Kevin Hart giving back by handing out scholarships to HBCU students

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His Help From the Hart Charity Fund is partnering with the UNCF to award $600,000

Last week, actor and comedian Kevin Hart saluted LeBron James on the opening of his I Promise school for at-risk youth in James’ hometown of Akron, Ohio. Now, we have a reason to salute Hart.

In a partnership involving the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) and Hart’s own Help From the Hart Charity Fund, 18 KIPP students will have an opportunity to earn a college degree.

Through this partnership, a $600,000 scholarship will be established to provide funding in order to support KIPP students from eight different cities who are attending 11 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

“The Help From The Hart Charity Scholarship will not only support students but will also demonstrate support for HBCUs,” said UNCF CEO and president Michael L. Lomax. “Research shows that HBCUs matter, and that HBCU students are having a positive college experience, but they also have an unmet financial need. Together, Kevin and KIPP have made an investment that will have a significant impact. We can’t thank them enough for their support.”

Continue onto The Undefeated to read the complete article.

Louisville International Airport To Be Renamed For Muhammad Ali

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The city where the legendary boxer and humanitarian grew up is proud to honor him, Mayor Greg Fischer said.

Legendary sports figure Muhammad Ali is being honored by his Kentucky home town.

On Wednesday, officials announced that Louisville International Airport will be renamed after the late boxer and humanitarian.

The new name will be Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, although the current three-letter code ― SDF ― will stay the same, according to the Courier-Journal.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the name change reflects the city’s pride in a local son who has “left a legacy of athleticism, of humanitarianism that has literally inspired billions of people.”

Although the airport is already planning to spend $100,000 to promote the new name, it’s not totally set in stone: The change first needs to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to local station WDRB TV.

WDRB TV reported that a related deal also needs to be finalized with an Ali family entity. But his boxer’s widow, Lonnie Ali, seems to be onboard, judging from this statement released to the press:

I am proud that the Louisville Regional Airport Authority and the City of Louisville are supportive of changing the name of the Louisville International Airport to reflect Muhammad’s impact on the city and his love for his hometown.

I am happy that visitors from far and wide who travel to Louisville will have another touch point to Muhammad and be reminded of his open and inclusive nature, which is reflective of our city. Muhammad was a global citizen, but he never forgot the city that gave him his start. It is a fitting testament to his legacy.

Ali died in 2016 after a long battle with Parkinson’s syndrome. He was 74.

Not only was he the first boxer to win the world heavyweight title three times, but Time magazine once described him as the “best-known person on the planet.”

Continue onto the Huffington Post to read the complete article.

NBCBLK launches Black History Month Series: ‘She Thrives’

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She Thrives Series

This February 2019, in celebration of Black History Month, NBCBLK, the African-American news vertical of NBC News Digital, presents a month-long special feature recognizing the accomplishments, power and prowess of black women.

The series, “She Thrives: Black Women Making History Today,” will highlight 10 amazing women you should know from a variety of generations, occupations and regions. These women are leaders in their communities and truly elevating the conversation around black identity, politics and culture.

NBCBLK would love to obtain submissions and suggestions. Once submissions are compiled, editorial members throughout NBC News’ broadcast and digital platforms will make the final selections.

How it works:

Tell us in the form provided how the woman you wish to nominate is breaking barriers and dismantling stereotypes about what it means to be a Black Woman in America today. Include a link, if relevant.

Selection criteria:

• Honorees are black women who are exceptional, gifted leaders in their industry and profession.

• These women are breaking barriers and smashing stereotypes about the black community/diaspora- redefining what it means to be Black in America.

Continue onto NBCBLK to read the complete article and complete the form.

Black PR Wire Power Profiler on Dr. Maulana Karenga

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Dr. Maulana Karenga is professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach. He is also chair of the President’s Task Force on Multicultural Education and Campus Diversity at California State University, Long Beach.

Dr. Karenga holds two Ph.D.’s; his first in political science with focus on the theory and practice of nationalism (United States International University) and his second in social ethics with a focus on the classical African ethics of ancient Egypt (University of Southern California). He also holds an honorary doctorate of philosophy from the University of Durban-Westville, South Africa.

Moreover, Dr. Karenga is the director of the Kawaida Institute of Pan-African Studies, Los Angeles, and national chairman of The Organization Us, a cultural and social change organization, so named to stress the communitarian focus of the organization. Dr. Karenga has had a profound and far-reaching effect on Black intellectual and political culture. Through his organization Us and his philosophy, Kawaida, he has played a vanguard role in shaping the Black Arts Movement, Black Studies, the Black Power Movement, Black Student Union Movement, Afrocentri¬city, rites of passage programs, the study of ancient Egyptian culture as an essential part of Black Studies, the independent Black school movement, African life-cycle ceremonies, the Simba Wachanga youth movement, and Black theological and ethical discourse.

Dr. Karenga is also widely known as the creator of Kwanzaa, an African American and Pan-African holiday celebrated throughout the world African community on every continent in the world. He is the author of the authoritative book on the subject: Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture and lectures regularly and extensively on the vision and values of Kwanzaa, especially the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles), in various national and international venues.

Continue on to BlackPrWire to read the complete article.

The Howard University Ooh La La! Dance Line Wins the #RadiantDanceOff Contest

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Howard University Dancers

It’s official, the Howard University Ooh La La! dance line reigns supreme, winning the second annual HBCU Dance #RadiantDanceOff Contest presented by The Radiant Collection from Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) leading feminine protection brands Tampax® and Always®, in partnership with HBCU Dance Corporation, Inc.

This year, the Ooh La La! dance line competed against 19 HBCU schools nationwide in the #RadiantDanceOff to win $20,000 and custom uniforms created by Briana Bigham, a seasoned designer who has worked with some of the most popular labels in fashion.

“HBCU dancers are some of the hardest working women on the yard, and they give their all in every performance. Their skill and on-the-field radiance shined in every #RadiantDanceOff submission we received so choosing just one winning team was a huge challenge,” says Keelia Brown, founder of HBCU Dance Corporation, Inc. “The #RadiantDanceOff competition shines a light on the confidence and talent of the amazing women on the teams, and the prize from The Tampax and Always Radiant Collection will help them keep dancing.”

This was the second annual #RadiantDanceOff contest, a national online dance competition designed exclusively for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Created in 2017, the contest was designed to change the fact that African-American women avoid activities like dancing, and even compromise their style during their periods1. The contest highlights the bold moves and fierce styles worn by HBCU dance lines to show women everywhere that they can wear and do whatever they want with confidence, any day of the month, and showcases the incredible skill of majorettes across the country.

This homecoming season, eligible HBCU dance teams competed to earn one of the top five spots in the #RadiantDanceOff competition. As per last year’s program, eligible teams entered by submitting a two-minute video that was voted on by fans, alumni and students, along with a short essay highlighting why their team runs the yard. A panel then judged the five dance teams with the highest number of votes on:

  • Difficulty of dance steps, cohesiveness and technical proficiency
  • Originality of dance performance
  • Creative execution of wardrobe selection
  • Ability to convey character and expression in the dance
  • Essay submission

“The Tampax and Always Radiant Collection is all about giving women the freedom to be the fiercest version of themselves any day of the month,” says Melissa Suk, Brand Director, North America Feminine Care at Procter & Gamble. “The women of Howard University radiate confidence every day, and we’re happy we can help them shine even brighter on the field.”

Continue on to Business Wire to read the complete article.

In the Dugout with Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait of a Baseball Legend

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Jackie Robinson

In 1947 Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) made history when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first African-American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era.

Opening on January 31—Robinson’s 100th birthday—In the Dugout with Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait of a Baseball Legend will feature 32 photographs (most of them never published), originally shot for Look magazine; rare home movies of the Robinson family; and memorabilia related to Robinson’s career.

The exhibition is presented in collaboration with the Jackie Robinson Foundation and launches the Foundation’s yearlong, national Jackie Robinson Centennial Celebration, which culminates in the opening of the Jackie Robinson Museum in New York City in December 2019. “We are honored to partner with the Jackie Robinson Museum in celebrating the legacy of a true American icon,” said Whitney Donhauser, Ronay Menschel Director and President of the Museum of the City of New York. “Robinson’s trailblazing years as a Brooklyn Dodger captivated the country and these photographs offer an intimate glimpse of a defining period in American sports history.”

Della Britton, president and CEO of the Jackie Robinson Foundation remarked, “We are thrilled to begin our year-long celebration with this showcase of photographic treasures that depict Jackie Robinson’s life and career in New York. And the beautiful Museum of the City of New York is a fitting venue, as it was in this city that our namesake paved a way for a more inclusive America.” Robinson spent only one season with the Negro Leagues’ Kansas City Monarchs before he was recruited by Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey. Looking to turn the tide of the much-maligned team, Rickey chose Robinson not only for his talent, but for his demeanor and courage. From the moment Robinson stepped onto Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, he endured jeers and even physical threats from fellow players, ticket buyers, and a segregated American public.

Despite adversity, Robinson ended his first season as the winner of Major League Baseball’s inaugural “Rookie of the Year” award. He was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player two years later and went on to win six pennants in his 10 seasons with the Dodgers. Following his retirement in 1957, Robinson continued to break barriers as a vice president of Chock full o’Nuts, becoming the first African American officer of a major national corporation. He remained dedicated to civil rights and the advancement of African Americans in industry and commerce, serving on the board of the NAACP and co-founding the Freedom National Bank in Harlem, which became one of the largest black-owned banks in the country.The exhibition features photographs taken on assignment by Look staff photographers Kenneth Eide and Frank Bauman. Robinson was a frequent face in Look, where he contributed three autobiographical essays (including 1955’s “Now I Know Why They Boo Me!”) and announced his retirement.

Continue on to the AssociatedPress to read the complete article

Former ABC President Channing Dungey joins Netflix

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In a move anticipated within the industry, Dungey is headed to the new home of two other former powerhouse ABCers: Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris.

Channing Dungey, the former head of ABC Entertainment who stepped down in November, is joining Netflix, where she will oversee original TV series alongside Cindy Holland, the company’s longtime head of originals.

The move was anticipated within the industry and reunites Dungey with two of her former showrunners, Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s AnatomyScandal) and Kenya Barris (Black-ish), both of whom decamped from ABC to Netflix earlier this year. At Netflix, Channing will also oversee other high-profile producers, such as the Obamas, who have a producing deal at the company; Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New BlackGlow) and Marti Noxon; as well half of the originals executive team. The other half will report to Holland.

Interestingly, sources told The Hollywood Reporter that Dungey, a TV veteran who had been at ABC since 2004, will also have a direct line of communication with Netflix’s content chief Ted Sarandos. Like other executives whom Netflix has poached from traditional entertainment companies, such as Scott Stuber, who heads Netflix’s original film division, Dungey brings experience working with talent and nurturing projects as the company invests more heavily in its own content–and begins to operate more like a traditional studio. In contrast, Holland was promoted to oversee originals in 2012, when Netflix first began making its own shows. She started at the company in DVD acquisitions and then took over domestic TV licensing.

Dungey’s exit from ABC came as its parent company, the Walt Disney Company, was preparing to merge with 21st Century Fox. The new arrangement would have united Dungey with her formal rival at Fox, Dana Walden, who was named in October as incoming Disney TV Studios chairman. Her departure also marked the end of a dramatic year at ABC. After green-lighting a remake of Roseanne that became one of the network’s biggest hits, Dungey swiftly fired the show’s star, Roseanne Barr, after she made a racist slur on Twitter. The show continued production as a spin-off (The Conners) without Barr, but has faired less spectacularly in the ratings.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

Jay-Z Scores Diversity Commitment from American Arbitration Association

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Although Iconix Brand Group attacked the hip-hop mogul’s move as a “charade,” his attorney says the AAA is now pledging to expand its roster of black arbitrators.

Jay-Z is no longer demanding a halt to an arbitration with Iconix Brand Group because of a lack of available black arbitrators at the American Arbitration Association. On Sunday, an attorney for the hip-hop mogul informed a New York judge via letter that AAA had made a newfound commitment on the diversity front.

According to the letter from Quinn Emanuel litigator Alex Spiro, who represents Jay-Z (Shawn Carter), “While the information AAA provided has confirmed that AAA lacks an appreciable number of minority (and particularly, African-American) arbitrators, AAA has indicated an openness both to an arbitrator selection process in this Arbitration that will allow for meaningful consideration of African-American arbitrators and to broader remedial measures intended to improve the diversity of the arbitrator roster for future arbitrations.”

Jay-Z is fighting with Iconix over the scope of a $200 million deal signed a decade back governing the use of the “Roc Nation” trademark on baseball caps and other merchandise.

In late November, Jay-Z brought his diversity concerns to New York Supreme Court. He said AAA was only able to provide three neutrals it identified as African-American — and one had a conflict.

“This blatant failure of the AAA to ensure a diverse slate of arbitrators for complex commercial cases is particularly shocking given the prevalence of mandatory arbitration provisions in commercial contracts across nearly all industries, which undoubtedly include minority owned and operated businesses,” wrote Spiro at the time.

Jay-Z’s motion for a temporary restraining order to halt the arbitration was granted, but it may have had as much — or even more — to do with the absence of the assigned judge than the merits of an argument that an arbitration process without African-Americans violated New York’s public policy on discrimination. (See the transcript of the Nov. 30 hearing.)

The parties were due in court on Tuesday to discuss whether the TRO would be further extended.

In the meantime, Iconix appeared in the case to attack Jay-Z’s gambit as a “charade.”

“Contrary to the Carter Parties’ tale of ‘token’ representation, the current ‘Strike List’ of AAA-presented arbitrators is composed of 25% (3 of 12) African-American candidates, selected from a National Roster consisting of at least 150 African-American arbitrators and the Carter Parties voluntarily waived participation in nominating any additional candidates by ignoring AAA deadlines and self-imposing arbitrary standards of ‘qualification,'” wrote Iconix attorney Samuel Levy at Blank Rome.

Levy said that Jay-Z had no problem arbitrating other matters in the past without raising similar race objections, and also argued against the proposition that a lack of diversity could void an arbitration provision in a contract.

Continue on to the Hollywood Reporter to read the complete article.

83-Year-Old Veteran to Receive Ph.D. from LSU

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Johnnie Jones’ age isn’t stopping him from learning. In fact, the 83-year-old veteran will receive his Ph.D. from LSU on Friday, Dec. 14.

“Every person regardless of his station in life, or his or her limitations, should seek to be the best he or she can really be. And you spend your time living not thinking about dying. Death will take care of itself,” Jones said.

Jones used that focus to pursue a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and a Ph.D., and he has hopes of going to law school next.

“I want to study law. I have no intention of being an attorney; I simply want to go to law school for the knowledge, and I’m sure there will be students in the class who think I’m nuts, but so what?”

Jones was born in Mississippi and at the age of 18, joined the Marine Corps. His LSU education started while he was deployed to Vietnam as a squad leader.

“I wanted to stay connected, so to speak. I didn’t want to run the risk of losing interest because I had begun studies at San Diego Community College when I went to Vietnam,” Jones said. “LSU’s correspondence course was offered to any student, regardless where they were or what their status was, so I just happened to take advantage of the program.”

After he left Vietnam, Jones received a degree in sociology from the University of Hawaii.

“From Hawaii I moved back to California, where I submitted a number of applications for graduate school, and LSU came through first, plus I had already been taking a course from LSU, so I settled on LSU.”

Jones received a Master’s of Social Work from LSU in 1975 and was about nine hours short of his Ph.D. when he received a job offer from the Department of Corrections. He would retire 25 years later as the warden for the women’s prison.

“Of course, having a family and young children, I took the job and that’s how that turned out,” Jones said. “And as a consequence, I ran out the required seven year time period that they give you to complete the Ph.D. So I had to start all over again from scratch.”

Jones started over, but another set-back prevented him from receiving a Ph.D.

“I had a serious health problem and again, I had completed all of the requirements for the Ph.D. in human ecology, but I had to drop out because of health reasons.”

Just when he was ready to start working toward the degree for the third time, Jones said a professor helped him get an extension, allowing him to complete his dissertation and not have to start over again.

“My dissertation was about racism and religion and specifically the perceptions of racism and the stress that black families experience as a result, and how religion serves as a coping strategy.”

Jones said the state provides free tuition for students over 65 years old and said LSU’s faculty have both supported and challenged him. He added, the other students have enjoyed having him in class.

“It was really comical, most of my classmates are young enough to be my grandchildren and they found it amazing at my age that I would be sitting in a classroom. They thought I was nuts. They didn’t quite understand what motivated me. They’re all preparing for occupations, but my occupation was over. I had retired. I was just there for self-edification,” said Jones. “I told them the reason why I was doing that, is because to me age is something that we have been socialized to believe that it is one of the most important things in our life. At 15, you’re supposed to be doing this, at 25 you’re supposed to be doing this, at 65…that’s arbitrary. I think you should not cease pursuing whatever it is you’re interested in because of age. Your only limitation that you should have is mental or physical, other than that you should keep on pushing.”

Continue onto Louisiana State University Newsroom to read the complete article.

Pat Manuel will make history as the first transgender male to fight professionally in the U.S.

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When Patricio Manuel steps through the ropes and into the boxing ring just after 6 p.m. Saturday, few in the crowd at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio will know what a long and torturous trek he made to get there.

They won’t know about the resistance overcome or the months of physical rehab endured. They won’t know how hard it was to get those chiseled biceps atop a super featherweight’s thin frame. They may not even know that, at 33, an age when undefeated champions Rocky Marciano and Andre Ward had already retired, Manuel will be making his pro debut.

And if they don’t know any of that, they surely won’t know that Patricio used to be Patricia — he was a she — and in the four-round bout against Hugo Aguilar, a journeyman boxer from Mexico, Manuel will make history as the first transgender male to fight professionally in the U.S.

“It feels like a long time coming,” said Manuel, who fought for the last time as a female in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. “But I’m still like, ‘Wow, we’re finally here. Finally at this point.’

“I just feel incredibly fortunate to be in this position. To be able to enjoy all the sacrifice, all the work, all the doubt that came through over the years to really be here in this moment.”

If you feel like you’ve read this story before, it may be because you have. Fifteen months ago, after losing his coach, getting kicked out of a gym and seeing his dream of fighting as a man stymied by bureaucracy — no one was quite sure how to license a transgender boxer — Manuel split two amateur bouts and was set to turn pro before suffering a broken bone and torn ligament in his right thumb.

Eric Gomez also read that story and as president of Golden Boy, Oscar de la Hoya’s boxing promotion company, he was uniquely positioned to help.

“It really inspired me,” he said. “This is a story that is bigger than boxing. It’s a very tough sport. You compound that with what Pat went through. The inner struggles, the process of transition and to keep wanting to fight?

“Just that drive is impressive. It’s very different than any athlete I’ve met. And I’ve been doing this for 20 years.”

So Gomez — along with a number of politicians, including state assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Dean Grafilo, director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs — cut through the red tape to help get Manuel licensed. Golden Boy then arranged a bout, matching Manuel against the winless Aguilar (0-5) on an eight-fight card topped by a super featherweight world championship elimination bout matching Rene Alvarado of Nicaragua against Carlos Morales of Los Angeles.

“We haven’t talked about doing any more fights,” Gomez said. “His dream was to debut as a professional fighter. Everybody has a right to follow their dreams. Just to be part of this is special for me.”

Manuel, whose ancestry is Irish, Mexican and black, never really knew his father. But his mother, Loretta Butler, and grandmother Patricia Jean Butler were never far away, supporting Manuel through childhood in Gardena and a boxing career that included almost as many injuries as bouts.

And all the while, they sensed something was different about young Patricia, who was named for her grandmother. She preferred boys’ clothes to dresses, kept her hair short and played with action figures rather than Barbie dolls.

“Every Christmas I would be buying toys at Toys ‘R’ Us and everybody would say, ‘Boys at home, huh?’” Loretta Butler remembered.

So one winter Manuel’s grandmother got creative with her gift-giving, buying Patricia a boxing club membership. Although female fighters were rare, Manuel took to the sport and its hyper-masculine ambience quickly, moving to the Commerce Boxing Club and spending long hours working with Roberto Luna, who trained three Olympians.

Manuel was to be his fourth. But in the 2012 women’s Olympic Trials, Manuel had to withdraw after one bout — a one-sided lightweight loss to Florida’s Tiara Brown — because of a shoulder injury.

Even before the trials, Manuel had thought of transitioning to male, but the hope of representing the U.S. in the first Olympic boxing tournament for women held him back. After the trials, there was no reason to wait. On the trip home, Manuel told Butler that her daughter would soon become her son — then waited for the response.

It was one not of surprise but relief.

“Pat has always been a male,” his mother says. “It’s just Pat was not assigned properly at birth.”

Continue onto the Los Angeles Times to read the complete article.

NASA Headquarters Could Soon Name a Street in Honor of the Women Who Inspired Hidden Figures

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These three Black women changed the course of history.

Before Margot Lee Shetterley’s book led to the making of the blockbuster 2016 film of the same name, Hidden Figures, very few people knew of three groundbreaking Black female mathematicians who helped send John Glenn into space in 1962. But soon, a street sign could be named in honor of 100-year-old Katherine Johnson and her colleagues, the late Dorothy Vaughan and Mary W. Jackson.

Yes, the scientific contributions this trio left on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) between the ’40s and ’60s is documented in Hollywood film. However, a Washington, D.C. Council voted unanimously this week to make sure they have the opportunity to be permanently etched into the city’s infrastructure. The council approved the Hidden Figures Way Designation Act of 2018, selecting a street that’s located outside of NASA Headquarters to be named Hidden Figures Way.

As expected, the name is derived from both the book and the film, which stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe. Chairman Phil Mendelson introduced the legislation in September “to honor the historic women scientist and mathematicians who contributed to NASA’s mission.”

“Despite facing segregation and adversity, these women computers played an integral role in the development of aeronautical and aerospace research during turning points in our nation’s history, including World War II and the development of the Space Task Force,” Mendelsen said, according to NBC Washington.

The mission Mendelson is referencing is the Space Race competition, which took place between 1957 and 1975. During that time, different nations competed against each other to send astronauts into space. Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson were part of the team who helped Glenn become the first American to orbit Earth, but they were still overlooked, ignored, and demeaned as depicted in the film and book.

Now that the bill received preliminary approval this week, the act will have to be reviewed in the upcoming weeks and voted on for a second time. Upon acquiring the appropriate number of votes, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser will sign the bill, ensuring the trio will always be remembered for their historic achievements.

Continue onto The Oprah Magazine to read the complete article.

“Pose” with Mostly Trans Cast, Makes History with Golden Globes

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Ryan Murphy’s groundbreaking FX series — which features five transgender actresses as series regulars — was nominated for best drama TV series, while star Billy Porter received an acting nomination.

Ryan Murphy and FX made history when they put together the team behind Pose, the cable network’s stylish drama about New York’s ballroom culture in the 1980s. Murphy hired an exceptional amount of LGBTQ talent, including five transgender women of color in series regular roles — an unprecedented number for a scripted show.

The prolific creator’s efforts were acknowledged when the 2019 Golden Globes nominations were announced. Pose is breaking ground as the first TV series with a mostly trans cast — including leading ladies Mj Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore, Angelica Ross and Hailie Sahar — to be nominated in any category for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s annual ceremony.

Though none of the trans women in the cast were nominated in acting categories, star Billy Porter — who plays Pray Tell, Pose’s exuberant ballroom emcee and fashion designer — was nominated for best actor in a drama TV series. He stands alongside fellow nominees Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Richard Madden (Bodyguard), Stephan James (Homecoming) and Jason Bateman (Ozark).

Last month, Porter opened up about his role in the show — which highlights the discrimination against gay and trans folk amid the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the late ’80s — in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

“I lived through the HIV/AIDS crisis. So, Ryan and the rest of the team entrusted me with telling a very specific story,” said Porter, whose character eventually discovers he is HIV-positive. He recalled, “It was ugly, and it was scary. Many of my friends didn’t make it. As a survivor of that era, I feel honored to tell this story. Everyone I lost, I felt their spirits with me the entire way.”

Continue on to The Hollywood Reporter to read the complete article.

Ballet Dancers Of Color Welcome New Hues As Major Shoe Supplier Diversifies

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For as long as ballet has existed, it has been an art form that prizes uniformity. For just as long, the tights and pointe shoes that have given ballet dancers that uniformity — to achieve the seamless line from the top of the leg to the tip of the toe — have remained a pale hue called “European pink.”

It’s a shade that’s left out dancers with darker skin tones. To blend in, ballet dancers of color have long had to take extra, expensive and painstaking steps.

Cira Robinson, a ballet dancer with the company Ballet Black, has been painting her shoes to match her skin for the better part of her career. “In order to get the ‘line’ that ballet required, as far as the brown tights and brown shoes to match my upper brown body, it was difficult because people sold nude but it wasn’t necessarily my nude,” she tells NPR’s Scott Simon.

Only recently, some shoe companies have grown more inclusive. In 2016, U.S. manufacturer Gaynor Minden introduced three new colors for darker skin tones. Last month, Freed of London, one of the largest suppliers of dance shoes, followed suit. In addition to its “ballet pink” shade, Freed now sells “ballet brown” and “ballet bronze” — a welcome development for professional and student dancers in an industry that’s struggled to diversify.

For Robinson, 32, it’s progress that couldn’t have come sooner. Robinson says it wasn’t until she was 15 — seven years into starting ballet — during a summer program with the Dance Theater of Harlem that she was required to wear flesh-toned tights. “That, to me, was the first time that I realized that the tights that I was wearing were intended to match my complexion,” she says. “It was the very first realization of the racial aspect of ballet for me.”

So she scrambled, experimented with dying her tights, and eventually found brown tights and spray paint (“a pain” that “made the shoes crunchy,” she says) in a Cincinnati theatrical shop.

When Robinson officially joined the Dance Theater three years later, she traded in the spray paint for foundation and began to pick up techniques from her peers of color, many of whom had been “pancaking” their shoes for years — as the practice of sponging makeup onto one’s shoes is known in the ballet world. “It’s tedious. It’s a bit messy because it is brown foundation. It gets everywhere,” Robinson says.

And it’s time consuming. “I would apply makeup to my pointe shoes and spray it down, which would be about a two- to six-hour process,” says Lenai Wilkerson, a ballet dancer with the University of Southern California’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.

The staple pink ballet shoes are also a reminder of ballet’s lack of diversity, according to Robinson. “Since the beginning, [ballet] has been white,” Robinson says.

Continue on to NPR.com to read the complete article.

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