Octavia E. Butler’s name trends on Twitter today (June 22) in recognition of what would have been the late science fiction and fantasy author’s 71st birthday. Google celebrated Butler’s influence on literature by featuring her likeness on its homepage Doodle.
Per biographies on her website and Google’s blog, Butler was born on June 22, 1947, in Pasadena, California. Social anxiety prompted her to spend a lot of time in the library, where she developed an appreciation for science fiction. She began writing when her mother bought her a typewriter at age 10 and carried her passion into her education at Pasadena Community College,UCLA and theClarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop.
Butler, who wrote in various fiction formats, is best known for novels and short stories like “Kindred,” ”Bloodchild,” and the “Xenogenesis” trilogy. Her canon uses otherworldly scenarios to tackle racism, sexism, class conflict and other forms of real-world oppression. Fans cite her development of fictional alternative communities with Black leaders as a key influence on Afrofuturism. Her legacy lives on, well beyond her death from a stroke in 2006.
“Our family is grateful and honored by the opportunity to invoke the memory of Octavia E. Butler,” her family said in a statement on Google’s blog post. “Her spirit of generosity and compassion compelled her to support the disenfranchised. She sought to speak truth to power, challenge prevailing notions and stereotypes and empower people striving for better lives. Although we miss her, we celebrate the rich life she led and its magnitude in meaning.”
The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1904 as a highly selective group of 50 members within a larger organization called the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Over the years the two groups functioned separately with different memberships, budgets, and boards of directors. In 1993 the two groups finally agreed to form a single group of 250 members under the name of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Members are chosen from the fields of literature, music, and the fine arts. Members must be native or naturalized citizens of the United States. They are elected for life and pay no dues. New members are elected only upon the death of other members. Among the current African American members are Kwame Anthony Appiah, Rita Dove, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Jamaica Kincaid, Toni Morrison, John Edgar Wideman, and Kara Walker.
The American Academy of Arts and Letters recently inducted 12 individuals into the 250-member honorary society. Of the 12 new members, two are African Americans.
George E. Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University in New York City. Professor Lewis came to Columbia in 2004, having previously taught at the University of California, San Diego, Mills College in Oakland, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2002. A graduate of Yale University, Professor Lewis studied composition and trombone at the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.
Lynn Nottage, a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and a screenwriter, is an associate professor in the theatre department at the Columbia School of the Arts. Nottage is the co-founder of the production company, Market Road Films, which has produced projects for HBO and Showtime as well as independent productions. She is a winner of a MacArthur “genius award.” Nottage is a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama.
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.
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.”
A third grader from East Orange, New Jersey received a huge honor from the city’s mayor after saving her friend’s life. 9-year-old Kori Scott was named “Mayor for the Day” after stepping in and performing the Heimlich maneuver while her friend was choking, News 12 New Jersey reported.
The incident happened at Bowser Elementary School while Scott and her friend Astah were eating lunch in the cafeteria, the news outlet writes. Astah started choking on her food and ran to the water fountain. Scott ran after her friend and used the Heimlich maneuver; a first-aid procedure that she took training courses for with her mother.
“I did it 1-2-3 and food came out,” Scott told the news outlet. Her loved ones praised her for her quick response in the scary situation. “It could have ended very [differently’]” said her mother Kiana Scott, who serves as a security guard in the East Orange School district. “I’m glad Kori was a quick thinker and I’m glad she remembered what her father did when he did it on her.”
Scott’s heroic efforts caught the attention of local community leaders. East Orange Mayor Ted Green made Scott the “Mayor for the Day” on Friday. “I am honored to stand here and recognize Kori as one of East Orange’s own hometown heroes,” said Mayor Green in a statement. “Kori’s brave actions have already made an incredible impact on our city. Her smart instincts and quick actions are characteristics of a true hero, and it fills me with pride to have her here today as a representative of our city and community.”
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, recently announced the names of 59 college students from 52 U.S. colleges and universities who have been selected as 2018 Truman Scholars. The Truman Scholarship is the premier graduate scholarship for aspiring public service leaders in the United States.
The Truman Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 as the living memorial to President Truman. The Foundation’s mission is premised on the belief that a better future relies on attracting to public service the commitment and sound judgment of bright, outstanding Americans.
The 59 new Truman Scholars, mostly students who are completing their junior year in college, were selected from among 756 candidates nominated by 312 colleges and universities. They were chosen by sixteen independent selection panels based on the finalists’ academic success and leadership accomplishments, as well as their likelihood of becoming public service leaders.
Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government.
While the Truman Foundation does not provide data on the racial or ethnic make up of its scholars, after an analysis by JBHE, it appears that 10 of the 59 new Truman Scholars are Black.
Justin Edwards is a rising senior at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He is majoring in political science and economics. Edwards is the founder and president of the VISION Foundation in his hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana. He hopes to continue his education in law school.
Lamar Greene is a Gates Millennium Scholar from Richmond, Virginia, majoring in human health with a concentration in health innovation at Emory University in Atlanta. Greene plans to pursue a career in public health focused on community-based initiatives to promote health equity and improve the lives of low-income, Black people.
Michael Lowe is an undergraduate student at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, where he is majoring in political science with a minor in national defense. He serves as a cadet in the university’s ROTC program and as an infantryman in the Alaska Army National Guard. After graduation, Lowe plans to pursue a juris doctorate with a concentration in international law and security.
Anea Moore is a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania in her native Philadelphia. She is majoring in sociology and urban studies, with a concentration in law and a minor in Africana studies. Moore plans to pursue a juris doctorate and graduate degrees in education and public policy.
Taylor Morgan completed her third year at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Morgan is majoring in sociology/anthropology with minors in Black studies and peace and conflict studies. She intends to pursue a joint J.D./Ph.D. in African American studies and philosophy.
Mohamed Nur, a native of Portland, Maine, is the son of Somali immigrants. He will be a senior at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where he is double majoring in government and Africana studies. Nur plans to pursue a law degree and a master’s degree in international conflict resolution and security policy.
Ella Oppong is a Ghanaian-American student studying bioengineering with a minor in global service at Union College in Schenectady, New York. She is overseeing the construction of a vocational school for orphaned students in Ghana with a Davis Projects for Peace grant. Oppong plans to pursue a medical degree and a master of public health degree.
Shakera Vaughan is a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where she is majoring in government and sociology. She spent her junior year studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. She plans to pursue a master of public administration degree, concentrating on local and state government management.
Nicholas Whittaker is studying philosophy at Harvard University. He is an opinion writer for the Harvard Crimson and a member of Harvard’s Black Community and Student Theater. Whittaker will pursue both a law degree and a Ph.D. in philosophy. He plans to work as an educator and activist dedicated on making academia more accessible and relevant to marginalized communities.
Alisa Winchester is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English at Delaware State University, a historically Black university in Dover. Currently enlisted as a soldier in the Delaware Army National Guard and the Reserved Officer Training Corps, her ambitions include earning a Juris Doctorate and serving as an attorney in the United States Army.
The video footage is astounding: in a matter of seconds, young hero Mamoudou Gassama, scales four stories of a Paris apartment building to rescue a child dangling from a balcony.
According to washingtonpost.com, Gassama, a 22 year-old undocumented immigrant from Mali, is being feted as a French national hero despite having been in France for less than six months. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced that the city would support his effort to stay in France, and President Emmanuel Macron welcomed him to the Élysée Palace on Monday. According to Newsweek, Macron granted Gassama full French citizenship, and Gassama has also been offered a job as a firefighter in the French capital.
At a moment when life is becoming increasingly difficult for immigrants in France, Gassama — christened “Le Spider-Man” on French social media — has become an overnight celebrity after his Saturday night heroics.
“He explained to me that he arrived from Mali several months ago, dreaming of building his life here,” Hidalgo said via Twitter. “I told him that his heroic gesture is an example for all citizens.”
Gassama recounted the chain of events on Saturday night to France’s Le Parisien newspaper. Around 8 p.m., he was with his girlfriend in Paris’s 18th arrondissement, or district. As he was walking down Marx-Dormoy street, he saw a crowd gathered below a building, with people screaming and pointing up. Then he saw the boy, who authorities later said was 4.
“I climbed up to save him, voilà,” Gassama told Le Parisien. “I did it because it was a kid. I love children very much. I didn’t think about the floors,” he said, referring to the building he scaled. “I didn’t think about the risk.”
For many, the question was how the 4-year-old boy had managed to climb over the balcony’s railing in the first place. The child’s mother was not in Paris at the time, and his father, who had apparently left the boy home alone, was questioned by authorities, a judicial source told Agence France-Presse.
An Alabama teen was determined to obtain his high school diploma, despite the fact that his family doesn’t have a car. Images of Birmingham, AL teen Corey Patrick walking and taking the bus to his graduation have gone viral, with a few stars promising to buy the determined student new wheels for all of his hard work and dedication to his education.
Speaking to WBRC, Patrick revealed that his mom suggested he take the bus to his commencement since she had no way to get him there. “I told Corey, well the best thing to do is just get on the bus and we will work from there,” said Felicia White, Corey’s mother.
Patrick proceeded to pound the pavement and caught the bus in his graduation cap and gown, with the bus driver snapping photos of the young man that eventually spread all over the internet. His family eventually found a ride and met him at the school. “I had to do what was necessary for me to walk this year,” Patrick said.
His mother revealed that Corey was determined to graduate with his friends after moving to a new neighborhood. “Corey was getting up at 4:30 in the morning and had to be at the bus stop at 5:41 in the morning for the last year. Even when he would get out of school he couldn’t get from that side of town until 5:19 when the bus runs back over there. So he doesn’t make it back this way until about 6:30 or 7 o’clock.”
The Shade Room is now reporting Da Brat, Tyrese and Rickey Smiley have committed to buying the young man a new ride so he’ll never have to worry about making it to an important event again.
NASHVILLE, TN — Just in time for Mother’s Day week, James Shaw Jr. was honored in the presence of his parents Karen and James Sr. with a reception on Monday at Tennessee State University, his alma mater.
Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover, who helped honor Shaw with a scholarship in his name, said in a statement. “The TSU family is extremely proud of alumnus James Shaw, Jr. for his bravery and courage. His actions saved the lives of many others.”
Karen Shaw’s reaction to the public accolades from politicians, community leaders and media at even the national level was one of “amazement.”
“I spent some time just thinking about this in conversations with friends and my husband –what it is about this terrible event that caused this reaction – being in the news nationally and even internationally? My son’s life was spared and for that I am completely grateful. I believe with all of the ugliness going on in the world people just needed something good to hang onto,” said Karen Shaw.
“Whether your beliefs are spiritually based – that James was covered and protected by God, which is my belief, or that he has a higher calling – this has really brought our community, the state of Tennessee, maybe even the U.S. or globally – where people gather around one message – helping others to survive.”
But as a mother to James, she also has concerns along with her appreciation of the outpouring ofsupport. That outpouring has included $240,000 in donations to a GoFundMe campaign James started to help the families of the victims of the shooting, and appearances on national cable TV news. Shaw was honored at a Nashville Predators game, and, appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show where he met his sports hero Dwyane Wade who donated $20,000 to the GoFundMe Campaign and received another $20,000 from the show’s sponsor Shutterfly. The Steve Harvey Show announced it planned to send him on a trip to Barbados.
In the world of politics, James Shaw Jr. was honored with a resolution at the state capitol by Tennessee legislators the day after the shooting calling him a hero “twice over” and Vice President Pence called him a ‘national hero.’
Still Karen Shaw shows the steady focus of a mother for the long term health and well being of her son after the trauma of the initial event. “We are very appreciative of the attention and the opportunities that have come to James and are being offered to James. But at the end of the day, what I want is for my son’s emotional and mental health to be the same as it was on April 21st [the day before the Waffle House shooting].”
“When I saw him on CNN, I could see that he was re-living the event in his mind as he was talking about it. It is just unfair a stranger can come and ruin the lives of so many people and damage the lives of others who just happen to have been there. Not just for James but for anyone who was present.”
“We have some supports in place and we are doing our best to be sure he has the appropriate means and support. That’s the best Mother’s Day I can have – making sure he comes out of it as a healthy human being mentally and emotionally.”
According to the Smithsonian Institute, next Tuesday, its National Portrait Gallery will recognize and honor the life of Henrietta Lacks with the installation of a 2017 portrait by Kadir Nelson on the museum’s presentation wall on the first floor. The portrait was jointly acquired by the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture as a gift from Nelson and the JKBN Group LLC, and will be shared by the two museums. The painting will be on display at the Portrait Gallery through Nov. 4.
Lacks, a mother of five, lost her life to cervical cancer at age 31. During her treatment, doctors took cells from her body and discovered they lived long lives and reproduced indefinitely in test tubes. These “immortal” HeLa cells have since contributed to over 10,000 medical patents, aiding research and benefiting patients with polio, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions.
Considering the history of medical testing on African Americans without their permission, the fate of Lacks raised questions about ethics, privacy and racism. Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, addressed those issues and later prompted Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions to adapt her story into a theatrical movie that first aired on HBO in 2017.
“It is fitting that Henrietta Lacks be honored at two Smithsonian museums, as each approaches American history from unique and complementary perspectives,” said Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery. “Lacks’ story presents moral and philosophical questions around issues of consent, racial inequalities, the role of women, medical research and privacy laws, providing rich platforms for historical understanding and public dialogue.”
“The National Museum of African American History and Culture has always felt that the story of Henrietta Lacks is a significant and important moment that deserved greater recognition,” said Lonnie Bunch, director of the museum.
Commissioned by HBO, Nelson used visual elements to convey Lacks’ legacy. The wallpaper features the “Flower of Life,” a symbol of immortality; the flowers on her dress recall images of cell structures; and two missing buttons allude to the cells taken from her body without permission.