As GBN’s resident biracial, millennial nerd, I place a lot of importance on diversity at Comic Con and in the entertainment industry.
Pop culture has the power to influence how people see the world around them, and, thankfully, there are people in the entertainment industry who understand this and work to make content that showcases the positive aspects of diversity and uniqueness.
A prime example of this content is Steven Universe, an out-of-this-world show that isn’t afraid to show just how diverse this planet really is.
On the surface, Steven Universe is a cartoon about a boy trying to save the world. But on a deeper level it’s a show about love and friendship, and a show that teaches kids lessons about healthy relationships, anxiety, and how important it is to be true to yourself. Estelle, who plays Garnet (the fierce leader of the Crystal gems and fusion of LGBTQ+ couple Ruby and Sapphire), killed it at the Superheroes of Body PositivityPanel this Comic Con.
Estelle, along with the rest of the Crewniverse (people who work on Steven Universe) recently participated in Dove’s Self Esteem Project. Rebecca Sugar, the creator of Steven Universe and Estelle joined Dove on the Panel to talk about body positivity and open up about their own experiences with body image. “My body works, it’s gorgeous. It gets me from point A to point B. If someone, doesn’t like my body, that’s too bad,” Estelle explained.
Another show featured at Comic-Con was Black Lightning, a badass superhero show that celebrates Black Americans. Series co-creator Mara Brock Akil took the stage to express that “celebrating our culture is important to remind us that we are also a part of the fabric of American culture. Tracking our history and our path is important.”
Then there are the women of the Women Who Kick Ass Panel. Amandla Stenberg, who I’ve been a fan of since their portrayal of Rue in The Hunger Games, said “The topic of ‘strong female roles’ is tricky. There’s an awareness I have. I create representation because of the accessibility I have. When it comes to roles there is a give and take time. We continue to sacrifice in order to see the representation we want.” I will definitely be purchasing a ticket for their new movie The Darkest Minds.
And of course, there’s Regina King, who will be starring in HBO’s new Watchmen series. “There weren’t many like me kicking ass. I was a Lynda Carter fan. Even though Wonder Woman was wearing a skimpy outfit, she had ownership and confidence that exuded female strength,” Regina King explained about her own experiences with superheroes.
For me, cartoons and superheroes have shaped core aspects of my personality and morality, so it means a lot to me to see so many badass women of color involved in so many amazing projects share their experiences.
Rihanna made history by becoming the first black woman to appear on the cover of British Vogue‘s September issue. Like the publication’s U.S. edition, the September issue is the most prestigious edition of the fashion magazine.
Rihanna shared her cover photo on Instagram. She’s wearing a hot pink Prada dress, Savage x Fenty gloves, a flower headdress and thin, drawn-on eyebrows a la Marlene Dietrich. The “Wild Thoughts” singer also posted photos from inside the issue, in which she dons different oversized floral headpieces.
The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful, styled the cover and photo shoot, and Nick Knight served as photographer. Enninful wrote in his editor’s letter that he knew he wanted the singer on the cover for the magazine’s September issue.
“I always knew it had to be Rihanna,” he wrote. “A fearless music-industry icon and businesswoman, when it comes to that potent mix of fashion and celebrity, nobody does it quite like her. No matter how haute the styling goes, or experimental the mood, you never lose her in the imagery. She is always Rihanna. There’s a lesson for us all in that. Whichever way you choose to dress the new season, take a leaf out of her book and be yourself.”
Enninful wrote that the two talked about diversity and Rihanna’s life as a diva for the accompanying profile.
British Vogue’s September issue hits newsstands today.
According to huffingtonpost.com, musical icon Beyoncé received unprecedented control over the cover of the upcoming September issue of Vogue magazine, and in turn hired Tyler Mitchell, 23, to be her photographer. Mitchell will become the first black photographer to shoot a cover in the publication’s 126-year history.
Vogue, according to two sources who are familiar with the agreement between Vogue and Beyoncé, is contractually obligated to give Beyoncé full control over the cover, the photos of her inside the magazine and the captions, which she has written herself and are in long-form. Beyoncé is also not granting Vogue a sit-down interview for the September 2018 issue, as is typical of its cover subjects.
Mitchell, a New York University graduate from Atlanta, quickly became a recognized name in the art world through his work in Cuba and his featured work on Instagram.
The New York Times’ “Up Next” series featured Mitchell in December. Huffingtonpost.com writes that 23-year-old first gained attention in 2015 with his self-published book of photos, El Paquete, which focused on Cuban skate culture and architecture. Mitchell captured the book’s 108 photos while in Cuba for six weeks as part of a documentary photography program, according to the Times.
The former first lady is teaming up with several celebrities to launch a new voter registration initiative ahead of this year’s midterm elections. The new nonprofit, “When We All Vote,” is a nonpartisan organization with the goal to get more voters registered.
“Voting is the only way to ensure that our values and priorities are represented in the halls of power,” Obama said in a statement “And it’s not enough to just vote for president every four years. We all have to vote in every single election: for mayor, governor, school board, state legislature and Congress. The leaders we elect to these offices help determine just about every aspect of our lives and our democracy.”
According to Politico, the initiative is scheduled to be launched on Thursday and will also involve several other high-profile names, including actor Tom Hanks, singer Janelle Monae, “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and singers Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
Also, former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett will serve as president of the board. The initiative is its own non-profit entity and will operate independently of the Obama Foundation, the personal offices of Barack and Michelle Obama, and Citizen 44.
Digitizing legacy. That’s the job of the curators behind The Obsidian Collection – archivists for The Chicago Defender, Baltimore Afro American and other historically black newspapers in the United States. Their task is massive: digitize every image and article from newspapers that played a central role in the Great Migration, Civil Rights and Jim Crow eras. But they won’t have to do it all alone. Google Arts & Culture is working with the Obsidian group on creating digital exhibits that can be free and searchable by anyone around the world.
That’s just the first step, and it’s huge.
“More than just digitizing it for researchers, I’m passionate about the next generation seeing how awesome we are and in changing the narrative permeating the American conversation right now about African Americans,” says Angela Ford, who is helming the project and is excited about how it will add a more accurate variety of African American image metadata to the Google brain trust.
“What happens is a lot of these archive collections speak in an echo chamber of libraries and archives where it just doesn’t get out to the laypeople. What I love about Google Arts and Culture is you could be standing in line at the grocery store and viewing our archives. We’ll keep rotating them in and out and keep pushing them through social media. We want everyone to see us.”
Obsidian already has an image of Harold Washington sitting with a young Carol Moseley Braun, except she was cropped out the image. There’s a water splattered image of children running through the spray of an open fire hydrant on 44th and Champlain, circa 1987. Even the mundane is fascinating, says Ford.
“The Defender had a housewares show in October 1959 and it was a big deal,” says Ford. “It cost a quarter to get in and we have pictures of all the black people promoting their products and Whirlpool was there with their miracle kitchen. We were separate from mainstream America and a lot of things went on in our community that shows a black middle class home.”
Ford is also working with her board—which includes people who have worked with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture—on the larger issues that include the creation of virtual reality online exhibits.
“Google Culture Institute in Paris has invented the capacity to create virtual 3D spaces from a photograph,” says Ford, discussing the possibilities involved in using old picture to create virtual realities. “The question is, are we altering the art?”
A lot of this work is already on microfilm, but moving it to an online space will make it easier to access via smartphone, which is the end goal. Obsidian will slog through uploading everything to their own website and meanwhile, visitors will soon be able to head to Google Arts & Culture for a taste of what’s to come.
“Google’s arts and culture strategy is that everybody in the world can access everybody in the world and that will create a new world,” says Ford. “We want to make sure we are part of that conversation.”
Recently, Good Black News was invited to cover the launch of “One Strange Rock,” a ten-part space/science series on the National Geographic Channel that premieres Monday, 3/26, and is hosted and narrated by Will Smith. It is director Darren Aronofsky‘s (“Black Swan,” “mother!,” “Requiem For a Dream”) first foray into television, and the series is produced by Jane Root through her production company Nutopia. It is a cinematic look at Earth from a variety of perspectives – from space, from the sea, from the desert – and across all continents.
From the episodes I’ve seen, “One Strange Rock” is a gorgeous, meditative, eye-opening look at our planet, and Smith is a welcome, friendly guide along the journey to get to know Earth and all its ecosystems in ways we haven’t seen or previously considered. But what honestly got me excited about “One Strange Rock” was the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American female to travel into space (and one of my personal she-ros) to speak with her about her participation in “One Strange Rock,” as well as her other current projects (100 Year Starship and Look Up).
As I start to record the interview (this is moments after I fangirl and tell Dr. Jemison I dressed up as her one Halloween, entered a costume contest and won a 25-dollar gift card to Virgin Records), I state into my Voice Memo app the date, time, and that I’m about to interview Dr. Mae Jemison, she charmingly interrupts.
Mae Jemison: How about if we do it in Star Date Time? 2018.01.13, right?
Good Black News: Way better! That’s a Trekkie for you! I appreciate that, thank you, Dr. Jemison. Well, first I want to ask you about your involvement in “One Strange Rock.” Why, of all the different entities out there covering space, space travel, space exploration, did you want to lend your voice to this project?
MJ: So “One Strange Rock” is the story of the extraordinary journey of Earth. It’s about our home planet and how we went from this collection of rock and gases to something that supports life and an incredible diversity of life, and I wanted to be a part of that. When people think about space, so frequently they think about it just as the stars and the pictures and images and the rockets. But actually, space allows us to see our world that we live on. Space allows us to understand that when we look up at the stars, we’re actually made of the stuff of stars. Right? Inside of us is the heart of an old star. Doesn’t that make you feel like you belong to this universe and that you’re supposed to be here?
Absolutely. So is your hope with this particular project that more people will get that understanding that there isn’t a separation?
MJ: “One Strange Rock” does this incredible thing – it takes us from the smallest microbe, or to how oxygen is generated in small bubbles, all the way to the vistas of continents or being able to see our atmosphere, and connects it together. And so for me, one of the things we need to understand at some point in time – we’ve got to figure this out – is that we’re Earthlings and that we’re connected to this planet. So when I went into space, one of the things that happened to me is that I had an affirmation of something that I always believed. You know when people say, “Save the Earth”? They’re mistaken – the Earth will be here. The difference is, can we act in such a way that it continues to support our life form? You see, what “One Strange Rock” shows is how integrated life is on this planet and we as humans are part of that life. If we go to another world – just go to the space station – we have to carry some of the Earth with us. We have to carry that environment with us because this is where we evolved, this is where we developed. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t leave – obviously I want to leave -I want to go and explore other places. But it’s the recognition that there are a… unique series of coincidences, events and everything that led us to this day, to humans, to me sitting talking to you. And they started billions of years ago.
So with all of that, you talk in the first episode about the “Overview Effect” – about seeing the planet and essentially what you just communicated to me. How do you get people who don’t have the opportunity to go into space to understand that boundaries and countries and all of these things that we do as human beings to identify in all these different ways is a way of looking at Earth that isn’t going to help foster the survival of our species?
MJ: So I want to make one thing clear – I know a lot of astronauts talk about the “Overview Effect” – that everything belongs right here on this planet – for me when I went into space… I knew damn well that water crosses from one country to another, that our sky is over different countries and weather affects everyone. What “One Strange Rock” does is help people to understand and feel that. So I can maybe mumble words and give you statistics and stuff, but it’s not the same thing as having that emotional connection. What I’m so proud about with “One Strange Rock” is that it takes images from lots of different countries, from African countries, from South American countries – it goes down underneath the Earth and goes up to the top. And all those things help us to see this planet and the imagery from people, to animals, to… desolate locations. And so, it’s not so much again about mumbling the words, or even saying the words very clearly, it’s about allowing people to see and be there with you. And not just from space, because we get down to the detail. We see kids playing, we see folks who’ve been collecting salt for generations from one location. All of those things are important for us to understand our connectedness to this world. And it’s not about preaching and it’s not about how fast the Space Station is orbiting the Earth or any of that kind of stuff – it’s that vantage point.Continue reading “Pioneering Astronaut Mae Jemison Offers Insight and Forward Thinking to New National Geographic Channel Series “One Strange Rock””→
SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook has named one of the nation’s most prominent black corporate leaders, American Express‘ Kenneth Chenault, to its board of directors.
The appointment, which gives the social media giant the guidance of a highly regarded finance executive and the first black director on its all-white board, was the culmination of years of recruitment efforts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. “I’ve been trying to recruit Ken for years. He has unique expertise in areas I believe Facebook needs to learn and improve — customer service, direct commerce, and building a trusted brand,” Zuckerberg said in a statement. “Ken also has a strong sense of social mission and the perspective that comes from running an important public company for decades.”
Chenault announced in October that he would retire as chairman and CEO of American Express on Feb. 1, capping a 16-year run.
Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandbergtold the Congressional Black Caucus in October that the social media giant was in talks to bring aboard its first black board member but she did not disclose the person’s identity.
The striking lack of people of color in the executive suite and on the boards of Silicon Valley companies won’t come as a culture shock to Chenault, one of the longest-serving black CEOs of a major U.S. corporation and a veteran of an industry dominated by white men in its top management ranks. The appointment to the Facebook board, effective Feb. 5, comes after years of lobbying by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson to add people of color to the company’s directors.
Diversity remains a top challenge for Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies that are mostly staffed by white and Asian men. Top universities turn out black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering graduates at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them, USA TODAY research showed.
Minorities are also sharply underrepresented in non-technical jobs such as sales and administration, with African Americans faring noticeably worse than Hispanics, according to USA TODAY analysis of the employment records of Facebook, Google and Yahoo in 2014.
Women now make up 35% of Facebook’s global workforce, up from 33%, and hold 19% of technical roles, up from 17%, the Menlo Park, Calif. company said last year.
In the U.S., Facebook has brought aboard more people of color. Three percent of Facebook workers are African American, up from 2%, and 5% of them are Hispanic, up from 4%.
But Facebook fell short where the lack of diversity is most acute, in the proportion of African-American and Hispanic workers in technical roles, which has stayed flat at 1% and 3% respectively since 2014. The percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in senior leadership positions at Facebook has also remained largely unchanged.
Chenault was the second black Fortune 500 CEO to announce plans to step down in 2017, along with Xerox Corp.’s Ursula Burns. Less than 5% of the 200 largest U.S. companies are led by African Americans, according to a 2016 report from recruitment firm Spencer Stuart.
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Chenault, 66, has been with American Express since 1981. He serves on the boards of IBM, Procter & Gamble and non-profit groups including the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. He’s also a philanthropist who took a lead role in raising money for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
When Chenault announced he was stepping down from American Express, Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is the largest AmEx shareholder, said in a statement that he was the “gold standard for corporate leadership and the benchmark that I measure others against.”
Hoda Kotb was named co-anchor of the first two hours of NBC’s venerable “Today” morning show, launching the program into a new era after the ouster of longtime co-host Matt Lauer for inappropriate behavior in the workplace.
Kotb will sit alongside Savannah Guthrie, making the NBC program at present the only national A.M. program officially anchored solely by a female team. And she will continue to co-host the 10 a.m. hour of “Today” opposite Kathie Lee Gifford, a role she has held since 2007, when she co-anchored the hour with Ann Curry and Natalie Morales. Gifford, long known for co-hosting the syndicated “Live” with Regis Philbin, joined her at “Today” in 2008, and the two have led an unorthodox morning hour that involves drinking wine, interviewing celebrities and finishing each other’s sentences. The program has proven popular enough that NBC for a time offered repeats of it during overnight hours.
Kotb took up her new duties under difficult circumstances. Lauer was fired by NBC News, part of a wave of prominent media personalities who have been accused of sexual harassment. But during her time alongside Guthrie, the show’s ratings have surged. “Today” has won more viewers overall and among the 25-to-54 crowd than “GMA” or CBS’s “CBS This Morning” for four weeks. Its lead over “GMA,” however, has slipped and it is not clear whether the NBC show can maintain its new dominance.
“Over the past several weeks, Hoda has seamlessly stepped into the co-anchor role alongside Savannah, and the two have quickly hit the ground running. They have an undeniable connection with each other and most importantly, with viewers, a hallmark of ‘Today,’ said Andy Lack, chairman of NBC News Group, in a statement Monday morning. “Hoda is, in a word, remarkable. She has the rare ability to share authentic and heartfelt moments in even the most difficult news circumstances. It’s a tribute to her wide range and her innate curiosity.”
Kotb is likely to continue doing what she has always done at “Today.” Whether trading lines with the outspoken Gifford or lending a hand during the show’s first two hours (Kotb has for months had a presence during that time), she tends to bring a sense of calm to the proceedings.
“This has to be the most popular decision NBC News have ever made and I’m so thrilled,” said Guthrie in the opening moments of Monday’s program.
NBC News makes Kotb’s new role official at an important time for the show. NBCUniversal in February will launch its usual mammoth coverage of the Olympics, an event that often lends “Today” a ratings boost.
Kotb has been with NBC News since 1998, when she joined “Dateline” as a correspondent. She had previously worked at various local stations in places such as New Orleans and Fort Myers, Florida. Kotb began her broadcast career with CBS News as a news assistant in Cairo, Egypt in 1986. She has reported on everything from war in Iraq to health issues.
But viewers have followed her personal life as well as her career achievements. They have watched as she detailed a battle with breast cancer in 2007 and they recently followed earlier this year when she adopted a daughter at age 52. They will no doubt continue to track the host in her new position.
Jay Z released his video for his single “Family Feud” last night exclusively on Tidal, although it was more than a standard music video premiere. Much like anything else he and Beyoncé create, it was a cultural event to punctuate 2017 with the most inclusive, woke A-list cast you will ever see in a music video.
Helmed by Ava DuVernay, the seven-minute-plus video is a short film, serves up some sci-fi, futuristic realness that can very well be a taste of what’s to come in the celebrated director’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. Joining JayZ, Beyoncé and the heiress to their throne, Blue Ivy, includes an inspiring roster of actors from every part of the color spectrum: Michael B. Jordan, Trevante Rhodes, Thandie Newton, Jessica Chastain, Irene Bedard, Omari Hardwick, David Oyelowo, Emayatzy Corinealdi, AmericaFerrera, Aisha Hinds, Henry G. Sanders, and Storm Reid — who is the star of Wrinkle in Time. Rounding out the cast is the “founding mothers”, which feature Mindy Kaling, Rashida Jones, Rosario Dawson, Janet Mock, Brie Larson, Constance Wu, Niecy Nash, and Susan Kelechi Watson, who, as the video shows, are different women from all walks of life who are enlisted to change the country’s constitution.
Even though there is a cinematic scope to the video, which was co-written by Jay-Z and DuVernay, it is highly personal for the Grammy-nominated rapper, who uses the track from his critically acclaimed 4:44 album to confess his sins to his wife and all-around queen of everything, Beyoncé. Where Beyoncé used her visual album, Lemonade as a platform for working through her personal issues with Jay-Z, he used 4:44 to respond and tell his side of the story. In other words, it’s an artistic way of saying, “Yea, I messed up.”
Jay’s track serves as an atonement and one key lyric sets the tone for the short film: “nobody wins when the family feuds.” Of course, he is referring to his familial relationships, but it goes beyond that and applies it to feuding within the country and the world. There’s layers of meaning in the short that starts off with a poignant James Baldwin quote and goes into a Godfather-meets-Game of Thrones scene, moments of war, moments reflecting today’s volatile political climate, and a group of empowering females looking to build a utopian rather than dystopian future.
DuVernay took to Twitter to share her thoughts, inspiration and behind-the-scenes photos from the video.
According to vibe.com, although Barack Obama is nearly a year out from his two-term Presidency, Gallup reports he’s still the country’s “Most Admired” man.
The numerical proof of Obama’s popularity came Wednesday (Dec. 27) when Gallup released the results of their yearly “Most Admired Man and Woman” poll. In the survey, the publication, known for statistics, asked Americans who is the public figure they admire the most, and for the fifth time since 2013, Obama topped the list.
Obama edged out the current president – gaining 17 percent of the votes to Donald Trump’s 14 – making this year one of the few times in the poll’s history where the sitting president did not acquire the title.
That paired with Obama’s status as the most admired man and the former First Lady, Michelle Obama, being named Gallup’s second most admired woman (behind Hillary Clinton by 2 percent), makes them the nation’s most admired couple.