Category: Community

Author Toni Morrison and Curator Thelma Golden to Receive 2019 Awards from American Academy of Arts and Letters

Toni Morrison and Thelma Golden (photos via artsandletters.org)

The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced the recipients of its highest honors for excellence in the arts, to be presented at its annual ceremony in May. Toni Morrison will be awarded the Gold Medal for Fiction. The Gold Medal is awarded to those who have achieved eminence in an entire body of work.

Thelma Golden will be recognized with the Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts for her significant contribution as Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Sculptor Lee Bontecou will also be honored this year.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. Early members included Henry James, Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton. The Academy’s 250 members are elected for life and pay no dues.

In addition to electing new members as vacancies occur, the Academy seeks to foster and sustain an interest in Literature, Music, and the Fine Arts by administering over 70 awards and prizes, exhibiting art and manuscripts, funding performances of new works of musical theater, and purchasing artwork for donation to museums across the country. This year’s total expenditures on awards and grants will be $1.2 million. Continue reading “Author Toni Morrison and Curator Thelma Golden to Receive 2019 Awards from American Academy of Arts and Letters”

Entrepreneur Noëlle Santos Brings Bookstore to the Bronx By Opening Crowdfunded The Lit. Bar

Noëlle Santos (photo via thelitbar.com)

There is an article by Ginia Bellafante in the New York Times this morning about inspiring Bronx native Noëlle Santos, who is opening The Lit. Bar, the Bronx’s first general bookstore since Barnes and Noble shuttered its store there in 2016.

According to the article, Santos, a self-described millennial Afro Latina who was working in human resources at the time, came across a petition on Facebook in 2014 to save the Bronx’ Barnes and Noble (which it managed to for two more years). The petition pointed out how alarming it was that the Bronx was getting more and more cellphone stores and chain restaurants but would be left without a place to buy novels or training manuals or SAT preparation guides.

Santos, who grew up and went to college and graduate school in the Bronx, suddenly felt a radical need to do change things.

“Up to that point I had measured my success by how far I could get away from the Bronx,’’ she is quoted as saying. “I was disappointed in myself for thinking about leaving a community in no better condition that I had found it,’’ she said.

“I had never been inside an independent book store before I decided to open one.”

Santos took that inspiration and worked to make her dream real by calling the American Booksellers Association to learn how to do just that. From ABA Santos learned about a course called “Owning a Bookstore” – which was held in Florida. Undeterred, Santos pooled her vacation days and sick days to fly there and take it. In that course, she learned how to calculate sales projections, negotiate a lease, think about layouts, floor plans, foot traffic, etc.

When Santos returned to New York, she furthered her education by volunteering at small bookstores around the city in exchange for mentorship, and entered a statewide competition for entrepreneurs with promising business plans. She won, and with that prize money, opened a pop-up bookstore in the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

To open an actual store, however, Santos needed much more capital, so she started a crowdfunding campaign and called it, “Let’s Bring a Goddamn Bookstore to the Bronx.’’ With it, she quickly raised $170,000.

To read more of Santos’ story, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/25/nyregion/bronx-bookstore.html?action=click&module=Features&pgtype=Homepage

To support The Lit. Bar in person, visit: 131 Alexander Avenue, Bronx, NY 10454

The Lit. Bar online: http://www.thelitbar.com

Viola Davis Narrates “A Touch of Sugar” Documentary Film to Bring Awareness to Type 2 Diabetes

Viola Davis (photo: flickr.com); A Touch of Sugar ( via ATouchOfSugarFilm.com)

Viola Davis has teamed up with pharmaceutical company Merck on A Touch of Sugar, a documentary film which addresses the health epidemic surrounding Type 2 diabetes, particularly among African-Americans.

According to PR Newswire, the film will debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival today. Davis narrates the project, which is personal to her, as several members of her family have been diagnosed with the disease.

“Type 2 diabetes has taken a toll on my family. My great-aunt suffered from complications of the disease, two of my sisters are currently living with it, and a few years ago, I was diagnosed with prediabetes,” Davis said. “I’m one of the 84 million American adults living with prediabetes and I’m sharing my story for the first time in an effort to inspire others to take action against the type 2 diabetes epidemic.”

“It’s not something I talk about because it’s a disease a lot of us simply accept – growing up my family just called it ‘sugar.’ But, this must change. I want people to know that type 2 diabetes can have consequences. It’s not something to be taken lightly – we need to take it seriously if we’re going to get it under control.”

A Touch of Sugar is an honest depiction of life with type 2 diabetes that puts a much-needed spotlight on the real people affected by it firsthand,” said Conrod Kelly, Executive Director, Diabetes Franchise at Merck. “Although the disease is a result of a combination of genetics, lifestyle, and environment, there are steps we can take together to help reduce its impact on individuals and their families. With this documentary, Merck is dedicated to increasing awareness and inspiring action to ultimately confront America’s type 2 diabetes epidemic head on – one community and one patient at a time.”

Merck spearheads a program, America’s Diabetes Challenge: Get to Your Goals to promote living a healthier lifestyle.

People can learn more about A Touch of Sugar and how to make a difference in their communities by visiting ATouchOfSugarFilm.com. On the website, they can watch the trailer, start the conversation by downloading a discussion guide, and find educational resources to help improve diabetes management.

Sylvia Rhone Rises from President to Chairman & CEO of Epic Records

Sylvia Rhone (photo via twitter.com)

According to Variety.com, Sony Music Entertainment announced today the promotion of Sylvia Rhone to Chairman and CEO of Epic Records. In this role, Rhone will lead the overall creative direction and management of Epic Records, overseeing Epic’s roster of hit-making artists such as Travis Scott, Future, Camila Cabello, 21 Savage, Meghan Trainor, DJ Khaled, and French Montana

Rhone has been President of Epic Records since 2014, and since then has overseen projects including Scott’s 2018 best-selling album “Astroworld”; Camila Cabello’s debut album “Camila” and the smash single “Havana,” as well as music from Future, 21 Savage and others.

“I am excited to continue my amazing journey at Epic Records supported by Rob Stringer’s vision and leadership,” stated Rhone. “Everything we do is a testament to our incredible artists who set the bar of the entire Epic culture, inspiring our dedicated executive team every day and enriching the legacy of this great label.”

Before joining Sony Music, Rhone was President of Universal Motown Records and Executive Vice President at Universal Records from 2004. From 1994-2004, Rhone was Chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group’s Elektra Entertainment Group, the first African American woman to be named Chairman of a major record company, where she oversaw releases from artists such as Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Metallica, Staind, Third Eye Blind, Tracy Chapman, and Natalie Merchant. Rhone began her career at Buddah Records in 1974, a label best-known for its Gladys Knight and the Pips albums. 

Rhone is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania‘s well-regarded Wharton Business School. She received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music on April 5, 2019, in recognition of her achievements as a leading female music executive who has headed labels multiple times during her career.

Intersection in Harlem Renamed in Honor of Acting Legends and Activists Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee (photo via Facebook)

According to New York Amsterdam News, on Saturday the northeast corner of 123rd Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue in Harlem was renamed in honor of famed acting and civil rights couple Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee (Purlie Victorious, Countdown At Kusini, Do The Right Thing, Jungle Fever).

The Dwyer Cultural Center hosted the ceremonial unveiling of ‘Ruby Dee Place’ and ‘Ossie Davis Way’. Dee and Davis’ children, Nora Day Hasna Muhammad and Guy Davis, attended the event, as did the Rev. Al Sharpton, former New York City mayor David Dinkins, Assemblywoman Inez Dickens and State Sen. Brian Benjamin.

The Dwyer opened its gallery to the public to view an exhibit dedicated to Dee and Davis with numerous storyboards displayed related to the work of the couple and Cliff Frazier. The public also participated in a community mosaic mural.

To learn more about Dee and Davis’ lives, work, philanthropy and scholarships, go to: https://ossieandruby.com or follow @EverythingOssieandRuby

Or check out their story in their own words:

To see video of the street re-naming, watch below:

GBN Wishes You and Yours a Happy Easter!

 

Here’s hoping that you, your loved ones, colleagues and friends are partaking of only the best during this year’s Easter celebration – enjoy your blessings and the day!

In gratitude,

The GBN Staff

Juilliard-Bound Amari Frazier, 18, Brings Dance to Underserved Groups Through Chicago Non-Profit, Step Into Joy

Amari Frazier (photo by Thomas More Photography)

The day after he turned 18, Amari Frazier learned he had been accepted into New York’s most prestigious arts college Juilliard to study dance. But the real gift could be how he rewards Chicago’s South Side with dance now and for decades to come.

Frazier, a soon-to-graduate senior dancer at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, has used dance to spread love with the non-profit he founded a year ago with friends called Step Into Joy. Step Into Joy performs at churches and groups for those who have been abused, first by dancing for the audience and then dancing with them.

Amari Frazier (photo via Donna Frazier)

After attending Juilliard, Frazier plans to return to Chicago and build on Step Into Joy to create a dance academy for those who can’t afford it.

“I feel like you need to spread love in the world, more than hate, and there’s a lot of hate on the South and West sides,” Frazier said. “I just want to change the world and change the look of the South and West sides and how people are there. There are better ways to go about things, and dance is a great way to communicate with people. I know I can use dance to really help people and putting smiles on people’s faces.”

To see the Step Into Joy dancers in action, click here.

“He wants to give back to his community,” Donna Frazier said. “He sees the struggles in people, and he realizes where dance has taken him, and where it can take others.”

Frazier is the 10th Academy student to be accepted into Juilliard during Chicago Academy Dance Chair Randy Duncan’s tenure. Duncan said Frazier is “is a dancer of enormous talent and has a solid dedication to the art of dance.”

“His ability to focus is outstanding! Amari is one of those rare dancers that catches on to movement after only seeing it once,”  Duncan said. “He understands and delivers the message a choreographer gives with all the technique and emotion necessary, which allows him to capture and magnify the spirit of the dance.”

Frazier said attending The Academy has been a godsend for him as a student and performer. And he said it’s only the beginning.

“I want to provide kids who don’t have the funds for dance – because dancing is very expensive – with the resources through my foundation because everyone should have the opportunity to be able to do what they want,” Frazier said. “Dreams should be fulfilled, and they’re possible.”

For more information on Step Into Joy, visit https://stepintojoy.wixsite.com/stepintojoy

Good Black News Highlighted on NPR’s Syndicated Call-In Show “On Point” as Notable Media Outlet Focusing on Positive News (AUDIO)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN Founder and Editor-In-Chief (@LakinHutcherson)

Yesterday I had the pleasure and honor of being a guest on Boston public radio station WBUR‘s nationally-syndicated show On Point to discuss the current push and need for good news in the media (and to continue to spread the word about Good Black News).

David Folkenflik is the host and moderator of On Point, and Hilary McQuilkin produced the hour for broadcast. Other guests on this show with me are David Beard (@dabeard), founder of The Optimist newsletter at the Washington Post, who also writes for the Recharge newsletter of Mother Jones and  Gail Rosenblum(@grosenblum), editor of the Inspired section at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

To hear our discussion on why good news and solutions-based reporting is on the upswing and so necessary in our culture right now, click here and enjoy!

To read more details behind this episode entitled “Beyond Puppies, A Push For Positive Stories In Today’s Media Coverage” on On Point’s website, click here.

Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY to Open Independent Movie Theater, Offer Grants For Film Festivals

Ava Duvernay (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

According to Tambay Obenson‘s article on indiewire.com, filmmaker Ava DuVernay‘s distribution company ARRAY is building a state-of-the-art, 50-set movie theater, which will be able to screen independent movies as well as be available for rental. To quote the article:

“Located west of downtown Los Angeles — a part of the city that doesn’t house many media moguls — it’s also the area’s only independent theater. And it comes at a time when exhibitors are apoplectic over the impact of Netflix and other major streaming companies.

ARRAY VP Tilane Jones said that’s one reason they chose to open it. “It’s really a labor of love, which is all driven by a desire to be in service of people,” Jones said. “Our filmmakers and our audience.”

The ARRAY library is an eclectic selection of independent films, many of which were directed by women and/or people of color, united by singular visions and themes of social justice — a template that mainstream distributors often dismiss out of hand. For DuVernay, who worked as a movie marketer and publicist for more than 14 years, this represented an opportunity.”

ARRAY is also working to create opportunities for filmmakers of color. Last year, ARRAY teamed up with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and producer Dan Lin to launch the Evolve Entertainment Fund, which provides promotion, grants, and gap financing for communities historically excluded from the entertainment industry.

ARRAY Alliance, which is the company’s non-profit division, plans to create grants for African American, Latino and Asian American film festivals, societies and clubs, as well as support the screenings, curriculum, and teacher training that will help young audiences learn the value of art, independent film, and social justice.

To read more, go to: https://www.indiewire.com/2019/04/ava-duvernay-array-affrm-burial-of-kojo-1202053860/

EDUCATION: LeBron James “I Promise” School Showing Early Signs of Success

This week, reporter Erica L. Green wrote an encouraging feature in the New York Times about the “I Promise” public school NBA superstar LeBron James opened last year through the LeBron James Family Foundation in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.  To quote the article:

“This time last year, the students at the school — Mr. James’s biggest foray into educational philanthropy — were identified as the worst performers in the Akron public schools and branded with behavioral problems. Some as young as 8 were considered at risk of not graduating. Now, they are helping close the achievement gap in Akron.

The academic results are early, and at 240, the sample size of students is small, but the inaugural classes of third and fourth graders at I Promise posted extraordinary results in their first set of district assessments. Ninety percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math, outpacing their peers across the district.”

To read more about the school, its current impact and see photos from it, click here.