Taraji P. Henson to Host BET’s 2017 ‘Black Girls Rock’ Awards Saluting Issa Rae, Yara Shahidi, Roberta Flack & More

Taraji P. Henson, Issa Rae, Yara Shahidi (photos via eurweb.com)

via eurweb.com

Taraji P. Henson has been tapped to host BET’s 2017 Black Girls Rock Awards honoring “Insecure” creator, writer and star Issa Rae, “Black-ish” star Yara Shahidi and others. The ceremony will take place on Aug. 5 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Rae is set to receive the Star Power Award while actress/activist Shahidi will take home the Young Gifted and Black honor.

Other honorees include singer Roberta Flack (Living Legend Award); financier Suzanne Shank (Shot Caller Award); and community organizers Derrica Wilson and Natalie Wilson of The Black & Missing Foundation (Community Change Agent Award).

The 2017 Black Girls Rock Awards will air on BET on Aug. 20.

Source: Taraji P. Henson to Host BET’s 2017 ‘Black Girls Rock’ Saluting Issa Rae, Yara Shahidi & More | EURweb

Harvard Design School Graduate Dana McKinney Merges Architecture and Social Justice

Architect Dana McKinney (photo via news.harvard.edu)

article by Christina Pazzanese via news.harvard.edu

When Dana McKinney was a girl, her family drove every week from their small town in Fairfield County, Conn., to Sunday dinner at her grandmother’s home in Newark, N.J. To a child who loved dance and art, the changing scenery on those trips revealed stark contrasts that stung of economic inequality.

“I was going back and forth between a very comfortable lifestyle in Connecticut to a very depressed environment in Newark and became really inspired to look at how people can affect the built environment,” McKinney said. “I want to be able to fix this! — That was my immediate reaction — I’ll be an architect!”

After studying architecture at Princeton University, McKinney went to Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) to earn master’s degrees in architecture and urban planning. It’s an unusual and demanding course of study, but one McKinney felt would merge her design work with her interest in social change, social justice, and the power of architecture to transform people’s lives.

“I want to make beautiful spaces and buildings, but I don’t want … the pitfall of only working with elite clients, and I think a lot of times architects end up serving a very high-income population. A majority of housing is done by developers in the U.S., [so] good architecture barely reaches outside a certain economic class,” McKinney said.

Much of her academic work has focused on institutional change: improving elderly housing and studying the effects from the abrupt closure in 2014 of a large homeless facility in Boston. But with one in four Newark residents likely to spend some time in prison, McKinney’s thesis focused on “sensible and sensitive” design alternatives to prison that would help break the cycle of incarceration and poverty.

It was an unconventional choice. When she put her idea before her faculty advisers, “I could hear the crickets in the room,” she said. But “by the end of it, they were all about it.” While McKinney doesn’t believe architecture alone can end homelessness or poverty or incarceration, she does believe the field has something important to offer.

“Everyone has a role in social development and in making sure that our society is a reflection of what we want it to be.”Indeed, though “spatial justice” is often thought of as an enterprise in the public realm, like the construction of parks and community centers, it’s not as frequently addressed in the private realm. Because housing is essential to well-being, McKinney hopes to eventually create spaces that promote not just equality, but equity. “Your self-worth and what you need to do well as a person starts with the safety and comfort you feel in your own home,” she explained.

Outside the classroom, McKinney has been active in bringing together African-American students at GSD and shining a spotlight on black women and men in a field where only 1 percent of architects are African-American. Having sometimes found herself one of only two black students in a class of 80, McKinney was among the earliest members of the African-American Student Union five years ago, serving last year as its president.

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New Jersey Educator Naseed Gifted Launches STEM Comic Book, “P.B. Soldier”

Naseed Gifted (photo via blackenterprise.com)

article by Samara Lynn via blackenterprise.com

Nat Cummings is a talented computer hacker using his skills to pay his college tuition. A covert operative, he is well-versed in hacking, hand-to-hand combat, blade combat, and stealth.All is well with Nat until he is listed as a
n International Terror Threat,­ Code Red.

The newly formed government/paramilitary organization called The Establishment gives him a simple choice, either work with them to become a highly trained assassin or be terminated. Nat is the protagonist of a new science fiction comic book series, P.B. Soldier. The series not only promises an exciting story of an African American antihero, but it is designed to teach STEM skills.

P.B. Soldier is the brainchild of PBS Media, an independent comic book publisher founded by Naseed Gifted.

Gifted is not only the comic’s writer and creator he is a long-time math teacher, was an engineer, and is currently an administrator for the Pre-Academy division of the New Jersey Public Schools system.

Today, PBS Media is launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise $8,500 for the production of episode 3.0, the sixth installment of a 13 book arc. Funds will go toward payment to line artist and colorist Abel Garcia, and the actual production of the book, including printing and distribution.

A portion of proceeds will go to the Central High School Pre­Engineering Academy in Newark, New Jersey, where Gifted has taught and led for the past 13 years.

To read full article, go to: New Jersey Educator Launches STEM Comic Book

Legendary Jazz Singer Sarah Vaughan To Be Honored With U.S. Postage Stamp on March 29

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Sarah Vaughan Forever stamp (UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE)

article by Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele via theroot.com

Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Sarah Vaughan is being honored with a Forever stamp by the U.S. Postal Servicethe Amsterdam News reports.

The unveiling will take place March 29 in Newark, New Jersey—where Vaughan was born.  The image on the stamp is an oil painting of Vaughan’s face during a performance. It’s based on a photograph taken by Hugh Bell in 1955, according to the Amsterdam News.

Susannah Mushatt Jones, 116, is the World’s Oldest Living Person

Susannah Mushatt Jones

Susannah Mushatt Jones was born in Alabama on July 6, 1899. (Photo: Bobby Doherty) 

Here are some things that did not yet exist when Susannah Mushatt Jones was born in Alabama on July 6, 1899: the Model T, and for that matter the Ford Motor Company. The teddy bear. Thumbtacks and tea bags. Puccini’s Tosca and Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag.” The Flatiron Building and the subway system beneath it. Emma Morano, an Italian woman born four months later, who is today the only other living soul who was around before 1900.

One hundred and sixteen years ago, Susie’s tenant-­farmer father, Callie, could theoretically have voted, though Alabama’s poll taxes and rigged literacy tests pretty much took care of that. As for her mother, she was barred from the polls twice over, because voting rights for women were two decades off. Mary Mushatt had 11 children — Susie being the third and the oldest girl — and cooked on an open fire with water drawn from a well. Corn bread was baked by burying it in the fireplace’s ashes. The family raised their own produce and meat. Susie walked seven miles to what was then called the Calhoun Colored School, a private academy specializing in practical education. Her family paid the boarding-school tuition by barter: wood cut for the fire, bushels of corn they’d grown.

Her relatives say she did not dwell on the bad aspects of the prewar South. Tee — family members call her that, short for “Auntie” — was the type to put her head down and keep moving. Which is what she did after graduation: In December 1922, she made the three-day train trip to Newark, New Jersey, where a well-off family had hired her to be a nanny and housekeeper. A year later, she jumped to an easier and more glamorous job with a couple in Westchester: Walter Cokell was the treasurer of Paramount Pictures, and he and his wife, Virginia, had no children. Winters took the Cokells and her to Bel-Air and to Florida. She met Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Ronald Reagan (all younger than she). Her already-good cooking got better and more refined.

In 1928, she married a man named Henry Jones, but they soon split up. (She doesn’t talk about him but kept his surname.) She had a room in Harlem for a while, in an apartment shared with other women from Alabama, but most of her time was spent as a live-in. After Mr. Cokell died in 1945 — killed himself, actually — she moved on to other domestic jobs. The Andrews family, with five children, was probably her favorite. Gail Andrews Whelan, now in her 70s, says Jones was a great caregiver — neither draconian nor a pushover, someone who laid down the law but also “always had your back,” and could serve breakfast to 30 girls after a slumber party.

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Obama to Announce Executive Action to “Ban The Box” as Part of Criminal Justice Reforms

President Barack Obama (CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIA GETTY IMAGES)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday will announce a series of measures designed to reduce obstacles facing former prisoners reintegrating into society, including an executive action directing federal employers to delay asking questions about a job applicant’s criminal history until later in the application process.

Many states, cities and private employers have already taken steps to “ban the box,” which refers to the checkbox on employment applications asking if the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime. However, some federal employers and contractors still ask the question. Obama’s executive action will apply to federal employers, but not to contractors.

Civil rights activists have urged Obama to propose the measure, noting that such questions can limit the ability for people with a criminal record to gain employment and get their lives back on track after prison. Advocates argue that those formerly in prison should be allowed to prove their qualifications for a job instead of being eliminated early in the process due to their criminal background.

The issue has come up on the campaign trail, with all three Democratic presidential candidates pledging support for a “ban the box” policy.

Obama will also announce other initiatives designed to improve rehabilitation and re-entry for former inmates, including education and housing grants, as well as partnerships between local municipalities and private companies that would provide jobs and training in technology.

He will also propose more funding for legal aid programs and policies to reduce the legal hurdles for former prisoners applying for public housing, a process which also uses an applicant’s criminal history as a factor in determining eligibility.

Obama will unveil these policy proposals at an event in Newark, New Jersey, that will draw attention to success stories of former prisoners. While in Newark, Obama will appear with the city’s mayor, Ras Baraka (D), as well as Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who has introduced criminal justice reform legislation in the Senate. Obama will also visit a residential facility for individuals recovering from substance abuse and participate in a roundtable on criminal justice reform at the Newark campus of Rutgers University.

The announcement continues Obama’s recent efforts toward reforming the criminal justice system. As he approaches the end of his presidency, he has pledged to do more to address problems like mass incarceration, mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenders and police brutality. This summer, he became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison.

This story has been updated to clarify that the executive action will apply to federal employers, but not to contractors.

article by Marina Fang via huffingtonpost.com

Defying Expectations, Mayor Ras Baraka is Praised in All Corners of Newark

Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark speaking at Occupy the City, an anti-violence rally and march, in August. (Credit: Yana Paskova for The New York Times)

They had predicted that he would be anti-business and anti-police, that Mr. Baraka, the son of Newark’s most famous black radical, would return a city dogged by a history of riots and white flight to division and disarray.

A year later, Mr. Baraka is showering attention on black and Latino neighborhoods, as he promised he would. But he is also winning praise from largely white leaders of the city’s businesses and institutions downtown. He struggles with crime — all mayors here do — but he has also championed both the Black Lives Matter movement and the police, winning praise for trying to ease their shared suspicion.

The radical now looks more like a radical pragmatist.

Newark is still stubbornly two cities: gleaming new glass towers downtown, block after block of abandoned plots and relentless poverty in its outer wards, with five killings within 36 hours this month. But for all the expectations that Mr. Baraka would divide the city, those on both sides of the spectrum say that he has so far managed to do what his predecessors could not: make both Newarks feel as if he is their mayor.

The mayor at an awards ceremony for the Newark Fire Department. (Credit: Bryan Thomas for The New York Times)

Development plans are reaching into long-ignored neighborhoods. Projects stalled for years are moving forward, and new industries are taking root: a vertical farm, an incubator space and an investment fund for technology start-ups.

Mr. Baraka closed a $93 million hole in the city budget without layoffs. In June, Gov. Chris Christie agreed to start returning the schools to local control — something the governor had denied Cory A. Booker, Mr. Baraka’s more polished predecessor. The governor had rejected Mr. Baraka’s bid for control a year ago, deeming him “kind of hostile.”

“He’s like the local boy who grew up and said, ‘I need to fix my city.’ How do you not get inspired by that? How do you not root for a guy like that?” said Joseph M. Taylor, the chief executive of Panasonic Corporation of North America, which was lured to Newark by Mr. Booker. “I didn’t think anybody could top Cory Booker, but if anybody can, it’s Mayor Baraka.”

Not everyone is on board. Some local politicians, even those who support Mr. Baraka, say the positive reception partly reflects the low expectations set during a nasty election last spring, in which outside groups spent at least $5 million trying to defeat him. They say the talent pool at City Hall is shallow, and that Mr. Baraka has surrounded himself with friends and family members — in particular, his brother, Amiri Baraka Jr., who serves as his chief of staff — who engage in a kind of street politics that have dragged Mr. Baraka into distracting feuds.

Attendees at Occupy the City, an anti-violence march. The mayor has enlisted the help of residents in trying to curb crime. (Credit: Yana Paskova for The New York Times)

The candidate Mr. Baraka defeated, Shavar Jeffries, continues to criticize the mayor’s inability to stanch crime, dismissing Mr. Baraka’s anti-violence rallies as empty gimmicks. And presuming Mr. Baraka can complete the return of schools to local control, they remain some of the nation’s most troubled and low-performing.

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