What can be said that hasn’t already been shared about Stevland Hardaway Morris? Better known around six galaxies as Stevie Wonder, the man, former child prodigy and one of the most successful musicians of the late 20th century turns 67-years-old today (May 13). For those not old enough to know the story of the “Lil’ Stevie Wonder,” here it goes: Signed to Motown’s Tamla label at the age of 11, he performed, wrote, sung and produced records for them all the way into the 2010s.
With iconic singles such as “Sir Duke,”“You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Isn’t She Lovely,” “Superstition,” and albums such as Talking Book, Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life — Stevie has more than 30 U.S. top ten hits, won 25 Grammy Awards, helped to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s birthday into a national holiday. He is an official “Messenger of Peace” for the United Nations and one of the all-time top artists for the Billboard Hot 100.
To us, he is simply a man who has been in touch with the divine spirit of the Creator, and has illuminated our worlds with his songs and legacy. From playing on street corners with his friend back in the days to throwing down at President Barack Obama‘s last White House party — Stevie Wonder’s impact on pop culture, politics, activism and music are the stuff of legends. For that, we celebrate his life and continuing revolution around the sun by championing these 15 stories that you should read to get more familiar with the architect behind so many classic jams.
Journalist April Ryan’s impressive body of work and cutting analysis has landed her a top honor in her field. The National Association of Black Journalists announced Tuesday that Ryan has been named the organization’s 2017 Journalist of the Year, an annual award given to a black journalist with a distinguished resume including in-depth work that is of importance to people of the African diaspora.
Ryan, who has been a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks since 1997, is the only black female reporter covering urban issues from the White House, NABJ reported. With over 30 years of experience, Ryan has helped to provide media coverage of the nation’s last three presidents and also just recently signed with CNN as a political analyst.
“April Ryan is a true trailblazer and truth seeker. She’s dogged and unapologetic about her pursuit of the story,” NABJ President Sarah Glover said in a statement on Tuesday. “In the White House press corps circle, where too few black women have been given an opportunity to report, April has excelled and persevered in spite of the many obstacles she has confronted. Her work has risen to the top.”
Ryan has been heavily praised in past months for the professionalism she has shown during press briefings with White House press secretary Sean Spicer as well as news conferences with President Donald Trump. One encounter she had with Spicer in April sparked widespread criticism after he told Ryan to stop shaking her head as he spoke. The hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork immediately went viral as women of color everywhere shared similar experiences of disrespect in the workplace.
“We all have a job to do and some of the stories we are doing wouldn’t be told if it weren’t for us,” Ryan said of her responsibility as a journalist in a statement Tuesday. “We all need to keep pressing because the First Amendment is under attack.”
According to cnn.com, First Lady Michelle Obama gave her final White House remarks in an emotional speech today, thanking her supporters and saying, “being your first lady has been the greatest honor of my life and I hope I’ve made you proud.”
She included these powerful, encouraging thoughts in her last words to the public as FLOTUS:
I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong,” Obama said, her voice breaking several times near the end of her remarks. “So don’t be afraid. You hear me, young people? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourself with a good education. Then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of you boundless promise. Lead by example with hope; never fear.
Watch her moving speech about education in its entirety below:
“The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah will sit-down with President Barack Obama, and their “in-depth” discussion will air on Monday, Dec. 12 on multiple channels such as Comedy Central, MTV and BET.
The interview, which will take place in the White House, will not be the President’s first time on the Comedy Central show. He was interviewed by former host Jon Stewart on the program seven times. He’s also no stranger to the late-night circuit, as he’s appeared on “The Tonight Show” with both Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon, “The Colbert Report,”“The Late Show With David Letterman” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
Noah has interviewed former President Bill Clinton and the former chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, John Podesta. This will be the first time Noah has interviewed President Obama.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Wednesday commuted the prison sentences of 61 drug offenders, including more than a third serving life sentences, giving new energy to calls for overhauling the U.S. criminal justice system.
All of the inmates are serving time for drug possession, intent to sell or related crimes. Most are nonviolent offenders, although a few were also charged with firearms violations. Obama’s commutation shortens their sentences, with most of the inmates set to be released on July 28.
Obama has long called for getting rid of strict sentences for drug offenses that critics say lead to excessive punishment and sky-high incarceration rates. With Obama’s support, the Justice Department in recent years has directed prosecutors to rein in the use of harsh mandatory minimums and expanded the criteria for inmates applying for clemency.
Though there’s wide bipartisan support in Congress for overhauling the criminal justice system, momentum has slowed as the chaotic presidential campaign has made cooperation between Republicans and Democrats increasingly difficult.
Obama, in a letter to the inmates, said the presidential power to grant commutations and pardons “embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws.”
Obama met for lunch Wednesday with people whose sentences were previously commuted to hear about the challenges of re-entering society.
The latest commutations bring to 248 the total number of inmates whose sentences Obama has commuted, more than the past six presidents combined, the White House said. The pace of commutations and the rarer use of pardons are expected to increase as the end of Obama’s presidency nears.
Seven-year-old Kameria had an Easter she’ll never forget.
Imagine being a kid and a fan of President Barack Obama. Then you find out Obama’s term is ending later this year, all while your grandmother is filming you crying with her cellphone. Of course, that’s what viral videos are made of; but in the end, it was all worth it for 7-year-old Kameria. First-grader Kameria got the opportunity to meet the first family at this week’s Easter Egg Roll at the White House, and you can bet she’ll never forget that moment.
The President and The First Lady will host a Black History Month reception with two generations of activists as leaders from the Civil Rights Movement will also be present.
In this space, there will be an open dialogue, “…to discuss a range of issues including the Administration’s efforts on criminal justice reform, building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve and the president’s priorities during his final year in office” according to an email from a senior administration official obtained by Buzzfeed.
Here is a list of the attendees, per the White House:
• Aislinn Pulley, Co-Founder and Lead Organizer with Black Lives Matter Chicago
• Al Sharpton, Founder and President of the National Action Network
• Ben Crump, President of the National Bar Association
• Brittany Packnett, Member of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Co-Founder of We The Protestors and Campaign Zero
• C.T. Vivian, Civil Rights Leader and Author
• Carlos Clanton, President of the National Urban League Young Professionals
• Cornell Brooks, President of the NAACP
• Deray Mckesson, Co-Founder of We the Protestors and Campaign Zero
• Deshaunya Ware, Student Leader of Concerned Student 1950 at University of Missouri
• John Lewis, United States Representative (D-GA)
• Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League
• Mary Patricia Hector, National Youth Director of the National Action Network
• Melanie Campbell, President of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
• Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color of Change
• Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund
• Stephen Green, National Director of the NAACP Youth and College Division
• Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
In a closed call for members of the media, the White House highlighted ways in which President Obama’s economic policies have helped all African Americans but called out initiatives it’s pushing that will put more money in the pockets of single black mothers, particularly by passing the Raise the Wage Act.
“Steps like raising the minimum wage disproportionately helps those, like African American mothers, who were disproportionately affected by the economic downturn,” Furman tells BE.com.
“One of the lessons of our recent economic experience is that when you work to strengthen the overall economy it does have widespread benefits to all groups, but that’s not enough. It’s just not enough,” he adds.
At the current minimum wage, a single mom who works full-time to support two children is left more than $4,500 below the poverty line. At $12 per hour in 2020, that full-time working mother of two would earn enough from her job to safely be out of poverty, the EPI report finds.
Tuesday night marked the last time President Barack Obama took the podium in the House Gallery to deliver a State of the Union address, and for many, he did not disappoint.
Setting a vision for America’s future, the president — in what was his shortest speech in two terms — put policy aside to focus on the gains the country has made in the economy, health care, and education in the past seven years.
But, harping back on his own time in the White House — one he obtained with a promise of bipartisanship and hope — the president took responsibility for the division between parties, saying “that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.” That, the president said, “is one of the few regrets” of his time in office.
The rest of the president’s hour-long address remained upbeat, hopeful and full of change; no doubt a full circle moment for the Obama who ran the 2008 campaign.
Here, we gathered eleven statements made by the president last night that we won’t soon forget.
When he inserted himself in the upcoming presidential election by presenting four points for America’s future:
So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that we as a country have to answer — regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress. First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy? Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change? Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman? And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?
When he addressed his GOP critics by stating the facts about the nation’s current position in the economy:
Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact: the United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s; an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years. And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.
When he tackled both racism and politicians who perpetuate fear and discrimination without explicitly saying any names (we’re looking at you, Donald Trump):
When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.
And then again when he said:
Our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.
Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future…promising to restore past glory… We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness.”
When he set college affordability as a goal for America’s shining future:
And we have to make college affordable for every American. Because no hardworking student should be stuck in the red. We’ve already reduced student loan payments to ten percent of a borrower’s income. Now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college. Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.
When he called out climate change-deniers:
Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.
When he discussed the government’s role in making sure the system is not rigged to protect the wealthiest Americans while ignoring those living in poverty:
I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut. But after years of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else; or by allowing attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered. Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns.
When he, in what was an emotional moment for Vice President Joe Biden after losing his son to cancer, put his friend in charge of “mission control” for future cancer research:
Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade. Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all. Medical research is critical. We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources.
When he told America to get more focused with foreign policy:
We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq — and we should have learned it by now.
And when he told Americans to believe, despite cynicism, that they can change this country and change the face of politics.
If we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a President. We have to change the system… It won’t be easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I’ll be right there with you as a citizen — inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far. Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word — voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.”
You can read the president’s full transcript, here.
article by Christina Coleman and Lynette Holloway via newsone.com
This morning at the White House, President Barack Obama announced the series of Executive Actions he plans to enact to increase gun safety, reduce gun violence, and help those subject to or afflicted by gun violence. Obama deemed his actions necessary given the lack of action from Congress, even in the face of popular support for such measures as expanding background checks for gun purchases.
“Maybe we can’t save everybody, but we can save some,” Obama said in a speech in the East Room of the White House, where he was joined by survivors and families of the victims of gun violence.
Obama wiped away tears as he recalled the children killed in the 2012 Newtown, Conn., shooting rampage. He noted that tragedy didn’t translate into congressional action, even for measures that enjoy lopsided support among the American public. Legislation to expand background checks was blocked in 2013.
“The gun lobby may be able to hold Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage,” he said.
A central feature of his actions are steps to expand the definition of who is a gun dealer, as those in the business of selling guns are currently required to perform background checks before making a sale. A big push among groups like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has been to close loopholes on sales of guns on the Internet and at gun shows. Although the executive action would not fall short of preventing all sales of guns without background checks, Obama said that it would expand the number of people and entities who will fall under existing law. He also unveiled measures to improve the background check system.
He also talked of the need to boost research on gun violence and gun safety, and to boost funding for mental health.
Though many detractors, lobbyists and Republican politicians decried Obama’s initiatives, Obama said that his moves are “not a plot to take away” guns and that background checks are not “some slippery slope to gun confiscation.” He didn’t mention Donald Trump by name, but his reference was to some of his rhetoric.
Instead, Obama compared his actions to efforts to boost safety in cars and even toys. “We know that there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people,” he said.
Some of his proposals — like a $500 million investment in mental health services and budget items for 200 new ATF agents — still require congressional support.
Obama will participate on Thursday in a town hall on gun violence. You can watch his impassioned, detailed speech in full below:
article by Ted Johnson via Variety.com; additions by Lori Lakin Hutcherson