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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Lottery Winner Miguel Pilgram to Use Part of $52M Prize to Revitalize Street in Fort Lauderdale’s Oldest Black Community

In a Sept. 29, 2017 photo, Miguel Pilgram stands outside of the property in the 1400 block of Sistrunk Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale that he plans to transform into a blues club. Pilgram won a $52 million lottery in Miami-Dade seven years ago. He’s set his sights on Sistrunk Blvd., buying a piece of land and preparing to purchase another. He says he feels a moral obligation to invest in the black community, which has a rich history of activism and passion. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP Mike Stocker)

by Brittany Wallman via miamiherald.com

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. A childhood in the black community of Memphis. A cruise line career that delivered him to a life in South Florida. And a lottery ticket he bought at a gas station. A winning lottery ticket. They are the factors in Miguel Pilgram‘s life that bring him now to Sistrunk Boulevard, a corridor the county calls the “historical heartbeat of Fort Lauderdale’s oldest black community.”

Pilgram, who won a $52 million jackpot using quick-pick numbers in 2010, is investing some of his winnings in Sistrunk in a way not seen in years. Pilgram said he wants to breathe new vibrancy into the boulevard, building on its rich history as a place that nurtured civil rights leaders and pioneers and attracted people to its lively nightlife and music. “I was raised in a similar environment,” Pilgram said. “There is a need, and in my mind, an obligation, to invest there.”

The 48-year-old Coral Springs resident and father of two is rolling out plans for a New York Subs and Wings restaurant with a Memphis Blues club upstairs, on one side of Sistrunk. On the other, his company, The Pilgram Group, plans a retail complex with a bank, Jamba Juice and other shops on the ground floor. On the second floor, a performing arts center will offer below-market rates for instructors of dance, arts, and music. “Do you know how impactful that is for a child from any of these areas, who is like me, to come out and see people actually painting in the window, or performing on a saxophone?” Pilgram said. “That creates a fire under most children. Now they say, wow, anything out there that’s creative, I can be. Whatever artist I want to be, I can be.”

Back in Memphis, Pilgram said he had role models who shaped him. His father was hard-working. His mother was a devout Seventh-day Adventist who had him in church several days a week. When he got older, he joined the Navy. Then he embarked on a career in the cruise line industry, climbing to a top position, and learning to work with large budgets like the one now under his own name.In his world travels, he said he visited cultures where people marveled at his “beautiful” brown skin. He said he wants children in Fort Lauderdale’s historic black community to experience that feeling of value as an African American. But he also saw what can happen when private investment is lacking, he said, and government comes in to rebuild.

In Memphis, he said, his grandmother’s apartment was razed, and the residents displaced. He feared it could happen here, and said that’s one thing that drew him to Sistrunk Boulevard. ‘It could be you’ Every week, Pilgram spent $20 on lottery tickets. But he wasn’t good about checking them. Then one night he ran to the Shell gas station in North Bay Village where he bought his tickets. He left chicken cacciatore and his girlfriend at home, and was in a hurry. He just needed a bottle of wine. David, the gas station employee, was insistent. Someone had bought the winning Florida Lotto ticket at that gas station, he told Pilgram, and “it could be you.” Pilgram got the tickets from his car, and one of them hit: 15-16-20-32-45-50. David started “jumping up and down,” Pilgram said.”$52,000?” Pilgram thought he heard through David’s Spanish accent. No, not thousand. 52 million.

Sistrunk Boulevard hasn’t had a nightclub with live music like Pilgram plans in at least 25 years, City Commissioner Robert McKinzie said. The boulevard was once vibrant. Now, vacant lots and empty buildings sit on many of the blocks. The city, a major landowner on Sistrunk, has worked for years to encourage private investment. McKinzie said the pieces are finally falling into place, and he’s “excited” about Pilgram’s role in it. “Now that we are reviving it,” McKinzie said of Sistrunk Boulevard, “his plan and concept fit right in.” Next to Pilgram’s planned performing arts center, on the north side of Sistrunk between Northwest 14th Way and 14th Terrace, the city recently agreed to spend $10 million building a new YMCA where the old Mizell Center is.

To read full article, go to: Lottery winner to use part of $52M to transform street | Miami Herald

‘Black Love’ is a Ratings Winner for OWN Network; Debuts in Regular Timeslot Tonight

Meagan Good and DeVon Franklin (photo via blackamericaweb.com)

via blackamericaweb.com

‘Black Love’ is winning. The four-episode documentary featuring a host of celebrity couples talking honestly about marriage’s ups and down debuted to the highest ratings ever for unscripted shows on OWN. The network has ordered more episodes of the hit docu-series which debuted Tuesday with 1.2 million total viewers. Additionally, the premiere of “Black Love” was the #2 most social primetime episode on national cable.

The series will debut in its regular timeslot, Saturdays ‪at 9 p.m. ET/PT, ‪beginning this Saturday, September 2. The new episodes for 2018 will feature Emmy-nominated actor Sterling K. Brown and wife Ryan Michelle Bathe, Tina Knowles-Lawson and husband Richard Lawson, NBA All-Star Grant Hill and Grammy-nominated recording artist ‪Tamia, Hip Hop influencer Rev Run and wife Justine Simmons, Grammy-winning gospel recording artist ‪Kirk Franklin and wife Tammy, comedian D.L. Hughley and wife LaDonna, former NFL-running back Eddie George and wife Taj, and more.

‘Black Love,’ from married filmmakers Codie Elaine Oliver and Tommy Oliver (‘The Perfect Guy’) and Confluential Films, highlights love stories from the Black community to answer the burning question, “What does it take to make a marriage work? ” The docu-series shares honest, emotional and sometimes cringe-worthy always-true love stories.

Featured couples for the current four-episode season include Oscar-winner Viola Davis and husband Julius Tennon, Hollywood power couple Meagan Good and DeVon Franklin, NAACP Image Award-winner Tia Mowry and husband/actor Cory Hardrict, NAACP Image Award-nominee Flex Alexander and Grammy-nominated recording artist Shanice, Grammy award-winners ‪Erica Campbell and ‪Warryn Campbell, and many additional couples from around the country.

Source: Black Love’ Is A Winner For OWN Network | Black America Web

Airbnb Unites with NAACP to Combat Discrimination and Expand Room at the Inn

(image via npr.org)

by Karen Grigsby Bates via npr.org

Since its inception nearly a decade ago, Airbnb has faced questions from people of color as to whether the company’s worldwide “vacancy” sign really applied to them. The company has been plagued by allegations and several lawsuits, predominantly but not exclusively from African-Americans, claiming discrimination.

Now, as part of its attempt to turn that image around, Airbnb has announced a partnership with the NAACP. The goal is to put teeth in the home-sharing company’s anti-discrimination efforts and to expand the number of people of color who are hosts on the site. The company has revised its policies and introduced more stringent penalties for hosts found to discriminate.

A settlement in California this year involving an Asian woman resulted in the discriminatory host being banned from the site for life. A similar incident in North Carolina involved a black would-be guest. Earlier this year, Airbnb hired Laura W. Murphy, the former director of the American Civil Liberties Union‘s Washington legislative office, to help shape the new policies and put practices in place that would make Airbnb more inclusive.

The announcement comes amid the NAACP’s attempts to bring the organization closer to the younger activist audience that it hopes will be its next generation. While it continues to fight for things traditionally associated with the NAACP — voter enfranchisement, equal opportunities in education and housing — the 108-year-old organization is also stretching in new directions. The NAACP describes the Airbnb partnership as “a landmark national agreement” that will encourage more people in communities of color to consider becoming Airbnb hosts.

“Our fastest-growing communities across major U.S. cities are in communities of color and we’ve seen how home sharing is an economic lifeline for families,” Belinda Johnson, Airbnb’s chief business affairs officer, said in a statement. And it’s not just host families who benefit: the company says Airbnb guests spend money in the neighborhoods where they’re renting.

The partnership is notable in another way: Airbnb has committed to sharing 20 percent of the revenue from its community outreach efforts with the NAACP. It will also work with the NAACP to educate communities of color on the benefits and mechanics of home sharing as part of its planned outreach.

Airbnb also seeks to expand its employee base nation-wide, and has been working with the NAACP to increase the percentage of employees from underserved populations, from its current 9.6 percent to a target goal of 11 percent by the end of the year.

To read full article, go to: Airbnb Unites With NAACP To Expand Room At The Inn : Code Switch : NPR

Rozetia Ellis, Former Seamstress at now-Bankrupt Bridal Store, Becomes Hero for Brides-To-Be

Rozetia Ellis (photo via cbsnews.com)

by David Begnaud via cbsnews.com

Alfred Angelo‘s slogan “your dream, your dress” became “your loss” when the bridal giant abruptly closed last month, declared bankruptcy and left brides-to-be lined up and stood up. “I thought we’re never gonna see ’em again. Let’s not even bother. They’re gone,” said Stephanie Huey. And they were gone. Both of Stephanie Huey’s bridesmaids dresses, as well as the dresses of the other heartbroken women who purchased at an Oklahoma City store.

Rozetia Ellis took them home. “Loaded in my car, front, trunk, back seat, side panel, on the floor board, until they stacked all the way up to the top,” Ellis said. She was a contracted seamstress of the store who had lost her job but rescued those dresses. “At that point we thought, ‘Oh my gosh, thank you.’ You know, we were so grateful,” Huey said.

But Rose, as she’s known, had one more surprise. At her home in Tulsa, she was working on a special wedding gift. Stitch by stitch, she is altering more than 80 dresses for free. “I was dumbfounded. Honestly dumbfounded,” Huey said. “My integrity says I have to, ok? So, you have standards for yourself then you live up to those standards,” Ellis said.

Once a week, Ellis fills her car with dresses and drives 110 miles to an Oklahoma City hotel to deliver them. Motivated to do something, Huey has raised at least $5,600 for Ellis through a Go Fund Me page. “It’s going down fast — I’ve been just a busy bee,” Ellis said. The Oklahoma grandmother says she will continue working 15-hour days and making those weekly drive to meet the brides, until the 20 or so gowns that are left fit just right.

To read full article and see video, go to: Former Alfred Angelo seamstress becomes hero for desperate brides-to-be – CBS News

Halima Aden is 1st Hijab-Wearing Woman to Cover any Edition of Vogue

Halima Aden covers Vogue Arabia (photo via colorlines.com)

by Kenrya Rankin via colorlines.com

The Trump Administration is doing its best impersonation of a trash bag as it tries to keep Muslims outside its borders, but Vogue Arabia highlights the beauty and hustle of Muslim Somali-American model Halima Aden on the cover of its June issue. Mic.com reports that she is the first hijab-wearing model to cover any edition of Vogue.

Aden described the moment as “surreal” in an Instagram post yesterday (June 1). In a video on the magazine’s website, she talks about why it’s important for her to appear on the cover. “Every little girl deserves to see a role model that’s dressed like her, resembles her or even has the same characteristics as her. I think beauty is for everyone,” the 19-year-old model says.

To read more, go to: LOOK: Halima Aden Slays as First Hijab-Wearing Woman to Cover Vogue | Colorlines