Category: Videos

Born On This Day in 1942: Singing Legend and Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin (WATCH and LISTEN)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

GBN would like to take a moment to commemorate the birth of one of the most talented musicians to ever grace planet Earth, Aretha Louise Franklin, on what would have been her 78th birthday.

Although 2020 will offer memorials to the Queen in the form of MGM‘s theatrical movie “Respect” starring Jennifer Hudson and the limited series under National Geographic Channel’s “Genius” banner starring Cynthia Erivo, it’s doubtful either will focus on an oft-overlook aspect of Franklin’s myriad talents: her songwriting.

Above you can watch Aretha performing “Think,” one of her best-known compositions in a clip from “The Blues Brothers,” while below you can listen to fourteen more gems penned by Aretha in a Spotify playlist called The Aretha Franklin Songbook:

 

Story of 1st Black Astronauts Told in Smithsonian Channel Documentary “Black In Space: Breaking The Color Barrier” (WATCH)

 by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

After the box-office success of the Fox 2000 feature film “Hidden Figures” (full disclosure – I worked as a writer on that project) in 2016, several African-American women who worked at NASA and contributed to the space race, such as the recently departed Katherine Johnson, finally became a celebrated part of the cultural zeitgeist.

It was at that time I realized I knew the names of some black astronauts (Mae Jemison, Charles Bolden) – but didn’t know who the first black astronauts were or how they contributed to the space program. So I did some research and was thrilled to learn about Guion “Guy” Bluford, Ron McNair and Frederick Gregory – the first three African-Americans in space (the first person of African descent was Cuban cosmonaut Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez).

Recently, the Smithsonian Channel released the documentary (watch above) “Black in Space: Breaking The Color Barrier” which primarily chronicles the journeys of Buford, McNair and Gregory. To learn more about them, read below:

Buford, McNair and Gregory were all NASA classmates in the “Class of 1978,” when NASA re-invigorated the space program after not sending anyone into space since Apollo 17 took its last journey in 1972.

This was also the class that was the first to train women as astronauts (Sally Ride) as well as the first Asian-American man (Ellison Onizuka).

Out of 8,000 applicants, only 35 were selected. While in the program, the astronauts-to-be spent a year going through a battery of tests, training and simulations to prep them all for potential flight on the NASA space shuttle program. (The Space Shuttle program was instituted to carry huge payloads in space, conduct experiments in space, and also to allow the U.S. and other countries to launch probes and satellites from space to enable further exploration of our solar system, other galaxies and the universe.) Continue reading “Story of 1st Black Astronauts Told in Smithsonian Channel Documentary “Black In Space: Breaking The Color Barrier” (WATCH)”

Director Merawi Gerima Wins Awards for Feature Debut “Residue” at 2020 Slamdance Film Festival

Director Merawi Gerima (photo via blackfilm.com)

According to deadline.com, writer/director Merawi Gerima’Residue  won the Audience Award at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival, as well as receiving an Honorable Mention for the Grand Jury Prize.

First-time feature director Gerima is the son of acclaimed independent filmmaker Haile Gerima (Sanfoka). Merawi Gerima also produced and directed Residue, and his cast includes Obinna Nwachukwu, Dennis Lindsey, Taline Stewart, Jacari Dye, Julian Selman, Melody Tally, Ramon Thompson, and Derron Scott.  

Check out the trailer below:

Residue tells the story of Jay, a young man who arrives home to find his neighborhood gentrified beyond recognition. Demetrius, his childhood best friend, is missing, but none of the remaining black folks trust Jay enough to provide any answers. Jay’s frustration compounds as he also finds himself alienated in the city at large, attacked from all sides. Jay visits his last friend Dion in prison, but leaves feeling powerless and infuriated. One final, chance confrontation results in Jay succumbing to the same forces as did his friends.

To Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day 2020, King’s Progeny Read From His 1965 “American Dream” Speech (WATCH)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

To honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2020, CBS This Morning aired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s children, Bernice King and Martin Luther King III, and his granddaughter, Yolanda King, reading part of the civil rights icon’s insightful, inclusive “The American Dream” sermon, which built upon and extended his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech from 1963’s March on Washington. (See a brief history of that speech here.)

MLK Jr. originally delivered the “American Dream” speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in 1965. To hear King himself, listen below:

To read the full transcript of “The American Dream,” go to: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/american-dream-sermon-delivered-ebenezer-baptist-church

 

(WATCH) Lumberjack Robert Rising Creates Furniture out of Rescued Wood from Fallen Trees

“Robert Rising, known as “the black lumberjack,” creates furniture out of rescued wood from fallen trees. He also mentors young people of color who want to enter an industry that often boxes them out.”

HISTORY: Meet Robert Smalls, Boat Captain for Union Navy who Escaped Slavery and Became 1st African-American Elected to U.S. Congress

U.S. Naval Captain and U.S. Congress Member Robert Smalls (photo via Library of Congress)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

On this Veteran’s Day, Good Black News is choosing to honor former Union Navy boat captain and oft-hidden historical figure Robert Smalls of South Carolina.

Robert Smalls was the first black man elected to U.S. Congress during Reconstruction. He was born into slavery in 1839 in Beaufort, S.C., and started his remarkable, implausible journey to national prominence by daring to escape slavery during the Civil War with his family. 

Smalls, like many other enslaved peoples, was made to work for the Confederate forces during the Civil War. Menial labor such as grave digging, cooking, digging trenches, etc. were the most common jobs, but some enslaved peoples were used in skilled labor positions, such as Smalls, who could navigate the waters in and around Charleston, so was used to guide transport ships for the Confederate Navy.

On May 13, 1862, Smalls convinced several other enslaved people to help him commandeer a Confederate transport ship, the CSS Planter, in Charleston harbor. Smalls sailed from Confederate-controlled waters to the U.S. blockade.

By doing so, not only did he gain freedom for himself, several enslaved peoples and members of his family, his example of cunning and bravery helped convince President Abraham Lincoln to accept black soldiers into the U.S. Army and Navy. Check out PBS video about this event below:

Smalls became Captain of the same boat for the Union Navy and helped free enslaved peoples as he fought and outwitted the Confederate Navy several more times during the duration of the War. After the South surrendered, Smalls returned to Beaufort, S.C. and purchased his master’s house, which was seized by the Union in 1863. His master sued to get it back, but lost in court to Smalls. Continue reading “HISTORY: Meet Robert Smalls, Boat Captain for Union Navy who Escaped Slavery and Became 1st African-American Elected to U.S. Congress”

Tyler Perry to Build Compound for Displaced Women, Children and LGBTQ Youth at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta

 

Filmmaker and entrepreneur Tyler Perry told Gayle King on CBS This Morning this week that his eponymous film studio in Atlanta will soon provide a safe haven for homeless women, displaced LGBTQ youth, and sex trafficking victims.

Perry is the first African American man to own a major movie studio, a 330-acre property that was once a Confederate Army base. But he is most excited about the aspect of helping those in need. “You know, the studio’s gonna be what it is,” Perry said.

“I’ll tell you what I’m most excited about next is pulling this next phase off, is building a compound for trafficked women, girls, homeless women, LGBTQ youth who are put out and displaced … somewhere on these 330 acres, where they’re trained in the business and they become self-sufficient.”

“They live in nice apartments. There’s day care. There’s all of these wonderful things that allows them to reenter society. And then pay it forward again,” Perry continued. “So that’s what I hope to do soon.”

The land for Tyler Perry Studios was acquired by Perry in 2015 and is located on the historic grounds of the former Fort McPherson army base in Atlanta, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“Think about the poetic justice in that,” Perry said. “The Confederate Army is fighting to keep Negroes enslaved in America, fighting, strategy, planning on this very ground. And now this very ground is owned by me.”

The major motion picture studio includes 40 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, 12 purpose-built sound stages named after African-American luminaries such as Oprah Winfrey, Diahann Carroll, and Harry Belafonte, 200 acres of green space, and a diverse backlot.

To read more: https://www.blackenterprise.com/tyler-perry-studios/

R.I.P. Diahann Carroll, 84, Groundbreaking Actress and Tony Award Winner

 

Diahann Carroll (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

According to the Los Angeles Times, Diahann Carroll, star of stage and screen who changed the course of television history as the first African American woman to star in a TV series (1968’s ground-breaking sitcom “Julia”) and to win a lead actress Tony Award, has passed away. She was 84.

The Oscar-nominated actress and breast cancer survivor, who also starred in “Paris Blues” with Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, primetime soap “Dynasty” and “White Collar,” died of cancer, her daughter Suzanne Kay said Friday.

Born Carol Diahann Johnson in 1935 in the Bronx, Carroll moved to Harlem with her parents at a young age. With their support, she enrolled in dance, singing and modeling classes and attended Music and Art High School with Billy Dee Williams, who would later costar with her in “Dynasty.” By 15, Carroll was modeling for Ebony, and by 18 she got her big singing break after winning the televised talent show “Chance of a Lifetime” in 1954.

Carroll debuted as an actress in 1954’s Oscar-nominated adaptation of “Carmen Jones,” a retelling of the Bizet opera with an all-black cast alongside Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte and Pearl Bailey. In 1959, she headlined the musical “Porgy and Bess” with Dandridge, Sidney Poitier and Sammy Davis Jr.

Carroll was nominated for a lead-actress Oscar for her turn as a single mother in the 1974 comedy “Claudine” opposite James Earl Jones, and earned a Tony Award in 1962 for Richard Rodgers’ “No Strings.”

In the late 1960s, Carroll was cast in “Julia,” the enormously successful NBC sitcom that featured her as a war-widowed nurse raising a son.

Carroll won a Golden Globe for female TV star and a nomination for best TV show, among other nods. She also earned a lead actress in a comedy Emmy nomination in 1969. Because the show was sponsored by toymaker Mattel, she served as the model for one of the first black Barbie dolls and found her likeness plastered on a variety of merchandise, including lunch boxes and coloring books.

To read more: https://www.latimes.com/obituaries/story/2019-10-04/diahann-carroll-dead

 

R.I.P. Acclaimed Author Toni Morrison, 88, Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize Winner

Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Toni Morrison, who wrote the acclaimed novels “Beloved,” ”Song of Solomon,” “The Bluest Eye,” “Jazz,” and “Sula” among other works, has passed away at age 88.

According to yahoo.com, publisher Alfred A. Knopf announced that Morrison died Monday night at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Morrison’s family issued a statement through Knopf saying she died after a brief illness.

“Toni Morrison passed away peacefully last night surrounded by family and friends,” the family announced. “The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing.”

“Her writing was not just beautiful but meaningful — a challenge to our conscience and a call to greater empathy,” Obama wrote Tuesday on his Facebook page. “She was as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page.”

“Narrative has never been merely entertainment for me,” she said in her Nobel lecture. “It is, I believe, one of the principal ways in which we absorb knowledge.”

The second of four children of a welder and a domestic worker, Morrison was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, a steel town outside of Cleveland. She was encouraged by her parents to read and to think, and was unimpressed by the white kids in her community.

Recalling how she felt like an “aristocrat,” Morrison believed she was smarter and took it for granted she was wiser. She was an honors student in high school, and attended Howard University because she dreamed of life spent among black intellectuals.

National Trust for Historic Preservation Announces Crowdfunding Campaign to Help Restore Nina Simone’s Childhood Home (WATCH)

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, through its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, announced a crowdfunding campaign to support the restoration and preservation of Nina Simone’s childhood home in Tryon, NC.

This campaign, supported by artists, actors, and musicians including John Legend, will raise funds integral to the exterior restoration of the home where the celebrated singer, pianist and Civil Rights icon’s life began. The home, which has fallen into disrepair requiring urgent revitalization, was designated a National Treasure in June of 2018.

“Spaces devoted to the history and legacy of people of color, especially women of color, are far too few in America today,” said John Legend. “Preserving places like the Nina Simone childhood home will help keep her powerful story alive. This campaign pays tribute to Nina Simone’s unapologetic pursuit of musical, personal, and political freedom and I am proud to be a part of it.”

The National Trust’s crowdfunding campaign will run on IndieGoGo, beginning today, giving the public an opportunity to make donations to this effort, and to purchase newly designed Nina Simone-inspired merchandise including t-shirts, artist prints, pins, and postcards with artwork by Dare Coulter — a North Carolina-based artist working to create positive imagery of people of color. The campaign will also include the option to acquire additional merch donated by musicians including Talib Kweli and actors Mahershala Ali and Issa Rae.

“Our culture is embodied in old places and the history and stories they keep,” said Brent Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “This modest home in Tryon, North Carolina embodies the story of a young black girl who transcended the constraints placed on her in the Jim Crow south, to become the voice of the Civil Rights Movement. Nina Simone’s childhood home provides an important lens for examining the contours of her life, and through its preservation, we hope to celebrate and cement her legacy in our American narrative.”

In 1933, Eunice Waymon, aka Nina Simone, was born in Tryon, North Carolina. It was in this home that Simone first taught herself the piano at the age of three, performed in public for the first time at the neighborhood church where her mother preached, and where she experienced the constraints placed on African Americans in the rural Jim Crow South. This home would become the inspiration of some of her most influential music and political activism, including songs such as “Mississippi Goddam” and “Four Women.”

In recent years, the three-room, 660-square foot clapboard pier and beam house had fallen in disrepair. The vacant property was put on the market in 2016. Alarmed by the condition of the home and the risk of losing this connection to Nina Simone entirely, four African American visual artists—conceptual artist and painter Adam Pendleton, the sculptor and painter Rashid Johnson, the collagist and filmmaker Ellen Gallagher, and the abstract painter Julie Mehretu—purchased the property in 2017.

“When three fellow artists and I purchased Nina Simone’s childhood home in 2017, we did so with the desire that the site be transformed into a piece of living history, “ said artist Adam Pendleton. “This space, so integral to Nina Simone’s music and activism, can serve to carry forward her legacy and inspire future artists and musicians.”

Nina Simone’s career spanned multiple genres, four decades, several continents, and earned 15 Grammy nominations. Her songs have been professionally sampled and covered more than 500 times.

This week, the National Trust will be bringing the Nina Simone Crowdfunding campaign to the 25th annual Essence Festival, where attendees can claim exclusive perks and learn more about this National Treasure.