Category: Commemorations

Non-Verbal High School Student Ahmed Ali Makes History by Giving Graduation Speech With Voice Tech (WATCH)

The Good News Network recently highlighted the story of Ahmed Ali, 21, a non-verbal student who has been attending the Minneapolis Public School system’s Transitions Plus Program for the last three years.

Ali was chosen to give a commencement address this year, making history with it by using speech software he helped develop with a speech pathologist to deliver words he composed on his own to his appreciative audience.

I am going to give free wisdom to the graduates… you will achieve a lot of amazing things with or without disabilities. Without a doubt. Secondly, life is basically a marathon. As human beings, we are running a relay race,” said Ali via his device. “The track is your life. Every time you achieve something you pass the baton to the next person. Guess who you are passing the baton to? It’s you. Each stage of your life you are passing it to a new you. It’s not the end of the line for you, but it’s a new you in our beautiful world.

KARE11 posted video of highlights from Ali’s software-delivered speech. Watch below:

Spike Lee’s ‘Do The Right Thing’ Returns to Theaters to Celebrate 30th Anniversary on June 28

According to deadline.comUniversal Pictures plans to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Spike Lee’s groundbreaking and still-topical film Do the Right Thing with a re-mastered 4K restoration that will hit theaters June 28.

In partnership with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and the Criterion Collection, the re-release will include one-week engagements as well as single-day showtimes June 30 at select AMC, Regal Cinemas, Cinemark, and Alamo Drafthouse theaters. There also will be 35mm screenings at select theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin and Brookline, MA.

“When Spike Lee’s revolutionary Do the Right Thing was released by Universal Pictures 30 years ago this June, it ignited a national conversation on race and race relations in America that challenged our assumptions about ourselves and our country and heralded the arrival of a generation-defining filmmaker,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s President of Domestic Theatrical Distribution.

Set during one sweltering summer day on a block of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, the film follows the interactions among neighborhood characters Mookie (Lee), Sal (Danny Aiello), Da Mayor (Ossie Davis), Mother Sister (Ruby Dee), Mister Señor Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson), Tina (Rosie Perez), Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito), Jade (Joie Lee), Pino (John Turturro) and Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn). Tensions rise as demands for a black person’s photo be added to the Italians-only Wall of Fame at Sal’s Pizzeria create heated confrontations that ultimately explode into police-instigated violence.

Public Enemy recorded the film’s anthem “Fight The Power,” which remains an influential hip-hop classic to this day (see video below). Lee earned an Original Screenplay Oscar nomination for the film, and Aiello earned a Supporting Actor nod.  On July 23, the Criterion Collection also will celebrate the 30th anniversary with a Blu-ray/DVD release of a director-approved definitive edition featuring the new 4K restoration.

Hip Hop Legend Christopher Wallace aka Notorious B.I.G. to be Honored With Street Naming in Brooklyn on June 10

(Image via Strategic Heights Media)

The Christopher Wallace Memorial Foundation will host the official street naming ceremony of Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace Way to celebrate Brooklyn’s Notorious B.I.G., one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time.

Voletta Wallace, Faith Evans, B.I.G.’s children T’Yanna Wallace and Christopher Wallace, representatives of the Christopher Wallace Memorial Foundation, members of the city council, and more will be present for the ceremony. Music will be provided by Hot 97’s DJ Enuff.

WHEN:                 Monday, June 10, 2019, 12-2pm EST

WHERE:               Corner of St. James Place and Fulton Street
                               Brooklyn, NY 11238

Universities Partner to Produce the Official Oral History of Barack Obama’s Presidency

President Barack Obama is photographed during a presidential portrait sitting for an official photo in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza via commons.wikipedia.org)

The Obama Foundation has selected the Columbia Center for Oral History Research to produce the official oral history of Barack Obama’s presidency, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

The project will provide a comprehensive, enduring record of the decisions, actions, and effects of his historic administration. The University of Hawai’i and the University of Chicago will also serve as contributing partners for the project, documenting Obama’s early life in Hawaii and his years in Chicago, respectively.

“Michelle Obama famously observed, ‘You can’t really understand Barack until you understand Hawai’i,’” said University of Hawai’i President David Lassner. “UH and our extraordinary Center for Oral History are looking forward to exploring those early days with those who were part of President Obama’s story.”

“We are pleased to collaborate with Columbia on this exciting project,” said University of Chicago faculty members Adam Green and Jacqueline Stewart in a joint statement. “The stories of Michelle and Barack Obama are intertwined with the story of Chicago and the South Side in particular. We look forward to contributing to that historic narrative, with a focus on how their city helped to shape them as civic leaders.”

Starting this summer and over the next five years, the Obama Presidency Oral History Project will conduct interviews with some 400 people, including senior leaders and policy makers within the Obama administration, as well as elected officials, campaign staff, journalists, and other key figures outside the White House.

The project will also incorporate interviews with individuals representing different dimensions of daily American life, whose perspectives will enable the archive to include how the general public was affected by the Obama administration’s decisions. Additionally, the research team will collect information about Michelle Obama’s work and legacy as First Lady.

“We are honored to document the legacy of President Obama. Our goal is to set a new benchmark for presidential oral histories in terms of the diversity and breadth of narratives assembled and depth of understanding achieved,” said Mary Marshall Clark, director of the Columbia Center for Oral History Research and a project co-investigator. “Central to our project is a commitment to candidly document the stories of key administration alumni and bring them into conversation with the varied experiences of Americans from all walks of life.”

In addition to hosting the project, Columbia has announced the formation of the Obama Presidency Oral History Advisory Board, composed of leading presidential historians, authors, and scholars who can speak to how the Obama administration affected the lives of those inside and outside of Washington D.C.

To read more: https://www.jbhe.com/2019/06/universities-partner-to-produce-the-official-oral-history-of-barack-obamas-presidency/

Sonita Alleyne Elected 1st Black Master at a College of the University of Cambridge in England

Jesus College Master Soniat Alleyne (photo by Damian Paul Daniel via jesus.cam.ac.uk)

Sonita Alleyne was recently elected as master of Jesus College at the University of Cambridge in England, according to jbhe.com. The title of master is the equivalent of dean in the United States.

Alleyne will be the first woman and the first Black person to lead the college, which was established in 1496. She will also be the first Black master at either the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge.

For the 300 years from 1560 to 1860, Jesus College was primarily a training college for Church of England clergy. It experienced major growth in the last half of the nineteenth century due to growing demand for university education from the expanding Victorian professional and middle classes.

On the announcement of her election, Sonita Alleyne response is quoted from the Jesus College web page:

It is an honour to be elected to lead Jesus College and I’m looking forward to becoming part of such an energetic and innovative community. Having met many Fellows, students and staff in recent weeks, I was struck by the positive and forward-looking ethos shared across the College.

“In addition to the outstanding education, the cross-disciplinary work and evident passion for arts, culture and sport I have seen at Jesus is impressive. Supporting the work of the College to widen access and participation to all that it offers promises to be incredibly rewarding. I left Cambridge thirty years ago, but it never left me. I am delighted to be returning.

Alleyne was born in in Bridgetown, Barbados, but grew up in East London. She is the director and founder of the Yes Programme, an online careers information scheme which gives school pupils an insight into how classroom skills translate to real world careers.

Her current non-executive posts include chair of the British Board of Film Classification, director of the Cultural Capital Fund, governor of the Museum of London and member of the Skills for Londoners Business Partnership Members Group – advising the Mayor of London on improving skills provision to meet the capital’s needs.

Previous board roles include the National Employment Panel, BBC Trust, London Skills and Employment Board, chair of the Radio Sector Skills Council, non-executive director of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and member of the Court of Governors at the University of the Arts London.

Alleyne holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Cambridge.

Lonnie Bunch, Founding Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, to Become New Secretary of Smithsonian

Lonnie G. Bunch, III, Founding Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, moderates a panel on the “Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement: Views from the Front Line” at the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library. (Photo by Lauren Gerson via commons.wikipedia.org)

Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), was appointed the new Secretary of the Smithsonian on Tuesday. According to dcist.com, Bunch is the fourteenth person to hold the position in the Smithsonian’s 173-year history, and the first African American.

As Secretary, Bunch will manage the administration of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, 21 libraries, and the National Zoo. He is also responsible for its $1.5 billion annual budget. Bunch succeeds David J. Skorton, who announced his resignation in December.

“Lonnie has spent 29 years of his life dedicated to the Smithsonian, so he knows the institution inside and out,” said David Rubenstein, the chair of the Smithsonian Board of Regents on Tuesday. The Board met at the Supreme Court earlier in the day unanimously elected Bunch as Secretary.

“He’s also highly regarded by members of Congress and highly respected by our donor base,” Rubenstein added, while also citing Bunch’s “incredible character” and his leadership of the NMAAHC as major assets.

“You’re going to make a historian cry,” Bunch said when he spoke at Tuesday’s press conference. “This is an emotional moment, because the Smithsonian means so much to me personally and professionally.”

Bunch was the first curator for the California African American Museum in Los Angeles in the 1980s and previously served as president and director of the Chicago History Museum from 2000 to 2005. In 2005, Bunch came to the Smithsonian to steward NMAAHC from conception. He shepherded both the David Adjaye-designed structure, did tireless fundraising, and helped build up and curate the museum’s collection from scratch.

The museum has been such a huge success that tickets are still largely required more than two years after opening, with visitors staying for hours longer than at other facilities. In its first year of operation, NMAAHC welcomed nearly 2.4 million visitors and was the fourth-most visited Smithsonian institution.

“It tells the unvarnished truth,” Bunch told DCist on the one-year anniversary of the museum’s opening. “I think there are people who were stunned that a federal institution could tell the story with complexity, with truth, with tragedy, and sometimes resilience.”

Over his tenure, Bunch and his team of curators made it a point to continue building a collection for the museum’s future, including acquiring artifacts from the Black Lives Matter movement, and to integrate D.C.’s own rich history into the fabric of the museum.

Read more: https://dcist.com/story/19/05/28/the-smithsonians-next-secretary-will-be-lonnie-bunch-the-head-of-the-african-american-history-museum/

Historic Shelley House in St. Louis Gets Official Recognition on New U.S. Civil Rights Trail

When J.D. Shelley and Ethel Shelley attempted to buy this house at 4600 Labadie Avenue in St. Louis in 1948, they were told it could not be sold to blacks. Their fight went to the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in a ruling that struck down racial covenants in housing. (Photo: FrancisNancy via commons.wikipedia.org)

The historic “Shelley House” at 4600 Labadie Avenue in St. Louis was dedicated yesterday by the National Park Service as Missouri’s first official site on the new U.S. Civil Rights Trail. U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay and Aurelia Skipwith, deputy assistant Secretary of Interior, headlined the event.

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail, created by legislation written by Clay, aims to preserve significant places that had critical roles in the civil rights movement in the United States.

The Shelley House was at the center of the U.S. Supreme Court decision (Shelley v. Kraemer) which struck down restrictive racial covenants in housing in 1948. The nationally impactful decision pitted J.D. and Ethel Shelley, a black couple who wanted to buy the house, against Louis and Fern Kraemer, white neighbors who tried to keep them out.

Other notables in attendance were St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, St. Louis NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt, and members of the Shelley family.

Source: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/columns/joe-holleman/historic-civil-rights-house-in-st-louis-gets-official-u/article_2c7013a7-11db-511e-8955-80d61b1e85cf.html

Physicist Walter E. Massey to Receive Vannevar Bush Award from National Science Foundation For Contributions to Public Service and Technology

Walter E. Massey (Credit: Bree Witt/School of the Art Institute of Chicago)

The National Science Board (NSB) recently announced that Dr. Walter E. Massey will receive the prestigious Vannevar Bush Award. The award honors science and technology leaders who have made substantial contributions to the welfare of the nation through public service in science, technology, and public policy.

Dr. Massey will receive the Vannevar Bush Award on May 14 at the National Science Foundation Annual Awards Ceremony held in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Massey, chairman of Giant Magellan Telescope Organization and president emeritus of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Morehouse College, is being recognized for his exceptional lifelong leadership in science and technology. The range of institutions he has led with distinction is astonishing — from physics, to public policy, to public and private boards, to college president.

Walter Massey’s breadth of contributions and remarkable leadership in science, technology, and education are unparalleled,” said Kent Fuchs, chair of the NSB’s Committee on Honorary Awards. “Walter has dedicated his life to serving our citizens. Through his training in mathematics and physics, and his determined and extraordinary leadership, he has narrowed the gap between science and society with an immeasurable and lasting impact on our nation.”

Dr. Massey is a graduate of Morehouse College where he studied theoretical physics. He holds a Ph.D. in physics from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Two overarching principles have inspired Massey’s notable career — that science and technology are necessary to sustain the nation’s quality of life and the standard of living of its citizens; and that the general public’s understanding of science and technology is a critical component of a democratic society.

Guided by these principles for more than half a century, Massey has worked to strengthen applied research capacity and science education in the United States and to increase the representation of minorities and women in science and technology. Continue reading “Physicist Walter E. Massey to Receive Vannevar Bush Award from National Science Foundation For Contributions to Public Service and Technology”

Author Toni Morrison and Curator Thelma Golden to Receive 2019 Awards from American Academy of Arts and Letters

Toni Morrison and Thelma Golden (photos via artsandletters.org)

The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced the recipients of its highest honors for excellence in the arts, to be presented at its annual ceremony in May. Toni Morrison will be awarded the Gold Medal for Fiction. The Gold Medal is awarded to those who have achieved eminence in an entire body of work.

Thelma Golden will be recognized with the Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts for her significant contribution as Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Sculptor Lee Bontecou will also be honored this year.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. Early members included Henry James, Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton. The Academy’s 250 members are elected for life and pay no dues.

In addition to electing new members as vacancies occur, the Academy seeks to foster and sustain an interest in Literature, Music, and the Fine Arts by administering over 70 awards and prizes, exhibiting art and manuscripts, funding performances of new works of musical theater, and purchasing artwork for donation to museums across the country. This year’s total expenditures on awards and grants will be $1.2 million. Continue reading “Author Toni Morrison and Curator Thelma Golden to Receive 2019 Awards from American Academy of Arts and Letters”

Sylvia Rhone Rises from President to Chairman & CEO of Epic Records

Sylvia Rhone (photo via twitter.com)

According to Variety.com, Sony Music Entertainment announced today the promotion of Sylvia Rhone to Chairman and CEO of Epic Records. In this role, Rhone will lead the overall creative direction and management of Epic Records, overseeing Epic’s roster of hit-making artists such as Travis Scott, Future, Camila Cabello, 21 Savage, Meghan Trainor, DJ Khaled, and French Montana

Rhone has been President of Epic Records since 2014, and since then has overseen projects including Scott’s 2018 best-selling album “Astroworld”; Camila Cabello’s debut album “Camila” and the smash single “Havana,” as well as music from Future, 21 Savage and others.

“I am excited to continue my amazing journey at Epic Records supported by Rob Stringer’s vision and leadership,” stated Rhone. “Everything we do is a testament to our incredible artists who set the bar of the entire Epic culture, inspiring our dedicated executive team every day and enriching the legacy of this great label.”

Before joining Sony Music, Rhone was President of Universal Motown Records and Executive Vice President at Universal Records from 2004. From 1994-2004, Rhone was Chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group’s Elektra Entertainment Group, the first African American woman to be named Chairman of a major record company, where she oversaw releases from artists such as Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Metallica, Staind, Third Eye Blind, Tracy Chapman, and Natalie Merchant. Rhone began her career at Buddah Records in 1974, a label best-known for its Gladys Knight and the Pips albums. 

Rhone is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania‘s well-regarded Wharton Business School. She received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music on April 5, 2019, in recognition of her achievements as a leading female music executive who has headed labels multiple times during her career.