Category: News

Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Awarded the 2018 Creativity Laureate Prize

Henry Louis Gates Jr.

via jbhe.com

Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University, received the 2018 Creativity Laureate Award from the Benjamin Franklin Creativity Collaboration at a recent ceremony at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The prize honors the most gifted and creative thinkers, innovators and professional catalysts in all areas of human endeavor — the arts, humanities, sciences, technology and public service. Previous winners have included Sandra Day O’Connor, Meryl Streep, Yo-Yo Ma, Ted Turner, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Johnnetta Cole.

Professor Gates was chosen for the award for his important work in the areas of arts and criticism, humanities and historical research, genetic science, documentary film, and public service. He has authored or co-authored 22 books and created 18 documentary films. His six-part documentary – The African American: Many Rivers to Cross – aired on PBS television and won an Emmy Award for outstanding historical program. According to the Collaboration, Professor Gates “exemplifies the spirit that inspired the Creativity Laureate Award – the multi-disciplinary creativity of Benjamin Franklin.”

Professor Gates joined the faculty at Harvard University in 1991 after teaching at Duke University, Cornell University, and Yale University. A native of West Virginia, Dr. Gates is a summa cum laude graduate of Yale University. He earned a Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in England.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/04/henry-louis-gates-jr-awarded-the-2018-creativity-laureate-prize/

Kendrick Lamar Wins Pulitzer Prize for Music for His Grammy-Winning Album ‘Damn’

Kendrick Lamar onstage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio on April 23, 2017.
Kendrick Lamar (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to the Los Angeles Times, Compton native and acclaimed hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar has won the Pulitzer Prize for music for his 2017 album “Damn.” It is the first time work outside of the classical and jazz genres has been recognized in that category.

In today’s announcement, the Pulitzer board described the album as a “virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African American life.”

“Damn,” released on April 14, 2017, is Lamar’s fourth studio album following 2015’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” 2012’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city” and “Section.80,” released in 2011. In January “Damn” won the Grammy for best rap album and was among the nominees for album of the year.

Review: Beyoncé is Bigger Than Coachella | New York Times

(photo via instagram.com)

by Jon Caramanica via nytimes.com

INDIO, Calif. — Let’s just cut to the chase: There’s not likely to be a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year, or any year soon, than Beyoncé’s headlining set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival Saturday night.

It was rich with history, potently political and visually grand. By turns uproarious, rowdy, and lush. A gobsmacking marvel of choreography and musical direction.

And not unimportantly, it obliterated the ideology of the relaxed festival, the idea that musicians exist to perform in service of a greater vibe. That is one of the more tragic side effects of the spread of festival culture over the last two decades. Beyoncé was having none of it. The Coachella main stage, on the grounds of the Empire Polo Club here, was her platform, yes, but her show was in countless ways a rebuke.

It started with the horns: trumpets, trombones, sousaphones. For most of the night, the 36-year-old star was backed by an ecstatic marching band, in the manner of historically black college football halftime shows. The choice instantly reoriented her music, sidelining its connections to pop and framing it squarely in a lineage of Southern black musical traditions from New Orleans second line marches to Houston’s chopped-and-screwed hip-hop.

Her arrangements were alive with shifts between styles and oodles of small details, quick musical quotations of songs (Pastor Troy’s “No Mo’ Play in G.A.,” anyone?) that favored alertness and engagement. As always, one of the key thrills of a Beyoncé performance is her willingness to dismantle and rearrange her most familiar hits. “Drunk in Love” began as bass-thick molasses, then erupted into trumpet confetti. “Bow Down” reverberated with nervy techno. “Formation,” already a rapturous march, was a savage low-end stomp here. And during a brief trip through the Caribbean part of her catalog, she remade “Baby Boy” as startling Jamaican big band jazz.

She does macro, too — she was joined onstage by approximately 100 dancers, singers and musicians, a stunning tableau that included fraternity pledges and drumlines and rows of female violinists in addition to the usual crackerjack backup dancers (which here included bone breakers and also dancers performing elaborate routines with cymbals).

Ieshia Champs, Single Mother of 5, to Graduate Magna Cum Laude From Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law

Ieshia Champs stands at center with her children (left to right)  E’mani, 5, Kaleb, 8, Khassidy,11, Davien, 12, and David, 14. (Photo: Richard Holman Photography) 

by Kerry Justich via yahoolifestyle.com

Ieshia Champs never could have imagined what she would achieve when she grew up, as she bounced around family homes, entered into the foster care system, and had her first child at age 19. But nearly 14 years and a total of five kids later, this mom is about to graduate from law school after a difficult journey — and she says her faith led her through it all.

The 33-year-old, who is originally from Port Arthur, Texas, has been through a lot. However, from the looks of her beautiful family in her recent graduation photos, it seems like the more trying times might have been worth her consequent path. From leading her to Houston and to a church that provided her with guidance, as well as the people she would quickly call family, Champs is now seeing that her earlier struggles are coming full circle. And it all goes back to one Child Protective Services caseworker, Gail Covington, who picked her and her siblings up when Champs was just around 7 years old.

“I’ll never forget it,” Champs tells Yahoo Lifestyle, of the moment Covington brought them to a home outside of the chaos that the little girl was used to. “I cried so hard because I missed my familiar surroundings, even though they were horrible. And one day, I woke up in time for school. I actually had a bed to sleep in, and we had brand-new clothes on the floor. It was then that I realized my friends had no idea about this type of life.”

What Champs explains as the “drug-filled environment” where she lived with her mom was the norm for everyone in their neighborhood. Once she had an idea of another type of lifestyle, she began to wonder what she could do about all of the people left behind without help. Her teachers introduced her to the idea of becoming an attorney and providing a service similar to what Covington provided Champs. However, she would eventually return to a toxic environment soon thereafter.

Being adopted by a maternal uncle, Champs says that she and her siblings eventually ended up back in an apartment with their mom — which ended up leading her down a bad path. “We really didn’t have much guidance,” Champs explains. “My sister ended up having her first baby at 14. I ended up dropping out of school my 10th or 11th grade year, and I ran across my kid’s father. We ended up having our first child, and then we had a second. And it just kept going.”

It was when Champs had three children and a fourth on the way that her life began to change. Her sister enticed her to attend a service at the Ministers for Christ Christian Center in Houston, led by Bishop Richard and Louise Holman, who she now refers to as dad and mom. Champs recalls a service where Louise, who serves as a prophetess, called the mother of five up to the front of the church and offered up information about her future. Louise said that God wanted Champs to go back to school to get her GED, so she could eventually follow her dream of becoming a lawyer — a dream that Champs had never shared with Louise.

“She told me that God would take care of me,” Champs says of Louise’s encouragement. “During that same year — it was 2009 — I ended up having a house fire, I lost everything that I had. I got laid off from my job, the father to two of my children died of cancer while I was seven months pregnant, I literally tried to kill myself, and I ended up going back to get my GED.”

Champs credits the inspiration and prayers from the Holmans for her getting an associate’s degree in paralegal studies at Houston Community College, and a bachelor’s degree at the University of Houston. Both degrees eventually brought her to the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, where she’ll be graduating in May. Although receiving her Juris Doctor degree was far from easy, she commends her five children for making it possible.

Giving her time to do both her work and rest, Champs says that her eldest son, who is now 14, has been amazing at taking the other four children — ranging in age from 5 to 12 — to a quiet place in the house to do activities or eat a snack. In order to honor this commitment, she decided to include them all in her graduation photos, which were taken by Bishop Richard.

“I’ve been attending Ministers for Christ for about 10 years, and [Richard] is not just my bishop,” Champs says. “He’s a professional photographer, and he knows my story. So I wanted him to be very active in that.”

Champs’s children pose proudly around her. (Photo: Richard Holman Photography)

Now, as the bishop’s photos circulate around the internet, Champs’s older children are beginning to understand what “going viral” means. However, Champs remains focused on what she wants to do with her doctorate once she passes the bar exam, which is to become a general attorney with a specialization in family law and juvenile law, and eventually become a judge.

“I feel like with what I’ve been through as a child and in my upbringing, I can probably help some of these juveniles who may feel like there’s no hope for them,” Champs explains. “I want to be the one to fight for those children who are in these horrible living arrangements. To try to help them reconcile with the family, or if not, give them the same opportunity that I had.”

Source: https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/single-mother-5-proudly-poses-children-law-school-graduation-photos-012231390.html

Linda Oubré Selected as President of Whittier College in California

Whittier College President Linda Oubré (photo via biz journals.com)

via jbhe.com

The board of trustees of Whittier College in California, has chosen Linda Oubré as the educational institution’s fifteenth president. When she takes office on July 1, Dr. Oubré will be the first African American and the first person of color to serve as president of Whittier College.

Whittier College, located east of Los Angeles, enrolls about 1,600 undergraduate students and approximately 450 graduate students, according to the latest statistics supplied to the U.S. Department of Education. African Americans make up 4 percent of the undergraduate student body. The college’s most famous graduate is Richard M. Nixon.

For the past six years, Dr. Oubré has served as dean of the College of Business at San Francisco State University. Earlier, Dr. Oubré was executive director of corporate relations and business development, and chief diversity officer for the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis.

Dr. Oubré holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/04/linda-oubre-selected-as-the-fifteenth-president-of-whittier-college-in-california/

Spelman College Student Deanna Hayden Works to Raise Literacy Rates with “House of Knowledge” Project

by Robin White Goode via blackenterprise.com

It’s National Library Week, and at Spelman College a student is changing lives by improving a community’s literacy. Deanna Hayden, a junior Comparative Women’s Studies major, volunteers in an impoverished neighborhood in Atlanta, the West End community.

“I grew up in rural Mississippi,” Hayden said, “where there was an overwhelming lack of educational resources. When I started volunteering at Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary School in the West End, I noticed parallels between the education system here and in Mississippi.”

BOOKS TRUMP POVERTY

Hayden relayed there are students with low reading scores, ironically in a school named after a literary giant. “I sat in on third-grade classes and could see that there is a need to improve their literacy,” she says.

Hayden had noticed that in wealthy communities there are what she calls “free libraries”—not library buildings from which books can be borrowed, but small, house-shaped structures full of books that can be taken for keeps, or added to. (Hayden was most likely referring to the Little Free Library book exchange.)

Regular reading is critical to raising literacy and reading levels, but book ownership also makes a huge difference. According to a 2014 study cited in a New York Times article, the number of books in a home is “the most important predictor of reading performance” after gross national product. “The greatest effect was seen in libraries of about 100 books, which resulted in approximately 1.5 extra years of grade-level reading performance.”

Astonishingly, a home library appears to matter more than the family budget. The Times article goes on: “… in the United States, with the size of libraries being equal, students coming from the top 10% of wealthiest families performed at just one extra grade level over students from the poorest 10%.”

THE HOUSE OF KNOWLEDGE

Spelman
(Courtesy of Spelman College)

Similar to both the Little Free Library and Barbershop Shops, which sets up books targeting black boys from age 4 to 8 in barbershops, the House of Knowledge is a literacy initiative that Hayden developed in response to the struggling readers she encountered.

There are now seven Houses of Knowledge throughout the West End community “in places frequented by children, such as churches, recreation centers, and doctor’s offices,” Hayden told me. Each holds 25 books targeting readers in kindergarten to eighth grade.

“Each House of Knowledge has its own theme,” Hayden says. “Some offer books on science and technology—others are all about black women.” Each box has a sponsor which is responsible for monitoring the box to make sure there is always a selection of books inside. The sponsor—organizations like the NAACP, the National Council of Negro Women, and others on the Spelman campus—determines what books will be offered.

Hayden, who graduates next year and plans to study public health and educational policy in graduate school, still has plans for the House of Knowledge project. “I’d like the kids to do surveys and quizzes on the books,” she says. “Eventually I’d like to develop an after school component as well.”

In the meantime, she’s also hoping for a grant that will make the program more sustainable.

To learn more, visit the House of Knowledge website.

Source: http://www.blackenterprise.com/spelman-student-raising-literacy-skills/

A New Generation of African-American-Owned Bookstores; Numbers No Longer in Decline

Mahogany Books opens in Washington D.C. (photo via publishersweekly.com)

by Alex Green via publishersweekly.com

When Troy Johnson began tracking the number of black-owned bookstores in the U.S. in 1999, there were more than 325. By 2014, that number had dwindled to 54, a decline of 83%.

“They were closing left and right, and the major ones were struggling,” said Johnson, who runs the African American Literature Book Club, an online book database. Today, Johnson estimates, there are at least 108 black-owned independent stores, a number of which have opened in the past six months, marking a substantial reversal. “Last year was the first year I added more stores to the list than I took away,” he noted.

The surge in black-owned indie bookstores is notable at a time when both bookselling and publishing are wrestling with issues of workforce diversity.

Ramunda and Derrick Young, wife-and-husband owners of the newly opened MahoganyBooks, looked for a physical location for years, but a wave of gentrification in Washington, D.C., left them with few promising options. That changed in early 2017, when they found a location in the Anacostia Arts Center, in the historically African-American neighborhood of Anacostia in Southeast D.C. Ramunda, a former general books manager of the Howard University Bookstore, said opening a store was a logical step toward diversifying the couple’s business after having run a books website serving predominately African-American readers for a decade.

MahoganyBooks opened in February and is the first bookstore in Anacostia in 20 years. The 500-sq.-ft. store has an adjacent events space for large readings. With tablets for readers to locate books online while they browse, the store fulfills the couple’s vision of “a bookstore 2.0,” Derrick said.

“Bookstore 2.0” is shorthand for the Youngs’ effort to integrate the physical store and the long-standing digital operation, creating independent sources of revenue that stand alone but point to one another. In-store technology points to the website, and the website now points to the physical store’s events. “We thought, if there were another big crazy economic downturn, how would we prepare ourselves so that we would have multiple streams of income?” Derrick said.

Opening the bookstore is also a homecoming. Derrick’s grandmother lived in Anacostia when he was a child, and he frequented the neighborhood’s black-owned bookstores. He later worked at the black-owned Karibu booksellers with Ramunda. Speaking about himself and Ramunda, he paid tribute to those earlier stores: “We were both kind of nurtured in that way. We both made an effort to be mentored and to understand the experience that readers want when they come into a bookstore.”

When forensic anthropology professor Christina Benton opened Janco Books in Las Vegas in October 2017, readers asked if she would model her store after Native Son, a neighborhood African-American specialty bookstore that closed in 2008. Benton expanded the store’s African-American section, but she said her interest is in catering to as broad a community as possible. “It’s a general bookstore owned by an African-American person,” she said. With a selection of new and used books, Janco caters most of all to families that homeschool in the area. “They buy the most, because they need to have the resources,” Benton said.

In Brooklyn’s rapidly gentrifying Crown Heights neighborhood, a general bookstore is as far from what Afro-Latina owner Kalima Desuze and her Caribbean husband, Ryan Cameron, wanted to open when they launched the Afro-feminist Cafe Con Libros in late December. Desuze, a retired U.S. Army JAG corps member with master’s degrees in social work and public administration, grew up in Prospect Place and credits her trajectory in life to reading feminist African and African-American authors.

“A lot of the reason why I opened up the store is because feminism has not always been the province of women of color,” Desuze said. “Part of my challenge as a black woman, calling my bookstore a feminist bookstore, is that some black women do not identify with the word feminism. But if they took the time to explore they would discover that they are already living it.”

To read more, go to: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/76545-a-new-generation-of-african-american-owned-bookstores.html

New “Mr. Soul!” Documentary Explores How Ellis Haizlip’s PBS Show “Soul!” Brought Black Culture to Talk Show TV

by Sameer Rao via colorlines.com

Ellis Haizlip (photo via colorlines.com)

Ellis Haizlip broke the talk show and public television color barrier when he introduced SOUL!,” the weekly program he hosted during the late ’60s and early ’70s, to PBS. Now, a half decade after the show debuted, his niece Melissa Haizlip (“Crossing Jordan”) revisits his legacy with the documentary “Mr. SOUL!Deadline anticipated the world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival by unveiling the trailer (above) on April 4.

“There exists, as far as I know, no TV program that deals with my culture so completely, so freely, so beautifully,” the senior Haizlip remarked in archival footage from the trailer. To drive that point home, the trailer incorporates clips of performances from now-renowned Black artists as varied as Maya Angelou, Donny Hathaway and Alvin Ailey. Haizlip also conducted interviews on the show with Stokely Carmichael, James Baldwin and other activists and thought leaders.

Interviewees like Kathleen Cleaver, Sonia Sanchez and Harry Belafonte spoke to the importance of this show, which centered Black culture at a time when the U.S. was waging full-scale war on Black activism. “This is serious business, our lives were at stake!” Cleaver emphasized in the trailer.

PBS/Thirteen noted that Ellis Haizlip fought both on and off camera. He intentionally staffed his production team with Black crew members and publicly criticized the government-created Corporation for Public Broadcasting for pulling funding. “Worse than racism, I see this as the beginning of a systematic plan to remove Black programs from public television,” he told Jet magazine after the show’s cancellation in 1973.

“Mr. SOUL!” debuts at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 22.

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/articles/new-doc-explores-how-mr-soul-brought-black-culture-talk-show-tv

Denzel Washington Paid for ‘Black Panther’ star Chadwick Boseman to Study at Oxford

"Black Panther" star Chadwick Boseman
“Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman (Albert L. Ortega | Getty Images)

by  via cnbc.com

Chadwick Boseman, the 41-year-old star of Black Panther, may have Oscar-winner and 2018 nominee Denzel Washington to thank for some of his success. While studying at Howard University in the late ’90s, Boseman and some of his peers applied to a prestigious summer theater program at The University of Oxford. The group of students got in, but they couldn’t afford to go.

One of their acting teachers at Howard, actress Phylicia Rashad from The Cosby Show, “pushed for us,” Boseman told Rolling Stone. “She essentially got some celebrity friends to pay for us to go.” It wasn’t until after the program when he got a beneficiary letter and found out who funded the program: “Denzel paid for me. I’m sure he has no idea. … I’ve been waiting to meet him, so I can tell him.”

Boseman wrote Washington a thank-you letter, but he didn’t tell anyone else about it for two decades. “I’ve basically been holding this secret my whole career,” he told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, explaining that he didn’t want Washington to feel like he owed him anything else.

Boseman wanted to meet Washington in person before saying anything. He hadn’t met him before the Rolling Stone interview but, after 20 years, he figured it was OK to reveal the detail. As Boseman told Fallon: “I think I’ve made it to the point where he’s not going to think I’m trying to get something from him by saying it.”

Coincidentally, just before the Rolling Stone feature came out, Boseman got to meet his benefactor. Washington came to the New York premiere of “Black Panther,” and, “I met him, before the article came out,” Boseman told Fallon. “So I actually lived up to what I originally wanted to do. It was amazing.”

When Fallon asked how the introduction went, Boseman recalled how he thanked him for paying for Oxford a while back, to which Washington jokingly replied: “Oh, so that’s why I’m here. You owe me money! I came to collect!”

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/02/denzel-washington-paid-for-chadwick-boseman-to-study-at-oxford.html

‘Black Panther’ Becomes 1st Film to Premiere in Saudi Arabia Since 35-Year Cinema Ban

by Camille Augustin via vibe.com

The cultural impact of Black Panther has continued to increase in magnitude since its Feb. 16 release. Shattering records with each tick of the clock, the Marvel film gained historic steam with praise from moviegoers and positive reviews. Now, while the superhero reel plans to surpass the Titanic, it aims to break yet another record, this time in Saudi Arabia.

According to Variety, Black Panther will premiere on April 18 in the Middle Eastern country, dissolving its 35-year ban on movie theaters. The debut will be accompanied by a gala and take place in the newly-constructed AMC theater, based in Riyadh.

A plan to cease the cinema ban occurred in Dec. 2017, CNN reports. The Saudi Ministry of Culture gave AMC the green light to begin rolling out 30 theaters across the country, possibly projecting a $1 billion revenue stream for Saudi Arabia’s economy.

The billion-dollar movie currently holds the title as the highest-grossing superhero motion picture. Upon its release, director Ryan Coogler wrote an open letter thanking fans for their insurmountable support. “For the people who bought out theaters, who posted on social about how lit the film would be, bragged about our awesome cast, picked out outfits to wear, and who stood in line in theaters all over the world,” he wrote, “all before even seeing the film.”

Source: https://www.vibe.com/2018/04/black-panther-becomes-first-film-to-premiere-in-saudi-arabia-since-35-year-movie-theater-ban/