Aaron N. Oforlea, an associate professor in the English department at Washington State University, has won the Creative Scholarship Award from the College Language Association for his debut book, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and the Rhetorics of Black Male Subjectivity(Ohio State University Press, 2017). The international honor recognizes excellence in literary criticism.
According to Dr. Oforlea, he got inspiration for his book came from his interest in “how African American men achieve their dreams and goals despite racism.” His work examines two of his favorite authors and analyzes their respective African American characters and how they navigated their challenges. Upon receiving the award, he stated, “To win the award, I think for me it’s validation that I’m on the right track, that my work is making an impact in the field.”
Professor Oforlea is the only African American in his department and the only African American literature scholar at Washington State University. He has taught at the university since 2007 and was promoted to associate professor in 2013. Prior to coming to Washington State, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the department of English at Santa Clara University in California.
Dr. Oforlea holds a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature/letters from California State University, Chico and a Ph.D. in English language and literature/letters from Ohio State University.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — It’s just before 2 p.m., the end of a workday that began at 5:30 a.m. for Dolester Miles, a self-taught pastry chef who, in May, was named the best in the nation by the James Beard Foundation. Wearing a spotless white bib apron over an equally spotless chef coat, with sleeves neatly rolled above her elbows, she stands in the compact kitchen of Bottegarestaurant, deftly smoothing a thin layer of whipped cream frosting on a towering, three-layer coconut pecan cake.
She flicks her offset spatula all the way around where the top and sides meet, employing rote precision born of three decades of experience to create a crisp, perfect edge. After she coats the cake with toasted coconut, it’s ready to be picked up by a patron waiting to pay $80 for it, plus tax. Anyone who has eaten that cake, which yields 14 slices, knows two things: that it’s worth every penny, and that the last crumb of it will be snatched up and savored like the last word of a great novel.
Miles, who goes by Dol, oversees a staff of four and the baking production of the four restaurants owned by chef Frank Stitt and his wife, Pardis, including their fine-dining flagship, Highlands Bar & Grill.
In addition to the coconut pecan cake, Miles’s fruit cobblers with flaky biscuit tops, her lemon tarts with swirls of caramelized meringue and her silken panna cottas are legendary in Birmingham. She handles with alacrity the array of Southern, Italian and French favorites found on the menus of the Stitts’ restaurants. A prep list 44 items long on the Thursday before Labor Day revealed the breadth of her work. Production included: chocolate pots de crème; citrus shortbreads; hamburger buns; pizza dough; buttermilk tarts; batches of ice creams, sauces, fig jam and frangipane (an almond-based tart filling); polenta cakes; and crème caramels.
Miles was one of 20 semifinalists in the Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Pastry Chef category for five years running, and among its five finalists for the past three years. The awards gala at Chicago’s Lyric Opera House was a celebratory one for the Stitts, too. After being nominated for 10 consecutive years as the nation’s Outstanding Restaurant, Highlands won. The first time Miles was a finalist, she couldn’t believe it.
“I never really understood how the Beard thing goes, how you get nominated and all of that and, you know, from being down South, from Alabama! Most of them be from New York, California, Chicago — all those big places,” she said. “But to be nominated from all the way down here? That was amazing.” (Miles’s fellow 2018 finalists were from New Orleans, Minneapolis, Chicago and Los Angeles.)
With powerful, poignant speeches from presenters and honorees alike, this year’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal awards felt more like a gospel church service-cum-rock concert than an academic award ceremony.
Athlete and social activist Colin Kaepernick set the tone before an exhilarated crowd that included some 150 local high school students, declaring that people in positions of privilege and power have a “responsibility” to speak up for the powerless.
“People live with this every single day and we expect them to thrive in situations where they’re just trying to survive,” said the NFL free agent who famously took a knee during pregame national anthems to protest racial injustice in America. “If we don’t, we become complicit. It is our duty to fight for them.”
Kaepernick was one of the eight laureates who received medals at Sanders Theatre on Thursday night. Others were comedian Dave Chappelle; writer and social critic Florence C. Ladd; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson; renowned artist Kehinde Wiley; General Catalyst chairman and CEO Kenneth I. Chenault; philanthropist and Avid Partners founder Pamela J. Joyner; and human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson.
The awards are bestowed by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research for contributions to African and African-American history and culture. Ladd, the former director of the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe, donned her medal, then pumped her fist in the air and told the cheering crowd: “A takeaway must be protest, protest, protest.”
Stevenson, M.P.P. ’85, J.D. ’85, L.L.D. ’15, who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, dedicated his award to “people who did so much more with so much less” and asked the audience to think of hope as “your superpower.” To the students, he made a more pointed request: “You’ve got to be willing to do uncomfortable things. You’ve got to be willing to do inconvenient things. Don’t ever think that your grades are a measure of your capacity.” Stevenson himself won a historic Supreme Court ruling that declared that mandatory sentences of life without parole for children 17 or younger are unconstitutional.
Moments of humor punctuated the call to resistance, particularly when presenter and incoming Dean of Social Science Lawrence D. Bobo recited parts of Chappelle’s famous skit “The Racial Draft.“ He called the comedian a “teller of uncomfortable truths.”
Chappelle, for his part, praised his parents, especially his mother, a professor of African-American studies. “She raised me well. I am not an uninformed person,” he said.
Chappelle said he was humbled to be on stage with his fellow honorees: “You all make me want to be better,” he said. He promised another comedy special and ended his speech with a quote from favorite writer James Baldwin’s book “The Fire Next Time.”
“God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water. The fire next time.”
Hutchins Center director Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor, reflected on the critical nature of the honorees’ work in the fight for racial and social justice.
“When we recall the dramatic progress we’ve made in this country’s struggle for civil rights, it’s tempting to remember only our long arc of progress. But we find ourselves in a new nadir in our country’s race relations,” he said, quoting Du Bois, the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard.
“Agitation is a necessary evil to tell of the ills of the suffering. Without it, many a nation has been lulled to false security and preened itself with virtues it did not possess.”
“If you (poked) him, you would probably hear a sound of music. He was music, kind of like how God is love,” Nelson offered.
Although Prince died two years ago in April, the university decided to continue a process that had begun in 2015 and honor him with the posthumous degree. Awarding someone who isn’t alive is rare, the school said.
The university said the degree is in recognition of the singer’s “remarkable talent, enduring influence in music, and his role in shaping the city of Minneapolis.”
Kim said the university’s honor to Prince also serves as an important lesson and reminder. “Society pressures young people to conform to certain standards, and Prince was anything but standardized,” he said. “Be yourself, know who you are and good things are going to happen.”
According to thegrio.com, international singing star and cosmetics entrepreneur Rihanna has a new title to add to her resume – ambassador to her home country of Barbados.
“Rihanna has a deep love for her country and this is reflected in her philanthropy, especially in the areas of health and education,” Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said in a statement.
The prime minister hailed Rihanna — who grew up and was raised as Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty in Bridgetown, Barbados — as a music icon with “significant creative acumen and shrewdness in business. Mottley said Rihanna has made significant charitable contributions to the island. “She also shows her patriotism in the way she gives back to this country and continues to treasure the island as her home,” Mottley said.
According to the island’s Government Information Service website, Rihanna’s official title is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the island in the Caribbean Sea with 285,000 residents. Rihanna’s job in her new role extends beyond her 2008 role as cultural ambassador to promote tourism. Ambassador Fenty’s new responsibilities now extend to promoting education and investment for Barbados as well.
The songstress and creator of the year-old Fenty Beauty makeup line hailed for meeting the needs of women of all colors said in a statement that she could not be more pleased with her appointment. Rihanna maintains residences in Barbados and in Los Angeles.
Rihanna said she is proud to take on such a prestigious title in her home country. “Every Barbadian is going to have to play their role in this current effort, and I’m ready and excited to take on the responsibility,” she said in the statement, posted by CNN. “I look forward to working with Prime Minister Mottley and her team to reimagine Barbados.”
S. James Gates Jr., Ford Foundation Professor of Physics at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, has been named to the presidential line of the American Physical Society, a nonprofit organization that represents more than 55,000 physicists in higher education and the physics industry worldwide. Dr. Gates will serve as vice president in 2019, president-elect in 2020, and president in 2021.
Before joining the Brown faculty in May 2017, Dr. Gates served as a professor at the University of Maryland for 33 years. His research interests include theoretical physics, specifically the areas of supersymmetry and supergravity. He has won the National Medal of Science, which is the highest honor bestowed upon American scientists by the U.S. President.
Professor Gates is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, serves on the board of trustees of Society for Science and the Public, and was a member on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology under President Obama. He is a co-author of the supersymmetry textbook, Superspace or One Thousand and One Lessons in Supersymmetry (Addison-Wesley, 1983).
Dr. Gates holds two bachelor’s degrees, one in mathematics and one in physics, and a Ph.D. in physics all from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
According to Variety.com, all four winners in the guest actor categories were black for the first time in Television Academy Awards history.
Presented tonight at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony, Tiffany Haddish won best guest actress in a comedy for hosting “Saturday Night Live,”Samira Wiley won best guest actress in a drama for “The Handmaid’s Tale,”Ron Cephas Jones won best guest actor in a drama for “This Is Us,” and Katt Williams won best guest actor in a comedy for “Atlanta.”
Comedians Williams and Haddish won in their first year being nominated, while both Jones and Wiley had been nominated previously.
As Variety noted when this year’s Emmy nominees were announced, 36 actors of color were nominated this for the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, up 20% from the year before, amid a larger push in the entertainment industry for diversity and inclusion in television, in front of and behind the camera.
According to vanityfair.com, legendary actor Cicely Tyson is finally getting an Oscar. The 93-year-old, who was nominated for an Academy Award once before in 1973 for her performance in Sounder, has been announced as one of the recipients of this year’s Honorary Oscars. She’ll be recognized alongside publicist Marvin Levy and composer Lalo Schifrin. In addition, producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will be given the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. The Governors Awards will take place on November 18.
“Choosing the honorees for its awards each year is the happiest of all the Board of Governors’ work,” Academy President John Bailey said in a statement. “And this year, its selection of five iconic artists was made with universal acclaim by the Academy’s 54 spirited governors.”
Tyson, the sole performer among the honorees, has been working in film and television since her career kicked off over six decades ago in 1957, quickly breaking boundaries with performances in projects such as The River Niger, A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But A Sandwich, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Help, the acclaimed miniseries Roots, and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman—a TV movie that would go on to inspire an aspiring thespian named Viola Davis. Davis and Tyson would later work together on How to Get Away with Murder. The awards Tyson has won already run the gamut: a Tony, multiple Emmys, and even a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Like the rest of her fellow awardees, this will be the first Oscar for Tyson.
Tyson was last seen publicly at the funeral of Aretha Franklin, where she performed a spoken wordadaptation of the Paul Laurence Dunbar poem “When Malindy Sings” called “When Aretha Sings.” To see it, click below:
The winners of the Hugo Awards, considered some of the most prestigious science fiction and fantasy literary prizes, were announced on Sunday, with science fiction author N.K. Jemisin making history as the first writer ever to win the best novel award three years in a row.
During her acceptance speech at the World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, CA, Jemisin said, “I get a lot of questions about where the themes of the Broken Earth trilogy come from. I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m drawing on the human history of structural oppression, as well as my feelings about this moment in American history.”
But she also sounded a note of optimism.
“I want you to remember that 2018 is also a good year. This is a year in which records have been set,” Jemisin said. “A year in which even the most privilege-blindered of us has been forced to acknowledge that the world is broken and needs fixing — and that’s a good thing! Acknowledging the problem is the first step toward fixing it. I look to science fiction and fantasy as the aspirational drive of the Zeitgeist: We creators are the engineers of possibility. And as this genre finally, however grudgingly, acknowledges that the dreams of the marginalized matter and that all of us have a future, so will go the world.”
Jemisin’s fans took to Twitter to celebrate her historic hat trick. Among them was her cousin, the television host and comedian W. Kamau Bell, who noted that Jemisin’s books have yet to be adapted into film:
So which writer &/or journalist is writing the story of the Black woman (@nkjemisin) who's the 1st person to win 3 #HugoAwards IN A ROW? Focusing on the significance of a Black woman doing this & the telling fact that her books have yet to show up onscreen as films/TV shows?
Despite a 14-month maternity leave, Serena Williams has topped Forbes’ “Highest-Paid Female Athlete” list for the third consecutive year.
Due to her pregnancy in January 2017, Williams was off the court for the majority of the past year, leaving her with only $62,000 in winnings. Still, the 23-time Grand Slam champion collected twice as many off-court coins than any other female athlete.
Earning $18.1 million in endorsements, Williams was able to top the list by over $5 million, with Australian Open winner Dane Caroline Wozniacki second in line.
Though Forbes did not include a woman in their ranking of the world’s top 100 highest earning athletes of 2018 after Williams’ earnings fell by approximately $10 million since the year prior, only 16 male athletes earned more than Williams in sponsorship money over the last 12 months.
In addition to over a dozen sponsors including Nike, Intel, Audemars Piguet, JPMorgan Chase, Lincoln, Gatorade and Beats, Williams also launched her first solo fashion compilation, Serena, in May.
Williams is currently gearing up to match Margaret Court’s 24 grand slam title record at this year’s US Open.