Netflix appointed Susan Rice, former U.S. national security adviser and ambassador to the United Nations during the Obama administration, to its board of directors.
Rice currently is a distinguished visiting research fellow at American University’s School of International Service, as well as a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
“We are delighted to welcome Ambassador Rice to the Netflix board,” Netflix chairman and CEO Reed Hastings said in a statement. “For decades, she has tackled difficult, complex global issues with intelligence, integrity and insight and we look forward to benefiting from her experience and wisdom.”
Rice commented, “I am thrilled to be joining the board of directors of Netflix, a cutting-edge company whose leadership, high-quality productions, and unique culture I deeply admire.”
Rice, 53, is a controversial political figure. Conservatives have criticized her over her initial comments about the September 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, which she called “spontaneous.” Critics have accused her of lying and trying to downplay the premeditated nature of the attack. In addition, it emerged last year that as Obama’s national security adviser, Rice in 2016 had requested to “unmask” the identities of certain Americans identified in intelligence reports who had been intercepted speaking with foreign sources — and were linked to Donald Trump’s campaign and presidential transition team.
Rice’s appointment increases the number of Netflix’s board members to 11 — and she becomes the company’s fourth female board member. In January, Netflix named Rodolphe Belmer, former CEO of Canal Plus Group, to the board.
The other Netflix directors are: Reed Hastings; Anne Sweeney, former president of Disney-ABC Television Group; Richard Barton, executive chairman of Zillow Group and founder of Expedia; A. George (Skip) Battle, former executive chairman of Ask Jeeves and executive at Andersen Consulting; Timothy Haley, managing director at Redpoint Ventures; Jay Hoag, general partner at Technology Crossover Ventures; Leslie Kilgore, former Netflix chief marketing officer; Ann Mather, ex-CFO of Pixar and Village Roadshow Pictures, former Disney exec; and Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer, Microsoft.
Continue onto Variety to read the complete article.
Howard University has named actor Chadwick Boseman as this year’s commencement speaker, the school announced on Wednesday.
“I’m excited to return to the Mecca in celebration of the achievements of our illustrious students,” Boseman, a graduate of the historically black college, said in a press release. “Let’s listen, learn and build with one another.”
University President Wayne A. I. Frederick said it was an “honor and privilege” to welcome Boseman back.
“His recent role in the blockbuster film ‘Black Panther’ reminds us of the excellence found in the African diaspora and how places like Howard are hidden, untapped gems producing the next generation of scientists, engineers and doctors,” Frederick said in the statement. “Mr. Boseman exemplifies the monumental heights and levels Howard graduates can achieve by using the skills and knowledge they acquired at the university.”
In February, while promoting “Black Panther,” Boseman told The Chicago Tribune that the essence of Wakanda, the film’s fictional black utopia, exists at the HBCU.
“It is a Wakanda to a certain degree. There is definitely a lot of T’Challa there,” he said. “If you have a blanketed idea of what it means to be of African descent and you go to Howard University, you’re meeting people from all over the diaspora — from the Caribbean, any country in Africa, in Europe. So you’re seeing people from all walks of life that look like you but they sound different.”
In what’s been called the “Golden Age of TV,” black-ish is a 24-karat comedy.
It features brilliant actors Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Anderson, and Laurence Fishburne, among others.
And it’s groundbreaking.
In its fifth season on ABC on Wednesday nights, the show featuring a successful African-American family living in suburban Southern California has dealt with powder keg issues such as police brutality, bi-racial relationships, and the n-word, all while busting up viewers.
“Comedy is a good way to give people a spoonful of sugar with their medicine,” said Kenya Barris, the show’s creator.
Beneath the comedy are serious ideas.
“We are a society which talks less about race than ever—at least openly—because of political correctness, and this has made the situation worse,” Barris said.
Black-ish has been nominated for eight Emmy Awards and four Golden Globe Awards. Earlier this year, the show won an award at the NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series. Ross won for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series, and Anderson was named Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series.
In 2017, Ross (Bow, or Dr. Johnson on the show) became the first
black woman in more than three decades to win the Golden Globes’ best actress in a TV comedy or musical (the last was Debbie Allen for Fame in 1983). The daughter of Diana Ross says she revels in portraying a thriving wife, mother, and doctor.
“I think that as a black woman, my beingness is a form of activism in and of itself,” Ross said. “If I take that and ripple it out further in an amplified way, I can’t help, from my beingness, to not be a form of activism, because that is who I am.”
Bow’s husband is advertising executive Dre (Anderson), who considers himself the patriarch of the family, but struggles with the changes taking place in society, and worries that his kids aren’t experiencing blackness in the same way he has.
Bow and Dre’s children are the quietly shrewd Zoey (Yara Shahidi), the conscientious Junior (Marcus Scribner), the volcanic Diane (Marsai Martin), the sweet and often confused Jack (Miles Brown), and baby DeVante. Alicia (Anna Deavere Smith) is Bow’s woo-woo mother, and Jonah (David Diggs) is her intellectual, often-annoying brother.
Pops (Fishburne) is Dre’s no-nonsense father with a bit of a checkered past. Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) is his loose cannon mother, and Rhonda (Raven Symone) is his gay sister whose wit and wisdom make her a show-stealer, even though she’s a no-drama woman.
Ask fans of black-ish about their favorite episode, and fiery debates will ensue. It’s impossible to name the best or most important single show, but here are a handful that fans—including former President Barack Obama, who has said it’s his favorite TV sitcom—would probably mention:
—When the kids ask some tough questions about a highly publicized court case involving accusations of police brutality upon a black teenager, Dre and Bow are torn over how to field them. Dre, along with Pops and Ruby, feel the kids need to know what kind of world they’re living in, while Bow is determined to give them a rosier view. In one of the show’s most dramatic moments, Dre—recalling how proud and hopeful he and Bow were when Obama was elected president and how terrified they were that he’d get assassinated on his inauguration day—convinces Bow that the kids should not be blindfolded to reality.
—After Dre notices that his neighbor Janine has never invited his family to any of her pool parties, he assumes she is racially stereotyping them. The kids are shocked to find out that, guess what? Dre doesn’t know how to swim.
—Jack performs the Kanye West song “Gold Digger” at a school talent show and when he sings a lyric that includes the n-word, it leads to his possible expulsion from school. Dre and Bow work together to keep him in school, and along the way, examine the evolution of the word and grapple with just who has the right to use it and whether it should be said at all.
The n-word episode is probably the most pot-stirring single airing in the show’s five-year history.
Anderson said it’s important to talk about the word, as well as other
issues that affect black families, even if it’s uncomfortable or painful.
“We leave it up to the public to enjoy it or debate,” he said. “But there’s no trepidation at all because we come from an authentic place, and that’s why we can dance the dance that we do in terms of the subject matters that we deal with. When you come at it from a real place and you’re authentic to who you are, who these characters are and what the dynamic of this family is, you can do just about do anything and have it resonate with someone. And that’s what we do.”
When the show debuted in fall 2014 (Larry Wilmore was the showrunner at the time), many were confused about the title.
Fishburne, who was instrumental in getting black-ish aired on ABC, explains it as well, or better, than anyone.
“Here’s the thing about our title,” said Fishburne, who Silver Screen cognoscenti surely remember from Boyz in the Hood, Othello, Tuskagee Airmen, What’s Love Got to Do with It, and The Matrix. “Our title is a little bit of a wink. It’s a bit of a joke because, ultimately, if you live in America and you’ve been in America, let’s say, for the last 10, 15, 20 years, you’re probably a little blackish anyway. So that’s what’s wonderful about our title, and that’s really what it means. Everybody’s a little Jewish. Everybody’s a little blackish, you know?”
Want a simpler breakdown?
Black-ish is not the first TV comedy featuring African-American stars or the first to deal with race issues.
It’s not even the only one on TV. Empire comes to mind.
What makes the show different than, say, The Cosby Show, to name an obvious predecessor, Barris said, is that The Cosby Show was about a thriving family who happened to be black. That was groundbreaking in its time. Black-ish is about a thriving family dealing with their blackness in an ever-changing, sometimes confusing world.
The Johnsons don’t happen to be black; their blackness is integral to who they are and how they navigate through and negotiate with society. It’s not necessarily the epicenter of every show, but it’s ever-present.
And unlike Empire, a fine show in its own right, the Johnsons are not moguls in the business of hip-hop. When Bow and Dre go to work, when Zoey and the other kids go to school, they’re socializing—and competing—with people of all ethnicities, including a large number of Caucasian folks. This forces the show and its viewers to confront uncomfortable issues rooted in this nation’s history.
At just 24 years old, Toni Adeyemi has launched a stunning Black Lives Matter-inspired fantasy trilogy, the phenomenon that is Children of Blood and Bone. Before the first book was even finished, its film rights sold around seven figures and generated buzz for its sharp racial commentary as few books have been able. Not unlike Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, which topped best-sellers lists and won several awards last year, Children of Blood and Bone is looking like the next big thing in YA: a story that’s simultaneously pulse-pounding, prescient, and enchanting.
The author calls the book an “allegory for the modern black experience,” and finds fantasy the perfect mode for conveying complex ideas without getting preachy. It’s a process that’s taken her years to refine and perfect — “It’s been rewritten 100 times,” she cracks — and the fact that it’s culminating in a potential movie franchise still stuns her. Blessedly, the next step in this crazy ride is around the corner: The book hits shelves on March 6, coinciding with Adeyemi’s national book tour. (Order it here.)
Last year, as buzz for the book was heating up and just as she’d turned in her final draft, EW caught up with Adeyemi to get her story: her inspiration as a writer, her process with this book, and what it feels like to have a big-budget movie adapted from her own work on the horizon.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How long have you been writing, and what got you to Children of Blood and Bone? TOMI ADEYEMI: I’ve been writing since between five and seven. Writing is just the first thing I ever did and I kept doing it, so I’ve been writing for almost my entire life. My freshman year of college, The Hunger Games movie adaptation came out and I was really excited about it. This was maybe 2011. I loved it, but there was a lot of hateful backlash against the black characters in the film. People were like, “Oh, why’d they make all the good characters black?” Just really, really awful and hateful things. I’m the kind of person who gets motivated by anger, so I was like, “Oh man, I’m going to write a story that’s so good and so black that everyone’s going to have to read it even if you’re racist.” That became my writing mission. The first story that I wrote for that mission did not go anywhere, but it took me about three or four years. I needed it because it taught me everything about writing and it taught me everything about actually how you get a book published. Lots of writers’ first books don’t go anywhere, but this was such a valuable learning experience that I couldn’t have done what I did with this book without that book.
I learned that book wasn’t going anywhere, but I also learned I didn’t want it to go anywhere because I saw what was out there and I knew I could do better. Then I was really inspired after reading books like Shadowshaper by José Older and An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. This was on the tail-end of me still on my book one journey, so maybe between three and four years of book one, and I was discovering fantasy is way to teach people but not in a preachy way — just in the way you can get something across through a character’s experience that helps explain something that feels like it can’t be explained in a universal way. I don’t know if that’s too many vague words. I got that from both of those books and I was excited and like, “I want to write something big!”
The first African-American woman in space discusses her agricultural science initiative.
Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, knows firsthand the importance of exposing kids to STEM topics early. She also knows the significance of having kids see themselves in movies, on TV, and in certain careers.
“It means making sure that people get those images that show they have those things available to them,” Jemison told HuffPost.
Jemison is collaborating on “Science Matters,” an initiative to encourage kids of all ages and backgrounds to pursue agricultural science from pharmaceutical and life science company Bayer and youth development organization National 4-H Council. Jemison, a physician and chemical engineer, knows the field of agricultural science can sound intimidating, but she and Jennifer Sirangelo, CEO and president of the National 4-H Council, have set out to change that.
Digging into agricultural science can be as simple as asking, “Where does my food come from?” An increasingly popular way to kick-start this sort of interest is through urban gardens, Jemison explained.
“There’s nothing more exciting to see something growing ― and you can eat it!” Jemison said. “That’s something parents can do with their kids as well.”
Sirangelo agreed, noting that agricultural science is more than horticulture and animal science and has huge applications for our future.
“The need to produce more food with fewer resources over the coming decades is going to push our science even further,” she told HuffPost.
As Jemison put it, we need to prepare our kids “to not just survive, but thrive.”
Bringing more children into STEM topics like agricultural science isn’t enough, though. Diversity is imperative, especially for women and people of color, groups underrepresented in these fields, Jemison said.
“We’re losing talent and we’re losing capability by not including them,” she told HuffPost. “When people think about why it is important to have a diversity of talent in a field, they think of it as a nicety. No, it’s a necessity. We get better solutions.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and filmmaker Ava DuVernay launched a diversity program on Monday that will fund internships in the entertainment industry for young people from underserved communities.
The new program, which kicks off this summer, will also provide production gap financing to feature projects made by filmmakers and crews who don’t have sufficient funds to get through post production.
The Evolve Entertainment Fund will assist 150 interns for the coming summer, with the goal to increase the number to 500 by 2020 and beyond. The $5-million initiative won’t be financed with tax dollars but rather through fundraising, according to a city spokesperson.
The program will dispense grants to entertainment companies and organizations around L.A. The first grant recipient will be the Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program, a joint venture between Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles andthe Hollywood Reporter.
Hollywood has come under harsh criticism in recent years for its lack of racial and gender diversity in key production and executive positions. The industry has also been roiled in recent months by widespread accusations of sexual harassment, beginning with allegations that surfaced in October that producer Harvey Weinstein engaged in sexual misconduct against women for decades.
“Unless we change, the status quo stays,” said Garcetti during a launch event Monday at the Filipinotown headquarters of “The Lego Movie” producer Dan Lin.
An immigrant from Taiwan who grew up in a modest Brooklyn neighborhood, Lin said his production company, which has been renamed Rideback Ranch, will be a “symbol of inclusion and diversity.”
Continue onto the LA Times to read the complete article.
Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” has placed him in the Oscar history books.
Peele was crowned the winner in the the best original screenplay race at Sunday’s Academy Awards, making him the first black screenwriter to receive the honor.
In his speech, Peele thanked the people “who raised my voice and let me make this movie.”
Heading into Sunday, Peele and his film were nominated for a total of four awards, including best picture.
Only four black film writers have been nominated in the best original screenplay category in Oscars’ 90-year history: Suzanne de Passe (“Lady Sings the Blues,” 1972), Spike Lee (“Do the Right Thing,” 1989) John Singleton (“Boyz n the Hood,” 1991) and Peele.
In the adapted screenplay category, three films with black writers have won in the past — “Precious,” “Twelve Years a Slave,” and “Moonlight.”
This year, Peele made history, becoming the first black director to receive nominations in the writing, directing, and best picture categories for his directorial debut.
Only two other people have accomplished that feat, according to the Academy. Warren Beatty with “Heaven Can Wait” (1978) and James L. Brooks with “Terms of Endearment” (1983).
The “Girls Trip” actress announced on Thursday that she will be hosting the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards in Los Angeles on Monday, June 18. Haddish, who made history last November by becoming the first black female stand-up comedian to host “Saturday Night Live,” is making history again as the first black woman to host the award show. The last female host was Amy Schumer in 2015.
Haddish announced the news in a video on Instagram. “It’s gonna be off the chain! Because you know why? I’m hosting!” Haddish says in the video. “And you know what that means ― it’s gonna be hilarious.”
MTV released a statement shortly after Haddish’s announcement, writing that the actress, comedian and author is “quickly establishing herself as one of the most sought-after actresses and comedic talents in television and film.”
After her hilarious acting in “Girls Trip,” she released a New York Times best-seller titled The Last Black Unicorn. She recently made waves as the face of Groupon, appearing in the brand’s 2018 Super Bowl ad. The actress is also starring in the upcoming TBS sitcom “The Last O.G.” alongside Tracy Morgan.
Darrell ‘Bubba’ Wallace Jr. will make history as the first full-time black driver since 1971 in the predominantly white Daytona 500 race.
Wallace follows Wendell Scott from nearly 50 years ago – who was the first black driver to win a race in the Grand National Series since NASCAR was founded in 1948.
The 24-year-old will drive the No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports on Sunday.
Wallace had driven the iconic No. 43 car to a third-place finish in a Daytona 500 qualifying race, setting off a celebration for Richard Petty Motorsports almost worthy of winning NASCAR’s marquee race itself.
The King strolled to the pits and hugged Wallace. The 80-year-old Petty wrapped his arm around Wallace , and they walked off smiling toward what each side hoped was the start of a fruitful alliance.
‘I just had a guard walk me from pit road to the media center. His name is Richard Petty. I’ve never seen him so excited in my life,’ Wallace said.
That Wallace can energize Petty may symbolize as much a true passing of the torch as NASCAR could want: Petty and his deep kinship with old-school fans and Wallace, a video game playing, social media darling about to make history as the first black driver in decades.
Busting down racial barriers in a sport long reserved for whites is heavy stuff for Wallace, and he’s keenly aware all eyes are on him.
The rookie invites glare from his fans and haters, starring in his own eight-episode docu-series ‘Behind the Wall: Bubba Wallace ,’ on the Facebook Watch show page.
Wallace, the son of a white father and black mother, has openly talked of becoming the Tiger Woods of NASCAR – a black star who can transcend the sport and prove people of all colors can race and flourish in corporate America.
‘There’s a lot of stuff that’s riding on this weekend. I know it. I pay attention to it,’ Wallace said.
‘I follow a lot of people on social media, and it’s being put out there. But I’m doing my best at managing it, keeping it behind me, and that’s the best thing I can do.’
Wallace is one of at least eight black drivers in NASCAR’s 70-year history who reached the Cup level: Elias Bowie, Charlie Scott, George Wiltshire, Randy Bethea, Willy T. Ribbs and Bill Lester.
Aside from Scott’s 1963 Cup race win, the next win at a national event by a black driver came in 2013 when Wallace took the Truck Series checkered flag at Martinsville.
Wallace, raised in Concord, North Carolina, has the full support of the black drivers before him. Lester sent him encouraging tweets. Wallace met some of Scott’s children.
But none of the black drivers who raced before arrived with this kind of full-blown promotional push, acceptance in the garage and a solid ride that got him a seventh-place start in the Daytona 500.
Continue onto the Daily Mail read the complete article.
The 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards is set to air live on Sunday, March 11th at the Forum in Los Angeles, California. For the fifth straight year, the ceremony will celebrate the most talked about artists and songs heard throughout the last year across radio stations and the iHeartRadio app. Throughout the year, these artists have released hits that have impacted radio stations across the nation.
For the first time, iHeartRadio will be including fans in this year’s show. Fans will be able to vote for “Best Fan Army”, “Best Cover Song”, “Best Solo Breakout”, and even “Best Musician Pet”. Voting for these categories are now open at the iHeartRadio awards page. Don’t forget to vote! In the mean time, check out some of the most prominent Black nominees below!
Making her debut in 2003, Rihanna has not stopped pushing the barrier in her musical career. The singer has continuously challenged the media and has showcased the balance of being a humanitarian and one of the most notable pop icons of the decade. Her nomination for the 2018 iHearRadio female artist of the year and Best R&B Artist is no surprise, as her release of her 8th studio album, ANTI, brought on a new sound for the singer.
2. The Weeknd
This Toronto native made his mark in 2011 with “House of Balloons”, a 50 minute track with dark R&B tunes flowing through headphones and speakers across the U.S. With his continued rise, The Weeknd has released two more unique sounding albums and has been featured on many soundtracks. His nomination for Best Male Artist and Best R&B Artist of the Year is to be noted as his star continues to rise.
This Canadian native is not just a rapper. He is also a songwriter, producer, and singer. Rising to super stardom in 2006, the rapper has gone on to release songs with prominent artists such as Rihanna, The Weeknd, Jay-Z, and Nicki Minaj. The rapper’s catchy hooks and beats land him as one of the nominees in the Hip-Hop Artist of the Year category.
4. Kendrick Lamar
Originally known as K-Dot, the Compton, California native released many mixtapes under his formative name until he was picked up by a major record label. Making his album debut in 2011, Lamar spilled beats and lyrics detailing the harsh life he has witnessed throughout this childhood. The socially conscious and at times, politically driven lyrics with catchy beats has made Lamar a nominee for Hip-Hop Artist of the Year.
Future maybe known for creating a duet album with Drake, but this Hip-Hop Artist of the Year nominee has been paving his way in the music industry for quite some time. Making his mainstream debut in 2011, Future has been featured on tracks with Rihanna and Pharrell. His most prominent album, HNDRXX gained popular success and critical acclaim, and continues to peak through the charts.
6. 21 Savage
The Atlanta based rapper has landed a Best New Hip-Hop Artist nominee for making a splash with his debut album, Issa Album. Peaking on the Billboard charts, 21 Savage does not plan to stop. With collaborations with Metro Boomin and other influential hip-hop artists, 21 Savage’s star continues to rise.
7. Cardi B
Debuting with her smash hit, Bodak Yellow and being featured on Migos’ ever popular Motor Sport, Cardi B continues to release strong hits such as Bartier Cardi. It comes as no surprise as to why this artist has been nominated as a Best New Hip-Hop Artist.
8. Lil Uzi Vert
His unique style of rapping in XO TOUR Llif3 has made Lil Uzi Vert an artist to watch out for in the coming year. With Marilyn Manson, Paramore, Kanye West, and Pharrell as his inspirations, we can anticipate many unique tracks from this Best New Hip-Hop Artist nominee.
This SoundCloud artist rose to prominence indie and hip-hop mixes. With is album making an appearance in 2017, we can expect a lot more from this Best New Hip-Hop Artist nominee
10. Playboi Carti
Although the release of this mixtape in 2016 received notable attention from various music publications, Playboi Carti gained recognition when he was featured on Lil Uzi Vert’s song, Woke Up Like This. As a Best New Hip-Hop Artist nominee, Playboi Carti has a lot more room to grow in his music career.
11. Childish Gambino
Donald Glover may have first made his name by starting in hit shows such as Community and Atlanta, but he has solidified his artistic talents under his rapper name, Childish Gambino. The rapper, producer, and songwriter burst onto the scene with his ultra catchy 3005 and Sweatpants. Riding from that success, the rapper later refined his sound with his soulful funk, R&B hit Redbone. Taking influences from psychedelic soul and funk, Gambino is one of the most noted nominees in the R&B Artist of the Year category.
His hit song Location catapulted young artist Khalid to Grammy spotlight. His features with Kendrick Lamar, Logic, and Alissia Clara has gained him much attention and a signing with RCA Records.
Although SZA has been in the music industry since 2013, it wasn’t until she dropped her 2017 album Ctrl, where she earned critical acclaim, that she received popular success. Recently, she has been featured on the Black Panther soundtrack with Kendrick Lamar.
Check out iHeartRadio for more information on these talented artists
TEMPE, Arizona — When Jerry Manuel walks into the room at Tempe Diablo Stadium early on a Friday morning, he’s carrying a portable speaker blasting an instrumental version of Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thing.” His coaches are trying to guess who is on the saxophone. After multiple failed attempts, he announces that it’s Boney James. A copy of Baseball America is on the table, and MLB Network is playing in the background. Then the meeting starts.
The baseball lifer known as “The Sage” is here to run the show. He’s leading a collection of former major league players, coaches and scouts at the Dream Series, a showcase event run by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball that puts the best African-American players in the country in the same place to learn and play.
It looks like a big league spring training, it feels like a big league spring training, but it doesn’t quack like a big league spring training. With 60 kids invited to the event, specifically pitchers and catchers, they don’t have time to waste. This crew has been selected because of their knowledge, experience and skill. The best black players in America are here to learn from some of the best black coaches in America. Period. It’s important that their message is unified, for a variety of reasons.
“The key thing is, for me, is that there’s no confusion with the kid when he leaves here,” said Manuel, who won a World Series ring and a Manager of the Year Award in the big leagues. “He’s not confused. He might not get the revelation of what you’re talking about, but he’s not confused. He might not get it right now. He might go home, wake up and say, ‘Ah, that’s what he meant.’ Flash [Tom Gordon] said to me the same thing Marvin [Freeman] said to me. But Marvin said it in a different way. That’s the genius of who you guys are. That’s the genius of having different types of pitchers here.
“There’s a difference between throwing and pitching. We can’t get caught up in just velocity. We gotta get caught up in pitching. Counts, etc. I just want to make it clear what the whole program is about. We are trying to get this thing right, and it’s going to take some time, but we are getting better.”
Over the next three days, players who were part of a generation who shaped what the game is all about for me would attempt to do the same for the players whom MLB has identified as those with the best chance to help solve their diversity problem.
While the baseball basics throw around phrases such as “where are all the black players?” and posit quasi-sensible but ultimately pointless theories as to why the number of African-American players at the major league level has dipped by whatever percentage, on the surface the league is taking a multifaceted at best, scatterbrained at worst, attempt to build the game at the grass-roots level, besides grooming talent to advance to the next level.
The truth is that a combination of economics and sociology — along with interest — has changed why the number of African-American players is down in MLB. But baseball is bigger than the major leagues. There are fewer black players in college baseball, never mind high school baseball and on down. Travel ball has turned the average teenage experience on the diamond into a game with higher stakes than most parents can afford to play, and when teams in structurally and institutionally disadvantaged districts do succeed at the little league level, there are some coaches willing to go to the ends of the earth to make sure their kids win, no matter the cost — remember what happened to Jackie Robinson West.
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.
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.’”
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.”
Team USA is bringing more athletes to Pyeongchang (242) than any nation ever has to a Winter Olympics. This year’s team is also the most diverse of any U.S. winter squad, in terms of both race and gender: The 108 women on the 2018 team are the most of any U.S. team at a Winter Games.
Team USA is nearly 45 percent female, putting it slightly above the average for all countries competing in Pyeongchang. Overall, the Winter Olympics has boosted women’s participation since the 1990s, largely by removing barriers to sports such as the biathlon, curling and ice hockey. But other restrictions remain that close events to women, including requirements that women race in only the shorter two-person bobsled, with no four-person events.
The U.S. squad includes 10 African-Americans, 11 Asian-Americans and its first two openly gay athletes.
Four of the five athletes on the U.S. women’s bobsled team are people of color, led by Elana Meyers Taylor. The total includes alternate Briauna Jones, who will step up if there are injuries on the two-sled team. If the team reaches the podium, it will continue a streak of success: With a similar makeup, the 2014 version of the team won silver and bronze at the Sochi 2014 Games.
The age range on Team USA is from 17 to 39, with an average age of 26.4 years. The oldest U.S. Olympian in South Korea is the hockey team’s Brian Gionta, 39. The youngest is 17-year-old figure skater Vincent Zhou – one of eight U.S. athletes born in 2000.