Astronaut Jeanette Epps to be NASA’s 1st African-American Crew Member on International Space Station

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps (photo via mashable.com)

article by Miriam Kramer via mashable.com

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps is set to become the first African-American crewmember on the International Space Station when she flies to space next year, the space agency announced Wednesday.

Epps’ months-long trip should begin in 2018, and it will mark the first time she has traveled to orbit, following in the footsteps of the women who inspired her to become an astronaut.  “It was about 1980, I was nine years old. My brother came home and he looked at my grades and my twin sisters’ grades and he said, ‘You know, you guys can probably become aerospace engineers or even astronauts,'” Epps said in a NASA video interview.

“And this was at the time that Sally Ride [the first American woman to fly in space] and a group of women were selected to become astronauts — the first time in history. So, he made that comment and I said, ‘Wow, that would be so cool.'”   While other African-American astronauts have flown to the Space Station for brief stays during the outpost’s construction, Epps will be the first African-American crewmember to live and work on the station for an extended period of time.

Robert Curbeam, Stephanie Wilson, Joan Higginbotham, Al Drew, Leland Melvin and Robert Satcher, along with their space shuttle crewmates, helped to complete the space station during its first 11 years,” space historian Robert Pearlman, who runs the website collectSPACE.com, told Mashable.

Melvin actually encouraged Epps to apply to become an astronaut when the space agency put out a call for their 2009 class, Epps said. And that encouragement paid off. Epps was selected as one of 14 astronaut candidates in NASA’s 2009 class. NASA received 3,500 astronaut applications that year. Her astronaut selection wasn’t the first time she worked with the space agency, however. Epps was a NASA fellow while at the University of Maryland for graduate school in aerospace engineering and then worked in a lab at Ford Motor Company for more than two years, according to the space agency.

From there, Epps’ path to becoming an astronaut takes a decidedly atypical turn. Most astronauts come to the Astronaut Corps either through training in science or as a military officer, but after Ford, Epps spent more than seven years at the Central Intelligence Agency as a technical intelligence officer.”I did a lot of scientific stuff, but I also did a lot of operational stuff,” Epps said. “We worked in non-proliferation issues, which was great. It’s reverse engineering at its best.” Epps also volunteered to go to Iraq with the CIA for four months to help search for weapons of mass destruction.

To read full article, go to: NASA’s first African-American Space Station crewmember is your new role model

African-American Billionaire Robert Smith Offers Full Scholarships for Education of Chibok Girls Who Escaped Boko Haram

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (C) poses on October 19, 2016 with the 21 Chibok girls who were released by Boko Haram last week, at the State House in Abuja, Nigeria. Speaking at the presidential villa in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja, Buhari addressed the girls and their families saying ‘we shall redouble efforts to ensure that we fulfil our pledge of bringing the remaining girls back home’. (AFP/Philip OJISUA)

article by Mfonobong Nsehe via forbes.com

American billionaire Robert Smith has offered to sponsor the education of 24 girls from the Chibok community, including the 21 girls who escaped from Boko Haram captivity in October this year.

Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Nigeria’s President, announced this on Tuesday during a media briefing with journalists at the State House in Abuja, according to the News Agency of Nigeria. Shehu said that the girls will be admitted through negotiation at the prestigious American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, with the American billionaire footing the entire bill of the girls’ tuition, accommodation, feeding and other related expenses.

It costs anywhere from $5,000 to $11,000 a year to educate a student at the school which is owned by wealthy frontline Nigerian politician and businessman Atiku Abubakar. Smith has offered to pay for the education of the 21 released through negotiations and is offering to take responsibility for all the others who will hopefully be eventually set free,’’ Shehu added.

Shehu revealed that the Nigerian government is treating the recently released 21 Chibok girls as adoptees of the Federal Government. “But there is a lot of local and international interest in the future plans of the girls,’’ he added.

To read more: African-American Billionaire Robert Smith Offers Scholarship To Chibok Girls

R.I.P. George Michael: Requiem for a Soul Man

Pop/R&B Superstar singer/writer/producer George Michael (photo via bet.com)

essay by Keith Murphy via bet.com

There’s an avalanche of thoughts that tumble through one’s mind when you are left to ponder the extraordinary (yet criminally underrated) career of George Michael following his shocking death on Christmas Day at the age of 53. But for this writer, the date of January 30, 1989, remains a moment that underlines the sheer gift, curse and deeply complex appeal of the ultimate white rhythm and blues vocalist. It was at Los Angeles’s Shrine Auditorium during the American Music Awards where Michael stepped on a debate-igniting, cultural land mine.

The former member of the monstrous pop duo Wham! was coming off the unfathomable commercial triumph of his critically-acclaimed solo debut Faith, which would go on to sell 25 million copies worldwide (10 million in the U.S. alone). Michael was now being viewed as a worthy addition to the ‘80s holy pop trinity of Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna. When you headline your own sold-out world tour (The 1988 Faith trek became the second-highest-grossing tour of that year, pulling in nearly $20 million), fire off six consecutive top five singles on the Billboard charts (fueled by the one-two punch of the No. 1 rockabilly-dipped-in-soul title track and the dark, controlling church-infused ballad “Father Figure”) and win Album of the Year at the Grammys, you can pretty much write your own check.

But before that coronation solidified his place as a legit music industry behemoth, Michael found himself at the center of a racial tsunami when he won two AMAs for Favorite Album (Soul/R&B) and Favorite Male Artist (Soul/R&B). This was the era of the “Crossover Negro,” especially in the recording biz, as the aforementioned King of Pop and The Purple One — alongside the likes of Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, and Lionel Richie — all took turns ruling the top of the charts. Teddy Riley was leading the multi-platinum New Jack Swing wave. And hip-hop’s golden age was just kicking off, forcing MTV to create Yo! MTV Raps just to keep up with the street-infused genre’s groundbreaking stars like N.W.A., Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa and De La Soul. Black culture was cool and was only going to get cooler in the next decade.

For many African-American followers, their first introduction to the East Finchley, London native was Wham!’s 1982 cheeky, disco-rap rave-up “Young Guns (Go For It).” Michael and his conspicuously silent partner Andrew Ridgeley were pushed as cutesy teen idols that indulged in the funk.

But while Wham!’s No. 1 commercial breakthrough, 1984’s overtly day-glow single “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” made them global stars, it was a heaven-sent slow jam that forever gave Michael his ‘hood pass. At just 17 years old, the gifted singer/songwriter wrote and produced the mournful torch song “Careless Whisper,” a mammoth hit that not only reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but also became a top 10 hit on the U.S. Hot Black Singles, earning its place as a quiet storm staple on R&B radio. “I’m never going to dance again/Guilty feet have got no rhythm,” remains one of that era’s most heartbreaking lines ever recorded. This was a different cat.

To read full essay, go to: George Michael: Requiem for a Soul Man

African-American College Students Garner a Record Seven Rhodes Scholarships for 2017

rhodes-scholars-2016-post-768x166

(L to R) Cameron D. Clarke, Aryn A. Frazier, Christian E. Nattiel, Olivia A. Klevorn, Aaron C. Robertson, Ahmed M. Ahmed, and Caylin L. Moore (photos via jbhe.com)

article via jbhe.com (additional reporting by Peggy Terry)

Recently, the Rhodes Trust announced the 32 American winners of Rhodes Scholarships for graduate study at Oxford University in England. Being named a Rhodes Scholar is considered among the highest honors that can be won by a U.S. college student.

The scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, an industrialist who made a vast fortune in colonial Africa. According to the will of Rhodes, applicants must have “high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership, and physical vigor.”

This year, about 2,500 students applied to be Rhodes Scholars. More than 880 students were endorsed by 311 college or university for consideration for a Rhodes Scholarship. Some 230 applicants were named finalists. Then, two Rhodes Scholars were selected from each of 16 districts across the United States. The Rhodes Trust pays all tuition and fees for scholarship winners to study at Oxford. A stipend for living and travel expenses is also provided.

In 1907 Alain LeRoy Locke, later a major philosopher and literary figure of the Harlem Renaissance, was selected as a Rhodes Scholar to study at Oxford University. It would be more than 50 years later, in 1962, until another African American would be named a Rhodes Scholar. Other African Americans who have won Rhodes Scholarships include Randall Kennedy of Harvard Law School, Kurt Schmoke, former mayor of Baltimore, and Franklin D. Raines, former director of the Office of Management and Budget and former CEO of Fannie Mae. In 1978 Karen Stevenson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was the first African-American woman selected as a Rhodes Scholar.

The Rhodes Trust does not publicize the race or ethnicity of scholarship winners. But it appears that this year seven of the 32 Rhodes winners are African Americans. This is the most African American Rhodes Scholars in history.

Following are brief biographies of the African American winners:

Cameron D. Clarke is a senior at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He is the fourth Howard student to win a Rhodes Scholarship. Clarke is majoring in community health education and biology. He is the news editor of the student newspaper at Howard and serves as an intern for the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology at the U.S. House of Representatives. Clarke plans to study for a master’s degree in primary health care at Oxford.

Aryn A. Frazier is a senior at the University of Virginia, where she is double majoring in politics and African American and African studies. Frazier is president of the Black Student Alliance at the university. Frazier, a resident of Laurel, Maryland, plans to study for a master’s degree in comparative politics at Oxford.

Christian E. Nattiel from Madeira Beach, Florida, is a senior at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. At West Point, Nattiel is double-majoring in mathematical sciences and philosophy and is a member of the academy’s handball team. At Oxford, Nattiel will study for master’s degrees in comparative social policy and public policy.

Olivia A. Klevorn is a senior at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. A native of Chicago, Klevorn is majoring in anthropology. At Yale, Klevorn is the director of the Heritage Theatre Ensemble and president of a student-run poetry association. She will study for a Ph.D. in socio-legal studies at Oxford.

Aaron C. Robertson of Redford, Michigan, is a senior at Princeton University in New Jersey. He is majoring in Italian and focuses his research on Afro-Italian literature. At Princeton, he is the co-editor-in-chief of the Nassau Literary Review. Robertson plans to pursue a master’s degree in modern languages at Oxford.

Ahmed M. Ahmed is a biology major at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He is a resident of Rochester, Minnesota. His research is focused on the development of new synthetic strategies for producing polymers. He is the son of immigrants from Somalia. Ahmed will study for a master’s degree in organic and medical chemistry at Oxford.

Caylin L. Moore is a member of the football team at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. A resident of Carson, California, Moore is majoring in economics at TCU. He was raised in poverty and was homeless. His father was convicted to a life sentence for murder. Moore is the founder of an organization of student athletes who encourage children from disadvantaged groups to attend college. He will study public policy as a Rhodes Scholar.

To read full article, go to: https://www.jbhe.com/2016/12/a-record-year-for-african-american-rhodes-scholars/

Author Chimamanda Adichie, the New Face of Boots No. 7 Make-Up, Speaks on Black Hair and Redefining Beauty

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (Photo: Boots)

article by  via nymag.com

We probably don’t deserve Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The author and feminist who inspired Beyoncé is now fighting America’s political battles, and man is she good at it.

But that’s not the only hat Adichie’s wearing as of late. She’s also the new face of Boots No. 7 makeup — a British drugstore retailer known for its cult serum that’s a best seller across the pond. (You can purchase the brand in the U.S. at Walgreens.)

The partnership between Boots and Adichie is a match that feels in sync. For years Adichie has been outspoken in asserting that feminism and makeup can co-exist, and the specific campaign she was tapped to lead for Boots hedges on the concept that cosmetics are more than tools to look pretty: They’re vessels to help a woman begin her day. The Cut talked to the author about her foray into the beauty business, the complex relationship she maintains with her hair, and the feminist lesson to be learned from the presidential election.

What frustrates you about the beauty industry? What gives you hope?

The beauty industry is more inclusive than it was ten years ago. There’s a slightly wider range of foundation shades, for example. What I find frustrating is that it should be even more inclusive. The definition of what is beautiful shouldn’t be so narrow. We should have different kinds of women — different body sizes, different shades of skin, and in a way that is consistent, not only occasional.

A note that struck a chord with me in your book Americanah is when Ifemelu, the novel’s protagonist, says, “Hair is the perfect metaphor for race in America.” What did you mean when you wrote that?

Hair is something we see, but we don’t understand what’s behind it, kind of like race. It’s the same way that something seems obvious, but it is really complicated and complex. For example, to see a middle-aged white woman who has highlights is not something everyone in the world necessarily understands, especially if it’s because she struggles to cover her grays. Or if you’re a black women, sometimes the way that your hair grows from your head isn’t considered “professional” by people who don’t know black hair. I don’t think it’s that people are malicious, I think it’s just some people don’t know what the hair that grows from the head of black women actually looks like.

To read full interview, go to: Chimamanda Adichie on Black Hair and Redefining Beauty

Civil Rights Activist Viola Desmond to Become 1st Black Woman Featured on Canadian Money

Viola Desmond’s sister, Wanda Robson, was present at the announcement on Thursday [Reuters]

article by  via aljazeera.com

Toronto, Canada – Viola Desmond, a black civil rights leader who led a struggle against anti-black segregation and racism in Canada in the 1940s will be the first Canadian woman to figure on a banknote.

Desmond will appear on the Canadian $10 bill – replacing John A. MacDonald, the nation’s first prime minister (he will be moved to a higher bill) when new banknotes go into circulation in 2018, Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced on Thursday morning.

A successful businesswoman from a middle-class family, Desmond is best known for refusing to give up her seat in the “whites only” section of a cinema in Canada’s eastern province of Nova Scotia in 1946.

She was eventually dragged out of the segregated cinema by police, arrested, held in prison overnight, and forced to pay a fine, all for refusing to move to the upstairs balcony reserved for black people.

She was criminally charged with not paying a small tax that would normally apply on a downstairs ticket. But instead of letting the matter rest, Desmond decided to fight her conviction in court.

“Viola inspires us … today as she inspired people years ago,” said her sister Wanda Robson, who attended the announcement. “I’m so proud, I’m almost in tears.”

Her case was the first known legal challenge by a black woman against segregation laws in Canada.

To read more, go to: Viola Desmond first Canadian woman on banknote | News | Al Jazeera

‘Loving’ Star Ruth Negga Lands Vogue Cover, Talks Being ‘Irish-Ethiopian’

Ruth Negga of "Loving" on January 2017 cover of Vogue (photo via vogue.com)

Ruth Negga of “Loving” on January 2017 cover of Vogue (photo via vogue.com)

article by Danielle James via blackamericaweb.com

Ruth Negga is the January 2017 cover model for Vogue Magazine. The Irish-Ethiopian actress is starring in Loving, a film directed by Jeff Nichols, about an interracial couple who desire to be married in 1958 Virginia. Loving is the first full-length film to be screened at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Ruth delved to Vogue about growing up with interracial parents and losing her father at a young age. Ruth and her mother went to Ireland and was waiting for her father, but he died in Ethiopia in a car crash. She found out via a letter. “This was 1988. There wasn’t any grief counseling for kids.” Ruth admits to going to therapy in her early 30’s to deal with the loss of her father.

Ruth identifies as Irish-Ethiopian, adding, “I become very territorial about my identity because it’s been hijacked by so many people, with their own projections.” Deep and a struggle, many racially ambiguous women must address. Ruth explains, “I’m always very careful to say I’m Irish-Ethiopian because I feel Ethiopian and I look Ethiopian and I am Ethiopian. But there are 81 languages in Ethiopia, and I don’t know any of them.

To read more, go to: http://blackamericaweb.com/2016/12/09/loving-star-ruth-negga-covers-vogue-talks-being-irish-ethiopian/