Spelman College Awards Scholarships for LGBTQ Advocates via Levi Watkins Jr. Scholars Program

by Paul Meara via bet.com

Spelman College, an all girls HBCU, announced this week a new scholarship program for students of the school who advocate for LGBTQ issues. The Levi Watkins Jr. Scholars Program “will call attention to the importance of making visible the courageous and significant work of LGBTQ scholar activists within and beyond the academy, especially at HBCUs,” Spelman professor and alumna Beverly Guy-Sheftall said.

Guy-Sheftall is also the founder of the Spelman Women’s Research and Resource Center. The scholarship is named after Dr. Lee Watkins, who is Sheftall’s cousin and a founding member of the Women’s Research and Resource Center’s National Advisory Board. Guy-Sheftall pledged $100,000 in May and launched the scholars program and lecture series to explore contemporary issues of race, gender and sexuality.

According to The Root, two Spelman sophomores who self-identify as LGBTQ advocates will be awarded renewable $25,000 scholarships this fall. “As an institution that upholds a supportive student experience, this gift will present new opportunities for critical conversation on race and sexuality with distinguished scholars and thought leaders, and provide a platform to recognize campus LGBTQ advocates and their scholarly achievements,” Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell said after the scholarship program was announced.

To read more, go to: Spelman College Is Awarding Hefty Scholarships For LGBTQ Advocates | National | BET

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

R.I.P. Jim Vance, 75, Washington DC’s Longest-Serving Local News Anchor

Washington DC anchor Jim Vance (photo via washingtonpost.com)

by Matt Schudel via washingtonpost.com

In a city of news junkies and scores of high-profile figures in politics and the media, the most-watched journalist in Washington may well have been Jim Vance. With 45 years as the face of WRC-TV (Channel 4), he was the region’s longest-serving television news anchor. He presided over the area’s top-rated newscasts and became a public figure in his own right. He gained broad sympathy for his openness about his struggles with drugs and depression.

Mr. Vance, who was 75, died July 22. The death was announced by WRC-TV, where he had worked since 1969, but no further details were provided. He announced his diagnosis of cancer earlier this year.After three years as a reporter for Channel 4, Mr. Vance ascended to the anchor’s chair in 1972, putting him in the first wave of black news anchors in major news markets.

In addition to reading the news, he also delivered pointed commentaries, often on sensitive racial topics. Mr. Vance sat alongside a revolving cast of co-anchors and was often second or third in the local ratings until he teamed with Doreen Gentzler in 1989. Together, with sportscaster George Michael and meteorologist Bob Ryan, they vaulted Channel 4 to the top of the local ratings and stayed there for more than 25 years.

In the nation’s capital, Mr. Vance’s 11 p.m. newscasts with Gentzler regularly drew more viewers than the prime-time shows of the three major cable networks — CNN, Fox and MSNBC — combined.

To read more, go to: Jim Vance, Washington’s longest-serving local news anchor, is dead at 75 – The Washington Post

Black While Funny and Female: Comedic Actresses Speak on Working in Hollywood

(Photos by Kirk McCoy via latimes.com)

by Tre’vell Anderson via latimes.com

Making it in Hollywood is no easy feat, and doing so as a woman is even more difficult. If that woman is black — or Latina or Asian or otherwise nonwhite — the odds just aren’t in her favor. But with the release of “Girls Trip,” four black women — Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish — attempt a takeover of the buddy comedy, possibly the first time black women have led such a picture.

One reason as to why? The number of black women thought to be able to carry a studio-backed film is slim, and there hasn’t been a bona-fide black female comedic superstar since Whoopi Goldberg. We spoke to 18 funny black women about their industry experiences. Below are their thoughts:

Tracee Ellis Ross

“Girlfriends,” “black-ish”

While most probably know Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow on the hit “black-ish,” others see Joan Clayton of “Girlfriends,” the early 2000s show almost no one would argue about rebooting.

While most probably know Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow on the hit “Black-ish,” others see Joan Clayton of “Girlfriends” — the early 2000s show fans would love to see earn the revival or reunion treatment.

Regardless of her career experiences, Ross is just beginning to get her due recognition. In addition to nabbing a Golden Globe earlier this year, she’s earned her second consecutive Emmy nomination. Some might say she has all the makings of a comedic superstar.

But when she takes a moment to ponder other black women who fit the bill she’s forced to think hard.

“Regina Hall … Issa Rae … Jessica Williams,” she said after a moment, “but I shouldn’t have to search to come up with those names. The difficulty is, and I think what happens is, you might see somebody in a role and you’re like, ‘Holy …! She is so funny.’ Then she doesn’t get another opportunity, but she needs those roles because they help you build a career so everybody knows your name and knows what you’re capable of.

“And it’s not just black comedic women. There are, I’m sure, a lot of very funny Asian women and Latina women, and we know some of them, but it’s not because the talent doesn’t exist. The other thing is, the talent exists, but [performers] need the experience to keep getting better and have more depth.”

Ross is encouraged, however, by the likes of Rae.

“I think Issa is a beautiful example of ‘You’re not going to give me any real estate? Fine. I’m going to make it,’” she said. “There is revolution going on.”

How did you settle into comedic acting?

I loved making people laugh when I was younger. It was frowned upon during dinner time but I thought it was hilarious to make my sister laugh. It was often the thing that got me kicked out of class because I was always silly. It was one of the ways my shyness manifested and the way I protected myself and kept people at bay. And I’ve always been a very physical person so when I experience a feeling, I experience it in my entire body.

As I look back, it was a natural progression into the physical comedy and the ways I use my body. In terms of my career, I don’t know that it was a conscious choice that I moved into comedy, but it was an authentic choice. I don’t consider myself funny. I consider myself silly. I just tell the truth and my truth comes out in a way that makes people laugh. My goal isn’t to make people laugh, but I enjoy that exchange.

I think the difficulty for actors of any kind is when you get stuck with what other people assume is who you are. We’re actors and we can do anything.

— Tracee Ellis Ross

Who are some of your comedic inspirations?

I was a Carol Burnett, Lucy [Ball], Lily Tomlin type of girl. They were the three women that etched it in for me. I remember looking back and seeing Goldie Hawn in “Private Benjamin.” I was drawn to all of that growing up. Those were the women that defined freedom and courage [for me]. From there so many funny women like Julia Louis-Dreyfus — I don’t even understand [how she does it].

And then Whoopi Goldberg did the Moms Mabley documentary, and I was so grateful that she did that because it really showed me that Moms Mabley is specifically one of the reasons I can do what I do. She carved something out and did something so consciously that allows me to be a black woman in comedy.

Read more from Ross here: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-ca-black-women-comedy-tracee-ellis-ross-20170720-htmlstory.html

Tiffany Haddish

“Girls Trip,” “Keanu,” “The Carmichael Show”

Tiffany Haddish is legitimately having a moment. As a star of “Girls Trip,” opposite industry vets Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Regina Hall. Based on her performance, and with an upcoming Showtime comedy special, she’s on her way to household-name status.

But what else would you expect from “the last black unicorn?”

How did you get into comedy?

My social worker. [laughs] I was living in South Central L.A. and was being bused to Woodland Hills. I was getting in trouble because I was not sure how to make friends. So I made this imaginary friend up because I thought I was at the Nickelodeon Awards — I had never been around this many white people. I thought I was at the Nickelodeon Awards every day so I thought I needed to be all creative and entertaining because I thought white people lived in TV — my concept of people was really messed up.

I remember going to court and seeing the judge. I thought he was the judge from “People’s Court.” [laughs] By the time I got to 10th grade, it was bothering my social worker that she was getting called to the school every week. I was getting sent to the dean’s office for being racist because I had this bird named Cracker. It was this imaginary bird, and I would be like, “Cracker want a Polly?” And I would take actual crackers and break them up on my shoulder. Kids would laugh and stuff. We’d be taking a test and I would be like, “What’s the answer to number seven Cracker?” And they’d be like, “Go to the dean’s office!”

So my social worker was like, “You have two choices this time. You can go to Laugh Factory Academy Camp or you can go to psychiatric therapy. Which one you want to do this summer?” I was like, “Which one got drugs?” and I went to comedy camp. It was the first time a man ever told me I was beautiful and I didn’t feel like I was going to be hurt in some kind of way. They taught me confidence, communication skills, how to write, how to have stage presence.

Read more from Haddish here: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-ca-black-women-comedy-tiffany-haddish-20170720-htmlstory.html
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Philadelphia Resident Vashti Dubois Turns Home into Museum Dedicated to Black Women

Museum founder and proprietor Vashti Dubois (photo via metro.co.uk)

by Adam Smith via metro.co.uk

There is a museum like no other in Philadelphia. You would not have heard it, it is not listed anywhere and there are no signs from the motorway. Only the hand carved wooden sign in the garden hinted that the Victorian house was not like any other home in the world – and the woman who opened the door had the smile of someone who knew she was about to amaze you.

For years Vashti Dubois was sick of not seeing any images of black girls or women in museums and art galleries, so three years ago she decided to do something about it. The 56-year-old turned her house into The Colored Girls Museum, celebrating everything about black women and their place in the universe. Standing in the hallway, which screams with colour due to every inch being painted, she said: ‘If things ain’t right you got to make them right, and if you can change things, you gotta change them.’

After opening one room to the public, she decided to turn her bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen and her son’s bedroom into art galleries. Dubois said: ‘There are a lot of museums about a lot of different things, so we thought there should be one about the colored girl because there are no places that look at their experiences. We want to show who she is in her day-to-day life as a sister, a lover, a friend, an artist, a victim. We want to show that if there were no coloured girls, the system would collapse.’

As well as the museum’s collection of artefacts, paintings, dolls, textiles and sculptures, artists take over rooms and spaces for art installations. At first Dubois sought the help of artists she knew personally – but word soon spread, and soon she was being contacted by some of the world’s best upcoming artists.

To see related video, click herehttp://metro.co.uk/video/lack-female-images-exhibited-led-woman-create-gallery-1502225/?ito=vjs-link

And unlike most museums, this is personal. There are no walking tours headsets, no bored-looking security guards, and not a gift shop in sight.

So to enjoy culture for culture’s sake in Vashti’s home felt like an honor.

The Colored Girls Museum is a memoir museum, which honours the stories, experiences, and history of black girls. And it is Vashti’s story too.

She said: ‘Colored girls are an important part of the universe. You see us walking down the street. Everyday colored girls. You walk past us, but here we are in all of our extraordinary splendor doing the things that we do to make this world a great place to live.

‘We aren’t all Michelles (Obama) and Beyoncés. But look at how we are holding everything together for families across the world.’

The Birmingham Girls at The Colored Girls Museum. (Picture: TCGM)

When visitors arrive, Vashti explains to them that she started collecting paintings and sculptures three years ago after a personal tragedy. Then she takes them a tour of the house.

‘She distinguishes herself by exclusively collecting, preserving, honoring, and decoding artifacts pertaining to the experience and “her story” of colored girls,’ Vashti said.

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‘Black Panther,’ ‘Black Lightning,’ ‘Luke Cage’ Highlight Rise of Black Superheroes

Image via variety.com

by Daniel Holloway via variety.com

Diversity is on the uptick in comics-inspired TV and film. When “Luke Cage” exec producer Cheo Hodari Coker declared at his show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel last year, “The world is ready for a bulletproof black man,” the crowd erupted in cheers. So did the internet. “Right before I said it, I knew what I was feeling,” Coker later told Variety. “I had said variations of it during the day. It was coming from an emotional place, but I didn’t think it was going to reverberate the way that it did. But I’m glad that it did.”

The “Luke Cage” panel came in July on the heels of widespread protests sparked by the killings of unarmed black men by white police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota. When the show premiered in September, it became the first live-action series about a black superhero since 1994’s “MANTIS.” Now it’s getting some company. Next season the CW will premiere “Black Lightning,” based on the DC Comics superhero. And next year Marvel will debut “Black Panther,” the studio’s first feature with a black hero in the lead.

Social, political and business trends have converged to put black superheroes at the centers of burgeoning television and film franchises after years of being relegated to supporting status. Dan Evans, VP of creative affairs at DC Entertainment, cites the emergence of black superheroes on-screen as part of a larger trend in television and film. “There’s so many examples now, from ‘24’ to ‘The Fast and the Furious’ to ‘Creed,’” says Evans, whose office door features an oversize image of Cyborg, the black teen hero who will play a key role in the upcoming “Justice League” movie. “We’ve seen again and again that if you tell a good story with these characters, people will come.”

In superhero comics, the first appeals to underserved minority audiences came with the debuts of Black Panther (1966), Luke Cage (1972), Black Lightning (1977) and others. “These black superheroes emerge parallel to the changes in American race relations in the late 1960s with the emergence of the Black Power movement,” says Adilifu Nama, author of “Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes.” The movement’s push for equality and representation rippled through popular culture. “It wouldn’t be very sensible to think that these demands for diversity would only be in the realm of lunch counters and bus transportation.”

To read full article, go to: ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Luke Cage’ Highlight Rise of Black Superheroes | Variety

Shariah Harris, 19, Becomes 1st  Black Woman to Play in U.S. Polo’s Highest League

Shariah Harris just became the first black woman to play high-goal polo, the top tier of U.S. polo. (Photo credit: KERRY MCCANN)

by Taryn Finley via huffingtonpost.com

A 19-year-old is making history and disrupting the wealthy white male-dominated sport of polo at the same time. On June 30, Shariah Harris of Philadelphia became the first black woman to play high-goal polo, the top tier of polo in the U.S. This summer, the Cornell University sophomore hit the field at the Tony Greenwich Polo Club in Connecticut to play for the Postage Stamp Farm team in the Silver Cup tournament. Harris told HuffPost that she’s excited about this barrier-breaking opportunity. “It’s great. Everything’s going by really fast, actually so it’s been great. This is something I’ve always wished I could do but never thought would happen. It’s pretty amazing.”

Harris became interested in the sport at age 8 or 9 after her mom took a wrong turn while driving. The wrong turn led them to grounds where other black children were riding horses. Harris and her mom were intrigued and found that the stables were run by a non-profit called Work to Ride. The program allows underprivileged inner-city kids to work in the stables and care for the horses. In return, the kids learn about horsemanship and equine sports. “As a mother of three children on a single income, I saw it as an opportunity to make their lives better,” her mom, Sharmell Harris, told the Hartford Courant. “Instead of a soccer mom, I became a barn mom.”

Shariah Harris (far right) and her team. (PHOTO COURTESY OF SHARIAH HARRIS)

Harris would report to the stables early in the morning to feed the horses, clean the barns, do maintenance work and other tasks. Though she admits that she wasn’t that good at riding in the beginning, she found a sense of comfort being on the horses. At 12, she joined the organization’s team and found a passion in polo. She would watch videos of the best players in the world and aspire to play at that level. So she incorporated some of their moves into her sport and challenged herself by playing with the boys of the program.

She carried her practice into college and became a force on Cornell’s polo team. In 2016 Harris was named the Polo Training Foundation’s 2016 National Interscholastic Player of the Year. The animal science major helped lead Cornell’s arena polo team into the finals this year. She credits much of her success to Work to Ride. Through Work to Ride, Harris was able to travel to play in different cities in the country as well as Nigeria and Argentina. While in Argentina in December, the teen met the owner of the Postage Stamp Farm team, Annabelle Garrett.

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