According to the Washington Post, Former President Barack Obama was honored with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award during the foundation’s gala in midtown Manhattan last evening.
“I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but I’ve been on this hope kick for a while now. Even ran a couple of campaigns on it. Thank you for officially validating my hope credentials,” Obama said during his acceptance speech.
Kerry Kennedy, RFK’s daughter and the organization’s president, presented Obama with the award, which celebrates leaders “who have demonstrated a commitment to social change.” Past recipients include Bono, George Clooney, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and Robert De Niro.
“If we summon our best selves, we can inspire others to do the same. It’s easy to succumb to cynicism, the notion that hope is a fool’s game,” Obama said.
“When our leaders are content on making up whatever facts they want, a lot of people have begun to doubt the notion of common ground,” Obama said. “Bobby Kennedy’s life reminds us to reject such cynicism.”
Also honored with Ripple of Hope Awards this year were New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav and Humana CEO Bruce Broussard. Speakers last night included actors Keegan-Michael Key, Alfre Woodard, Alec Baldwin, and journalist Tom Brokaw.
With powerful, poignant speeches from presenters and honorees alike, this year’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal awards felt more like a gospel church service-cum-rock concert than an academic award ceremony.
Athlete and social activist Colin Kaepernick set the tone before an exhilarated crowd that included some 150 local high school students, declaring that people in positions of privilege and power have a “responsibility” to speak up for the powerless.
“People live with this every single day and we expect them to thrive in situations where they’re just trying to survive,” said the NFL free agent who famously took a knee during pregame national anthems to protest racial injustice in America. “If we don’t, we become complicit. It is our duty to fight for them.”
Kaepernick was one of the eight laureates who received medals at Sanders Theatre on Thursday night. Others were comedian Dave Chappelle; writer and social critic Florence C. Ladd; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson; renowned artist Kehinde Wiley; General Catalyst chairman and CEO Kenneth I. Chenault; philanthropist and Avid Partners founder Pamela J. Joyner; and human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson.
The awards are bestowed by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research for contributions to African and African-American history and culture. Ladd, the former director of the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe, donned her medal, then pumped her fist in the air and told the cheering crowd: “A takeaway must be protest, protest, protest.”
Stevenson, M.P.P. ’85, J.D. ’85, L.L.D. ’15, who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, dedicated his award to “people who did so much more with so much less” and asked the audience to think of hope as “your superpower.” To the students, he made a more pointed request: “You’ve got to be willing to do uncomfortable things. You’ve got to be willing to do inconvenient things. Don’t ever think that your grades are a measure of your capacity.” Stevenson himself won a historic Supreme Court ruling that declared that mandatory sentences of life without parole for children 17 or younger are unconstitutional.
Moments of humor punctuated the call to resistance, particularly when presenter and incoming Dean of Social Science Lawrence D. Bobo recited parts of Chappelle’s famous skit “The Racial Draft.“ He called the comedian a “teller of uncomfortable truths.”
Chappelle, for his part, praised his parents, especially his mother, a professor of African-American studies. “She raised me well. I am not an uninformed person,” he said.
Chappelle said he was humbled to be on stage with his fellow honorees: “You all make me want to be better,” he said. He promised another comedy special and ended his speech with a quote from favorite writer James Baldwin’s book “The Fire Next Time.”
“God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water. The fire next time.”
Hutchins Center director Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor, reflected on the critical nature of the honorees’ work in the fight for racial and social justice.
“When we recall the dramatic progress we’ve made in this country’s struggle for civil rights, it’s tempting to remember only our long arc of progress. But we find ourselves in a new nadir in our country’s race relations,” he said, quoting Du Bois, the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard.
“Agitation is a necessary evil to tell of the ills of the suffering. Without it, many a nation has been lulled to false security and preened itself with virtues it did not possess.”
Today was Aretha Franklin‘s homegoing service at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, MI. Some may have questioned why the Queen of Soul’s ceremony wasn’t held at her father C.L. Franklin‘s New Bethel Baptist Church (she did hold her final viewing there) – perhaps New Bethel just isn’t a big enough space for those attending her ultimate show. Because once again, the Queen sold out the house.
In a send-off equal parts grand and personal, an all-star lineup of speakers and singers included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, former President Bill Clinton, former first lady Hillary Clinton, professor Michael Eric Dyson, Cicely Tyson, Tyler Perry, Ron Isley, Chaka Khan, Faith Hill, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Ariana Grande, Gladys Knight, Shirley Caesar, mayors, senators, members of congress, family and loved ones.
Robinson, the Motown great, remembered first hearing Franklin play piano when he was just 8 and remained close to her for the rest of her life, talking for hours at a time. “You’re so special,” he said, before crooning a few lines from his song “Really Gonna Miss You,” with the line “really gonna be different without you.”
Bill Clinton described himself as an Aretha Franklin “groupie” whom he had loved since college days. He traced her life’s journey, praising her as someone who “lived with courage, not without fear, but overcoming her fears.” He remembered attending her last public performance, at Elton John’s AIDS Foundation benefit in November in New York. She looked “desperately ill” but managed to greet him by standing and saying, “How you doin,’ baby?”
Clinton ended by noting that her career spanned from vinyl records to cellphones. He held the microphone near his iPhone and played a snippet of Franklin’s classic “Think,” the audience clapping along. “It’s the key to freedom!” Clinton said.
Rev. Sharpton received loud cheers when he criticized Donald Trump for saying that the singer “worked for” him as he responded to her death. “She performed for you,” Sharpton said of Franklin, who had sung at Trump-owned venues. “She worked for us.” Dyson took it even further by saying, “She worked above you. She worked beyond you. Get your preposition right!”
Many noted her longtime commitment to civil rights and lasting concern for black people. Her friend Greg Mathis, the award-winning reality show host and retired Michigan judge, recalled his last conversation with her. They talked about the tainted water supply in Flint. “You go up there and sock it to ’em,” she urged Mathis.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced during the service that the city, come Tuesday, would rename the riverfront amphitheater Chene Park to “Aretha Franklin Park” to loud applause. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder reminded those in attendance that Aretha Franklin’s voice is designated as a natural resource of the state in the 1980s.
Franklin died Aug. 16 at age 76. Her body arrived early in a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse. She wore a shimmering gold dress, with sequined heels — the fourth outfit Franklin was clothed in during a week of events leading up to her funeral.
The casket was carried to the church that also took Franklin’s father, the renowned minister C.L. Franklin, to his and Parks’ final resting place at Woodlawn Cemetery, where the singer will join them. Pink Cadillacs filled the street outside the church, a reference to a Franklin hit from the 1980s, “Freeway of Love.”
Program covers showed a young Franklin, with a slight smile and sunglasses perched on her nose, and the caption “A Celebration Fit For The Queen.” Large bouquets of pink, lavender, yellow and white flowers flanked her casket.
Family members, among them granddaughter Victorie Franklin and niece Cristal Franklin, spoke with awe and affection as they remembered a world-famous performer who also loved gossip and kept pictures of loved ones on her piano.
Grandson Jordan directed his remarks directly to Franklin, frequently stopping to fight back tears. “I’m sad today, because I’m losing my friend. But I know the imprint she left on this world can never be removed. You showed the world God’s love, and there’s nothing more honorable.”
To see a large part of the almost eight-hour service, click below:
The winners of the Hugo Awards, considered some of the most prestigious science fiction and fantasy literary prizes, were announced on Sunday, with science fiction author N.K. Jemisin making history as the first writer ever to win the best novel award three years in a row.
During her acceptance speech at the World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, CA, Jemisin said, “I get a lot of questions about where the themes of the Broken Earth trilogy come from. I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m drawing on the human history of structural oppression, as well as my feelings about this moment in American history.”
But she also sounded a note of optimism.
“I want you to remember that 2018 is also a good year. This is a year in which records have been set,” Jemisin said. “A year in which even the most privilege-blindered of us has been forced to acknowledge that the world is broken and needs fixing — and that’s a good thing! Acknowledging the problem is the first step toward fixing it. I look to science fiction and fantasy as the aspirational drive of the Zeitgeist: We creators are the engineers of possibility. And as this genre finally, however grudgingly, acknowledges that the dreams of the marginalized matter and that all of us have a future, so will go the world.”
Jemisin’s fans took to Twitter to celebrate her historic hat trick. Among them was her cousin, the television host and comedian W. Kamau Bell, who noted that Jemisin’s books have yet to be adapted into film:
So which writer &/or journalist is writing the story of the Black woman (@nkjemisin) who's the 1st person to win 3 #HugoAwards IN A ROW? Focusing on the significance of a Black woman doing this & the telling fact that her books have yet to show up onscreen as films/TV shows?
INSTITUTE, W.Va. (AP) — Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician whose calculations helped astronauts return to Earth, is being honored at her alma mater West Virginia State University with a bronze statue and a scholarship in her name. West Virginia State says a dedication ceremony is planned for Aug. 25, the day before Johnson’s 100th birthday.
Long before the digital era, Johnson worked as a human “computer” at the agency that became NASA, working in relative obscurity as an African-American woman. Her contributions were later recognized in the “Hidden Figures” movie, with actress Taraji P. Henson playing her role.
West Virginia State hopes to endow the scholarship at $100,000, awarding money to students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math, targeting people who are underrepresented in those fields.
At last night’s 90th Annual Academy Awards ceremony, “Get Out” writer/director/actor Jordan Peele won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, the first African American to ever earn this honor. On Saturday evening, Peele also won Independent Spirit Awards for Best Feature and Best Director.
Last year, “Moonlight” writers Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and the first African American to win an Oscar in either writing category was Geoffrey Fletcher for “Precious” in 2009. The only other African-American to win for writing is John Ridley in 2013 for the Adapted Screenplay to “12 Years A Slave.” “Mudbound” writer/director Dee Rees made her own bit of history this year by being the first African-American woman nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category; the first woman ever nominated in either category was Suzanne DePasse in 1972 for “Lady Sings The Blues.”
Retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant took home the Oscar with his creative partner Glen Keane for “Dear Basketball,” the first nomination and win for an African American in the Best Animated Short category.
The complete list of last night’s winners is below:
Best Picture:“The Shape of Water” (WINNER)
“Call Me by Your Name”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (WINNER)
Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour” (WINNER)
Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro (WINNER)
“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“Remember Me” from “Coco,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez (WINNER)
“Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Mary J. Blige
“Mystery of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name,” Sufjan Stevens
“Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall,” Diane Warren, Common
“This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
“The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat (WINNER)
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams
“Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer
“Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell
“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins (WINNER)
“Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel
“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema
“Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison
“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen
The U.S. Postal Service today celebrates the life and legacy of Lena Horne as the 41st honoree in the Black Heritage stamp series during a first-day-of-issue ceremony at Peter Norton Symphony Space.
“Today, we honor the 70-year career of a true American legend,” said Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman, who dedicated the stamp. “With this Forever stamp, the Postal Service celebrates a woman who used her platform as a renowned entertainer to become a prolific voice for civil rights advancement and gender equality.”
Joining Stroman to unveil the stamp were Gail Lumet Buckley, an author and Horne’s daughter; Christian Steiner, photographer; and Amy Niles, president and chief executive officer, WBGO Radio.
The stamp art features a photograph of Lena Horne taken by Christian Steiner in the 1980s. Kristen Monthei colorized the original black-and-white photo using a royal blue for the dress, a color Horne frequently wore. Monthei also added a background reminiscent of Horne’s Stormy Weatheralbum, with a few clouds to add texture and to subtly evoke the album title. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp. Anyone can share the news of the stamp using the hashtags #LenaHorneForever and #BlackHeritageStamps.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, on June 30, 1917, Horne was a trailblazer in Hollywood for women of color and used her fame to inspire Americans as a dedicated activist for civil rights.
Horne began her career as a dancer at Harlem’s Cotton Club and later became a featured vocalist with touring orchestras. The rampant racial discrimination she encountered from audiences, hotel and venue managers and others was so disconcerting that she stopped touring, and in 1941, she made her move to Hollywood. A year later, she signed a contract with MGM — one of the first long-term contracts with a major Hollywood studio — with the stipulation that she would never be asked to take stereotypical roles then available to black actors. Her most famous movie roles were in Cabin in the Skyand Stormy Weather, both released in 1943.
During World War II, Horne entertained at camps for black servicemen, and after the war worked on behalf of Japanese Americans who were facing discriminatory housing policies. She worked with Eleanor Roosevelt in pressing for anti-lynching legislation. In the 1960s, Horne continued her high-profile work for civil rights, performing at rallies in the South, supporting the work of the National Council for Negro Women, and participating in the 1963 March on Washington.
Horne’s awards and honors include a special Tony Award for her one-woman Broadway show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music; three Grammy Awards; the NAACP Spingarn Medal; and the Actors Equity Paul Robeson Award. She was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 1984, and her name is among those on the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
Customers may purchase the Lena Horne Forever stamp at The Postal Store atusps.com/shop, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724) and at Post Office facilities nationwide. A variety of stamps and collectibles also are available at ebay.com/stamps.
Mary J. Blige will be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the recording category.
The ceremony will take place on Jan. 11 at 6201 Hollywood Blvd. in front of Eastown. Sean “Diddy” Combs will join Hollywood Chamber president and CEO Leron Gubler to unveil the star.
“Mary J. Blige is one of the most popular singers of our generation. Fans will be thrilled to see her star on the Boulevard as her career milestones are celebrated on this very famous sidewalk,” said Ana Martinez, producer of the Walk of Fame ceremonies.
The Grammy Award-winning artist has recently been recognized for her acting work. Blige received Golden Globe Award, SAG Award, and Critics’ Choice Award nominations for her role in Dee Rees’ period drama “Mudbound,” as well as a Golden Globe nom for best original song for “Mighty River.”
Born in the Bronx, N.Y., Blige got her start in music by signing with Uptown Records in 1989. At 18 years old, she was the label’s youngest and first female artist. Her debut album, “What’s the 411?,” was executive produced by Combs and spun off hits including, “You Remind Me” and “Real Love.” Since then, she’s released 12 additional albums that have garnered nine Grammy Award wins from her 31 nominations.
Among her most popular songs are “Family Affair,” “No More Drama,” “Be Without You,” “Not Gon’ Cry,” “Love Is All We Need,” and “Seven Days.”
Her film debut was in 2001’s “Prison Song,” followed by Tyler Perry’s “I Can Do Bad All by Myself.” She also starred alongside Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, and Russell Brand in 2012’s “Rock of Ages,” and appeared in 2013’s musical drama “Black Nativity.”
On the TV front, Blige has guest starred on “How to Get Away With Murder,” “Empire,” and “30 Rock.” She also played Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, on NBC’s musical “The Wiz Live!”
Princeton University showed respect and honor to author Toni Morrison by dedicating Morrison Hall on Friday, Nov. 17. Morrison – who in 1993 became the first African American to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature – is the Emeritus Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities at the university. The building dedication took place after Morrison’s keynote address at the Princeton and Slavery Project Symposium.
“This is a very, very special, beautiful occasion for me,” Morrison said.
During the opening fort he dedication ceremony, Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber emphasized the importance of Morrison Hall, referring to it as a “181-year-old building that is the home and the heart of the undergraduate college at Princeton University.” Previously, Morrison Hall was called West College, and inside, students can find the Office of the Dean of the College. On Nov. 14, a portrait of Morrison created by Paul Wyse was hung in the building.
“How fitting that the first building named through this process will now honor a teacher, an artist and a scholar who not only has graced our campus with the highest imaginable levels of achievement and distinction, but who has herself spoken eloquently about the significance of names on the Princeton campus,” Eisgruber said, referring to an address Morrison delivered in 1996 at Princeton’s 250th convocation, titled “The Place of the Idea; the Idea of the Place.”
Other speakers at the ceremony included Morrison’s close friend Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University and her former student MacKenzie Bezos who graduated from Princeton in 1992 and is now an author. In 2016, the university trustees approved naming and dedicating one of the institution’s most prominent buildings after Morrison. Simmons helped recruit Morrison to Princeton when Simmons was acting director of the Center for African American Studies. In her remarks, Simmons said, “It doesn’t take much for Toni to get a swelled head; this is going to take it over the top.”
Morrison joined the Princeton University faculty as a literature and creative writing professor in 1989. She transferred to emeritus status in 2006. According to the Princeton, the Sula writer played a major role in expanding the university’s commitments to the creative and performing arts and to African American Studies. In 1994, Morrison founded the Princeton Atelier, which brings together undergraduate students in interdisciplinary collaborations with acclaimed artists. Morrison’s papers, which were already a part of the university library’s permanent collection since 2014, became available to students, faculty and worldwide scholars in 2016 for research purposes.