Octavia Spencer Named Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year for 2017

Hopper Stone/Twentieth Century Fox Film 

article by Ashley Lee via hollywoodreporter.com

Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer has been named 2017’s Woman of the Year by Harvard University‘s Hasty Pudding student theatrical group.  The Oscar winner and Hidden Figures actress will be honored — and roasted — Jan. 26 at the organization’s first-ever live-streamed ceremony.

The group stated in a release that they are “proud to honor an actress whose depth of talent has captivated audiences with her comedic wit and her graceful portrayals of the underrepresented.”

The Woman of the Year honor is given to performers who have made lasting contributions to entertainment. Established in 1951, the Woman of the Year has been given to Meryl Streep, Katharine Hepburn, Julia Roberts, Jodie Foster, Elizabeth Taylor, Lucille Ball, Anne Hathaway, Claire Danes, Helen Mirren, Amy Poehler and Kerry Washington.

To read more, go to: Octavia Spencer is Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year 2017 | Hollywood Reporter

Michelle Obama Supports CNN Film “We Will Rise” on Global Education for Girls, Which Premieres Today

First Lady Michelle Obama "We Will Rise" (photo via education.microsoft.com)

First Lady Michelle Obama “We Will Rise” (photo via education.microsoft.com)

article by Michelle Obama via cnn.com

For me, education has never been simply a policy issue — it’s personal.

Neither of my parents and hardly anyone in the neighborhood where I grew up went to college. But thanks to a lot of hard work and plenty of financial aid, I had the opportunity to attend some of the finest universities in this country. That education opened so many doors and gave me the confidence to pursue my ambitions and have a voice in the world.

For me, education was power.

And a few years ago, when I had the honor of meeting Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head just for trying to go to school, this issue got really personal for me. I saw that the terrorists who nearly killed her were trying to silence her voice, snuff out her ambitions, and take away her power.

That’s why I decided to work on global girls’ education as first lady: because right now, there are tens of millions of girls like Malala in every corner of the globe who are not in school — girls who are so bright, hardworking and hungry to learn. And that’s really the mission of the Let Girls Learn initiative we launched last year: It’s a global effort to give these girls the education they need to fulfill their potential and lift up their families, communities and countries.

Now, as first lady, I have no budget of my own for programs, and I have no authority to make or pass laws. That’s why, when we first launched Let Girls Learn, many folks doubted that we could make a real impact on this global issue.  But over the past year and a half, we’ve established partnerships with some of the world’s largest companies and organizations that are committing money, resources and expertise. We’re collaborating with countries like Canada, Mexico and the Nordic countries on girls’ education efforts. Countries like Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom have collectively pledged nearly $600 million.

The United States is investing over a billion dollars through new and ongoing efforts and running Let Girls Learn programs in more than 50 countries. The World Bank Group will be investing $2.5 billion over the next five years. And through social media campaigns, Let Girls Learn has rallied people across America and across the globe to step up and be champions for girls worldwide.

All this is happening because time and again, whether it’s a head of state, a corporate CEO, or a 15-year-old girl here in the United States, when people hear the stories of girls who aren’t in school, they want to help.   That’s why CNN’s new film on global girls’ education, “We Will Rise,” airing for the first time this week, is so critically important — because it tells these girls’ stories.

This powerful film chronicles the lives of some of the girls I visited this past summer in Liberia and Morocco, two countries in Africa where many girls struggle to get an education. I was joined in my travels by the actors and activists Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto, who are also passionate about girls’ education, as well as CNN anchor Isha Sesay.

Together, we sat down with girls in both countries to discuss the barriers they face and the dreams they hold for their futures. Like so many girls around the world, many of these girls come from families struggling with poverty. Some endure dangerous commutes to and from school each day. Others face cultural pressures to drop out, marry young and start having children of their own.

But these girls have big plans for their lives. They want to attend college and become doctors, teachers, engineers, entrepreneurs; and day after day, they do whatever it takes to get the education they need to fulfill their dreams. They get up before dawn, and spend hours harvesting crops, cooking for their families and tending to their younger siblings before heading to class. After school, they work as maids and in factories, and they study for hours late into the night.

I hope you will be as moved by their stories as I was — and I hope you’ll visit LetGirlsLearn.gov to learn more about how you can take action to help girls like them worldwide go to school.  Unlike so many girls around the world, we have a voice. That’s why, particularly on this year’s International Day of the Girl, I ask that you use yours to help these girls get the education they deserve. They’re counting on us, and I have no intention of letting them down. I plan to keep working on their behalf, not just for the rest of my time as first lady, but for the rest of my life. I hope you will join me.

R.I.P. Parliament-Funkadelic Co-Founder and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bernie Worrell

Bernie Worrell: Parliament-Funkadelic Co-Founder Dies

Parliament-Funkadelic Co-Founder Bernie Worrell (GREGORY PACE/BEI/BEI/SHUTTERSTOCK)

article by Andrew Barker via Variety.com

Bernie Worrell, the keyboardist, songwriter and synthesizer pioneer who served as co-founder of Parliament-Funkadelic with George Clinton, and was also a key Talking Heads collaborator, died on Friday after a battle with cancer, according to his Facebook page. He was 72.

Diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in January, Worrell was the guest of honor at a massive benefit concert last April, with the likes of George Clinton, Questlove, David Byrne and Meryl Streep performing and paying tribute. In mid-June, however, his wife Judie Worrell announced his health had taken a turn, writing, “Bernie is now heading ‘Home.’”

As a member of Parliament-Funkadelic, Worrell’s synth playing provided the funk innovators with some of their most distinctive and immediately recognizable elements, which subsequently became signature sounds of the more futuristic strains of R&B, and the bedrock of hip-hop’s West Coast “g-funk” wave, with Dr. Dre in particular sampling Worrell’s music continuously.

From the gurgling, staccato Minimoog bassline of “Flash Light” to the whiny, minor-key synth lines on “P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up),” Worrell introduced a wealth of completely new elements into pop music’s sonic vocabulary. Former bandmate Bootsy Collins described Worrell as “the Jimi Hendrix of the keyboards,” while Talking Heads frontman Byrne once noted, “Bernie changed the way I think about music, and the way I think about life.”

Born George Bernard Worrell in New Jersey, Worrell began playing piano at age three, and performed with the Washington Symphony Orchestra at age 10. He attended Julliard and the New England Conservatory of Music, and met up with fellow New Jersey native George Clinton while playing in bar bands. He followed Clinton to Detroit, where Funkadelic rewrote the rules of black popular music several times over throughout the 1970s.

Worrell only appeared on a single track of Funkadelic’s 1970 self-titled debut, but he featured heavily on follow-up “Free Your Mind…And Your Ass Will Follow,” and by the time of 1971’s psych-rock freak-out masterpiece “Maggot Brain,” he was firmly ensconced in the lineup, even singing lead on single “Hit It and Quit It.”

Worrell’s role as a keyboardist, songwriter and arranger grew throughout the decade as Funkadelic and Parliament – during the ‘70s, the two groups consisted of the same core members – evolved into a more radio-friendly, dance-oriented outfit, alongside former James Brown bassist Collins, who arrived in 1972. Thanks to his grasp of classical music composition, as well as his ceaseless curiosity in exploring state-of-the-art synthesizer technology, Worrell was essential in imposing structure and melodic order onto the group’s more freewheeling experimentations.

Parliament’s “Mothership Connection” elevated the collective’s profile substantially in 1975, reaching No. 4 on the R&B album chart and becoming the first P-Funk album to go platinum. The group’s popularity peaked with Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under a Groove,” which topped the R&B chart for six straight weeks in 1978, while Parliament’s “Motor Booty Affair” and Funkadelic’s “Uncle Jam Wants You” both reached No. 2 in the months that followed. The P-Funk staples co-written by Worrell in this period include “Mothership Connection (Star Child),” “Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadaloop)” and “Flash Light,” which still stands as perhaps the group’s most widely played and influential single track.

Worrell recorded a solo album in 1978 – “All the Woo in the World,” produced by Clinton – and recorded with Collins for his splinter group Bootsy’s Rubber Band, whose 1977 album “Ahh…the Name is Bootsy, Baby!” is a particularly essential funk collection. But as loose and sprawling as the P-Funk universe could be, the spine of the group began to splinter at the end of the ‘70s, and Worrell officially left in 1981.

Shortly after his departure, Worrell was recruited by Jerry Harrison, guitarist for the art-rock/New Wave group Talking Heads, whom Worrell had never heard. Though he found their earlier music “stiff,” Worrell joined the group as a session musician, contributing synthesizers to 1983 album “Speaking in Tongues,” which would go on to become the Heads’ highest-charting release. He toured with the group for years, and his importance to their live sound is made abundantly clear in the Jonathan Demme-directed 1984 concert film, “Stop Making Sense.”

During the ‘80s, Worrell also recorded with Keith Richards, Fela Kuti, and Jack Bruce, and after the breakup of Talking Heads, he released a spate of solo albums in the early-‘90s. (1991’s “Funk of Ages” is the clear standout.) He continued to record and tour throughout the following decades, with groups the Bernie Worrell Orchestra and Bernie Worrell’s Woo Warriors, and as part of the supergroup Black Jack Johnson alongside rapper Mos Def. Worrell was the subject of Philip Di Fiore’s 2005 documentary, “Stranger: Bernie Worrell on Earth,” and he had a role as a member of Meryl Streep’s bar band in Demme’s 2015 feature “Ricki and the Flash.”

Worrell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Parliament-Funkadelic in 1997, and performed with the reunited Talking Heads during the group’s induction in 2002. Earlier this year, he was given an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, the New England Conservatory of Music.