Category: Videos

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.

Pharrell Surprises 114 College-Bound High School Graduates with Summer Internships (WATCH)

According to becauseofthemwecan.com, Pharrell Williams offered seniors at Harlem’s Promise Academy internships for the summer following their college freshman year.

“So let me be clear, every member of the 2019 graduating class, is guaranteed an internship waiting for them, you, next summer,” Pharrell said in a video posted by Harlem’s Children’s Zone.

That’s 114 internships. 114 opportunities. 114 lives changed.

“It’s one thing to be ‘woke,’ another to be awake, leaned in and engaged,” said Pharrell during his keynote address.

read more via Pharrell Surprises 114 College Bound High School Graduates with Intern – BOTWC

“True Justice” Documentary about Attorney Bryan Stevenson, Founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, to Premiere on HBO

On June 26, HBO will premiere True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equalitya documentary about Alabama public interest attorney Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and best-selling author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Stevenson has advocated on behalf of the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned, and seeks daily to eradicate racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.

Told primarily in his own words, True Justice shares Stevenson’s experience with a criminal justice system that, he asserts, “treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent.” The burden of facing this system is explored in candid interviews with associates, close family members and clients.

The documentary chronicles Stevenson’s struggle to create greater fairness in the system and shows how racial injustice emerged, evolved and continues to threaten the country, challenging viewers to confront it.

According to hbo.com, the film covers Stevenson’s work in Alabama, birthplace of the civil rights movement and home to the Equal Justice Initiative, as well as the early influences that drove him to become an advocate for the poor and the incarcerated. As a young lawyer in the 1980s, he witnessed firsthand how courts unfairly applied the death penalty based on race and how the Supreme Court ultimately declared that racial bias in the administration of the death penalty was “inevitable.”

Tracing the trajectory of the Court since the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which ruled that African Americans are not citizens of the U.S., True Justice shows how the Court has long sanctioned inequality, oppression and violence. Illuminating the power of memory in cultural change, the film instills hope of a brighter American future through the insights of this pioneer.

The film also documents the monumental opening one year ago, on April 26, 2018, of the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and its National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the country’s only lynching memorial, which is dedicated to the more than 4,400 African American victims of lynching.

These sites are part of the EJI’s nationwide effort to engage in a truth and reconciliation process around this country’s legacy of Native American genocide, slavery, lynching and racial segregation. As part of the campaign, Stevenson and the EJI are also working with communities to recognize lynching victims by collecting soil from lynching sites and erecting historical markers.

True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality is a co-production of HBO and Kunhardt Films; produced and directed by Peter Kunhardt, George Kunhardt and Teddy Kunhardt; executive produced by Trey Ellis and Peter Kunhardt; edited and produced by Maya Mumma, ACE. For HBO: executive produced by Jacqueline Glover, Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller.

Ta-Nehisi Coates Makes Compelling Case for Reparations on Capitol Hill (WATCH)

In response to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s recent dismissal of reparations as not “a good idea” for the U.S. government to consider giving descendants of enslaved people, especially since no one currently alive “is responsible,” “Between the World and Me” author Ta-Nehisi Coates told lawmakers at a House committee hearing that the debate over reparations is “a dilemma of inheritance.”

Coates told lawmakers that many of the inequalities created by centuries of slavery persist today, including in the form of economic and health disparities. Watch Coates above read his 2014 “The Case for Reparations” essay here, read some of his testimony below:

The method of cultivating this asset was neither gentle cajoling nor persuasion, but torture, rape, and child trafficking. Enslavement reigned for 250 years on these shores. When it ended, this country could have extended its hallowed principles — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — to all, regardless of color. But America had other principles in mind. And so, for a century after the Civil War, black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror, a campaign that extended well into the lifetime of Majority Leader McConnell.

It is tempting to divorce this modern campaign of terror, of plunder, from enslavement, but the logic of enslavement, of white supremacy, respects no such borders, and the god of bondage was lustful and begat many heirs. Coup d’états and convict leasing. Vagrancy laws and debt peonage. Redlining and racist G.I. bills. Poll taxes and state-sponsored terrorism.

We grant that Mr. McConnell was not alive for Appomattox. But he was alive for the electrocution of George Stinney. He was alive for the blinding of Isaac Woodard. He was alive to witness kleptocracy in his native Alabama and a regime premised on electoral theft. Majority Leader McConnell cited civil rights legislation yesterday, as well he should, because he was alive to witness the harassment, jailing, and betrayal of those responsible for that legislation by a government sworn to protect them. He was alive for the redlining of Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion. Victims of that plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they’d love a word with the majority leader.

What they know, what this committee must know, is that while emancipation deadbolted the door against the bandits of America, Jim Crow wedged the windows wide open. And that is the thing about Senator McConnell’s “something”: It was 150 years ago. And it was right now.

The typical black family in this country has one-tenth the wealth of the typical white family. Black women die in childbirth at four times the rate of white women. And there is, of course, the shame of this land of the free boasting the largest prison population on the planet, of which the descendants of the enslaved make up the largest share.

Non-Verbal High School Student Ahmed Ali Makes History by Giving Graduation Speech With Voice Tech (WATCH)

The Good News Network recently highlighted the story of Ahmed Ali, 21, a non-verbal student who has been attending the Minneapolis Public School system’s Transitions Plus Program for the last three years.

Ali was chosen to give a commencement address this year, making history with it by using speech software he helped develop with a speech pathologist to deliver words he composed on his own to his appreciative audience.

I am going to give free wisdom to the graduates… you will achieve a lot of amazing things with or without disabilities. Without a doubt. Secondly, life is basically a marathon. As human beings, we are running a relay race,” said Ali via his device. “The track is your life. Every time you achieve something you pass the baton to the next person. Guess who you are passing the baton to? It’s you. Each stage of your life you are passing it to a new you. It’s not the end of the line for you, but it’s a new you in our beautiful world.

KARE11 posted video of highlights from Ali’s software-delivered speech. Watch below:

DOCUMENTARY: “Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project” Tells Story of Marion Stokes, Activist and Archivist Who Single-Handedly Preserved Over 30 Years of TV History

Marion Stokes privately recorded television twenty-four hours a day for over thirty years.

Stokes is the subject of Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, a new documentary that highlights her work as an archivist, but paints a complex picture of a woman who was brushed off as an eccentric for most of her life. For thirty-plus years, multiple tapes (sometimes as many as eight) would record concurrently across multiple televisions as Stokes personally watched two monitors at once.

Former librarian Stokes, who became independently wealthy through technology and real estate investments, began casually recording television in 1977 and taped a variety of programs, but thought news was especially important.

In 1979 during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, which coincided with the dawn of the 24-hour news cycle, Stokes began recording MSNBC, Fox, CNN, CNBC, and CSPAN around the clock by running as many as eight television recorders at a time. Marion single-handedly built an archive of network, local, and cable news from her Philadelphia home, one tape at a time, recording every major (and trivial) news event until the day she died.

The taping ended on December 14, 2012 while the Sandy Hook massacre played on television as Stokes passed away from lung disease at the age of 83. In between, she recorded on 70,000 VHS tapes, capturing revolutions, lies, wars, triumphs, catastrophes, bloopers, talk shows, and commercials that tell us who we were, and show how television shaped the world of today.

“She was interested in access to information, documenting media, making sure people had the information they needed to make good decisions,” says the film’s director, Matt Wolf.

Stokes was no stranger to television and its role in molding public opinion. An activist archivist, she had been a librarian with the Free Library of Philadelphia for nearly 20 years before being fired in the early 1960s, likely for her work as a Communist party organizer.

From 1968 to 1971, she had co-produced Input, (which itself was recently recovered and digitized) a Sunday-morning talk show airing on the local Philadelphia CBS affiliate, with John S. Stokes Jr., who would later become her husband.

Input brought together academics, community and religious leaders, activists, scientists, and artists to openly discuss social justice issues and other topics of the day. Marion also was engaged in civil rights issues, helping organize buses to the 1963 civil rights march on Washington, among other efforts.

“Our vision is really aligned with Marion’s,” says Roger Macdonald, director of the television archives at the Internet Archive. “It’s really bold and ambitious: universal access to all knowledge.” Marion’s son had contacted the Internet Archive when he was trying to find a home for her tapes in 2013.

Macdonald immediately seized the opportunity. Those tapes were soon donated to the Internet Archive and are still in the process of being organized and digitized.

To read more about Marion Stokes and Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project (https://recorderfilm.com):

https://www.fastcompany.com/3022022/the-incredible-story-of-marion-stokes-who-single-handedly-taped-35-years-of-tv-news

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/marion-stokes-television-news-archive

https://theoutline.com/post/7370/recorder-documentary-marion-stokes-interview-matt-wolf?fbclid=IwAR3eFB6ld4rxYoKnFfEgR19qbBk76OAD1P_Ok2NcgQQeYylgacCKyoIBm0M&zd=3&zi=g25ve4g2

Upcoming screenings of Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project:

Montclair Film Festival
May 8, 12

Maryland Film Festival
May 9, 10

SF DocFest
June 8, 10

MCA Chicago
June 21

Interview with Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project director Matt Wolf, which includes clip from film at 6min mark:

WATCH TRAILER: Charleston Church Shooting Documentary “Emanuel,” Executive Produced by Viola Davis, Steph Curry and Mariska Hartigay, to Hit Theaters June 17 and 19

June 2019 marks the fourth anniversary of the Charleston, South Carolina tragedy at Emanuel A.M.E. Church. The feature-length documentary “EMANUEL,” opens in movie theaters nationwide as a limited release event with Fathom Events on June 17 and 19 only.

The new trailer, released today, gives a glimpse into the emotional documentary that recalls the events of June 17, 2015 and examines how faith, hope and forgiveness healed a devastated community after the heinous church shooting, carried out by white supremacist Dylann Roof.

The film is executive produced by Stephen Curry for Unanimous Media, Viola Davis and Julius Tennon for JuVee Productions, Arbella Studios and Mariska Hargitay, and is directed by Brian Ivie (The Drop Box) and presented by SDG and Fiction Pictures.

For more information on EMANUEL, visit www.emanuelmovie.com. You can also follow the film on social media:

Facebook and Instagram – @emanuelmovie and #emanuelmovie

Kayla Michele and Chisa Egbelu, Founders of Crowdfunding Site PeduL, Work to Change How Students Pay for College

Afrotech.com‘s feature story on Kayla Michele and Chisa Egbelu, Founders of PeduL, a college scholarship crowdfunding platform, is not to be missed. The disparities in this nation’s higher education system have been in the headlines nonstop as of late, so reading about people who have been working to create and expand equity and opportunity for middle and lower-income students is a joy. So is learning of a new way to possibly support struggling college kids.

To quote from Afrotech.com:

Those systemic barriers can’t be magically waved away, but sites like PeduL help to promote equality in education. From helping students raise money to expanding to provide scholarships and different opportunities, PeduL is a useful tool that all college students should be aware of.

“Our government has slowly enabled college to shift from accessible, yet dispensable, commodity to a necessary luxury,” Michele said. “We’re creating the one-stop shop for scholarships to ensure that all students have equal access to quality education — regardless of the resources and networks available to them.”

To check out PeduL, click here.

To read the Afrotech.com story, click here.

Below is video of Kayla, a Rutgers graduate who was inspired in part to create PeduL from what she learned in her university’s Black and Latino tech program:

Winton Hills Academy Students in Cincinnati Win National Contest with Book about Civil Rights Icon Marian Spencer

Congratulations to fourth-grade students Serenity Mills, Janyia New, Aliyana O’Neal and Nakiyah Ray at Winton Hills Academy in Cincinnati!

These ambitious young women  won a national book-writing contest for authoring and illustrating “Marian Spencer: A Light in the Darkness” about Ohio civil rights pioneer Marian Spencer.

To learn more, go to: wcpo.com