According to wjla.com, The Board of Public Works in Maryland voted 3-0 to approved a contract to put bronze statues of American heroes and freedom fighters Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass in the Maryland State House. The statues will stand in the Old House of Delegates Chamber.
Maryland-born abolitionists Tubman and Douglass both escaped enslavement in their home state and worked in the North to secure freedom for others via speeches, protests and journalism. Tubman, known by many as “Black Moses,” went back down South personally several times to rescue and guide enslaved people to freedom via the Underground Railroad.
House delegate R. Julian Ivey asked to delay the contract, citing a lack of minority business participation in the deal. “If the state of Maryland is going to honor Ms. Tubman and Mr. Douglass, we need to do it the right way,” Ivey wrote in a letter to the board.
The contract with The Christmas Company, of Sterling, Virginia, calls for completing the work within 390 days.
According to jbhe.com, Julius P. Williams has been named President of the Conductors Guild, a global membership organization comprised of conductors of symphony, opera, ballet, choral, band, contemporary, and chamber ensembles. Dr. Williams is the first African American president in Conductors Guild history, and began his two-year term in earlier this month.
Williams is a Professor of Composition at the Berklee College of Music in Boston currently, as well as artistic director and conductor of the Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra. His other positions include music director and conductor of Trilogy: An Opera Company in New Jersey, composer with the Boston Symphony Orchestra‘s “Composer-in-Residence Project.” Williams also works with the Boston Pops Orchestra.
“The appointment of Julius Williams as president of Conductors Guild is both meaningful and newsworthy. Maestro Williams has not only the stellar credentials, but the right vision, breadth and leadership, to set a powerful example for our field,” said Afa S. Dworkin, president and artistic director of The Sphinx Organization. “We applaud the Conductors Guild on this news and look forward to many inspiring programs and ideas that will undoubtedly emerge!”
Throughout his career, Williams has conducted ensembles at Carnegie Hall, and performances with orchestras in Dallas, Savannah, Hartford, Sacramento, Tulsa, and Knoxville, as well as the Harlem Symphony, Armor Artist Chamber Orchestra, Connecticut Opera, and the Kalistos Chamber Orchestra in Boston.
The nominees for the 91st Academy Awards were announced early this morning by Black-ishstar Tracee Ellis Ross and The Big Sickstar Kumail Nanjiani, and among them were for the first time a superhero movie nominated for Best Picture, Black Panther, and the prolific Spike Lee‘s first nomination in the Best Director category for Black KkKlansman, which also was nominated for Best Picture.
Ever since the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of 2016, the demand for more diversity in movies and television has gained and retained attention. Although there are no African-Americans among the Best Actor or Best Actress nominees, Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio was recognized for her work in Roma, and among the nominees in the Best Supporting Actress category are Golden Globe winner Regina King for her turn in If Beale Street Could Talk, and Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali, who garnered his third Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Green Book.
Other notable African-American Oscar nominees this year are Kendrick Lamar and SZA in the Original Song category for “All The Stars” from Black Panther, and Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson, who might win for what she first became known for as she is also nominated (with Diane Warren) in the Original Song category for “I’ll Fight” from RBG.
Peter Ramsey, who is co-director on Best Animated Feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Barry Jenkins in the Adapted Screenplay category for If Beale Street Could Talk. Spike Lee earned a second nod in the Adapted Screenplay category as one of the writers of Black KkKlansman.
Another first this year is Hannah Beachler‘s nomination for Production Design for Black Panther, the only African American woman to receive one in this category. Ruth E. Carter earned her third nomination for Costume Design (the first two were for Malcolm X and Amistad) for Black Panther and composer Terence Blanchard, who has scored more than forty films and all of Spike Lee’s, finally earned an Original Score nomination this year for his work on Black KkKlansman.
The Oscars will be broadcast live by ABC on Feb. 24 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET. Below is a complete list of all the nominees:
Ruth Alston Brown (born Ruth Weston), singer-songwriter and actress known for hit songs such as “So Long,” “Teardrops from My Eyes,” “5-10-15 Hours,”“(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean” and “Oh What A Dream” which earned her the nicknames “Miss Rhythm” and “Queen of R&B,” was born January 12, 1928 in Portsmouth, VA. She would have been 91 years old today.
In 1945 when she was just 17, Brown ran away from her home in Portsmouth along with trumpeter Jimmy Brown, whom she married, to sing in bars and clubs. According to biography.com, Brown would later discover that Jimmy was already married and their marriage was legally void.
By the time Brown learned of Jimmy Brown’s bigamy, she had already developed a reputation under his surname, so she kept the name Ruth Brown as a stage name for the rest of her life.
Brown soon spent a month with singing with Lucky Millinder‘s orchestra. Famous bandleader Cab Calloway‘s sister Blanche Calloway, owner of the Crystal Caverns nightclub in Washington D.C., became Brown’s manager and offered Brown a regular gig performing at her club. Willis Conover, the future Voice of America disc jockey, caught Brown’s act and recommended her to Atlantic Records bosses Ahmet Ertegün and Herb Abramson.
Brown was unable to audition for Atlantic as planned because of a car crash, which resulted in an almost year-long stay in the hospital. Regardless, she signed with Atlantic Records and Brown’s series of hits for Atlantic Records in the 1950s had many referring to the record label as “the house that Ruth built.”
Nevertheless, Brown’s popularity and R&B charts success did not translate into personal financial wealth. Due to a practice known as “whitewashing,” in which white singers covered black artists’ songs without permission, Brown’s records never sold nearly their full potential. Furthermore, Atlantic Records made Brown pay her recording and touring expenses out of pocket—costs that nearly equaled her cut of the sales.
According to wikipedia.org, during the 1960s, Brown faded from public view, moved to Long Island, New York, where she worked various part-time jobs as a teacher’s aide, school bus driver and maid just to make ends meet.
Brown returned to music in 1975 with the help of comedian Redd Foxx, and a series of comedic acting jobs followed. These included roles in the 1988 John Waters film Hairspray, and the Broadway productions of Amen Corner and Black and Blue. The latter earned her a Tony Award in 1989 as Best Actress in a Musical. She also won a Grammy Award for her album Blues on Broadway that same year.
Brown died in a Las Vegas–area hospital on November 17, 2006, from complications following a heart attack and stroke she suffered after surgery the previous month. She was 78 years old. Brown is buried at Roosevelt Memorial Park in Chesapeake City, Virginia.
One of the first great divas of modern American popular music, Brown’s songs provided a blueprint for much of the rock ‘n’ roll that soon came after her. In addition to the musical legacy she left, Brown also left future artists a more artist-friendly environment, thanks to her tireless work to reform the royalty system. To get a glimpse of Brown, and hear her legendary voice and style, click below:
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.
Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif, was elected CBC chair, and according to her website, the Caucus will also chair five full House Committees in addition to 28 House Subcommittees.
The caucus includes elected officials from both the House and Senate, and since its establishment in 1971, the CBC has been committed to using the full Constitutional power, statutory authority, and financial resources of the federal government to ensure that African Americans and other marginalized communities in the United States have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.
As part of this commitment, the CBC has fought to address critical issues such as voting rights, criminal justice reform, equal access to quality education.
The Columbia University board of trustees recently approved the creation of a new African American and African Diaspora Studies Department. ProfessorFarah Jasmine Griffin, the William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African American Studies, has been appointed as the chair of the new department.
“Now, more than ever, we need to have both an understanding of that history, but we also need to understand the ways that history contributes to a sense of possibility and vision for the future,”said Dr. Griffin. “Even though we are later than many of our peers, the creation of this department at Columbia is right on time because our nation and our world need the kind of knowledge we produce.”
In 1993, long before there was a centralized department for African studies, Dr. Manning Marable established the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) at Columbia. The institute has brought together scholars from a variety of disciplines and continues to bridge scholarship, teaching, and public life. Once the new department has been created, the IRAAS will continue to conduct research.
Now that the department has been approved, Columbia plans to hire new faculty who are experts in the field of African American and African diaspora studies and create a Ph.D. program to produce additional innovative scholarship.
Additionally, the school recognizes the significance of being located in Harlem, a center of Black cultural life in the United States, and plans to collaborate with the surrounding community.
“Departments and academic institutions don’t produce knowledge for the moment, they produce knowledge for the long term,” said Dr. Griffin, who also serves as director of the IRAAS. “Creating a new department is an investment in producing knowledge that is valuable for our country at any time, but especially at this moment, as it reminds us of a historical legacy as well as a vision of America that we need to engage more now than ever.”
When the Metro’s new Crenshaw/LAX line opens in summer 2020, riders will travel through a 1.3-mile-long art project celebrating Los Angeles’ African-American achievement.
“Destination Crenshaw” is set to break ground in early 2019, and will flank the route along Crenshaw Boulevard. Renderings were released earlier this month.
“The hope,” Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said, “is that [people] understand that L.A., among other things, is quintessentially a black city. In the same way that it’s a Latino city, in the same way it’s a Jewish city, in the same way that it’s a Japanese city. The stories of black people in this town are central to what this town is, and what it continues to develop into.”
Harris-Dawson called Destination Crenshaw an “open-air museum” that is set to feature monuments, art, park space, and other cultural experiences celebrating black Los Angeles. It’ll be one of the first stops for people taking the Metro from LAX, with clear views of the surrounding art.
The inspiration for the project was the Crenshaw Wall, Harris-Dawson said. That’s the massive graffiti project that already stands in Crenshaw, which Harris-Dawson wants to see restored and enhanced.
“But also many of our artists that are in this community have art that you have to travel outside South L.A. to see,” Harris-Dawson said. “We wanted to create a space for them to show their work in their own neighborhoods.”
An open call went out for artists earlier this year, but another is planned for 2019.
The space will have more than 125 spots for art, according to Harris-Dawson, including 3D art, street art, fine art, and more. The art will tell stories curated by the project’s historian.
Even the parks will be part of telling the story.
“There may be a [play structure] there that may spell out the words, ‘say it loud,'” Harris-Dawson said. “So that’s a way in which, as a park, it is a functional tool, but it tells a story about political protest, and community confrontation, and African-American music in a direct way.”
Harris-Dawson hopes Destination Crenshaw will help bring back creative businesses and boost the local economy. “African-American culture is consumed by the world, in every corner of the world, but African-American neighborhoods have not necessarily been able to take advantage of that,” Harris-Dawson said.
“Whether it’s streetware and street fashion that is largely generated by young people in the Crenshaw neighborhood — they make a sneaker popular, and then you have to go to Melrose to get the sneaker. And the same is true for all forms of art,” he said.
Destination Crenshaw is set to open in spring 2020. They also have a public kickoff event planned for Feb. 8, 2019, where they hope to reveal a couple of the key artists contributing to the project, according to Harris-Dawson.
Here’s a promotional video from earlier this year:
In this 100th year anniversary of its completion, the historic Villa Lewaro estate of the nation’s first self-made female millionaire and beauty pioneer, Madam C.J. Walker, has been purchased.
The New Voices Foundation, which helps women of color entrepreneurs achieve their vision through innovative leadership initiatives, will spearhead the stabilization of the structure and planning for future uses. The acquisition was facilitated by the Dennis Family, including entrepreneur, investor, and social impact innovator Richelieu Dennis, who once owned Shea Moisture and currently owns Essence Magazine.
The 28,000 square foot property is a historic residence that embodies the optimism and perseverance of the American entrepreneurial spirit.
“In the one hundred years since Madam Walker built her majestic home, Villa Lewaro, it has served as a landmark both to her own success and to her endeavor to create a space dedicated to the achievement and empowerment of African Americans,” said Brent Leggs, director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976 for its architectural significance, Madam Walker’s Villa Lewaro estate, named after her daughter (A’LElia WAlker RObinson), was once a social and cultural gathering place for notable leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, such as James Weldon Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Langston Hughes.
The home, which Madam Walker called her “dream of dreams,” was designed and completed 100-years ago by the first licensed Black architect in the state of New York and a founder of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Vertner Tandy.
Walker was the first person of color to own property in Irvington, close to Lyndhurst, a National Trust Historic Site. During the time it was built, Villa Lewaro was located on what was referred to as Millionaire’s Row and in an area that was also home to Rockefellers and Astors. Purchased in 1993, for the last 25 years Villa Lewaro served as the family home of AmbassadorHarold E. Doley, Jr. and his wife Helena.
With a long admiration of Madam C.J. Walker, the Dennis family first reignited her cultural, entrepreneurial and hair care legacy through the acquisition of the Madam C.J. Walker brand in 2013 – when conversations to acquire Villa Lewaro also first began – and the brand’s subsequent relaunch on retail shelves in 2016 at Sephora.
“To be able to steward something so rich in our culture, history, legacy and achievement through the New Voices Foundation and guide it into its next phase of impact and inspiration is an incredible honor that my family and I welcome with tremendous responsibility and humility,” said Dennis. “When we relaunched the Madam C.J. Walker brand two and half years ago, our goal was to give the brand back to our community and elevate it in the iconic way deserving of such a phenomenal woman. Today, we have a similar focus with Villa Lewaro as its significance is much greater than just a house or property or historic landmark. It is a place where – against all odds – dreams were formed, visions were realized and entrepreneurs were born, and we look forward to returning its use to support that mission.”
Dennis continued, “Squarely aligned with the mission of the New Voices Foundation, we are excited to announce that the vision for future use of the property includes utilizing Villa Lewaro as both a physical and virtual destination where women of color entrepreneurs will come for curriculum-based learning and other resources aimed at helping them build, grow and expand their businesses. When people think of entrepreneurship services for women of color, we want them to think of the New Voices Foundation and Villa Lewaro.”
Madam Walker’s great-great-granddaughter and biographer, as well as brand historian, A’Lelia Bundles, added, “No one at the time believed that a Black woman could afford such a place. So, I can think of no better way to celebrate Villa Lewaro’s 100th anniversary than the vision of the New Voices Foundation and the Dennis family for this historic treasure as a place to inspire today’s entrepreneurs, tomorrow’s leaders and our entire community. Richelieu’s own success story – from a humble family recipe to an international enterprise with an economic empowerment mission – very much mirrors Madam Walker’s journey of empowering and uplifting women. Just as Madam Walker aided in the preservation of abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s Washington, DC home, the Dennis family continues this tradition of preserving historic sites that raise awareness about the contributions people of color have made to the American narrative.”
The National Trust holds a perpetual preservation easement on Villa Lewaro that ensures the property’s historic character will be preserved. This easement was jointly supported by the Dennis and the Doley families. The home was named a National Treasure by the National Trust in 2014 and is part of a growing portfolio of African American historic sites protected through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, an initiative designed to raise the profile of African American sites of achievement, activism, architecture, and community.