TECH: Rachel Sibande Founds M-Hub, Malawi’s 1st Technology Incubator

Rachel Sibande (photo via africa.com)

article via africa.com

Rachel Sibande is the founder of M-Hub, Malawi’s first technology hub. It is an incubator for technology startups with a special focus on building young tech entrepreneurs  by offering them training, skills development and mentorship. “M-Hub champions the development of technology solutions as its main lifeline. The hub invests its profits in social good programs that build capacities of children, girls and youth in developing technology applications. Ultimately, M-Hub wants to be the prime software solution provider in the nation and beyond, employing skills of young Malawians.”

Rachel’s interest in technology started in her school days when she found herself playing with different gadgets, radios and anything tech she could find. Later on, she studied computer science at Malawi’s Chancellors College and then sparked off her career as a programmer before diverting into lecturing and teaching. “Growing up I had a passion for gadgets. I was just curious on anything techy. I actually thought I would be a lab scientist. But I guess with time, my passion moved to computers.”

Still filled with a passion to use technology to change lives, Sibande then found herself working with development agencies like USAID, FICA and GIZ. It was around this time when Rachel got involved in rolling out Malawi’s first web-to-SMS service for the Malawi’s smallholder farmer industry. After seeing the impact technology was making in Malawi’s agricultural industry, Rachel then developed a conviction to grow this impact to other sectors.

M-Hub (photo via africa.com)

In 2012, While on a fellowship under Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Programme in the United States, Rachel was introduced to the concept of technology hubs. It was then that the conviction birthed a new vision, an incubator and cutting edge space that would be customized to suit the Malawian context.

“I wanted to see that there was a space where young technology enthusiasts were nurtured with technical and business skills through mentoring and facilitation of the hub and its members,” she recalls in one interview. “Youth are the future change makers and this is why special focus is put on training and mentoring youth entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts. ICT skills can equip young entrepreneurs to become job creators to decrease unemployment. More ICT projects should be coordinated and implemented to improve infrastructure development and I believe once youth are equipped with these skills, they’ll see the vision and they’ll be the driving force behind change and development. It is very important that youth know their potential and are empowered to ensure that the future prosperity of their nation and continent is secured.”

To read more, go to: Meet Rachel Sibande, Malawi’s Innovation Champion – Africa.com

Viola Davis’ JuVee Productions Raising $250M for Content Development, Production & Distribution

Viola Davis and Julius Tennon (photo via shadowandact.com)

article via shadowandact.com

JuVee Productions – the integrated film, television and digital production company created by Viola Davis and her husband, Julius Tennon, is embarking on an effort to raise $250,000,000 in a global expansion plan for the development, production and distribution of diverse and inclusive film and digital content.

The fund will be used to develop, finance, produce and distribute a slate of multiple feature films and branded digital content that will see the relatively young production company expand its footprint globally. “The shift in storytelling should be inclusive and we aim to make it a reality,” says Julius Tennon in a press statement.

Launched in 2012 by Davis and Tennon, JuVee Productions is a Los Angeles-based artist driven production company that develops and produces independent film, television, theater, and digital content across all platforms. JuVee Productions aims to become the go-to creative hub where the next generation of filmmakers and artists have the space to craft dynamic stories spanning the broad spectrum of humanity.

The company’s most recent project is the courtroom drama “Custody” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016, and aired on the Lifetime network last week. The short film “Night Shift” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of this year and continues to tour the film festival circuit.

Upcoming the production company has the film adaptation of “The Personal History of Rachel DuPree” which Davis is starring in; a biopic on Barbara Jordan (the first Southern African American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives), also with Davis starring; and a TV period series set up at ABC titled “The Zipcoders,” set in 1968, about a group of black teenagers form a rock ‘n’ roll band who aspire to be like The Beatles; and there’s also Davis’ Harriet Tubman film with HBO.

To read full article, go to: Viola Davis’ JuVee Productions Raising $250M for Content Development, Production & Distribution – Shadow and Act

USC Professor Raphael Bostic Named 1st African American President of a Federal Reserve Regional Bank

Raphael Bostic (photo via latimes.com)

article by Jim Puzzanghera via latimes.com

USC professor Raphael Bostic made history on Monday when he was named president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, becoming the first African American to lead one of the Fed’s 12 regional banks. The choice of Bostic, 50, director of the Bedrosian Center on Governance at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, comes after members of Congress and advocacy groups have sharply criticized the central bank for a lack of diversity.

They had pushed for a diverse choice to head the Atlanta region, in part because it has a large African American population. Bostic acknowledged the significance of his appointment, which he said “is a very big deal” that made him the answer to a “Jeopardy” question.

“It’s not lost on me that I …am the first African American to lead a Federal Reserve institution,” he said in a short video released by the Atlanta Fed. “It’s kind of daunting. It’s an overwhelming thought. It’s a tremendous privilege.” “I look forward to this being a stepping stone for many others to have this opportunity as well,” Bostic said.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), who was among four prominent African American House members who urged a diverse choice for the Atlanta position, hailed Bostic as an “outstanding choice” and called his selection a “long-awaited first step towards building diversity among the Federal Reserve’s senior leadership.”

Bostic’s appointment was approved by the Atlanta Fed’s board of directors and the Board of Governors in Washington. He will take over on June 5, succeeding Dennis Lockhart, who announced his resignation in September and stepped down on Feb. 28.

The job involves overseeing about 1,700 employees in the Atlanta region — Alabama, Florida, Georgia and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee — and participating in monetary policy deliberations in Washington.

To read full article, go to: USC professor named first African American president of a Fed regional bank – LA Times

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

Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’ Debuts at Top of Weekend Box Office With $30.5 Million

“Get Out” (photo courtesy of Universal)

article by Brent Lang via Variety.com

“Get Out,” a trenchant horror film about race relations, rode critical raves to a smashing box office debut. The low-budget film was the weekend’s top-grossing domestic release, earning $30.5 million, and propelling its director and writer Jordan Peele atop Hollywood’s A-list.

The film, which centers on a black man who discovers that his girlfriend’s liberal, lily-white hometown is guarding a sinister secret, marks a departure for Peele, best-known for his work on the Comedy Central series “Key & Peele.” It proves he can handle scares, as well as laughs, supplying sly social commentary in both genres.

“Get Out” also extends Blumhouse Productions’ hot hand. The film company scored earlier this year with “Split,” a thriller about a man with a personality disorder that racked up $130.8 million stateside on a $9 million budget. Universal distributed, marketed, and partnered on both movies.“It’s entertaining, it’s thought-provoking, and it’s subversive,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution chief.  “I have seen [‘Get Out’] play with audiences. They enjoy themselves and they’re telling their friends.”

It wasn’t just word-of-mouth that accounted for the robust opening. “Get Out” benefited from being embraced by reviewers, earning a rare 100% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the likes of the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern hailing its “explosive brilliance” and the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis praising it as “exhilaratingly smart.” The last horror film to receive that type of unanimous praise was Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” in 1965.

To read more, go to: Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’ Dominates Box Office With $30.5 Million Debut | Variety

Google Pledges $11.5M to Organizations that Fight Racial Bias in Criminal Justice System

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Dr. Phil Goff, co-founder and president of the Center for Policing Equity. (photo via usatoday.com)

article by  via usatoday.com

SAN FRANCISCO — Google is handing out $11.5 million in grants to organizations combating racial disparities in the criminal justice system, double what it has given so far. And, in keeping with a company built on information, the latest wave of grants target organizations that crunch data to pinpoint problems and propose solutions.

“There is significant ambiguity regarding the extent of racial bias in policing and criminal sentencing,” says Justin Steele, principal with Google.org, the Internet giant’s philanthropic arm. “We must find ways to improve the accessibility and usefulness of information.”  Among the organizations receiving funds from Google.org is the Center for Policing Equity, a national research center that collaborates with police departments and the communities they serve to track statistics on law enforcement actions, from police stops to the use of force.

In addition to the grant of $5 million, Google engineers will put their time and skills to work on improving the center’s national database.”It’s hard to measure justice,” says Phillip Atiba Goff, the center’s co-founder and president. “In policing, data are so sparse and they are not shared broadly. The National Justice Database is an attempt to measure justice so that people who want to do the right thing can use that metric to lay out a GPS for getting where we are trying to go. That’s really what we see Google as being a key partner in helping us do.”

Like other major technology companies, Google is trying to address the racial imbalance in the demographics of its workforce. Hispanics make up 3% of Google employees and African Americans 2%. In 2015, Google gave $2.35 million to community organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area tackling systemic racism in America’s criminal justice, prison and educational systems.

Four more grants totaling $3 million followed in 2016, including $1 million to Bryan Stevenson and his nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative to push America to confront its violent racial history including lynchings. The latest round of grants again put Google in the thick of a national conversation on race prompted by the police shooting deaths and mass incarceration of African Americans.

To read full article, go to: Google pledges $11.5M to fight racial bias in policing, sentencing

“Get Out” Writer/Director Jordan Peele Signs 1st-Look Deal With Sonar Entertainment

Jordan Peele (photo via Variety.com)

article by Oriana Schwindt via Variety.com

Jordan Peele has just signed a first-look deal with Sonar Entertainment for his production company, Monkeypaw Productions. The agreement encompasses all content for television, including digital. The news comes just ahead of the premiere of Peele’s feature directorial debut with horror film “Get Out,” which is already earning rave reviews.

Peele and Keegan-Michael Key created and performed in the Emmy-winning sketch series “Key & Peele,” which concluded a five-season run on Comedy Central in 2015. “Jordan Peele is one of the brightest stars in our business — a true hyphenate — actor, writer, producer and director. We are excited to partner with him and Monkeypaw,” said Sonar CEO Thomas Lesinski.

“I am thrilled to partner with the incredible folks at Sonar Entertainment as they are committed to truly elevated quality content. Especially now as I move into this next chapter in television, my aim is to help develop untapped voices as well as my own dream shows, and continue to push the boundaries of television,” Peele said.

Monkeypaw Productions was founded by Peele in 2012.  In TV, Monkeypaw produced “Key & Peele” and is also behind Tracy Morgan’s TBS comedy series, which is set for production later this year.

To read more, go to: Jordan Peele Inks First-Look Deal With Sonar Entertainment | Variety