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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R.I.P. Dr. S. Allen Counter, 63, Noted Neurophysiologist, Ethnographer and Founding Director of Harvard Foundation of Intercultural and Race Relations 

S. Allen Counter (photo via news.harvard.edu)

by Rachael Dane via news.harvard.edu

S. Allen Counter, the founding director of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations and a noted neurophysiologist, educator, and ethnographer, died on July 12.  According to wikipedia.com, Counter was also known for his achievements as an explorer. In 1971, he located a group of people living in the rain forest in northern Brazil, Surinam and French Guiana; the group was descended from African slaves who had escaped from slave ships. In 1986, Counter located descendants of earlier U.S. explorers of the arctic, Matthew A. Henson and Robert E. Peary. Counter was elected to The Explorers Club in 1989. Counter also designed Arthur Ashe‘s memorial at Woodland Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, dedicated on what would have been Ashe’s 50th birthday on July 10, 1993.

“Harvard has lost a great champion of inclusion and belonging in Dr. Allen Counter,” said President Drew Faust. “Through his leadership of the Harvard Foundation, he advanced understanding among members of our community and challenged all of us to imagine and strive for a more welcoming University and a more peaceful world. We remember today a campus citizen whose deep love of Harvard, and especially our undergraduates, leaves a lasting legacy.”

“During my years as president of Harvard, no one did more than Allen to make minority students feel welcome and at home at Harvard, to promote fruitful interaction among all races, and to serve as understanding adults to whom many undergraduates could turn in order to register their concerns, answer their questions, and have their legitimate problems communicated to the Harvard administration so that they could be understood and acted upon in appropriate ways,” recalled Derek Bok, who led the University from 1971–91 and from 2006–07. “Much of what he accomplished was unrecognized, but his contributions were invaluable, and I will always feel a great debt of gratitude for his service to the University.”

Counter did his undergraduate work in biology and sensory physiology at Tennessee State University and his graduate studies in electrophysiology at Case Western Reserve University, where he earned his Ph.D. He earned his M.D. at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. He came to Harvard in 1970 as a postdoctoral fellow and assistant neurophysiologist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Early in his University career, Counter lived in a student residence hall as dormitory director, resident tutor, and biological sciences tutor.

In the early 1970s, the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the Department of Health and Human Services) named him to the National Advisory Mental Health Council of the National Institute of Mental Health. In 1975, several proposals came before the council requesting funding for projects involving psychosurgery and electrode implants in human brains. At that time, the government’s rules protecting human subjects were still evolving, and Counter believed the projects were inherently racist. He insisted the council not approve them, and they were not acted upon.

In the same decade, Counter taught inmates at MCI Concord with the Massachusetts Correctional Concord Achievement Rehabilitation Volunteer Experience, where he said he gave inmates the same advice his grandmother had given him: “Read a book. Develop your mind.” A later study showed that participants in the program had a lower recidivism rate than prisoners who did not take part. After a sabbatical fellowship at UCLA with neuroscientist Alan D. Grinnell in the late 1970s, Counter returned to Cambridge, where his research at Harvard Medical School focused on clinical and basic studies on nerve and muscle physiology, auditory physiology, and neurophysiological diagnosis of brain-injured children and adults. Continue reading

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

Philando Castile Family Reaches $3M Settlement with City of St. Anthony, MN

Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile (photo via eurweb.com)

by Amy Forliti via thegrio.com

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The mother of Philando Castile, the black motorist killed by a Minnesota police officer last July, has reached a nearly $3 million settlement with the city that employed the officer, avoiding a federal wrongful death lawsuit that attorneys said could have taken years to resolve. The settlement to be paid to Valerie Castile, who is the family’s trustee, was announced Monday and comes less than two weeks after officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter and other charges connected to her son’s death.

Castile, a 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker, was shot five times by Yanez during a traffic stop after Castile told the officer he was armed. Castile had a permit for his gun. The shooting gained widespread attention after Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the car with her then-4-year-old daughter, livestreamed its gruesome aftermath on Facebook. The acquittal of Yanez, who is Latino, prompted days of protests, including one in St. Paul that shut down Interstate 94 for hours and ended with 18 arrests.

The $2.995 million settlement for Valerie Castile will be paid by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, which holds the insurance policy for the city of St. Anthony. The plan for distribution of funds requires approval by a state court, which could take several weeks. Robert Bennett, who along with attorney Glenda Hatchett is representing Valerie Castile, said a decision was made to move expeditiously rather than have the case drawn out in federal court, a process that would “exacerbate and reopen terrible wounds.” The settlement will also allow the family, the city and community to work toward healing, Bennett said.

“No amount of money could ever replace Philando,” a joint statement from the attorneys and city of St. Anthony said. “With resolution of the claims the family will continue to deal with their loss through the important work of the Philando Castile Relief Foundation.” Bennett said the foundation’s mission is to provide financial support, grief counseling, scholarships and other help to individuals and families affected by gun violence and police violence.

Bennett said Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, is not part of the settlement. Reynolds has also hired an attorney, but it’s not clear if she is still planning a lawsuit or has any standing for a federal claim. Reynolds’ attorney did not return messages Monday.

The settlement happened faster than others stemming from the killings of black men by police officers elsewhere. Last week, a $1.5 million settlement was reached in the case of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who was killed by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri. That settlement came nearly three years after the death of Brown, whose parents sued the city.

Bennett said his decades-long relationship with Joe Flynn, the attorney who represented St. Anthony in Castile’s case, helped bring a quick resolution. He also said the city of St. Anthony has a commitment to make positive changes to their police department. The city is undergoing a voluntary review by the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, with the goal of improving trust between the police department and the communities it serves.

To read full article, go to: Philando Castile family reaches $3M settlement in death | theGrio

Chris Singleton, Son of Charleston Church Shooting Victim Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Drafted by Chicago Cubs

Chris Singleton and his mother Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (photo via thebiglead.com)

by Paula Rogo via essence.com

The son of one of the victim’s of the Charleston church shooting was drafted to a major league baseball team almost two years to the day of the tragedy. The Chicago Cubs nabbed Chris Singleton in the 19th round of the draft last Wednesday. He played baseball at Charleston Southern University. His mother, the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and eight other people were gunned down in 2015 by Dylann Roof inside Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“We certainly understand and have deep sympathy for his backstory, but what I want to make sure doesn’t get lost is that this guy’s a really good baseball player,” said Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ senior vice president of scouting and player development. “We had him evaluated really as a top-10-round-caliber talent.”

Roof was sentenced to death ealier this year after being convicted of federal murder and hate crimes in the Charleston massacre. He pleaded guilty to state charges in April, clearing the way for his federal imprisonment on death row to begin.

On The Anniversary Of Charleston Massacre Singleton posted on Twitter after the draft, using the hashtag #CantLetMomsDown. He described his mother as ”a God-fearing woman (who) loved everybody with all her heart.“ If everyone loved the way she did, he said, hate wouldn’t have a chance.”

Source: Chicago Cubs Draft Son Of Charleston Church Shooting Victim | Essence.com

Serena Williams Signs On as New “Purple Purse” Ambassador to Promote Financial Empowerment for Domestic Abuse Victims

Serena Williams (via instagram)

via eurweb.com

Serena Williams has signed on as the newest ambassador for Allstate Foundation Purple Purse, the insurance company’s decade-old initiative to provide financial empowerment to domestic abuse victims. The pregnant tennis star takes over for Kerry Washington as ambassador of the organization, which says it has helped about one million women escape abusive relationships through a mix of financial education and job training.

In explaining her decision to sign on, Williams told Mic.com, “Not a lot of people really know about financial abuse. It’s an invisible but also really devastating form of domestic abuse that traps victims in these harmful relationships.”One reason financial abuse is so prevalent, Williams said, is because it takes many different — sometimes subtle — forms.

An abuser might contact their partner’s employer, for example, and undermine their ability to stay on the job. Or the abuser might take out and use credit cards in their partner’s name.“If a woman’s credit is ruined, she can’t get an apartment,” Williams pointed out. “Most of the time when people leave abusive relationships, they have this awful debt and that can take years and years to recover, especially if they have kids.”

Williams’s announcement on Thursday (June 22) came with a newly-released hidden-camera style video by Purple Purse — showing ride-sharing passengers who get into a car and discover a purse that has been left behind. Soon, a phone inside the purse begins ringing, and the passengers then see a series of alarming texts that indicate an abusive relationship. The video’s message? If you see something, say something, says Vicky Dinges, Allstate senior vice president for corporate responsibility, who heads the project.

To see video, click below:

To read original article, go to: Serena Williams Promotes Financial Empowerment for Domestic Abuse Victims | EURweb