A new scholarship fund has been established at Vanderbilt University to honor James M. Lawson Jr., a leading figure in the civil rights movement and an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The new scholarship was made possible by a gift from Doug Parker, an alumnus of the Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt, the CEO of American Airlines, and a new trustee of the university, and his wife Gwen.
The new scholarships will be given to students from underrepresented groups who have shown a commitment to civil rights and social justice.
Lawson, enrolled at the Vanderbilt Divinity School in 1958. While a student he helped organize sit-ins at lunch counters in downtown Nashville. In 1960, he was expelled from the university for his participation in civil rights protests.
Lawson completed his divinity studies at Boston University and then served as director of nonviolent education for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. From 1974 to 1999, Rev. Lawson was the pastor of the Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles.
Lawson returned to Vanderbilt as a distinguished visiting professor form 2006 to 2009. An endowed chair at the Divinity School was named in his honor in 2007.
According to Tennessee State University News Service, TSU senior Zuri Styles, 22, and her grandmother, senior (and senior citizen) Theresa Styles, 68, were both part of the same graduating class last Saturday.
Both Styles women walked across the stage to accept their degrees when TSU held its spring undergraduate commencement in the Howard C. Gentry Complex on May 5. Theresa’s degree is in sociology, while Zuri received a bachelor’s degree in health information management and a minor in business.
Theresa,agrandmother of 15, started at TSU in 1967,but dropped out in 1970 to raise her family. A little over a year ago, she came back to school without knowing she earned enough credits back then to put hercloseto graduating,until her academic advisers told her. Butafew months into her schooling,alongsideZuri, tragedy hit the family. Theresa lost her middle daughter, Zuri’s mother, on January 6.
“That hit us so hard that I almost dropped out because I was struggling and my grandmother went through a depression,” said Zuri. “But we kept encouraging each other. Through it all,we started working harder and did everything we needed to get the job done.”
Zuri, who has a job offer with St. Thomas General as an information systems analyst, said she plansto attend graduate school and get a degree in physical therapy.For now, Theresa will continue to help with raising her grandchildren, but she is glad to finally get her degree. “I always wanted to come back,but just never had the chance to do it,” she said. “I am glad I did,and it’s even better that I am doing it with my granddaughter. We encouraged each other. It was tough,but we had to tunnel through.”
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. remembered him as “the apostle of nonviolence” as admirers marked the 50th anniversary of his assassination Wednesday with marches, speeches and quiet reflection.
The Rev. Bernice A. King recalled her father as a civil rights leader and great orator whose message of peaceful protest was still vital decades later. “We decided to start this day remembering the apostle of nonviolence,” she said during a ceremony to award the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize held at the King Center in Atlanta.
Dixie Spencer, president of the Bolivar Hardeman County, Tennessee, branch of the NAACP, said remembrances of King’s death should be a call to action. “We know what he worked hard for, we know what he died for, so we just want to keep the dream going,” Spencer said. “We just want to make sure that we don’t lose the gains that we have made.”
Wednesday’s events followed a rousing celebration the night before of King’s “I’ve Been To the Mountaintop” speech at Memphis’ Mason Temple Church of God in Christ. He delivered this speech the night before he was assassinated.
Inside the church, Bernice King called her older brother, Martin Luther King III, to join her in the pulpit, and she discussed the difficulty of publicly mourning their father — a man hated during his lifetime, now beloved around the world.
“It’s important to see two of the children who lost their daddy 50 years ago to an assassin’s bullet,” said Bernice King, now 55. “But we kept going. Keep all of us in prayer as we continue the grieving process for a parent that we’ve had yet to bury.”
A gospel singer led a rousing rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and the gathering took on the air of a mass meeting.
Lee Saunders, a national labor leader, recounted how on that night in 1968, King made an unplanned appearance to deliver the famous speech without notes after his aides saw how passionate the crowd was: “There was one man they wanted to hear from.”
But Saunders stressed that the purpose of the week’s commemorations was not just to look to the past.
“Dr. King’s work — our work — isn’t done. We must still struggle; we must still sacrifice. We must still educate and organize and mobilize. That’s why we’re here in Memphis. Not just to honor our history, but to seize our future,” he said.
Some of the sanitation workers who participated with King in a 1968 strike sat in the front row and were treated like celebrities, with audience members stopping to take photos with them before the event started.
Seniors at an almost-exclusively Black high school in Memphis, Tennessee, earned more than $80 million in university scholarship offers.
ABC News reported Friday (April 21) that more than 40 Whitehaven High School students contributed to this number with at least $1 million in offers each. A call to determine the total number of students who earned scholarships was not immediately returned. Per the Tennessee Department of Education’s website, Whitehaven’s student body is more than 99 percent Black.
One student, 18-year-old Zariah Nolan, earned nearly $9.6 million in scholarships, including 17 full-ride packages. Nolan told ABC News that she applied to nearly 100 colleges across the country using application packages like the Common Black College Application, which allows prospective students to submit to 51 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) with one set of materials.
She will attend one of those HBCUs, Dillard University in New Orleans, this fall. “My principal always told us you never know where life can take you so apply anywhere just to see,” Nolan said. Her principal, Vincent J. Hunter, added that the 1,765 student-strong high school stands out thanks to its all-alumni staff. “It’s important for us to be our brother’s keeper and we work hard to make sure our kids are prepared for life after graduation,” says Hunter, who also attended Whitehaven.
David Barber kept his Facebook profile set to private, but anyone who was friends with him could see the very public nature of his job — right next to the racist posts that made him lose it. Barber, Deputy Director of the Shelby County Corrections Center in Memphis for the past 17 years, resigned amid a growing controversy over the posts.
One featured a picture of President Obama next to a man in a Ku Klux Klan mask and said “The KKK is more American than the illegal president.” Another post, according to the Memphis Flyer, is about the Obama family claiming they had been discriminated against because they’re black.
According to the newspaper, Barber commented, “Arrest convict hang and confiscate all assets.” The posts were shared from the page of a group called “the Free Patriot,” which posts conservative-tinged news stories.
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.”
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.
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!
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.”
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.”
On TV talk shows, the host introduces a guest, then music plays while the guest emerges from backstage. On podcasts, the etiquette is still being worked out. The host often launches into an introduction while the guest sits quietly in the same sound booth. A couple of years ago, the co-hosts of a podcast called “Alias Smith and LeRoi” began this way, speaking about their guest, the comedian Leslie Jones, as if she were not there.
“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.”