Inside Tyler Perry Studios’ Grand Opening Gala with Oprah, Spike Lee, Tiffany Haddish, Beyoncé and More

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Tyler Perry pictured with celebrities at his studio opening gala

In a speech celebrating the opening of his brand new 330 acre studio in Atlanta, Ga., Tyler Perry challenged his guests to dream bigger, like he had, while turning the former Army base into his personal production play land.

But even the biggest dreamers — and the biggest names in entertainment — couldn’t be prepared for all the multi-hyphenate creator had in store at his recent grand opening gala.

“For people to drop what they’re doing in their very busy schedules to come and join me in this moment is beyond anything I could’ve imagined. It makes me happy. It makes me want to cry. It makes me grateful. It’s just I’m beyond,” Perry told Variety on the red carpet as the festivities kicked off. “I’m over the moon right now.”

The centerpiece of the evening featured Perry’s tribute to trailblazing black stars who inspired him — Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Will Smith, Halle Berry, Sidney Poitier, Whoopi Goldberg, Cicely Tyson and Harry Belafonte.

“It means I’m a part of history. This is an historic night in American cinema. It’s never been done before. So I’m honored and humbled that my brother asked me part of it,” Lee told Variety before being honored with soundstage No. 10.

The reveal of each soundstage and the star it honored was accompanied by a fireworks display and a round of massive applause from the A-list crowd. Perry also immortalized the late Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Della Reese, John Singleton and Diahann Carroll, who passed just before the ceremony on Friday.

Of celebrating Carroll’s legacy through the event, Perry said, “It’s sad news, is exactly what I thought at first, but then I looked at her 84 years on this planet. I looked at all that she was able to do. I looked at the bridges and the barriers that she broke just for me to be in this moment. So I’m celebrating it.”

Tiffany Haddish considers Perry a mentor after filming “Nobody’s Fool” on the lot. “Every time that I came in to work here at Tyler Perry studios, it was the biggest smile on my face. Cause I know the history of this place — It was a Confederate union military base,” Haddish recalled. “Trying to keep us enslaved. Now it’s owned by a black man.”

One attendee called the event “the black Met Gala” — but in actuality, the guest list gave the event the feel of the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys combined.

Continue on to Variety to read the complete article.

Watchmen: An HBO Limited Series

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Watchmen movie poster

Set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, WATCHMEN, from executive producer Damon Lindelof embraces nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel, while attempting to break new ground of its own.  Regina King leads a cast that includes Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart and more.

ownhbo.com/watchmen

#WatchmenHBO

Magic Johnson will provide $100 million to fund loans to minority-owned businesses

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Magic Johnson in a business suit

Magic Johnson may no longer be playing in the NBA, but the Hall of Fame member is still making valuable assists. Johnson announced that EquiTrust Life Insurance Co., of which he owns a majority, is providing $100 million in capital to fund federal loans for minority and women business owners who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

EquiTrust will work with MBE Capital Partners, a lender that specializes in asset-based loans for minority-owned small businesses, to distribute the loans through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.

The loans are aimed at supporting people of color and women who operate businesses in underserved communities, according to a news release.

The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

“These are incredible businesses, small businesses, that have been the pillar of our community that also employ a lot of black and brown people in our community,” Johnson said Sunday on MSNBC. “… We wanted to make sure that minority-owned businesses got small business loans through the PPP program.”

Concerns about people of color accessing loans

The partnership was borne out of a concern that women and people of color were having difficulty accessing the loans offered by the Small Business Administration’s emergency coronavirus relief program — part of the federal government’s massive stimulus package.

“Johnson’s EquiTrust is providing critical financial support to underserved communities and businesses that have been traditionally neglected,” EquiTrust and MBE Capital Partners said in a joint news release. “These small and diverse businesses often have difficulty developing strong lending relationships with big banks.”

The goal is to help 100,000 businesses secure resources that will sustain them through the pandemic, MBE Capital CEO Rafael Martinez said on MSNBC.

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

Meet Brittney Nicole: Navy Veteran Turned Fashion Entrepreneur

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A clothes rack filled with women's coats

Transitioning from military life back into civilian life is a challenge for any veteran. While there are many different approaches in choosing a career, one U.S. Navy Veteran decided that she would approach her career choice by following her passions.

Always having a love for fashion, Brittney Nicole decided to open her own clothing business, Coco’s Wardrobe, upon her retirement from the U.S. Navy.  The New Orleans based boutique designs, manufactures, and sells women’s clothing that is meant to look as good as they feel, blending comfort with style. All of the clothing in Nicole’s shop has a women’s desire to feel confident and comfortable at the forefront of everything that is produced.

In addition, Nicole has also began selling uniquely designed face masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meet UCLA’s First African American Athletic Director

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Martin Jarmond in a suit speaking at a conference

Martin Jarmond, the first and most recent athletic director at Boston College and the youngest director to ever be in the Power Five Conferences, will be breaking another record with his newest position.

On May 17, it was announced that Martin Jarmond will become the new athletic director of UCLA. This will make Jarmond the first African American man to hold the position in the school’s 101-year history.

Having an extensive background in sports both on the court and in his studies, Jarmond has quickly been able to move up the ladder of sports administration and is speculated to be the perfect fit to help UCLA fix the financial debt of the previous year’s $18.9 million deficit.

Continue on to the L.A. Times’ Website to read the complete article.

Photo Credit: Stephen Senne/Associated Press

United Airlines appoints First African American President

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Brett J. Hart headshot

Chicago based United Airlines announced Brett J. Hart as the company’s President. The number two leadership role being filled by Mr. Hart is part of the company’s leadership succession plan that was announced in early December.

“I am honored and energized as I take on these new responsibilities to lead this incredible team that I am convinced will build United into a thriving industry leader,” Hart said. “The path forward will not be easy, but I am confident that Scott and I will continue our partnership to lead United through the extraordinary challenge posed by COVID-19. United’s bright future is only possible because of the commitment of the most talented airline professionals in the world who serve United and our customers every single day – and I could not be prouder of them.

Hailing from the southside of Chicago Brett J. Hart was educated at the University of Michigan and received a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Chicago Law School. Hart is the first African American to become President of United Airlines in the airline’s 94-year history.

Hart was a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in Chicago. Before that, he served as a special assistant to the general counsel at the U.S. Department of Treasury in Washington, D.C. Later he would go on to work for the Sara Lee Corporation as the executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, where he directed global legal operations. Hart joined United Airlines in 2010. Over his 10-year career with United Hart has taken on significant responsibilities within the company. Hart has previously worked as Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer for the company. In 2015 he stepped in and served as interim CEO for six months while the then CEO Munoz recovered from a heart transplant.

As President of United, Hart will continue to lead the company’s public advocacy strategy, including the Government Affairs, Corporate Communications, Legal and Community Engagement teams. He will also continue to oversee business-critical functions like the Corporate Real Estate team and manage United’s industry-leading environmental sustainability efforts. His responsibilities will expand to include managing the Human Resources and Labor Relations teams.

Hart taking this position comes as he, along with other executives, are waiving their salaries for a time as the company struggles financially. Like others in the airline industry, United is trying to deal with the losses from Covid-19.

Continue on to Chicago Defender to read the complete article.

The Original Broadway Showing of Hamilton is Coming to a TV Near You

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Lin Manuel Miranda on stage as Alexander Hamilton

By Natalie Rodgers

A fully taped production of the Broadway hit, Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is being released to Disney+ in its entirety on July 3, 2020, just in time for Independence Day.

Originally due to premiere as a theatrical release on October 21, 2021, the movie has been moved up to provide a sense of hope and comfort due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the cultural and historical impact that Hamilton has had since its Broadway debut in 2015, Disney plans to make the experience more captivating and to include as Disney quoted, “the best elements of live theater, film, and streaming.”

Creating this kind of atmosphere will not be a difficult task, due to how the filmmakers have already produced it. The production was filmed from various camera angles from the show’s original Richard Rodgers Theatre home and filmed across three different performances in in 2016.

The production will include all of the original Broadway cast members, including Leslie Odom Jr., Renee Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, Jonathan Groff, Daveed Diggs, upcoming In the Heights star Anthony Ramos, and of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton.

 

Photo: Getty Images 

How Sean Combs is Supporting and Protecting Small Businesses

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Sean Combs "Diddy" headshot

On April 23, Sean Combs, previously known as “Diddy” in the music industry, released his newest project, Our Fair Share, which aims to help minority-owned businesses obtain the materials needed to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

A benefit that primarily goes to businesses that have the proper “connections,” Combs wants to ensure the small businesses that we love and depend on have the same opportunities as the bigger corporations.
“COVID-19 is devastating our communities, and without access to stimulus funding, we risk losing critical businesses that create jobs and help build opportunities and wealth in our communities,” said Combs. “I created Our Fair Share to help entrepreneurs play on an even playing field and give them a chance to survive with the hope to thrive.”

To do this, Combs’ new program has teamed up with National Bankers Association, a group that represents minority-owned financial institutions. Through Our Fair Share, the National Bank Association can connect their clients to financial technology companies that will be able to provide the PPP materials and loans needed.

To learn more about Our Fair Share, its origin, and its purposes, click here for the full press release.

LeBron James, Bad Bunny, Jonas Brothers to throw class of 2020 a virtual graduation

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LebRon James speaking in front of large audience

The LeBron James Family Foundation recently announced that it will celebrate seniors in a special event called “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020″ at 5 p.m. Pacific on May 16 with help from superstar guests.

The Los Angeles Lakers star has drafted Bad Bunny, Pharrell Williams, the Jonas Brothers, Chika, YBN Cordae, H.E.R., Ben Platt, Megan Rapinoe, Yara Shahidi, Lena Waithe and Malala Yousafzai for the hourlong special. It will air simultaneously on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and the streaming platforms Complex Networks, Facebook app, Instagram, People TV, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube.

We learned early on in our work with students and families in Akron that education is so much more than academics. It’s about a shared experience, a journey we’re all on together — students, parents, educators, community members and everyone around them. With that not being possible right now, we’ve been working to find ways to help families get through this really difficult time,” James said in a release.

“These students have worked incredibly hard for this and there’s no way we can let that go unrecognized. While this won’t be the graduation experience they were supposed to get, we hope we can still give them something special because they deserve it,” the basketball great added.

The commercial-free, multimedia event — which will be curated by high school students and educators across the country with support from the American Federation of Teachers — will feature a collection of vignettes, commencement speeches and celebrity performances.

Students, families and teachers will be encouraged to submit photos and videos using #GraduateTogether for a chance to have them included in the telecast. Don’t know what to do with your senior portrait? Artist JR is inviting seniors to share them for the virtual yearbook celebrating the nation’s 2020 high school graduates. Local TV stations also will feature shout-outs to high school students in their communities.

Continue on to the LA Times to read the complete article.

BECOMING – OFFICIAL TRAILER

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MIchelle Obama book jacket cover

BECOMING is an intimate look into the life of former First Lady Michelle Obama during a moment of profound change, not only for her personally but also for the country she and her husband served over eight impactful years in the White House.

The film offers a rare and up-close look at her life, taking viewers behind the scenes as she embarks on a 34-city tour that highlights the power of community to bridge our divides and the spirit of connection that comes when we openly and honestly share our stories.

Film Release Date: May 6, 2020
Format: Original Documentary Feature

Directed by: Nadia Hallgren
Produced by: Katy Chevigny,
Marilyn Ness, & Lauren Cioffi
Co-Producer: Maureen A. Ryan
Executive Producers:
Priya Swaminathan & Tonia Davis

A NOTE FROM MICHELLE
I’m excited to let you know that on May 6, Netflix will release BECOMING, a documentary film directed by Nadia Hallgren that looks at my life and the experiences I had while touring following the release of my memoir. Those months I spent traveling—meeting and connecting with people in cities across the globe—drove home the idea that what we share in common is deep and real and can’t be messed with.

In groups large and small, young and old, unique and united, we came together and shared stories, filling those spaces with our joys, worries, and dreams.

*BECOMING is the third release from Higher Ground Productions and Netflix*

To view the documentary now available on Netflix visit, netflix.com/Becoming.

#IAmBecoming

Proof that Diversity and Inclusion Must Continue Now more than Ever

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Diverse Equality Gender Innovation Management Concept

Publishers Note: These last few weeks have been anything but normal. Many, including DiversityComm, have taken to working from home, and it’s difficult to not worry about the future. As the days go on, I’ve been facing the reality that life in COVID-19 has become a new normal of sorts and the possibility of a recession isn’t completely off the table.

Having been in the business for over thirty years and the complications that came with the 2008 and 2011 recessions as well as the events of September 11, 2001, I have learned that diversity and inclusion are and continue to be the keys to keeping business moving. Studies show that racially diverse companies are 35% more likely to see an increase in financial returns in comparison with their competitors while companies that have a more cultural and ethical variation in their boards are 43% more likely to experience a higher income. Groups of diverse thinkers of three or more members have also tested to be more successful than an individual 87% of the time.

All of this being said, how does this work? And how do these diverse connections keep business working?

  • Have Empathy
    1. COVID-19 is hard on everyone, but other groups of people will be experiencing this in a different way than others. Check in on your clients and employees on how they are doing during this time. Listen to what they say and educate yourself on how this situation is affecting their lives. People want to work with people who truly care about who they are and understand them on a real, human level. When they feel like they are genuinely being heard and cared for, they will remember your willingness to help and want to strengthen their connection with you. The same goes for employees. When employees feel they are being cared for, they are encouraged to increase work efficiency and less likely to contribute to the turnover rate.
  • Re-Focus Your Goals
    1. As the world seems to be on “pause” lately, this is the perfect opportunity to plan for the future. What projects and aspects can you invest in now to setup your business for a higher success rate in the future? Once you refocus your goals and have a plan for what projects you want to carry out, then you can start building a team of qualified individuals. You will want a team of people that have expertise in a variety of areas so that every aspect of the project will go above and beyond the call of duty. If your team consists of a group that all have the same background, culture and life experience, the chances that something will be left out will increase. Will your project be accessible? Does it meet the standards in every area? A diverse group can ensure that all these questions are handled.
  • Learn and Grow
    1. It’s easy to look at your past experience, available data and old traditions as a template for how to run your business. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it is critical that we continue to learn and grow with the times. We are in a digital age and there are so many opportunities that can be seized through it. Though a digital form of business was almost nonexistent several decades ago, the willingness to keep up with the times is key for a business in today’s age to succeed.  Listening to a variety of opinions from varying backgrounds and experiences will not only show you how to more effectively work your business, but will increase creativity and innovation in the workplace. The more educated we become, the more expanded our ideas and strategies will become.

The times are changing and uncertain, but when we focus on our team, employees, clients, partners, and connections while keeping an open mind to the changing times, we will succeed and we will get through this. We find strength in diversity and inclusion.

The Minority Business Development Agency Announces New Inner City Innovation Hub Grant Competition

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mbda

The U.S. Department of Commerce and Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) recently announced the award of two competitive grants for the launch and operation of the Minority Business Enterprise Inner City Innovation HUBs.

MBDA intends to award $2.8M over two years to support and fuel economic innovation of minority-owned start-up businesses and entrepreneurs in inner cities and urban areas in any U.S. state or U.S. territory with high concentrations of minority populations and minority business enterprises

“The Trump Administration is doing its part to support economic growth by providing access to capital in communities with the greatest needs,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “We are tremendously proud of the Minority Business Enterprise Inner City Innovation Hub initiative to spur entrepreneurship in inner cities and economically distressed neighborhoods.”

The minority population of the United States is 129 million, or 38 percent of the total U.S. population. Although 38 percent of the population in the U.S. is minority, only 19 percent of businesses are minority-owned.[1] In inner cities, 76 percent of the population is minority, but only 23% of all inner city businesses are minority-owned.[2]

“Minority-owned businesses are increasingly representing the core of economic activity in the major metropolitan areas, so it is critically important we provide them with the resources and funding they need to grow and stay competitive in the global economy,” said Henry Childs II, MBDA National Director.  “MBDA is trying to create critical ecosystems for minority-owned businesses in major metropolitan areas by supporting existing organizations and leveraging private sector capital at the local level.”

MBDA is seeking proposals that support research and technology transfer, digital innovation, use of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and entrepreneurship in support of minority-owned start-ups and entrepreneurs with innovative products or services.

Applications are due May 15, 2020. More information can be found on at grants.gov or https://www.mbda.gov/page/grants-and-loans. A pre-application teleconference will be conducted April 29, 2020 at 2:00 PM ET to provide background information and answer questions about the program and application process. Details are on .mbda.gov.

About the MBDA: 

The U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency (www.mbda.gov) is the only federal agency solely dedicated to fostering the growth and global competitiveness of U.S. minority business enterprises.  MBDA programs are focused on economic empowerment and leading minority business enterprises through business transformation. For 50 years, MBDA has helped minority-owned firms get access to capital, contracts, build scale and capacity, and expand into new markets.

The More Diverse the Management, the Higher the Profits

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A group of diverse employees looking and writing on a whiteboard

By Stacey A. Gordon

A financial study of 1,000 large companies by McKinsey & Co. found that the more diverse the management, the higher the profits, compared with companies composed of less diversity.

Companies in the top 25 percent with the most ethnic executives outperformed other firms with profits 33 percent higher than those in the bottom 25 percent with fewer ethnic workers. Firms more inclusive of women in management showed 21 percent more revenue than those with fewer women in executive roles.

Corporate hiring and training in the field of Unconscious Bias and Diversity and Inclusion is on the rise. Before Virgin America was purchased by Alaska Airlines, they offered my LinkedIn Learning course on Unconscious Bias in their in-flight entertainment to spread awareness of workplace diversity—which can be a difficult subject to talk about at work.

Approximately 96 percent of men enjoy executive positions where they unconsciously promote other men. Given even a slight 1 percent bias in favor of males, research shown in the Unconscious Bias course determines that promoting men over and over due to unconscious bias can leave women and minorities losing out approximately 60 percent via promotions over 20 years. This costs companies not only money, multicultural expertise, and outlook in our global economy, but also compels experienced female employees to opt out when they learn how certain companies select candidates. The Unconscious Bias course opens our minds to how we filter out the biases we’ve grown up with and the complicity of the treatment we see happening in the workplace.

So how do we succeed in hiring a more diverse workforce, while ensuring employees feel like they belong in the environment?

The first step is to be aware of language. As an example, I participated in a Diversity and Inclusion Summit where one of the speakers, a CEO of a large insurance company, was asked how she ensures the company’s recruiters employ hiring practices that result in diverse candidates. She stated there was no need to do anything differently because experienced and skilled candidates will apply and make their way through the system—because those hiring look solely at skills—not race or ethnicity. Yet, the fact that there are so few black, Latino or LGBT employees at her company is not due to a lack of skill. The meritocracy argument has been proven time and time again to be a feeble excuse for maintaining the status quo. Unconscious bias creeps into our review process as well as our decision-making by giving us the impression we’re being fair, when really, we are making assumptions. Assuming a candidate deliberately omitted information rather than simply forgot is one way our language betrays us. As an alternative, to “It’s unfortunate that you lied,” try, “This probably was an oversight.”

The second step in gaining greater awareness is to stop assuming that hiring women and hiring professionals of color check the same box. If every time the word “diversity” is mentioned at your company, you are actually talking about “women,” then it’s time to broaden your outlook.

When I was a manager at a Fortune 100 financial services company, I was the only black female manager on the entire west coast, and only one of three black managers. I dreaded participating in the management retreats because the only time anyone would listen to me was when I spoke about the Women in Financial Services annual event. No one seemed to care that my management style resulted in the recruitment and retention of one of the most diverse and profitable teams in our division. I wanted to be recognized for my successful contribution to the company’s bottom line, not simply because I was spearheading a women’s event. Our voices need to be heard, and we want to be noticed for our contributions, not merely for the box we check at a company gathering or on an EEOC report.

Third, don’t be the organization that makes statements like “I don’t want to lower the bar.” It’s insulting and racist by definition. What can be inferred from this statement is that the person hiring does not want to deviate from the current organizational structure or process because “It has worked so far.”

The bonus phrase, “We just want a good fit” is just as disastrous. It can be replaced with “We can’t find any qualified [Black, Latino, Asian, female, LGBT, disabled or veteran] applicants.” But the result is the same. No change.

Why change at all? To avoid the blunders we see repeated around the globe, to reap the financial benefits of diverse workforce and to create an inclusive organization that isn’t lowering the bar, but raising standards of behavior for everyone, leadership included.

We all want to work somewhere that makes us feel that we belong. If you’d like your company to be one of those workplaces, maybe it’s time to review your policies, your goals and your behavior toward current and future employees. By stopping to reflect on how you can think and act differently, you will be well on your way to cultivating a more diverse workforce.

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