AT&T recently announced it is deepening its commitment to Brotherhood Crusade in Los Angeles – a 50-year old grassroots organization with a vision of improving quality of life and meeting the unmet needs of low-income, underserved, under-represented and disenfranchised individuals in South LA – through a $150,000 contribution to the organization’s new Media Collective.
The new program, called BELIEVE Los Angeles, is a grassroots campaign committed to supporting workforce development, career readiness programs, with a special emphasis on digital media and entertainment employment opportunities for underserved students in Los Angeles, especially diverse millennials who want to be filmmakers. The initiative is an extension of AT&T Believes℠, a larger company-wide initiative designed to create positive change in local communities.
Believe Los Angeles aims to increase the number of diverse storytellers in the entertainment industry, in front of and behind the camera. The semi-annual 11-week program will provide hands-on opportunities to 15-20 students to hone skills, form creative partnerships, create short films and gain industry access needed to be successful.
“We’re honored to join with Brotherhood Crusade to help support local emerging filmmakers succeed in the entertainment industry and give back to the South LA community,” said Rhonda Johnson, President of AT&T California. “The launch of this innovative program is perfectly aligned with African American History Month and Black Future Month, a time to celebrate the contributions of the people and organizations who strengthen our African-American and other diverse communities.”
“AT&T’s support of Brotherhood Crusade’s Media Collective will help aspiring artists within the local film industry grow their skills and network, as well as make a tremendous difference in their careers,” said Charisse Bremond-Weaver, President and CEO of Brotherhood Crusade.
According to PRNewswire, Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios (ES) and the National Association of African-American Owned Media (NAAAOM) – plaintiffs in federal lawsuits filed against Comcast and Charter Communications – have announced two decisions issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that will allow them to go to trial against two of the largest cable television carriers in the country.
In the $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast and the $10 billion suit against Charter, the carriers are accused of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits racial discrimination in contracting. For years, Entertainment Studios has been requesting that Comcast and Charter carry its networks, which are distributed by Comcast and Charter’s competitors, including Verizon, DirecTV, AT&T, DISH, and many other carriers, to millions of people around the country.
Both Comcast and Charter, however, refused all of Allen’s requests for network carriage. Subsequently, Allen filed lawsuits in federal district court in Los Angeles.
In two historically significant decisions, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected Comcast and Charter’s attempts to dismiss the cases before trial. The Court upheld Entertainment Studios’ Section 1981 claims against both Comcast and Charter; and instead ruled that both cases could proceed in the trial courts to discovery and trial.
“These two decisions against Comcast and Charter are very significant, unprecedented, and historic,” said Byron Allen, Founder/Chairman/CEO of Entertainment Studios. “The lack of true economic inclusion for African Americans will end with me, and these rulings show that I am unwavering in my commitment to achieving this long overdue goal.”
“The Court’s rulings overwhelmingly reflect the Ninth Circuit’s rejection of the Defendants’ positions and arguments,” said Mark DeVitre, President of plaintiff, NAAAOM. “I look forward to quickly moving into discovery where we expect much more evidence to surface.”
“These decisions are hugely important in terms of opening the courts to African American-owned media. The Court paved the way to our eventual success at trial by ensuring that the proper ‘mixed motive’ standard for our claims – a lower standard of proof than the ‘but for’ standard argued by Comcast and Charter – applies,” said Entertainment Studios’ attorney, Skip Miller, partner in Miller Barondess. “Additionally, the Court dismissed Charter’s and Comcast’s attempts to use the First Amendment as a shield for their alleged discrimination. I very much look forward to trying these cases. And I give Mr. Allen tremendous credit for having the will and the constitution to invest the capital and resources to pursue them relentlessly.”
According to Deadline.com, Charter and Comcast issued separate statements, expressing disappointment with the ruling. “We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision, and are reviewing the decision and considering our options,” Comcast said in a statement.
Charter was more pointed in its response. “This lawsuit is a desperate tactic that this programmer has used before with other distributors,” Charter said in a statement to Deadline. “We are disappointed with today’s decision and will vigorously defend ourselves against these claims.”
The Los Angeles-based Entertainment Studios alleged Charter’s former senior vice president of programming, Allan Singer, refused to meet with its representatives. Singer rescheduled and postponed meetings and offered “disingenuous” explanations for refusing to carry it programming, according to court documents.
Singer said bandwidth limitations and operational demands precluded carriage of ENT’s cable networks, while reaching carriage agreements with “lesser-known, white-owned channels” such as the rural focused RFD-TV and the horror channel Chiller.
Court documents cite evidence of racial bias, including one instance in which Singer allegedly approached an African-American protest group outside Charter’s headquarters and told them “to get off welfare.” Additionally, in court documents Charter CEO Tom Rutledge is alleged to have referred to Allen as “Boy” at an industry event.
“Plaintiffs suggest that these incidents are illustrative of Charter’s institutional racism,” the Appeals Court writes, in summarizing the case’s history. “Noting also that the cable operator had historically refused to carry African American-owned channels and, prior to its merger with Time Warner Cable, had a board of directors composed only of white men.”
Entertainment Studios ascribed similar discriminatory motives on the part of Comcast, which offered carriage deals to such networks as Inspirational Network, Fit TV, Outdoor Channel and Baby First Americas while telling Allen it had no bandwidth or storage capacity for his networks.
Allen founded Entertainment Studios in 1993 and owns eight 24-hour HD television networks serving nearly 160 million subscribers: THE WEATHER CHANNEL, PETS.TV, COMEDY.TV, RECIPE.TV, CARS.TV, ES.TV, MYDESTINATION.TV, and JUSTICE CENTRAL.TV. The company also produces, distributes, and sells advertising for 41 television programs, making it one of the largest independent producers/distributors of first-run syndicated television programming for broadcast television stations.
Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures is a full-service, theatrical motion picture distribution company specializing in wide release commercial content. ESMP released 2017’s highest-grossing independent movie, the shark thriller 47 METERS DOWN, which grossed over $44.3 million. In 2018, ESMP also released the critically-acclaimed and commercially successful Western HOSTILES and the historic mystery-thriller CHAPPAQUIDDICK.
Upcoming releases include the Keanu Reeves sci-fi thriller REPLICAS, the John Krasinski/Emily Blunt-starring animated feature ANIMAL CRACKERS, and Joe Carnahan’s Mel Gibson/Naomi Watts starring action-thriller BOSS LEVEL.
All Star Code (ASC) will carry out its mission to educate, prepare, and place young men of color in the tech industry through its fifth annual “Summer Intensive” STEM summer program. The nonprofit announced Tuesday that it raised over $1 million for the growth and development of the program. ASC also received a record number of applicants—nearly 1,000 for just 160 spots. According to Christina Lewis, who founded ASC in 2013, the organization is on track to educate a total of 10,000 young black and Latino men in tech and entrepreneurship by 2022.
“All Star Code’s impact continues to spread as we establish a pipeline of talented and ambitious young entrepreneurs who are ready to enter the tech industry,” said Lewis in a statement. “Tech is one of the most influential and lucrative industries, so it’s vital that Black and Latino young men are better represented in this space to capture its economic opportunity.”
BOYS WILL LEARN WEB DEVELOPMENT AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN STEM SUMMER PROGRAM
ASC’s flagship “Summer Intensive” program is a free six-week course that teaches students web development skills and about entrepreneurship. It also empowers students with soft skills and a network of like-minded peers. It will take place in New York City and Pittsburgh.
The effectiveness of All Star Code’s curriculum is amplified by corporate partners like AT&T, Cisco, Goldman Sachs, Google, JPMorgan Chase, MLB, and Medidata, as well as the academic institutions Chatham University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, which provide operational and financial support and services. Through these partnerships, students will gain access to mentorships, speakers, and professional work culture.
Since its creation in 2013, about 300 students have participated in ASC’s flagship summer programs. Of the summer intensive students, 95% of All Star Code graduates have gone on to four-year colleges, while half of the graduates have created their own business or tech-related project, reads the press release.
Lewis says she was inspired by her late father, iconic businessman Reginald F. Lewis, to launch ASC as a vehicle to diversify the tech space. “I channeled his legacy to start All Star Code,” she said. Before his death in 1993, Reginald created TLC Beatrice International Holdings, the first black-owned global enterprise to earn more than a billion dollars in revenue. “I realized that if my father were a young man today, he would no doubt be working in technology, the growth industry for building wealth in the 21st century,” Lewis told Black Enterprise.
Kunbi Tinuoye, former broadcast journalist and correspondent for the BBC, MSNBC and TheGrio.com, and current on-air contributor to Arise News’ business show Xchange, has recently launched UrbanGeekz.com, a groundbreaking digital news platform dedicated to African-Americans and other underrepresented minorities in technology, science and business. The site offers reviews, interviews, commentary, and original video on startups, geek gadgets, social media, scientific advancements, entrepreneurship and insight into Silicon Valley and the global technology industry. The cutting-edge online publication also provides authoritative lifestyle and entertainment content.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, UrbanGeekz.com, live only since February 9th of this year, has already partnered with telecom giant AT&T and Black Enterprise Magazine to provide content to and about the underserved communities in the tech space. The website also has created a much-needed outlet for dialogue on the most pressing and relevant issues in STEM-related fields: conversations surrounding the preparedness of students to pursue STEM careers, the lack of diversity in the STEM workforce and challenges facing minorities in the tech start-up scene.
Tinuoye, whose parents immigrated to the United Kingdom from Nigeria, was born, raised and educated in London. She graduated from Cambridge University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Social and Political Sciences and later received a post-graduate diploma in print journalism. She is also an NCTJ qualified UK professional journalist.
Tinuoye began her career writing for the prestigious London newspaper, the Evening Standard. After stints there and with the BBC, she immigrated to the United States, settling in Atlanta and working for TheGrio.com and MSNBC as a journalist and on-air contributor.
Good Black News recently caught up with Tinuoye and got a chance to talk to this ambitious and intelligent entrepreneur about her journey, why she started UrbanGeekz, and her visions for African-Americans in tech in the near future:
Good Black News: What initially attracted you to journalism?
Kunbi Tinuoye: I’m a communicator – that’s just the core of my personality – I’m a people person. I’ve worked across most platforms, from television to print journalism. I enjoy every aspect of the media industry.
Which aspect of journalism do you like the most?
I started as a writer. Knowing how to write and tell a story is really the core. I say to aspiring journalists, “Make sure you learn how to write,” because once you can put together a well-crafted sentence and get to the crux of a story, then you’ve the ability to be a good journalist.
What made you decide to leave the United Kingdom for the United States?
Me and my husband came on holiday to Atlanta about seven years ago and we basically fell in love with the States. One of my husband’s friends relocated here and was living a comfortable life. Seeing how black professionals live in America, particularly in Atlanta, where you have the ability to work your way up the corporate ladder… I think it was that, the lifestyle and I thought there would be more opportunities for me here.
Do you prefer it here in America?
I absolutely love Atlanta. I feel like I found home. It feels like where I’m meant to be.
Do you have a different perspective on black issues in America being from a different country?
I probably do have a different perspective. For me, coming as an immigrant I feel that, and maybe specifically to Atlanta, which I think is a great place for black professionals, for me there seems to be a phenomenal amount of opportunity, but that’s from my perspective. I know race is a huge issue in America, I’m very aware of that – in London there’s racism as well – maybe at a slightly different level, but of course I’m aware of injustice and all of the issues going on, but at the same time I see America as the land of opportunity – that’s my perspective.
Your experience has spanned three countries – Nigeria through your parents, England and the United States. How do you identify?
K: What can I say… being Nigerian is very important to me, so I would identify as a British Nigerian. I’ve been in the States four years, and now it’s like home.
Why did you start UrbanGeekz?
I was at the Grio for close to four years and it was a phenomenal job. But I felt there was a gap in the market. There wasn’t a minority-led news platform tackling issues related to STEM and the technology industry, which as you know is an important space that’s going to become even more significant in the coming years. The other reason that sparked me to launch UrbanGeekz was when the big tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, released their diversity stats and showed dismal numbers of African-Americans and women. I think that and the combination of just thinking we’re not covering these stories was the impetus.
Who do you consider your competition in the digital tech space?
I’ve got a huge vision for UrbanGeekz. I want the platform to compete with the big players like TechCrunch and the African-American and even the Latino digital news outlets as well. They aren’t my competition now because we’ve just started, but I hope to be at the same level further down the line.
What do you see as the near future for blacks and people of color in tech and science?
There’s been so much conversation about this right now. It’s a hot topic. Some of the big firms, including Intel and Apple,have made major announcements within the last year, [earmarking] money for underserved minorities and women. So I feel and I hope that people of color – and I say “people of color” because UrbanGeekz is a multi-cultural website – African-Americans of course, but I do want to include Latino market at some point and even Africans and Afro-Latinos as well – my hope is that particularly with the current discussion, people of color will become more and more involved in STEM and the tech space. Technology is important and when you look at the high-demand jobs of the future, many require STEM or tech skills. Underserved minorities and women need to have this skill set to level the playing field.
Are East Indians and Asians thought of as “people of color” in tech?
They are doing much better in tech. UrbanGeekz is for underrepresented communities in the technology industry.
Do you think there is enough awareness around disparity in the tech industry?
Before those diversity statistics were publicly released there wasn’t too much focus on the giant tech companies. But people like Reverend Jesse Jackson have been vocal and continued to put the spotlight on the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley. Now the issue is a hot topic. It’s also about what kind of skills and jobs that will be in demand in the future. STEM skills are vital for career progression and the continued growth of the U.S. economy. These companies are the new Fortune 500 companies, the new GM [General Motors] or U.S. Steel.
Further down the line, Tinuoye and UrbanGeekz will be launching the UrbanGeekz 100, an annual list of underrepresented minorities making strides in science and technology. The handpicked list will culminate with an on-site exclusive awards gala honoring these dynamic leaders and influencers of color who have achieved success in their prospective industries.
Telecom giant AT&T has fired an executive who was sued this week for allegedly using his work cell phone to keep and send racially offensive images. Aaron Slator was fired as AT&T’s President of Content and Advertising Sales after employee Knoyme King, 50, accused him and other executives at AT&T of subjecting her to discriminatory behavior.
“There is no place for demeaning behavior within AT&T, and we regret the action was not taken earlier,” the company said in a statement confirming Slator’s dismissal.
The images at issue were found in Slator’s possession when he asked an assistant to transfer data from an old phone to a new one, the lawsuit said.
One of the images depicted an African child dancing with the racist caption “It’s Friday N—-s,” the lawsuit said. According to the lawsuit, Slator once sent the image in a text describing it as “an oldie but a goodie.”
“Slator harbors obvious and deep-seated racial animus toward African Americans,” the lawsuit obtained by the Daily News said. “Slator’s decisions regarding hiring, firing, promotions and raises are infected by his racism.”
The suit, filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, names multiple defendants including Slator, company CEO Randall Stephenson, other executives at the company’s Los Angeles office and board member Joyce Roche.
King’s lawyer Louis (Skip) Miller said Tuesday that Slator’s termination will not affect the lawsuit moving forward. “If anything, it’s an admission of liability. It proves we’re right, that it all happened,” Miller told The News.
He said the lawsuit is bigger than one image or one executive.
“The issues in this case are age, race and gender discrimination, and they don’t stop with Aaron Slator. These images and issues were reported a year and a half ago, and the company swept them under the rug,” Miller said.
He called King a “very nice lady” who spent 30 years building a career at AT&T and deserved better. According to the lawsuit, King, who is African American, was passed over for promotions and given unfair pay because of her race and age. “She’s a very down to earth, earnest, hard-working and loyal woman,” Miller said of King. “And she thought she’d have a career where she could move up. She never had a chance.”