On Sunday morning, Philadelphia-born soul singer Billy Paul passed away in New Jersey home after battling cancer, his manager Beverly Gay confirmed to NBC 10 Philadelphia. Paul was 81.
On the “Me and Mrs. Jones” singer’s website, the following message was posted:
We regret to announce with a heavy heart that Billy has passed away today at home after a serious medical condition.We would like to extend our most sincere condolences to his wife Blanche and family for their loss, as they and the world grieves the loss of another musical icon that helped pioneered today’s R&B music. Billy will be truly missed.
Born in 1934, Paul started singing at 11 years-old and early on his career, he performed at several clubs and college campuses with several music legends, including Charlie “Bird” Parker, Nina Simone, Miles Davis and Roberta Flack, NBC 10 wrote. Serving in the army with Elvis Presley, in 1968 Paul released his debut album “Feelin’ Good at the Cadillac Club.”
One of his most popular songs, “Me and Mrs. Jones” debuted in 1972 helping him become a household name and a constant on record players across the country. That song reached number one of the Billboard charts and earned him a Grammy award. Overall, during his amazing career, Paul released a total of 15 albums.
Comcast and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced a joint effort to deliver Internet access to public housing in Florida’s Miami-Dade County and the cities of Nashville, Philadelphia, and Seattle.
The program is called Internet Essentials. It includes high-speed Internet service with download speeds up to 10 Mbps, a free Wi-Fi router, access to free digital literacy training, and the option to purchase a computer for less than $150.
The initiative is part of the President Obama and HUD ConnectHome program to extend affordable broadband access to families living in HUD-assisted housing.Today’s announcement marks the eighth time in five years Comcast has expanded eligibility for the program in the company’s efforts to aid in closing the digital divide.
Initially, Internet Essentials was offered to families with children in the National School Lunch Program. It was then expanded to those with children in the reduced price school lunch program. Since, Comcast has expanded the program to include families with children in parochial, private, charter, and cyber schools, as well as students who are home-schooled.
Last year, Comcast created a pilot program to offers the service to low-income seniors and low-income community college students.
Comedian Kevin Hart has found success both on stage and on the big screen. He recently announced that he will soon publish an inspirational memoir appropriately titled, From the Hart.
“My kids know I’m a big deal. They’re very aware,” claims the comedian. “I let them know every day, I say, ‘Look, daddy’s a big deal. Now I’ll have a book out to prove it.”
The book will explore Hart’s childhood, from his difficult upbringing in Philadelphia with a drug-addicted father, to the struggle of starting a career in stand-up, to what motivates him now. According to EW, Hart has the star power to sell 50,000 tickets for one show and gross $100 million worldwide for a comedy tour.
From the Hart is being published via 37 Ink, the Atria Publishing Group imprint that published The Butler. Dawn Davis, vice president of 37 Ink, acquired world rights to Mr. Hart’s book that is scheduled to be published on Father’s Day of 2017.
“I’ve been watching Kevin’s star rise ever since he stole the show in Think Like a Man,” Davis said in a statement. “He not only has a comedic sensibility that is perfectly–pitched for our time, he has a bounty of stories form hi life that are wise, funny, and entertaining.”
For Black History Month, we are honoring pioneers and their heirs apparent.
There are so many black pioneers in the arena of education, but one who stands out is Charlotte Forten Grimké, who was born into an affluent family that had fought for racial equality for generations.
Charlotte Forten Grimké (1837-1914)
Charlotte Forten Grimké was the first northern African American schoolteacher to go south to teach former slaves.
Grimké was born in Philadelphia in 1837 into an influential and affluent family. Her grandfather had been an enormously successful businessman and significant voice in the abolitionist movement. The family moved in the same circles as William Lloyd Garrison and John Greenleaf Whittier: intellectual and political activity were part of the air Charlotte Forten Grimké breathed.
She attended Normal School in Salem, Massachusetts, and began her teaching career in the Salem schools, the first African American ever hired. But she longed to be part of a larger cause, and with the coming of the Civil War Grimké found a way to act on her deepest beliefs. In 1862, she arrived on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, where she worked with Laura Towne.
As she began teaching, she found that many of her pupils spoke only Gullah and were unfamiliar with the routines of school. Though she yearned to feel a bond with the islanders, her temperament, upbringing and education set her apart, and she found she had more in common with the white abolitionists there. Under physical and emotional stress, Grimke, who was always frail, grew ill and left St. Helena after two years.
Today, Grimké is best remembered for her diaries. From 1854-64 and 1885-92, she recorded the life of an intelligent, cultured, romantic woman who read and wrote poetry, attended lectures, worked, and took part in the largest social movement of her time. She was determined to embody the intellectual potential of all black people. She set a course of philosophical exploration, social sophistication, cultural achievement and spiritual improvement. She was, above all, dedicated to social justice.
John B. King Jr. (Image: Wikipedia.org)
John B. King Jr., (1975–)
John King Jr. is the first person of African American and Hispanic descent to be appointed Acting Secretary of the Department of Education. Previously he was Acting Deputy Secretary, and before that, the first African American and first Puerto Rican to be appointed Commissioner of Education of the State of New York.
Before King assumed these high-profile leadership roles, he was an award-winning teacher, receiving the James Madison Memorial Fellowship for secondary-level teaching of American history, American government, and social studies. He also co-founded a high-performing charter school in Boston, the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School.
King received a B.A. in government from Harvard, a Juris Doctor from Yale, and a Ph.D. in educational administrative practice from Columbia University Teachers College.
Although King was born into a well-educated and accomplished family (his father was the first black principal in Brooklyn, New York; he later became executive deputy superintendent of schools; his grandfather had attended New York University Law School), he experienced devastating loss and instability as a youngster, losing both his parents by the time he was 12. Seeing school and teachers as an anchor, he himself became a teacher and education leader, perhaps living out the potential that Charlotte Forten Grimké foresaw for all people of African descent more than a hundred years earlier.
In the past year, Philadelphia native Marley Dias has successfully written a proposal for (and received) a Disney Friends for Changegrant, served food to orphans in Ghana and recently launched a book club.
Dias is 11 years old.
“I’m hoping to show that other girls can do this as well,” Dias told PhillyVoice. “I used the resources I was given, and I want people to pass that down and use the things they’re given to create more social action projects — and do it just for fun, and not make it feel like a chore.”
Dias’ latest social action project is the #1000BlackGirlBooks book drive. Frustrated with many of the books she’s assigned in school, she confessed to her mother during dinner one night that she was unhappy with how monochromatic so many stories felt.
“I told her I was sick of reading about white boys and dogs,” Dias said, pointing specifically to “Where the Red Fern Grows” and the “Shiloh” series. “‘What are you going to do about it?’ [my mom] asked. And I told her I was going to start a book drive, and a specific book drive, where black girls are the main characters in the book and not background characters or minor characters.”
So far, she said, she’s collected about 400 books — nearly halfway to her goal of 1,000 by Feb. 1. The project is part of an annual social action effort she makes as part of the Philadelphia-founded GrassROOTS Community Foundation Super Camp for young girls, designed to empower and improve the health of ‘impoverished’ girls middle-school-aged and younger. Dias’ mother, Janice, cofounded the organization seven years ago with lead MC of The Roots, Tariq Trotter (aka Black Thought).
Janice, who grew up in Jamaica, calls watching her daughter grow up with such an investment in giving back a surreal experience. She further explained that her daughter’s “#1000BlackGirlBooks” project has been eye-opening even for her.
“I didn’t need identification, or I didn’t desire it because I grew up in an all-black country,” Janice told PhillyVoice. “She’s not growing up in an all-black country; she’s growing up in a fairly white suburb, in a country that only has 12.6 percent of blacks. For her, identification is a bigger deal. … For young black girls in the U.S., context is really important for them — to see themselves and have stories that reflect experiences that are closer to what they have or their friends have.
“And it doesn’t have to be the only thing they get, but the absence of it is clearly quite noticeable.”
The two just wrapped up a book drive at Lingelbach Elementary School in Germantown but are still on their way to hitting the 1,000-book mark. By the end of the drive, they’ll put together a reference guide that compiles the book titles, authors and age groups. Books collected will be donated to a low-resources library in St. Mary, Jamaica, where Janice grew up — in the spirit of giving back to their roots.
And in case you’re wondering what Dias wants to be when she grows up:
“I want to be a magazine editor for my own magazine,” she explained, without hesitation. “And I’d also like to continue social action. For the rest of my life.”
Book donations can be sent to 59 Main St., West Orange, N.J., 07052, Office 323.
Delaware State University made history during its Dec. 20 Commencement Ceremony when it conferred a Ph.D. degree to its youngest-ever doctoral candidate.
Dr. Jalaal A. Hayes, a 22-year-old resident of Philadelphia, Pa., proudly received a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Applied Chemistry. In June 2015 he successfully defended his dissertation, entitled “Thermodynami and Kinetic Studies of Alkali Metal Doped-Lithium Amide-Magnesium Hydride Hydrogen Storage System.”
Dr. Hayes graduated from high school seven years ago in 2008 at the age of 15. He then earned bachelor’s degrees in History and General Science, graduating cum laude at age 18 in 2011 (within three years) at his parents’ undergraduate alma mater, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.
While completing his doctorate at DSU, he lectured in Tuscany, Italy and Easton, Massachusetts as a Carl Storm Fellow while authoring several peer-reviewed journal articles and served on a team that obtained a United States patent for hydrogen research.
He completed a 2008 summer research internship at Howard University/NASA undergraduate Research Center before being enrolled in DSU’s graduate program in Applied Chemistry, where he worked with his advisor Dr. Andrew Goudy, professor of chemistry, in the Center for Hydrogen Storage Research.
While at DSU, he tutored students and was a member of the National Chemistry Honor Society, Gamma Sigma Epsilon, and served as the chapters’ parliamentarian.
His parents are librarians who model academic achievement; his mother is the recent School Librarian of the Year in Philadelphia and serves as a high school librarian, and his father serves as the Interim Dean of Library Services at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, Maryland.
Dr. Hayes recently reflected on his unique educational accomplishments when he met the Rev. Bernice King (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King’s youngest daughter) at Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia. She asked him about his achievement and opportunities to which he shared with her, “my family and community set high expectations for me and I simply strived to meet those expectations; for I strive to model “to whom much is given, much is expected.”
Denzel Washington was honored with the Golden Globe lifetime achievement award, the Cecil B. DeMille, on Sunday evening, with his “Philadelphia” co-star Tom Hanks introduced him as an actor with the “mysterious power not just to hold our attention, but demand it.”
Hanks recited a list of legendary actors — Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and the like — that command the most respect in the industry. “The list is finite,” Hanks said. “The club is exclusive. But it includes the actor who is being given the Cecil B. DeMille Award tonight,” said Hanks.
Washington brought his family onstage for a speech that appeared to be cut short by a failure to bring his glasses with him. His wife reminded him twice that he needed them — and the second time, he agreed.
Washington has won Oscars for roles in “Glory” and “Training Day,” Golden Globes for “Glory” and “The Hurricane”, and has a long list of credits including “Malcolm X,” ”Flight,” ”The Manchurian Candidate” and “Remember the Titans.”
In his speech, he thanked his mother for convincing his father that the family needed light bulbs more powerful than 25 watts. “God bless you all,” he said.
Another big winner last night was “Empire’s” Taraji P. Henson, who was awarded the Golden Globe for best lead actress in a television drama. Henson, in honor of her breakout character, handed out cookies as she walked to the stage to accept her award. To see a full list of last night’s winners, click here. To watch Taraji and Denzel’s acceptance speeches, click below:
The next time you find yourself in Philadelphia and in need of a comic books and coffee fix, there’s a destination in town that has you covered. Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse is owned by Ariell R. Johnson, the first Black woman to open a comic book store on the East Coast.
Johnson, a Baltimore native, says she got the idea for Amalgam over 12 years ago when she was a student at Temple University. A comic books fan herself, her favorite store sat across from her coffee shop of choice. She would buy copies of comics then head across the street to have a cup of joe while reading her new finds. When the coffeehouse closed, Johnson’s wheels began turning and she began planting the early seeds for Amalgam.
Amalgam rests in Philly’s up-and-coming Kensington section, and she hopes that it becomes a haven for longtime comics fans and newbies alike. There is also a push for diversity, as there are comic book lines that focus on underrepresented groups such as people of color and the LBGTQ community.
Another focus of the store is to feature not only the major lines from top companies like Marvel and DC, but also the growing number of independent comic book lines from across the nation. Johnson envisions Amalgam as a place where everyone feels welcomed and has put in place a staff that will help guide the less experienced on their comic journey.
There has been some debate whether or not Johnson is the first Black female comic store owner ever, but nonetheless she is definitely a rarity in the white and male-dominated world of comics.
Hakim’s Bookstore, the oldest African-American bookstore, is getting some much-needed help from the Philadelphia community.
According to owner Yvonne Blake, people who heard the news that the store, which has been family-owned-and-operated since 1959, was struggling were quick to respond. Blake said that she has been overwhelmed by all the support she received, reports Philly.com.
Blake’s story, and her store, have been pasted all over social media by everyone from locals to even Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter of the Roots, with many using the hashtag #BlackBooksMatter. But Blake said that the most important thing she has seen people do is shop at the store. Their business helps keep the store afloat.
The Early Birds, an online community dedicated to helping support black-owned business, also held a cash mob, in which they encouraged their followers to go to Blake’s store and spend at least $20.
Other people have also volunteered to help Blake run the store, since Blake is also caring for her ailing mother, and people like Temple University student Ebonee Johnson have volunteered their time to keep the doors open.
The support has been overwhelming to Blake, and she hopes it will continue past the holiday season.
“It’s like a dream I don’t want to fully embrace because I don’t want it to end,” she told Philly.com. “It’s been an eye-opener because I thought we were dead and irrelevant. I really thought our time had passed, but I realized that I was living in the past and we have to do things differently if we want to stay around.”
To help out, if you’re in the area, Hakim’s Bookstore is located at 210 S. 52nd St. Visit or call: 215-474-9495. Check them out on Facebook. They also have a GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/HakimsBookstore
No one can deny that 18-year old gymnast Simone Biles is having an incredible year.
Fresh off her historic 2015 World Gymnastic Championships win this fall, the Olympic hopeful was recently awarded one of the highest accolades attainable to American athletes. On Thursday, she was named the winner of the Team USA Female Olympic Athlete of the Year, beating out tennis GOAT Serena Williams and nine-time world champion swimmer Katie Ledecky, USA Today wrote.
Even more awesome? Biles did it without having actually having been on an Olympic team. She was too young to make the 2012 Olympic team that competed in the London games, but Biles, along with Gold medalist Gabby Douglas, are prepping for the Olympic trials next July to win a spot on the U.S. team heading to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Biles’ athleticism is a tour-de-force as she continues to break records wherever she tumbles.
Since she began competing in 2013, the Texan-native has not lost any meets, winning “14 world championship medals in three years; 10 of them gold, the most by a woman in history,” writes ESPN.com. She is also the first woman in 23 years to win three U.S. Gymnastics Championships and this fall, she became the first woman in history to win three consecutive all-around titles at the World Gymnastics Championships.
Biles was just one of many winners announced at the ceremony held in Philadelphia, others awardees included:
Male Olympic Athlete of the Year – Jordan Burroughs, Wrestling
Olympic Team of the Year – USA Women’s Soccer
Female Paralympic Athlete of the Year – Tatyana McFadden, Track and Field
Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year – Joe Berenyi, Cycling