FEATURE: ‘Girls Trip’ Star Tiffany Haddish’s Remarkable Rise

Comedian and actor Tiffany Haddish (photo via theatlantic.com)

by Michael P. Jeffries via theatlantic.com

When comedian Tiffany Haddish was 9, her stepfather tampered with the brakes on her mother’s car, hoping to kill his partner and her four children. Rather than going out with her mom that day, Haddish asked to stay home and look after her younger siblings—sparing her from the horrific accident that left her mother mentally impaired. As the oldest child, Haddish did what she could to help for three years, from tying her mother’s shoes to paying bills, but eventually Haddish and her siblings were placed in foster care.

Haddish used the trauma and tragedy of her upbringing to ignite what is now a blazing comedy career. As a child, the Girls Trip star was teased for being a foster kid, but Haddish has also talked about maintaining a strong sense of self worth in her recent Showtime standup special, She Ready!: From the Hood to Hollywood. “The state of California paid so much money to make sure I don’t die ‘cause they knew I was gonna be special,” Haddish tells her audience. “They knew it. They was like, ‘This one right here, she gonna be a unicorn.’ And they was right. I’m the last black unicorn, bitch!”

Haddish’s ascent in recent years—debuting on NBC’s The Carmichael Show in 2015 and appearing in the 2016 action comedy Keanu and the summer hit Girls Trip—is a testament to her talent and resilience. But her story also offers insight into what it takes for a black woman in comedy to become successful today. Haddish’s rise points to where systemic roadblocks still lie for performers of color, particularly women, when they first enter the business—and how some barriers to entry may be falling as comedy enters a new golden age, with fewer gatekeepers and more platforms for artists to reach their fans.

Even though Girls Trip has a black director and writers, Haddish faced questions about her low profile. Her agent initially told her that studio executives were looking for someone with a bigger name to play her character, Dina. Haddish told her agent to tell them, “I’ve had a name since 1979. Okay? I was born with a name.” In the end, her rare comedic gifts won out, and reviews of Girls Trip regularly singled Haddish out for praise. Continue reading

Artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald to Paint Portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama for Smithsonian

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama (photo via artnews.com)

by  via artnews.com

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. has commissioned Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald to paint Barack and Michelle Obama’s portraits, respectively, the Wall Street Journal reports. Both portraits will be unveiled next year when they are added to the museum’s collection.

Wiley is known for Old Masters–style portraits of contemporary black sitters. He has occasionally discussed the positive impact Barack Obama’s presidency had on artists creating images of non-white sitters. “The reality of Barack Obama being the president of the United States—quite possibly the most powerful nation in the world—means that the image of power is completely new for an entire generation of not only black American kids, but every population group in this nation,” he told BBC News in 2012.

The Baltimore-based Amy Sherald, who paints minimalist pictures of black Americans is less well-known than Wiley. She has had two shows with Monique Meloche Gallery, and next year will have a solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.

Source: Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald to Paint Portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama | ARTnews

Derek Jeter Becomes 1st Black CEO of Major League Baseball Team, the Miami Marlins

Derek Jeter (photo via tvone.tv)

via tvone.tv

Former New York Yankee Derek Jeter has officially become the first African-American CEO of a Major League Baseball team. The 43-year-old, is also part owner of the Miami Marlins, joining only one other African-American in that specific role (Magic Johnson‘s Los Angeles Dodgers).

And if you wonder where the five-time World Series champion stands on athletes kneeling during the national anthem, he’s totally on board, telling the New York Daily News,Everyone should be fine with that. They’re focused so much on the fact that they are kneeling as opposed to what they’re kneeling for. Peaceful protests are fine. You have your right to voice your opinion. As long as it’s a peaceful protest, everyone should be fine with that.”

Source: Derek Jeter Becomes First Black CEO Of Major League Baseball Team, Is ‘Okay’ With Players Kneeling

REVIEW: Why Robin Thede’s “The Rundown” on BET Could Be Late Night’s Next Must-Watch

Comedian and host Robin Thede (photo via vanityfair.com)

by Laura Bradley via vanityfair.com

When Larry Wilmore’s Nightly Show got canceled last year, many fans were understandably frustrated. Wilmore’s was one of only two programs in late night to feature a black host—and at the time, it was the only one with a female head writer. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that Wilmore’s head writer herself, Robin Thede, has moved on to host her own late-night show.

The Rundown with Robin Thede premiered Thursday night on BET, and although it’s got a few kinks to work out—as any new show does—its host has already honed a distinct comedic voice and spirit. And that sensibility gives her program must-watch potential, even in its first week. Thede’s series opened with a tone-setting sketch: Thede spotting an extremely attractive man . . . who is, unfortunately, wearing a Trump/Pence T-shirt. She then embarks on an ill-fated quest to win his attention—first by wearing a Make America Great Again hat, and eventually by getting a Confederate flag tattoo on her bicep. Then she spots his wedding ring and scolds him for wasting her time before turning to her tattoo artist and asking, “Can you turn that into a Kaepernick jersey or something?”

The Rundown is true to its name; it’s a beat-by-beat recap of the week’s news, as curated by Thede and her team. Naturally, their curation yields a different mix of stories from those chosen by the various Jimmies on network TV.In her premiere episode, Thede zoomed her way through several topics, including Eminem’s anti-Trump rap, Jemele Hills’s suspension from ESPN, and a fireman who was dismissed from his predominantly black fire station after he brought a watermelon with a pink bow on it as a gift.

“It’s no surprise that Trump came for Jemele,” Thede said as she wrapped up her opening monologue. “Remember how he attacked Ms. Texas when she criticized him for not calling out the white supremacists in Charlottesville? Of course you don’t, because he didn’t. Trump likes his targets like we like our Magic Johnson theaters: black and loud.” Thede’s show is undeniably guided by her outlook as a black woman, which enables and guides her to tackle topics other programs might ignore.

As the comedian recently told Variety, “I’m going to be able to give a perspective that’s definitely not happening simply because I am a black woman, but I don’t want people to watch just because of that. If that’s the reason you tune in, that’s great, but the reason you’ll stay is because of what I’m saying,” she says. “The jokes will be pointed. The jokes will be sharp.”

Take, for example, this moment during her opening monologue, in which Thede introduced a viral video of one man’s confrontation with local police in California: “Does anyone else feel like they’re watching a magic show happen when white people interact with the cops?” Thede asked. “Well, abra kadabra, here’s a trick you haven’t seen before—and don’t worry, he lives!” The twist? The subject of the video actually was not a white man at all; he was later identified as 22-year-old Yaroub Assad. “He’s brown!” Thede said incredulously. “This cop thought he was letting a white guy work through a temper tantrum, but he was actually proving a great point: cops aren’t afraid of brown people—just brown skin.”

The Rundown could easily shoot to the top of late night’s must-watch list. Its success could come down to how the show uses its digital platform, which will likely attract fans who might not think to turn on BET for their late-night viewing. With a weekly podcast already set to launch Friday, though, it seems Thede and her staff know the game they’re playing—though as of Monday morning, it’s surprisingly difficult to find clips of the show anywhere but BET’s own Web site, which could hinder the show’s growth.

Once the network expands The Rundown’s web presence, though, it seems only a matter of time before a clip from it goes viral—which will go a long way toward establishing this show as the must-watch it looks like it’s going to be.

To read full article, go to: Why Robin Thede’s The Rundown Could Be Late Night’s Next Must-Watch | Vanity Fair

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dawoud Bey, Rhiannon Giddens, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Tyshawn Sorey and Jesmyn Ward Receive 2017 MacArthur “Genius” Grants

2017 MacArthur Fellowship Recipients Dawoud Bey, Rhiannon Giddens, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Tyshawn Sorey and Jesmyn Ward (Photo collage via blavity.com)

via blavity.com

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced the winners of this year’s fellowship, better known as the “genius” grant. 24 fellows were chosen, whose professions range immensely across the board. There are historians and musicians, computer scientists and social activists, writers, and architects.

What they all have in common is that each of the recipients has been selected for having “shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction” — and each will receive a $625,000 award from the foundation “as an investment in their potential,” paid out over five years with no strings attached. This year, there were six black recipients of the amazing award:

1. Njideka Akunyili Crosby, 34, painter living in Los Angeles

“Njideka Akunyili Crosby is visualizing the complexities of globalization and transnational identity in works that layer paint, photographic imagery, prints, and collage elements.”

2.  Dawoud Bey, 63, photographer and educator living in Chicago

“Dawoud Bey is using an expansive approach that creates new spaces of engagement within cultural institutions, making them more meaningful to and representative of the communities in which they are situated.” Continue reading

NBA Legend Michael Jordan Donates $7 Million to Build Medical Clinics in Charlotte, NC

Michael Jordan (photo via huffpost.com)

by Taryn Finley via huffingtonpost.com

Michael Jordan is donating $7 million to build two medical facilities to serve at-risk and underserved communities in Charlotte. The Hornets owner’s donation will fund the Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Clinics, expected to open late 2020.

The facilities will provide affordable access to primary and preventive care ― including behavioral health, physical therapy, social work, oral health and family planning ― to those with little-to-no health care.  “Through my years of working with Novant Health, I have been impressed with their approach and their commitment to the community,” Jordan, who was raised in Wilmington and attended UNC-Chapel Hill, said in a press release. “It is my hope that these clinics will help provide a brighter and healthier future for the children and families they serve.”

Estee Portnoy, a spokeswoman for Jordan, told the Charlotte Observer that he was largely motivated to contribute after a 2014 study found that compared to other big cities in the country, Charlotte’s poor children have the worst chance of making it out of poverty. Over five years, the two clinics are projected to serve nearly 35,000 underserved children and adults, according to the press release.

“This gift will transform the lives of thousands of families and children living in poverty-stricken communities,” Carl Armato, president and CEO of Novant Health, told the Associated Press. “We are thankful to Michael for his generosity. The gift will remove barriers to high-quality health care in some of the most vulnerable communities.”

ESPN reports that this is the former NBA star’s largest philanthropic gift ever. In 2016, Jordan gave $5 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture; he also pledged $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Institute for Community-Police Relations to help “build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement.”

Source: Michael Jordan Donates $7 Million To Build Medical Clinics In Charlotte | HuffPost

Chance The Rapper Partners with Lyft to Raise Funds to Support Chicago Public Schools

Chance the Rapper (photo via chicagotribune.com)

by Tracy Swartz via chicagotribune.com

The ride-share service Lyft announced Tuesday that passengers can now round up their fare to the next dollar and donate the difference to Chance the Rapper’s fund to support Chicago Public Schools. The New Chance Arts and Literature Fund, devoted to creating and expanding Chicago arts education programs, is the first local organization Lyft is supporting through the “round up and donate” feature.

Lyft will automatically round up each fare for passengers who opt in via the “settings” tab on the Lyft app and choose their charity. The American Cancer Society, the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity are among the national organizations that have similar partnerships with Lyft, which is headquartered in San Francisco.

Chance the Rapper, born Chancelor Bennett and raised on the South Side of Chicago, announced the creation of the arts and literature fund in March. He said last month that his organization SocialWorks raised $2.2 million to help 20 Chicago public schools. And though his partnership with Lyft is new, the Grammy winner raps about ride-sharing in his song “All Night,” off last year’s “Coloring Book” project: “You should use your phone, call a Uber/ You a goofy if you think I don’t know you need a Lyft.”

Source: Lyft announces partnership with Chance the Rapper to support CPS – Chicago Tribune