According to the Washington Post, Former President Barack Obama was honored with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award during the foundation’s gala in midtown Manhattan last evening.
“I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but I’ve been on this hope kick for a while now. Even ran a couple of campaigns on it. Thank you for officially validating my hope credentials,” Obama said during his acceptance speech.
Kerry Kennedy, RFK’s daughter and the organization’s president, presented Obama with the award, which celebrates leaders “who have demonstrated a commitment to social change.” Past recipients include Bono, George Clooney, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and Robert De Niro.
“If we summon our best selves, we can inspire others to do the same. It’s easy to succumb to cynicism, the notion that hope is a fool’s game,” Obama said.
“When our leaders are content on making up whatever facts they want, a lot of people have begun to doubt the notion of common ground,” Obama said. “Bobby Kennedy’s life reminds us to reject such cynicism.”
Also honored with Ripple of Hope Awards this year were New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav and Humana CEO Bruce Broussard. Speakers last night included actors Keegan-Michael Key, Alfre Woodard, Alec Baldwin, and journalist Tom Brokaw.
Netflix re-imagines the iconic “A Great Day in Harlem” photo that captured 57 notable jazz musicians in front of a Harlem brownstone. XXL Magazine did the same with their “A Great Day In Hip-Hop” cover in 1999 featuring artists like Run of Run DMC, Busta Rhymes and other hip-hop notables of the era.
Netflix’s homage to the famous photo features 47 creative and talented behind 20+ original shows/films/documentaries. A 60-second video of the event, directed by Lacey Duke, premieres during the BET Awards.
“It was a pretty magical couple of hours,” Duke said in the official release. “All these amazingly talented, beautiful individuals in one space being supportive and just looking stunning together, all here to pull off this one take wonder! Alfre Woodard even lead everyone in an epic rendition of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ before we started shooting. It was beautiful, and in a flash it was over. It was probably the most overwhelming two hours of my career haha. I was just so happy to be a part of history.”
To see and learn more about the original photo, click here.
To see a list of who in Black Hollywood is in the picture above, scroll down:
Ava Duvernay (13th, Central Park Five)
Spike Lee (She’s Gotta Have It)
Alfre Woodard (Luke Cage; Juanita)
Gabrielle Dennis (Luke Cage)
Simone Missick (Luke Cage)
Cheo Hodari Coker (Luke Cage)
Mike Colter (Luke Cage)
Antonique Smith (Luke Cage)
Mustafa Shakir (Luke Cage)
Vaneza Oliveira (3%)
Russell Hornsby (Seven Seconds)
Priah Ferguson (Stranger Things)
Caleb McLaughlin (Stranger Things)
Lena Waithe (Master of None; Dear White People; Step Sisters)
Chante Adams (Roxanne Roxanne)
Nia Long (Roxanne Roxanne, Dear White People)
Justin Simien (Dear White People)
Logan Browning (Dear White People)
Nia Jervier (Dear White People; Step Sisters)
Antoinette Robertson (Dear White People)
DeRon Horton (Dear White People)
Ashley Blaine Featherson (Dear White People)
Marque Richardson (Dear White People; Step Sisters)
CHICAGO — When Jussie Smollett and Jurnee Smollett-Bell were growing up, bouncing with their parents and four siblings between New York and Los Angeles, as the kids pursued careers in modeling, acting and music, their downtime was just another chance for performance and togetherness.
“Creating was something that we just were expected to do,” Mr. Smollett said, in a joint interview with his sister here, where he tapes the Fox series “Empire.” Seated next to him in a downtown restaurant, she was nodding in agreement. “And I don’t remember a time not wanting to do that.”
The members of the Smollett clan have made good on their childhood promise. Mr. Smollett, 32, is a singer and a breakout star of the hit drama “Empire,” in which he plays Jamal, the most talented member of the Lyon hip-hop dynasty.
Ms. Smollett-Bell, 29, who made her mark as an actress by the age of 10, with the 1997 film “Eve’s Bayou,” is one of the leads in “Underground,” a new WGN America show about a group of slaves who try to escape from their Georgia plantation; her brother guest-stars.
Though it’s their first project together in 20 years, it’s clear that the more creative freedom they have, the more their tastes will converge.
The Smolletts have also been outspoken politically and, since their school years, devoted to causes like H.I.V./AIDS prevention and ending apartheid. They were raised in the orbit of the Black Panthers and, lately, have lent their voices to the Black Lives Matter movement. Their trajectory, from child stars to successful adults, is born of their family and its history of activism.
“Their sense of justice is very strong, and it permeates everything that they do,” said Alfre Woodard, who has known Jussie and Jurnee since they were children; they worked with her at the nonprofit Artists for a New South Africa. “They’re like a model sibling unit. They look out for each other, all the time. And they all reach across and say, ‘O.K., I got my foot in this door; here, grab my hand, we’re going in together.’”
Raised on a diet of classic films (they’ll gladly quote the 1945 version of “Mildred Pierce”), Jussie and Jurnee still count their mother, Janet Smollett, as their only acting coach. An African-American from New Orleans, Ms. Smollett met their father, Joel Smollett Sr., a Russian-Polish Jew, in the Bay Area, where they campaigned for civil rights. “My mom was in the movement with Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, and one of her first mentors was Julian Bond,” Mr. Smollett said of the Black Panther founders and the civil rights leader. “To this day, Angela Davis is one of her dearest friends. We’ve spent Mother’s Day with Angela.”
It’s official! Esteemed actress, producer, and all-around favorite Alfre Woodard will be honored at the 2016 Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit as a highly regarded Legacy Award recipient.
Woodard joins Renee Powell, golf pioneer and first African American woman to be inducted into the Royal and Ancient Golf Club Saint Andrews; Vanessa Williams, actress, singer, and author; N. Joyce Payne, Ph.D., founder of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund; as this year’s Legacy Award recipients. Along with these women, Woodard has blazed trails in her industry and continues to inspire those who have come behind her.
With an extensive acting career spanning more than 39 years, Woodard stands as a versatile and accomplished actor with multiple memorable roles. Many may recall Woodard for her work on Hill Street Blues for which she earned her Primetime Emmy Award; L.A. Law;Cross Creek;The Piano Lesson; Down in the Delta;Star Trek: First Contact;State of Affairs;Love & Basketball;12 Years a Slave;Desperate Housewives, American Violet; True Blood; BlackEnterprise.com personal fave, Crooklyn; and countless other film and television appearances. She is currently working on film drama, So B. It, based on the 2004 novel by Sarah Weeks and upcoming Web television series Luke Cage, developed for Netflix.
Woodard’s career accolades are bountiful and include an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actressfor Cross Creek, three Golden Globe nominations with one win for Best Actress in a Miniseries of Television Film for her work in Miss Evers’ Boys, 18 Primetime Emmy nominations with four wins, seven SAG Award nominations with three wins, 21 NAACP Image Award nominations with four wins, and many other honors. She received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from Boston University.
Honor the legacies of these deserving women at the 2016 Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit, March 9-12 at the Hilton Diplomat Resort & Spa, Hollywood, Florida. Register now using code MLK16 for a special discounted rate.
For information on the 2016 Women of Power Summit including sessions, speakers and performers click here. Be sure to check back as updates are announced.
J. California Cooper, an award-winning writer whose black female characters confront a world of indifference and betrayal, but find kinship there in unexpected places, died on September 20th in Seattle. She was 82. A spokesman for Random House, her publisher, confirmed her death. She had had several heart attacks in recent years.
Ms. Cooper won an American Book Award in 1989 for the second of her six story collections, “Homemade Love.” Her short story “Funny Valentines,” about a woman in a troubled marriage who repairs an old rift with a cousin when she moves back home, was turned into a 1999 television movie starring Alfre Woodard and Loretta Devine.
Writing in a vernacular first-person style, Ms. Cooper set her stories in an indeterminate rural past permeated with violence and the ghost of slavery. The African-American women she depicts endure abandonment, betrayal, rape and social invisibility, but they survive.
“Some Soul to Keep” (1987), her third collection, includes over-the-back-fence tales. One story tells of two women who become close friends after one woman’s husband dies and the other’s leaves. They learn that long-lived rumors of their dislike for each other had been fabricated by their husbands. Another story is about a blind girl who is raped by her minister, gives birth to his son and raises him alone because, she explains, he makes her forget she is blind.
Ms. Cooper’s 1991 novel, “Family,” one of five she wrote, is narrated by the ghost of a slave woman who committed suicide before the Civil War and who follows the lives of her descendants as they mingle and procreate in a new interracial world, marveling at how “from one woman all these different colors and nationalities could come into being.”
Ms. Cooper was clear about the religious values that informed her stories. “I’m a Christian,” she told The Washington Post in 2000. “That’s all I am. If it came down to Christianity and writing, I’d let the writing go. God is bigger than a book.”
In an interview on NPR in 2006, she said, “What I’m basically trying to do is help somebody make some right choices.”
Series starring African-American actresses are a big trend next season. Chalk it up to the popularity of ABC’s “Scandal” and the visibility of its glamorous star, Kerry Washington, or maybe a bolt of lightning that suddenly hit Hollywood after Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis got Oscar nominations in the same year for “The Help.” (Spencer won for Best Supporting Actress.) Any way you look at it, sisterhood is powerful.
Spencer, who has had a recurring role on CBS’ “Mom” this season and was rumored at one point to star in a remake of “Murder, She Wrote,” gets her own show in “Red Band Society,” a Fox medical drama that involves many supporting teenage characters who live at the hospital where Spencer is a doctor. Similarly, ABC recently ordered a new Shonda Rhimes series, “How to Get Away With Murder” starring Viola Davis as a law professor who gets wrapped up in a murder mystery with four students.
Taraji P. Henson, who was killed off CBS’ “Person of Interest” this season, dusted herself off and will report for duty on “Empire,” a new, soap-style series about the world of hip-hop music from Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, who collaborated on the smash film “The Butler.” Henson plays Cookie Lyon, the former business partner and ex-wife of Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), a music mogul trying to stay relevant.
Veteran actress Alfre Woodard has played everything from a freed slave in “12 Years a Slave” to a desperate housewife. She’s on the upswing, career-wise. Woodard is going to play the president to Katherine Heigl’s crusading CIA agent in the NBC drama “State of Affairs.”
Finally, Rashida Jones has been cast as “Angie Tribeca,” a TBS satire on police procedurals that was created by Jones’ “Office” co-star Steve Carell and his wife, Nancy.
Alfre Woodard has been elected to play Madame President in Katherine Heigl‘s new political drama State of Affairs. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the drama described as Scandal meets The West Wing, will see the 12 Years a Slave actress as President Roberta Payton.
Woodard’s character enlists a CIA agent, played by Heigl, to give her counsel on incidents around the world. The plot follows Heigl as she takes on the role of targeting America’s most critical threats while balancing the demands of a complex personal life.
The casting puts Woodard in the company of several other African-American women leads on pilots this season including Taraji P. Henson, Viola Davisand Octavia Spencer.
I wrote down this speech that I had no time to practice so this will be the practicing session. Thank you Alfre, for such an amazing, amazing introduction and celebration of my work. And thank you very much for inviting me to be a part of such an extraordinary community. I am surrounded by people who have inspired me, women in particular whose presence on screen made me feel a little more seen and heard and understood. That it is ESSENCE that holds this event celebrating our professional gains of the year is significant, a beauty magazine that recognizes the beauty that we not just possess but also produce.
I want to take this opportunity to talk about beauty, black beauty, dark beauty. I received a letter from a girl and I’d like to share just a small part of it with you: “Dear Lupita,” it reads, “I think you’re really lucky to be this black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.”
My heart bled a little when I read those words, I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself and that it would propel me to be such an image of hope in the same way that the women of The Color Purple were to me.
I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin, I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I was the day before. I tried to negotiate with God, I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted, I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because He never listened.
And when I was a teenager my self-hate grew worse, as you can imagine happens with adolescence. My mother reminded me often that she thought that I was beautiful but that was no conservation, she’s my mother, of course she’s supposed to think I am beautiful. And then … Alek Wek. A celebrated model, she was dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah called her beautiful and that made it a fact. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me, as beautiful. My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome and all of a sudden Oprah was telling me it wasn’t. It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy. But a flower couldn’t help but bloom inside of me, when I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny. Now, I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far away gatekeepers of beauty. But around me, the preference for my skin prevailed, to the courters that I thought mattered I was still unbeautiful. And my mother again would say to me you can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you and these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.
And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is what got Patsey in so much trouble with her master, but it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. We remember the beauty of her spirit even after the beauty of her body has faded away.
And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside.
This morning the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced this year’s nominees for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. Among them were first-time nominee Kerry Washington for her leading role in ABC’s Scandal. According to ShadowAndAct, this is the first nomination for an African-American woman in a leading role since Cicely Tyson’s nod for Sweet Justice in the 1994-1995 awards season.
Don Cheadle was similarly honored (his sixth nod altogether) for Showtime’s House of Lies and four-time Emmy winner Alfre Woodard was recognized for her supporting turn in Lifetime’s remake of Steel Magnolias.
Additionally, recently-elected Director’s Guild President Paris Barclay was nominated for his direction of the “Diva” episode of Fox’s Glee, and The Science Channel’s Through The Wormhole With Morgan Freeman was nominated for Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Series.
The winners will be announced during the awards ceremony televised live by CBS on September 22, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. ET /5:00 p.m. PT from the Nokia Theatre/L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles.
Oprah Winfrey Network will present a night of compelling conversation on Sunday, June 23, beginning with Oprah’s Next Chapter (9-10 p.m. ET/PT) featuring Oprah’s in-depth conversation with some of Hollywood’s most powerful female African-American actresses including Alfre Woodard, Viola Davis, Phylicia Rashad and Gabrielle Union. In the discussion, the iconic actresses open up about the challenges, criticism and competition they face as African-American women in Hollywood. In the groundbreaking conversation, the women shed light on a topic that is not often discussed in the entertainment industry.
Immediately following is the world television premiere of the groundbreaking documentary Dark Girls (10 p.m. – 12 a.m. ET/PT) from filmmakers Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry. The film explores the prejudices that dark-skinned women face throughout the world. Women share their personal stories, touching on deeply ingrained beliefs and attitudes of society, while allowing generations to heal as they learn to love themselves for who they are. From filmmakers Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry, Dark Girls made its world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. The DVD will be released September 24, 2013.
Sounds like must-see TV to us here at GBN. Be sure to tune in or set your DVRS!