“Black Panther” Stars and Creators Reflect On Its Arrival

LinkedIn
BLACK PANTHER MOVIE

By Ronda Racha Penrice, Urban News Service

Fans, who bought a record-setting number of advance tickets, weren’t the only ones anticipating the Feb. 16 opening of “Black Panther,” Marvel’s historic first black superhero film.

“I’ve been waiting a long time. I was just so, so excited because this was a movie [where] we all felt a lot of ownership, that we thoroughly enjoyed making,” said Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o during the film’s January 30 press conference at the Montage Beverly Hills the morning after its glitzy purple carpet premiere. Nyong’o plays Nakia, T’Challa/Black Panther’s love interest.

Although T’Challa/Black Panther, whose superpowers include speed, strength, night vision, claws and more aided by his country’s powerful metal, Vibranium, was first introduced in the “Fantastic Four” comic book series in 1966, months before the founding of the iconic freedom-fighting Black Panther Party, “Black Panther” is the character’s first-ever live action film. Reportedly Jack Kirby, who created T’Challa/Black Panther with Stan Lee, took the name from the all-black U.S. Army 761st Tank Battalion of World War II dubbed “the Black Panthers.” Chadwick Boseman, well-known for his roles as such real-life heroes as Jackie Robinson and James Brown, is the first to ever play him on film, appearing in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” to great enthusiasm. He returns in “Avengers: Infinity War” May 4.

“Black Panther” follows T’Challa/Black Panther’s journey, in the aftermath of his father’s death, to lead his technologically advanced nation, Wakanda, which the world believes is impoverished. Featuring black actors from the United States, England and various parts of Africa, “Black Panther” is the first Marvel film set in a black-ruled nation. As such, the film challenges the negative stereotypes in which the world typically views African nations. It also raises larger questions about what a successful never colonialized African country might look like and what role it would play in today’s global landscape.

The film’s larger significance was clearly important to Nyong’o and her fellow cast members – who included Boseman, Michael B. Jordan (Erik Killmonger), Forest Whitaker (Zuri), Angela Bassett (T’Challa/Black Panther’s stepmother Ramonda), “Get Out” Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya (W’Kabi) and more – during the Hollywood press conference where Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and Ryan Coogler, the film’s co-writer and director, were also present.

Jordan, who plays the main villain Erik Killmonger that challenges T’Challa/Black Panther’s ascension as Wakanda’s king, said he only truly grasped the film’s importance after seeing it for the first time at the premiere.

“I couldn’t describe that feeling before actually sitting down and watching that film and seeing yourself on screen, not just me personally, but people that look like me in power and having those socially relevant themes but in a movie that you want to sit down and watch and enjoy,” Jordan said.

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER..L to R: Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Ayo (Florence Kasumba)..Photo: Matt Kennedy..©Marvel Studios 2018

As someone from both the United States and Zimbabwe, Danai Gurira, who plays Okoye, leader of the female warriors known as the Dora Milaje who protect the king, had an even more positive response to the fictional Wakanda and its very real continent. Gurira shared that she appreciated the departure from the usual depictions of African countries as impoverished.

“You see the power and potential of where you’re from, but you see how skewed it’s viewed by the world and how misrepresented it is and how distorted it is or besieged by the world so often,” she said. “[“Black Panther” is] kind of a salve to those wounds to see this world brought to life this way and to see all the potential and power of all the different African culturalisms and aspects of our being that’s actually celebrated,” she said.

“Black Panther” is also noteworthy for its elevation of black women in the superhero genre, be they strong like Gurira’s Okoye, humanitarian like Nyong’o’s Nakia, royal like Angela Bassett’s Ramonda or STEM geniuses like Letitia Wright’s Shuri who is T’Challa/Black Panther’s sister. That elevation was also present behind the scenes through the work of production designer Hannah Beachler, Oscar-nominated costume designer Ruth E. Carter and hair department head Camille Friend.

“How it was written is that the men are always behind the women as well so no one is undermined,” said Wright of the film and her character. “The men are not like ‘you shouldn’t be in technology, you shouldn’t be in math.’  T’Challa is like ‘go ahead sis, this is your department, this is your domain, like kill it.’”

Black Panther
T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) . . . Photo: Matt Kennedy..©Marvel Studios 2018

Boseman attributes that gender balance to the vision that is Wakanda. “The idea of the next generation being smarter, being better than you, is a concept that they would have evolved to,” said Boseman. “So even though she’s reared in the same generation, she’s my younger sister, she benefits from whatever I have. So you want your sons and daughters to be better than you were. So that concept is a Wakandan concept.”

Coogler, previously known for his independent social justice film “Fruitvale Station” and the latest installment of the Rocky franchise, “Creed,” both starring Jordan, said he was cautious not to tamper too much with the “Black Panther” spirit so well established by the comic books in the script he wrote with Joe Robert Cole.

“You can go through our film and see something in there probably from every writer that has touched T’Challa’s character and the “Black Panther” comics, from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s initial runs to Don McGregor to Christopher Priest, Reginald Hudlin, Jonathan Hickman and Ta-Nehisi Coates,” he said, naming most of the franchise writers. “The character has got a long history and such rich stuff to mine and each writer left their own mark.”

When the film’s radicalism was singled out, Feige reminded those in the room that “Black Panther” was born radical. “Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and the whole Marvel bullpen created Wakanda and created T’Challa and created Black Panther and made him a smarter, more accomplished character than any of the other white characters in the mid-1960s,” he said.

That integrity, Feige continued, guided this Marvel team. “If they had the guts to do that in the mid-1960s,” he said, “the least we [could] do is live up to that and allow this story to be told the way it needed to be told and not shy away from things that the Marvel founders didn’t shy away from in the height of the Civil Rights era.”

Urban News Service

Simone Biles Is Still Making History, Is 1st Woman to Win 5 U.S. All-Around Championships

LinkedIn

It’s still Simone Biles season, and the American gymnast is still kicking ass and taking names, which culminated in yet another historic career achievement at this year’s United States Gymnastics Championships on Sunday.

The U.S. Olympic team declared that Biles is the first woman to ever win five U.S. Gymnastics all-around titles (h/t Bleacher Report.)

The 21-year-old has wowed crowds ever since taking the stage at the 2013 U.S. Gymnastics Championships. As Bleacher Report notes, she has walked out with the gold in the all-around in each of her five appearances at the competition and has won 16 gold medals across every discipline.

The only time Biles has shown a hint of slowing down was when she took 2017 off from competition. However, the gymnastics superstar started training once more last October, with her eyes set for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Continue onto The Root to read the complete article.

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, Has Died at Age 76

LinkedIn

Aretha Franklin, the self-taught piano prodigy, vocalist and songwriter who first conquered the charts in the late ’60s and never relinquished her throne, has died, multiple outlets report. She was 76.

The Queen of Soul had struggled with her health for years. A source told PEOPLE Monday that Franklin had taken a turn for the worse and that her death was “imminent.”

“She has been ill for a long time,” the longtime friend told PEOPLE. “She did not want people to know and she didn’t make it public.”

A musical phenomenon who crossed musical, racial and gender barriers, Franklin began her vocal career as a teenager, singing gospel hymns in her father’s Detroit church. From these humble beginnings she scaled to the very heights of stardom, scoring her first national chart topper in 1967 with a searing version of “Respect.”

Since then, the artist has notched 77 Hot 100 chart entries, and earned an astounding 18 Grammys out of 44 nominations. In 1987, two decades after her first No. 1, Franklin became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and was later named the Greatest Singer of All Time by Rolling Stone.

A source close to the singer spoke to the Associated Press on Monday to confirm that Franklin was “seriously ill,” although they did not provide any additional details as to the severity or the cause of the singer’s illness.

Showbiz 411 reporter Roger Friedman was first to report the singer was “gravely ill,” sharing that Franklin’s family were “asking for prayers and privacy.”

“I am so saddened to report that the Queen of Soul and my good friend, Aretha Franklin is gravely ill,” wrote Local 4 Detroit news anchor Evrod Cassimy on Twitter Sunday. “I spoke with her family members this evening. She is asking for your prayers at this time. I’ll have more details as I’m allowed to release.”

In February of 2017, the Queen of Soul told a Detroit TV station that she was retiring from music that year. “I will be recording, but this will be my last year in concert. This is it,” she said, though Franklin admitted she would perform at “some select things.”

Despite her failing health in recent years, Franklin returned to the stage in August for what would be her final public performance at the Mann Center in Philadelphia, despite noticeable changes in her appearance that caused concern about her well-being.

Continue onto PEOPLE to read the complete article.

LeBron James’ love, loyalty for hometown shines through with new school

LinkedIn

The I Promise School will focus on STEM educations for 240 of Akron, Ohio’s most disadvantaged students

Loyalty in the NBA was said to be in short supply earlier this month, when a few of the league’s offseason transactions looked and felt particularly bloodless.

And yet, there it was Monday, alive and well and pulsing through the streets of the “Bottom,” a rough neighborhood on the north side of an already tough city.

LeBron James helped to turn a gray and grim area he knew all too well into an oasis of music, balloons, streamers and hope, not just for the afternoon but ideally for years to come. All thanks to that noble quality that the cynics like to say is dead.

“I remember these streets,” James said during and after the dedication of the I Promise School, a new entry in the Akron Public Schools for some of the city’s most disadvantaged students and their families.

James’ charitable entity, the LeBron James Family Foundation, conceived and built the school in conjunction with APS and a slew of private partners chipping in time, labor and ultimately millions of dollars as they strive for a new approach to urban education. The plan had been put in motion years ago, but the actual hands-on, physical transformation of the building came in the past seven weeks.

The curriculum will focus on science, technology, engineering and math [STEM] but the school will go well beyond, providing “wraparound services” for the families that include career, academic and emotional support.

Continue onto the NBA to read the complete article.

Two Women Refereed An NBA Game Together For The First Time Ever

LinkedIn

Two black women did something this week that no other women have done before: They refereed a professional basketball game together.

Danielle Scott and Angelica Suffren officiated an NBA Summer League game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat on Tuesday evening. Marc J. Spears, a senior writer for ESPN’s The Defeated website, pointed out the news in a Tuesday tweet.

“First time I’ve ever seen two black women referee an NBA game of any kind,” Spears wrote. “Violet Palmer would be proud Danielle Scott and Angelica Suffren reffing at the California Classic Summer League Lakers versus Heat.”

NBA spokesman Mike Bass confirmed to HuffPost that this was the first time two women have officiated an NBA game.

Palmer, a retired basketball referee, broke the NBA’s gender barrier in 1997 when she and Dee Kanter were hired. Palmer was the first woman to officiate an NBA game ― on Oct. 31, 1997, between the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks. She was also the first woman to ref an NBA playoff game ― between the Indiana Pacers and the New Jersey Nets on April 25, 2006.

Twitter users applauded the historic moment this week.

“Now, it’s time to have a woman coach,” one user wrote.

Continue onto the Huffington Post to read the complete article.

Joe Jackson, musical family patriarch, dead at 89

LinkedIn

Joseph “Joe” Jackson, the patriarch who launched the musical Jackson family dynasty, died Wednesday in a Las Vegas hospital, a source close to the family tells CNN.

He was 89.

Jackson was the father and at times manager to pop stars Michael and Janet Jackson, along with the sibling-singing group, The Jackson 5.

No cause of death has been released, but Jackson had reportedly been in ill health.

“I have seen more sunsets than I have left to see,” read a tweet posted Sunday from Jackson’s official twitter account. “The sun rises when the time comes and whether you like it or not the sun sets when the time comes.”

He and Katherine Jackson wed in 1949. They moved into into a home on Jackson Street in Gary, Indiana, the following year, where they welcomed their first of 10 children, Maureen “Rebbie” Jackson.

Rebbie was followed by Sigmund “Jackie” Jackson in 1951, Toriano “Tito” Jackson in 1953, Jermaine Jackson in 1954, La Toya Jackson in 1956, Marlon Jackson in 1957, Michael Jackson in 1958, Steven Randall “Randy” Jackson in 1961 and Janet Jackson in 1966.

Marlon’s twin, Brandon, died soon after birth.

With a large family to support, Joe Jackson surrendered his dreams of becoming a boxer and secured a job as a crane operator for U.S. Steel.

He and his brother Luther also formed a band in the mid-1950s called The Falcons, intent on booking gigs for extra money.

The band only lasted a few years, but Jackson had developed an ear for music and believed he had found some talent in his children. He formed The Jackson Brothers in 1963 — with sons Tito, Jackie and Jermaine — and began entering them in local talent shows. With the addition of Marlon and Michael, The Jackson 5 was born in 1966. Two years later, they signed with Motown Records.

They went on to become one of the most successful R&B groups in history, with their father initially acting as their manager.

At the height of their stardom, The Jackson 5 sold millions of records and had their own CBS variety show.

“Joseph’s role as manager dwindled however as Motown CEO Berry Gordy began to take more charge on his act, a role that reverted back to Joseph when he began managing the entire family for performances in Las Vegas,” according to Jackson’s official site. “Joseph also helped his sons seal a deal with CBS after leaving Motown.”

The success of The Jackson 5 led to Michael Jackson going solo, becoming such a major star that he was later dubbed the King of Pop. Youngest daughter Janet also became a hugely successful recording artist.

The elder Jackson managed daughters Rebbie, La Toya, and Janet in the early 1980s until they, like their brothers before, struck out on their own.

Continue onto CNN to read the complete article.

Octavia E. Butler, Who Brought Diversity To The World Of Science Fiction, Honored With Google Doodle

LinkedIn

Octavia E. Butler, a groundbreaking African-American science fiction writer who would have turned 71 on Friday, was honored with a Google Doodle that celebrates her contributions to the literary world.

Butler was one of the first writers in science fiction — traditionally dominated by white male authors — to include diverse protagonists in her stories, and was widely admired for evocatively exploring hierarchies and human flaws in her work.

Butler died in 2006, but her family released a statement to coincide with Friday’s Google Doodle that paid tribute to her legacy.

“Her spirit of generosity and compassion compelled her to support the disenfranchised,” her family said in a statement. “She sought to speak truth to power, challenge prevailing notions and stereotypes, and empower people striving for better lives. Although we miss her, we celebrate the rich life she led and its magnitude in meaning.”

Throughout her life, Butler won various awards and became the first science-fiction author to get the MacArthur Fellowship. Here’s what you need to know about her prestigious career:

Nebula and Hugo awards

Butler won two Nebula awards and two Hugo awards in her career, two of the most prestigious prizes in science fiction. Two of those awards were for the same short story, Bloodchild, in which human refugees are imprisoned on an alien planet by insect-like creatures that protect them while using them as hosts to breed their young. Butler insisted the story was not an allegory for slavery while critics applauded it for reversing gender roles and examining the complex structures of oppression.

MacArthur Fellowship

In 1995, Butler became the first science-fiction author to be awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. The award came with a prize of $295,000. The foundation said Butler’s “imaginative stories are transcendent fables, which have as much to do with the future as with the present and the past.”

Television adaptation of Butler’s book

Last year, it was announced that Ava DuVernay, who recently directed A Wrinkle In Time, would be adapting Butler’s book, Dawn, into a television series. It is not clear what network will pick up the show just yet.

Read the complete article and more at TIME Magazine.

Oprah Winfrey, Apple Sign Multi-Year Content Partnership

LinkedIn

Apple and Oprah Winfrey have a signed a multi-year content partnership. Under the deal, Winfrey and Apple will create programs that will be released as part of Apple’s original content lineup.

The deal marks one of the first such agreements struck between Apple and a content creator. Previously, Apple set an overall deal with veteran showrunner Kerry Ehrin. Ehrin will also serve as the showrunner on Apple’s upcoming morning show drama series starring and executive produced by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston.

This is also the latest addition to Winfrey’s media empire. The former hit talk show host formed her own cable network, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, in 2011 in partnership with Discovery Communications. The channel has become one of the fastest-growing cable networks among women and has produced hit shows like “Queen Sugar,” which boasts Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay as showrunner.

Winfrey recently extended her contract with Discovery through 2025. Sources tell Variety that Apple’s deal with Winfrey does not conflict with the Discovery agreement. Winfrey remains exclusive in an on-screen capacity to OWN with limited carve-outs, such as her role as a correspondent for CBS’ “60 Minutes” and her recent acting work for HBO.

Via her Harpo Productions banner, Winfrey has also developed several long-running hit syndicated shows including “Dr. Phil,” “The Dr. Oz Show” and “Rachael Ray.” Through her Harpo Films, she has produced several Academy Award-winning features including “Selma,” which was directed by DuVernay. Winfrey also had a featured role in that film, and recently starred in other films like “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” and HBO’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”

Winfrey also runs O, The Oprah Magazine and published the New York Times best-selling cookbook “Food, Health and Happiness” last year. As a noted philanthropist, Winfrey has contributed more than $100 million to provide education to academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2017.

Continue onto Variety to read the complete article.

“Incredibles 2” is the Latest Film in Samuel L. Jackson’s Hollywood Journey

LinkedIn
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 05: Samuel L. Jackson attends the World Premiere Of Disney-Pixar's "Incredibles 2" at El Capitan Theatre on June 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney) *** Local Caption *** Samuel L. Jackson

By Ronda Racha Penrice, Urban News Service

LOS ANGELES—Samuel L. Jackson is, without a doubt, the hardest working man in Hollywood. To date, he’s appeared in well over 100 films with a box office take of $7 billion and counting.

That’s a Guinness World Record that Jackson, who appears in about four films each year, isn’t relinquishing anytime soon. In his latest, he reprises his role as Lucius Best, close friend to the Parr family who also doubles as the superhero Frozone, for Disney’s long-awaited animated sequel “Incredibles 2.” The 2004 original, “The Incredibles,” grossed over $631 million worldwide.

Playing an animated character who can “shoot ice out of his hands” is very apt for Jackson who is generally considered the coolest cat in Hollywood. But it’s a long way from his childhood in Chattanooga, Tenn. Raised during Jim Crow, Jackson, who turns 70 later this year, was very familiar with the color line, spending much of his early life in almost exclusively black environments. His father was very absent while his mother was a sporadic presence for many years. So Jackson’s maternal grandparents and aunt had a huge impact on his early life. From his grandfather, who worked as a janitor, Jackson learned the value of hard work and that still shows in his work ethic today. His Aunt Edna, a performing arts teacher, actually set him on the path to becoming an actor.

“I was in the house with her and she was generally in charge of the pageant shows or whatever the happenings. She never had enough boys. Boys never volunteered. I lived in the house with her so she made me,” he said, reclining comfortably at the other end of a sofa. “She takes all the credit for this,” he laughed, outstretching his hands to highlight the luxuriousness of his The London West Hollywood room.

As a student at the iconic men’s college Morehouse in Atlanta that also counts Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Spike Lee among its alumni, Jackson became ferocious about acting. There he even met his wife of nearly 40 years, LaTanya Richardson, a serious actress attending Spelman. He also appeared in his very first film, the long-forgotten 1972 Blaxploitation era film about interracial romance titled “Together for Days,” later renamed “Black Cream.” In 1976, Jackson and Richardson moved to New York.

“I never had a time when acting wasn’t going well,” said Jackson of

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 05:  Samuel L. Jackson attends the World Premiere Of Disney-Pixar's "Incredibles 2" at El Capitan Theatre on June 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
LaTanya Richardson (L) and Samuel L. Jackson attend the World Premiere Of Disney-Pixar’s “Incredibles 2” at El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

those days. “I had times when acting didn’t pay as much as something else could have. But I’ve only had like one real job other than actor. I was a security guard . . . But other than that I’ve supported myself acting since 1978.”

Jackson’s strategy was to keep everything he did in the theater. “I did things I’d learned to do in college that wouldn’t take me out of the theater situation,” he said. “It was easier for me to say I have an audition to people who are in the theater and they go ‘good luck’ than if I had to go to my auditions and be like ‘who’s going to wait my tables?’

“I just didn’t put myself in that situation so I built sets, I hung lights. I did whatever was necessary to make money in the business I wanted to be in. I knew how to do it. It kept me close to the theater. I could watch people rehearse, read lines with them or do whatever. So I was always ready to go.”

Jackson, who came through the theater ranks with Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Morgan Freeman and Wesley Snipes, was so good at being on stage that it seemed that not even drugs and alcohol could knock him off. But that was not true. When Richardson found her husband passed out, she sent him to rehab. As Jackson left rehab, Hollywood finally did call in the form of Spike Lee. Playing drug-addicted Gator Purify in Lee’s 1991 film, “Jungle Fever,” starring Wesley Snipes, got Jackson recognized. His role as Jules Winnfield, the Jheri curled hitman with a penchant for quoting Bible verses and a flair for dropping a profane word or two in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film “Pulp Fiction,” made him a star. And he hasn’t stopped working since.

Frozone (aka Lucius Best), Dash and Violet- “Incredibles 2” ©2018 Disney•Pixar.

Over the years, Jackson’s appeal has broadened to point that he has literally gone from last year’s “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” to an appearance as Nick Fury in Marvel’s recent superhero mash-up “Avengers: Infinity War.” But “The Incredibles” franchise, which counts Jackson’s daughter Zoe among its many fans, is one of the few Jackson has done suitable for all ages.

“I watched cartoons my whole life so being a voice of a cartoon character is kind of great,” he said. “And he’s a superhero. He’s got a superpower.”

“Incredibles 2” is in theaters nationwide June 15.

Three HBCU graduates bring craft beer bar to Harlem

LinkedIn

Harlem Hops to become the first beer bar in Harlem owned 100 percent by African-Americans

Three graduates of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are bringing a stylish take to a trendy craft beer bar in New York’s historic Harlem neighborhood. On June 9, owners Kevin Bradford, Kim Harris and Stacey Lee officially opened the doors of Harlem Hops to the public, making the establishment the first craft beer bar in Harlem to be 100 percent owned by African-Americans.

Harlem Hops sits nestled in the heart of Harlem at 2268 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd., a bustling street alive with independently owned businesses, convenient stores, curious neighbors and schoolchildren counting down the days until summer vacation begins. Walking into the bar gives the feel of everything Harlem embodies: a cozy, close-knit community where everyone is welcome.

“We want Harlem Hops to be Cheers for a lot of people in the neighborhood,” Harris said. “We want it to be the safe haven where you can just come and learn about something different.”

The vision of Harlem Hops began for Harris, a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, nearly five years ago. Born and raised in Harlem, Harris appreciated her neighborhood, but good beer was hard to find. Her quests to drink beer she enjoyed included traveling to Brooklyn to get it.

“I thought, there’s something missing here,” Harris said. “And that’s when it came to me that we should do a beer bar in Harlem. That’s was one of the reasons I thought about it.”

At the time, Harris had been in what she described as a distressed partnership with another business. But upon meeting with restaurant consultant Jason Wallace, Harris learned there was another entrepreneur who shared a similar vision for a craft beer bar. Bradford, a graduate of Hampton University, had the same problems as Harris when it came to finding good beer. Originally from Detroit, Bradford would find himself bringing beer back from his hometown to New York.

“I like good beer, and I couldn’t really find good beer above 125th. To tell you the truth, even above 110th,” Bradford said. “I had to travel to Brooklyn. I had to travel these far distances to get beer I liked. I think back in 2011 or 2012, New York was not really the beer center of the East Coast. Now, New York is pretty much on the map for craft beer. I live in Harlem and I wanted to open a bar in my neighborhood, but the zoning was residential. I could not have a commercial space in my property. That’s when Jason Wallace introduced myself and Kim and I was like, this is it.”

The two met near the end of 2016 and agreed that they could make the partnership work. Harris also ran her ideas past Lee, a fellow graduate of Clark Atlanta University and a trusted entrepreneur Harris had worked with in the past. Lee was more than happy to hop aboard and invest in the business.

“When Stacey came on board, she kind of made us whole in terms of all the bits and pieces,” Harris said. “I have business sense, Kevin is focused on the beer and Stacey brings in the creativity and helps me keep my thoughts together. We’re all married to each other. We love each other. It’s the perfect combination.”

Before long, ideas and concepts of what Harlem Hops could and should be began to fly. The three worked feverishly together to figure out everything from color schemes to beer to food menus. For decor, the group enlisted the help of designers. Matte black and copper would serve as the theme throughout the bar, and Harlem — whether it was in words, light-up messages or a marquee hanging from the ceiling — would be fully represented.

Continue onto The Undefeated to read the complete article.

Oprah Winfrey is part of American history — and now has the museum exhibition to prove it

LinkedIn

She’s a powerful media executive and Hollywood jet-setter who transformed daytime television, launched literary careers, and convened difficult conversations about race and gender.

But Oprah Winfrey also is an African American activist whose contributions to American culture rank alongside those of Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells, according to a new exhibition at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Opening Friday and running through June 2019, “Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture” features video clips, interview segments, movie costumes, and personal photographs and journals to explore what has influenced Winfrey and how her work has shaped America.

“What’s interesting is the same way America thought about Walter Cronkite — you could trust Walter Cronkite and his opinion — they trust Oprah,” said museum director Lonnie G. Bunch III. “An African American woman becomes the person America turns to.”

Winfrey donated $21 million to the $540 million museum, making her its largest individual benefactor (its theater is named in her honor). But her role as benefactor did not influence the exhibition, Bunch said.

“We made sure there was a bright line, that this was done by the museum and museum scholars,” he said. “The fundraising was not through Oprah’s people.”

Curators Rhea L. Combs and Kathleen Kendrick worked with Winfrey and her staff on arranging loans for the exhibition and on fact-checking and background information.

“In terms of content and narrative and the way the story is told, it’s the museum’s product,” Kendrick said. “The way we approached it was the way we approach all of our exhibitions.”

The show balances Winfrey’s humble personal story with her achievements.

“We’re providing a context for understanding not only who she is, but how she became a global figure, and how she is connected to broader stories and themes,” Kendrick said.

The first section of the show, which is in the Special Exhibitions gallery, explores Winfrey’s childhood and early career and how the cultural shifts of the 1950s and ’60s informed her worldview.

“Civil rights, the women’s movement, the media and television landscape, she’s at this distinct intersection of all of these dynamic moments,” Combs said. “She becomes someone at the forefront of dealing with ideas, of discussing hot-button topics like racism and sexual orientation.”

Continue onto the Washington Post to read the complete article.

Darius Rucker, Kane Brown make country chart history

LinkedIn

Darius Rucker and Kane Brown are sharing a chart record as the first two solo acts who are also minorities to follow each other with No. 1 country songs in the 28-year history of the Billboard Country Airplay chart.

According to Billboard, Brown, who is biracial, had a two-week No. 1 with “Heaven” and Rucker, who is black, followed him with his single, “For The First Time,” on the chart dated June 2. The chart, which digitally measures airplay, began in 1990.

“I wanted to be involved in and make country music because I loved it,” said Rucker in a statement. “To be making history, especially with my little brother Kane Brown, is incredible and a great, added bonus.”

Rucker got his first country No. 1 “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” in 2008, which was also followed at the top by Kenny Chesney’s song “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven,” with reggae group The Wailers.

Meanwhile this is just the latest chart record for newcomer Brown, who is the only artist in Billboard history to top all five country charts simultaneously. He hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums, Country Airplay, Hot Country Songs, Country Streaming Songs and Country Digital Songs charts.

“I’ve always tried to make the music that I liked, and that I knew my fans would like, and have tried to stay true to that, and I am such a big fan of Darius’ musically, that sharing anything with him feels like an honor,” Brown said in a statement.

But prior to the current Billboard chart, other minority acts have followed each other with No. 1 country singles. In 1975, Latino singers Johnny Rodriguez and Freddy Fender twice followed each other to the top of Billboard’s previous country singles chart.

Continue onto AP News to read the complete article.

Barack and Michelle Obama Sign Netflix Production Deal

LinkedIn
barack and michelle obama

Netflix has secured a deal with former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obamato produce series and movies for the streaming service. The former first couple will, according to an announcement Monday from the company, potentially work on scripted and unscripted series as well as docu-series, documentary films, and features under the multi-year deal.

“One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience,” said President Obama. “That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix — we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.”

“Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others,” said Michelle Obama. “Netflix’s unparalleled service is a natural fit for the kinds of stories we want to share, and we look forward to starting this exciting new partnership.”

Signing the Obamas is the latest, and by far the biggest, in a string of moves by Netflix to lock up the entertainment industry’s highest-profile producers in exclusive production and development pacts. Last year, Netflix poached “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes from ABC Studios with a deal valued at more than $100 million. “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy jumped from his longtime home at 20th Century Fox Television earlier this year to also join Netflix. Murphy’s deal was reported at the time to be worth as much as $300 million. However, sources tell Variety that tally includes money that Murphy is expected to make from his current and former Fox series over the life of his Netflix contract, and that the true value of the deal is in line with that of Rhimes.

It is unknown how much the Obamas’ Netflix agreement is worth. In March, Penguin Random House signed the couple to a joint book deal that pays them a reported $65 million for their respective memoirs.

“Barack and Michelle Obama are among the world’s most respected and highly-recognized public figures and are uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “We are incredibly proud they have chosen to make Netflix the home for their formidable storytelling abilities.”

Continue onto Variety to read the complete article.

 

America's Leading African American Business and Career Magazine