The Columbia University board of trustees recently approved the creation of a new African American and African Diaspora Studies Department. ProfessorFarah Jasmine Griffin, the William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African American Studies, has been appointed as the chair of the new department.
“Now, more than ever, we need to have both an understanding of that history, but we also need to understand the ways that history contributes to a sense of possibility and vision for the future,”said Dr. Griffin. “Even though we are later than many of our peers, the creation of this department at Columbia is right on time because our nation and our world need the kind of knowledge we produce.”
In 1993, long before there was a centralized department for African studies, Dr. Manning Marable established the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) at Columbia. The institute has brought together scholars from a variety of disciplines and continues to bridge scholarship, teaching, and public life. Once the new department has been created, the IRAAS will continue to conduct research.
Now that the department has been approved, Columbia plans to hire new faculty who are experts in the field of African American and African diaspora studies and create a Ph.D. program to produce additional innovative scholarship.
Additionally, the school recognizes the significance of being located in Harlem, a center of Black cultural life in the United States, and plans to collaborate with the surrounding community.
“Departments and academic institutions don’t produce knowledge for the moment, they produce knowledge for the long term,” said Dr. Griffin, who also serves as director of the IRAAS. “Creating a new department is an investment in producing knowledge that is valuable for our country at any time, but especially at this moment, as it reminds us of a historical legacy as well as a vision of America that we need to engage more now than ever.”
Lauren Christine Mims is a former assistant director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans and a Ph.D. candidate in Educational Psychology at the University of Virginia. She’s also one of the many women inspired by Michelle Obama’s Becoming, a New York Times best-selling book that sold more than 1.4 million copies within the first seven days of its release. Now, Mims is turning Obama’s book into a curriculum for black girls to further their learning and development.
“Reading Becoming was like sitting on the couch with your best friend and having one of those soulful conversations about life,” said Mims.
“Reading about how Michelle Obama felt unchallenged in elementary school, teased for the way she spoke, and noticed a difference in how she was perceived during adolescence was affirming.”
Mims hopes the Becoming curriculum will make space for black girls to thrive in a world that often seems to try and deny their humanity. As part of her doctoral research at the University of Virginia, Mims explores what it means to be a young, gifted, black girl in school.
“I disrupt the traditional practice of talking about black girls in pejorative ways and center them and their unique experiences to study how we can support them. For example, my research highlights what ‘Black Girl Magic’ means to black girls; the role teachers play in supporting or stopping the success of black girls; and more about what they are learning and how it makes them feel.”
“If you follow Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Norris, and Willow Smith, think about my interviews as Red Table Talks where black girls are supported in discussing challenges and designing solutions.”
As part of the curriculum, students read Becoming, and watch films featuring black girls in leading roles. Additionally, “we will have important conversations, like about what it means to feel like your presence is a threat or that you do not belong. We will discuss Maddie Whitsett and McKenzie Nicole Adams; two 9-year-old black girls who died by suicide after being subjected to bullying. At the end of the course, students will apply their knowledge to draft new research proposals, policies, and practices,” says Mims.
Beyond the walls of the classroom, Mims says there are four things we can all do to support black girls:
Create supportive, affirming, and loving environments by listening to their needs and centering their unique experiences of Becoming;
Advocate for, adopt, and enforce school policies and accountability practices that recognize the brilliance of black girls and ensure they are not being pushed out of school.
Address the bullying, harassment, and discrimination of black girls and ensure that all students have access to mental healthcare;
Care for your own mental health and well-being.
Ultimately, Mims wants girls to know that they are enough. As Michelle Obama writes, “Becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim,” yet there is so much pressure in college to define your identity and pick a career path. It can take a toll on you. Know that you are brilliant and never “underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”
Although he’s been sidelined for the next several games with a groin injury, it hasn’t overshadowed the moves LeBron James has made on and off the court
So for the third time the LA Lakers forward has been named the Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year, the Associated Press reports.
“I would describe it as a success because I was able to inspire so many people throughout the year,” James said. “I got to go back to China, to Paris, to Berlin, I opened up a school. And all these kids I was able to see, all over the world and in my hometown, I was able to inspire, to make them think they can be so much more than what they think they’re capable of being. That was my outlook for 2018.”
“So yes, it’s been a pretty good year.”
James received 78 points in the ballots given to U.S. editors and news directors, the AP reports. The Boston Red Sox Mookie Betts was second with 46 points. The Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin placed third, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes came in fourth and Triple Crown winner Justify was fifth, according to the outlet.
In his 16th season, James still reigns on the court. He’s continued to be a force helping to usher his teams to the NBA Finals for eight consecutive years. He left Cleveland to make magic happen with the LA Lakers. And in the midst of aligning his career goals with his life goals and dreams he opened a school called “I Promise” in his hometown of Akron, Ohio for at-risk kids.
James is also an involved father who takes time out to be his kids’ biggest cheerleader from the sidelines during their basketball games. And he’s been an advocate off the court, using his voice and influence to speak out on social justice causes.
When the Metro’s new Crenshaw/LAX line opens in summer 2020, riders will travel through a 1.3-mile-long art project celebrating Los Angeles’ African-American achievement.
“Destination Crenshaw” is set to break ground in early 2019, and will flank the route along Crenshaw Boulevard. Renderings were released earlier this month.
“The hope,” Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said, “is that [people] understand that L.A., among other things, is quintessentially a black city. In the same way that it’s a Latino city, in the same way it’s a Jewish city, in the same way that it’s a Japanese city. The stories of black people in this town are central to what this town is, and what it continues to develop into.”
Harris-Dawson called Destination Crenshaw an “open-air museum” that is set to feature monuments, art, park space, and other cultural experiences celebrating black Los Angeles. It’ll be one of the first stops for people taking the Metro from LAX, with clear views of the surrounding art.
The inspiration for the project was the Crenshaw Wall, Harris-Dawson said. That’s the massive graffiti project that already stands in Crenshaw, which Harris-Dawson wants to see restored and enhanced.
“But also many of our artists that are in this community have art that you have to travel outside South L.A. to see,” Harris-Dawson said. “We wanted to create a space for them to show their work in their own neighborhoods.”
An open call went out for artists earlier this year, but another is planned for 2019.
The space will have more than 125 spots for art, according to Harris-Dawson, including 3D art, street art, fine art, and more. The art will tell stories curated by the project’s historian.
Even the parks will be part of telling the story.
“There may be a [play structure] there that may spell out the words, ‘say it loud,'” Harris-Dawson said. “So that’s a way in which, as a park, it is a functional tool, but it tells a story about political protest, and community confrontation, and African-American music in a direct way.”
Harris-Dawson hopes Destination Crenshaw will help bring back creative businesses and boost the local economy. “African-American culture is consumed by the world, in every corner of the world, but African-American neighborhoods have not necessarily been able to take advantage of that,” Harris-Dawson said.
“Whether it’s streetware and street fashion that is largely generated by young people in the Crenshaw neighborhood — they make a sneaker popular, and then you have to go to Melrose to get the sneaker. And the same is true for all forms of art,” he said.
Destination Crenshaw is set to open in spring 2020. They also have a public kickoff event planned for Feb. 8, 2019, where they hope to reveal a couple of the key artists contributing to the project, according to Harris-Dawson.
Here’s a promotional video from earlier this year:
Fabolous made Christmas come early for kids in the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club of Brooklyn this year with his annual Christmas Toy Drive. The event was made possible by the Brooklyn rapper’s foundation A Fabolous Way (which is designed to merge communities and the arts), Def Jam and D’usse.
“On behalf of The Boys and Girls Club, we would like to thank Fabolous and Lisa for bringing joy to some of our families this holiday season,” said the Director of Clubhouse Operations, Antonio Fort. “Fab has visited us in the past and we appreciate his positive message of inspiration to the youth.”
The event was held at the lavish Red Rabbit in New York City’s Meat Packing District neighborhood. According to Page Six, Fab spent over 100K on the presents. “I don’t put a money amount on Christmas — I just want to show people that they are special to me,” he said. “But, it is safe to say I have spent over $100,000.”
Although he’s definitely generous, he admits that doing the actual shopping is tough for him because of his busy life. What matters most to him is making sure he’s giving someone a thoughtful gift.
Spelman College, the historically Black educational institution for women in Atlanta, has received a $30 million donation from trustee Ronda Stryker and her husband William Johnston, The gift is the largest from a living donor in the 137-year history of the college.
The gift will be used to help fund the construction of the Center for Innovation and the Arts on the Spelman campus. When completed the building will house all of the college’s arts programs – art, art history, curatorial studies, dance, digital media, documentary filmmaking, photography, music and theater – in a single building.
Stryker has been a member of the college’s board of trustees for more than 20 years. She currently serves as vice chair.
In making the donation, Stryker stated: “As former educators who believe strongly in social justice, Bill and I have great appreciation for how Spelman provides a superior education for students that encourages them to be global change agents. Spelman alumnae are leaders across every field imaginable, breaking new ground, while tackling some of the world’s most challenging issues from health disparities to the digital divide. We are thrilled to support a building that will encourage students to master technology, innovation and the arts.”
Stryker is a board member at Stryker Corporation, a medical equipment company and vice chair of Greenleaf Trust, an investment banking firm.
NIKE has named Florida A&M University alumni and FAMU Foundation Board member, G. Scott Uzzell, President and CEO of Converse, Inc., the company announced Friday, Dec 21.
According to The AP, Uzzell comes to Converse from The Coca-Cola Company where he most recently served as President, Venturing & Emerging Brands Group (VEB).
“Scott’s unique blend of experience driving both strategic business growth and strong brand development is well-suited to help unlock the full potential of the Converse Brand and lead its next phase of growth globally,” said Michael Spillane, President, Categories and Product, NIKE, Inc.
Uzzell began his career in sales and marketing at various companies, including Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Nabisco and has held leadership positions at brands such as McDonald’s U.S. Division. Is that’s not impressive enough he reportedly serves on the boards of State Bank and Trust Co., Fairlife LLC and Suja Juice Co.
As head of Coca-Cola’s VEB Group, Uzzell led the development portfolio of high-growth brands for The Coca-Cola Company, including Honest Tea, ZICO Coconut Water, Fairlife Milk and Suja Juice, famunews.com reports.
Uzzell holds an MBA from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Florida A&M. He is also a member of the FAMU’s Foundation Board as well as a member of the Executive Leadership Council (ELC).
Uzzell starts work at Converse on Jan. 22 and will report directly to Michael Spillane, President, Categories and Product, NIKE, Inc. Uzzell reportedly replaces Davide Grassowho retires at the end of the year.
In this 100th year anniversary of its completion, the historic Villa Lewaro estate of the nation’s first self-made female millionaire and beauty pioneer, Madam C.J. Walker, has been purchased.
The New Voices Foundation, which helps women of color entrepreneurs achieve their vision through innovative leadership initiatives, will spearhead the stabilization of the structure and planning for future uses. The acquisition was facilitated by the Dennis Family, including entrepreneur, investor, and social impact innovator Richelieu Dennis, who once owned Shea Moisture and currently owns Essence Magazine.
The 28,000 square foot property is a historic residence that embodies the optimism and perseverance of the American entrepreneurial spirit.
“In the one hundred years since Madam Walker built her majestic home, Villa Lewaro, it has served as a landmark both to her own success and to her endeavor to create a space dedicated to the achievement and empowerment of African Americans,” said Brent Leggs, director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976 for its architectural significance, Madam Walker’s Villa Lewaro estate, named after her daughter (A’LElia WAlker RObinson), was once a social and cultural gathering place for notable leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, such as James Weldon Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Langston Hughes.
The home, which Madam Walker called her “dream of dreams,” was designed and completed 100-years ago by the first licensed Black architect in the state of New York and a founder of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Vertner Tandy.
Walker was the first person of color to own property in Irvington, close to Lyndhurst, a National Trust Historic Site. During the time it was built, Villa Lewaro was located on what was referred to as Millionaire’s Row and in an area that was also home to Rockefellers and Astors. Purchased in 1993, for the last 25 years Villa Lewaro served as the family home of AmbassadorHarold E. Doley, Jr. and his wife Helena.
With a long admiration of Madam C.J. Walker, the Dennis family first reignited her cultural, entrepreneurial and hair care legacy through the acquisition of the Madam C.J. Walker brand in 2013 – when conversations to acquire Villa Lewaro also first began – and the brand’s subsequent relaunch on retail shelves in 2016 at Sephora.
“To be able to steward something so rich in our culture, history, legacy and achievement through the New Voices Foundation and guide it into its next phase of impact and inspiration is an incredible honor that my family and I welcome with tremendous responsibility and humility,” said Dennis. “When we relaunched the Madam C.J. Walker brand two and half years ago, our goal was to give the brand back to our community and elevate it in the iconic way deserving of such a phenomenal woman. Today, we have a similar focus with Villa Lewaro as its significance is much greater than just a house or property or historic landmark. It is a place where – against all odds – dreams were formed, visions were realized and entrepreneurs were born, and we look forward to returning its use to support that mission.”
Dennis continued, “Squarely aligned with the mission of the New Voices Foundation, we are excited to announce that the vision for future use of the property includes utilizing Villa Lewaro as both a physical and virtual destination where women of color entrepreneurs will come for curriculum-based learning and other resources aimed at helping them build, grow and expand their businesses. When people think of entrepreneurship services for women of color, we want them to think of the New Voices Foundation and Villa Lewaro.”
Madam Walker’s great-great-granddaughter and biographer, as well as brand historian, A’Lelia Bundles, added, “No one at the time believed that a Black woman could afford such a place. So, I can think of no better way to celebrate Villa Lewaro’s 100th anniversary than the vision of the New Voices Foundation and the Dennis family for this historic treasure as a place to inspire today’s entrepreneurs, tomorrow’s leaders and our entire community. Richelieu’s own success story – from a humble family recipe to an international enterprise with an economic empowerment mission – very much mirrors Madam Walker’s journey of empowering and uplifting women. Just as Madam Walker aided in the preservation of abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s Washington, DC home, the Dennis family continues this tradition of preserving historic sites that raise awareness about the contributions people of color have made to the American narrative.”
The National Trust holds a perpetual preservation easement on Villa Lewaro that ensures the property’s historic character will be preserved. This easement was jointly supported by the Dennis and the Doley families. The home was named a National Treasure by the National Trust in 2014 and is part of a growing portfolio of African American historic sites protected through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, an initiative designed to raise the profile of African American sites of achievement, activism, architecture, and community.
According to Variety.com, outgoing ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey is joining Netflix as Vice President of Original Content for the streaming service. Dungey will report to Cindy Holland, also Vice President of Original Content, and will officially start working there in February.
“We’re delighted to be adding Channing’s expertise, leadership and deep experience to Netflix, and I look forward to partnering with her as we continue to grow and evolve our global network,” said Holland. “I have been a fan of her character and approach from our early days as executives.”
Dungey is to partner with Holland in setting strategic direction as well as in overseeing a large portion of Netflix’s slate, including some of the company’s overall deals with former ABC-based producers Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris, “Orange Is The New Black” and “Glow” producer Jenji Kohan, “Unreal” and “Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce” producer Marti Noxon, producer Steven DeKnight, and Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions, among others.
“Channing is a creative force whose taste and talent have earned her the admiration of her peers across the industry,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix. “She’s a risk taker and ground-breaker and talent love working with her. I couldn’t be happier to welcome her to Netflix.”
Prior to presiding over ABC, Dungey lead the network’s drama development team. She helped develop several popular shows in that role, including huge hits “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder.” Other shows she shepherded during that time include “Quantico,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “American Crime,” and “Once Upon a Time.”
“I’m drawn to the forward-thinking, risk-taking and creative culture at Netflix, and the deeply talented people there, especially Ted and Cindy, with whom I’m excited to partner on setting the strategy for original content,” said Dungey. “Given that ABC, the place I’ve called home for nearly 15 years, represents the gold standard of traditional broadcast, it feels like the perfect next step for me to join Netflix, the unparalleled leader in streaming. I’m invigorated by the challenges ahead and the opportunity to forge new relationships, and excited for the very welcome reunion with incredible talent.”
Dungey also famously canceled ABC’s revival of “Roseanne” after series star and creator Roseanne Barr tweeted that former Obama administration aide Valerie Jarrett, who is black, looked like a cross between the “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes [sic].”
Dungey previously partnered with Pamela Post at Dexterity Pictures, a production partnership focused on making both studio and independent films, as well as developing television series. She also served as president of Material, Jorge Saralegui‘s film production company based at Warner Bros. Prior to that, she worked for five years as a Warner Bros. production executive.
Dungey, a magna cum laude graduate of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, has been a visiting professor there and serves on the school’s executive board. She is also a founding and current board member of Step Up, a national non-profit membership organization dedicated to helping girls living in under-resourced communities to fulfill their educational potential.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) – On Friday, the William Hooper Councill Alumni Association broke ground on a memorial park celebrating Huntsville’s first public school for African-Americans.
Councill High School opened in 1867 and closed in the era of desegregation in the 1960s. The school was named after Dr. William Hooper Councill, a former slave and founder and first president of what would become Alabama A&M University. Councill also became a lawyer, newspaper editor, legislator and Alabama Supreme Court justice.
Crews will start work on a memorial park in 2019, on the school’s old site.
Members of the alumni association spoke about what the school means to them.
“We found friendship in William Hooper Councill High School, and we found affection,” said Brenda Chunn, president of the William Hooper Councill Alumni Association.
“It’s important because African-American history sometimes gets lost, and this is a way of preserving the heritage of the African-Americans, particularly with the celebration of the bicentennial that is coming up,” said Laura Clift, an alumni of Councill High School.