Taraji P. Henson to Host BET’s 2017 ‘Black Girls Rock’ Awards Saluting Issa Rae, Yara Shahidi, Roberta Flack & More

Taraji P. Henson, Issa Rae, Yara Shahidi (photos via eurweb.com)

via eurweb.com

Taraji P. Henson has been tapped to host BET’s 2017 Black Girls Rock Awards honoring “Insecure” creator, writer and star Issa Rae, “Black-ish” star Yara Shahidi and others. The ceremony will take place on Aug. 5 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Rae is set to receive the Star Power Award while actress/activist Shahidi will take home the Young Gifted and Black honor.

Other honorees include singer Roberta Flack (Living Legend Award); financier Suzanne Shank (Shot Caller Award); and community organizers Derrica Wilson and Natalie Wilson of The Black & Missing Foundation (Community Change Agent Award).

The 2017 Black Girls Rock Awards will air on BET on Aug. 20.

Source: Taraji P. Henson to Host BET’s 2017 ‘Black Girls Rock’ Saluting Issa Rae, Yara Shahidi & More | EURweb

Zambian Doctor Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma Wins Queen’s Young Leader Award

Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma with Queen Elizabeth II at the Queen’s Young Leader Awards (Photo: Facebook/ Natasha Salifyanji)

by  via thisisafrica.me

Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma is a 25 year-old Zambian doctor already making an impact in her community. Kaoma who says she won’t rest “until all women and girls in Zambia live their lives to their maximum potential,” has promised herself to be “on the frontlines, speaking, inspiring, uplifting millions one life at a time.”

Kaoma is a women’s health advocate, and she is among the 25 Africans who won the 2017 Queen’s Young Leader Award. The award recognises, and celebrates exceptional people aged 18-29 from across the Commonwealth, who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives. Winners of this prestigious award receive a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the U.K. during which they collect their award from Her Majesty The Queen of England. With this support, award winners will be expected to continue developing the amazing work they are already doing in their communities.

Kaoma’s focus has been on menstrual hygiene. She co-founded Copper Rose Zambia in 2015 while still in medical school. The organisation sought to teach women the importance of sexual and reproductive health. This led to a drive to launch fundraising to provide menstrual hygiene kits to girls in rural areas. The organisation which started as a mentorship programme to pair 1st year students with senior students at the Copperbelt University, has through its Candid Pride Campaign and Woman4Her programmes educated over 5,000 teenagers about reproductive health.

Kaoma’s goal is to reach a million females through sexual and reproductive health programmes over the next five years (2021).

To read more, go to: Zambia’s Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma wins Queen’s Young Leader Award

Three of ‘Central Park Five,’ Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana Jr., Receive High School Degrees at Bronx Preparatory Graduation

From left, Mr. Santana, Mr. Richardson and Mr. Salaam with Emmanuel George, executive director of the school. (Credit: Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)

by Elizabeth A. Harris via nytimes.com

The auditorium in the northwest Bronx was speckled with balloons. Balloons that said, “Congrats Grad!” and “You’re so special!” Balloons arranged on stage in columns of white, blue and yellow. Balloons in the shape of champagne bottles. And a parade of shiny floating letters that spelled out “Graduate of 2017.” Nearly 60 teenagers accepted diplomas from Bronx Preparatory High School there on Monday, amid all the usual trappings of a graduation ceremony. But for three men in their 40s who joined the teenagers onstage, wearing the same blue academic robes, the day was no less meaningful.

They were Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana Jr., three members of the Central Park Five. Years ago, they missed the graduation ceremonies for their own high schools because they were in prison for a crime they did not commit.On Monday, they received honorary diplomas and the capped, gowned feting they had been denied. “Even though we were not able to go back and right the wrong of not getting our high school diplomas outside, here we are being honored in such a way in front of our family and friends,” Mr. Salaam said from the stage, smiling broadly. “This is a blessing.”

The Central Park Five was a group of teenagers convicted of the brutal rape in 1989 of a woman who was jogging in Central Park. They refused plea bargains, insisting that incriminating statements they had made to the authorities had been coerced, and spent from seven to 13 years in prison. More than a decade after their conviction, the five men, all of whom are black or Hispanic, were exonerated. DNA evidence confirmed that the crime had been committed by another man, Matias Reyes, who confessed to acting alone.

The five have since reached settlements with New York City and the state totaling nearly $45 million, according to their lawyer. The youngest was 14 at the time of their arrest. The oldest was 16. A documentary about their ordeal called “The Central Park Five” was released in 2012, and a government teacher at Bronx Prep, Marielle Colucci, has used the movie as a tool to teach students about the justice system. This year, after her students asked if they could meet the men, Mr. Richardson spoke to their class.“The most important thing for me as a teacher is that they leave here knowing their rights and what they actually mean, and there is no one better to speak to that than these guys,”

Ms. Colucci said of her students, who are all members of minorities. “Because they could find themselves in that same situation right now when they walk out across the street.”Cassius Gil, the school’s assistant principal, said he had a conversation with Emmanuel George, the school’s executive director, after Mr. Richardson’s visit. Mr. Gil said they wondered: “Did they ever get a high school diploma? We should give them a high school diploma.”In fact, the three men did already have diplomas — each received a G.E.D., and then an associate degree, while still in prison. But they never had a ceremony, and a piece of paper in the mail is not the same.“It’s kind of emotional,” Mr. Santana said at the ceremony, which was at Lehman College in the Bronx.

To read full article, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/26/nyregion/central-park-jogger-case-honorary-diplomas.html?_r=2

Tracy K. Smith Named New U.S. Poet Laureate by Library of Congress

Tracy K. Smith (Photograph © Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

by Sophia Nguyen via harvardmagazine.com

Tracy K. Smith has been named the new U.S. Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress, succeeding Juan Felipe Herrera. While the role doesn’t carry many specific official duties, it has traditionally involved raising awareness of, and increasing access to, poetry. “I am excited about the kinds of social divides that poetry may be able not just to cross but to mend,” Smith said in an interview with the library.

“One of my favorite things in the world is to sit and talk quietly about the things poems cause me to notice and remember, the feelings they teach me to recognize, the deep curiosity about other people’s lives that they foster. I am excited about carrying this conversation beyond literary festivals and university classrooms, and finding ways that poems might genuinely bring together people who imagine they have nothing to say to one another.” Smith has authored four books of poetry, the most recent of which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. Her memoir Ordinary Light was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2015.

In later chapters, she describes going to Harvard (where she joined the Dark Room Collective) as her mother’s health began to fail. In poetry workshops, she writes, “I had discovered that sitting down with an idea and letting it unfold in words and sounds offered me not just pleasure but an indescribable comfort.” Her new collection, Wade in the Water, comes out next April.

To read full article, go to: Library of Congress names Harvard alumna Tracy K. Smith as new Poet Laureate | Harvard Magazine

Joy Bishara and Lydia Pogu, Two Escaped Boko Haram Abductees, Graduate From High School in VA, Head to Southeastern University

(photo via instagram.com)

by Taryn Finley via huffpost.com

Two of the nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 are telling their story. Joy Bishara, 20, and Lydia Pogu, 19, are among the 57 girls who were able to escape from the terrorist group. The duo gave People Magazine a detailed account of horrors they faced when the gunmen invaded their school in Chibok, Nigeria, and the events that followed.

The girls were sleeping when the invasion occurred. They woke to the sounds of gunshots and bombs. Pogu told People that men in uniforms stormed into their dorm and told them they were officers who were there to protect them. But the girls said they knew they weren’t real officers based on the way they described themselves.

“We were all crying and screaming. They told us to keep quiet or they’re going to kill us. So they start to shoot their guns up on top of us, making us quiet. All of us were scared. We were just holding each other,” Bishara said. “They asked us to follow them, we should go with them. When we tried going with them, some of us start running … then they went and put us all back together and said, ‘OK, you all have to cooperate or else we are going to just shoot any girl who just followed a different direction that we didn’t point.”

She said they gave the girls an ultimatum: run away and die or get on a truck and leave with them. Once the truck drove away with the girls on it, it created clouds of dust, making it difficult to see behind the truck. Girls began jumping from the truck and running away in different directions. Bishara and two other girls found each other in the bush and were able to stop a motorcyclist, who brought them back to Chibok.

Bishara and Pogu were able to return back to their families. In August of the same year, the duo and several other girls who escaped moved to the United States to complete school. With the help of a Christian nonprofit and a Nigerian activist group, they were able to attend boarding school in Virginia. Bishara and Pogu transferred their senior year and recently graduated from Canyonville Christian Academy. Both gave speeches at the ceremony. They will be attending Southeastern University in Florida in the fall and have started a GoFundMe to help with their expenses.

In April 2014, Boko Haram abducted as many as 276 schoolgirls from Chibok. The girls were subjected to rape, torture, starvation and forced marriages. They were also forced to join the group’s army. This sparked the #BringBackOurGirls campaign online and caught the attention of notable figures, including former first lady Michelle Obama.

To read more, go to: 2 Escaped Boko Haram Victims Graduate From High School | HuffPost

Ice Cube Honored with Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Ice Cube (photo via vibe.com)

by Jessica McKinney via vibe.com

It’s hard to think that after roughly 30 years in the music industry and blessing the culture with hits like “F**k the Police” and both the Barbershop and Friday series’, that Ice Cube hasn’t already gotten a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But in reality, he actually hasn’t. That is, until today (June 12), when the hip hop icon was honored with his very own star on Hollywood Boulevard.

Director of Boyz in the Hood, John Singleton, was one of  people who spoke at Ice Cube’s star ceremony Monday afternoon. “The mark of a true man is how many people he influences in his lifetime,” Singleton said. “That’s how I see Cube.” Dr. Dre was also in attendance to watch his longtime friend and former N.W.A partner be honored. While the multi-faceted artist has definitely influenced many, he suggested the honor was still somewhat surprising.

“When you coming up doing music, movies, just trying to be creative, you never figure you’ll be on the Hollywood Walk of Fame one day,” he said.Ice Cube’s Walk of Fame ceremony comes only three days after the release of the 25th anniversary edition of the rapper’s politically-charged album, Death Certificate. Coincidentally, it is only three days before his 48th birthday.

To read more, go to: Clap For Him: Ice Cube Finally Honored With Hollywood Star

Screen Actors Guild Foundation to Honor Rashida Jones with 2017 Actors Inspiration Award for Philanthropy

Rashida Jones (photo via lifetailored.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

The Screen Actors Guild‘s SAG-AFTRA Foundation announced today that Emmy®-nominated actor Rashida Jones will receive its Actors Inspiration Award, an honor recognizing artists who give back to the community by championing worthy philanthropic causes which make a difference in the world. On Monday, June 12th, the award will be presented to Ms. Jones at the Foundation’s 8thAnnual Los Angeles Golf Classic, an event benefiting its assistance and children’s literacy programs.

Rashida Jones is an actor, director, producer, screenwriter, musician and activist. Her philanthropy includes work with the International Rescue Committee, traveling around the world as an advocate for the nonprofit which delivers lifesaving care to people fleeing conflict and natural disaster; serving on the board and as a celebrity ambassador for Peace First, a youth organization that encourages the development of the world’s next generation of peacemakers; and supporting Oceana in its mission to protect and restore the world’s oceans. In addition, she lends her voice to several other important charities including Amnesty International, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and The Trevor Project. Ms. Jones is also a supporter of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s online children’s literacy program Storyline Online (storylineonline.net) and will be filming a new video for Storyline Online following the Actors Inspiration Award ceremony. She will join the ranks of actors Viola Davis, Lily Tomlin and Chris Pine as Storyline Online advocates. Rashida Jones’ commitment to supporting vulnerable populations around the world, the environment, and children’s literacy embodies the spirit of the Actors Inspiration Award. Continue reading