Common Brings Message of Redemption and Hope to Inmates at Folsom State Prison

Common (photo via bet.com)

by Kai Miller via bet.com

Fresh on the heels of kicking off his Hope & Redemption TourCommon is bringing his social activism to center stage. The “Glory” rapper recently paid a visit to the Folsom State Prison in California, where he treated the inmates to a concert in part with his Imagine Justice initiative.

Imagine Justice took to social media to share the photos of Common’s inspiring trip through its “Faces of Mass Incarceration” photo series. The photos capture the men captivated by the MC, smiling with raised fists as the Chi-Town native performed. Other photos show Common heading down to the crowd of inmates to greet them.

“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to connect with my brothers inside Folsom State Prison and perform for them to inspire them and spread a message of hope, redemption, justice, love and compassion,” the rapper wrote in an Instagram post.

The multi-hyphenate star recently documented his four-day prison tour visits in a YouTube web series titled The Hope & Redemption Tour, giving viewers the opportunity to hear the heartfelt stories of the women and men facing lengthy prison sentences and what their lives are like behind the prison walls.

To see first in series, click below:

To read more, go to: Common Visits Inmates At Folsom State Prison

Houston Native Beyoncé Pledges to Help with Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts via BeyGOOD

Beyonce performs during the Formation World Tour at NRG Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, in Houston. (Photo by Daniela Vesco/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment/AP Images)

by Joey Guerra via chron.com

Beyoncé has pledged to do her part to help Hurricane Harvey victims. The Houston native released an exclusive statement Monday afternoon to the Houston Chronicle regarding the devastating effects still being felt throughout the city. “My heart goes out to my hometown, Houston, and I remain in constant prayer for those affected and for the rescuers who have been so brave and determined to do so much to help,” she said. “I am working closely with my team at BeyGOOD as well as my pastor (Rudy Rasmus at St. John’s in downtown Houston) to implement a plan to help as many as we can.”

BeyGOOD, launched in 2013 during the Mrs. Carter World Tour, is a philanthropic effort that partners with global charity organizations to get people employed and provide clothing, counseling, housing, food and medical assistance.

Beyoncé posted a black and white photo on Instagram of herself holding the Texas flag with the caption, “Texas you are in my prayers.” In less than a day it’s received more than 1 million likes.Drake, Chris Young and Lady Antebellum have also dedicated money and resources to Hurricane Harvey victims.

To read full article, go to: Beyoncé pledges to ‘help as many as we can’ with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts

Salt-N-Pepa Mentor “Girls Make Beats” DJs, Have Them Open SnP’s Pompano Beach Show in FL

Girls Make Beats Founder Tiffany Miranda (l) and three of her aspiring DJs (photo via cbsmiami.com)

by via cbsmiami.com

POMPANO BEACH (CBSMiami) – They are iconic – two female rappers and a DJ who made their mark on the 90s, the music industry and the “glass ceiling.” Trio Salt-N-Pepa – made of up of Cheryl James (“Salt”), Sandra Denton (“Pepa”) and Deidra Roper (“Spinderella”) – is best known for their songs “Shoop” and “Whatta Man.” They inspired a generation, including Tiffany Miranda. Miranda is a successful DJ and performer, and founder of Girls Make Beats, a nonprofit program that teaches young girls the ins and outs of music production, DJ’ing and audio engineering. “Salt-N-Pepa, they were my jam what I was growing up,” said Miranda. “I would just watch VH1 and MTV and The Box. It was all Salt-N-Pepa, all the time.”

Salt-N-Pepa give advice to young women of Girls Make Beats (image captured from cbsmiami.com)

The girls of Girls Make Beats opened for Salt-N-Pepa, who performed their classics at the Pompano Beach Amphitheatre, and took time to say hello to the future DJs who look up to them. “You have to really believe in yourself and your talent,” said Salt. “You have to be strong. Salt-N-Pepa have endured a lot in the business, and there were a lot of times where we felt defeated, and like we wanted to give up, but there’s a certain energy that you have to have a woman when you’re in a male dominated field. You have to stay focused.”

Girls Make Beats partnered with the city of Pompano Beach and Ali Cultural Arts Center, with help from a Knight Foundation grant, to provide training to inner-city girls. Spinderella was thrilled to hear about the program, and said girls should use any negativity they encounter along the way to catapult them.“The women that are coming through the doors, we’d like to see, of course, more of them,” she said.  “But I’m proud as a female DJ to see the young ladies doing what they do, because they have been put into this box. They’re women, they can do anything. I say to the young girls out there, use that as your catalyst.”

To see video and read more, go to: Salt-N-Pepa Share Words Of Wisdom With Up-&-Coming DJs « CBS Miami

Kansas City Teacher Darryl Chamberlin Creates Youth Orchestra With his Own Money

A-Flat Orchestra creator Darryl Chamberlain (photo via blackamericaweb.com)

by Michael H. Cottman via blackamericaweb.com

Darryl Chamberlain was determined to create a youth orchestra come hell or high water. In these uncertain times, where public school budget cuts are impacting African American students perhaps more than ever before, Chamberlain, a history teacher in Kansas City, Missouri, began thinking out of the box.

Chamberlain wants to change young lives through music but he had limited resources. So with the money he received playing piano in local churches, Chamberlain bought 70 used instruments, some from pawn shops, and cleaned them up for the students in his class.The result: The A-Flat Orchestra.

“The A-Flat Orchestra doesn’t have a funding arm behind it,” Chamberlain said, “just wit and ingenuity,” Chamberlain told The Kansas City Star. “And with a little ingenuity you can do anything.”

Chamberlain is delivering on a random act of kindness – a much-needed effort during a time when activities like music could be sacrificed in public schools across the country. “I’m doing more than teaching music,” Chamberlain, 59, told The Star. “I draw parallels to life situations and help them to understand how music connects to everyday life.”

He has assembled an orchestra of about 15 students so far but Chamberlain’s goal is to have a much larger symphony. He accepts all students regardless of their musical abilities. Chamberlain is shaping young lives every day and recent studies suggest that Chamberlain’s interaction with black students is critical.

Here is how Johns Hopkins University explains it: In a new study, low-income Black students who have at least one Black teacher in elementary school are significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college, according to a study co-authored by a Johns Hopkins University economist. Having at least one Black teacher in third through fifth grades reduced a Black student’s probability of dropping out of school by 29 percent, the study found. For very low-income Black boys, the results are even greater – their chance of dropping out fell 39 percent.

Previous research has shown there are short-term benefits to pairing students with teachers of the same race, but this study, a new working paper published by the Institute of Labor Economics, demonstrates the positive impacts of having just one of these teachers can continue over many years. “Black students matched to black teachers have been shown to have higher test scores but we wanted to know if these student-teacher racial matches had longer-lasting benefits. We found the answer is a resounding yes,” co-author Nicolas Papageorge of Johns Hopkins said in a statement.

“We’re seeing spending just one year with a teacher of the same race can move the dial on one of the most frustratingly persistent gaps in educational attainment — that of low-income black boys. It not only moves the dial, it moves the dial in a powerful way.”Chamberlain is certainly moving the dial in Kansas City. “Music students have the lowest rate of teenage pregnancy, lower rates of violent crime,” Chamberlain told The Star. “

Source: Kansas City Man Creates Youth Orchestra With His Own Money | Black America Web

Bruno Mars Donates $1M from Michigan Concert Proceeds to Flint Water Crisis

Recording artist Bruno Mars (photo via hollywoodreporter.com)

via hollywoodreporter.com

Bruno Mars is donating $1 million from his Michigan concert to aid those affected by the Flint water crisis. Mars told the audience Saturday at his show in Auburn Hills that he and tour promoter Live Nation are redirecting funds from the concert to The Community Foundation of Greater Flint, a charity.

In 2014, Flint switched water sources and failed to add corrosion-reducing phosphates, allowing lead from old pipes to leach into the water. Mars says in a statement that “as people, especially as Americans, we need to stand together to make sure something like this never happens in any community ever again.”

To read more, go to: Bruno Mars Donates $1M to Flint Water Crisis | Hollywood Reporter

Meet Kayla Robinson, the Teen Who Made Frank Ocean’s Powerful Panorama Tee via Green Box Shop

Green Box Shop creator Kayla Robinson (l); Frank Ocean (r) [photos via mtv.com]

by Hilary Hughes via mtv.com

Since launching Green Box Shop in 2016, social media has played a huge part in how Kayla Robinson, 18, runs Green Box Shop: She heavily relies on Instagram and Twitter to promote her line of T-shirts bearing progressive, all-caps messages, and she’s found inspiration for some designs by connecting with people online and checking her feed, too.

A couple of famous fans have snapped up Green Box Shop shirts — including Zendaya, who posted an image of a Green Box tee on Snapchat before saying she’ll snap up a few shirts (or all of them) herself — thanks to their popularity on these platforms, and it was one of these well-known customers who let Robinson know that Frank Ocean was rocking one of her shirts for his headlining set at the Panorama Music Festival on July 28.

“Well, Jessica Williams, she DMed me,” says Robinson of the moment she realized her shirt was about to go viral. The star of The Incredible Jessica James and former Daily Show correspondent has been a Green Box shopper for a minute, and was all too eager to share that Ocean was broadcasting Robinson’s WHY BE RACIST, SEXIST, HOMOPHOBIC, OR TRANSPHOBIC WHEN YOU COULD JUST BE QUIET? design to a thousands-strong crowd.

“She texted me in all caps, all excited, like, ‘FRANK OCEAN IS WEARING ONE OF YOUR SHIRTS!’ I was like, ‘That’s not true! You’re lying!’ I didn’t believe her at first, but then she sent me some pictures, and I was like, ‘That’s crazy.’ I just started freaking out. I just remember doing something in my kitchen, and I just immediately started running around.”

Robinson’s reaction is completely understandable given the intense surge of interest in Green Box. During a typical week, Green Box sees a daily average of 50 orders. On July 29, the day after Ocean’s set, Robinson says that 3,500 orders were placed (though not all for the shirt he wore, specifically); an additional 1,000 orders came in before this article went to press on July 30. That means that Green Box sold ten times what they typically do in a week in a single day thanks to the exposure Ocean provided — and it also means that Green Box has a chance to give back more than they already do.

For Robinson, the focus of Green Box has always been more about freedom of expression than about fashion, as she launched the company to sell tees with activist messages she’d actually wear (and raise money to fund her yoga teacher certification in the process).

“I never really had an interest in fashion — you know, as in being really trendy or fashionable,” she says. “I was already in the phase of tie-dying a lot of shirts, and so I decided to put my ideas on shirts and sell them to raise money. I first started doing this through GoFundMe, and then the business grew. It basically came from a passion of speaking my mind and tie-dye.”

To read full article, go to: Meet The Teen Who Made Frank Ocean’s Powerful Panorama Tee – MTV

LL Cool J to Become Kennedy Center’s First Hip-Hop Honoree

LLCoolJ (photo via npr.org)

by Rodney Carmichael via npr.org

Thirty years after becoming rap’s first sex symbol, LL Cool J will be the first hip-hop artist to receive Kennedy Center Honors in its 40-year history.

The rapper-turned-actor born James Todd Smith will be inducted with a prestigious 2017 class — including pop stars Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, television icon Norman Lear and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade – on Sunday, Dec. 3 at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C.

The honorees will be saluted by performers while seated alongside President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. While Kennedy Center Honors acknowledge the lifetime achievements of contributors to American culture, the list has traditionally been limited in scope. But the inclusion of LL, born James Todd Smith, in this year’s honoree list further expands the center’s growing embrace of hip-hop culture.

Earlier this year the center appointed Simone Eccleston as its first director of Hip-Hop Culture after naming A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip as artistic director of Hip-Hop Culture in 2016. Historic performances by Kendrick Lamar and Common have also underlined the center’s investment, and more programming for the 2017-18 season is expected to be announced in the coming months.

At 49, LL will be the Kennedy Center’s youngest honoree since Stevie Wonder. It’s a long way from home for the St. Albans, Queens native who made his first record, “I Need A Beat,” at 16, after his demo tape made it to the ears of producer and Def Jam founder Rick Rubin. As rap’s first bona fide solo star, LL was larger than life in the 1980s, the first to embody the street-corner swagger and sex appeal that would become a blueprint for future hip-hop icons ranging from Big Daddy Kane to Biggie.

Before an artist like Drake could legitimately mix hip-hop lyricism with R&B vulnerability, LL turned out the first hit rap ballad with 1987’s “I Need Love.” And the ladies loved him for it. Best known today for his starring roles in TV and film, he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year. But after a career spanning 30-plus years and 13 albums, he’s yet to leave rap alone — he’s rumored to be in the studio recording with Dr. Dre.

To read full article, go to: LL Cool J To Become Kennedy Center’s First Hip-Hop Honoree : The Record : NPR