Octavia Spencer, LeBron James Team on Limited TV Series About Madam CJ Walker

LeBron James / Octavia Spencer (photos via variety.com)

by Justin Kroll via variety.com

NBA superstar LeBron James is continuing to make moves off the court. James’ production company, SpringHill Entertainment, is adding the first scripted drama to its growing slate. The project also boasts Oscar-winning talent: Octavia Spencer.

Spencer is attached to star in the limited series about entrepreneur and social activist Madam C.J. Walker’s life, with James executive producing along with his company’s co-founder, Maverick Carter. Sources tell Variety that Netflix is interested in the series and is the likely destination. The steaming service had no comment on their involvement in the project.

Nicole Asher is on board to write and co-exec produce and “Black Nativity” helmer Kasi Lemmons will direct the pilot and also executive produce. The series is based on the book “On Her Own Ground” by A’Lelia Bundles, Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, who will also serve as a consultant on the series.

Walker, the daughter of slaves, was orphaned at age seven, married at 14, and widowed at 20. She spent two decades laboring as a washerwoman, earning $1.50 a week. However, everything changed following Walker’s discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women. By the time she died in 1919, she had built a beauty empire from the ground up, amassing wealth unprecedented among black women. She counted W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington among her friends.

Zero Gravity Management’s Mark Holder and Christine Holder optioned the book from Bundles in early 2016. Spencer got wind of the project and aggressively pursued the part. Once word spread that Spencer was attached, WME, who reps both Spencer and James, pitched the series to James as his production company’s entryway into the prestige genre.

SpringHill president Jamal Henderson brought the project to Carter’s attention and the two moved quickly to land the property. With Nicole Asher set to write, Spencer starring, and James and Springhill on board as producers, the package was presented to potential buyers, with Netflix acting fast and the favorite to land the series. “I am really proud of this project and that SpringHill will be partnering with Octavia to tell this important story,” James said. “Every American should all know the story of Madam C.J. Walker. She was an innovator, entrepreneur, social activist, and total game changer whose story has been left out of the history books. I hope this project lives up to her legacy with a story that will educate and inspire.”

To read full article, go to: Octavia Spencer, LeBron James Team on TV Series About Madam CJ Walker | Variety

Joy-Ann Reid’s ‘AM Joy’ beats CNN in Ratings for 5th Month in a Row

“AM Joy” Host Joy Reid (photo via msnbc.com)

via thegrio.com

Joy-Ann Reid‘s talk show AM Joy on MSNBC keeps pulling in the numbers. For the fifth straight month, her show beat out CNN viewership in the same time slot, according to Shadow and Act. In July, her Saturday edition averaged 1.02 million viewers, versus CNN’s 778,000, and her Sunday edition averaged 880,000 viewers versus CNN’s 878,000.

What’s more, AM Joy has seen double-digit growth in the 25-54 demographic, with 45 percent growth on Saturday and 74 percent growth on Sunday. That same demographic, for comparison, has been down for both Fox and CNN in that same time period. Overall, AM Joy enjoyed 53 percent growth for the Saturday edition and 72 percent for total viewers for the Sunday edition.

To read more, go to: Joy-Ann Reid’s ‘AM Joy’ beats CNN in ratings for fifth straight month | theGrio

U.K.’s Positive.News Publishes Good Black News Feature – “Black News Matters: the Website Dedicated to Positive News about People of Color”

Good Black News Founder and Editor-in-Chief Lori Lakin Hutcherson (photo: Atsushi Nishijima)

interview by Lucy Purdy via positive.news

Lori Lakin Hutcherson was shocked when she was unable to find a website dedicated to positive news about black people. So she started one 

Why did you start the Facebook page that became the website, Good Black News?

I actually started Good Black News by accident. It was 2010 and, in my work as a film and television writer and producer, I was collaborating with author Terry McMillan on the film adaptation of her new book. Before our writing session started one morning, she was telling me about a story she’d barely come across in the news: at an all-black academy in Chicago, 100 per cent of the seniors were accepted to college. Terry was wondering why there was no major news media coverage of this great achievement, and lamenting that the mainstream media primarily focused on negative news about African Americans. I figured that there must be a site dedicated solely to positive African American news, so searched the internet. To my shock, I couldn’t find one. In that moment I decided I had to create it, even if just a page on Facebook. So I did. And it slowly grew from there.

How do you think the mainstream media is biased towards people of colour? What damage can stereotypes do?

The media bias reflects the bias intrinsic in US culture and society. People of colour are often seen as threats or exceptions, but not commonly enough as typical human beings. More often than not, you’ll see adjectives or nouns that refer to someone’s ethnicity or skin colour rather than their name or age, or you will see images that are dour or intense instead of happy or light. The damage these micro-dehumanisations can do is reinforce prejudices about people of colour, as well as teach and perpetuate them. So every time I put up a positive story, I am conscious that I am combatting all of that, as well as offering a bit of uplift for anyone who comes across it.

What steps do you take with your stories; for example with headlines and photos, to make them more representative and balanced?

First of all, I make sure that they are accurate and informative, and properly credited and sourced. Secondly, I like to find the best image possible to represent the person or the subject of the story; if all anyone sees is the photo or the headline, I want to make sure either or both offer a story, as well as positive impact. Lastly, I like to put names in headlines. A person’s name offers individuality and acknowledgement that I think impresses on readers a level of humanity that descriptors just don’t. It may seem subtle, but to me, it’s not. Imagine, for example, the differing impact of The Autobiography of a Black Muslim v The Autobiography of Malcolm X or The Diary of a Jewish Girl v The Diary of Anne Frank.

What reactions have you had to Good Black News? Have any surprised you?

The majority have been positive, which isn’t surprising as much as it is heartwarming. It’s humbling knowing that what myself, my fellow editor Lesa Lakin and our volunteer contributors do is helping so many people access information and stories they might not otherwise have heard of. What has surprised me – even though, thankfully, it’s not a large number – is that there are people who spend their time trying to troll and mock and denigrate a site dedicated to sharing positive stories about people of colour. Each time I come across a wayward comment, reply or tweet and block it, I think ‘Who has time for this kind of vitriol in their life?

People of colour are often seen as threats or exceptions, but not commonly enough as typical human beings

Which sorts of stories are most popular?

Education stories. Whether it’s a boy or girl genius graduating college at 14, or a formerly homeless teen going to the Ivy League, or senior citizens finally getting their high school or college diplomas, education stories are always popular. Education has been the most accessible and democratic way people of colour have been able to improve their lives in the US. To go from it being a crime to learn to read and write, to earning PhDs and running universities – yeah, those stories always resonate.

To read rest of article, go to: Black news matters: the website dedicated to positive news about people of colour

“Straight Outta Compton” Executive Producer Will Packer and “Boondocks” Creator Aaron McGruder Reveal Alt-History Drama “Black America” in the Works at Amazon

Will Packer (l); Aaron McGruder (r)

by Nellie Andreeva (with Mike Fleming) via deadline.com

A century and a half after slavery was abolished in the U.S., the wounds left by one of the darkest periods in American history are far from healed, as evidenced by the controversy surrounding the recent announcement of HBO’s upcoming drama series Confederate, from Game Of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, which explores an alternate timeline of seceded southern states where slavery is legal and has evolved into a modern institution.

Another alternate history drama series, which has been in the works at Amazon for over a year, also paints a reality where southern states have left the Union but takes a very different approach. Titled Black America, the drama hails from top feature producer Will Packer (Ride AlongThink Like A Man) and Peabody-Award winning The Boondocks creator and Black Jesus co-creator Aaron McGruder.

It envisions an alternate history where newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations for slavery, and with that land, the freedom to shape their own destiny. The sovereign nation they formed, New Colonia, has had a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with its looming “Big Neighbor,” both ally and foe, the United States.

The past 150 years have been witness to military incursions, assassinations, regime change, coups, etc. Today, after two decades of peace with the U.S. and unprecedented growth, an ascendant New Colonia joins the ranks of major industrialized nations on the world stage as America slides into rapid decline. Inexorably tied together, the fate of two nations, indivisible, hangs in the balance.

The Packer/McGruder project was announced back in early February, but at the time, it was untitled, and the producers would not divulge any details about the storyline beyond it revolving around an alternate universe in the vein of Amazon’s flagship The Man in the High Castle. It was HBO’s announcement of Confederate this month that prompted the Black America team to reveal the project’s premise.

“It felt this was the appropriate time to make sure that audiences and the creative community knew that there was a project that preexisted and we are pretty far down the road with it,” Packer told Deadline. Black America, which Packer said is in “very, very active development” with McGruder “off and writing,” originated at Amazon Studios. The service’s head of content Roy Price called Packer more than a year ago while the producer was on the set of his latest box office hit, Girls Trip.

Price soon reached out to McGruder with whom Packer had briefly worked in the past on Think Like A Man and had been looking to team up again. “Being a fan of Aaron, I thought he definitely had the right tone, the right voice, the right wit to handle a project like this,” Packer said. “Aaron and I sat together and talked about what a huge opportunity and responsibility it would be to do this project and do it right.” As for the tone of the hourlong series, it’s “a drama, but it wouldn’t be Aaron McGruder without traces of his trademark sardonic wit,” Packer said.

Black America creates the kind of utopia that has been on the minds of generations of black Americans for whom the series may have a sense of wish-fulfillment. “It was something that was personally intriguing for me as a black American,” Packer said. “You would be hard pressed to find many black Americans who have not thought about the concept of reparation, what would happen if reparations were actually given. As a content creator, the fact that that is something that has been discussed thoroughly throughout various demographics of people in this country but yet never been explored to my knowledge in any real way in long-form content, I thought it was a tremendous opportunity to delve into the story, to do it right.” Continue reading

Serena Williams, Tracee Ellis Ross and other Celebrity Women Unite for ‘Black Women’s Equal Pay Day’

(photos via Twitter)

via thegrio.com

July 31st is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.

This year, Equal Pay Day was on April 4 to mark the extra three months and a few days that women in general have to work in order to make as much as men do in a year, with the pay gap at around 80 cents to the dollar. But the gap is worse when you take race into account, with Black women only making 67 cents to every dollar.

Thus, Black women have to work 19 months to make what white men make in 12. To mark the day, celebrities and other notable women have all come together to stand for equal pay for all women, especially those who are disadvantages twice over.

While many celebrities, such as Tracee Ellis Ross, took to Twitter to explain the significance of the date, others used the platform to specifically call for change. “We need to do more to address the economic injustice that exists at the intersection of gender & race. #BlackWomensEqualPay,” wrote Senator Kamala Harris.

Others, like Remy Ma, expressed messages of consolidation and support: “Black women are the cornerstone of our communities, they are phenomenal & they deserve equal pay.”

Check out some of the best of #BlackWomensEqualPay from Twitter by going to: Celebrity women unite for ‘Black Women’s Equal Pay Day’ | theGrio

Procter & Gamble Releases Powerful Video “The Talk” to Increase Awareness Around Bias as Part of “My Black is Beautiful” Campaign

(image via “The Talk” by Procter & Gamble)

by Lilly Workneh via huffintonpost.com

A new video released Monday titled “The Talk” compellingly tackles the impact of racial bias through the lens of black parents in America. The video ― which was released by My Black Is Beautiful, a beauty brand owned by Procter & Gamble ― is a powerful two-minute clip that explores racial bias by depicting some of the burdens placed on parents of black children, who are challenged with having necessary but difficult discussions with their children about their survival and self-esteem.

The video follows several black parents who have talks with their children about the ways in which their skin color can affect how they are perceived and treated by others. In one scenario, a mom asks her son if he has his ID before heading to practice, in case he is stopped by police. In another, a mother instructs her daughter, who is a new driver, on what to do in case she is pulled over by a cop. In the opening scene, a young girl is seen telling her mom that she was told she was “pretty for a black girl,” to which her mother later responds sternly: “You’re not pretty for a black girl. You’re beautiful period.”

“Our goal with ‘The Talk’ is to help raise awareness about the impact of bias,” Damon Jones, director of global company communications at Procter & Gamble, told HuffPost. “We are also hopeful that we can make progress toward a less biased future by recognizing the power of people of all backgrounds and races showing up for one another.”

With recent studies reporting that black girls are seen as less innocent than white girls as young as the age of 5 and with black boys frequently seen as a threat in the eyes of law enforcement, parents of black children often live in worry and discomfort. Jones said he hopes videos like this help to raise social consciousness around the affect bias can have in all of our lives and remind people of the many ways bias can take form across genders, races, ages, weight, sexual orientations and more.

“It’s time for everyone to #TalkAboutBias,” reads one of the last messages in the video, encouraging people to continue the conversation online by using the hashtag. “Let’s all talk about the talk so we can end the need to have it.”

Source: Powerful New Video Tackles Racial Bias To Remind Kids Their ‘Black Is Beautiful’ | HuffPost

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