Essence Unveils Night-By-Night Schedule for 2017 Concert Series at Superdome this Summer

 article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

The 2017 ESSENCE Festival has announced the all-star, night-by-night schedule for its concert series, from June 30 to July 2 at the Superdome in New Orleans, LA.

Single-night tickets are now on sale and are priced starting at $50 per person per night.

The concerts will feature more than 40 acts across five stages in the Superdome throughout the weekend on the festival’s renowned Mainstage and in the intimate Superlounges. Festival first-timers Diana Ross and Chance the Rapper will open and close the weekend concert series with headlining performances on Friday and Sunday night respectively – along with a special all-female Saturday night lineup, inspired by headliner Mary J. Blige’s forthcoming album Strength of A Woman.

Other well-known performers in this year’s line-up include John Legend, india.arie, Jill Scott, Chaka Khan and Solange.

Roy Wood Jr. from Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” will serve as the Mainstage host for the weekend, with more surprise guest performances to be announced.

For more information about ticket sales and accommodations and for the latest news about the ESSENCE Festival®, visit www.essencefestival.com, join the festival community by following us on Twitter @essencefest #EssenceFest and become a fan of 2017 ESSENCE Festival® on Facebook.

John Legend Bringing True Story of Tulsa’s ‘Black Wall Street’ to WGN

article via eurweb.com

John Legend, an executive producer on WGN America’s successful series “Underground,” is behind yet another project for the network based on a true experience in African American history.

The singer is executive producing a new series based on Black Wall Street, the nickname given to the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the early part of the 20th century, the area was one of the wealthiest and most affluent black communities in the United States.

However, jealous white citizens destroyed much of the neighborhood and killed upwards of 300 black people in a race riot that broke out in 1921.

According to TheWrap, the as-yet-untitled series is in the early stages of development, with Legend producing through his Get Lifted production banner along with Mike Jackson, Ty Stiklorius and “Southside With You” star Tika Sumpter.

To see a history of Black Wall Street, click below:

John Legend Bringing True Story of Tulsa’s ‘Black Wall Street’ to WGN | EURweb

Business Titan Robert F. Smith Named Carnegie Hall’s 1st African-American Chairman

Robert F. Smith, 53, elected chairman of the Carnegie Hall Board of Directors on Thursday. (Credit: Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times)

article by Michael Cooper and David Gelles via nytimes.com

Robert F. Smith, the private equity titan who was named the richest African-American man by Forbes last year after making a fortune in software, also has a quirky musical side.

He owns one of Elton John’s old pianos. He hired John Legend and Seal — and a youth orchestra — to perform at his wedding last summer on the Amalfi Coast. His youngest sons, Hendrix and Legend, are named after Jimi Hendrix and Mr. Legend. And he bought and refurbished a retreat in the Rocky Mountains that was beloved by jazz musicians, including Duke Ellington.

On Thursday, Mr. Smith’s intersecting worlds of money, philanthropy and music came together when he was named the chairman of Carnegie Hall, the nation’s most prestigious concert stage. He became the first African-American to hold the post at a time when diversity at leading cultural organizations lags — a recent survey of New York’s cultural institutions found that nearly 78 percent of their board members were white.

“Carnegie Hall is perfectly placed to champion not only artistic excellence, but also access and exposure to the best music in the world,” Mr. Smith said in a statement.

The election of Mr. Smith, 53, who played an old upright piano while growing up in Denver and was told that with enough practice he might make it to Carnegie one day, brings to an end a low moment at the hall. The billionaire Ronald O. Perelman served as its chairman for less than a year before stepping down last fall after he alienated the board by clashing with the hall’s executive and artistic director, Clive Gillinson.

After shunning the spotlight for years, Mr. Smith, who is based in Austin, Tex., where the private equity firm he founded, Vista Equity Partners, has its headquarters, has recently taken a more public role — starting a foundation, the Fund II Foundation; giving commencement addresses; and donating money. His alma mater, Cornell University, renamed its School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering for him earlier this year after he announced a $50 million gift.

Unlike Carnegie’s most recent chairmen, Mr. Perelman and Sanford I. Weill, the former Citigroup chairman, Mr. Smith does not come from the world of New York finance, and he has not been a major fixture on the city’s social scene — he is more known for flying in to attend events in the city and then flying out. But his work outside the city with investors and tech firms could provide entree to new potential donors in the coming years.

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FEATURE: The Smollett Family Business – Acting and Activism

Jussie Smollett, left, and Jurnee Smollett-Bell. (Credit: Taylor Glascock for The New York Times)

article by Melena Ryzik via nytimes.com

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.”

Aldis Hodge and Jurnee Smollett-Bell in v>“Underground.” (Credit: Sony Pictures Television)

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.”

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“Straight Outta Compton” Wins Best Film at 47th NAACP Image Awards; “Empire”, “Black-ish” Sweep TV Categories

47th-NAACP-awards-logo-thumb article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Chrissy Tiegen with husband and NAACP President's Award winner John Legend (photo via eonline.com

Chrissy Tiegen with husband and NAACP President’s Award winner John Legend (photo via eonline.com

The 47th NAACP Image Awards ceremony was held tonight at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and aired on TV One (9-11 p.m. ET live/PT tape-delayed). The two-hour live special was hosted by Anthony Anderson, and the one-hour live pre-show from the red carpet was hosted by Terrence Jenkins and Tracey Edmonds.

NAACP Chairwoman Rosyln Brock presented the NAACP Chairman’s Award to Brittany “Bree” Newsome, who famously climbed up and took down the Confederate flag in Columbia, South Carolina; Justice League NYC; Concerned Student 1950 Collective at the University of Missouri, Columbia; The University of Mississippi NAACP College Chapter; Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III; Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley; Rev. Dr. Jamal Harrison Bryant, and Jussie Smollett.

NAACP President Cornell William Brooks presented the NAACP President’s Award to musician and activist John Legend.

Some of the biggest names in film, television and music appeared including Viola Davis, Gabrielle Union, Gina Rodriguez, Kerry Washington, Morris Chestnut, Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keegan-Michael Key, O’Shea Jackson Jr.,Bell, Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Tracee Ellis Ross, Loretta Devine, Shonda Rhimes, Omari Hardwick, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Sanaa Lathan, RonReaco Lee, Keke Palmer, Michael Ealy, Tom Joyner, LeToya Luckett, Ken Jeong, F. Gary Gray and more. Also in attendance were cast members from “Empire” – Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Jussie Smollett, Bryshere Gray, Grace Gealy, TraiByers, Serayah, Gabourey Sidibe, Ta’Rhonda Jones, Kaitlin Doubleday, Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and more.

The NAACP Image Awards production team included Executive Producers Reginald Hudlin and Phil Gurin.  Check out the full list of winners for the 47th NAACP Image Awards below: 

Outstanding Comedy Series

“black-ish” (ABC)

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series  

Anthony Anderson – “black-ish” (ABC)

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series  

Tracee Ellis Ross – “black-ish” (ABC)

Outstanding Drama Series

Empire (FOX)

Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series

Terrence Howard – Empire” (FOX)

Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series

Taraji P. Henson – Empire (FOX)

Outstanding Motion Picture

“Straight Outta Compton (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture

Michael B. Jordan – Creed (Warner Bros. Pictures/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures)

Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture

Sanaa Lathan – “The Perfect Guy” (Screen Gems)

Entertainer of the Year

Michael B. Jordan Continue reading

John Legend Will Be Honored with President’s Award at This Year’s NAACP Image Awards

2015 Billboard Music Awards - Arrivals

John Legend (Source: Jeffrey Mayer / Getty)

John Legend‘s career transcends his success as an artist. Over the past decade, he’s established several philanthropic and social justice organizations where he uses his influence to make a difference in the lives of others.

The “Glory” singer will be presented with the NAACP President’s Award at this year’s NAACP Image Awards.

“His contributions to music and artistic creativity have been recognized by peers and fans worldwide, and he is greatly admired for his humanitarian efforts” said Cornell William Brooks,President and CEO, NAACP.

“Legend remains a true inspiration through his philanthropic work and I am truly proud to honor his altruistic efforts both domestically and internationally by bestowing upon him this year’s NAACP President’s Award” added Brooks.

Previous honorees include Kerry Washington, President Bill ClintonSoledad O’BrienMuhammad Ali and most recently, Spike Lee.

In 2007, Legend established “The Show Me Campaign” with the mission of providing students with a quality education as well as end the school-to-prison pipeline. Similarly, he recently launched, #FREEAMERICA, a multi-year culture change campaign focused on ending mass incarceration.

The nine-time Grammy award winner, Golden Globe and Oscar winner also has a successful production company, Get Lifted Film Co. that strives to provide TV and film content that’s inclusive and inspirational.

Legend, 37 and his wife, model Chrissy Teigen, 30, are expecting their first child this summer. 

Watch Legend accept the coveted honor when the NAACP Image Awards air live on TV One Friday, February 5th at 9pm.

article by Zon D’Amour via hellobeautiful.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