Tag: Lori Lakin Hutcherson

MUSICAL MONDAYS: GBN Offers Weekly Playlists to Help Keep Spirits Up and Bodies Moving (LISTEN)

by GBN Editor-in-Chief Lori Lakin Hutcherson

Even though Stevie Wonder wrote and sang the words above in his 1976 release “Sir Duke” from his classic “Songs in the Key of Life” double album, they are words that have been true since the formation of life and the sounds from it emerged on this planet.

In good times and bad, music remains an indelible part of our souls and our existence. So even now, as the entire world faces a sobering scourge in the form of a viral pandemic, music has the power to help us cope. Music can help us relax, rejoice, reflect, rejuvenate… revolutionize.

In recent weeks, Good Black News has offered playlists in celebration of legendary artists such as Aretha Franklin, Bill Withers, Manu Dibango, Ellis Marsalis and Wallace Roney. They have been met with such warm response, GBN has decided to make playlist offerings a weekly feature.

So every Monday, expect to see a new playlist posted here on our main page as well as across any of our social platforms that support them or links to them (eg. FB, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest).

Marlon West (photo courtesy Marlon West)

Today’s list comes from GBN Contributor Marlon West and has that island flair, reminding us we’re all in this struggle together, everywhere. In Marlon’s words:

“Back again with a shelter-at-home playlist. Enjoy this batch of reggae classics. Stay sane, safe and healthy, y’all.

From your pal and selector, Marlon.”

(FB: marlon.west1 Twitter: @marlonw IG: stlmarlonwest Spotify: marlonwest)

Ten Years Ago Today: Good Black News Was Founded

Although we as a species are currently going through unprecedented times of hardship and uncertainty as we grapple with a global pandemic, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the creation of Good Black News a decade ago on March 18, 2010.

You can read the detailed story of GBN’s inception and creation here, because what I want to celebrate today more than anything else is you, GBN’s loyal readers and followers, who, in concert with the Good Black News Team, have slowly but steadily built a strong, respectful, and loving community that is willing to celebrate positivity, action, achievement, humor and humanity on a daily basis.

This kind of energy and fellowship is what the world needs more of right now, and we are so happy to have seen it grow and flourish on our dedicated website, goodblacknews.org, as well as across our social media on FacebookTwitter,  Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTubeRSS feed, and LinkedIn.

I will admit to having wanted to do more to celebrate ten years of GBN – offered a proper retrospective of our best stories, the times we’ve been news, big up our Top Fans, announce new plans for expansion, perhaps even throw a party! – but between personal and professional challenges this past year (sick family member, demanding day job), plus the current state of affairs due to coronavirus, these words I’m writing in this moment shall have to suffice.

Thank you for the appreciation you’ve shown GBN the past decade via follows, likes, comments, shares, reblogs, letters and e-mails, as they inspire me daily to keep GBN going.

Good Black News remains a labor of love for me and Lifestyle Editor Lesa Lakin, and we gratefully acknowledge the decade’s extraordinary volunteer contributors (in alphabetical order):  

Rebecca Carpenter, Susan Cartsonis, Dena CrowderJulie Bibb Davis, Alyss Dixson, Dan Evans, Gina Fattore, Julie Fishman, Michael Giltz, Eric Greene, Thaddeus Grimes-Gruczka, Skip Heller, Ashanti Hutcherson, Warren Hutcherson, Fred Johnson, Epiphany Jordan, Fabio KoelschBrenda Lakin, Joyce Lakin, Ray Lancon, John Levinson, Jason Lief, Neeta McCulloch, Hanelle Culpepper Meier, Jeff Meier, Catherine Metcalf, Minsun Park, Tajamika Paxton, Patrick-Ian Polk, Flynn RichardsonRosanna Rossetto, Gabriel Ryder, Terry Samwick, Becky Schonbrun, Susan Shaffer, Kelly SpearsCallie TeitelbaumTeddy TenenbaumArro Verse, Marlon West, and Joshua A.S. Young. 

You are all deeply, greatly appreciated.

Special thanks to Maeve Richardson for re-conceiving and redesigning all the GBN logos and banners across social media, designing the “Got Privilege” art for GBN’s 2016 viral “What I Said When My White Friend Asked For My Black Opinion on White Privilege” essay.

And extra special thanks to friend and best-selling author Terry McMillan for being the inspiration behind it all. P.S. GBN Patron Saint Terry has a new book arriving March 31. Consider checking out It’s Not All Downhill From Here! (amazon link)

Please continue to help us spread GBN by sharing, liking, re-tweeting and commenting, and consider following GBN on the main page, as well as wherever you are on social media.

Please also consider joining our e-mail list via our “Contact Us” tab on goodblacknews.org. We will only use this list to keep you updated on GBN and send you our upcoming weekly e-newsletter (which may finally launch for real for real, as we will soon have a lot more time to focus on it!) — nothing else. And, of course, you may opt out at any time.

Thank you again for your support, and we look forward to providing you with more Good Black News in the coming decade, and beyond!

Warmly,

GBN Founder and Editor-in-Chief Lori Lakin Hutcherson

Good Black News Highlighted on NPR’s Syndicated Call-In Show “On Point” as Notable Media Outlet Focusing on Positive News (AUDIO)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN Founder and Editor-In-Chief (@LakinHutcherson)

Yesterday I had the pleasure and honor of being a guest on Boston public radio station WBUR‘s nationally-syndicated show On Point to discuss the current push and need for good news in the media (and to continue to spread the word about Good Black News).

David Folkenflik is the host and moderator of On Point, and Hilary McQuilkin produced the hour for broadcast. Other guests on this show with me are David Beard (@dabeard), founder of The Optimist newsletter at the Washington Post, who also writes for the Recharge newsletter of Mother Jones and  Gail Rosenblum(@grosenblum), editor of the Inspired section at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

To hear our discussion on why good news and solutions-based reporting is on the upswing and so necessary in our culture right now, click here and enjoy!

To read more details behind this episode entitled “Beyond Puppies, A Push For Positive Stories In Today’s Media Coverage” on On Point’s website, click here.

Nine Years Ago Today: Good Black News Was Founded

GOOD BLACK NEWS proudly celebrates its ninth anniversary today, March 18, 2019. Although initially launched on March 18, 2010 as a Facebook page (read the detailed story behind GBN’s creation here), in September 2012, GBN created this dedicated website, goodblacknews.org, which has allowed us to anchor our presence on the internet and provide archives and search functions to you, our loyal readers.

The outpouring of appreciation you’ve shown us over the years via follows, likes, comments, shares, reblogs and e-mails means the world to us, and only inspires GBN to keep working to find ways to expand, improve and create more original content.

Good Black News remains a labor of love for our Founder/Editor-In-Chief (Lori Lakin Hutcherson) and Lifestyle Editor (Lesa Lakin), and we must gratefully acknowledge this year’s volunteer contributors:  Susan Cartsonis, Dena CrowderJulie Bibb Davis, Alyss Dixson, Dan Evans, Gina Fattore, Julie Fishman, Michael Giltz, Eric Greene, Thaddeus Grimes-Gruczka, Skip Heller, Ashanti Hutcherson, Warren Hutcherson, Fred Johnson, Epiphany Jordan, Fabio KoelschBrenda Lakin, Joyce Lakin, Ray Lancon, John Levinson, Rebecca MayerJeff Meier, Catherine Metcalf, Minsun ParkFlynn Richardson, Rosanna Rossetto, Terry Samwick, Becky Schonbrun, Susan Shaffer, Kelly SpearsCallie TeitelbaumTeddy Tenenbaum, and Arro Verse. You are all deeply, greatly appreciated.

Please continue to help us spread GBN by sharing, liking, re-tweeting and commenting, and consider following GBN here on the main page, as well as wherever you are on social media. We are @goodblacknews on most venues, but here are all the links: FacebookTwitterTumblrPinterestInstagramYouTubeRSS feed, and LinkedIn.

Please also consider joining our e-mail list via our “Contact Us” tab on goodblacknews.org. We will only use this list to keep you updated on GBN and send you our upcoming weekly e-newsletter (launching this year – for real this time!) — nothing else. And, of course, you may opt out at any time.

GBN believes in bringing you positive news, reviews and stories of interest about black people all over the world, and greatly value your participation in continuing to build our shared vision.

Thank you again for your support, and we look forward to providing you with more Good Black News in the coming year, and beyond!

Warmly,

The Good Black News Team

REVIEW: Aretha Franklin’s Soul-Stirring “Amazing Grace” Documentary Soars Into the Divine

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Before reading, please understand the deep degree to which I am an Aretha Franklin fan. I have been in rapture since I was a teen grooving to “Jump To It,”  “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” “Think,” and, of course, “Respect.” My devotion to her voice and musicianship only intensified when I gained full access to her catalog when I DJ’d for my college radio station. I went all the way in, past her Arista recordings, back and through her Chess, Columbia and Atlantic LPs, and never came back out.

I played her records over and over, never singing along, so as not to disrespect or sully the divinity I was taking in. Back then, during this time of discovery of the breadth of Aretha’s genius, it would have been as rude as chatting during a sermon. I could go on – there is so much more Aretha stanning in my history including the full day spent watching every hour, minute and second of her funeral – but it’s enough to get the picture.

I am in, down, and for all things Aretha.

So a few years ago when I heard about film footage existing of Aretha recording her 1972 gospel masterpiece “Amazing Grace” in Los Angeles at Reverend James Cleveland‘s New Temple Missionary Baptist Church with the Southern California Community Choir, shot over two nights by Sydney Pollack (“Tootsie,” “The Way We Were,” “The Firm”), I was ecstatic.

It didn’t get released in conjunction with the album’s 1972 release as originally planned by Warner Bros. because the film’s recording was mishandled. Pollack, who died in 2008, did not use clapper boards, a crucial tool in matching sound with filmed images in the pre-digital era. There were 20 hours of raw footage shot by five 16-millimeter cameras to sync, so the project got shelved, until the footage was re-discovered over three decades later.

The movie was then set to screen at several prominent film festivals, but Franklin herself sued to stop it from being released. So I checked my thirst out of loyalty and stood by the Queen’s side, even if it meant never seeing what I was sure would be a Technicolor feast of mind-blowing artistry.

I brightened when I heard Aretha’s beef with the project was not about its content – she reportedly loved the content – it was about the money. Okay, cool – Aretha wanted her coins as well as her respect. I hoped it would all settle quickly, because as much as a person can be in love with her recordings, watching Aretha live, doing her thing, has always been where it’s at.

Not long after her passing, producer Alan Elliott screened “Amazing Grace” for Franklin’s family and got the family’s approval for release. It was picked up by NEON Studios for North American distribution and is slated to be in theaters in the early part of this year. But when I got a chance to see the film Thursday in Los Angeles on Opening Night of the 27th Annual Pan African Film Festival (#PAFF), I jumped to it.

Even though I saw it with an audience so fully there for it, and even with my freely admitted pre-disposition towards loving it, viewing “Amazing Grace” is a sensorial experience that exceeds all expectations. This “making of” documentary is a pure, raw American musical treasure that should go down, like Aretha, as the greatest of its ilk.

In case you’ve never heard the “Amazing Grace” double album or perhaps only know Aretha from Inaugural Hat or “Great Gowns, Beautiful Gowns” Taylor Swift memes, in 1972, Aretha Franklin is 29 and at the absolute height of her recording success, fame and vocal prowess.

As Tirrell D. Whittley, another of the film’s producers, put it during the Q&A that followed its #PAFF screening, Aretha was “it” back then, the Beyoncé of her time. And while at that height, Aretha decided to honor and commune with the roots from which her unparalleled artistry grew – church music.

Listening to the “Amazing Grace” LP (still the best-selling gospel album of all time), I always imagined it was a packed Sunday morning service where Aretha was singing with a fully-robed choir joyfully bouncing in step behind her. But what the film shows you instead is nighttime, a handful of white guys with mics, wires and cameras running around, and maybe 80-90 audience members, several of them likely not even New Temple congregants (Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones are there one night, as are gospel great Clara Ward and her mother, Mother Ward).

Aretha Franklin from the film “Amazing Grace”

The backing choir, directed with great aptitude and verve by the lively Alexander Hamilton, does not wear church robes but all-black clothing underneath Vegas-style sparkly silver vests. They look more like they are at a local talent competition than a service, and they stay seated during most of the recording. Aretha alone is robed – the first night in a long, white, bejeweled caftan and the second in a beautiful chartreuse paisley one.

It is clear from her commanding sashays down the church aisle as she enters upon introduction from Rev. Cleveland, that Aretha is not only in church, but there to put in work. On the second night Aretha enters in one of her signature fur coats. Her walk, steps, bearing are those of a queen, unashamedly in charge and full of femininity. She touches outreached hands but intentionally keeps moving at her own pace.

While Cleveland plays host with avuncular affability as he encourages the crowd from the pulpit and piano, and Aretha’s father Rev. C.L. Franklin is solicited to offer remarks, Aretha herself barely talks during either session – seemingly conserving her voice between songs. When she does talk it’s brief and at whisper level.

I think it’s both the truth of what happened those nights as well as a great dramatic device – Aretha’s singing literally speaks for her. She has such sharp focus on what she is doing and trying to achieve – Aretha comes across not as a guileless prodigy, but as a hard-working, brilliant young woman who fully knows what she is capable of and what it takes to tap into and employ her superlative gift. She is also connected enough to know when to give in to it and allow a higher power work through her.

Aretha Franklin in “Amazing Grace”

Seeing the process with your own eyes makes it all the more impactful and palpable. When Aretha sits down at the piano and starts in on “Wholy Holy,” there is nothing to do but watch in awe. And at a certain point, song after great song, it hits you – as you take in the old-school microphones, the physical dynamics of the space and people in it, that the sound is, in a word, superb. I don’t know if it’s from remastering with present-day technology or because that audio was recorded so well back in 1972, but the depth and clarity of the music and the vocal responses to it are an aural delicacy.

The prosaic nature of the church space itself sits in humble, human contrast to the sublimeness occurring inside it. The church is not so much majestic as it is makeshift – and in the best way. The mural of Jesus on the wall behind the pulpit – let’s just say it’s barely a notch above paint-by-numbers. But looking at that amateur effort behind the woman who is evocatively singing “How I Got Over” and “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” in His name – it’s almost as if Mural Jesus sags in admission that no one could have painted an image to match the artistry and meditation of Aretha.

This is most evident during Aretha’s performance of the title track “Amazing Grace” – as she reaches higher and higher, the shouting and clapping from the audience rises and rises – people literally stand, fall, cry, and scream. Rev. Cleveland himself is so overcome by the power and beauty of what Aretha is delivering that he stops playing the piano so he can collect himself.

It’s such an incredible moment to watch – even the man running the show, a seasoned church pro – is overwhelmed and touched, all his pomp crumbling down under literal amazing grace. Many of us know that moment – when you witness something so superlative and divine, you can do nothing more than be in its presence and be thankful you exist to receive it.

The other indelible highlight in the film is Aretha’s delivery/deliverance of/during “Never Grow Old.” I have watched countless clips of Aretha performing live, at all ages and stages of her career. She is always professional and on point, but when she herself catches the spirit? There! Is! Nothing! Like! It!

Aretha is at the piano during “Never Grow Old” as you see it happening. She is so channelled and so in it that the spirit takes over the tempo, the piano, the choir, and several people in the audience. There is spirit dancing – Mother Ward falls out – an actual white towel is thrown in!

And as the towel comes towards camera, the audience watching the movie burst into laughter as did I, because it is perfect punctuation to what we were all feeling at that moment. We were in thrall and surrender to the power, the genius, the spirit, the joy that is flowing through Aretha Louise Franklin.

Even as you feel the heat, the light, the literal sweat on her brow coming at you through the screen, Aretha’s voice makes you shiver down to your bones.

“Amazing Grace” LP cover

The only song that doesn’t come across as powerful on film as it does on the record is “Mary Don’t You Weep.” According to producer Elliott, they did not have full visual coverage of “Mary” in the church, so they could not match it to the audio from the LP. What we do hear of “Mary” is still worthy of our time, suffering mainly from comparison to the oomph and punch so many of the other visually-realized songs have, including lesser-known songs such as “Climbing Higher Mountains” and “Precious Memories.”

But all in all, after dwelling for over 45 years in obscurity, the fact that the general public will finally get to see the best singer in the world recording the best gospel album of all time while communing in the most prolific and sustaining pillar of African-American society – the church – is the real blessing that needs to be recognized.

Even if you don’t know or revere Franklin’s work like I do but love any powerhouse singer from last 50 years, or just love music, you should see this film. For it proves without a doubt that since the sixties, all roads to enthralling, singular vocal ability, agility, facility and feeling lead back to one root, one person, one singer – Aretha. And her preternatural gift is never in finer form and potency than it is in “Amazing Grace.”

Born On This Day in 1940: Civil Rights Activist, SNCC Leader, and Former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

As time passes, it becomes easier and easier to venerate only those we habitually do and forget about those who fought the same fight but perhaps didn’t have as prominent a position in the battle.

So today, a week before we will all – rightfully – celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his significant contributions to the betterment of this nation, I want to focus on one of his brothers-in-arms, the charismatic lecturer, activist, freedom fighter and leader in his own right, Julian Bond.

Horace Julian Bond was born Jan. 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee and passed in 2015 in Fort Walton Beach, Florida at the age of 75. His father, Horace Mann Bond, rose to become the first African-American president of his alma mater, Lincoln University. Though his father expected Julian to follow in his footsteps as an educator (which he eventually did), as a young man, Bond instead was attracted to political activism.

While a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Bond became one of original leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  In 1960, after word spread of student sit-ins at lunch counters in Greensboro, N.C., Bond and others at Morehouse organized protests against segregated public facilities in Atlanta. Bond dropped out of Morehouse in 1961 to devote himself to the protest movement, but returned in the 1970s to complete his English degree.

Among the sit-ins and protests, Bond worked to register voters and in 1965 was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. White members of the House refused to let him take his seat, accusing him of disloyalty, as Bond and SNCC were known for their stand against United States involvement in the Vietnam War.

His case against the House of Representatives went to all the way to the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision in 1966, the Court ordered the Georgia state legislature to seat Bond on the grounds that it was denying Bond freedom of speech.

Bond served 20 years in the two houses of the legislature and while a lawmaker, he sponsored bills to establish and fund a sickle cell anemia testing program and to provide low-interest home loans to low-income Georgians. He also helped create a majority-black congressional district in Atlanta.

Bond also became a co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy organization based in Montgomery, Alabama, and served as its president from 1971 to 1979. He remained on its board for the rest of his life.

Bond published a book of essays titled “A Time to Speak, A Time to Act” about politics and the movement, and in 1998, Bond became chairman of the NAACP, serving in that position until 2010. Through the years, Bond also taught at Harvard, Williams, Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania.

While at Harvard, I had the personal honor and pleasure not only from taking a class from Bond, but also in taking him up on his offer to call him for dinner so he could spend time with and speak directly to his students. He didn’t give his office number – I didn’t speak to an assistant – I spoke to his wife, and then him.

Bond came to my dorm and had dinner with me and half a dozen other undergrads. He was kind, patient, thoughtful and wry – he answered all types of questions about MLK, SNCC and anything else we asked. What struck me the most when I wasn’t in complete awe, was how real and unassuming he was. No bluster, no overinflated sense of importance – just a man about the work he had done and was still doing until the day he died.

Julian Bond, thank you for your example, your service and for taking the time to make this then awkward undergraduate feel a little less awkward and that much more empowered. You are not and never will be forgotten.

ELECTION DAY 2018: Have You Voted? #WhenWeAllVote

GBN Editors Lori Lakin Hutcherson (l) and Lesa Lakin (r) voting at the polls on November 6, 2018.

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Just a quick reminder if you haven’t found a moment yet to make it to the polls today, there’s still time! GBN Lifestyle/Sports Editor Lesa Lakin and I have hit our respective voting places already – fortunately we had good weather – we urge you to do the same if you haven’t already. We must never forget the sacrifices those who came before us have made – marching, protesting, even dying – to secure every citizen’s right to vote.

photo via National Youth Rights Association

So let’s protect our rights and let the powers that be know when we demand change. If you don’t like your local, state or federal laws or officials, foster change by making your voice heard. If you’re not sure where your polling place is, click here to enter your address to find out. If you don’t have transportation, Lyft and Uber are offering free or discounted rides. If you get to the polls and there is some discrepancy, you have the right to demand a provisional ballot. Keegan-Michael Key and Chris Rock lay the facts out about this beautifully in the video below:

Onward and upward, together! #GoVote

GirlTrek to Host 80 National #BeLikeMaxine Walks to Celebrate Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ 80th Birthday on August 15th

(image courtesy GirlTrek)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

U.S. Representative Maxine Waters will celebrate her 80th birthday on Wednesday, August 15th. To pay tribute to this iconic woman who has dedicated 37 years to serving the people, speaking up against injustice and side-eyeing all manner of foolishness from all quarters, GirlTrek is joining AFROPUNK, Color of Change, and thousands of Black folks across the country in a nationwide #BeLikeMaxine celebration.

GirlTrek, the largest national public health nonprofit and movement for Black women and girls, is organizing 80 walks across the United States in honor of Congresswoman Waters’ 80th turn around the sun. With more than 150,000 members nationwide, GirlTrek encourages Black women and girls to use radical self-care and walking as the first practical step to leading a healthier, more fulfilled life.

“We did it for Harriet Tubman because she showed us the way. Reminded it us that it’s OK to walk alone. We did it for Fannie Lou Hamer because she taught us how to organize. Showed us that every woman can be a leader,” said GirlTrek cofounder T. Morgan Dixon. “Now, we do it for Auntie Maxine because she teaches us daily how to find our voice, how to speak truth to power, how to stand in grace against the storm and how to reclaim our time in the process.”

Elected in November 2016 to her fourteenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 43rd Congressional District of California, Rep. Maxine Waters is considered to be one of the most powerful women in American politics today. She has gained a reputation as a fearless and outspoken advocate for women, children, people of color and the poor.

GirlTrek is inviting women everywhere to reclaim 30 minutes of time in honor of Auntie Maxine by hosting a #BeLikeMaxine walk in their community with their friends and loved ones. “No walk is too small. You + a friend = a celebration,” Dixon said. “Maxine Waters is a living foremother. We walk in her footsteps. We celebrate her.”

Register a #BeLikeMaxine walk here.

About GirlTrek:

GirlTrek encourages women to use walking as a practical first step to inspire healthy living, families, and communities. In five years, GirlTrek has mobilized more than 150,000 Black women and girls nationwide. By 2020, GirlTrek’s goal is to motivate 1 million Black women and girls to walk for better health.  GirlTrek has been featured in The New York Times, Essence, shondaland.com, E! News, People magazineThe Tom Joyner Morning Show,  and many other national and regional outlets. The TED TalkWalking as a Revolutionary Act of Self-Care has received more than 1 million views.

EDITORIAL: Why GBN Hasn’t Posted Lately and Why We Are Back More Intently Than Ever

Dear Good Black News readers – chances are most of you are unaware that earlier this month, our goodblacknews.org site was hacked and (temporarily) completely wiped off the internet. Luckily, we were able to recover our data and immediately begin work to re-secure GBN. We would have let this remain a behind-the-scenes matter, if not for one thing – the verbiage left on our profile page, the only page we could access while the site was down.  Our screenshot of it is below:

In case that is hard to make out clearly, it says:

Good Blackuski News

Likely I
K
Kim
KK

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We suspect the message above was tailored to target Good Black News and its content. Whether this was the work of a hate group, or of those posing as one to create disruption and stoke anger or fear, the bottom line is Good Black News is not and will not go down, will not be erased and will not alter our positive and pro-active vision one whit.

Over the years GBN has received several racist and/or hateful tweets, emails and comments – our typical response has been to delete, block and move on with little to no acknowledgement of the vitriol. But now, in the era of #TimesUp and #MeToo, it no longer feels right to ignore the ugliness that comes our way, even if pointing it out may invite more of it.

Regardless, we will continue to stay true to our mission and philosophy to be an unfailing and reliable source for all the good things black people do, give, and receive all over the world.

If you want to help us continue to grow as a force, please consider amplifying our site and its cause by encouraging your friends and loved ones to follow us so that we may all be well-informed, stronger and brighter together.

Onward and Upward,

Lori Lakin Hutcherson and Lesa Lakin

GBN Editors

Pioneering Astronaut Mae Jemison Offers Insight and Forward Thinking to New National Geographic Channel Series “One Strange Rock”

Renowned Astronaut Dr. Mae Jamison (photo via nbcphiladelphia.com)
by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN Editor-in-Chief

Recently, Good Black News was invited to cover the launch of “One Strange Rock,” a ten-part space/science series on the National Geographic Channel that premieres Monday, 3/26, and is hosted and narrated by Will Smith. It is director Darren Aronofsky‘s (“Black Swan,” “mother!,” “Requiem For a Dream”) first foray into television, and the series is produced by Jane Root through her production company Nutopia. It is a cinematic look at Earth from a variety of perspectives – from space, from the sea, from the desert – and across all continents.

From the episodes I’ve seen, “One Strange Rock” is a gorgeous, meditative, eye-opening look at our planet, and Smith is a welcome, friendly guide along the journey to get to know Earth and all its ecosystems in ways we haven’t seen or previously considered. But what honestly got me excited about “One Strange Rock” was the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American female to travel into space (and one of my personal she-ros) to speak with her about her participation in “One Strange Rock,” as well as her other current projects (100 Year Starship and Look Up).

As I start to record the interview (this is moments after I fangirl and tell Dr. Jemison I dressed up as her one Halloween, entered a costume contest and won a 25-dollar gift card to Virgin Records), I state into my Voice Memo app the date, time, and that I’m about to interview Dr. Mae Jemison, she charmingly interrupts.

Mae Jemison: How about if we do it in Star Date Time? 2018.01.13, right?

Good Black News: Way better! That’s a Trekkie for you! I appreciate that, thank you, Dr. Jemison. Well, first I want to ask you about your involvement in “One Strange Rock.” Why, of all the different entities out there covering space, space travel, space exploration, did you want to lend your voice to this project?

MJ: So “One Strange Rock” is the story of the extraordinary journey of Earth. It’s about our home planet and how we went from this collection of rock and gases to something that supports life and an incredible diversity of life, and I wanted to be a part of that. When people think about space, so frequently they think about it just as the stars and the pictures and images and the rockets. But actually, space allows us to see our world that we live on. Space allows us to understand that when we look up at the stars, we’re actually made of the stuff of stars. Right? Inside of us is the heart of an old star. Doesn’t that make you feel like you belong to this universe and that you’re supposed to be here?

Absolutely. So is your hope with this particular project that more people will get that understanding that there isn’t a separation?

MJ: “One Strange Rock” does this incredible thing – it takes us from the smallest microbe, or to how oxygen is generated in small bubbles, all the way to the vistas of continents or being able to see our atmosphere, and connects it together. And so for me, one of the things we need to understand at some point in time – we’ve got to figure this out – is that we’re Earthlings and that we’re connected to this planet. So when I went into space, one of the things that happened to me is that I had an affirmation of something that I always believed. You know when people say, “Save the Earth”? They’re mistaken – the Earth will be here. The difference is, can we act in such a way that it continues to support our life form? You see, what “One Strange Rock” shows is how integrated life is on this planet and we as humans are part of that life. If we go to another world – just go to the space station – we have to carry some of the Earth with us. We have to carry that environment with us because this is where we evolved, this is where we developed. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t leave – obviously I want to leave -I want to go and explore other places. But it’s the recognition that there are a… unique series of coincidences, events and everything that led us to this day, to humans, to me sitting talking to you. And they started billions of years ago.

So with all of that, you talk in the first episode about the “Overview Effect” – about seeing the planet and essentially what you just communicated to me. How do you get people who don’t have the opportunity to go into space to understand that boundaries and countries and all of these things that we do as human beings to identify in all these different ways is a way of looking at Earth that isn’t going to help foster the survival of our species?

MJ: So I want to make one thing clear – I know a lot of astronauts talk about the “Overview Effect” – that everything belongs right here on this planet – for me when I went into space… I knew damn well that water crosses from one country to another, that our sky is over different countries and weather affects everyone. What “One Strange Rock” does is help people to understand and feel that. So I can maybe mumble words and give you statistics and stuff, but it’s not the same thing as having that emotional connection. What I’m so proud about with “One Strange Rock” is that it takes images from lots of different countries, from African countries, from South American countries – it goes down underneath the Earth and goes up to the top. And all those things help us to see this planet and the imagery from people, to animals, to… desolate locations. And so, it’s not so much again about mumbling the words, or even saying the words very clearly, it’s about allowing people to see and be there with you. And not just from space, because we get down to the detail. We see kids playing, we see folks who’ve been collecting salt for generations from one location. All of those things are important for us to understand our connectedness to this world. And it’s not about preaching and it’s not about how fast the Space Station is orbiting the Earth or any of that kind of stuff – it’s that vantage point. Continue reading “Pioneering Astronaut Mae Jemison Offers Insight and Forward Thinking to New National Geographic Channel Series “One Strange Rock””