Gospel Legend Shirley Caesar’s Viral #UNameItChallenge Leads to New Fame, More Charity

Shirley Caesar (photo via defendernetwork.com)

Shirley Caesar (photo via defendernetwork.com)

article by Bil Carpenter via blackenterprise.com

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of DJ Suede, also known as “the Remix God,” sent him a video clip of traditional gospel music legend Pastor Shirley Caesar’s 2007 remake of her 1988 classic “Hold My Mule.” Suede, an Atlanta-based mixer with an Instagram following of almost 100K,  has said that he’ll remix anything. Since his mom was also a big fan of the 11 time Grammy Award-winning artist, he just remixed the song for fun, posting it online with the tag, “Grandma, what are you cooking for Thanksgiving?”

That intoxicating hip-hop music mashup has now become the viral success story of the season. It was even referenced during this year’s American Music Awards telecast, and pushed “Hold My Mule,” a song recorded long before Billboard started compiling gospel song charts, into the No. 1 spot on this week’s Gospel Streaming Songs chart, thanks to over 800,000 streams within the last week. It’s the song’s first time on any national chart.

In the original song, Caesar tells the story of an 86-year-old man named Shouting John, who joined a church that didn’t believe in dancing and speaking in tongues. John was kicked put out of the church for shouting too loudly during the sermon.

He countered his ouster with a testimony that God had blessed him as a farmer.”Look!” he shouted. “I got beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes, lambs, rams, hogs, dogs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits … you name it!” (See the 5:45 mark in the YouTube video above.) That line became the foundation for Suede’s “You Name It! ” remix.

“It was just a song,” Suede told Big Tigger, on Atlanta’s V103 radio station. Then, on November 13, R&B star Chris Brown reposted the song with his signature choreography with the hastag #UNameItChallenge on his Instagram page. It has since racked up over 2.3 million views on Brown’s page, motivating thousands of people to share it and to answer the challenge with their own video dance responses.

Initially, some observers wondered if the 78-year-old Caesar, who was a hardliner in her younger days about the separation of gospel and mainstream music, would object to the viral video. However, she’s in nearly full support of this new incarnation of it. Continue reading

Memphis Teen Kevuntez King Sold Newspapers for 5 Years so His Single Mom Wouldn’t Have to Pay His College Tuition

Kevuntez King

Kevuntez King (FOX 13 SCREENSHOT)

article by Stephen A. Crockett Jr. via theroot.com

When 17-year-old Kevuntez King was just a preteen, he decided that not only was he going to college, but his mother, a single parent, wasn’t going to pay for it.  “She just taught me how to be independent like she had it, [and] she just wanted me to go get it myself,” Kevuntez told Fox 13.

So, at the age of 12, Kevuntez got a job selling papers at a downtown Memphis, Tennessee intersection, and for five years he worked that job, saving the money he made.  “When it came down to school, my mom didn’t have to come out of pocket to do anything or I didn’t have to take out any loans to go to school,” Kevuntez told Fox 13.

Making around $200 a week, Kevuntez reached his goal, earning enough money to pay all of his tuition at Tennessee State University, where he will study physical therapy.

Kevuntez says he knows that what he’s accomplished is just the tip of the iceberg, and he has advice for anyone who feels that life can be challenging: “Make sure you surround yourself with people that’s trying to go up in life and not trying to bring you down. Just stay positive and always believe in yourself and push for it.”

Read more at Fox 13.

15-Year-Old Memphis Student Dwight More Earns Perfect ACT Score

dwightmoore

Dwight Moore, Jr. (CHRISTIAN BROTHERS HIGH SCHOOL)

article by Angela Bronner Helm via theroot.com

A 15-year-old high school sophomore got a perfect score on the ACT (American College Testing) exam, reports Blavity.com.

Dwight Moore, a student at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis scored a 36 out of 36 on the college entrance exam putting him in rare company—less than one percent of the 1.9 million test takers received a perfect score in 2015.

His school put out a statement this week congratulating him, reading in part:

The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science. Each test is scored on a scale of 1–36, and a student’s composite score is the average of the four test scores. Some students also take the optional ACT writing test, but the score for that test is reported separately and is not included within the ACT Composite score.

“Please join me in congratulating sophomore Dwight Moore for his perfect composite score of 36 on the ACT,” said CBHS principal Chris Fay. “Dwight is an incredibly polite and humble young man, who is respected by both his peers and teachers. He is a model student at CBHS.” 

Moore reportedly said that he thought the score was a mistake when he first saw it.

“I sat there in shock for a second. There is no way this is right,” he said. “It didn’t have the writing score so I thought this was just a placeholder for later so I am not getting my hopes up; when the writing score came out too, I actually got a 36.”

And he’s only in his second year! Bravo, young man, bravo!

Read more at Blavity.com.

R.I.P. Musical Legend and Earth, Wind & Fire Founder Maurice White

Maurice White

Maurice White, center, leads Earth Wind & Fire at the Forum in Inglewood, CA on Dec. 12, 1981. (Tony Barnard / Los Angeles Times)

article by Chris Barton via latimes.com

Maurice White, co-founder and leader of the groundbreaking ensemble Earth, Wind & Fire, died Thursday at his Los Angeles home. He was 74. His brother and bandmate, Verdine White, confirmed the news with the Associated Press.

The source for a wealth of euphoric hits in the 1970s and early ’80s, including “Shining Star,” “September” “Reasons” and “Boogie Wonderland,” Earth, Wind & Fire borrowed elements from funk, soul, gospel and pop for a distinctive sound that yielded six double-platinum albums and six Grammy Awards.

The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and although White had ceased touring with the group since a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in the ’90s, he remained behind the scenes as the act continued to tour, including a run of sold-out shows at the Hollywood Bowl in 2013.

“[Maurice White’s] unerring instincts as a musician and showman helped propel the band to international stardom, influencing countless fellow musicians in the process,” Recording Academy President Neil Portnow wrote in a statement. Earth, Wind & Fire are slated to receive lifetime achievement honors from the Grammys this year.

Born in Memphis, Tenn. on Dec. 19, 1941, Maurice White sang in his church’s gospel choir at an early age, but his interest quickly gravitated to the drums. He earned his first gig backing Booker T. Jones before the organist founded the MGs. He moved to Chicago in the early ’60s and studied composition at the Chicago Conservatory of Music and eventually found work as a session drummer for the Chess and OKeh labels, where he played behind Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.

“That’s where I learned about the roots of music,” White told the Chicago Tribune in 1990. “I learned about playing with feeling.”

After also backing jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis in the ’60s, White moved to Los Angeles in 1969 with a band called the Salty Peppers. The group failed to gain much traction, and White changed the group’s name in 1971 to Earth, Wind and Fire, a name rooted in astrology that reflected White’s spiritual approach to music.

“In the beginning,” White told the Tribune in 1988, “My message was basically trying to relate to the community. From that it grew into more of a universal consciousness; the idea was to give the people something that was useful.”

The group’s lineup evolved through the ’70s and eventually included vocalist Phillip Bailey and White’s brother Verdine, both of whom toured with the band into this decade. The band’s reach extended into movies as well in recording the soundtrack album for Melvin Van Peebles’ landmark 1971 film “Sweet Sweetback’s Badasss Song” and appearing in the 1978 film “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which yielded the band’s hit cover of the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life.”

White’s hits with Earth, Wind & Fire spanned a particularly influential space between R&B, rock and disco that remains current. His music with Earth, Wind & Fire was prominently sampled by scores of hip-hop and pop acts in recent years, including Jay-Z and 2Pac. His mix of incandescent soulfulness and suave, funky arrangements informed recent bestselling albums by Daft Punk and Kendrick Lamar.

Remembrances of White came from all corners of the music world. On Twitter, Nile Rodgers, the Chic founder and record producer who was White’s peer in the ‘70s disco scene, wrote “RIP my soulful brother — You’re one of the most amazing innovators of all time.” Bootsy Collins, bassist of the funk mainstays Parliament-Funkadelic, wrote that White was a “legend, pioneer life long friend.”

To read more, go to: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/posts/la-et-ms-maurice-white-earth-wind-fire-dies-20160204-story.html

Times staff writer August Brown contributed to this report.

R.I.P. Frances Hooks, 88, Civil Rights Leader & Widow Of Dr. Benjamin Hooks

Civil Rights activist Frances Hooks (photo via thehistorymakers.com)

Civil Rights activist Frances Hooks (photo via thehistorymakers.com)

Frances Dancy Hooks, the civil rights activist and widow of Dr. Benjamin Hooks, died Thursday, reports WREG TV. The prominent educator and philanthropist was 88.

As co-founder of the Memphis Volunteer Placement Program, she helped draw Black students to some of the nation’s best private boarding schools, notes the report.

Dr. Hooks died in 2010. He was the first African-American commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, and served as executive director of the NAACP from 1977-1992.

From The Commercial Appeal:

Mrs. Hooks, 88, leaves behind a legacy of activism devoted to improving education, race relations and women’s rights in Memphis and across the nation.

A graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, Mrs. Hooks earned a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University in Nashville and a master’s degree from Tennessee State University. Mrs. Hooks began her 24-year career as an educator in Memphis but later served as secretary and adviser to her husband Ben, whom she called “the Catch of Memphis.”

“So many people think of her husband, Dr. Ben Hooks, but she was such a person of incredible competence in her own right,” said Jean Varnell, a friend of nearly 50 years. “They were such a team together.”

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FEATURE: After 25 Years on the Road, Leslie Jones Becomes a Comedy Star

“This is gonna be kind of a hot one,” Ali LeRoi said.

“I’ve been waiting to sit her ass down for a minute,” Owen Smith said. “One of the funniest women in the game.”

“Funniest comedian in the game,” Jones interrupted. “Not just woman. I hate that shit.” End of introduction.

Comedians are combatants: they “kill,” they “bomb,” they “destroy.” Such bluster can mask insecurity, and Jones had good reason to feel defensive. She was forty-six, and had been a standup comedian for more than a quarter century; her peers respected her, but that respect rarely translated into high-paying gigs. “I remember some nights where I was, like, ‘All right, this comedy shit just ain’t working out,’ ” she told me recently. “And not just when I was twenty-five. Like, when I was forty-five.” She was a woman in a field dominated by men, and an African-American in an industry that remained disturbingly segregated.

Although she had opened for Katt Williams and Dave Chappelle, acted in movies alongside Ice Cube and Martin Lawrence, recorded a standup special for Showtime, and made several appearances on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” and BET’s “ComicView,” she worried that the gatekeepers of mainstream comedy—bookers for the “Tonight Show,” casting directors of big-budget films—had never heard her name. “Every black comedian in the country knew what I could do,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean everyone else is paying attention.” Chris Rock, who met Jones when they were both road comics in the late eighties, told me, “Black women have the hardest gig in show business. You hear Jennifer Lawrence complaining about getting paid less because she’s a woman—if she was black, she’d really have something to complain about.”

Jones spent much of her career performing in what she calls “shitty chitlin-circuit-ass rooms, where you’re just hoping the promoter pays you.” She told me that, around 2010, “I stopped only doing black clubs. I stopped doing what I call ‘nigger nights’—the Chocolate Sundays, the Mo’ Better Mondays. I knew how to relate to that audience, and I was winning where I was, but I wasn’t moving forward.” She lived in Los Angeles at the time, and she began asking for spots at the Comedy Store, where David Letterman and Robin Williams got their starts. A comedian named Erik Marino, who befriended her there, said, “She felt very strongly that she was being pigeonholed as a black comic—a BET comic.”

For a while, Jones performed at the Store at odd hours. Then, she said, “I went to the booker and I threw the race card at him. ‘Why you won’t let me go up at ten on a Friday? ’Cause I’m black?’ ” The booker gave her a prime-time slot. “She destroyed, obviously,” Marino said. “Bookers are the ones who care about black rooms versus white rooms. To us comedians, it’s, like, if you know what you’re doing and you can connect with an audience, they’re gonna laugh.”

Rock saw Jones perform at the Store in 2012. After her set, he told her, “You were always funny, but you’re at a new level now.”

“You’re right,” she responded. “But I’m not gonna really make it unless someone like you puts me on.” Rock took out his iPhone and added her name to a list labelled “Funny people.”

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Agnes Fenton of Englewood, NJ Turns 110, Has “Nothing to Complain About”

God and Johnnie Walker Blue are the keys to longevity says Agnes Fenton, who turns 110 years old on Saturday. Fenton still lives in her own home in Englewood.

God and Johnnie Walker Blue are the keys to longevity says Agnes Fenton, who turned 110 years old on Saturday. Fenton still lives in her own home in Englewood. NJ. (AMY NEWMAN/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

“The birthday is just another day,” Agnes Fenton whispered, pooh-poohing the milestone she reaches Saturday.  Fenton, who has a lovely face, celebrated No. 110.

And just like that, the beloved Englewood resident — who has extolled the wonders of Miller High Life and Johnnie Walker — punched her ticket into the ultra-exclusive “supercentenarian” club.

Of the 7 billion people on the planet, a microscopic number are 110 or older. Robert Young, director of the Gerontology Research Group, which keeps track of supercentenarians, estimates 600. Dr. Thomas Perls, founding director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University School of Medicine, of which Fenton is a participant, puts the number at 360.

That means roughly 1 in every 10 million people in the world is a supercentenarian.  Which makes Agnes Fenton special.  Just don’t tell her that.

When a reporter visited her in the run-up to the big birthday, Fenton answered “lousy” when asked how she felt.  But she warmed to the conversation and emphasized that God is the reason she’s lived this long.

“When I was 100 years old, I went to the mirror to thank God that I was still here. And I thank him every morning,” she said in a voice one must strain to hear. She sat in a wheelchair at the kitchen table in her green-shingled, Cape Cod-style home near Route 4.

“He gave me a long life and a good life, and I have nothing to complain about. … You’ve got to have God in your life. Without God, you’ve got nothing.”

Agnes Fenton was born Agnes Jones on Aug. 1, 1905, in Holly Springs, Miss. She spent her early years in Memphis and ran a restaurant there called Pal’s Duck Inn. Fenton, who has no children, came north to Englewood in the 1950s with her second husband, Vincent Fenton. She worked as a cafeteria manager for a magazine publisher, then as a nanny. Her husband, whom she called “Fenton,” died in 1970.

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