10 African Americans Win 2018 Rhodes Scholarships, Most Ever in Rhodes History

Cadet Simone Askew, of Fairfax, Va., is one of 32 Americans awarded Rhodes scholarships to study at Oxford University in England. (Richard Drew, File/Associated Press)

The latest group of U.S. Rhodes scholars includes 10 African Americans — the most ever in a single Rhodes class — as well as a transgender man and four students from colleges that had never had received the honor before.

The Rhodes Trust on Sunday announced the 32 men and women chosen for post-graduate studies at Oxford University in England. Among them: the first black woman to lead the Corps of Cadets at West Point; a wrestler at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who’s helping develop a prosthetic knee for use in the developing world; and a Portland, Oregon, man who has studied gaps in his hometown’s “sanctuary city” policy protecting immigrants in the country illegally from deportation.

“This year’s selections — independently elected by 16 committees around the country meeting simultaneously — reflects the rich diversity of America,” Elliot F. Gerson, American secretary of the Rhodes Trust, said in a news release announcing the winners Sunday. “They plan to study a wide range of fields across the social sciences, biological and medical sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, and the humanities.”The scholarships, considered by many to be the most prestigious available to American students, cover all expenses for two or three years of study starting next October. In some cases, the scholarships may allow funding for four years. The winners came from a group of 866 applicants who were endorsed by 299 colleges and universities. Four of the institutions had winners for the first time: Hunter College at the City University of New York; Temple University in Philadelphia; the University of Alaska in Anchorage; and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The 10 African Americans in the class include Simone Askew, of Fairfax, Virginia, who made headlines in August when she became the first black woman to serve as first captain of the 4,400-member Corps of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy — the highest position in the cadet chain of command at West Point. Askew, a senior, is majoring in international history, focused her undergraduate thesis on the use of rape as a tool of genocide and plans to study evidence-based social intervention at Oxford.

Her mother told reporters over the summer: “That leadership is something I’ve seen throughout her life — wanting to be first, wanting to be the best, wanting to win, in sports, in academics, in every aspect of her life. … And to serve others, as well.”
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Nigeria’s Women’s Bobsled Team Qualifies for 2018 Olympics, Country’s 1st Ever Winter Olympians

Nigerian Women’s Bobsled Team (photo via nytimes.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to ESPN, Nigeria will be represented in the Winter Olympics by the African nation’s women’s bobsled team, which qualified for the 2018 Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Driver Seun Adigun and breakpersons Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga completed the fifth out of the five required qualifying races and became the first African team ever to qualify in the bobsled category.

The squad, led by Adigun, a former African 100-meter hurdles champion and 2012 summer Olympian, completed the qualifying races in Utah and Canada on Tuesday and Wednesday. “This is a huge milestone for sports in Nigeria,” driver Adigun told ESPN. “Nothing makes me prouder than to know that I can play a small role in creating opportunities for winter sports to take place in Nigeria. Our objective now is to be the best representation of Africa that the Winter Olympics have ever witnessed.”

As blavity.com reported, it comes as a shock to many fans of the team and athletes individually, that they have been able to accomplish such a feat, considering they are in fact representing a warm climate country and the sport, for lack of better words, is designed for anything but that. In a recent interview with ABC News, shared to one of the women’s Instagram account, the ladies discuss how they do in fact host the majority of their training in the warm climate.

To read and learn more about this story, go to: http://www.newsweek.com/women-bobsled-team-first-nigeria-qualify-winter-olympics-713962 or http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-17/nigerias-bobsled-team-off-to-winter-olympics/9163162

“Black Tudors: The Untold Story” by Historian Miranda Kaufmann Debunks Idea That Slavery Was Start of Africans’ Presence in England 

Portrait of a Moor by Jan Mostaert, early 16th century (image via theguardian.com)

by Bidisha via theguardian.com

Within moments of meeting historian Miranda Kaufmann, I learn not to make flippant assumptions about race and history. Here we are in Moorgate, I say. Is it called that because it was a great hub of black Tudor life? “You have to be careful with anything like that,” she winces, “because, for all you know, this was a moor. It’s the same with family names and emblems: if your name was Mr Moore, you’d have the choice between a moorhen or a blackamoor. It wouldn’t necessarily say something about your race.”

Her answer – meticulous, free of bombast, dovetailing memorable details with wider issues – is typical of her first book Black Tudors: The Untold Story, which debunks the idea that slavery was the beginning of Africans’ presence in England, and exploitation and discrimination their only experience. The book takes the form of 10 vivid and wide-ranging true-life stories, sprinkled with dramatic vignettes and nice, chewy details that bring each character to life.

Africans were already known to have likely been living in Roman Britain as soldiers, slaves or even free men and women. But Kaufmann shows that, by Tudor times, they were present at the royal courts of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and James I, and in the households of Sir Walter Raleigh and William Cecil. The book also shows that black Tudors lived and worked at many levels of society, often far from the sophistication and patronage of court life, from a west African man called Dederi Jaquoah, who spent two years living with an English merchant, to Diego, a sailor who was enslaved by the Spanish in Panama, came to Plymouth and died in Moluccas, having circumnavigated half the globe with Sir Francis Drake.

Kaufmann’s interest in black British history came about almost by accident: she intended to study Tudor sailors’ perceptions of Asia and America for her thesis at Oxford University, but found documents demonstrating the presence of Africans within Britain. “I’d never heard anything about it, despite having studied Tudor history at every level. When I went to the National Archive for the first time, I asked an archivist where to start looking and they were like: ‘Oh well, you won’t find anything about that here.’”

Kaufmann kept digging, contacted local record offices and ultimately built up to her book. So why has the existence of black Tudors been unknown, untold and untaught? “History isn’t a solid set of facts,” she replies. “It’s very much about what questions you ask of the past. If you ask different questions, you get different answers. People weren’t asking questions about diversity. Now they are.” Continue reading

NBA Legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and News Anchor Robin Roberts Receive 2017 Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robin Roberts receive Ellis Island Heritage Awards for 2017 (photo via thepostgame.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

On Tuesday, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. honored basketball legend, author and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and ABC’s Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts, among others at its 2017 Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards, held in the Great Hall at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. Anchor and Managing Editor of ABC World News Tonight, David Muir, served as master of ceremonies.

Now in its 14th year, the Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards celebrates the extraordinary lives and heritage of selected citizens, or their descendants, who have made major contributions to the American experience. From sports heroes, entertainers and authors to former Secretaries of State and Nobel Prize winners, more than 50 esteemed citizens have been recognized by the Foundation.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the grandson of immigrants from Trinidad. Robin Roberts has roots in Virginia where her ancestors were slaves. When speaking at the event, according to thepostgame.com, Abdul-Jabbar said none of his success in the United States would have been possible if not for the leap of faith made by Abdul-Jabbar’s paternal grandparents, Cyrus and Venus Alcindor, 100 years ago, when they immigrated from Trinidad to the United States. “I’ve always understood myself to be a second-generation immigrant,” Abdul-Jabbar says. “It fits in with so many other stories like it.”

As reported by nj.com, Roberts captured the theme of the event best, when she said: “My mother had this wonderful way of saying: just look all around us … we all may have traveled here in different ways, but there are far more similarities than differences, so why not embrace and celebrate all of those many things that we have in common instead of those few differences.”

This year, the Family Heritage Awards also recognized the 125th anniversary of Ellis Island, which opened in 1892 as the nation’s preeminent immigration station.

She Met Her Prince (for Real!) at a D.C. Nightclub – New York Times

Ariana Austin and Joel Makonnen aka Prince Yoel (Credit: Jared Soares for The New York Times)

by Katie Rogers via nytimes.com

Few love stories resemble a fairy tale as much as the courtship and marriage of Ariana Austin and Joel Makonnen. Of course, it helped that the groom is an actual prince and the bride has a prominent lineage of her own. Mr. Makonnen, known as Prince Yoel, is the 35-year-old great-grandson of Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia. And Ms. Austin, 33, is of African-American and Guyanese descent; her maternal grandfather was a lord mayor of Georgetown, the capital of Guyana.

As the couple noted on their wedding website, their union happened when “Old World aristocracy met New World charm.” The old and new combined on Sept. 9, in a marathon day of events that lasted from 11 a.m. until late in the evening, and took place within two states.

The festivities began with a ceremony at the Debre Genet Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Temple Hills, Md. In an incense-filled sanctuary, guests in stockinged feet watched as at least 13 priests and clergymen helped officiate the Ethiopian Orthodox ceremony between Mr. Makonnen and Ms. Austin, who just days before had converted to the religion.

Hours after the ceremony, the pair celebrated with a formal reception at Foxchase Manor in Manassas, Va., with 307 guests, amid gold sequins, platters of Ethiopian food and preboxed slices of Guyanese black cake for people to take home. Their marriage had been more than a decade in the making. In the nearly 12 years since they first met on a dance floor at the Washington nightclub Pearl, in December 2005, Mr. Makonnen and Ms. Austin have pursued degrees, jobs and, at times, each other. Eventually, planning a wedding just became the next item on this ambitious couple’s to-do list. “I think we both had this feeling that this was our destiny,” Ms. Austin said. “But I felt like I had things that I had to do.”

When the two met, Mr. Makonnen didn’t tell Ms. Austin about his royal background, and Ms. Austin, who was 21 at the time, wasn’t necessarily looking to meet her future husband. She was in the middle of a time in her life she fondly referred to as “the summer that never ended.” Mr. Makonnen, himself in bachelor mode, approached Ms. Austin and her friend Jami Ramberan, and told the two women that they looked like models for a brand of alcohol. “I said, ‘You guys look like an ad for Bombay Sapphire,’ or whatever the gin was,” Mr. Makonnen recalled of the pickup line, one now infamous with Ms. Austin’s family. (At the wedding, even Ms. Ramberan, a bridesmaid, recalled the strangeness of that evening: “You don’t expect to meet the person you’re going to marry at Pearl.”) Mr. Makonnen quickly focused on Ms. Austin: “Not even five minutes later I said, ‘You’re going to be my girlfriend.’ ”

To read full article, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/13/fashion/weddings/she-met-her-prince-the-great-grandson-of-haile-selassie.html

Surf’s Up! A Look at Ghana’s Emerging Surfing Community

Mr. Brights Surf School (photo via nbcnews.com)

by Erica Ayisi via nbcnews.com

Michael Bentum can do 360 surf turns with perfection. He rides the waves along the coast of Busua, Ghana, with height and speed. His surfboard soars beside the ocean swell, as crowds of children watch from the coastline applauding in admiration. Bentum is their surfing hometown hero. “I can tell you now that I’m the best in Ghana,“ the 21-year-old said. Bentum recently won the International Surfing Day Competition, held in the Krokrobite suburb of Accra. He took home a surfboard from Share the Stoke, a watch from Rip Curl and 500 Cedis ($112).

Forty-six surfers from 17 countries traveled here for the competition. Three are from Ghana. It’s the 12th surfing event in the country organized by Brett Davies of England. He owns Mr. Bright’s Surf School and wants the world to know that Africans have been surfing for centuries.“Most Africans are very fit and athletic,” he explained. “The African surfers I have had the pleasure of surfing with and coach pick up surfing fast.”Mr. Brights

Photo Credit: Erica Ayisi (via nbcnews.com)

Children living in this small fisherman’s village also grow up surfing as way of life. Their playground is a raw, untapped beach. Women walk on the sand carrying items on their heads and babies swaddled in clothe on their backs. It’s picturesque Africa. Peter Ansah, owner of Ahanta Waves Surf School & Camp, says their home is a surfer’s paradise. “When I was small, I would always come to the beach and try to surf with a piece of wood.” As a child, he met a couple from the United States using surfboards at Busua beach. Intrigued by the long pointy structure, he asked to use it in place of wood – falling in love with catching waves.“Whenever I’m surfing, I forget about everything. I have nothing to think about. The only thing is that I enjoy it!” he described. He’s been surfing for 13 years and opened his surf school for locals and tourists alike. “A lot of people think it’s not possible to surf in Ghana because they think there’s no waves or no ocean in Ghana,”Ansah said.“IT’S NOT ONLY EUROPEANS SURFING. WE ARE SURFING IN AFRICA AND RIGHT HERE IN GHANA TOO.”

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John Legend and Jesse Williams Team for “With Drawn Arms” Documentary Film on 1968 Olympic Protest

Tommie Smith and John Carlos protest at the 1968 Summer Olympics (photo via vibe.com)

by Latifah Muhammad via vibe.com

John Legend and Jesse Williams are working on a documentary that will look at the 1968 Black Power salute seen around the world. More than four decades before Colin Kaepernick took a knee in silent protest of police brutality and racial injustice, Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos made a statement with raised fists during the Summer Olympic games in Mexico City.

The documentary, With Drawn Arms, is executive produced by Williams and Legend, along with the Grammy and Oscar winning singer’s partners from his Get Lifted Film Co., Deadline reports. Smith is the focus of the documentary. The former sprinter and NFL wide received took home the gold medal at the 1968 games after completing the 200-meter dash, while Carlos earned the bronze medal. Both men were suspended for raising their fists during the medal ceremony, stripped of their credentials, and given 48 hours to leave Olympic Village.

With Drawn Arms is currently in production in Los Angeles and is co-directed by Glenn Kaino and Afshin Shahidi, who is the father of Black-ish actress Yara Shahidi, and worked as one of Prince’s personal photographers. “Tommie Smith is more than an iconic poster or risky act of defiance that inspires people the world over,” Williams said in a statement noting that Smith is a “living man, whose incredible journey is worthy of examination.” He added, “I couldn’t be more excited to join forces with this team of filmmakers, to share his reality and challenge our notions of heroism in the process.”

To read more, go to: John Legend, Jesse Williams Team For Film On Olympic Protest