The Pan African Film & Arts Festival announced today that it will celebrate its 27th Annual Opening Night on Thursday, February 7, with a screening at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles of Amazing Grace, the long-awaited Aretha Franklin concert documentary.
Amazing Grace, produced by Alan Elliott, was originally filmed and directed by Sydney Pollack in 1972 at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California. A rare gem, the documentary has not been seen or released before now due to technical and rights issues.
The festival, which presents a slate of over 170 new projects by black filmmakers from the US and around the world and exhibits more than 100 fine artists and unique craftspeople, runs from February 7 through Monday, February 18, with most films shown at the Cinemark Rave 15 Theatres and the adjacent Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles.
“It’s such a blessing to open the festival this year with Amazing Grace,” expressed PAFF Co-Founder and Actor Danny Glover. “Aretha Franklin is a rare treasure. To be graced with this film is an honor and a testament to the perseverance and long-standing prominence of the festival’s impact.”
Over the past 26 years, The Pan African Film & Arts Festival has sought to increase cultural awareness and bridge diverse communities from the African diaspora by providing a creative safe space for the development and expression of the Black narrative through film, poetry, art and music. This year, PAFF will “amPAFFify” and ignite the Pan-African experience through next-generation storytelling.
To further “amPAFFify” PAFF’s proud history, the organization recently launched an “#IAMPAFF” Meme Generator, designed to allow festival supporters to share their own stories on social media. Festival supporters can join in the fun by creating a meme to tell their story at paff.org/iampaff.
“27 years ago, we made a political, cultural, social and intellectual decision to get involved in film festivals as it became clear that a platform to showcase Black films was needed,” shared Ayuko Babu, Executive Director and Co-Founder of PAFF.
“It’s been a privilege to be a platform for many filmmakers and talent to share their unique stories through the lens of their own experiences, visions and creative artistry. The on-going challenge is… who’s story gets told on the small screen and big screen? The Pan African Film Festival is a way of showing distributors the stories that matter to people of color.”
This year’s program features the Filmmakers Brunch, ARTFest, PAFF Institute Panels, StudentFest, LOL Comedy Series, Children’s Fest, SpokenWord Fest, Seniors’ Connection and much more.
Individual screening tickets and all festival passes can be purchased at paff.org/tickets. Group sales discounts are also available. For more information, visit the PAFF website at paff.org or call 310-337-4737.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) will host its first tele town hall of the year, the Women in Power Town Hall, on Tuesday, January 15, 2019, at 5pm PST/8pm EST. The telephone program, NAACP’s first public forum of the year, will provide a platform for leading women in policy and activism to engage listeners in a critical discussion about the top priorities for the next 12 months. Interested participants can RSVP for the event here.
Following the swearing in of the most diverse Congress in history, filled with more women of color than ever before, this event will feature Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members, elected officials, NAACP leaders, along with business and civic leaders in a candid conversation about the 2019 agenda, issues impacting communities of color, and how women can continue to be leading advocates.
Special guests for the town hall include Senator Kamala Harris, who was the driving force behind the historic anti-lynhcing bill which passed in the Senate at the end of 2018, CBC Chairperson and California Representative Karen Bass, and Representative Lucy Mcbath of Georgia’s 6th district who won on a campaign of reform after her son Jordan Davis was killed by a white man for playing his music too loud.
The NAACP’s Panelists will be Derrick Johnson, NAACP President & CEO, Lottie Joiner from The Crisis Magazine and Tiffany Dena Loftin, the NAACP’s Youth & College National Director. The event will be moderated by Errin Whack of the Associated Press.
“Our country spoke up last year, and what we said collectively is that we want women at the forefront of our nation for at least the next two years,” said Loftin. “NAACP is poised to hit the ground running this year, and we’re proud to have some of the most powerful women in America lead our first town hall this year.”
The NAACP tele town hall series draws up to 3,000 participants and takes the form of a radio Q&A program.
Libraries, schools and civic organizations across the country and world will host a variety of celebrations to observe the 50th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. Given annually since 1969, the awards commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honor his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.
The awards are sponsored by American Library Association‘s Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) and are supported by ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services (ODLOS).
Award founders Glyndon Flynt Greer, a school librarian in Englewood, New Jersey, Mabel McKissick, a school librarian in New London, Connecticut, and John Carroll, a book publisher, envisioned an award that would recognize the talents of outstanding African-American authors and encourage them to continue writing books for children and young adults.
Winners are selected by the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury and announced annually to a national audience at the ALA Youth Media Awards. The awards serve as a guide for parents, librarians and caregivers, for the most outstanding books for youth by African American authors and illustrators that demonstrate an appreciation of affirm African American culture and universal human values.
The Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream of a pluralistic society.
The first Coretta Scott King Award was presented in 1970 at the New Jersey Library Association conference in Atlantic City. The award went to Lillie Patterson, author of “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Man of Peace.” In 1974, the committee honored an illustrator for the first time. The award went to George Ford for his illustrations in “Ray Charles” by Sharon Bell Mathis. That year, the Coretta Scott King seal was designed by Lev Mills, an internationally renowned artist in Atlanta to identify book jackets of award winners.
Such notable African American authors and illustrators as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Walter Dean Myers, Virginia Hamilton, Jerry Pinkney and Christopher Paul Curtis are just an example of the notable artists who have received the award.
Currently the Coretta Scott King Book Award Anniversary Committee is planning 50th anniversary celebration events to take place during the whole of 2019, with a special Gala on June 21st in Washington D.C. This one-hour ticketed program will feature a host of special guests in the fields of children’s and young adult literature including Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jacqueline Woodson.
Additional information regarding Coretta Scott King Book Award 50th Anniversary activities will be available within the coming weeks at www.ala.org/csk.
Fabolous made Christmas come early for kids in the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club of Brooklyn this year with his annual Christmas Toy Drive. The event was made possible by the Brooklyn rapper’s foundation A Fabolous Way (which is designed to merge communities and the arts), Def Jam and D’usse.
“On behalf of The Boys and Girls Club, we would like to thank Fabolous and Lisa for bringing joy to some of our families this holiday season,” said the Director of Clubhouse Operations, Antonio Fort. “Fab has visited us in the past and we appreciate his positive message of inspiration to the youth.”
The event was held at the lavish Red Rabbit in New York City’s Meat Packing District neighborhood. According to Page Six, Fab spent over 100K on the presents. “I don’t put a money amount on Christmas — I just want to show people that they are special to me,” he said. “But, it is safe to say I have spent over $100,000.”
Although he’s definitely generous, he admits that doing the actual shopping is tough for him because of his busy life. What matters most to him is making sure he’s giving someone a thoughtful gift.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) – On Friday, the William Hooper Councill Alumni Association broke ground on a memorial park celebrating Huntsville’s first public school for African-Americans.
Councill High School opened in 1867 and closed in the era of desegregation in the 1960s. The school was named after Dr. William Hooper Councill, a former slave and founder and first president of what would become Alabama A&M University. Councill also became a lawyer, newspaper editor, legislator and Alabama Supreme Court justice.
Crews will start work on a memorial park in 2019, on the school’s old site.
Members of the alumni association spoke about what the school means to them.
“We found friendship in William Hooper Councill High School, and we found affection,” said Brenda Chunn, president of the William Hooper Councill Alumni Association.
“It’s important because African-American history sometimes gets lost, and this is a way of preserving the heritage of the African-Americans, particularly with the celebration of the bicentennial that is coming up,” said Laura Clift, an alumni of Councill High School.
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.
The first known African American female cartoonist was Jackie Ormes, who not only penned cartoon strips throughout the 1940s and 1950s, but designed a black doll called the Patty-Jo doll, which was released in 1947.
Patty-Jo, a precursor to Barbie, which came in 1959, was based on a cartoon strip character of the same name, had an extensive wardrobe with preppy shoes, winter coats and ball gowns – and had the brains to go with it.
In a cartoon strip from 1948, Patty-Jo asks a white woman: “How’s about getting our rich Uncle Sam to put good public schools all over so we can be trained fit for any college?”
The seeds of the exhibit were planted in the 1990s, when University of Illinois professor Victor Margolin started to explore a gap in the history of American design.
“Margolin was one of the first scholars who asked why there has been a lack of scholarship on African American designers,” said the exhibition curator Daniel Schulman. “He went into the field and interviewed 25 designers who were active from 1930s to 1980s, many of which are in the exhibit.”
With a focus exclusively on Chicago designers, it highlights artists who shaped the look of black publications like the Chicago Defender and the Johnson publishing house, founded in 1942 by African American business mogul John H. Johnson, which founded Jet and Ebony magazines alongside the now-defunct Black World, Ebony Man and Black Stars.
“Our thesis is that Chicago is a special center for design for African Americans because it was one of the major sites in the north they came to from the rural south in mid-20th century,” said Schulman. “It has a large, vibrant and politically powerful design community.”
Among the works in the exhibit is an original Patty-Jo doll designed and produced by Ormes, who was a cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Courier, though she lived in Chicago. The doll, in a yellow dress, was highly coveted by African American girls, though it was so expensive, parents had to pay in instalments.
“The doll was noteworthy for its quality. Its facial features were hand-painted and designed from life-like materials,” said Schulman. “It was a role model for any child.”
It ties into the cartoons Ormes built around the Patty-Jo character. “She was a beautiful fictional character who was known for making witty, astute remarks about the world around African American middle-class people in the 1940s and 1950s,” said Schulman. “The doll was in production for 10 years, it had an extraordinary presence and power, and today, they’re collectibles holding an importance place in American doll-making.”
Among the other designers in the exhibit, there are advertisements by Charles C. Dawson, who designed the graphics promoting Slick Black, black hair color tins from the 1930. Dawson was also part of the New Negro art movement, which surfaced around the same time as the Harlem Renaissance black arts movement in New York.
In 1971, the first African American-owned advertising agency was co-founded by Emmett McBain and Thomas J. Burrell. Burrell McBain Advertising boasted clients such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.
“It was enormously important,” said Schulman. “It was one of first black-owned firms to land major national accounts like cigarette manufacturers and campaigns for companies that included African Americans in mainstream roles on TV and in magazines, which brought their image to a broader public. It was a new and powerful conception of black commercial, political and social power.”
“Instead of having contemporary life portrayed with celebrities or ordinary people, this cover looks back on 100 years of the emancipation proclamation,” said Schulman. “It shows Ebony engaged with civil rights.”
Also on view is a comic called “Home Folks” by Jay Jackson, a cartoonist for the Chicago Defender who won several awards for his cartoons made during the second world war. A panel on view called Debt and Taxes shows one character complaining: “What do they mean ‘income tax’? It should be ‘outgo’ tax!”
“It’s a masterpiece,” said Schulman. “It shows young, middle-class African Americans in a wonderful mid-century modern interior talking about how expensive things are, the dream of prosperity that was commonplace as a selling technique in the 1950s, this mass consumer market and postwar prosperity. In popular media, you don’t always see African Americans taking part of a stream of plenty in the 1950s.”
But ambition aside, it was tough for African Americans to break into the advertising industry, not to mention navigating the office culture once they were there. “It’s really about working in a field with so few African Americans designers in it,” said Schulman. “There are images that show how frustrating it could be in such a tiny minority in this field – there is one image of Eugene Winslow in his office with commentary that shows he was unhappy being a supervisor of an all-white staff who did not appreciate having a black supervisor.”
Though this showcase of pre-digital design ends in the year 1980, it still is a triumph, especially considering many ephemeral pieces of graphic design from the past were lost.
“It’s not an encyclopedia, it’s an introduction,” said Schulman. “What we’re trying to demonstrate here is the lasting influence and effectiveness of the visual arts and design throughout the 20th century in Chicago.”
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — It’s just before 2 p.m., the end of a workday that began at 5:30 a.m. for Dolester Miles, a self-taught pastry chef who, in May, was named the best in the nation by the James Beard Foundation. Wearing a spotless white bib apron over an equally spotless chef coat, with sleeves neatly rolled above her elbows, she stands in the compact kitchen of Bottegarestaurant, deftly smoothing a thin layer of whipped cream frosting on a towering, three-layer coconut pecan cake.
She flicks her offset spatula all the way around where the top and sides meet, employing rote precision born of three decades of experience to create a crisp, perfect edge. After she coats the cake with toasted coconut, it’s ready to be picked up by a patron waiting to pay $80 for it, plus tax. Anyone who has eaten that cake, which yields 14 slices, knows two things: that it’s worth every penny, and that the last crumb of it will be snatched up and savored like the last word of a great novel.
Miles, who goes by Dol, oversees a staff of four and the baking production of the four restaurants owned by chef Frank Stitt and his wife, Pardis, including their fine-dining flagship, Highlands Bar & Grill.
In addition to the coconut pecan cake, Miles’s fruit cobblers with flaky biscuit tops, her lemon tarts with swirls of caramelized meringue and her silken panna cottas are legendary in Birmingham. She handles with alacrity the array of Southern, Italian and French favorites found on the menus of the Stitts’ restaurants. A prep list 44 items long on the Thursday before Labor Day revealed the breadth of her work. Production included: chocolate pots de crème; citrus shortbreads; hamburger buns; pizza dough; buttermilk tarts; batches of ice creams, sauces, fig jam and frangipane (an almond-based tart filling); polenta cakes; and crème caramels.
Miles was one of 20 semifinalists in the Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Pastry Chef category for five years running, and among its five finalists for the past three years. The awards gala at Chicago’s Lyric Opera House was a celebratory one for the Stitts, too. After being nominated for 10 consecutive years as the nation’s Outstanding Restaurant, Highlands won. The first time Miles was a finalist, she couldn’t believe it.
“I never really understood how the Beard thing goes, how you get nominated and all of that and, you know, from being down South, from Alabama! Most of them be from New York, California, Chicago — all those big places,” she said. “But to be nominated from all the way down here? That was amazing.” (Miles’s fellow 2018 finalists were from New Orleans, Minneapolis, Chicago and Los Angeles.)
Simone Biles has won the all-around title at the world championships for the fourth time, the most ever in women’s artistic gymnastics.
Biles, 21, uncharacteristically struggled in the competition Thursday in Doha, Qatar, just days after tweeting she’d put off having a kidney stone removed until after the competition.
But despite a fall on the vault, a fall on the balance beam and stepping out of bounds during her floor exercise routine, Biles still won by 1.693 points — the largest margin of victory of her four titles.
Fellow American Morgan Hurd took bronze, while Mai Murakami of Japan won silver.
In addition to the all-around, Biles, who returned to the sport this summer, led the US this week to team gold. She still can add to her medal haul in the individual vault, uneven bars, beam and floor events.
In 1972, a black cultural center in Berkeley, California, put out a call for artists to help create an exhibit themed around black heroes. One African American contemporary artist, Betye Saar, answered. She created an artwork from a “mammy” doll and armed it with a rifle.
According to Angela Davis, a Black Panther activist, the piece by Saar, titled “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima,” sparked the black women’s movement. Now, the artist’s legacy is going on view in New York with “Betye Saar: Keepin’ It Clean,” an exhibit opening on November 2nd at the New York Historical Society, featuring 24 artworks made between 1997 and 2017 from her continuing series incorporating washboards. The exhibit runs until May 27, 2019.
“Saar says that it’s about keeping everything clean, keeping politics clean, keeping your life clean, your actions clean,” said Wendy Ikemoto, the society’s associate curator of American art. “She wants America to clean up its act and a lot of her art has to do with this idea that we haven’t cleaned up our act.”
Saar, 92, was born in Los Angeles and turned to making political art after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. “After his assassination in 1968, her work became explicitly political,” said Ikemoto. “That’s when she started collecting these racist, Jim Crow figurines and incorporated them in her assemblages.”
Saar was part of the black arts movement, the cultural – often literary – arm of the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s; she was also among so-called second wave feminists. But she still found herself at a crossroads. “The black arts movement was male-dominated and the feminist movement was white-dominated,” Ikemoto said. “Being at the intersection of both movements, she became one of the most prominent black female artists for presenting strong, recognized women who are fighting off the legacy of slavery. I think it did open doors for other artists to follow.”
This traveling exhibit, from the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, shows Saar’s consistent message through her washboard series. “Many of her works tackle the broad issue of revisioning derogatory stereotypes to agents of change, historical change and power,” said Ikemoto. “Many artworks feature descendants of Aunt Jemima and mammy figures armed to face the racist histories of our nation.”
The exhibit includes “Extreme Times Call for Extreme Heroines,” a washboard piece Saar made in 2017 that features a mammy doll holding a pair of guns. The washboards are used in lieu of canvases and are loaded with symbolism.
“The washboard becomes her frame for the art, it’s the star,” said Ikemoto. “It’s the structure of black labor and she is moving it from a space of invisibility to highlight it. She is also using this humble object of hard labor to subvert notions of fine art.”
Each washboard is like a puzzle to be decoded, filled with small details that reference American history. There are Black Panther fists, references to police brutality and phrases from the Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes.
There are also references to Memphis, the city where King was assassinated, and to the Congolese slaves who were killed under the Congo Free State. Some washboards include phrases such as “national racism”.
“It’s as if Saar is suggesting how racism is so entrenched in our nation that it has become a national brand,” said Ikemoto. “She takes something that is a sign of oppression and violence, something pejorative and derogatory, and transforms it into something revolutionary.”
Not all of the artworks are on washboards, however. One piece from 1997, “We Was Mostly ’Bout Survival,” is on an ironing board, emblazoned with an image of a British slave ship.
“I think this exhibition is essential right now,” said Ikemoto. “I hope it encourages dialogue about history and our nation today, the racial relations and problems we still need to confront in the 21st century.”