Musician Nina Simone passed away in 2003 at 70 years old, but her legacy survives. A 2015 documentary on her life, What Happened, Miss Nina Simone?, received an Oscar nomination and her influence has touched everyone from Lauryn Hill to Mary J. Blige.
Now the icon is receiving a huge honor. Her childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina will be designated a national treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Her home is now a vacant wooden cottage with three rooms and measuring 660-square feet. The house was put on the market in 2016 and was recently purchased by four Black artists to maintain Simone’s legacy. One, Adam Pendleton, said in a press release, “Last year, my fellow artists and I felt an urgent need to rescue Nina Simone’s childhood home—a need sprung from a place of political activism as well as civic duty.” He continued, “A figure like Nina Simone—an African American woman from a small town in North Carolina who became the musical voice of the Civil Rights Movement—is extraordinarily relevant to artists working today. She constantly expressed her commitment to the democratic values our country espouses by demanding that we live up to them. We are honored to partner with the National Trust to further protect her legacy.”
Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a press release, “Nina Simone’s distinctive voice and social critique in the mid-20th century was unlike anything America had ever heard before. And while her musical and social justice legacy burns bright, her childhood home has been neglected. We’re delighted to work with the home’s new owners and the local community to chart a new future for the property that will honor her tremendous contributions to American society and inspire new generations of artists and activists to engage with her legacy.”
As the Civil War came to a close in 1865, a number of people remained enslaved, especially in remote areas. Word of slavery’s end traveled slowly, and for those who were largely isolated from Union armies, life continued as if freedom did not exist.
This was especially the case in Texas, where thousands of slaves were not made aware of freedom until June 19, 1865, when Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and issued an order officially freeing them. Their celebration would serve as the basis of June 19 — or Juneteenth — a holiday celebrating emancipation in the US.
Ironically, while Juneteenth has become the most prominent Emancipation Day holiday in the US, it commemorates a smaller moment that remains relatively obscure. It doesn’t mark the signing of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which technically freed slaves in the rebelling Confederate states, nor does it commemorate the December 1865 ratification of the 13th Amendment, which enshrined the end of slavery into the Constitution. Instead, it marks the moment when emancipation finally reached those in the deepest parts of the former Confederacy.
In many ways, Juneteenth represents how freedom and justice in the US has always been delayed for black people. The decades after the end of the war would see a wave of lynching, imprisonment, and Jim Crow laws take root. What followed was the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration, discriminatory housing policies, and a lack of economic investment. And now, as national attention remain focused on acts of police violence and various racial profiling incidents, it is clear that while progress has been made in black America’s 150 years out of bondage, considerable barriers continue to impede that progress.
Those barriers may remain until America truly begins to grapple with its history. “There are those in this society that still hold on to the idea that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, it was about states’ rights or Northern aggression against slavery,” says Karlos Hill, a professor of African and African-American studies at the University of Oklahoma and the author of Beyond the Rope: The Impact of Lynching on Black Culture and Memory. “Juneteenth is a moment where we step back and try to understand the Civil War through the eyes of enslaved people.
I spoke with Hill recently about the history of Juneteenth, why the push to make it a national holiday matters, and how commemorating the holiday could bring America closer to truly embracing its ideals of freedom and equality for all.
Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you tell me a bit about the history of Juneteenth and what the holiday commemorates?
In the United States, we do not have a commemoration for the emancipation of 4 million enslaved people. We simply have not commemorated that monumental moment.
Juneteenth is a holiday, or commemoration meant to celebrate word of emancipation finally coming to a group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas. It commemorates this group of slaves who learned that they had been emancipated months earlier. The holiday is meant to commemorate the emancipation of 4 million slaves, but particularly the small handful who weren’t aware that emancipation had come months earlier. Continue reading “Why Celebrating Juneteenth is More Important Now Than Ever”→
Craig Kirby, founder of “Golf. My Future. My Game,” is on a crusade to introduce more black teens to the game of golf.
Kirby started the non-profit golf foundation in Washington, D.C., in 2014. He’s been working to expose the predominantly white sport to young kids who may not think the game is accessible or possible as a career option. Roughly 80 percent of recreational American golfers are white, according to the 2015 Golf Diversity & Inclusion Report. Within golf-industry workers, that percentage jumps to nearly 90 percent.
Kirby, 55, said he knew nothing about golf until he was invited to play by three white classmates in college. He hasn’t looked back since. “We teach them the game of golf, the business of golf — from soup to nuts,” Kirby told NBC News of his foundation work. “They learn everything — from the pro shop to the cart shop to the back office. It’s a complete golf experience. If kids don’t want to play golf professionally, there are plenty of great jobs within the industry.”
Kirby, a former Democratic political strategist, said he handles everything from fundraising meetings to arranging local transportation for the program’s participants. He tries to open professional doors on the golf course and behind the scenes, making connections with golf-club owners, caddies and even golf-wear designers. He also emphasizes the availability of college golf scholarships.
Since the foundation’s inception, Kirby said about 300 kids from all types of socio-economic backgrounds have participated in the various programs, clinics and internships. Kirby’s mission comes as several prominent golf industry leaders acknowledge racism as a persistent problem in the sport.
“There are real diversity issues in golf and there is a real history of exclusion and racism,”said Jay Karen, CEO of The National Golf Course Owners Association, which represents more than 3,400 courses. “We need to reconcile this history, but we also need to do better. We need to welcome and invite people who have not traditionally been part of the golf industry.”
One of Kirby’s most steadfast supporters is World Golf Foundation CEO Steve Mona. Mona said he tries to give Kirby a national platform to grow his program and introduces him to some of golf’s most prominent leaders. “We want to make sure golf reflects the diversity of our country and, ultimately, it’s good for the game,” Mona told NBC News.
In April, a Pennsylvania golf club owner called the police on five black women golfers, claiming they were playing too slowly. Last week, the women filed formal complaints against the club alleging they were discriminated against due to their race and gender.
The women did receive an apology, but the incident made national headlines and led the club to lose some business. “It’s not a golf issue, it’s a human issue,” Karen said. “It’s a shame the police were called to resolve a conflict that could have been handled through a conversation, talking to each other as human beings. These kinds of conflicts should not happen on golf courses and they shouldn’t happen at Starbucks.”
Only two black golfers have earned their PGA cards since Tiger Woods began his career in 1996. No African-American woman has ever won an LPGA title. Among America’s 15,000 private golf courses, only about a handful are black-owned, Kirby said. Kirby takes his students to one of them: The Marlton Golf Clubin Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
“We take our kids to golf courses and give them a whole new experience,” Kirby said. “They get lessons, guidance and advice from experts in the golf industry who look like them. I don’t want black kids to say they can’t play when get they get invited to play.”
According to Variety.com, it was Wakanda for the Win at the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards, with Disney Marvel’s “Black Panther” winning the most film awards, including Best Movie, Best Performance and Best Hero for Chadwick Boseman and Best Villain for Michael B. Jordan.
Tiffany Haddish hosted the show, which aired Monday night on Viacom networks and was taped Saturday at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, CA. Haddish took home the popcorn herself for best comedic performance in “Girls Trip.”
Netflix’s “Stranger Things” dominated the television field with three awards, including best show. Millie Bobby Brown also won for show performance, while Noah Schnapp was recognized for frightened performance.
Apple and Oprah Winfrey have a signed a multi-year content partnership. Under the deal, Winfrey and Apple will create programs that will be released as part of Apple’s original content lineup.
The deal marks one of the first such agreements struck between Apple and a content creator. This is also the latest addition to Winfrey’s media empire. The former hit talk show host formed her own cable network, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, in 2011 in partnership with Discovery Communications. The channel has become one of the fastest-growing cable networks among women and has produced hit shows like “Queen Sugar,” which boasts Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay as showrunner.
Winfrey recently extended her contract with Discovery through 2025. Sources tell Variety that Apple’s deal with Winfrey does not conflict with the Discovery agreement. Winfrey remains exclusive in an on-screen capacity to OWN with limited carve-outs, such as her role as a correspondent for CBS’ “60 Minutes” and her recent acting work for HBO.
Via her Harpo Productions banner, Winfrey has also developed several long-running hit syndicated shows including “Dr. Phil,” “The Dr. Oz Show” and “Rachael Ray.” Through her Harpo Films, she has produced several Academy Award-winning features including “Selma,” which was directed by DuVernay. Winfrey also had a featured role in that film, and recently starred in other films like “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” and HBO’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”
Winfrey also runs O, The Oprah Magazine and published the New York Times best-selling cookbook “Food, Health and Happiness” last year. As a noted philanthropist, Winfrey has contributed more than $100 million to provide education to academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2017.
Even before the Oprah deal, Apple has a robust slate of originals prepared to launch. In addition to the previously mentioned morning show drama, the streamer is prepping shows like a reboot of Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories,” a psychological thriller series from executive producer M. Night Shyamalan, the true crime podcast drama series “Are You Sleeping?” starring Octavia Spencer and Aaron Paul, and an Emily Dickinson series starring Hailee Steinfeld among many others.
Three graduates of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are bringing a stylish take to a trendy craft beer bar in New York’s historic Harlem neighborhood. On June 9, owners Kevin Bradford, Kim Harris and Stacey Lee officially opened the doors of Harlem Hops to the public, making the establishment the first craft beer bar in Harlem to be 100 percent owned by African-Americans.
Harlem Hops sits nestled in the heart of Harlem at 2268 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd., a bustling street alive with independently owned businesses, convenient stores, curious neighbors and schoolchildren counting down the days until summer vacation begins. Walking into the bar gives the feel of everything Harlem embodies: a cozy, close-knit community where everyone is welcome.
“We want Harlem Hops to be Cheers for a lot of people in the neighborhood,” Harris said. “We want it to be the safe haven where you can just come and learn about something different.”
The vision of Harlem Hops began for Harris, a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, nearly five years ago. Born and raised in Harlem, Harris appreciated her neighborhood, but good beer was hard to find. Her quests to drink beer she enjoyed included traveling to Brooklyn to get it.
“I thought, there’s something missing here,” Harris said. “And that’s when it came to me that we should do a beer bar in Harlem. That’s was one of the reasons I thought about it.”
At the time, Harris had been in what she described as a distressed partnership with another business. But upon meeting with restaurant consultant Jason Wallace, Harris learned there was another entrepreneur who shared a similar vision for a craft beer bar. Bradford, a graduate of Hampton University, had the same problems as Harris when it came to finding good beer. Originally from Detroit, Bradford would find himself bringing beer back from his hometown to New York.
“I like good beer, and I couldn’t really find good beer above 125th. To tell you the truth, even above 110th,” Bradford said. “I had to travel to Brooklyn. I had to travel these far distances to get beer I liked. I think back in 2011 or 2012, New York was not really the beer center of the East Coast. Now, New York is pretty much on the map for craft beer. I live in Harlem and I wanted to open a bar in my neighborhood, but the zoning was residential. I could not have a commercial space in my property. That’s when Jason Wallace introduced myself and Kim and I was like, this is it.”
The two met near the end of 2016 and agreed that they could make the partnership work. Harris also ran her ideas past Lee, a fellow graduate of Clark Atlanta University and a trusted entrepreneur Harris had worked with in the past. Lee was more than happy to hop aboard and invest in the business.
“When Stacey came on board, she kind of made us whole in terms of all the bits and pieces,” Harris said. “I have business sense, Kevin is focused on the beer and Stacey brings in the creativity and helps me keep my thoughts together. We’re all married to each other. We love each other. It’s the perfect combination.”
Before long, ideas and concepts of what Harlem Hops could and should be began to fly. The three worked feverishly together to figure out everything from color schemes to beer to food menus. For decor, the group enlisted the help of designers. Matte black and copper would serve as the theme throughout the bar, and Harlem — whether it was in words, light-up messages or a marquee hanging from the ceiling — would be fully represented.
“Luckily, we all had the same style,” Harris said. “We wanted clean lines. We wanted something simple. Something that was a combination of typical beer, but Harlem. Harlem is high-end and upscale, and that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to bring in some industrial aspects of a beer bar, but we wanted to make it sexy for everybody.”
Alicia Keys announced on Wednesday the formation of a music-industry group for female advancement called She Is the Music.
The singer broke the news during her acceptance speech for the Icon Songwriter honor at the National Music Publishers Association’s annual meeting in New York.
“I’ve joined forces with a group of really powerful female executives, songwriters, artists, engineers, producers and publishers to help reshape the industry that we all love by creating real opportunities and a pipeline of talent for other women,” she said. “We’re calling our initiative She Is the Music. We want to create a model for change that effects women across all industries. We deserve the utmost respect, and so many of these women across industries are telling our culture that time is up on double standards, and it is it’s over for pay inequity and colleagues who are at best disrespectful and at the worst unsafe — so it’s over for that.”
Approached by Variety for more details following the ceremony, Keys would only say, “You’ll be hearing about it” and “We just want it to permeate right now.”She spoke at length about the issue in her 10-minute acceptance speech. After thanking the family members, collaborators and executives closest to her, she continued:
“It’s especially meaningful to receive this award right now as a woman in the music industry. (applause) My mama taught me that every year is the year of the woman so I never thought (inaudible), but this year is definitely something else. It’s a powerful year, it’s an empowering year, and it’s the beginning of so many things. And many of us in the music world are working more diligently than ever to showcase and support the work of female songwriters, musicians, engineers, and producers.
“We have to do something because the statistics are brutal,” she continued, citing statistics from a University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism study of Grammy nominees earlier this year. “Of almost 3,000 pop songwriters credited last year only 12% were female, only 3% of the engineers were female, and one of them is Ann [Mincieli, Keys’ regular engineer]. Only 2% of producers are female and one of them is me! Our world is 50-50, and it’s time for our industry to reflect that.
“So this reminds us all to continue to be conscious and present of the diversity we want to see in the workplace, and how we can make it better. So the next time that you get a chance to hire someone, whether it’s the biggest producer or the newest intern, look for a woman — especially a woman of color, a fresh voice, who brings something new to the spectrum. She is the music so give her a shot!
“Songwriters tell our stories, they sing who we are as people — don’t we all want to hear from all of us? My ancestors’ spiritual songs told their stories and gave them strength, and we’re all stronger because of it. And today’s battle for civil rights still draws on the power of protest songs written decades ago by Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Joan Baez, Nina Simone, Buffy St. Marie, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Aretha, Tina, Dolly Parton — picking up that powerful torch and speaking the truth of women and our inner lives. And there are so many people carrying that forward: Mary J., Sia, SZA, Kacey [Musgraves], Solange, Janelle [Monae], H.E.R., and so many more talented female writers are running with that torch today and lifting all of us up.
“And I hope that when we look back on the first part of the 21st century that we as songwriters continue to capture the passions and problems and possibilities of this moment we’re in, so that future generations will know who we are and what really stand for.
“The songwriter is more powerful than any politician and any government because she reaches directly to the people and she uses her talent and skill and puts time in a capsule —ideally a capsule that holds about four minutes of material (laughter) — or if you’re Isaac Hayes about 20 minutes! God bless him too. And if she’s lucky as I’m blessed to be, her words will forever be sealed in our memories and our history and our hearts.
“So I thank you and I’m so grateful for this honor and for your work to continue, so we can all get what we deserve and to be a creative force that makes our hearts sing and makes love the forefront, and shows the world that magic and alchemy is possible every day.”
It’s a topic that Keys also spoke about at Variety’s Power of Women event in April. “We are more on fire than we’ve ever been,” she said, referencing her 2012 hit “Girl on Fire.” “Look at all the action that’s around us: women running for office in record numbers, women banding together in the entertainment industry, women demanding an end to disparity in the music industry like equal representation on the Grammy stage,” she said, referencing the low number of women performers during this year’s show and Recording Academy chief’s comment that women need to “step up” in order to get ahead in the music industry.
“We were told we need to step up. Well, you feel that step up now?”
Chance the Rapper has some major news. The rapper and his new production company, Social Function Productions have reportedly signed on to produce a concert in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics. The concert will reportedly include performances by the legendary Smokey Robinson, Jason Mraz, O.A.R., and more.
Chano announced the news on social media on Thursday (June 14). “I’m happy to announce that my new production company SFP and I are producing the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics here in Chicago,” he wrote, along with an official concert poster.
Chance reportedly announced the launch of his Social Functions Productions company only a few days before the concert news was revealed. It’s unclear of what other projects the company has in the works, but it will likely fuse Chance’s interests in music and philanthropy.
The Special Olympics will officially be held in Seattle on July 1, but the concert will kick off in Chance’s hometown of Chicago on July 21. You can purchase tickets to the concert here.
London Breed became the first African-American woman elected to lead San Francisco on Wednesday, when her opponent conceded a tight race.
Breed will serve until 2020, finishing the term of the late Mayor Ed Lee, who died in December at age 65. At a short news conference, Breed praised Lee and thanked her supporters, as well as the other candidates, including Mark Leno, a former state senator who conceded the race hours earlier. She struck an optimistic tone about the city’s future.
“I am London Breed, I am president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and soon to be mayor of the city and county of San Francisco,” she said to cheers. Breed continued, “I am so hopeful about the future of our city, and I am looking forward to serving as your mayor. I am truly humbled and I am truly honored.”
‘Remarkable young woman’
Earlier on Wednesday, Leno called Breed to congratulate her. “She is a remarkable young woman,” Leno said. “She is going to do a very fine job and we all wish her the best because her success is San Francisco’s success.” Leno and Breed, both Democrats, faced off in a primary election held June 5. At one point, Leno pulled ahead in the count, but as more ballots were tallied, Breed took the lead.
With the results neck-and-neck, the San Francisco Department of Elections began counting nearly 14,000 provisional ballots this week. The San Francisco Department of Elections must still process more than 1,100 ballots cast under Conditional Voter Registration.
‘You can do anything you want to do’
Breed referenced her humble beginnings in her news conference. Born in San Francisco, Breed was raised by her grandmother in the city’s public housing and attended public schools. She worked as an executive director of the African American Art and Culture Complex for over a decade, before becoming involved in public office, according to her biography.
Breed said her grandmother “probably had a hand in this, looking down from the heavens.” Her grandmother “took care of the community. She took care of me even on days when I didn’t deserve it,” Breed said.
When asked to reflect on the milestone of being the first African-American woman to be the city’s mayor, she said: “It’s really amazing, and it’s really an honor … I know it means so much to so many people.”
“I’m a native San Franciscan — I grew up in some of the most challenging of circumstances,” she said. “I think the message that this sends to the next generation of young people growing up in this city, that no matter where you come from … you can do anything you want to do.”
Langston Hughes’ brilliantly written essays, and poems continue to impress young and seasoned minds alike. But not everyone enjoys reading. For those who aren’t bookworms, there’s a new film, I, too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled, a two-part documentary that explores Hughes life and work, being prepped for the screen.
Scholars and directors of I, too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled, Darren Canady, award-winning playwright, and Randal Maurice Jelks, award-winning Professor of American Studies and African and African American Studies at the University of Kansas, recently spoke with Black Perspectives about their forthcoming film, which is slated for a 2020 release.
“Our film project is built off the work that my colleague Maryemma Graham did back in 2002 at the University of Kansas (KU),” Canaday and Jelks said to Black Perspectives contributor and University of Kansas PhD candidate, Imani A. Wadud. “At the time, she organized the Langston Hughes Centennial Celebration, a conference that featured many distinguished writers, scholars, and actors, including Alice Walker, Danny Glover, and Farah Jasmine Griffin.”
“As a fellow Kansan, I’ve always believed that Hughes desperately loved everyday Black folks,” Canaday, Associate Professor of English at the University of Kansas, said when asked about how Hughes workmanship in relationship to the black public. “You see it time and again in his writing; who he spoke to and for, who he moved among during his everyday life. He loved regular Black folks. Sometimes we forget how revolutionary it still is to focus time and energy on the Black working class.”
Jelks added that I, Too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled is also ushered by music from hip-hop, blues and R&B.