Barry Jenkins’ Production Company PASTEL Signs 1st Look TV Deal with Amazon Studios

Barry Jenkins
Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins (CREDIT: ERIK PENDZICH/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to Variety.com, Academy Award-winning producer/writer/director Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight“) and his PASTEL production banner have landeda first-look television deal at Amazon.

Jenkins is planning to direct the entire limited series “Underground Railroad” at Amazon, based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning novel from 2016. Under the deal, Jenkins will exclusively develop television series for Amazon Studios.

“Barry is clearly a master of groundbreaking, authentically emotional storytelling and we are so proud to have him share that gift with us,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios. “We are incredibly fortunate to have also secured his directorial vision for the entire limited series The Underground Railroad.”

“We at PASTEL are excited to continue our Amazon relationship begun on ‘Underground Railroad’ and look forward to growing that partnership on projects near and beyond,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins’ feature film debut, “Medicine for Melancholy,” was lauded as one of the best films of 2009 by The New York Times. He recently debuted his latest film, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” based on James Baldwin’s novel and starring Regina King and Brian Tyree Henry, at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. The U.S. release in theaters is scheduled for November 30 of this year.

Simone Biles Wins Record 4th All-Around Title at World Championships

Simone Biles competes in the Women’s All-Round Final during day eight of the 2018 FIG Artistic Gymnastics Championships at Aspire Dome on November 1, 2018 in Doha, Qatar. (photo via cnn.com)

by Jill Martin via cnn.com

Simone Biles has won the all-around title at the world championships for the fourth time, the most ever in women’s artistic gymnastics.

Biles, 21, uncharacteristically struggled in the competition Thursday in Doha, Qatar, just days after tweeting she’d put off having a kidney stone removed until after the competition.

But despite a fall on the vault, a fall on the balance beam and stepping out of bounds during her floor exercise routine, Biles still won by 1.693 points — the largest margin of victory of her four titles.

Fellow American Morgan Hurd took bronze, while Mai Murakami of Japan won silver.

In addition to the all-around, Biles, who returned to the sport this summer, led the US this week to team gold. She still can add to her medal haul in the individual vault, uneven bars, beam and floor events.

Source: https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/01/sport/simone-biles-wins-fourth-all-around-title-world-championships-gymnastics/index.html

Betye Saar, 92, Artist Who Helped Spark Black Women’s Movement Has “Betye Saar: Keepin’ It Clean” Exhibit Opening in NY on November 2

Betye Saar – “Supreme Quality” (Photograph: Kris Walters/Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, CA)

by Nadja Sayej via theguardian.com

In 1972, a black cultural center in Berkeley, California, put out a call for artists to help create an exhibit themed around black heroes. One African American contemporary artist, Betye Saar, answered. She created an artwork from a “mammy” doll and armed it with a rifle.

Betye Saar (photo via dailybruin.com)

According to Angela Davis, a Black Panther activist, the piece by Saar, titled “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima,” sparked the black women’s movement. Now, the artist’s legacy is going on view in New York with “Betye Saar: Keepin’ It Clean,” an exhibit opening on November 2nd at the New York Historical Society, featuring 24 artworks made between 1997 and 2017 from her continuing series incorporating washboards. The exhibit runs until May 27, 2019.

“Saar says that it’s about keeping everything clean, keeping politics clean, keeping your life clean, your actions clean,” said Wendy Ikemoto, the society’s associate curator of American art. “She wants America to clean up its act and a lot of her art has to do with this idea that we haven’t cleaned up our act.”

Saar, 92, was born in Los Angeles and turned to making political art after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. “After his assassination in 1968, her work became explicitly political,” said Ikemoto. “That’s when she started collecting these racist, Jim Crow figurines and incorporated them in her assemblages.”

Betye Saar – “Dark Times” (Photograph: Robert Wedemeyer/Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles)

Saar was part of the black arts movement, the cultural – often literary – arm of the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s; she was also among so-called second wave feminists. But she still found herself at a crossroads. “The black arts movement was male-dominated and the feminist movement was white-dominated,” Ikemoto said. “Being at the intersection of both movements, she became one of the most prominent black female artists for presenting strong, recognized women who are fighting off the legacy of slavery. I think it did open doors for other artists to follow.”

This traveling exhibit, from the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, shows Saar’s consistent message through her washboard series. “Many of her works tackle the broad issue of revisioning derogatory stereotypes to agents of change, historical change and power,” said Ikemoto. “Many artworks feature descendants of Aunt Jemima and mammy figures armed to face the racist histories of our nation.”

The exhibit includes “Extreme Times Call for Extreme Heroines,” a washboard piece Saar made in 2017 that features a mammy doll holding a pair of guns. The washboards are used in lieu of canvases and are loaded with symbolism.

“The washboard becomes her frame for the art, it’s the star,” said Ikemoto. “It’s the structure of black labor and she is moving it from a space of invisibility to highlight it. She is also using this humble object of hard labor to subvert notions of fine art.”

Each washboard is like a puzzle to be decoded, filled with small details that reference American history. There are Black Panther fists, references to police brutality and phrases from the Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes.

There are also references to Memphis, the city where King was assassinated, and to the Congolese slaves who were killed under the Congo Free State. Some washboards include phrases such as “national racism”.

“It’s as if Saar is suggesting how racism is so entrenched in our nation that it has become a national brand,” said Ikemoto. “She takes something that is a sign of oppression and violence, something pejorative and derogatory, and transforms it into something revolutionary.”

Not all of the artworks are on washboards, however. One piece from 1997, “We Was Mostly ’Bout Survival,” is on an ironing board, emblazoned with an image of a British slave ship.

“I think this exhibition is essential right now,” said Ikemoto. “I hope it encourages dialogue about history and our nation today, the racial relations and problems we still need to confront in the 21st century.”

More: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/oct/30/betye-saar-art-exhibit-racism-new-york-historical-society

Producer/Director Ava DuVernay Working on Prince Documentary for Netflix

Prince in concert in 1985 (Photo by Anonymous/AP/REX/Shutterstock (6571574a)

by Jem Aswad via Variety.com

Producer/director Ava DuVernay is working with Netflix on a Prince documentary, two sources have confirmed to Variety. The project has the full cooperation of the late artist’s estate, which is providing with interviews, archival footage and photos. The multiple-part documentary will cover the artist’s entire life.

While renowned for her work on “Selma,” “Queen Sugar” and others, DuVernay made her big-screen debut in 2008 with “This Is the Life,” which chronicled the alternative hip-hop scene in Los Angeles in the 1990s.

A source also said that a documentary about Prince and the Revolution’s legendary concert at Minneapolis’ First Avenue in August of 1983 has landed at Apple Music. The show featured the premieres of several songs that would appear on the “Purple Rain” album and film nearly a year later, and, in fact, the album versions of three of those songs were recorded at the show (albeit with overdubs added later). The concert marked the debut of guitarist Wendy Melvoin and the “Purple Rain”-era incarnation of the Revolution.

Video and audio recordings from the concert and its rehearsals have been circulating on bootleg for many years, and feature a longer take of “Purple Rain” with an additional, seemingly ad-libbed verse that was dropped from the official version. Another song from the concert, “Electric Intercourse,” was originally mooted for the album but was replaced by the similar but superior song, “The Beautiful Ones.” A studio version of “Electric Intercourse” was finally released on the “Purple Rain” deluxe edition in 2017, although many fans consider the live version to be better.

More: https://variety.com/2018/music/news/ava-duvernay-prince-documentary-for-netflix-1203011709/

Retired NBA Star and ESPN Analyst Jalen Rose’s Tuition-Free High School Achieves 93 Percent Graduation Rate

Jalen Rose and a graduating class of the JRLA. (Photo credit: Gary North)

by Christina Santi via ebony.com

Other than being an ESPN analyst, Jalen Rose also works tirelessly to serve his local community. The retired NBA player opened in September 2011 the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JRLA), an open enrollment, tuition-free public charter high school in Northwest Detroit. It serves 400 students in ninth through 12 grade from metro Detroit with a 9-16 model, in which students are supported not only through high school graduation but through college graduation via a college success team that works with current students and alumni.

The JRLA has a 93 percent graduation rate and 100 percent college and post-secondary acceptance rate.

Rose spoke exclusively with EBONY.com about why the school is important, what he hopes his students get from their time on campus and the controversy surrounding the national anthem.

Why do you think it’s important to give back to your community by opening a school as opposed to other ways you can help?

Education is a valuable tool that unlocks the future of so many young people, and the dynamics in our country have changed, which is [why I chose to] be the founder of a tuition-free public charter high school that gets zero state funding for the facility. It was important not only from myself but our co-founder, Michael Carter, as well. [We wanted] to not only be able to influence the dynamics of our scholars graduating from high school nine through 12 but [also] to give them that level of support and guidance that allowed them the opportunity to graduate from college, which was 13 through 16.

We’re proud and unique in a lot of ways to carry a nine through 16 model, whereas we approximately have 450 kids in the building this upcoming school year and around 300 in college or university community college, military and trade school. In June, it will be the first time we have JRLA scholars that graduated from colleges across the country that will have the opportunity to attend our graduation and speak to the graduates of our senior class. So that is what I think allows our scenario to be really unique and I’m proud of that dynamic.

Several people I know in the education sector complain about how the curriculum is more based on setting kids up to pass state exams as opposed to teaching skills that would benefit them in the future. How would you say the JRLA enriches your student body with skills that will help them in the future?

That’s not a school thing, per se. That’s a society thing that has continued to foster throughout our country and look no further than the dynamics of how many people work in a field that was their major in college.

I’m one of the few that I know.

I am too, communications: radio, TV & film. So that dynamic in our educational system [whether it be] public charter, magnet, private, college, university, high school, elementary school and middle school is all theory. So, to me, that’s one conversation.

So now what we’re able to do, as a charter school [is] craft programs that allow the young people to get skills other than reading, writing and arithmetic.

We have a leadership course. We teach young people about decision-making, problem-solving, sex, drugs, violence, gangs and etiquette. [Our school] has advisory, where we get to know our scholars up-close and personal, [including] what makes them tick and their interests; we try to steer them in that direction. We’re also unique because while most public schools and charter schools are not open in July, we are.

The JRLA has something called Summer Session, which is not summer school for students who failed classes. Through this program, we create other experiences, college experiences on-campus experiences and we provide each of our scholars with an internship.

It’s crucial for us to get our scholars out in the community to do charity work and to give them the life skills they will need to be successful in the endeavors that they have, and it’s more for us than just obviously the curriculum that’s required to graduate from school. Continue reading “Retired NBA Star and ESPN Analyst Jalen Rose’s Tuition-Free High School Achieves 93 Percent Graduation Rate”

Obama Headlines Rally in Support of Michigan Democrats

(photo by Callie Teitelbaum)

by Callie Teitelbaum

Former President Barack Obama spoke at a rally for the Michigan Democrats at Cass Tech High School in Detroit on October 27th. Thousands of people gathered outside Cass Tech waiting for the doors to open at 5:00 P.M.

The rally was held in support of the Michigan Democrats running for federal and local office in the midterm elections and emphasized the importance of voting on November 6th.

Obama was welcomed on stage by Debbie Stabenow, who is running for re-election to the U.S. senate, and the Cass Tech band at 8:00 P.M. Obama spoke about the importance of voting in the midterms.

“The main reason I am here is to make sure that all of you vote in what I believe might be the most important election of our lifetime,” Obama said. “The stakes in this election are really high. The consequences of sitting on the sidelines in this election are dangerous and profound because America is at a crossroads right now…the character of our country is on the ballot.”

Obama stated in his speech that politicians often try to scare, distract, and place voter rules on citizens to prevent them from voting. He mentioned examples of Americans being distracted in 2014 with the threat of Ebola, in 2016 with Hillary Clinton’s emails, and how “the most important thing” in this election is “a bunch of impoverished refugees a thousand miles away,” Obama said. He concluded that the American people must no longer fall for these diversions.

Obama enumerated upon what he said were lies of politicians, specifically, Republican candidates who are running campaigns in support of the the Affordable Care Act and protecting insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, despite their previous attempts to continuously overturn that law.

“What we have not seen before in our public life is politicians just blatantly, repeatedly, boldly, shamelessly, lie,” Obama said.

Obama endorsed Stabenow, saying she is the person who will protect healthcare for people with pre-existing conditions along with Elissa Slotkin, who took leave from CIA to take care of her mom, and is now the Democratic nominee for Michigan’s 8th congressional district.

Obama drew attention to the current administration who he claims continuously caters to America’s elite and how that must change. He endorsed voting on Proposal 2 and further condemned deceit by politicians. “When words stop meaning anything, when truth doesn’t matter, when people can just make up things, then democracy, it doesn’t work,” Obama said.

Obama later stated, “The only check on bad behavior is you and your vote.”

Obama made sure to list the vast number of issues that will take time to fix and said that while one election will not change everything, it is a start.“ The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference,” Obama said.

Prior to Obama’s speech, a variety of political figures spoke to either endorse candidates or campaign for their own nomination. The main political issues discussed included healthcare, public school education, women’s rights, and ending gerrymandering in the state of Michigan.

Continue reading “Obama Headlines Rally in Support of Michigan Democrats”

Activist and Police Shooting Survivor Leon Ford, 25, to Run for Pittsburgh City Council

Leon Ford speaks at Philander Smith College (Photo Credit: Instagram)

by Christina Santi via ebony.com

Activist Leon Ford, 25, who was shot and paralyzed by police in 2012, announced his bid for Pittsburgh City Council on Thursday, according to WTAE, Pittsburgh Action News 4.

“I have been speaking all over the country encouraging young people to not only vote, but to run for office,” Ford wrote in a statement. “I never considered running for office until I realized that I was one of the only voices bold enough to stand up for the people and speak truth to power.”

He will be running for a seat to represent District 9, which is now held by Rev. Ricky Burgess, who had held the position since 2007.

Ford was shot by detective David Derbish after a traffic stop. He later filed a civil rights lawsuit which was led to a $5.5 million settlement with the city. The council consented to the payout, but Rev. Burgess was absent for the vote.

The young activist went viral in 2017 after sharing a video of his son encouraging him to learn to walk again. The young boy can be heard saying, “Keep pushing. Don’t give up,” as he helps Ford with a walker.

Ford tweeted the sentimental moment, writing, “When you get shot by a police officer 5 times–and docs say that you will ever walk but your son says keep pushing.”

Ford said his campaign will focus on “restoring hope in our neighborhoods, creating new economic opportunities for our residents and healing one another to make all of our communities safe, vibrant, prosperous and livable for all.”

According to The Incline, Ford decided to embark on a political career after the fatal police shooting of Antwon Rose II, an unarmed 17-year-old, in East Pittsburgh in June.

“I’m a candidate now,” he told the publication. “I never considered running for public office. In fact, there was a time that I was against it, but now I’ve learned more about politics and policy and, it’s like, I’m tired of protesting and showing up at community meetings where the decisions are already made.”

Ford will host a campaign kickoff on Nov. 11, six years to the date of his shooting. Below is his TEDx Talk on”Turning Pain into Purpose”:

Source: https://www.ebony.com/news-views/police-shooting-survivor-running-pittsburgh-city-council

Texas A&M University Project Will Document Post-Civil War “Freedom Colonies” that Existed Throughout Texas

(image via texasfreedomcoloniesproject.com)

via jbhe.com

Andrea Roberts, assistant professor of urban planning in the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University, has started a project to provide comprehensive documentation of the so-called “Freedom Colonies” in Texas. Freedom colonies were self-sufficient, all-Black settlements that former slaves established after they were freed at the end of the Civil War.

“Africans became hash marks on census reports when they reached America and were enslaved, leaving them, ultimately, without an understanding of their heritage or connection to their homeland,” Dr. Roberts said. “These self-sufficient freedom colonies were established under the most difficult of circumstances by industrious, intelligent and organized people acting much like current-day city planners — and some of their descendants are performing the work of preservationists today.”

Andrea Roberts (photo via researchgate.net)

Dr. Roberts has identified more than 550 freedom colonies established by the almost 200,000 newly freed African-Americans living in Texas just after the abolition of slavery. Today, some of these freedom colonies still exist as communities and host festivals and celebrations while maintaining connections with the past. However, little evidence remains that some of these colonies ever existed. The project, The Texas Freedom Colonies Project, aims to help African-American Texans reclaim their unrecognized and unrecorded heritage and empower city planners to plan and preserve communities.

“This [project] is about changing the dynamics so that we’re focusing on accountability, and helping people define and reclaim their communities,” Dr. Roberts said. “It’s also about realizing that African-Americans built their own communities, and they should see themselves as part of urban planning, an important field where they are more commonly considered the subject.”

More: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/10/texas-am-university-project-will-document-freedom-colonies-throughout-texas/

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs Pledges $1 Million to Fund New School in the Bronx

Sean "Diddy" Combs
CREDIT: COURTESY OF COMBS ENTERPRISES

by Rachel Yang via Variety.com

Sean “Diddy” Combs announced Tuesday that he’s pledging $1 million to the Capital Preparatory Schools network to help provide children from underserved communities access to high-quality education. The school has been approved to expand to a third location in the New York City’s Bronx borough, and is set to open in September 2019.

Capital Prep Schools is a free, public charter school network, currently operating in Harlem and Bridgeport, Connecticut. The schools provide students in grades K-12 with a year-round, college preparatory education and has sent 100 percent of its low-income, minority, first-generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006. Capital Prep Bronx will open to serve 160 students in 6th to 7th grade and will grow to serve 650 students in 6th to 11 grade during an initial five-year term.

“Mr. Combs’ commitment and leadership continue to inspire us. On behalf of the Capital Prep students, parents and teachers I want to express our sincerest gratitude for such a generous gift,” said Dr. Steve Perry, the founder of Capital Prep Schools. “Mr. Combs wanted to open schools to develop leaders. What he’s done with his investment is embody what we expect students to do, which is to invest their resources in our communities.”

Combs is a Harlem native and worked closely with Dr. Perry to expand the school to new locations as well as enlist a team of educators, parents, and business leaders to bring the idea to life. He is also a benefactor.

“I came from the same environment these kids live in every day,” Combs said. “I understand the importance of access to a great education, and the critical role it plays in a child’s future. Our school provides historically disadvantaged students with the college and career skills needed to become responsible and engaged citizens for social justice. We don’t just teach kids to read, write and compute, we teach them how to make a difference and nurture them to be future leaders of our generation.”

Read more: https://variety.com/2018/music/news/sean-diddy-combs-pledges-1-million-dollars-capital-prep-schools-1202990036/

Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery Debuts “Posing Modernity,” an Exhibition on The Evolution of Black Women Models in Art

Frédéric Bazille – Young Woman with Peonies, 1870. (Photograph: National Gallery of Art/Image courtesy National Gallery of Art)

by  via theguardian.com

In 1863, the French artist Édouard Manet painted Olympia, a reclining nude prostitute, shedding a scandalous light on Parisian brothel culture. But while much of the attention has been on the white model in the painting, Victorine Meurent, the black model beside her, Laure, has been largely overlooked by art historians.

Curator Denise Murrell (photo via 92y.org)

“People have told me, ‘It’s not that I didn’t see the black maid in the painting, I just didn’t know what to say about her’,” said the curator Denise Murrell. “I always felt she is presented in a more stronger light than maids usually are, and I wondered what could be said about her, even though art history said very little.”

This one painting then sparked the exhibition which Murrell has curated, Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today, opening at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery in New York on October 24th.

From photography to painting and sculpture, as well as film and print correspondence, this exhibit traces how the black figure has been key to the development of modern art over the past 150 years. Many of the artists here bring to light much of what art history has ignored.

“I’m looking for angles that are more relevant than just the standard narrative of the art world,” said Murrell. “I’m giving a number of different narratives that can be discussed around the black figure; there is a wider variety of black models, especially the black female figure, in broader, social roles.”

Henri Matisse, Dame à la robe blanche (Woman in white),1946. (Photograph: Courtesy of Des Moines Art Center)

Among the artists in the exhibit, there are works by Henri Matisse, including “Dame à la robe blanche (Woman in white),” from 1946, showing a black model in a white dress. The painting was made after the artist’s visit to Harlem in the 1930s, where he met local artists as part of the Harlem Renaissance, a black arts movement which celebrated African American culture.

Laura Wheeler Waring, one member of the group, was a painter who made portraits of African American civil rights figures, like author W.E.B. Du Bois and singer Marian Anderson.

“It shows the historical weight and significance of what Harlem artists were doing at the time,” said Murrell. “African American slavery or enslaved individuals were stereotyped and caricatured, and one thing Harlem Renaissance artists wanted to do was give dignity to black female figures, or to black figures, period.”

The other Harlem Renaissance painters in the exhibit include William H. Johnson, who captured the everyday lives of African Americans, whether it was groups of friends in urban settings to rural families, all of which tell “the critical story of modern portrayals of black figures”, said Murrell.

There are also works by Charles Alston, who was known locally for painting murals in Harlem hospitals, but was also recognized as a painter for his portraits of musicians, groups of cotton workers and family portraits. Alston is widely recognized for his bust of Martin Luther King Jr., which today sits in the White House. “He shows African Americans as the urban middle class,” said Murrell. “All aspects of life, high and low, are captured in his paintings.”

The more recent artworks in the exhibit, made over the past 50 years, are different from those, say, 100 years ago. “It’s more empowered because we now have a presence, artists of color,” she said. “You have black portraits by black artists, which broadens the range of artistic styles and strategies.”

Mickalene Thomas – Din, une très belle négresse, 2012. (Photograph: shootArt Mobile/Courtesy of the artist)

There are paintings by female artists such as Mickalene Thomas, who recently captured Cardi B for the cover of W Magazine’s art issue. In “Din, une très belle négresse,” from 2012, is a portrait of a black woman painted colorfully in retro garb.

“She takes 19th-century black women portrayals, but shows them in expressive ways, with rhinestones, afro wigs and a 1970s look,” said Murrell. “They’re women portrayed as sensual but in control of their sensuality, in a manner that shows a black woman who wants to be herself.

“And it’s not just black women, but women period, as sensual but in control of their sensuality and not just for the gaze of the presumed viewer, the white male,” adds Murrell, “You see that perspective unfolding to a more diverse group of artists and subjects of art.”

The exhibit features works by black female artists like Faith Ringgold, known for her quilts portraying black figures like Aunt Jemima, alongside Ellen Gallagher, who has cut up old advertisements of black women to offer her own perspective.

“You can see the evolution as the black figure comes closer to subjectivity, or agency, portrayed by women artists,” said Murrell, “or by showing black women in a way that’s closer to their own modes of self-representation.”

Though the black female figure in art has changed over the past 150 years, there is still progress to be made ahead. “There’s still an underrepresentation of black women artists, and black artists, in the contemporary art world,” said Murrell.

The exhibit is complete in one way, but incomplete in another. “I hope it gives a sense of history to the kind of art we look at today,” said Murrell. “There was a black presence in modern art, we see that in this show and I hope we start seeing more of it.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/oct/22/matisse-to-modernity-the-evolution-of-black-female-models-in-art