Category: Events

“Betty: They Say I’m Different” Documentary About Funk Music Pioneer Betty Davis to Premiere at Red Bull Music Festival in NY

The trailblazing funk singer, bandleader and producer Betty Davis dropped out of public for decades. A new documentary, “Betty: They Say I’m Different,” tells her story. (Credit: Robert Brenner)

For a few short years in the 1970s, no one made funk as raw as Betty Davis did. She sang bluntly about sex on her own terms, demanding satisfaction with feral yowls and rasps, her voice slicing across the grooves that she wrote and honed as her own bandleader and producer. Her stage clothes were shiny, skimpy, futuristic fantasies; her Afro was formidable.

A major label, Island, geared up a big national push for her third album, “Nasty Gal,” in 1975. But mainstream radio didn’t embrace her, and Island rejected her follow-up recordings. Not long afterward, she completely dropped out of public view for decades.

Ms. Davis’s voice now — speaking, not singing — resurfaces in Betty: They Say I’m Different,” an impressionistic documentary that will have its United States theatrical premiere on Wednesday at the Billie Holiday Theater in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, as part of the Red Bull Music Festival. The film includes glimpses of virtually the only known concert footage of Ms. Davis in her lascivious, head-turning prime, performing at a 1976 French rock festival. The present-day Ms. Davis is shown mostly from behind and heard in voice-over, though there is one poignant close-up of her face.

This month Ms. Davis, 72, gave a rare interview by telephone from her home near Pittsburgh to talk about the film and her music. After years of entreaties from and conversations with its director, Phil Cox, and producer, Damon Smith, she agreed to cooperate on “Betty: They Say I’m Different” because, she said, “I figured it would be better to have them cover me when I was alive than when I was dead.”

Mr. Cox said, via Skype from England, “Betty doesn’t want sympathy, and she’s found her own space now. To me, that is just as interesting as that woman she was in the 1970s. It’s the antithesis of the age we live in, where everybody wants to be on social media all the time.”

Ms. Davis has longtime fans from the ’70s and newer ones who have discovered her in reissues and through hip-hop samples. They have clung to a catalog and a persona that were musically bold, verbally shocking and entirely self-created. Long before the current era of explicit lyrics, Ms. Davis was cackling through songs like “Nasty Gal” — “You said I love you every way but your way/And my way was too dirty for you” — and “He Was a Big Freak,” which boasts, “I used to whip him/I used to beat him/Oh, he used to dig it.” She still won’t reveal who was, or whether there was, a real-life model for songs like those.

“I wrote about love, really, and all the levels of love,” she said. That emphatically included sexuality. “When I was writing about it, nobody was writing about it. But now everybody’s writing about it. It’s like a cliché.”

Ms. Davis was born Betty Mabry in Durham, North Carolina, in 1945, and she grew up there and in Pittsburgh. She headed to New York City in the early 1960s, when she was 17, and enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She supported herself as a model and a club manager; she reveled in the city’s night life, meeting figures like Andy Warhol, Sly Stone, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.

Continue reading ““Betty: They Say I’m Different” Documentary About Funk Music Pioneer Betty Davis to Premiere at Red Bull Music Festival in NY”

‘BlacKkKlansman’ Gets Standing Ovation at Cannes Film Festival for Spike Lee – Variety

Spike Lee at 2018 Canne Film Festival (Photo by IAN LANGSDON/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

by  via variety.com

Director Spike Lee received a six-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival after the Monday night premiere of his new drama “BlacKkKlansman.” The movie, which tells the true story of an undercover African-American detective (John David Washington) and his Jewish partner (Adam Driver) who team up to infiltrate Klu Klux Klan in 1979, is incredibly timely. It even ends with footage of Donald Trump refusing to condemn the actions of white nationalists during the deadly 2017 Charlottesville riot.

There are a lot of digs at the current president throughout ““BlacKkKlansman” — one KKK member talks about embracing an “America first” policy and the film makes parallels between the rise of Trump and the political ambitions of former Grand Wizard David Duke.

Lee walked the red carpet wearing brass knuckles from “Do the Right Thing,” which said “love” on one hand and “hate” on the other. He was joined by cast members Washington, Driver, Damaris Lewis, Jasper Paakkonen, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, and Corey Hawkins.

To read more: ‘BlacKkKlansman’ Gets Standing Ovation at Cannes for Spike Lee – Variety

Stevie Wonder Announces ‘Positive’ Concerts To Counter ‘Confusion,’ Like Kanye’s ‘Foolishness’

The Stevie Wonder Song Party at The Peppermint Club on May 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (photo via Getty Images)

via newsone.com

Stevie Wonder’s birthday was Sunday, but it seems like the celebration has been under way since at least last week. And if he has his way, it won’t stop anytime soon.

The legendary soul singer who has a history of social activism recently offered up his opinions, and solutions, surrounding several contentious topics, including but definitely not limited to the sad state of affairs in the world.

To counter the widespread “confusion” and surge of hate around the globe, Wonder’s first order of business, he said, was to perform a series of “positive” shows, according to the Associated Press, which attended the Hollywood performance.

“So much is going on in the world. And there is too much confusion,” Wonder said during the performance last Thursday. “The one thing we know for sure that we can celebrate is our life, our love and our music… The positive will win in the end.”

He also had an impromptu jam session with Donald Glover, the actor who also sings and raps as Childish Gambino. Wonder said he wanted to work with Glover for an upcoming album.

Source: Stevie Wonder Announces ‘Positive’ Concerts To Counter ‘Confusion,’ Like Kanye’s ‘Foolishness’

Henrietta Lacks, “The Mother of Modern Science,” to be Honored with Painting by Kadir Nelson in National Portrait Gallery

Collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift from Kadir Nelson and the JKBN Group LLC. (image via nmaahc.si.edu)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to the Smithsonian Institute, next Tuesday, its National Portrait Gallery will recognize and honor the life of Henrietta Lacks with the installation of a 2017 portrait by Kadir Nelson on the museum’s presentation wall on the first floor. The portrait was jointly acquired by the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture as a gift from Nelson and the JKBN Group LLC, and will be shared by the two museums. The painting will be on display at the Portrait Gallery through Nov. 4.

Lacks, a mother of five, lost her life to cervical cancer at age 31. During her treatment, doctors took cells from her body and discovered they lived long lives and reproduced indefinitely in test tubes. These “immortal” HeLa cells have since contributed to over 10,000 medical patents, aiding research and benefiting patients with polio, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions.

Considering the history of medical testing on African Americans without their permission, the fate of Lacks raised questions about ethics, privacy and racism. Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, addressed those issues and later prompted Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions to adapt her story into a theatrical movie that first aired on HBO in 2017.

“It is fitting that Henrietta Lacks be honored at two Smithsonian museums, as each approaches American history from unique and complementary perspectives,” said Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery. “Lacks’ story presents moral and philosophical questions around issues of consent, racial inequalities, the role of women, medical research and privacy laws, providing rich platforms for historical understanding and public dialogue.”

“The National Museum of African American History and Culture has always felt that the story of Henrietta Lacks is a significant and important moment that deserved greater recognition,” said Lonnie Bunch, director of the museum.

Commissioned by HBO, Nelson used visual elements to convey Lacks’ legacy. The wallpaper features the “Flower of Life,” a symbol of immortality; the flowers on her dress recall images of cell structures; and two missing buttons allude to the cells taken from her body without permission.

#MeToo Founder Tarana Burke to Keynote National Conference “Facing Race 2018” in Detroit this November

Tarana Burke will deliver a keynote address at Facing Race National Conference in Detroit. (Photo: Erin Zipper)

by Xakota Espinoza  via colorlines.com

Social justice activist, author, and founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, will be delivering a keynote address at Facing Race 2018 in Detroit, Michigan.

Facing Race is a national conference presented by leading racial justice organization and Colorlines publisher, Race Forward. The 2018 conference will be held at Detroit’s Cobo Center from November 8-10.

Burke, who was recently named by Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People of 2018,” is the first of two keynote speakers to be announced for the Detroit conference. As the largest conference for multiracial justice movement-making, Facing Race Detroit will serve as a unique, collaborative, and essential space for alliance building, issue-framing, and advancing solutions during a critical moment in our nation’s history.

Burke first used the phrase “Me Too” in 2006 as a means of providing strength and healing to young women of color. Her upcoming memoir, set to be released in Spring 2019, will explain the necessity of #MeToo while also detailing her own journey from victim to survivor to thriver.

“So often today, conversations about race, class, and gender exist in silos, and the truth is that the potential for change lives at the intersection of all,” said Burke who currently serves as Senior Director at Girls for Gender Equity. “I’m thrilled to be part of a space that is intentionally multiracial and multigender as we envision a meaningfully inclusive society.

“Tarana Burke has dedicated more than 25 years of her life to the intersection of social justice issues, and has laid the groundwork for an international movement that inspires solidarity,” said Race Forward President Glenn Harris. “We’re elated and honored that she will be sharing her words of wisdom, inspiration, and power building with the thousands of Facing Race attendees.”

In addition to inspiring speakers, film screenings, and networking opportunities, Facing Race will present over 80 panels and breakout sessions on a wide array of key issues, with a focus on four key tracks:

  • Arts, Media, & Culture
  • Organizing and Advocacy
  • Inclusive Democracy
  • Racial Identities and Innovation

Since Facing Race was created in 2004, Race Forward has held the national conference in cities around the country, working together with local racial justice leaders to lift up regional history and current challenges faced by communities of color.  Previous speakers have included Jose Antonio Vargas, Roxane Gay, Melissa Harris Perry, Van Jones, and W. Kamau Bell.

To register and find more information, visit: https://facingrace.raceforward.org/.

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/articles/metoo-founder-tarana-burke-keynote-facing-race-2018-detroit

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser Awards $4,000 to High Schoolers India Skinner, Mikayla Sharrieff and Bria Snell, who Faced Online Racist Backlash in NASA Competition

India Skinner, left, Mikayla Sharrieff and Bria Snell, 11th-graders from Banneker High School in Washington, will receive $4,000 from the city to further their work on a method to purify lead-contaminated water in school drinking fountains. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)

 via washingtonpost.com

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s administration announced Thursday that it would award $4,000 to help three D.C. high school students who faced a torrent of racist comments when they used social media to encourage people to vote for them in a NASA competition.

The three black Banneker High students — whose method to purify lead-contaminated water in school drinking fountains landed them in the final round of the science competition — were featured in a Washington Post article this week. The all-female team was subject to racist comments from users of the controversial and anonymous online forum, 4chan, who tried to ruin the students’ chances of winning by urging people to vote against them because of their race.

The 4chan posters recommended computer programs that would hack the voting system to give a team of teenage boys a boost, prompting NASA to shut down voting early.

Bowser (D) said in her weekly newsletter that the city should be celebrating the students — Mikayla Sharrieff, India Skinner and Bria Snell, all 17-year-old high school juniors — for their successes.

“Mikayla, India and Bria are reminding us that the good in our world is stronger than the hate, and we want them to know that the District has their back,” Bowser wrote.

The teens said in interviews with The Post that they planned to attend college and graduate school, and they aspire to be doctors and engineers. They volunteer at the city-funded Inclusive Innovation Incubator — a technology lab focused on diversity and entrepreneurship near Howard University — and their mentor at the incubator encouraged them to compete and supervised them on weekends as they built a prototype for the NASA competition.

The $4,000 will be given to the incubator and used to help the students further develop their water filtration system.

“The mayor was inspired by these young women,” said Andrew Trueblood, the chief of staff for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, which provides support to the incubator. “It was a natural next step to say what can we do for these young women.”

The students received a swell of support online this week. Chelsea Clinton tweeted at the teens Thursday, thanking them for using their “talents to tackle big problems!”

“I am so sorry that anyone would ever feel anything but gratitude for your clean water efforts.”

NASA expects to name the competition winners this month. In addition to the public voting, judges assess the projects to determine the winners, who are invited to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt for two days of workshops, with the winning team receiving a $4,000 stipend to cover expenses.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/mayor-awards-4000-to-black-high-school-students-who-faced-online-racist-backlash-in-nasa-competition/2018/05/03/315c3a24-4f08-11e8-84a0-458a1aa9ac0a_story.html?utm_term=.db95415f12d8

Mercer University Seniors Kyle Bligen and Jaz Buckley Make History as 1st African-American Team to Win NPDA National Debate Championship

Jaz Buckley and Kyle Bligen
NPDA Tournament Team Winners Jaz Buckley and Kyle Bligen (photo via news.mercer.edu)

by Kyle Sears via news.mercer.edu

Mercer University seniors Kyle Bligen and Jaz Buckley capped off their collegiate careers as the most decorated debaters in the University’s history on March 26 by winning the 22nd annual National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) National Championship Tournament at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

NPDA is the largest debate organization in the United States, with as many as 250 schools and colleges competing each year. At nationals, Bligen and Buckley defeated more than 45 competing institutions from traditional debate powerhouses such as Notre Dame, Rice and the University of California, Berkeley.

Together, they became the first African-American team to ever win NPDA nationals, nearly three years to the day that Buckley became the first freshman and first African-American to be named top speaker at the tournament.

“Using their own unique brand of debate, Jaz Buckley and Kyle Bligen became the first African-American team to win the NPDA National Championship Tournament. Additionally, Buckley, joining only a handful of women to reach the final round, became the first African-American woman to win this national title,” said Dr. Jeannie Hunt, president of NPDA and assistant professor of communication at Northwest College.

“This is a significant achievement for me, as a woman of color, but also provides much-needed representation for other women in this activity. While both students clearly have strong argumentation skills and implement successful strategies, their ability to frame the debate with a focus on social justice allows them to use their voice for something beyond winning tournaments. I look forward to seeing great things from this team as they move through life,” Dr. Hunt said.

“This is a national victory. This year, Mercer beat Emory, we beat Georgia Tech, we defeated UC Berkeley, we beat Rice and Notre Dame and Stanford, and defeated or outranked hundreds of different colleges and universities across the entire nation. In national parliamentary debate, only one school can be the best in the entire nation – that school is Mercer University,” said Dr. Vasile Stanescu, assistant professor of communication studies and director of debate at Mercer.

“This victory is not only national, it is also historic. In the entire history of the NPDA, among the thousands of debaters who have competed, not a single all African-American team has ever won nationals. This is a ‘first’ in the history of debate, and it is a ‘first’ that will forever belong to Mercer University.”

Individually, Bligen, a politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) major from Peachtree City, was named fourth-place speaker, and Buckley, a political science and women’s and gender studies major from Columbus, was named fifth-place speaker.

Source: https://news.mercer.edu/seniors-kyle-bligen-jaz-buckley-make-history-as-first-african-american-team-to-win-npda-national-championship/

Walk-Up Wednesdays: No Timed Passes Needed for National Museum of African American History and Culture on Wednesdays in May

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will relax its admission policy for five Wednesdays in May. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

via washingtonpost.com

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will continue its Walk-Up Wednesdays program and allow visitors without passes on the five Wednesdays in May.

Thousands more visitors gained entry to the popular Smithsonian museum on four Wednesdays last month, pushing officials to extend the program into May. April’s Walk-Up Wednesday crowds were larger than its Saturday crowds, typically the museum’s busiest day, according to Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas.

“Clearly it was successful,” St. Thomas said. “It allowed more visitors to enjoy the museum.”

There were 9,500 visitors on April 4, the middle of the busy Easter week, and about 8,900 the second Wednesday, April 11, St. Thomas said. The last two Wednesdays attracted 8,000 and 7,800 visitors, respectively. Those numbers exceeded visitor tallies on all four Saturdays in April, which averaged 6,825.

Visitor numbers also eclipsed Tuesday totals last month, which ranged from 4,500 and 7,000, St. Thomas said.

Since its opening Sept. 24, 2016, the newest Smithsonian museum has welcomed more than 3.5 million visitors. It has used timed passes to control crowd size and reduce lines. St. Thomas said officials were not yet considering eliminating all passes.

The museum has distributed thousands of free passes on the first Wednesday of each month — on May 2 it will distribute passes for August — but many are not used. About 3,000 visitors on each Wednesday in April had advance passes and were given priority entry, according to St. Thomas. No visitors were turned away.

In addition to advance passes, the museum distributes same-day passes online daily at 6:30 a.m. Walk-up admission is available after 1 p.m. weekdays, if capacity allows.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2018/05/01/no-passes-needed-for-african-american-museum-on-wednesdays-in-may/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.532ebf68f753

Review: Beyoncé is Bigger Than Coachella | New York Times

(photo via instagram.com)

by Jon Caramanica via nytimes.com

INDIO, Calif. — Let’s just cut to the chase: There’s not likely to be a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year, or any year soon, than Beyoncé’s headlining set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival Saturday night.

It was rich with history, potently political and visually grand. By turns uproarious, rowdy, and lush. A gobsmacking marvel of choreography and musical direction.

And not unimportantly, it obliterated the ideology of the relaxed festival, the idea that musicians exist to perform in service of a greater vibe. That is one of the more tragic side effects of the spread of festival culture over the last two decades. Beyoncé was having none of it. The Coachella main stage, on the grounds of the Empire Polo Club here, was her platform, yes, but her show was in countless ways a rebuke.

It started with the horns: trumpets, trombones, sousaphones. For most of the night, the 36-year-old star was backed by an ecstatic marching band, in the manner of historically black college football halftime shows. The choice instantly reoriented her music, sidelining its connections to pop and framing it squarely in a lineage of Southern black musical traditions from New Orleans second line marches to Houston’s chopped-and-screwed hip-hop.

Her arrangements were alive with shifts between styles and oodles of small details, quick musical quotations of songs (Pastor Troy’s “No Mo’ Play in G.A.,” anyone?) that favored alertness and engagement. As always, one of the key thrills of a Beyoncé performance is her willingness to dismantle and rearrange her most familiar hits. “Drunk in Love” began as bass-thick molasses, then erupted into trumpet confetti. “Bow Down” reverberated with nervy techno. “Formation,” already a rapturous march, was a savage low-end stomp here. And during a brief trip through the Caribbean part of her catalog, she remade “Baby Boy” as startling Jamaican big band jazz.

She does macro, too — she was joined onstage by approximately 100 dancers, singers and musicians, a stunning tableau that included fraternity pledges and drumlines and rows of female violinists in addition to the usual crackerjack backup dancers (which here included bone breakers and also dancers performing elaborate routines with cymbals).

‘Black Panther’ Becomes 1st Film to Premiere in Saudi Arabia Since 35-Year Cinema Ban

by Camille Augustin via vibe.com

The cultural impact of Black Panther has continued to increase in magnitude since its Feb. 16 release. Shattering records with each tick of the clock, the Marvel film gained historic steam with praise from moviegoers and positive reviews. Now, while the superhero reel plans to surpass the Titanic, it aims to break yet another record, this time in Saudi Arabia.

According to Variety, Black Panther will premiere on April 18 in the Middle Eastern country, dissolving its 35-year ban on movie theaters. The debut will be accompanied by a gala and take place in the newly-constructed AMC theater, based in Riyadh.

A plan to cease the cinema ban occurred in Dec. 2017, CNN reports. The Saudi Ministry of Culture gave AMC the green light to begin rolling out 30 theaters across the country, possibly projecting a $1 billion revenue stream for Saudi Arabia’s economy.

The billion-dollar movie currently holds the title as the highest-grossing superhero motion picture. Upon its release, director Ryan Coogler wrote an open letter thanking fans for their insurmountable support. “For the people who bought out theaters, who posted on social about how lit the film would be, bragged about our awesome cast, picked out outfits to wear, and who stood in line in theaters all over the world,” he wrote, “all before even seeing the film.”

Source: https://www.vibe.com/2018/04/black-panther-becomes-first-film-to-premiere-in-saudi-arabia-since-35-year-movie-theater-ban/

The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World
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