Alex Hibbert and Jacob Piner, Youth Stars of Oscar-winning “Moonlight,” to Receive Keys to City of Miami Gardens

Alex Hibbert and Jaden Piner of “Moonlight” (photo via thegrio.com)

article by Kimberly Wilson via thegrio.com

The boys of “Moonlight” will be getting their moment.

Both 13-year-old Alex Hibbert and 12-year-old Jaden Piner, are slated to receive keys to the city of Miami Gardens, FL at this year’s Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival. The two students from Norland Middle School in Miami Gardens had starring roles in the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight,” with Alex playing young Chiron and Jaden playing Kevin, Chiron’s best friend.

“We think it’s a great opportunity for us to acknowledge what they’ve done at a young age, and tell them how proud we are of them,” shares Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III. “Because so often when you hear about young black kids, people don’t want to tell you the stories of these kids and areas that they excel in,” continues Mayor Gilbert. “We aren’t talking about them most times. Most times we’re talking about young black boys in a negative context, so anytime we get an opportunity to tell them how extraordinary they are, we will do it. And ‘Jazz In The Gardens’ is the biggest stage that we can offer in the city.”

The key ceremony will be just one highlight of the highly-anticipated weekend. As the staple event each year in the city of Miami Gardens, Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival is back for its 12th year, and is quickly growing beyond its borders. Hosted again by veteran comedian Rickey Smiley, the city can expect more than 70,000 music lovers from all over the United States and Caribbean Islands.

The festival will take place this upcoming weekend, March 17-19 at Hard Rock Stadium, featuring performances by Jill Scott, Esperanza Spalding, Common, and LLCoolJ.

To read more, go to: Young stars of Oscar-winning “Moonlight” to receive keys to the city of Miami Gardens | theGrio

Ava DuVernay’s Mass Incarceration Documentary “13th” Opens to Standing Ovation at New York Film Festival

New York Film Festival 2016 opening

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay (GREGORY PACE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK)

article by Gordon Cox via Variety.com

Ava DuVernay’s “13th” opened the 54th New York Film Festival with a jolt of topical urgency, shaking up tradition as the first documentary to kick off the festival and addressing head-on the issue of mass incarceration and its historical roots. The crowd at the premiere screening rose to its feet when the credits rolled — and then did it a couple more times after that: once when the lights came up on the filmmakers, activists and academics involved in the film, and again when DuVernay appeared for a brief talkback after the movie.

Heightened security measures, a reaction to the Sept. 17 bombing in Chelsea, made the opening the first in recent memory to involve bomb-sniffing dogs and security wands. Famous faces including Oprah WinfreyCommon and Don Lemon turned out for the film, which confronts issues at the forefront of the current political conversation: race, inequality, the fallout of slavery, police brutality and Black Lives Matter.

“This moment, this Black Lives Matter moment, it’s not a moment. It’s a movement,” said DuVernay on the red carpet before the film’s world premiere (in words she would later echo when she addressed the crowd in the theater). “People thought, ‘Oh, will it last?’ Well, it has lasted. It’s changed things. It’s forced candidates to talk about things that they did not talk about in previous elections. It’s opened people’s minds. It’s changed art-making. It’s changed music. People are seeing things through a different filter now.”

To read full article, go to: http://variety.com/2016/film/news/new-york-film-festival-2016-opening-13th-ava-duvernay-1201875308/

VH1 Taps Ashanti, Keke Palmer, Amber Rose & More for Salt-N-Pepa Tribute Tonight on “Hip Hop Honors”

Sandra ‘Pepa’ Denton, DJ Spinderella and Cheryl ‘Salt’ James of Salt-N-Pepa attend the 2016 MTV Movie Awards at Warner Bros. Studios on April 9, 2016 in Burbank, Calif. (CHRISTOPHER POLK/GETTY IMAGES FOR MTV)

article by Adelle Platon via billboard.com

VH1 is pushing out another stellar tribute for Salt-N-Pepa at this year’s Hip Hop Honors. The network announced on Friday (July 8) that Ashanti, Amber RoseKeke Palmer and Dreezy will be paying homage to the first all-female rap crew, comprised of Cheryl “Salt” JamesSandy “Pepa” Denton and DJ Spinderella.

The ladies will be shaking their thang (SNP pun intended) alongside other surprise guests for the evening’s tributes to fellow honorees Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah and Lil’ Kim. As previously announced, Pharrell, Timbaland and Nelly Furtado among others will salute Elliot while Common, Da Brat, Naughty By Nature and more will be on-hand to hail Queen Latifah.

Pharrell, Timbaland, Nelly Furtado & More to Honor Missy Elliott at VH1 Hip Hop Honors

VH1 Hip Hop Honors will land at New York’s David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center tonight, July 11, making its comeback after six years.

Common to Star in ‘Black Samurai’ TV Series Executive Produced by RZA

Common Black Samurai

Common (DAVID FISHER/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

According to Variety.com, Academy Award-winning rapper and actor Common is set to star in a television adaptation of “Black Samurai.”  The TV project is based on Marc Olden’s 1974 book series, which inspired the 1977 film of the same name. Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA is attached as an executive producer.  Producers are working on selling the project to a distributor. Once a network, cable or streaming venue is attached, the search for a writer and director will begin.

“Black Samurai” follows the story of Robert Sand (played by Common) who is rescued by a Japanese samurai master and trained for seven years. After suffering from vicious racism in the military, and seeing his teacher and fellow samurai killed before his eyes by terrorists, Robert Sand becomes a killing machine, out to destroy the corrupt powers who had taken the lives of his friends.

Producer Andre Gaines acquired rights to the book, and is executive producing the potential series, making it the first television show developed under his Cinemation banner.

“Robert Sand is like black Jason Bourne. Black Samurai is one of the most unique, timely and fun experiences I’ve ever read, while at the same time tackling some serious subjects around race and diversity,” said Gaines. “With ‘John Wick 2’ and ‘Suicide Squad’ coming up, Common was an obvious choice for the role, and I’m thrilled to have him on board. I believe he’s the next great American actor.”

Along with Gaines and RZA, Wu Films’ Mitchell Diggs and Diane Crafford are also exec producing.  I could not be more pleased that such incredible talent is attached to Marc’s work,” said Crafford. “This series has always been one of my favorites and Robert Sand, the Black Samurai, is a fascinating character who I can’t wait to see brought to life on the screen.”

Speaking of RZA, Gaines commented, “There is a long tradition and storied relationship between hip-hop and martial arts. Having RZA and the WuTang brand on board to executive produce will validate the series even more and mobilize the fans.” 

Aside from “Suicide Squad” and “John Wick 2,” Common’s acting career is on fire. He was recently seen in the latest “Barbershop” film and NBC’s “The Wiz Live” musical.

Click here to read the full Variety.com article.

“The Wiz Live” Ratings Strong: NBC Musical Draws 11.5 Million Viewers

The Wiz Live! NBC

COURTESY OF NBC

It’s Also the Most-Tweeted Live Special Program on Record

Two years after NBC stunned the industry with huge ratings for its live presentation of “The Sound of Music,” the network was back at it Thursday night with “The Wiz Live,” which drew impressive numbers of its own. The event also set a Nielsen Twitter record as most social live special program in the more than four years of tracking such numbers.

Despite facing a highly-rated NFL game on CBS, last night’s live musical, whose all-star cast included Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Ne-Yo, Amber Riley, Uzo Aduba, Stephanie Mills and David Alan Grier, averaged a 3.4 rating/11 share in adults 18-49 and about 11.5 million viewers overall from 8 to 10:45 p.m.,  according to preliminary Nielsen estimates. The only NBC entertainment series to fare better this fall is “The Voice,” whose season premiere averaged a 3.5/11 in 18-49 and 12.37 million.

According to Nielsen, roughly 269,400 people send 1.6 million tweets about “The Wiz Live!” on Thursday night and 6.4 million people saw those tweets a total of 128.9 million times. Last night’s production more than tripled the number of tweets for either “Sound of Music” (449,536) or “Peter Pan” (474,735).

Last night during the 8-11 p.m. EST window, global digital marketing technology company Amobee Brand Intelligence said “The Wiz Live!” attracted 1.374 million tweets during its three-hour telecast window — more than four times the number generated last year during the live telecast of “Peter Pan Live” (360,000). Roughly 30% of the sentiment was positive, 58% neutral and 13% negative — meaning the Twitter sentiment was 133% more positive than negative around the broadcast. Shanice Williams, the 19-year-old actress playing Dorothy, scored especially well, with only 2% of the sentiment surrounding her performance considered negative.

As expected, “The Wiz Live!” fared especially well in markets with large African-American populations. While the overall household average in Nielsen’s 56 metered markets was 7.9, the top scores came in Richmond (16.1), Norfolk (15.0), Baltimore (14.8), Washington, D.C. (13.2) and Atlanta (13.2). Joining D.C. and Atlanta as top-10 markets soaring above the national average were Philadelphia (10.3), New York (10.2) and Chicago (10.0).

article by Rick Kissell via Variety.com

“The Wiz Live!” Airs Tonight on NBC, to be 1st Live TV Program to Provide Vocal Description for Sight-Impaired

"The Wiz Live" on NBC, December 3 at 8pm EST/PST

“The Wiz Live!” on NBC, December 3 at 8pm EST/PST (photo courtesy NBC)

NEW YORK — When “The Wiz Live!” airs on NBC this Thursday, it will come alive for the blind with a voiced description of the broadcast’s sights and action integrated into its soundtrack.

NBC parent Comcast says this will be the first live entertainment program in U.S. history to be accessible in this way to those who are blind. The vocal description is a narration track interspersed between existing pauses in dialogue that describes the show’s visual elements such as facial expressions, settings, costumes and stage direction.

This enhanced broadcast of “The Wiz Live!” will be a pilot program available on local NBC stations where SAP (Second Audio Program) feeds are available. The service will be provided by Descriptive Video Works, which has provided more than 1,000 hours of live description for certain news and sports events.

“The Wiz Live!” premieres Thursday at 8 p.m. EST, with stars including Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, David Alan Grier, Ne-Yo, Elijah Kelley, Uzo Aduba and Common, as well as Shanice Williams as the young heroine, Dorothy.

article via accessatlanta.com

John Legend’s Scripted Drama “Underground” Releases First-Look Trailer (VIDEO)

WGN America just released a chilling first-look teaser for Underground, the upcoming original scripted series scheduled to debut early next year.  The drama takes center stage as plantation slaves band together in the fight of their lives for their families, their future … and most importantly, their freedom.

Hailing from Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios, Underground  was filmed in Baton Rouge, LA. John Legend and his production company are in charge of the score and soundtrack for Underground.

Legend most recently won an Oscar alongside rapper Common for Best Original Song “Glory” from Selma.

Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Jussie Smollett, Christopher Meloni, Aldis Hodge, Adina Porter, Alano Miller, and Mykelti Williamson round out the cast for the series.

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article via thegrio.com