According to jbhe.com, the student body of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. recently voted on a proposal to add a semester fee of $27.20 that would go toward a fund to benefit descendants of the 272 enslaved persons once owned and then sold in 1838 by the university to pay off debt. The referendum passed by a vote of 2,541 to 1,304, which means nearly two-thirds of enrolled students are in favor of the new fee.
“The university values the engagement of our students and appreciates that 3,845 students made their voices heard in yesterday’s election,” said Todd Olson, Georgetown’s Vice President for Student Affairs, in an official statement. “Our students are contributing to an important national conversation and we share their commitment to addressing Georgetown’s history with slavery.”
Georgetown administrators, however, have said the student referendum is nonbinding, and the school’s 39-member board of directors would have to vote on the measure, according to the school’s student newspaper, the Hoya.
If Georgetown’s board approves, reports The Huffington Post, it would be one of the first major U.S. institutions to create a fund for slavery reparations.
Critics of the reparations fund have argued that it should not be current students’ responsibility to atone for the school’s past.
Nationally, the issue of reparations has been in the spotlight lately. Earlier this week, the New York Times published an opinion piece entitled “When Slaveowners Got Reparations”, pointing out how President Lincoln signed a bill in 1862 that paid up to $300 to slaveholders for every enslaved person freed when he emancipated those in bondage in Washington D.C. In 2014, journalist and best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote “The Case for Reparations,” for The Atlantic, highlighting the topic, and even typically conservative NY Times writer David Brookswrote in March why he’s come around to the cause.
At the 50thNAACP Image Awards, the NAACP announced its historic “Jamestown to Jamestown” event partnership with Ghana, marking the 400th year enslaved Africans first touched the shores of what would become the United States of America.
An official event of Ghana’s “Year of Return,” Jamestown to Jamestown will allow for NAACP leadership, NAACP members, and members of the African American community to honor both ancestors and the struggle for Black liberation in a groundbreaking trek from Jamestown, Virginia to Jamestown in Accra, Ghana in August of this year.
“Jamestown to Jamestown represents one of the most powerful moments in the history of the Black Experience,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “We are now able to actualize the healing and collective unity so many generations have worked to achieve in ways which bring power to our communities in America, Africa and throughout our Diaspora.”
The Jamestown to Jamestown events kickoff August 18 in Washington D.C., where participants will travel via bus to Jamestown, Virginia for a prayer vigil and candle- ighting ceremony marking the African “Maafa,” a term describing the horrific suffering embedded in the past four centuries related to the enslavement process.
Participants will then travel back to DC for a gathering at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (which was designed by Ghanaian architect Sir David Adjaye) prior to departing to Ghana on a direct flight for 7 to 10 days of cultural, spiritual and cathartic experiences designed to connect the present to the African past.
Some trip events include:
• Prayer Vigil at Jamestown, VA Settlement
• Direct Chartered Flight to Ghana from Washington, DC
According to the Washington Post, the Association of Black Seminarians, who are comprised of Princeton Theological Seminary students, have petitioned for and are calling on the institution to offer reparations for its role in and past ties to slavery. To quote the Post:
“A group of black seminarians has collected more than 400 signatures in an online petition calling on the institution to “make amends” by setting aside $5.3 million annually — or 15 percent of what the seminary uses from its endowment for its operating expenses — to fund tuition grants for black students and establish a Black Church Studies program.
As a progressive seminary, Princeton could become a pioneer by distributing reparations, said Justin Henderson, president of the Association of Black Seminarians, the group behind the petition. The school has confessed and repented for the “sin” of its role in slavery, but “repentance doesn’t end with confession,” said Henderson, who will finish his master of divinity studies in May.
“Restitution is evidence of the repentance,” he said. “This is how we know the person has repented.”
2019 is arguably the year of #OscarsSoBlack. According to the Los Angeles Times, this year set the record for the most individual Black winners of Academy Awards, with seven victors in six categories.
Regina King kicked it all off by winning first award of the evening for Best Supporting Actress for her work in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Already a recipient of a Golden Globe for the same role, King gave an emotional, touching acceptance speech.
“To be standing here, representing one of the greatest artists of our time, James Baldwin, is a little surreal,” King said. “James Baldwin birthed this baby, and Barry [Jenkins, the director], you nurtured her, you surrounded her with so much love and support. So it’s appropriate for me to be standing here because I am an example of what happens when support and love is poured into someone.”
“Black Panther” collaborators Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler made history with their wins, becoming the first African Americans to take home Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design, respectively.
“Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design, we made him an African king,” Carter said. Among those she thanked was director Ryan Coogler, whom she called “a guiding force.”
Beachler also acknowledged Coogler in her acceptance speech. “I stand here with agency and self-worth because of [director] Ryan Coogler, who not only made me a better designer, a better storyteller, a better person. When you think things are impossible, remember ‘I did my best, and my best is good enough.’”
Spike Lee, along with writers Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott (who is black), won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Black KkKlansman.”
After full-body hugging presenter (and “Jungle Fever” alum) Samuel L. Jackson, in his acceptance speech Lee paid tribute to his grandmother, whose mother was a slave, who lived to be 100 years old and put him through Morehouse College and New York University film school.
Lee also made the first direct political comments of the night: “The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize, let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate,” he said.
“Let’s do the right thing!” Lee added. “You know I had to get that in there.”
Additionally, Peter Ramsey, co-director of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” won for Best Animated Feature.
Mahershala Ali won the Best Supporting Actor award for the second time in his career for his portrayal of pianist Don Shirley in “Green Book.” That movie also went on later in the evening to win the Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture categories.
Below is the full list of winners:
“The Favourite” “Green Book” (WINNER)
“A Star Is Born”
Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite” Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma” (WINNER)
Adam McKay, “Vice”
Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife” Olivia Colman, “The Favourite” (WINNER)
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate” Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (WINNER)
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”
“All The Stars” from “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
“I’ll Fight” from “RBG” by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice (WINNER)
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch
“BlacKkKlansman,” Terence Blanchard “Black Panther,” Ludwig Goransson (WINNER)
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Nicholas Britell
“Isle of Dogs,” Alexandre Desplat
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
Additionally, plaques in his memory will be mounted on the campuses of four HBCUs where he served on the faculty: Fisk University, Tuskegee University, Howard University, and Tougaloo College.
Dr. Brady was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1884. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Fisk in 1908. After graduating from Fisk, he taught for four years at Tuskegee before leaving to earn his Ph.D. at U. of Illinois. He returned to teach at Tuskegee once again, followed by positions at Tougaloo, Howard, and Fisk. He served as chair of the chemistry departments at both Howard and Fisk. Dr. Brady passed away on December 25, 1966.
“This landmark designation recognizes the outstanding accomplishments and leadership impact that Dr. Brady has had on the chemical profession,” says ACS Immediate Past President Peter K. Dorhout, who presented the plaque at the designation ceremony on February 5.
“I am proud to be an alumnus of the university that was part of his legacy — dreaming, designing and executing the creation of four outstanding and impactful chemistry programs that have each worked to ensure access to higher education and the chemical professions for so many young African-American men and women over the last century.”
If you are a medical professional (particularly a Black medical professional), or just an overall Black history buff, you likely have heard of Mary Eliza Mahoney.
For those who have been denied tales of Mahoney’s excellence, she is heralded as the first African-American licensed nurse.
Mahoney worked in nursing for almost 40 years before retiring, but during her time as a medical professional, as well as long after, she was a champion of women’s rights. A trailblazer, not just as a Black person, but also as a woman.
Even as a teenager, Mahoney knew she wanted to become a nurse, and she began working at the New England Hospital for Women and Children, which, as its name suggests, provided health care exclusively to women and their children. At the time, the hospital was also known for its all-women staff of doctors.
There, Mahoney worked from the ground up over the next 15 years, in jobs such as janitor, cook and washerwoman, while also seizing the opportunity to work as a nurse’s aide.
The hospital operated one of the first nursing schools in the United States, and as you can probably guess, in 1878 a then 33-year-old Mahoney was allowed to enter the hospital’s professional graduate school for nursing. During the intensive 16-month training program, students attended lectures and got hands-on experience in the hospital.
The program was rigorous, and according to the Women’s History Museum, of the 42 students who entered the program, only four, including Mahoney, completed the requirements in 1879. In the same breath, she became the first Black person in the U.S. to earn a professional nursing license.
Mahoney would go on to serve as a private-duty nurse for the remainder of her impeccable career (she decided against public nursing because of the rampant discrimination there) and became known across the East Coast for her “efficiency, patience and caring bedside manner,” according to the Women’s History Museum.
A staunch advocate of those within the profession, Mahoney became a member of the Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada (NAAUSC, later known as the American Nurses Association) in 1896. But she faced discrimination at NAAUSC, which had a predominantly white membership, so Mahoney took it upon herself to co-found the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) in 1908.
It’s official — the upcoming third season of National Geographic’s scripted anthology series Geniuswill be devoted to the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, who died in August at age 76. The announcement was made Sunday at TCA.
Suzan-Lori Parks, Pulitzer Prize award-winning playwright of Topdog/Underdog, will be executive producer and showrunner of the project, from Imagine Television and Fox 21 TV Studios. Music mogul and longtime Franklin collaborator Clive Davis as well as Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman also executive produce.
Genius was renewed for a third season in April, with author Mary Shelley revealed as its subject, to follow Albert Einstein and Picasso. The Mary Shelley story remains in consideration for future installments of the anthology series.
The idea of doing a Franklin-centered Genius came together quickly following the music icon’s August 16 death, spearheaded by Imagine’s Brian Grazer. The project had been moving full steam ahead since, with securing access to Franklin’s music considered the one key element that would clinch a green light.
Bringing David, Kallman and Warner Music Group on board was very important in that aspect, with the producers currently able to use about 80% of Franklin’s catalog and working to secure the remaining titles.
Young cadets Queen Anunay and Kishia Clemencia stood out in their class at the D.C. Fire Academy as being among the few women in a male-dominated field. Of the department’s 1,550 members at the time, 35 were women.
Fast forward nearly three decades, and Anunay and Clemencia are the ones in charge.
The two women were appointed in recent months to battalion chief posts at the department — promotions that made them the third and fourth women to hold the positions in the 135-year-old department’s history. There were no women among the department’s 41 battalion chiefs late last year before their promotions.
In their new roles, Anunay, 45, and Clemencia, 44, help oversee nearly 100 firefighters at 11 firehouses in the District. They were selected among a pool of 44 candidates — the only two women who qualified during an interview process measuring their preparedness for the high-ranking position.
“They will create a path for all of our young, female firefighters that shows them, ‘Oh, I can do that. That’s within my reach.’ ” D.C. Fire Chief Gregory M. Dean said. “They’re pioneers.”
Before reading, please understand the deep degree to which I am an Aretha Franklin fan. I have been in rapture since I was a teen grooving to “Jump To It,” “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” “Think,” and, of course, “Respect.” My devotion to her voice and musicianship only intensified when I gained full access to her catalog when I DJ’d for my college radio station. I went all the way in, past her Arista recordings, back and through her Chess, Columbia and Atlantic LPs, and never came back out.
I played her records over and over, never singing along, so as not to disrespect or sully the divinity I was taking in. Back then, during this time of discovery of the breadth of Aretha’s genius, it would have been as rude as chatting during a sermon. I could go on – there is so much more Aretha stanning in my history including the full day spent watching every hour, minute and second of her funeral – but it’s enough to get the picture.
I am in, down, and for all things Aretha.
So a few years ago when I heard about film footage existing of Aretha recording her 1972 gospel masterpiece “Amazing Grace” in Los Angeles at Reverend James Cleveland‘s New Temple Missionary Baptist Church with the Southern California Community Choir, shot over two nights by Sydney Pollack (“Tootsie,” “The Way We Were,” “The Firm”), I was ecstatic.
It didn’t get released in conjunction with the album’s 1972 release as originally planned by Warner Bros. because the film’s recording was mishandled. Pollack, who died in 2008, did not use clapper boards, a crucial tool in matching sound with filmed images in the pre-digital era. There were 20 hours of raw footage shot by five 16-millimeter cameras to sync, so the project got shelved, until the footage was re-discovered over three decades later.
The movie was then set to screen at several prominent film festivals, but Franklin herself sued to stop it from being released. So I checked my thirst out of loyalty and stood by the Queen’s side, even if it meant never seeing what I was sure would be a Technicolor feast of mind-blowing artistry.
I brightened when I heard Aretha’s beef with the project was not about its content – she reportedly loved the content – it was about the money. Okay, cool – Aretha wanted her coins as well as her respect. I hoped it would all settle quickly, because as much as a person can be in love with her recordings, watching Aretha live, doing her thing, has always been where it’s at.
Not long after her passing, producer Alan Elliott screened “Amazing Grace” for Franklin’s family and got the family’s approval for release. It was picked up by NEON Studios for North American distribution and is slated to be in theaters in the early part of this year. But when I got a chance to see the film Thursday in Los Angeles on Opening Night of the 27th Annual Pan African Film Festival (#PAFF), I jumped to it.
Even though I saw it with an audience so fully there for it, and even with my freely admitted pre-disposition towards loving it, viewing “Amazing Grace” is a sensorial experience that exceeds all expectations. This “making of” documentary is a pure, raw American musical treasure that should go down, like Aretha, as the greatest of its ilk.
In case you’ve never heard the “Amazing Grace” double album or perhaps only know Aretha from Inaugural Hat or “Great Gowns, Beautiful Gowns” Taylor Swift memes, in 1972, Aretha Franklin is 29 and at the absolute height of her recording success, fame and vocal prowess.
As Tirrell D. Whittley, another of the film’s producers, put it during the Q&A that followed its #PAFF screening, Aretha was “it” back then, the Beyoncé of her time. And while at that height, Aretha decided to honor and commune with the roots from which her unparalleled artistry grew – church music.
Listening to the “Amazing Grace” LP (still the best-selling gospel album of all time), I always imagined it was a packed Sunday morning service where Aretha was singing with a fully-robed choir joyfully bouncing in step behind her. But what the film shows you instead is nighttime, a handful of white guys with mics, wires and cameras running around, and maybe 80-90 audience members, several of them likely not even New Temple congregants (Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones are there one night, as are gospel great Clara Ward and her mother, Mother Ward).
The backing choir, directed with great aptitude and verve by the lively Alexander Hamilton, does not wear church robes but all-black clothing underneath Vegas-style sparkly silver vests. They look more like they are at a local talent competition than a service, and they stay seated during most of the recording. Aretha alone is robed – the first night in a long, white, bejeweled caftan and the second in a beautiful chartreuse paisley one.
It is clear from her commanding sashays down the church aisle as she enters upon introduction from Rev. Cleveland, that Aretha is not only in church, but there to put in work. On the second night Aretha enters in one of her signature fur coats. Her walk, steps, bearing are those of a queen, unashamedly in charge and full of femininity. She touches outreached hands but intentionally keeps moving at her own pace.
While Cleveland plays host with avuncular affability as he encourages the crowd from the pulpit and piano, and Aretha’s father Rev. C.L. Franklin is solicited to offer remarks, Aretha herself barely talks during either session – seemingly conserving her voice between songs. When she does talk it’s brief and at whisper level.
I think it’s both the truth of what happened those nights as well as a great dramatic device – Aretha’s singing literally speaks for her. She has such sharp focus on what she is doing and trying to achieve – Aretha comes across not as a guileless prodigy, but as a hard-working, brilliant young woman who fully knows what she is capable of and what it takes to tap into and employ her superlative gift. She is also connected enough to know when to give in to it and allow a higher power work through her.
Seeing the process with your own eyes makes it all the more impactful and palpable. When Aretha sits down at the piano and starts in on “Wholy Holy,” there is nothing to do but watch in awe. And at a certain point, song after great song, it hits you – as you take in the old-school microphones, the physical dynamics of the space and people in it, that the sound is, in a word, superb. I don’t know if it’s from remastering with present-day technology or because that audio was recorded so well back in 1972, but the depth and clarity of the music and the vocal responses to it are an aural delicacy.
The prosaic nature of the church space itself sits in humble, human contrast to the sublimeness occurring inside it. The church is not so much majestic as it is makeshift – and in the best way. The mural of Jesus on the wall behind the pulpit – let’s just say it’s barely a notch above paint-by-numbers. But looking at that amateur effort behind the woman who is evocatively singing “How I Got Over” and “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” in His name – it’s almost as if Mural Jesus sags in admission that no one could have painted an image to match the artistry and meditation of Aretha.
This is most evident during Aretha’s performance of the title track “Amazing Grace” – as she reaches higher and higher, the shouting and clapping from the audience rises and rises – people literally stand, fall, cry, and scream. Rev. Cleveland himself is so overcome by the power and beauty of what Aretha is delivering that he stops playing the piano so he can collect himself.
It’s such an incredible moment to watch – even the man running the show, a seasoned church pro – is overwhelmed and touched, all his pomp crumbling down under literal amazing grace. Many of us know that moment – when you witness something so superlative and divine, you can do nothing more than be in its presence and be thankful you exist to receive it.
The other indelible highlight in the film is Aretha’s delivery/deliverance of/during “Never Grow Old.” I have watched countless clips of Aretha performing live, at all ages and stages of her career. She is always professional and on point, but when she herself catches the spirit? There! Is! Nothing! Like! It!
Aretha is at the piano during “Never Grow Old” as you see it happening. She is so channelled and so in it that the spirit takes over the tempo, the piano, the choir, and several people in the audience. There is spirit dancing – Mother Ward falls out – an actual white towel is thrown in!
And as the towel comes towards camera, the audience watching the movie burst into laughter as did I, because it is perfect punctuation to what we were all feeling at that moment. We were in thrall and surrender to the power, the genius, the spirit, the joy that is flowing through Aretha Louise Franklin.
Even as you feel the heat, the light, the literal sweat on her brow coming at you through the screen, Aretha’s voice makes you shiver down to your bones.
The only song that doesn’t come across as powerful on film as it does on the record is “Mary Don’t You Weep.” According to producer Elliott, they did not have full visual coverage of “Mary” in the church, so they could not match it to the audio from the LP. What we do hear of “Mary” is still worthy of our time, suffering mainly from comparison to the oomph and punch so many of the other visually-realized songs have, including lesser-known songs such as “Climbing Higher Mountains” and “Precious Memories.”
But all in all, after dwelling for over 45 years in obscurity, the fact that the general public will finally get to see the best singer in the world recording the best gospel album of all time while communing in the most prolific and sustaining pillar of African-American society – the church – is the real blessing that needs to be recognized.
Even if you don’t know or revere Franklin’s work like I do but love any powerhouse singer from last 50 years, or just love music, you should see this film. For it proves without a doubt that since the sixties, all roads to enthralling, singular vocal ability, agility, facility and feeling lead back to one root, one person, one singer – Aretha. And her preternatural gift is never in finer form and potency than it is in “Amazing Grace.”