The 22ndAmerican Black Film Festival (ABFF) will include an exciting lineup of film screenings, events and innovative programming, and will return to Miami from June 13-17, 2018. The week will include several new experiences, including Smartphone movie screenings, a master class on film financing, music-focused sessions and new networking opportunities for festival attendees. ABFF continues to be dedicated to introducing emerging content creators of African descent to the industry at large and is recognized as one of the leading film festivals in the world.
Actor Jay Ellis will serve as the 2018 ABFF Celebrity Ambassador. Annually, the festival showcases dynamic content by and about people of African descent from around the world and consists of five competitive categories: Narrative Features, Documentaries, Short Films, Web Series and Smartphone Originals. Submissions are now open and below is a list of film submission deadlines, Awards and direct submission links:
Kyira “Kira” Dixon Johnson and her husband Charles seemed to have it all: a healthy baby boy, flourishing entrepreneurial careers, and vibrant health. Which is why no one could have predicted that 24 hours after welcoming their second son into the world, Kyira would be dead.
The Johnsons represent an alarming reality that’s only recently gained attention in the national media: African-American women are dying in childbirth at 3-4 times the rate of their white counterparts. When I first read the statistics, I was stunned. “This isn’t the 19th century!” Yet facts prove otherwise.
For a recent Essence article, Meaghan Winter wrote:
“In some rural counties and dense cities alike, the racial disparity in maternal deaths is jaw-dropping: Chickasaw County, Mississippi, for instance, has a maternal death rate for women of color that’s higher than Rwanda’s. In New York City, Black women are 12 times more likely than White women to die of pregnancy-related causes—and the disparity has more than doubled in recent years.”
While experts agree that the causes are multi-faceted, and include factors such as diet, poor pre- and post-natal care, existing high-risk conditions (like hypertension and diabetes) and lack of access to properly trained medical staff, by far the most troubling thing I heard was this comment from Darline Turner, an Austin-based physician’s assistant and certified doula:
“This goes across socio-economic status. Even a high achieving Ph.D. – who is a six to seven figure earner – still has worse birth outcomes than a white woman without a high school education who is smoking,” she said during a phone interview.
“How is this possible?” I wondered.
Darline explained that the “issue no one wants to talk about” is the experience of chronic mental, physical and emotional stress experienced by black women living in modern America, and its negative impact on birth outcomes. (For more thoughts on this topic from Darline Turner, click here.)
Disturbed by the seeming nonchalance at what should be declared a national health emergency, she began the Healing Hands Doula project, a grassroots effort aimed at supporting healthy pregnancies and births for women of color in Texas.
Her belief that “we’ve got to return to community” is borne out by scientific studies from a variety of fields. “We know that loneliness is a major factor in disease.” According to her, a mom who isn’t connected to a strong and vital community offering robust emotional and medical support is more susceptible to complications.
The kind of purpose-driven work that birth professionals like Turner and Joseph are doing on behalf of women of color falls into the category of purposeful contribution. Over the past few years, research has shown that when you answer the “call” to do good for others, you actually strengthen your immune system.
The death of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson of Miami Gardens, FL, one of four soldiers killed Oct. 4 by ambush in Niger, wasn’t just another tragedy involving a constituent to U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson. So, she and her 5,000 Role Models of Excellence program decided to do something for Johnson’s survivors.
Wilson knew Johnson, his parents, his two kids and wife Myeshia Johnson, who is pregnant with their third child. Johnson hadn’t just gone through the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence program Wilson founded in 1993, he’d been a leader among leaders. Johnson’s cousins went into the program also, saying they were followed his example. Wilson couldn’t help but recognize the numeric parallel of Johnson being killed at 25 early in the program’s 25th school year. “He was a true role model,” Wilson said of the young man known as Wheelie King for his bicycle tricks before he enrolled in the Army.
While part of an advisory group in Niger, Johnson didn’t make it out of an attack the Department of Defense blames on The Islamic State. ISIS increasingly teams up with fellow extremist Islamic group Boko Haram, the terrorists in Wilson’s prime international cause, the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria. So, the 5,000 Role Models of Excllence program has established Role Model Army Sgt. La David Johnson Scholarship to ensure Johnson’s three children will have money for college.
A gofundme page has been set up for those who wish to contribute.
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. A childhood in the black community of Memphis. A cruise line career that delivered him to a life in South Florida. And a lottery ticket he bought at a gas station. A winning lottery ticket. They are the factors in Miguel Pilgram‘s life that bring him now to Sistrunk Boulevard, a corridor the county calls the “historical heartbeat of Fort Lauderdale’s oldest black community.”
Pilgram, who won a $52 million jackpot using quick-pick numbers in 2010, is investing some of his winnings in Sistrunk in a way not seen in years. Pilgram said he wants to breathe new vibrancy into the boulevard, building on its rich history as a place that nurtured civil rights leaders and pioneers and attracted people to its lively nightlife and music. “I was raised in a similar environment,” Pilgram said. “There is a need, and in my mind, an obligation, to invest there.”
The 48-year-old Coral Springs resident and father of two is rolling out plans for a New York Subs and Wings restaurant with a Memphis Blues club upstairs, on one side of Sistrunk. On the other, his company, The Pilgram Group, plans a retail complex with a bank, Jamba Juice and other shops on the ground floor. On the second floor, a performing arts center will offer below-market rates for instructors of dance, arts, and music. “Do you know how impactful that is for a child from any of these areas, who is like me, to come out and see people actually painting in the window, or performing on a saxophone?” Pilgram said. “That creates a fire under most children. Now they say, wow, anything out there that’s creative, I can be. Whatever artist I want to be, I can be.”
Back in Memphis, Pilgram said he had role models who shaped him. His father was hard-working. His mother was a devout Seventh-day Adventist who had him in church several days a week. When he got older, he joined the Navy. Then he embarked on a career in the cruise line industry, climbing to a top position, and learning to work with large budgets like the one now under his own name.In his world travels, he said he visited cultures where people marveled at his “beautiful” brown skin. He said he wants children in Fort Lauderdale’s historic black community to experience that feeling of value as an African American. But he also saw what can happen when private investment is lacking, he said, and government comes in to rebuild.
In Memphis, he said, his grandmother’s apartment was razed, and the residents displaced. He feared it could happen here, and said that’s one thing that drew him to Sistrunk Boulevard. ‘It could be you’ Every week, Pilgram spent $20 on lottery tickets. But he wasn’t good about checking them. Then one night he ran to the Shell gas station in North Bay Village where he bought his tickets. He left chicken cacciatore and his girlfriend at home, and was in a hurry. He just needed a bottle of wine. David, the gas station employee, was insistent. Someone had bought the winning Florida Lotto ticket at that gas station, he told Pilgram, and “it could be you.” Pilgram got the tickets from his car, and one of them hit: 15-16-20-32-45-50. David started “jumping up and down,” Pilgram said.”$52,000?” Pilgram thought he heard through David’s Spanish accent. No, not thousand. 52 million.
Sistrunk Boulevard hasn’t had a nightclub with live music like Pilgram plans in at least 25 years, City Commissioner Robert McKinzie said. The boulevard was once vibrant. Now, vacant lots and empty buildings sit on many of the blocks. The city, a major landowner on Sistrunk, has worked for years to encourage private investment. McKinzie said the pieces are finally falling into place, and he’s “excited” about Pilgram’s role in it. “Now that we are reviving it,” McKinzie said of Sistrunk Boulevard, “his plan and concept fit right in.” Next to Pilgram’s planned performing arts center, on the north side of Sistrunk between Northwest 14th Way and 14th Terrace, the city recently agreed to spend $10 million building a new YMCA where the old Mizell Center is.
POMPANO BEACH (CBSMiami) – They are iconic – two female rappers and a DJ who made their mark on the 90s, the music industry and the “glass ceiling.” Trio Salt-N-Pepa – made of up of Cheryl James (“Salt”), Sandra Denton (“Pepa”) and Deidra Roper (“Spinderella”) – is best known for their songs “Shoop” and “Whatta Man.” They inspired a generation, including Tiffany Miranda. Miranda is a successful DJ and performer, and founder of Girls Make Beats, a nonprofit program that teaches young girls the ins and outs of music production, DJ’ing and audio engineering. “Salt-N-Pepa, they were my jam what I was growing up,” said Miranda. “I would just watch VH1 and MTV and The Box. It was all Salt-N-Pepa, all the time.”
The girls of Girls Make Beats opened for Salt-N-Pepa, who performed their classics at the Pompano Beach Amphitheatre, and took time to say hello to the future DJs who look up to them. “You have to really believe in yourself and your talent,” said Salt. “You have to be strong. Salt-N-Pepa have endured a lot in the business, and there were a lot of times where we felt defeated, and like we wanted to give up, but there’s a certain energy that you have to have a woman when you’re in a male dominated field. You have to stay focused.”
Girls Make Beats partnered with the city of Pompano Beach and Ali Cultural Arts Center, with help from a Knight Foundation grant, to provide training to inner-city girls. Spinderella was thrilled to hear about the program, and said girls should use any negativity they encounter along the way to catapult them.“The women that are coming through the doors, we’d like to see, of course, more of them,” she said. “But I’m proud as a female DJ to see the young ladies doing what they do, because they have been put into this box. They’re women, they can do anything. I say to the young girls out there, use that as your catalyst.”
S. Allen Counter, the founding director of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations and a noted neurophysiologist, educator, and ethnographer, died on July 12. According to wikipedia.com, Counter was also known for his achievements as an explorer. In 1971, he located a group of people living in the rain forest in northern Brazil, Surinam and French Guiana; the group was descended from African slaves who had escaped from slave ships. In 1986, Counter located descendants of earlier U.S. explorers of the arctic, Matthew A. Henson and Robert E. Peary.Counter was elected to The Explorers Club in 1989. Counter also designed Arthur Ashe‘s memorial at Woodland Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, dedicated on what would have been Ashe’s 50th birthday on July 10, 1993.
“Harvard has lost a great champion of inclusion and belonging in Dr. Allen Counter,” said President Drew Faust. “Through his leadership of the Harvard Foundation, he advanced understanding among members of our community and challenged all of us to imagine and strive for a more welcoming University and a more peaceful world. We remember today a campus citizen whose deep love of Harvard, and especially our undergraduates, leaves a lasting legacy.”
“During my years as president of Harvard, no one did more than Allen to make minority students feel welcome and at home at Harvard, to promote fruitful interaction among all races, and to serve as understanding adults to whom many undergraduates could turn in order to register their concerns, answer their questions, and have their legitimate problems communicated to the Harvard administration so that they could be understood and acted upon in appropriate ways,” recalled Derek Bok, who led the University from 1971–91 and from 2006–07. “Much of what he accomplished was unrecognized, but his contributions were invaluable, and I will always feel a great debt of gratitude for his service to the University.”
Counter did his undergraduate work in biology and sensory physiology at Tennessee State University and his graduate studies in electrophysiology at Case Western Reserve University, where he earned his Ph.D. He earned his M.D. at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. He came to Harvard in 1970 as a postdoctoral fellow and assistant neurophysiologist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Early in his University career, Counter lived in a student residence hall as dormitory director, resident tutor, and biological sciences tutor.
In the early 1970s, the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the Department of Health and Human Services) named him to the National Advisory Mental Health Council of the National Institute of Mental Health. In 1975, several proposals came before the council requesting funding for projects involving psychosurgery and electrode implants in human brains. At that time, the government’s rules protecting human subjects were still evolving, and Counter believed the projects were inherently racist. He insisted the council not approve them, and they were not acted upon.
In the same decade, Counter taught inmates at MCI Concord with the Massachusetts Correctional Concord Achievement Rehabilitation Volunteer Experience, where he said he gave inmates the same advice his grandmother had given him: “Read a book. Develop your mind.” A later study showed that participants in the program had a lower recidivism rate than prisoners who did not take part. After a sabbatical fellowship at UCLA with neuroscientist Alan D. Grinnell in the late 1970s, Counter returned to Cambridge, where his research at Harvard Medical School focused on clinical and basic studies on nerve and muscle physiology, auditory physiology, and neurophysiological diagnosis of brain-injured children and adults. Continue reading “R.I.P. Dr. S. Allen Counter, 63, Noted Neurophysiologist, Ethnographer and Founding Director of Harvard Foundation of Intercultural and Race Relations “→
Trayvon Martin’s parents were the recipients of a major honor on behalf of their late son. Florida Memorial University awarded the slain teen with a posthumous Bachelor’s Degree during the school’s annual commencement ceremony last Saturday (May 13).
“To say that we’re thankful is an understatement,” said Martin’s father, Tracy. “I think this shows what this community, how they feel, how they believe in our family, believe in our foundation, how we’ve worked together, it was a heartfelt moment when they called Trayvon’s name to accept the degree for him, it was very touching. This was a day that we planned for as parents, we just wish that we would have watched him walk across the stage.”
Martin received a Bachelor of Science in Aviation, with a concentration in flight education, honoring his dream of becoming a pilot. Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, graduated from FMU two years after he was born. “In 1997 I graduated from FMU with a Bachelors degree in English with a minor in Mass Communications,” she wrote on Instagram earlier int he month. “It’s now 20 years later & now my son #TrayvonMartin will receive his Bachelors in Aviation, something he loved.”