotry, rather than to bend in order to accommodate and coddle racist ideology. “Now is the time to confront the weak core at the heart of America’s addiction to optimism,” Adichie writes. “It allows too little room for resilience, and too much for fragility.”

To see complete list, go to: 30 Of The Most Important Articles By People Of Color In 2016 | The Huffington Post

Author Chimamanda Adichie, the New Face of Boots No. 7 Make-Up, Speaks on Black Hair and Redefining Beauty

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (Photo: Boots)

article by  via nymag.com

We probably don’t deserve Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The author and feminist who inspired Beyoncé is now fighting America’s political battles, and man is she good at it.

But that’s not the only hat Adichie’s wearing as of late. She’s also the new face of Boots No. 7 makeup — a British drugstore retailer known for its cult serum that’s a best seller across the pond. (You can purchase the brand in the U.S. at Walgreens.)

The partnership between Boots and Adichie is a match that feels in sync. For years Adichie has been outspoken in asserting that feminism and makeup can co-exist, and the specific campaign she was tapped to lead for Boots hedges on the concept that cosmetics are more than tools to look pretty: They’re vessels to help a woman begin her day. The Cut talked to the author about her foray into the beauty business, the complex relationship she maintains with her hair, and the feminist lesson to be learned from the presidential election.

What frustrates you about the beauty industry? What gives you hope?

The beauty industry is more inclusive than it was ten years ago. There’s a slightly wider range of foundation shades, for example. What I find frustrating is that it should be even more inclusive. The definition of what is beautiful shouldn’t be so narrow. We should have different kinds of women — different body sizes, different shades of skin, and in a way that is consistent, not only occasional.

A note that struck a chord with me in your book Americanah is when Ifemelu, the novel’s protagonist, says, “Hair is the perfect metaphor for race in America.” What did you mean when you wrote that?

Hair is something we see, but we don’t understand what’s behind it, kind of like race. It’s the same way that something seems obvious, but it is really complicated and complex. For example, to see a middle-aged white woman who has highlights is not something everyone in the world necessarily understands, especially if it’s because she struggles to cover her grays. Or if you’re a black women, sometimes the way that your hair grows from your head isn’t considered “professional” by people who don’t know black hair. I don’t think it’s that people are malicious, I think it’s just some people don’t know what the hair that grows from the head of black women actually looks like.

To read full interview, go to: Chimamanda Adichie on Black Hair and Redefining Beauty

Academy Award-Winner Octavia Spencer Produce and Star in Madam C.J. Walker Biopic

Octavia Spencer (photo via

Octavia Spencer (photo via Simon & Schuster)

article by MaryAnn Yin via adweek.com

Zero Gravity Management has optioned A’Lelia Bundles’ 2001 nonfiction book, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker. Bundles is actually the great great granddaughter of Walker.

According to DeadlineOctavia Spencer intends to star and produce a limited series based on Bundles’ biography. Nicole Asher will write the script. Kasi Lemmons has agreed to serve as the director.

Here’s more from The New York Times: “Acutely aware of the lack of diversity in Hollywood on both sides of the camera, Ms. Spencer is determined to make a correction. She has begun optioning books, including one about Madam C. J. Walker, considered the first self-made African-American female millionaire.” (via Shadow and Act)