NBA Legend Isiah Thomas Seeks to Increase Celebrities’ Support of HBCUs with “Lift Every Voice” Program

Isiah Thomas (photo via freep.com)

by jbhe.com

Isiah Thomas, a former star in the National Basketball Association, is partnering with Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens to encourage athletes, entertainers, and other successful people to support HBCUs. According to a statement released by the university, the new program is “intended to inspire successful athletes, entertainers and other influential partners to re-commit, embrace and support historically Black colleges and universities.”

This program will be called “Lift Ev’ry Voice.” This refers to the song “Life Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” which is commonly referred to as the “Black National Anthem.” James Weldon Johnson wrote the song originally as a poem and had his brother John Rosamond Johnson set it to music. He was a composer and music professor at what was then Florida Baptist Academy. That educational institution is now known as Florida Memorial University.

Thomas played two years of college basketball for Indiana University before entering the NBA draft. He played for 13 years  for the Detroit Pistons. Thomas completed his degree from Indiana University during the Pistons’ offseasons and later earned his master’s degree in education from the University of California Berkeley.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/09/nba-legend-isiah-thomas-seeks-to-increase-celebrities-support-of-hbcus/

“Just Do It”: Nike Stock Closes at an All-Time High in Aftermath of Colin Kaepernick Ad Campaign

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by Ny Magee via eurweb.com

When Nike selected Colin Kaepernick to be the face of its “Just Do It” 30th-anniversary ad campaign, one analyst noted that the move proved the company knows its customer, and they would boost sales.

Nearly two weeks after the ad provoked calls for boycotts, shares hit an all-time high, closing at $83.47 Thursday — an all-time high for the company.

According to a report from Bloomberg, Nike had previously faced a dip in its stock price immediately after its Kaepernick announcement, dropping nearly 3 percent in the next day of trading at the New York Stock Exchange. That fall has since been made up and more, per Yahoo.

Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ‘Just do it’ campaign is a two-minute video featuring the former 49er narrating stories of athletes who have beaten the odds, ending with the words: “It’s only crazy until you do it,” then changing to “Just do it.”

Pushback came from many who were outraged by the ad and planned boycotts: some burned their Nike gear and one Louisiana mayor tried to ban the brand from being sold at public facilities before pulling back. Donald Trump tweeted that Nike was getting “absolutely killed with anger and boycotts.”

As it turns out, a spike in sales and brand awareness was worth the backlash, and so far it seems Nike is being proven right by betting on Kaepernick.

Source: https://www.eurweb.com/2018/09/nike-stock-closes-at-an-all-time-high-in-aftermath-of-colin-kaepernick-ad-campaign/

Angela Bassett and Band of Vices Gallery Curate Afro-Surrealist Art Show by Chelle Barbour

Angela Bassett (Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

The ‘Black Panther’ star co-curates a new exhibition at Band of Vices gallery featuring Afro-Surrealist collages by artist Chelle Barbour.

by Jordan Riefe via hollywoodreporter.com

Artist Chelle Barbour’s first solo show, You Is Pretty!, at Band of Vices gallery in the West Adams district of L.A. through Oct. 13, is a photo montage series examining portrayals of African-American women in media. And if you look closely at the curator credits, one very famous name jumps out: Angela Bassett.

Longtime friend and fan of gallerist Terrell Tilford, Bassett, who serves as co-curator of Barbour’s show, frequented his gallery throughout the aughts when it was called Tilford Art Group. After closing in 2010, he rebranded as Band of Vices in 2015 and reached out to Bassett about playing a larger part. “I’ve been a lover of art for many, many years, so it was just a new venture for me. And when he introduced me to Chelle’s work, I was excited about it as well, about this young artist that I heretofore wasn’t familiar with but found her work to be really strong and really striking in many ways,” Bassett explains.

Barbour’s practice includes painting, digital video, photography, writing and curating. She collaborated on projects with Black Lives Matter at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in 2016; and has participated in a number of group shows. But to have Bassett play a part in her first solo show is just too much, she quips.

artwork by Chelle Barbour

“When I saw her name as a curator, I was like, ‘What?!?” Barbour explains. “I have been a fan of hers for years. I’m pleased that she likes the work, that she’s seen it. Her endorsement just leaves me speechless.”

With You Is Pretty!, Barbour poses questions about agency and beauty by layering visual metaphors over imagery of black women to evoke what writer and essayist Amiri Baraka called Afro-Surrealism. The women in her collages are alluring and confident, the opposite of more common depictions emphasizing a lack of economic value, or worse, irrelevance. By incorporating motifs like butterflies, flower petals and industrial machinery, she conjures archetypes of strength and potential.

“Chelle’s work explores that notion of the other or the alien or the marginalization, but she uses the black woman as her muse,” offers Bassett. “When I, as an artist, look out into the world, I find those voices, whether it be art or music or narration, that celebrate our beauty, our being different, as a strength, as something positive.”

Read more: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/angela-bassett-curating-afro-surrealist-art-show-celebrating-60th-birthday-a-list-friends-1140376

Michelle Obama Announces 10-City Book Tour for “Becoming”

by Tonya Pendleton via blackamericaweb.com

NEW YORK (AP) — Michelle Obama will visit 10 cities to promote her memoir “Becoming,” a tour featuring arenas and other performing centers to accommodate crowds far too big for any bookstore.

The former first lady will begin at the United Center in her native Chicago on Nov. 13, the book’s release date. She will finish at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Dec. 17, Live Nation and the Crown Publishing Group announced Wednesday. In between, appearances will include Barclays Center in New York City, the Pepsi Center Arena in Denver and The Forum in Los Angeles.

Obama and former President Barack Obama each have been working on memoirs, for which they negotiated a multimillion dollar deal with Crown. No date has been set for his book, although it’s expected in 2019.

You will have to register via the link below between now and September 18, to buy tickets that go on sale on September 21st. VIP packages and Meet and Greet tickets will be available as well.

Tour Dates – Tickets available HERE. 

11/13 – Chicago, IL @ United Center

11/15 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum

11/17 – Washington, DC @ Capital One Arena

11/24 – Boston, MA @ TD Garden

11/29 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center

12/1 – Brooklyn, NY @ Barclays Center

12/11 – Detroit, MI @ Little Caesars Arena

12/13 – Denver, CO @ Pepsi Center Arena

12/14 – San Jose, CA @ SAP Center

12/17 – Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center

Source: https://blackamericaweb.com/2018/09/12/michelle-obama-announces-10-city-book-tour/

John Bunn, Wrongfully Incarcerated for 17 Years, Says Learning to Read Saved Him – Now He Builds Libraries in Prisons

John Bunn leads a class at Ember Charter School in Brooklyn.
John Bunn leads a class at Ember Charter School in Brooklyn. (photo via cnn.com)

by Alexandra King via cnn.com

The first book John Bunn fell in love with, curled up in his cell at a maximum-security prison in upstate New York, was Sister Souljah‘s novel “The Coldest Winter Ever.”

In the book, a maternal woman advocates for the improvement of her black community in Brooklyn as she watches the people she loves suffer from the consequences of incarceration, violence and a seemingly endless cycle of poverty. “I related to that book on so many levels,” Bunn says.

Bunn knows more than most what it’s like to face injustice. Arrested and imprisoned as an adolescent in New York City, he spent 17 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit and a further decade on parole, fighting for his exoneration. In that time, he battled, among others, the courts, police investigators, PTSD and the challenges of illiteracy. He was 16 before he could read and write.

Today Bunn is 41 and a free man at last, mentoring at-risk young people and advocating for the power of reading through his own program that brings books to prisons.

In many ways, his own story sounds straight out of a Sister Souljah book. Except that Bunn, who survived years of wrongful incarceration with his humanity intact, is determined to write the next chapter himself.

The arrest

Bunn’s ordeal began on August 14, 1991, when he was sitting in the kitchen of his mother’s apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. It was 90 degrees in the shade and the AC was broken. Outside he could hear hip-hop music playing from passing cars and the thwack of basketballs on pavement as kids made their way to the courts. Bunn’s mother, Maureen, was making pancakes, his two-year-old sister, India, cooing in her high chair.

Bunn, 14 years old and out of school for the summer, was ready for a typical day of playing ball and demonstrating his famous back flips in and around the four-block radius between the apartment on Ralph Street (his mom) and the house on St Marks (his grandma). Those four blocks, snug between the love of the two women who raised him, were his whole world.

John Bunn, 14, at home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
John Bunn, 14, at home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

But then, a bang on the door. It was the police. “They wanted to take me down to the police station for questioning,” Bunn recalls now, sitting in that same small apartment festooned with family photos, nearly three decades later. He was taken to Brooklyn’s 77th precinct, put in a room and handcuffed to a pole.

“The interrogation was led by a detective by the name of Louis Scarcella. And he was threatening me, telling me that I was never coming home if I wouldn’t tell him what he wanted to know. He also told me that they already had beat up my co-defendant, that they had slammed his head into a wall and they already had him,” he recalls.

The co-defendant? A 17-year-old Brooklyn boy named Rosean Hargrave. Bunn knew Hargrave “from the block,” although he and the older boy were never more than acquaintances. But, as he soon found out, they were both now suspected of the same crime:

The killing of an off-duty Rikers Island corrections officer named Rolando Neischer. “I kept telling them, “No, I didn’t have any knowledge of it,” Bunn recalls. But Detective Scarcella, who worked in the Brooklyn North homicide unit for years before retiring in 1999, told the young John he did not believe him.

Bunn’s eyes fill with tears as he describes the moment he was placed in a police lineup with “grown men.” As an adult, Bunn, a slight man with a gentle disposition and a shy smile, stands only 5 feet 6 inches. At 14, he estimates he was no taller than 5-foot-2. He was so much smaller than the adults he was lined up with that the detectives had to improvise. They brought in stools so the lineup could be done sitting down. Bunn did what he was told. He sat down and held up a number.

A couple of minutes later, Scarcella came back into the room. “He told me, ‘It was my lucky day,’ that I got picked,” Bunn says, grimacing. “Ever since then, I’ve been fighting to prove my innocence,” he says, wiping his face and adjusting his hat.

On the front of his baseball cap, in bold white letters, are the words, “WRONGFULLY CONVICTED. On the side, “VICTIMS OF DETECTIVE LOUIS SCARCELLA.”

The hat, he adds, “speaks for itself.” Continue reading “John Bunn, Wrongfully Incarcerated for 17 Years, Says Learning to Read Saved Him – Now He Builds Libraries in Prisons”

Tiffany Haddish, Katt Williams, Samira Wiley and Ron Cephas Jones Sweep Emmy Guest Actor Categories

Emmy Award winner Samira Wiley (photo via Variety.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to Variety.com, all four winners in the guest actor categories were black for the first time in Television Academy Awards history.

Presented tonight at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony, Tiffany Haddish won best guest actress in a comedy for hosting “Saturday Night Live,” Samira Wiley won best guest actress in a drama for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Ron Cephas Jones won best guest actor in a drama for “This Is Us,” and Katt Williams won best guest actor in a comedy for “Atlanta.”

Comedians Williams and Haddish won in their first year being nominated, while both Jones and Wiley had been nominated previously.

As Variety noted when this year’s Emmy nominees were announced, 36 actors of color were nominated this for the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, up 20% from the year before, amid a larger push in the entertainment industry for diversity and inclusion in television, in front of and behind the camera.

Michael B. Jordan Teams With Warner Bros. to Launch Diversity and Inclusion Policy for All Future WarnerMedia Productions

Michael B. Jordan will star in “Just Mercy.” (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

WarnerMedia, the parent company of Hollywood studio Warner Bros., announced Wednesday a company-wide policy aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera. The initiative, established in partnership with actor Michael B. Jordan, is to apply to all productions going forward, beginning with Jordan’s “Just Mercy.”

“The WarnerMedia family has introduced an approach that accomplishes our shared objectives, and I applaud them for taking this enormous step forward,” Jordan said in a statement. “I’m proud that our film, ‘Just Mercy,’ will be the first to formally represent the future we have been working toward, together. This is a legacy-bearing moment.”

Since April Reign and #OscarsSoWhite took over headlines beginning in 2014, the entertainment industry has openly grappled with calls for more accurate and representative portrayals of more communities.

But it was, for many, Frances McDormand’s fiery speech at the 2018 Academy Awards ceremony (she won an Oscar for her lead role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) highlighting the concept of inclusion riders that drove some people to action.

(First coined by Stacy Smith, director of USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, an inclusion rider is a provision that can be placed in stars’ contracts to mandate equity in casting and beyond.)

“Inclusivity has always been a no-brainer for me, especially as a black man in this business,” Jordan said. “[But] it wasn’t until Frances McDormand spoke the two words that set the industry on fire — inclusion rider — that I realized we could standardize this practice. It allowed me to formally pledge my production company, Outlier Society, to a way of doing business.”

WarnerMedia’s policy, which will also apply to HBO and Turner, focuses on having women, people of color, members of LGBTQ communities, folks with disabilities and other underrepresented groups in greater numbers in front of and behind the camera.

Along with the help of his agent, Phillip Sun at WME, Jordan worked with WarnerMedia to launch the policy with “Just Mercy.” Jordan is also an executive producer on the film, which is set to begin production in Atlanta this week.

“I’m proud that Warner Bros., and our sister companies HBO and Turner, are willing to state unequivocally that this is where we stand on diversity and inclusion,” Kevin Tsujihara, Warner Bros.’ chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

“Our policy commits us to taking concrete action to further our goals, to measure the outcomes and to share the results publicly,” he added. “I’m also thrilled that we were able to work with Michael B. Jordan to craft a meaningful policy and framework that will apply to all of our productions, across all of our divisions, going forward.”

Though the policy as written does not include specifics, the company does commit to “in the early stages of the production process, [engaging] with our writers, producers and directors to create a plan for implementing this commitment to diversity and inclusion on our projects, with the goal of providing opportunities for individuals from under-represented groups at all levels.”

“And, we will issue an annual report on our progress,” it said.

“Just Mercy” is a legal drama about a gifted young lawyer’s defense of the most vulnerable in this country and his fight for equal justice in a flawed legal system. It’s based on the book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-warner-bros-michael-b-jordan-20180905-story.html

Cicely Tyson, 93, Will Finally Receive an Academy Award

Cicely Tyson (photo via the wrap.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to vanityfair.com, legendary actor Cicely Tyson is finally getting an Oscar. The 93-year-old, who was nominated for an Academy Award once before in 1973 for her performance in Sounder, has been announced as one of the recipients of this year’s Honorary Oscars. She’ll be recognized alongside publicist Marvin Levy and composer Lalo Schifrin. In addition, producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will be given the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. The Governors Awards will take place on November 18.

“Choosing the honorees for its awards each year is the happiest of all the Board of Governors’ work,” Academy President John Bailey said in a statement. “And this year, its selection of five iconic artists was made with universal acclaim by the Academy’s 54 spirited governors.”

Tyson, the sole performer among the honorees, has been working in film and television since her career kicked off over six decades ago in 1957, quickly breaking boundaries with performances in projects such as The River Niger, A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But A SandwichFried Green Tomatoes, The Help, the acclaimed miniseries Roots, and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman—a TV movie that would go on to inspire an aspiring thespian named Viola Davis. Davis and Tyson would later work together on How to Get Away with Murder. The awards Tyson has won already run the gamut: a Tony, multiple Emmys, and even a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Like the rest of her fellow awardees, this will be the first Oscar for Tyson.

Tyson was last seen publicly at the funeral of Aretha Franklin, where she performed a spoken wordadaptation of the Paul Laurence Dunbar poem “When Malindy Sings” called “When Aretha Sings.” To see it, click below:

Tiffanye Wesley Becomes Northern Virginia’s 1st African-American Female Battalion Chief

Tiffanye Wesley (Photo courtesy Arlington Fire Department)

via wtop.com

Almost 24 years after she answered a radio ad seeking to recruit new firefighters, Tiffanye Wesley has been selected as Arlington, VA’s southern battalion chief.

The county’s fire department tapped her for the post Sunday (Sept. 2), making her both Arlington and Northern Virginia’s first African-American female battalion chief.

There are two battalions in the Arlington Fire Department, divided between north and south, with each encompassing five stations. Wesley is chief of the southern battalion, coordinating operations not only between the five stations but with partner agencies across Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax.

“If there is a fire call, I’m in charge of that call,” said Wesley. “My job is to ensure everyone goes home safely.”

When Wesley first joined the Arlington Fire Department, she said she walked in the door with no expectations. She’d never known any firefighters or been into a fire house, and said she failed the physical ability tests twice, but she kept training and going back to try again.

Before being selected as battalion chief, Wesley was commander of the Crystal City station, Arlington’s largest and one of its busiest stations. Wesley stepped into the battalion chief role temporarily in 2016, which she said gave her an opportunity to get to know the other stations in the battalion.

“Every station is different,” said Wesley. “My goal is to go sit down with the officers and let them know up front what [my] expectations are and to give me theirs. I believe, as long as you set up right up front what you expect, it makes it easier. The problem comes in when you don’t know what your leader expects, then you tend to fall back and do whatever you want to do.”

Currently, Wesley says the department is also awaiting news of who will replace Fire Chief James Bonzano.

“Right now, the department is looking for a new fire chief,” said Wesley. “Everyone is in a holding pattern, we’re not sure who that person will be, whether they’re from inside the department or someone totally new, we will have to learn that person; their ideals and expectations.”

As Wesley settles into her new role as battalion chief, she says the outpouring of support from friends and followers of her active social media accounts has been overwhelming. Among the most interesting was a call from a fire chief in Nigeria congratulating her on the promotion.

“My promotion was not just for me, it’s for everyone who has watched me, who has been sitting back and passed over and doubted their own self, whose doubted it would ever happen,” said Wesley. “It’s all for those people. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t give up.”

Source: https://wtop.com/arlington/2018/09/acfd-taps-northern-virginias-1st-african-american-female-battalion-chief/

Issa Rae’s ‘Insecure’ and Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Ballers’ Series Both Renewed by HBO

Insecure
(CREDIT: COURTESY OF HBO)

by Daniel Holloway via Variety.com

HBO has renewed “Insecure” for a fourth season and fellow comedy series “Ballers” for a fifth season.

The renewals come nearly a month after the two series returned for new seasons Aug. 12 on HBO and its digital platforms.

Created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore, “Insecure” follows the friendship of two women dealing with their own real-life flaws while attempting to navigate different worlds and cope with an endless series of uncomfortable everyday experiences. Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, Lisa Joyce, Natasha Rothwell, Amanda Seales and Y’lan Noel star. Executive producers are Rae, Prentice Penny, Melina Matsoukas, Michael Rotenberg, Dave Becky, Jonathan Berry, Jim Kleverweis and Dayna Lynne North.

Starring Dwayne Johnson and created by Stephen Levinson, “Ballers” explores the world of pro football through a group of past and present players striving to stay in the game. Johnson plays ex-superstar Spencer Strasmore, who has reinvented himself as a financial manager for today’s players. Other cast members include John David Washington, Rob Corddry, Omar Benson Miller, Donovan Carter, Troy Garity, London Brown and Brittany S. Hall. Levinson, Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, Peter Berg, Rob Weiss, Denis Biggs, Karyn McCarthy and Julian Farino serve as executive producers for the series.

Source: https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/insecure-ballers-1202929924/