Musician Nina Simone passed away in 2003 at 70 years old, but her legacy survives. A 2015 documentary on her life, What Happened, Miss Nina Simone?, received an Oscar nomination and her influence has touched everyone from Lauryn Hill to Mary J. Blige.
Now the icon is receiving a huge honor. Her childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina will be designated a national treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Her home is now a vacant wooden cottage with three rooms and measuring 660-square feet. The house was put on the market in 2016 and was recently purchased by four Black artists to maintain Simone’s legacy. One, Adam Pendleton, said in a press release, “Last year, my fellow artists and I felt an urgent need to rescue Nina Simone’s childhood home—a need sprung from a place of political activism as well as civic duty.” He continued, “A figure like Nina Simone—an African American woman from a small town in North Carolina who became the musical voice of the Civil Rights Movement—is extraordinarily relevant to artists working today. She constantly expressed her commitment to the democratic values our country espouses by demanding that we live up to them. We are honored to partner with the National Trust to further protect her legacy.”
Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a press release, “Nina Simone’s distinctive voice and social critique in the mid-20th century was unlike anything America had ever heard before. And while her musical and social justice legacy burns bright, her childhood home has been neglected. We’re delighted to work with the home’s new owners and the local community to chart a new future for the property that will honor her tremendous contributions to American society and inspire new generations of artists and activists to engage with her legacy.”
As the Civil War came to a close in 1865, a number of people remained enslaved, especially in remote areas. Word of slavery’s end traveled slowly, and for those who were largely isolated from Union armies, life continued as if freedom did not exist.
This was especially the case in Texas, where thousands of slaves were not made aware of freedom until June 19, 1865, when Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and issued an order officially freeing them. Their celebration would serve as the basis of June 19 — or Juneteenth — a holiday celebrating emancipation in the US.
Ironically, while Juneteenth has become the most prominent Emancipation Day holiday in the US, it commemorates a smaller moment that remains relatively obscure. It doesn’t mark the signing of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which technically freed slaves in the rebelling Confederate states, nor does it commemorate the December 1865 ratification of the 13th Amendment, which enshrined the end of slavery into the Constitution. Instead, it marks the moment when emancipation finally reached those in the deepest parts of the former Confederacy.
In many ways, Juneteenth represents how freedom and justice in the US has always been delayed for black people. The decades after the end of the war would see a wave of lynching, imprisonment, and Jim Crow laws take root. What followed was the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration, discriminatory housing policies, and a lack of economic investment. And now, as national attention remain focused on acts of police violence and various racial profiling incidents, it is clear that while progress has been made in black America’s 150 years out of bondage, considerable barriers continue to impede that progress.
Those barriers may remain until America truly begins to grapple with its history. “There are those in this society that still hold on to the idea that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, it was about states’ rights or Northern aggression against slavery,” says Karlos Hill, a professor of African and African-American studies at the University of Oklahoma and the author of Beyond the Rope: The Impact of Lynching on Black Culture and Memory. “Juneteenth is a moment where we step back and try to understand the Civil War through the eyes of enslaved people.
I spoke with Hill recently about the history of Juneteenth, why the push to make it a national holiday matters, and how commemorating the holiday could bring America closer to truly embracing its ideals of freedom and equality for all.
Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you tell me a bit about the history of Juneteenth and what the holiday commemorates?
In the United States, we do not have a commemoration for the emancipation of 4 million enslaved people. We simply have not commemorated that monumental moment.
Juneteenth is a holiday, or commemoration meant to celebrate word of emancipation finally coming to a group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas. It commemorates this group of slaves who learned that they had been emancipated months earlier. The holiday is meant to commemorate the emancipation of 4 million slaves, but particularly the small handful who weren’t aware that emancipation had come months earlier. Continue reading “Why Celebrating Juneteenth is More Important Now Than Ever”→
June 14 (UPI) — A Ugandan inventor has won the Royal Academy of Engineering‘s prestigious Africa Prize for developing a method of testing for malaria without drawing blood.
Brian Gitta, 24, became the prize’s youngest winner Wednesday after he and his team developed Matibabu, or “medical center” in Swahili, the Royal Academy of Engineering said in a statement.
Gitta’s low-cost, reusable invention clips onto a patient’s finger and provides a result within 60 seconds on a mobile phone. A red beam shines through the user’s finger to detect changes in shape, color and concentration of red blood cells — all of which are affected by malaria.
“We are very proud of this year’s winner. It’s a perfect example of how engineering can unlock development — in this case by improving healthcare,” Africa Prize judge Rebecca Enonchong said. “Matibabu is simply a game-changer.”
Shafik Sekitto, a member of the Matibabu team, told BBC News Gitta came up with the idea for a bloodless test after it once took four normal blood tests for medics to diagnose him with malaria — the leading cause of death in Uganda. “[Gitta] brought up the idea: ‘Why can’t we find a new way of using the skills we have found in computer science, of diagnosing a disease without having to prick somebody?” Sekitto said.
Gitta won more than $33,000 as the first-place winner at a ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya, where Africa Prize judges and a live audience voted for the most promising engineering innovation. Three runners-up won more than $13,000 each. “We are incredibly honored to win the Africa Prize — it’s such a big achievement for us, because it means that we can better manage production in order to scale clinical trials and prove ourselves to regulators,” Gitta said.
“The recognition will help us open up partnership opportunities — which is what we need most at the moment.”
The award, founded by Britain’s Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014, is Africa’s biggest prize for engineering innovation.
Father. Dad. Daddy. Papa. Pop. There are many different words we use to define one of the most important men in our lives. More than the disciplinarian. More than the one that wore hats and ties. More than “the fixer.” Along with mom, he’s the one who taught you how to be you…and as well as the true value of being you.
Black men, we celebrate you. Not just on Father’s Day, but every day. Here’s some of the things the precious men in our lives have taught us…
Be yourself. It’s up to you to define who you are. Don’t let anyone tell you what specific things you can or can’t do because you’re a man or a woman. If you want to be a surgeon, go for it. If you want to cook, cook. If you want to build something, be careful and don’t hit your finger with the hammer. If something needs to be cleaned, clean. Do you.
Handle your business, no excuses, no explanations. Being a truly great human being can mean many things, but having excuses is not one of them. Always be responsible.
Give and it shall be given. You need to be resourceful, and one of the most valuable resources are people. Rewarding people what they’re worth is key.
Try. Try. Try. It’s not always easy, but don’t give up doing the things you love to do. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, follow your heart and take pride in doing the things that bring you joy.
There is great value in a hard day’s work. Many children remember their fathers getting up early, working 6 days a week, always taking great pride in making a living. Years later, these are the children that rarely complain when they’re at work…because they remember that Dad always worked harder.
Education is key. You cannot put a price tag on a good education. Don’t settle for anything less than this. It’s something that no one can ever take away from you.
Be there for your children. Of all the things that kids remember the most about their fathers, things like money and fancy gifts aren’t generally at the top of the list. More valuable to them are those times Dad took them to the park, taught them something new, or simply took the time to spend some time with them.
It’s never too late to do what you want to do. Always try your very best to follow your heart and your dreams. Maybe it’ll hit you later in life what you really want to do. There’s nothing wrong with this. Just make sure you go for it.
Procrastination is a thief of time. Why put it off tomorrow? That is, unless you happen to have a time machine.
Having God on your team means you have the greatest teammate. No matter how tough life gets, having a relationship with God can help move mountains.
Have fun, go out…but not every night. Going out with friends and having fun is great. But don’t…
… be that guy/girl that’s out every single night. You’ll save money, people will have a better opinion of you, and when you do go out, those times will feel more special and you’re more likely to have more fun.
Always put something away for a rainy day. Save, save, save. Don’t just spend everything. There will come a time when you will be thankful that you did.
Never forget the beauty of being a kid. Things like working and saving money are essential and important things. But so is keeping a tight hold on your sense of fun, not taking yourself too seriously, and never losing the ability to just let go and be silly sometimes.
London Breed became the first African-American woman elected to lead San Francisco on Wednesday, when her opponent conceded a tight race.
Breed will serve until 2020, finishing the term of the late Mayor Ed Lee, who died in December at age 65. At a short news conference, Breed praised Lee and thanked her supporters, as well as the other candidates, including Mark Leno, a former state senator who conceded the race hours earlier. She struck an optimistic tone about the city’s future.
“I am London Breed, I am president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and soon to be mayor of the city and county of San Francisco,” she said to cheers. Breed continued, “I am so hopeful about the future of our city, and I am looking forward to serving as your mayor. I am truly humbled and I am truly honored.”
‘Remarkable young woman’
Earlier on Wednesday, Leno called Breed to congratulate her. “She is a remarkable young woman,” Leno said. “She is going to do a very fine job and we all wish her the best because her success is San Francisco’s success.” Leno and Breed, both Democrats, faced off in a primary election held June 5. At one point, Leno pulled ahead in the count, but as more ballots were tallied, Breed took the lead.
With the results neck-and-neck, the San Francisco Department of Elections began counting nearly 14,000 provisional ballots this week. The San Francisco Department of Elections must still process more than 1,100 ballots cast under Conditional Voter Registration.
‘You can do anything you want to do’
Breed referenced her humble beginnings in her news conference. Born in San Francisco, Breed was raised by her grandmother in the city’s public housing and attended public schools. She worked as an executive director of the African American Art and Culture Complex for over a decade, before becoming involved in public office, according to her biography.
Breed said her grandmother “probably had a hand in this, looking down from the heavens.” Her grandmother “took care of the community. She took care of me even on days when I didn’t deserve it,” Breed said.
When asked to reflect on the milestone of being the first African-American woman to be the city’s mayor, she said: “It’s really amazing, and it’s really an honor … I know it means so much to so many people.”
“I’m a native San Franciscan — I grew up in some of the most challenging of circumstances,” she said. “I think the message that this sends to the next generation of young people growing up in this city, that no matter where you come from … you can do anything you want to do.”
Akosua Haynes, 10, wrote a letter to Margot Lee Shetterly, author of “Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race,” letting Shetterly know her book solidified Akosua’s decision to become a NASA astronaut.
Rylee Paige Johnson, 13, wrote a letter to Gabrielle Zevin, author of “Elsewhere,” thanking Zevin for helping her heal after the sudden death of her mother.
The letters — each a thing of beauty — were part of a Library of Congress writing contest that invites fourth- through 12th-graders to write to authors and let them know the impact of their work. Close to 47,000 students from across the United States entered this year’s contest, which began a quarter-century ago.
Out of those tens of thousands of letters, Akosua and Rylee each brought home first place wins. Akosua, a fifth-grader at St. Thomas the Apostle School in Hyde Park, won the fourth- through sixth-grade division, and Rylee, a seventh-grader at Dwight D. Eisenhower Junior High School in Hoffman Estates, won the seventh- and eighth-grade division.
Their letters are night and day — one born of sorrow, the other born of joy. But they share an authenticity and richness that speaks to the ability of books to guide us through life’s various triumphs and travails.
“One night my siblings and parents were in the living room watching our favorite show,” Rylee wrote to Zevin. “A commercial came on so I got up to make cookies in the kitchen. Then my oldest sister, Sydney, started whispering, ‘Mom? Mom?’ No answer. I looked over to see my dad standing over a shaking body. ‘I’m calling 911!’ She had had an aneurysm and wasn’t waking up. I spent those few days in that hospital room listing all the things I did wrong and what I would change once she woke up. She never did.”
In “Elsewhere,” 15-year-old Liz ends up in an Earth-like place called Elsewhere after being hit and killed by a taxi. From there, she watches the world she used to inhabit.
“Liz tortured herself by going to the observation decks to see her old life every day,” Rylee wrote. “She sat there watching her best friend being happy without her. She watched everyone move on. Everyone except Liz. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I didn’t want to become a ghost person living in the past.”
Rylee said the letter to Zevin was the first time she’d written at length about losing her mom, who passed away in December 2016.
“Last year, I wrote some poems and random paragraphs, but not anything like a full piece of writing,” she told me last week. “I don’t think I was ready before to put it down on paper because things are so much more real when you put them on paper.”
In her letter, Rylee told Zevin that “Elsewhere’s” theme of acceptance really struck her.
“Liz took some time learning how to move on from the life she used to know,” she wrote. “She was stuck. Thandi, her roommate, had no problem at all. From the start she said there was no point being sad at what she couldn’t change. I read that, wishing my heart could catch up like Thandi’s did in two pages. But everyone takes their own time to keep their mind and soul in sync. Knowing that my mom wasn’t coming back home was difficult to even imagine. I had to accept that life would go on without her, but only if I moved on.
“I wanted to live my life and not wait for it to be over,” Rylee wrote. “Thank you for a world where my own mother can see me writing this letter from an observation deck. Thank you for the idea that once I leave this world, I will return. Thank you for the lessons I couldn’t live without, and the book I won’t forget.”
“My papers reflect 50 years of involvement in activist and scholarly collaborations seeking to expand the reach of justice in the world,” Davis said in a statement. “I am very happy that at the Schlesinger Library they will join those of June Jordan, Patricia Williams, Pat Parker, and so many other women who have been advocates of social transformation.”
Jane Kamensky, Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library, sees the collection yielding “prize-winning books for decades as people reckon with this legacy and put [Davis] in conversation with other collections here and elsewhere.”
When looking for new material, Kamensky said the library seeks collections “that will change the way that fields know what they know,” adding that she expects the Davis archive to inspire and inform scholars across a range of disciplines.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. said that he’s followed Davis’ life and work ever since spotting a “Free Angela” poster on the wall at his Yale dorm. Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor, has worked to increase the archival presence of African-Americans who have made major contributions to U.S. society, politics, and culture. He called the Davis papers “a marvelous coup for Harvard.”
“She’s of enormous importance to the history of political thought and political activism of left-wing or progressive politics and the history of race and gender in the United States since the mid-’60s,” said Gates, who directs the Hutchins Center. “No one has a more important role, and now scholars will be able to study the arc of her thinking, the way it evolved and its depth, by having access to her papers.”
The acquisition is in keeping with the library’s efforts to ensure its collections represent a broad range of life experiences. In 2013 and 2014 an internal committee developed a diverse wish list, “and a foundational thinker and activist like Angela Davis was very naturally at the top,” said Kamensky.
INSTITUTE, W.Va. (AP) — Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician whose calculations helped astronauts return to Earth, is being honored at her alma mater West Virginia State University with a bronze statue and a scholarship in her name. West Virginia State says a dedication ceremony is planned for Aug. 25, the day before Johnson’s 100th birthday.
Long before the digital era, Johnson worked as a human “computer” at the agency that became NASA, working in relative obscurity as an African-American woman. Her contributions were later recognized in the “Hidden Figures” movie, with actress Taraji P. Henson playing her role.
West Virginia State hopes to endow the scholarship at $100,000, awarding money to students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math, targeting people who are underrepresented in those fields.
Mellody Hobson climbed another rung on the ladder of success in the Fortune 500 business world, as she solidified her role on Starbucks’ board while holding down two other top board memberships. Few African-Americans have multiple board membership on the nation’s wealthiest companies.
Starbucks’ board of directors on Monday appointed Hobson as its vice chair shortly after longtime chairman Howard Schultz announced his retirement, the company said in a statement on Monday.
Hobson’s promotion to the number two position came as Starbucks has been in the throes of damage control following a high-profile episode of racial profiling when two Black men were arrested at a Philadelphia store in April because they didn’t order anything. Last Tuesday, the company closed 8,000 stores nationwide for an afternoon of anti-bias training.
Fortune 500 boards are dominated by white men, but Hobson, who has served on Starbucks’ board since 2005, has defied the odds. JP Morgan Chase & Co. also appointed her to its board and she has been on Estee Lauder‘s board since 2004.
Still, African-Americans have made small gains in diversifying corporate boards. Black men increased their boardroom presence by 2 percent and Black women by 18.4 from 2012 to 2016, according to a multi-year study by the Alliance for Board Diversity (ABD).
The ABD report found that Blacks had the highest rate among all demographics of serving on multiple boards, which falls right in step with Hobson’s professional achievements, according to Ronald C. Parker, ABD’s chairman.
It’s an indication “that companies are going to the same individuals rather than expanding the pool of African-American candidates for board membership,” Parker told the New York Times last year.
Come Friday, we can all watch the seeds of the future, stand-alone Oprah Winfrey Museum be sown.
Opening June 8 and running through June 2019, the “Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture” exclusive exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will, according to The Washington Post, feature video clips, interview segments, movie costumes, and personal photographs and journals to explore what has influenced Winfrey and how her work has shaped America.
“What’s interesting is the same way America thought about Walter Cronkite — you could trust Walter Cronkite and his opinion — they trust Oprah,” said museum director Lonnie G. Bunch III. “An African American woman becomes the person America turns to.”
Winfrey donated $12 million to the $540 million museum as it was being built, making her its largest individual benefactor (its theater is named in her honor). But her role as benefactor did not influence the exhibition, Bunch said. “We made sure there was a bright line, that this was done by the museum and museum scholars,” he said. “The fundraising was not through Oprah’s people.”
Curators Rhea L. Combs and Kathleen Kendrick worked with Winfrey and her staff on arranging loans for the exhibition and on fact-checking and background information. “In terms of content and narrative and the way the story is told, it’s the museum’s product,” Kendrick said. “The way we approached it was the way we approach all of our exhibitions.”
The exhibit balances Winfrey’s humble personal story with her achievements. “We’re providing a context for understanding not only who she is, but how she became a global figure, and how she is connected to broader stories and themes,” Kendrick said.
The first section of the show, which is in the Special Exhibitions gallery, explores Winfrey’s childhood and early career and how the cultural shifts of the 1950s and 1960s informed her worldview.
“Civil rights, the women’s movement, the media and television landscape, she’s at this distinct intersection of all of these dynamic moments,” Combs said. “She becomes someone at the forefront of dealing with ideas, of discussing hot-button topics like racism and sexual orientation.”
The middle section looks at the 25-year run of the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” the highest-rated talk show in U.S. television history. Using artifacts from Winfrey’s Harpo Studios in Chicago, where the show was filmed, this section focuses on its evolution, its variety of subject matter and guests, and its reach into social issues such as racism and equality.
“She used television as a social medium, convening conversations and creating these interactive experiences with people,” Kendrick said. “She’s offering lessons for living, social guidance in a way.”
The third section looks at Winfrey’s role as cultural influencer and tastemaker in the movies she has made (“The Color Purple,” “Beloved,” “The Butler”) the books she promoted in her television book club and her philanthropic work.
The timing of the high-profile exhibition was planned to coincide with the last quarter of the African American Museum’s second year, when officials expected a drop in attendance. Instead crowds are regularly at capacity and timed passes to enter are still required. Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the museum has welcomed 3.8 million visitors, making it one of the most popular Washington D.C. attractions.
“I really thought after the first year it’d be business as usual, so at the end of the second year I’d do something to give it visibility,” Bunch said. “I didn’t anticipate we’d have the same crush of crowds.”
Bunch said he hopes the exhibition will encourage visitors to think about what Winfrey has represented over the years.
“There are so many issues, about women, power, media, body image,” he said. “This should be a popular show because of the impact of this person, but it is also a show that allows us to think about what it means that a woman who doesn’t fit the TV look could build a media empire and become an entrepreneur.”