Author and MacArthur Fellow Jesmyn Ward Wins 2nd National Book Award for ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

Jesmyn Ward attends the 68th National Book Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on November 15, 2017 in New York City, NY, USA. Photo by Dennis Van Tine/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images) 

MacArthur “Genius” grantee Jesmyn Ward took home the National Book Award prize for Fiction Wednesday, marking the second time she has won the prestigious award.

She took the top prize for her book Sing, Unburied, Sing,” a Mississippi-based family epic that, according to the New York Times, “grapples with race, poverty and the psychic scars of past violence.” She previously won the fiction award in 2011 for her novel “Salvage the Bones.”

Critics have compared her writing to works by greats like Toni Morrison and William Faulkner. In her acceptance speech Ward said that she had received her fair amount of rejections for her subject matter.

“Throughout my career, when I have been rejected, there was sometimes subtext, and it was this: People will not read your work because these are not universal stories,” she told the audience. “I don’t know whether some doorkeepers felt this way because I wrote about poor people or because I wrote about black people or because I wrote about Southerners. As my career progressed and I got some affirmations, I still encountered that mindset every now and again.

Eitherway, she added, many people were able to connect with her characters and stories: “You looked at me, at the people I love and write about, you looked at my poor, my black, my Southern children, women and men — and you saw yourself. You saw your grief, your love, your losses, your regrets, your joy, your hope.“

Earlier this year, she was a recipient of a MacArthur ”genius grant“ from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Source: https://www.essence.com/culture/jesmyn-ward-second-national-book-award-sing-unburied-sing

Federal Judge Catherine Perry Rules St. Louis Police Force Against Protestors Unconstitutional

Photo: St. Louis Public Radio

(Photo: St. Louis Public Radio)

via blavity.com

Wednesday, a federal judge placed restrictions on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, claiming their conduct during recent protests has violated demonstrators’ constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry ruled that the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against St. Louis police “are likely to prevail on the merits of their claims” that their First and Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.

The case stems from protests which took place in September, following the “not guilty” verdict in the murder trial of Jason Stockley, a white police officer who shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, in 2011.

Perry found sufficient evidence that although there was no violence, police declared an assembly without taking the protesters’ rights and opinions into consideration. She also ruled that there was “no credible threat of force or violence to officers or property” when police rounded up citizens, including journalists, on Sept. 17. Following those arrests, the sitting head of the St. Louis MPD declared his department “owned” the night, as the officers mocked protesters by chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!”

Perry shared that officers had clearly retaliated against protected First Amendment speech simply because they did not prefer being criticized, and used chemical weapons to divert speech they didn’t favor.

“Plaintiffs’ evidence — both video and testimony ― shows that officers have exercised their discretion in an arbitrary and retaliatory fashion to punish protesters for voicing criticism of police or recording police conduct,” Perry wrote. “When all of the evidence is considered, plaintiffs have met their burden of showing that they are likely to succeed on their claim that defendant has a custom or policy of deploying hand-held pepper spray against citizens engaged in recording police or in expressive activity critical of police in retaliation for the exercise of their first amendment rights, in violation of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments.”

Perry says police are not permitted to declare an unlawful assembly unless there’s a clear and present threat, and they cannot use the law to punish people engaged in protected activity, such as protesting. Perry additionally confirmed chemical agents can’t be used, unless there is probable cause to arrest, and police are not able to threaten to use chemical agents against anyone engaged in expressive, nonviolent activity.

In October, during a hearing, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Anthony Rothert proclaimed “pepper spray is the new fire hose,” and said officers were using pepper spray “arbitrarily, gratuitously and without warning.” We are hopeful that more injustices will be brought to light and rightfully punished, as well as justice be served as these officers and others misusing their duty to serve and protect are corrected.

To read more, go to: https://blavity.com/a-federal-judge-calls-st-louis-police-force-against-protestors-unconstitutional

Nigeria’s Women’s Bobsled Team Qualifies for 2018 Olympics, Country’s 1st Ever Winter Olympians

Nigerian Women’s Bobsled Team (photo via nytimes.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to ESPN, Nigeria will be represented in the Winter Olympics by the African nation’s women’s bobsled team, which qualified for the 2018 Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Driver Seun Adigun and breakpersons Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga completed the fifth out of the five required qualifying races and became the first African team ever to qualify in the bobsled category.

The squad, led by Adigun, a former African 100-meter hurdles champion and 2012 summer Olympian, completed the qualifying races in Utah and Canada on Tuesday and Wednesday. “This is a huge milestone for sports in Nigeria,” driver Adigun told ESPN. “Nothing makes me prouder than to know that I can play a small role in creating opportunities for winter sports to take place in Nigeria. Our objective now is to be the best representation of Africa that the Winter Olympics have ever witnessed.”

As blavity.com reported, it comes as a shock to many fans of the team and athletes individually, that they have been able to accomplish such a feat, considering they are in fact representing a warm climate country and the sport, for lack of better words, is designed for anything but that. In a recent interview with ABC News, shared to one of the women’s Instagram account, the ladies discuss how they do in fact host the majority of their training in the warm climate.

To read and learn more about this story, go to: http://www.newsweek.com/women-bobsled-team-first-nigeria-qualify-winter-olympics-713962 or http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-17/nigerias-bobsled-team-off-to-winter-olympics/9163162

African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund Launched to Increase Diversity in Historic Preservation

Madam C.J. Walker’s “Villa Lewaro,” the home of the country’s first female African-American millionaire. (Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation/Madam Walker Family Archive)

by via curbed.com

A new multi-year initiative to help preserve more African-American historical sites, and address funding gaps in the preservation of current sites, was announced today.

The African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations, will establish a grant fund for protection and restoration. Actress and activist Phylicia Rashad, who previously campaigned to protect the Brainerd Institute in South Carolina, a school established in 1866 for freed slaves, will serve as an advisor and ambassador.

“There is an opportunity and an obligation for us to step forward boldly and ensure the preservation of places which tell the often-overlooked stories of African-Americans and their many contributions to our nation,” said Stephanie Meeks, President and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in a statement. “We believe that this fund will be transformative for our country, and we are committed to crafting a narrative that expands our view of history and, ultimately, begins to reconstruct our national identity, while inspiring a new generation of activists to advocate for our diverse historic places.”

The nascent initiative will seek $25 million in initial funding, and focus on historical sites and buildings that help tell often-overlooked aspects of the country’s history, as well as stories of overcoming intolerance, injustice, and inequality.

“As the scholar Carl Becker once wrote, history is what the present chooses to remember about the past,” said Patrick Gaspard, vice president of the Open Society Foundations. “The events in Charlottesville this past summer are a stark reminder of how one segment of American society chooses to celebrate a brutal past. We have an opportunity, through this tremendous project, to preserve, protect and cherish another history too often neglected—the vital story of African-Americans and their enormous contributions to the idea of America.”

Source: https://www.curbed.com/2017/11/15/16656528/historic-preservation-african-american-cultural-heritage-fund

“Girls Trip” Star Tiffany Haddish Sets Two Movies With New Line and Universal

Tiffany Haddish (via vanity fair.com)

by Justin Kroll via Variety.com

After making history as the first black female stand-up comedian to host “Saturday Night Live,” Tiffany Haddish is looking to continue to stay busy by landing lead roles in New Line’s “The Kitchen” and Universal’s “The Temp.”

Haddish is in talks to join the ensemble of “The Kitchen,” which is the directorial debut for “Straight Outta Compton” screenwriter Andrea Berloff, who is also writing the script. The film is based on the comic book series by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle for Vertigo from DC Entertainment. The series has gained a cult following since debuting in 2014 to critical acclaim. The Irish mafia story is set in Hell’s Kitchen, N.Y., in the 1970s. When the FBI comes in and does a sweep of the mob, several men are arrested. Their wives end up taking over and running the business much more viciously than the men ever did.

“The Temp,” which is set to be produced by Will Packer, who also produced the hit comedy “Girls Trip” featuring Haddish’s breakout performance.

Universal acquired the original pitch for “The Temp” from Dana Fox, who will also write the female-driven comedy. Fox will produce alongside Packer who will produce through his Universal-based Will Packer Productions. Will Packer Productions’ James Lopez will also produce and Haddish will serve as executive producer.

Haddish’s other upcoming projects include starring alongside Tracy Morgan in TBS’ “The Last OG,” which will be released in 2018; she recently wrapped production on Universal’s “Night School” opposite Kevin Hart. She also has “Limited Partners” in development with Paramount, which she will star in and serve as an executive producer on the project as well.

Outside of her film and TV projects, she is also set to release her book “The Last Black Unicorn,” which comes out Dec. 5, and just announced 2018 dates for her new stand-up tour “She Ready.”

To read full article, go to: http://variety.com/2017/film/news/tiffany-haddish-girls-trip-new-line-universal-1202614732/

102-Year-Old Runner Ida Keeling Offers Advice on How to Keep Going in Memoir “Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down”

motivation from Ida Keeling

Ida Keeling (Photo courtesy of Zondervan)

by Alisa Gumbs via blackenterprise.com

Ida Keeling’s life story is rife with motivation. The 102-year-old began working at age 12 to help provide for her immigrant family, lived through the Great Depression and the Civil Mights Movement, raised four children as a single mother, and then set world records as a runner—in her 90s.

Keeling is sharing that inspiring story in her memoir, Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race Against Time, which will be released next February and is available for pre-order this month.

“I was feeling so blue,” Keeling writes of the period after her two sons were murdered, less than three years apart.

“My psyche had slowed down and it felt like I was moving around in a bowl of thick oatmeal. Not a pleasant feeling, but me and the icky sensation were becoming well acquainted. Too well.”

Keeling credits her daughter Cheryl, herself a runner, with saving her life by pleading with her to run for the first time at the age of 67. Running is “an answer to grief, stress, obesity, bad health, and bad habits,” Cheryl writes. “It is a survival tool.”

More than 30 years later, Keeling is sharing some motivation from her journey:

Stick it out, even when it hurts

“It was my first race. I took off and all these people was rushin’ past. It felt like somebody pulled a sheet off me; it was horrible,” Keeling writes, “but I said I can’t slow down now. I got to keep going.”

“I started thinking this is too much, then all of a sudden, I started picking up a little speed and I thought, gee maybe this is good for me.” Continue reading

Colin Kaepernick is Named GQ Magazine’s ‘Citizen of the Year’

(Photo: GQ and Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

via thegrio.com

GQ Magazine has just named Colin Kaepernick as its “Citizen of the Year.” In a special December issue of the magazine, Kaepernick paired with GQ as well as ten of his closest allies and friends to “reclaim the narrative of his protest.” The magazine calls Kaepernick “the man who became the movement” and referenced the fact that, four years ago, Kaepernick had been on the cover as one of the rising stars in American football.

“In 2013, Colin Kaepernick was on the cover of this magazine because he was one of the best football players in the world. In 2017, Colin Kaepernick is on GQ‘s cover once again—but this time it is because he isn’t playing football. And it’s not because he’s hurt, or because he’s broken any rules, or because he’s not good enough,” GQ wrote in the piece.

The piece also noted:

HE IS STILL, TO THIS DAY, ONE OF THE MOST GIFTED QUARTERBACKS ON EARTH. AND YET HE HAS BEEN LOCKED OUT OF THE GAME HE LOVES—BLACKBALLED—BECAUSE OF ONE SIMPLE GESTURE: HE KNELT DURING THE PLAYING OF OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM. AND HE DID IT FOR A CLEAR REASON, ONE THAT HAS BEEN LOST IN THE YEARLONG STORM THAT FOLLOWED. HE DID IT TO PROTEST SYSTEMIC OPPRESSION AND, MORE SPECIFICALLY, AS HE SAID REPEATEDLY AT THE TIME, POLICE BRUTALITY TOWARD BLACK PEOPLE.

But rather than speaking for himself about his protests, Kaepernick has vowed to keep his silence on the matter, and instead, the piece features ten people close to the former 49ers quarterback who spoke about what the protest means to them and what we can do, as a nation, to keep speaking out against injustice.

Check out the feature here.

Source: http://thegrio.com/2017/11/13/colin-kaepernick-gq-citizen-of-the-year/

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