ATLANTA — Taraji P. Henson hates math, and Octavia Spencer has a paralyzing fear of calculus, but that didn’t stop either actress from playing two of the most important mathematicians the world hasn’t ever known.
Both women are starring in “Hidden Figures,” a forthcoming film that tells the astonishing true story of female African-American mathematicians who were invaluable to NASA’s space program in the Jim Crow South in the early 1960s.
Ms. Henson plays Katherine Johnson, a math savant who calculated rocket trajectories for, among other spaceflights, the Apollo trips to the moon. Ms. Spencer plays her supervisor, Dorothy Vaughan, and the R&B star Janelle Monáe plays Mary Jackson, a trailblazing engineer who worked at the agency, too.
Slated for wide release in January, the film is based on the book of the same title, to be published this fall, by Margot Lee Shetterly. The author grew up knowing Ms. Johnson in Hampton, Va., but only recently learned about her outsize impact on America’s space race.
Pharrell Williams will produce Taraji P. Henson’s mathematics drama “Hidden Figures” and write original songs for the soundtrack.
Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping and Ted Melfi are also producing, and Melfi is directing. Williams will oversee all musical elements for the motion picture and its soundtrack.
Henson stars along with Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as a trio of brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind the 1962 launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit — a key milestone in the space race against the Soviet Union to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade.
“After my producing partner Mimi Valdés and I heard about this project, we basically begged the producers and studio to allow us to participate,” Williams said. “This is an extraordinary story about black women with genius mathematical minds who contributed to American history. It takes place in Virginia, my home state, and at NASA, a place I’ve been obsessed with since childhood.”
Fox will release “Hidden Figures” on Jan. 13. Also starring are Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge and Kevin Costner. The screenplay is by Alison Schroeder, Melfi and Lori Lakin Hutcherson.
Williams has won 10 Grammy Awards. He’s also known for his musical contributions to the “Despicable Me” films as well as his judging stint on NBC’s “The Voice.”
*(GBN disclosure from Editor-in-Chief Lori Lakin Hutcherson: the above is an article in which I am mentioned, as I am primarily a writer in television and film, and was fortunate enough to work on “Hidden Figures.” It may be a conflict of interest to have published this, but so be it – it’s an awesome film and Good Black News regardless!)
“So often when people talk about the issue of global girls’ education, they dive right into the policy weeds,” Obama began her essay. And while policy is important, the First Lady explained why experience is just as integral to the conversation.
“It’s also very much about attitudes and beliefs,” Obama wrote. “The belief that girls should be valued for their bodies, not their minds; the belief that girls simply aren’t worthy of an education, and their best chance in life is to be married off when they’re barely even teenagers and start having children of their own.”
Obama explained that the issue is personal to her because she’s met many of these young girls while traveling as First Lady. “They are so smart and hardworking, and so hungry for an education,” she wrote. “I’ve met girls who make long, dangerous journeys each day to school and then come home and study for hours each night. I’ve met girls studying at rickety desks in bare concrete classrooms who are raising their hands so hard they’re almost falling out of their chairs.”
Ted Melfi is directing the movie and producing with Chernin Entertainment and Donna Gigliotti of Levantine Films. The film is based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s upcoming book “Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race,” which will be published in September by HarperCollins.
The story follows three African-American women who served as the brains behind NASA’s Friendship 7 mission, which saw astronaut John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth in February 1962.
Henson will play Katherine Johnson, Spencer will play Dorothy Vaughan and Monae will play the youngest member of the trio, Mary Jackson. Kevin Costner will co-star as the head of the space program.
On Feb. 28, comedian Hannibal Buress, Creed director and co-writer Ryan Coogler, singer Janelle Monae, Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams, Selma director Ava DuVernay, and other entertainment notables will be joining forces onstage for a free event in Flint, Michigan, BuzzFeed News can exclusively reveal. The Buress-hosted gathering, dubbed #JUSTICEFORFLINT, is open to the public and presented by Blackout for Human Rights, an activist collective founded by Coogler which is devoted to addressing human rights violations in the U.S.
For almost two years, Flint’s residents — many of whom are black and impoverished — have been subjected to massive lead and bacterial contamination in Genesee County’s water supply, and forced to avoid tap water.
#JUSTICEFORFLINT will take place at the Whiting Auditorium (1241 E. Kearsley St.) on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 5:30 p.m. ET to raise both awareness and funds for those affected by the water crisis. It will also be live-streamed via revolt.tv, and donations will be collected at the event and via text. Along with all the star power, organizers have also invited members of the Flint community to share their stories with the audience.
“With the #JUSTICEFORFLINT benefit event we will give a voice to the members of the community who were the victims of the choices of people in power who are paid to protect them, as well as provide them with a night of entertainment, unity, and emotional healing,” Ryan Coogler told BuzzFeed News in a statement. “Through the live stream we will also give a chance for people around the world to participate, and to donate funds to programs for Flint’s youth.”
Though the event does coincide with the Academy Awards — which largely snubbed Creed in nominations and did the same with DuVernay’s Selma last year — Coogler said Feb. 28 was chosen because it fell on the final weekend of Black History Month, and that the date overlap was a coincidence.
The idea for #JUSTICEFORFLINT emerged at Blackout’s last event #MLKNOW held on Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 28), which took place at Riverside Church in Harlem and drew more than 2,200 attendees and nearly half a million views online.
Lauryn Hill, The Roots, A$AP Rocky, Wale, Janelle Monae& Wondaland, Raekwon, Ghostface, The Internet, Raury, SZA, Scarface, and many more will take center stage at ONE Musicfestfestival in Atlanta on Saturday, September 12, 2015.
Over the last 6 years ONE Musicfest has pulled together the best of urban alternative legends and contemporaries for a unique experience through music and visual. And this year it gets even better, with ONE Musicfest in partnership with Live Nation, “pulling out all the stops with an outdoor music festival that the media says, can’t be missed, and attracting a generationally and culturally diverse audience. “
Beyond festival-goers having a good old-fashion time at the ONE Musicfest, Jason Carter, the founder of ONE Musicfest, told Black Enterprise.com exclusively, “I want people to walk away knowing that it’s possible for us all to share the same space. ONE Musicfest is a generational festival. It’s nothing to see a 17-year-old enjoying music along with someone in his or her late 40’s partying just as hard. So many times I think that’s overlooked with festivals. Some people will say, “That’s a young persons festival or that’s old school.” But the way we set up ONE Musicfest is so different—people jump up and dance when they hear a classic New Edition song and in the same breath once they hear the first drop on Kendrick Lamar, they’re bopping their head just as hard.
“The other WIN for One Musicfest is how we’ve brought progressive urban music to the stage. You never see Lauryn Hill on the same bill as Big Krit, but interestingly enough they’re fans of each other, but never get a chance to celebrate each other’s music together. So when they get backstage, they’re snapping pictures together and sharing them on Facebook and Instagram.”
According to a statement released by One Musicfest, the festival will take place on multiple stages and will serve as the ultimate mashup of innovative urban alternative acts with over eleven hours of non-stop music. The festival will feature over 25 of the hottest global DJs whose music crosses over to all spectrums, local vendors, games, and interactive activities. One Musicfest is the only place to see this roster of incredible acts join together for One purpose – which is to witness a wide variety of sounds, from rock to hip-hop, electro, reggae, funk, disco, house, alternative and soul while having your musical senses stimulated.
Founded by Jason Carter, ONE Musicfest has been one of Southeast’s largest home-grown, musical arts festivals to date including over 10,000 plus attendees. Carter has brought Atlanta music lovers the best and the brightest urban alternative acts performing in a welcoming, hospitable setting, creating an atmosphere where everyone can enjoy and discover music.
Previous artists include Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Jhene Aiko, Erykah Badu, Snoop Dogg, CeeLo Green & Goodie Mob, Santigold, Common, Method Man, Redman, Chrisette Michele, Amel Larriueux, Daley, Goapele, Joey Bada$$, De La Soul, Bilal, Quadron and more.
For more information, please visit www.onemusicfest.com and follow @ONEMusicfest | #OMF2015 | #ONLYOMF.
Last night, Black Entertainment Television held its 15th annual BET Awards celebration, honoring musical legends Janet Jackson and Smokey Robinson, as well as radio and television personality Tom Joyner with special tributes and awards. Jason Derulo, Ciara and Tinashe did a tribute in dance to Jackson before she received her Ultimate Icon Award from longtime producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
Performances by Alicia Keys,Janelle Monae, Jidenna, Kendrick Lamar, Tyga and Chris Brown, to name a few, also energized the event, and it was no surprise when Best Acting awards went to deserving “Empire” darlings Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. To see the full list of winners, read below:
Best New Artist Sam Smith
Best Male Hip-Hop Artist Kendrick Lamar
Common Big Sean
Best Female Hip-Hop Artist Nicki Minaj
Best Actor Terrence Howard
Best Female R&B/Pop Artist Beyoncé
Stevie Wonder will get the all-star treatment next month during a tribute concert in his honor. The Associated Press reports that Usher, Willie Nelson and Janelle Monae will be among the performers paying tribute to Wonder at “Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life — An All-Star Grammy Salute.”
The event, which will also feature performances from Coldplay‘s Chris Martin and Ed Sheeran, will take place at the Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles on Feb. 10.
The concert is scheduled to be held two days after the 57th annual Grammy Awards. Wonder’s history with the Grammys is a stellar one that includes receiving 25 Grammy Awards during his career.
Tickets for “Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life — An All-Star Grammy Salute” are currently on sale. The show is set to air as a two-hour special Feb. 16 on CBS.
Chaka Khan, Brandy and Lianne La Havas have been added to the lineup for our annual ESSENCE Black Women in Music ceremony.
The three performers join this year’s honoree, Jill Scott, in celebrating the best and brightest moments in Black music over ESSENCE’s 45-year history. The 6th annual event recognizes the achievements of the generations of Black women singers who have inspired and paved the way.
Past ESSENCE Black Women in Music honorees include Mary J. Blige, Kelly Rowland,Janelle Monáe, and Solange Knowles. This year’s event will feature an exclusive performance from Scott as well as several other performances from several classic eras of music. And for the first time, community fans will be able to join in the festivities of this invitation-only event.
Ten-time Grammy winner Chaka Khan has been on the scene for over three decades, racking up accolades and earning the praise of her peers, such as Aretha Franklin and Miles Davis. We’ve watched Grammy winner Brandy grow up right before our eyes since her 1995 debut. She helped shape a generation with songs like “I Wanna Be Down” and “The Boy Is Mine.” Newcomer Lianne La Havas burst on the scene in 2012 with her album, Is Your Love Big Enough? The London-based singer attracted the attention of Prince—the two collaborated for his song, “Clouds.”
The ESSENCE Black Women in Music event will kick-off our year-long commemoration of the 45th anniversary of ESSENCE Magazine, where Black women have always—and will continue to—come first.
Catch these women, along with other music trailblazers, during ESSENCE Black Women in Music on February 5 in Los Angeles.
One of Hollywood’s most powerful black agents is making a new start. Charles King is leaving William Morris Endeavor to form MACRO, a startup that will focus on developing content for multicultural audiences.
With an unspecified “eight figures” in funding, Los Angeles-based MACRO initially will focus on developing and distributing feature films, TV series and digital content targeting African-American, Latino and multicultural markets.
King, 45, whose clients have included Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, tells The Hollywood Reporter that MACRO’s goal is to focus on audiences that have long been underserved by the traditional entertainment industry. “I’ve been sitting in these rooms for the last 15 years. The studios aren’t focused on it; the packagers aren’t focused on it,” he says. “There’s a huge void and a huge opportunity.”
He points to the lack of capital available to minority-focused filmmakers and says he’s looking to change that with MACRO, which will leverage crowdfunding platforms and co-financing to target films that range from “artistically inclined independents” in the $1 million to $3 million budget range up to $20 million projects. He points to films such as Barbershop, The Butler and Ride Alongas examples of the types of projects he hopes to produce. “The one underlying theme is ‘premium,’ ” he says. “I’m looking for artistic integrity.”
King already has lined up projects from filmmakers Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) and Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow). Both were represented by King at WME and say they jumped at the opportunity to continue to work with him in a new capacity.