“An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones Wins Women’s Prize for Fiction

Author Tayari Jones (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

Author Tayari Jones has won the Women’s Prize for Fiction for her fourth book, An American Marriage (Algonquin Books, 2018)The prize, considered one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world, honors the year’s best novel written in English by a woman of any nationality across the globe.

An American Marriage tells the story of Celestial and Roy, two Black newlyweds whose lives are violently interrupted when Roy is imprisoned for a rape he did not commit.

In addition to An American Marriage, Jones has also authored  Leaving Atlanta, The Untellingand Silver Sparrow

Jones is currently a professor of English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta, is a graduate of Spelman College, and holds master’s degrees from the University of Iowa and Arizona State University.

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.

Tyra Banks aka BanX Launches Mini-Series “Beauty” via Quibi to Promote Body Positivity

Tyra Banks (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

Tyra Banks has announced plans to executive produce and star in a multi-part docu-series called “Beauty,” according to People.

The new show is set to premiere on Quibi, an entertainment platform built for mobile viewing spearheaded by former DreamWorks and Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and launches in April 2020.

According to a press release, “Beauty” aims to “break down barriers” and “challenge traditional notions” of attractiveness, all while serving up a thought-provoking viewer experience.

Banks has always been about supporting non-traditional beauties, such as plus-size models, and she often posts motivational messages on social media.

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In May, Banks announced her decision to go by the name “BanX” during her latest Sports Illustrated cover story. The new moniker signifies her rebirth in the modeling scene after exiting in 2005 and “X-ing out cookie-cutter beauty,” the star told SI.

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:

Creator Aaron McGruder and Sony Animation to Reboot “The Boondocks” TV Series

“The Boondocks” Animated TV Series

According to thewrap.com, Sony Animation announced today that it will be producing a re-boot of the Aaron McGruder comic-strip-turned-TV-series The Boondocks. The show is coming back with McGruder, who exited after season 3 the first go-round, and it will be a “complete re-imagining” of the show for “the modern era.” The news was announced by Sony at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

The Boondocks was a satirical animated series that followed two brothers, Huey and Riley Freeman, as they moved from the inner city to the suburbs known as Woodcrest. Throughout the comic strip and the animated series, The Boondocks blended political and social commentary through a wide range of exaggerated characters from Riley to Uncle Ruckus.

What isn’t known is whether or not the show will return to Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network. Also, it’s not clear whether Academy Award winner Regina King, who voiced both Huey and Riley, will return, though according to blackamericaweb.com, John Witherspoon will reprise his role as Granddad.

Spike Lee’s ‘Do The Right Thing’ Returns to Theaters to Celebrate 30th Anniversary on June 28

According to deadline.comUniversal Pictures plans to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Spike Lee’s groundbreaking and still-topical film Do the Right Thing with a re-mastered 4K restoration that will hit theaters June 28.

In partnership with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and the Criterion Collection, the re-release will include one-week engagements as well as single-day showtimes June 30 at select AMC, Regal Cinemas, Cinemark, and Alamo Drafthouse theaters. There also will be 35mm screenings at select theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin and Brookline, MA.

“When Spike Lee’s revolutionary Do the Right Thing was released by Universal Pictures 30 years ago this June, it ignited a national conversation on race and race relations in America that challenged our assumptions about ourselves and our country and heralded the arrival of a generation-defining filmmaker,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s President of Domestic Theatrical Distribution.

Set during one sweltering summer day on a block of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, the film follows the interactions among neighborhood characters Mookie (Lee), Sal (Danny Aiello), Da Mayor (Ossie Davis), Mother Sister (Ruby Dee), Mister Señor Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson), Tina (Rosie Perez), Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito), Jade (Joie Lee), Pino (John Turturro) and Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn). Tensions rise as demands for a black person’s photo be added to the Italians-only Wall of Fame at Sal’s Pizzeria create heated confrontations that ultimately explode into police-instigated violence.

Public Enemy recorded the film’s anthem “Fight The Power,” which remains an influential hip-hop classic to this day (see video below). Lee earned an Original Screenplay Oscar nomination for the film, and Aiello earned a Supporting Actor nod.  On July 23, the Criterion Collection also will celebrate the 30th anniversary with a Blu-ray/DVD release of a director-approved definitive edition featuring the new 4K restoration.

FOOD: Deep Sea Diver and Vegan Chef Kendall Duffie to Open Deep Sea Vegan Pop-Up Restaurant on June 15 in Nashville

Kendall J. Duffie (photo via deepseavegan.com)

In addition to co-owning entertainment marketing firm D3 Entertainment Group and the Vibe Room recording studio in Nashville with sister Michelle and twin brother Clyde, Kendall Duffie‘s talents also include being a deep sea diver and a vegan chef.

Now, with the encouragement of peers, family and fans like Grammy-winning Gospel legend Yolanda Adams endorsing his delicious vegan creations (see Yolanda Adams’ reaction to Duffie’s cuisine below), Duffie is set to unveil a new dining experience in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee–Deep Sea Vegan.

On June 15, Duffie will launch his Deep Sea Vegan brand with a special pop-up restaurant event to be held at East Nashville’s trendy BE-Hive Vegan Store & Deli, located at 2414 Gallatin Avenue. The BE-Hive will close its regular service at 4 p.m. CT that afternoon, and two hours later, the venue will be transformed into Deep Sea Vegan. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. CT, diners will be treated to some of the tastiest food on the planet.

“I’m not trying to convert people to veganism,” Duffie notes. “But I am trying to educate people about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. And I’m trying to dispel the myth that a vegan diet is not tasty. There are literally thousands of edible plants, with an incredible variety of tastes and textures. And best of all, the food is delicious!”

Duffie started his own journey toward a vegan diet for health reasons. “I had gained a lot of weight, my blood pressure was through the roof and my cholesterol was way too high,” he confesses. “I realized I needed to pursue a healthier lifestyle. I started eating a vegetarian diet, then went vegan. My cholesterol dropped, my blood pressure leveled out, and I lost weight–all very positive things.”

Duffie, a certified advanced deep sea diver, develops his own vegan recipes, many of them replicating the taste and texture of his favorite seafood dishes including such items as his “Deep Crab Burger” and “Deep Sea Fish Sandwich.”

“I’m pretty creative, so I decided to combine my passions–that’s how Deep Sea Vegan was born,” he says. “I decided to make it a pop-up restaurant because I’m a busy guy. I travel a lot for business, so the concept of a pop-up restaurant just made so much sense to me. It avoids the requirement for a fixed, brick ‘n’ mortar establishment, and allows me to be flexible on when and where I want to ‘pop-up.'”

“I look forward to seeing everyone on June 15 for the Nashville launch of Deep Sea Vegan,” says Duffie. “It will set your tastebuds free!”

For more information on Duffie, Deep Sea Vegan, and the Deep Sea Vegan pop-up restaurant in Nashville on June 15, 2019, go to Facebook (deepseavegan), Instagram (@deepseavegan) or the website deepseavegan.com.

Hip Hop Legend Christopher Wallace aka Notorious B.I.G. to be Honored With Street Naming in Brooklyn on June 10

(Image via Strategic Heights Media)

The Christopher Wallace Memorial Foundation will host the official street naming ceremony of Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace Way to celebrate Brooklyn’s Notorious B.I.G., one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time.

Voletta Wallace, Faith Evans, B.I.G.’s children T’Yanna Wallace and Christopher Wallace, representatives of the Christopher Wallace Memorial Foundation, members of the city council, and more will be present for the ceremony. Music will be provided by Hot 97’s DJ Enuff.

WHEN:                 Monday, June 10, 2019, 12-2pm EST

WHERE:               Corner of St. James Place and Fulton Street
                               Brooklyn, NY 11238

Universities Partner to Produce the Official Oral History of Barack Obama’s Presidency

President Barack Obama is photographed during a presidential portrait sitting for an official photo in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza via commons.wikipedia.org)

The Obama Foundation has selected the Columbia Center for Oral History Research to produce the official oral history of Barack Obama’s presidency, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

The project will provide a comprehensive, enduring record of the decisions, actions, and effects of his historic administration. The University of Hawai’i and the University of Chicago will also serve as contributing partners for the project, documenting Obama’s early life in Hawaii and his years in Chicago, respectively.

“Michelle Obama famously observed, ‘You can’t really understand Barack until you understand Hawai’i,’” said University of Hawai’i President David Lassner. “UH and our extraordinary Center for Oral History are looking forward to exploring those early days with those who were part of President Obama’s story.”

“We are pleased to collaborate with Columbia on this exciting project,” said University of Chicago faculty members Adam Green and Jacqueline Stewart in a joint statement. “The stories of Michelle and Barack Obama are intertwined with the story of Chicago and the South Side in particular. We look forward to contributing to that historic narrative, with a focus on how their city helped to shape them as civic leaders.”

Starting this summer and over the next five years, the Obama Presidency Oral History Project will conduct interviews with some 400 people, including senior leaders and policy makers within the Obama administration, as well as elected officials, campaign staff, journalists, and other key figures outside the White House.

The project will also incorporate interviews with individuals representing different dimensions of daily American life, whose perspectives will enable the archive to include how the general public was affected by the Obama administration’s decisions. Additionally, the research team will collect information about Michelle Obama’s work and legacy as First Lady.

“We are honored to document the legacy of President Obama. Our goal is to set a new benchmark for presidential oral histories in terms of the diversity and breadth of narratives assembled and depth of understanding achieved,” said Mary Marshall Clark, director of the Columbia Center for Oral History Research and a project co-investigator. “Central to our project is a commitment to candidly document the stories of key administration alumni and bring them into conversation with the varied experiences of Americans from all walks of life.”

In addition to hosting the project, Columbia has announced the formation of the Obama Presidency Oral History Advisory Board, composed of leading presidential historians, authors, and scholars who can speak to how the Obama administration affected the lives of those inside and outside of Washington D.C.

To read more: https://www.jbhe.com/2019/06/universities-partner-to-produce-the-official-oral-history-of-barack-obamas-presidency/

Sonita Alleyne Elected 1st Black Master at a College of the University of Cambridge in England

Jesus College Master Soniat Alleyne (photo by Damian Paul Daniel via jesus.cam.ac.uk)

Sonita Alleyne was recently elected as master of Jesus College at the University of Cambridge in England, according to jbhe.com. The title of master is the equivalent of dean in the United States.

Alleyne will be the first woman and the first Black person to lead the college, which was established in 1496. She will also be the first Black master at either the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge.

For the 300 years from 1560 to 1860, Jesus College was primarily a training college for Church of England clergy. It experienced major growth in the last half of the nineteenth century due to growing demand for university education from the expanding Victorian professional and middle classes.

On the announcement of her election, Sonita Alleyne response is quoted from the Jesus College web page:

It is an honour to be elected to lead Jesus College and I’m looking forward to becoming part of such an energetic and innovative community. Having met many Fellows, students and staff in recent weeks, I was struck by the positive and forward-looking ethos shared across the College.

“In addition to the outstanding education, the cross-disciplinary work and evident passion for arts, culture and sport I have seen at Jesus is impressive. Supporting the work of the College to widen access and participation to all that it offers promises to be incredibly rewarding. I left Cambridge thirty years ago, but it never left me. I am delighted to be returning.

Alleyne was born in in Bridgetown, Barbados, but grew up in East London. She is the director and founder of the Yes Programme, an online careers information scheme which gives school pupils an insight into how classroom skills translate to real world careers.

Her current non-executive posts include chair of the British Board of Film Classification, director of the Cultural Capital Fund, governor of the Museum of London and member of the Skills for Londoners Business Partnership Members Group – advising the Mayor of London on improving skills provision to meet the capital’s needs.

Previous board roles include the National Employment Panel, BBC Trust, London Skills and Employment Board, chair of the Radio Sector Skills Council, non-executive director of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and member of the Court of Governors at the University of the Arts London.

Alleyne holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Cambridge.