Cecily Myart-Cruz becomes 1st woman of color to lead L.A. teachers union

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Cecily Myart-Cruz speaking into microphone at a rally

The L.A. teachers union has elected the first woman of color, Cecily Myart-Cruz, to lead the organization, part of a familiar and experienced team that will include outgoing union President Alex Caputo-Pearl, who was elected as a vice president.

“I’m proud of the way we have worked with members to create a union that is inclusive, that is a fighting union, that cares not only about educators, but about parents, the community and students,” said Myart-Cruz, 46, who as union president assumes a role of influence and power in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest in the nation.

Myart-Cruz received nearly 69% of the vote to represent some 31,000 Los Angeles teachers, school nurses, counselors and librarians. The next closest was Marisa Crabtree, with nearly 11% of the vote in the five-candidate field. Crabtree had proposed to turn the union more toward classroom and teaching issues, while deemphasizing politics.

But Myart-Cruz said she sees the fight for political influence as essential to improving teaching and classroom learning conditions.

A little over a year ago, United Teachers Los Angeles went on strike for six days, bringing a focus to overcrowded classrooms and staffing shortages. While Caputo-Pearl headed that effort, Myart-Cruz was a key advisor. Caputo-Pearl is barred by term limits from seeking a third three-year term.

“The work is not done. Our educators need the resources and our babies need the resources as well,” Myart-Cruz said.

“By almost any measure, Caputo Pearl has been a strong and effective leader,” said Charles Kerchner, professor emeritus of the Claremont Graduate University School of Educational Studies. “The plan to swap offices with Cecily Myart-Cruz would essentially keep the leadership regime in place. That creates stability in ideas and agenda.”

All the same, Myart-Cruz emphasized that she will be fully in charge when she takes office in July.

The momentum from last year’s strike carried over into the May election of Jackie Goldberg, a union-backed candidate, to the school board. But soon after, L.A. voters defeated Measure EE, a parcel tax that would have increased local resources for schools.

The union is currently engaged in a high-stakes, big-money battle with supporters of charter schools for three contested seats on the seven-member Board of Education. If even one union-endorsed candidate loses, the direction of the board could shift away from some union priorities. These include limiting the expansion and spread of nonunion, privately managed charter schools and pushing for higher pay and increased school staffing.

Myart-Cruz, a district parent and single mother who identifies as biracial, black and Latina, has 25 years of teaching experience in elementary and middle schools. She has long been part of the union’s activist wing and helped lead a campaign to remove principals whom the union felt treated teachers unfairly.

As a regional chair she also helped organize a yearlong boycott against some standardized testing to take on what the union described as the “overtesting” of students. Union leaders argued that students took too many standardized tests and wanted the number reduced because they take away from learning time.

The new president also has been active at the state and national level in teachers unions.

The election turnout was low, but that’s been a consistent recent pattern in union internal elections. Close to 5,300 union members cast ballots out of about 31,000 eligible voters.

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

This Afro-Latina Wants To Empower Women With Crypto Education

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man with hand and money in his pocket. Crypto

By BeLatina

As the world becomes more digital, and with the metaverse just around the corner, educating and empowering our communities about access to new resources is vital.

But what happens when the language is convoluted and leaves out minorities?

Enter Marimer Cruz.

This Afro-Latina has written a book to break crypto down and make it accessible to everyone. “Crypto Simplified” is a step-by-step how-to manual that includes videos to start investing in the cryptocurrency world in an easy, quick, and safe way.

According to the author’s press release, the book s a layman’s explanation of the world of cryptocurrencies, how to buy your first crypto, and make money after implementation. Cruz explains what novices need to know about this complicated and rapidly evolving market.

For Marimer Cruz, the feeling of being overwhelmed by the financial jargon is common for all Latinos, especially those from poor backgrounds.

A graduate of TAMUCT and BAYLOR University’s Master’s degree, Cruz grew up amid poverty, abuse, and struggling with systemic lupus.

The Texas-based Puerto Rican experienced firsthand the linguistic and information democratization obstacles when she took her first steps in the world of cryptocurrency.

“I remember how scared I was of sending money from one exchange to another, thinking I will lose it all,” she says.

Now, with “Crypto Simplified,” Cruz wants to change the landscape.

“I remember how alone it feels being one of the few women minority full-time educators and bot traders in the USA,” she admits.

Cruz learned directly from grid bot trading experts and has leveraged her seven years as a super affiliate to help others safely embark on crypto. “Crypto is my passion, and there is nothing like it,” Cruz says, “and I will be spreading the crypto gospel in the Anglo and Spanish markets for years to come!”

Click here to read the full article on BeLatina.

Former WNBA star Niesha Butler opens first Afro-Latina-owned STEM camp in New York City

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Former WNBA star Niesha Butler opens first Afro-Latina-owned STEM camp in New York City

By ABC News Radio

Former WNBA player Niesha Butler has opened the first Afro-Latina-owned STEM camp, S.T.E.A.M. Champs, in New York City to reduce accessibility barriers to tech educational resources for Brooklyn youth.

“If a kid could actually say that they can be LeBron James, and roll it off their tongue as easy as that, then they can literally say ‘yeah, I can also put a man on the moon,’ or ‘I can also create the next app,'” Butler told ABC News.

Butler, a New York City native, says “there’s talent in Brooklyn.” She established S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Champs in the middle of Brooklyn to encourage inner-city youth to channel their ambition into educational opportunities. Butler also hires interns, may of whom have tried coding for the first time with the program, she says.

“People sell basketball dreams every other second in our community. I thought it was really important to, let’s sell these tech dreams,” Butler said.

Prior to opening her doors in Brooklyn, Butler partnered with organizations like Girl Scouts, BronxWorks and a local AAU basketball team to host STEM-focused workshops reaching over 300 New York City students. Monday was the first day of camp in the newly opened facility.

“There’s not a lot of people of color in tech,” Butler said. “These jobs are open for everybody and they’re empty…so obviously we need to do a better job at educating our kids and in recruiting them.”

Other tech education camps and workshops across the nation have worked to close the gap and make tech careers interesting and accessible to students of underserved communities.

Black Girls CODE is one of those resources providing workshops and public speaking opportunities for Black girls. Program alumni Kimora Oliver and Azure Butler say that the program’s first chapter in California’s Bay Area created an environment that allowed local Black female students to envision themselves in the tech industry.

“Unfortunately, STEM is a white and male dominated field,” Oliver told ABC News. “I feel like [Black Girls CODE] is giving a diverse group of Black girls the exposure that they need to decide for themselves whether they want to continue with STEM in the future.”

For almost 40 years, another program called Academically Interest Minds (AIM) at Kettering University has tailored its pre-college curriculum to expose youth of color to STEM coursework and campus life.

“49% of African American students who attend Kettering University now, are AIM graduates,” Ricky D. Brown, the university’s director of multicultural student initiatives and the AIM program, told ABC News.

For many, STEM educational resources introduce an element of choice in considering STEM and exploring pathways of academic interests.

A study released in July by the National Bureau of Economic Research says that early intervention programs like S.T.E.A.M Champs, AIM and Black Girls CODE are effective in helping students achieve academic success in higher education and STEM majors.

“Some of these kids don’t have a computer at home to study,” Butler said. “When I go to some of these centers, they don’t have good Wi-Fi…they have outdated computers.”

According to the study, underrepresentation in STEM is due to a lack of preparation and access to educational resources.

“Given that STEM preparation and college access are shaped prior to college entrance, STEM focused enrichment programs for high school students are promising vehicles to reduce disparities in STEM degree attainment,” the study’s authors wrote.

Click here to read the full article on ABC News Radio.

Diddy pledges $1M to Howard University in speech accepting BET lifetime achievement award

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While accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award, Diddy pledged to donate $1 million to both Howard University and Jackson State University.

By Ida Domingo, ABC 13 News

Sunday night’s BET Awards was not only a big night for Sean “Diddy” Combs but also for Howard University in D.C.

While accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award, Diddy pledged to donate $1 million to both Howard University and Jackson State University.

“I want to donate a million dollars to Howard University,” Combs said to the audience before he left the stage. “Also, I’m gonna drop another million dollars on Deion Sanders and Jackson State, because we should play for us. Thank you everyone from the bottom of my heart, I love y’all.”

The announcement came as Combs accepted the award from surprise presenter Kanye West alongside Babyface.

“I got this dream of Black people being free,” Combs said. “I got this dream of us controlling our own destiny. I got this dream of us taking accountability and stop killing each other. I got this dream of us being rich and wealthy and living on the same block. I have this dream of us unifying.”

“Y’all know I wouldn’t be here without Howard University, Combs said before starting an “HU” chant during his speech.

Combs attended Howard University in the late 1980s but left to pursue a career in music. In 2014, he returned to receive an honorary doctorate from the university.

Also during Combs’ speech, he paid homage to the late Andre Harrell, who launched his career, as well as his mother for working several jobs during his childhood and the late Kim Porter, his longtime girlfriend and mother of his three children.

Click here to read the full article on ABC 13 News.

Happy indeed: Watch Pharrell Williams surprise students by paying off their loan debt

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Pharrell surprises NAACP by covering student loans for student leaders

By Yahoo! News

Five HBCU students and recent graduates are surely feeling happy after Grammy-winning producer Pharrell Williams surprised them by paying off their student loans.

The moment took place Friday during an NAACP panel on the student debt crisis among Black students, as part of Williams’ Something in the Water festival.

Speaking on the “Today” show Thursday, the “Happy” hitmaker characterized the festival as a “Black solution to a systemic problem that ended up being this festival that allowed everybody to come together — Black, white, gay, straight, whatever it is that you are. The Washington, D.C.-based event takes place this Juneteenth weekend and will include performances from SZA, Anderson .Paak, Justin Timberlake and J Balvin, among others.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson tweeted photos of the moment the five NAACP youth leaders learned of Williams’ generosity. Johnson also used the event to call on President Biden to relieve all student debt.

“@POTUS, it’s your turn now to do the same for all Americans plagued by student debt,” wrote Johnson.

In a press release, Wisdom Cole, the NAACP’s national director of youth and college, who organized the Black student debt panel, applauded Williams and pointed out how debt specifically affects the Black community.

“Pharrell forever changed their lives. Student debt continues to disproportionately plague the Black community and crush opportunities for so many Black people,” Cole said. “It is time to reduce the racial wealth gap, it is time for President Biden to fulfill his promise.”

Cole was referring to Biden’s 2020 campaign promise to broadly alleviate the national student debt, which he has wavered on since his election.

“I am considering dealing with some debt reduction,” Biden said in April. “I am not considering $50,000 debt reduction. But I’m in the process of taking a hard look at whether or not there will be additional debt forgiveness.”

More than 43 million Americans collectively have $1.6 trillion in federal student loan obligations.

Williams’ surprise debt forgiveness comes a day after he was introduced into the Songwriters Hall of Fame as part of songwriting duo the Neptunes, alongside collaborator Chad Hugo.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! News.

TRAVIS SCOTT DONATES $1 MILLION TO BLACK COLLEGE STUDENTS … To Ensure They Graduate

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Travis Scott Forbes Fortnite Concert

By TMZ

Travis Scott is making sure hundreds of Black college students walk across the commencement stage with their diploma … with a seven-figure donation.

The rapper awarded $1 million in scholarships to 100 students at HBCUs who are on track to graduate in the Class of 2022 … ensuring they cross the finish line and aren’t affected by last-minute financial hurdles.

The soon-to-be grads are each getting a $10,000 scholarship from Travis’ previously-established Waymon Webster Scholarship Fund … and the recipients finished their final semester with at least a 3.5 GPA.

Among the scholars … Florida A&M University pharmacy major Nisha Encarnacion, who is from the U.S. Virgin Islands and paid her own way through college while supporting her mother and daughter, Fisk University computer science major Chisom Okwor, whose goal is to help transform developing countries in Africa, and North Carolina Central University broadcast journalism major Jordan Massey, who took on a ton of debt to get his communications degree.

Travis’ sister, Jordan Webster, manages the scholarship fund … and she recently graduated as well, with a degree from Howard University.

Travis’ donations went to seniors at 38 HBCUs … including Alabama A&M University, Central State University, Jackson State University, Morehouse College, Texas Southern University, Grambling State University, Xavier University of Louisiana, and Prairie View A&M University.

The $1 million worth of scholarships is part of Travis’ Project HEAL, which as we first reported, was announced back in March and included $5 million in earmarks.

Remember … Project HEAL was one of Travis’ first public philanthropic since the tragic Astroworld concert last November, which saw 10 people die as a result of injuries sustained during Travis’ set.

Click here to read the full article on TMZ.

Dr. Dre helps break ground on new Compton High School performing arts center

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Dr. Dre

By ABC 7

A performing arts center at Compton High School that’s being built with the help of music mogul Dr. Dre is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The Compton native – who donated $10 million to the project – joined city and school leaders for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the first step in getting the center up and running.

The facility will include a 1,200-seat theater and will be a place for young people to be creative in a way that will help further their education and positively define their future.

“When I was approached about funding a performing arts center that would provide an arts and technological education to students and be accessible for the community at large, I was all in,” said Dr. Dre. “I wanted to give the young people of Compton something I never had.”

Dr. Dre – born Andre Young – grew up in Compton and first rose to fame as a member of NWA, whose debut album was titled “Straight Outta Compton.”

He later found success as a solo artist, producer and businessman.

The performing arts center will be the first new high school facility to be built in almost a decade in the greater Los Angeles area.

Compton High School is more than 100 years old.

“This is very historical for Compton,” said Compton Unified School District Board President Micah Ali.

Click here to read the full article on ABC 7.

Nike releases ‘Mambacita Sweet 16’ shoe to honor Gianna Bryant on her birthday

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Nike has released a special edition pair of sneakers to honor Gianna Bryant's legacy.

By Zoe Sottile, CNN

Nike has released a special pair of “Mambacita Sweet 16” shoes to honor Gianna “Gigi” Bryant on what would have been her 16th birthday.

“I’m so happy with the way these Mambacita shoes came out in honor of my daughter, Gigi,” wrote Vanessa Bryant on Instagram. The shoes feature a black snakeskin pattern to represent “Gigi’s Mambacita Mentality.”
“The ‘Mambacita Sweet 16’ is inspired by her resilient spirit and the love she had, not only for the game, but for her family, friends and community,” said Bryant in a note posted to her Instagram. “Part of her legacy is about building a better future for all girls and women in sport, one step at a time.”

Gianna and her father, basketball legend Kobe Bryant, were killed in a helicopter crash in January 2020. Like her father, Gianna was also a talented basketball player and aspired to play in the WNBA. Earlier this year, Bryant announced that she had reached a deal with Nike to create apparel to honor the late basketball player, nicknamed the “Black Mamba.”

“The Kobe 6 Protro ‘Mambacita Sweet 16’ honors the legacy that Kobe and Gianna ‘Gigi’ Bryant built,” wrote Nike in a statement announcing the release. “One that propelled all generations to continue their quest to be better, for themselves and for the game that unites us all.”
Proceeds from the shoes will go towards the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring Kobe’s and Gianna’s legacies by supporting underserved athletes, according to Nike.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

How Black Men Changed the World

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Two black men, one father and one son.

By THE SMITHSONIAN

Too often Black men are seen as threatening. Over the generations, whether they are boys like Emmett Till, Tamir Rice or Trayvon Martin, or adults like Philando Castille, Eric Garner or George Floyd, or the thousands of victims of lynching in the 19th and 20th centuries, their deaths were made to seem justified by a fear based solely on their race. Only on rare occasions is someone held accountable. It’s even evident with the recent murder of Ahmaud Arbery, killed by three men while he was out for a run, that the “lynching” of Black men is still happening today.

The Smithsonian traveling exhibition, “Men of Change: Power, Triumph, Truth,” now on view at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, delivers a world of ideas about who Black men actually are and works to dismantle myths. The show supports the diversity of Black male identities in their capacity as role models, and amplifies the many positive ways their work and endeavors impact the Black community and the world.

Unfortunate, as it is, that there is a need for such an exhibition, Marquette Folley, who is content director for the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, hopes the show is not only affirming for Black men, but that the messaging is potent enough to shift the cultural experience for all visitors. “Hard dialogues are occurring in the galleries,” she says.

Kendrick Lamar by Derrick Adams
Figure in the Urban Landscape #25 (portrait of Kendrick Lamar) by Derrick Adams, 2018 Courtesy of the Artist
Muhammad Ali by David Alekhuogie
Know Your Right [Muhammad Ali] by David Alekhuogie, 2018 Courtesy of the Artist

Powerful personalities like Kendrick Lamar, Muhammad Ali and James Baldwin are featured because their work in music, sports and literature, appeals to a larger audience and is very much concerned with how their struggles and undertakings impact freedom and rights for all Americans, but especially African Americans.

“We’re reckoning, looking at a broad landscape of what is human, which humans are worth looking at, and noting excellence without stereotyping what that excellence looks like,” Folley says.

While there are countless Black men in our world impacting many sectors and industries, the men were especially chosen, not solely because of their achievements, but because they made conscious decisions to help the world and uplift us all, and there is no one right way to do that.

The larger society from diverse backgrounds can also witness the variety of Black male identities possible. As our country becomes more diverse every day, the stories that we tell ourselves about strangers we live with have an impact on the collective. An exhibition such as this one is a chance for people unfamiliar with the history of the United States to educate themselves and their families about pivotal members of our society—Black men.

“It’s an affirmation of truth for African Americans. There is not one African American who doesn’t recognize a reality that was interesting and remains interesting within the exhibition, it is that those truths remain almost fairy tale to people who are not raised Black in America. And so there was the moment for culture’s storytellers to ask, can we effectively start changing the dialog,” Folley says.

Dick Gregory by Shaunte Gates
Light Side Dark Side [Dick Gregory] by Shaunte Gates, 2018 Courtesy of the Artist

Though this exhibition features just a few of the countless people who have impacted the world, the lightbox displays interspersed throughout the galleries includes the names, images, quotes and writing of Black men and some women.

“It’s not a story necessarily for African Americans. It’s a story for Americans,” Folley says.

Sarah Nelson Jackson and Jonathan Jackson, the founders of WeShouldDoItAll, a contemporary design studio in Brooklyn, New York, were enlisted to aid with the exhibition. In addition to the lightboxes that house photographic images and text, they suggested that the exhibition include artworks by Black visual artists in dialogue with the Black male personalities featured in the exhibition.

Each artist interpreted the assignment of creating an artwork about Black men differently. The artwork about the award-winning journalist and author, Ta-Nahesi Coates, was created by the New York-based artist Robert Pruitt, known for his figurative drawings. The image of a woman with a map depicting redlining on her head is based on the critically acclaimed article, “The Case for Reparations” that Coates wrote for The Atlantic in 2014.

Ta-Nehisi Coats by Robert Pruitt
Monumental [Ta-Nehisi Coates] by Robert Pruitt, 2018 Courtesy of the Artist and Koplin Del Rio, Seattle, Adam Reich Photography

These are not traditional portraits. An artwork about the Pulitzer-prize winning playwright August Wilson by Radcliffe Bailey is an assemblage of disparate items of locusts, dirt and a book.

Ryan Coogler is a global phenomenon. The writer and director of the film Black Panther created another world, one where for the first time, Black people were central to its narrative. His portrait created by the Atlanta-based artist Alfred Conteh is painted with the artist’s signature style of destressed colorful figures against a patterned backdrop. In this instance, Conteh is not painting Black people he identified on Atlanta streets to represent economic disparity, he’s painting one of the most influential filmmakers of today.

Kehinde Wiley, the artist who did Barack Obama’s official presidential portrait, uses visual art to explode representation of the Black image into largely white spaces. Wiley has been painting portraits of everyday Black men and women from cities around the world including, Harlem, South Central LA, Mumbai, Senegal, Dakar and Rio de Janeiro, and positions their bodies in a manner similar to that of the Old Masters. In this way, he makes the claim on the worth and importance of the Black body.

Now Wiley is himself the subject of a portrait painted by Devan Shimoyama whose signature style of bright colors, bejeweled with rhinestones and sequins and other mixed media, speaks to queerness in the Black community and challenges the myths surrounding Black masculinity.

Andrew Young, who worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, U.S. Congressman from Georgia, U.S. Ambassador at the United Nations, and 55th Mayor of Atlanta. His portrait, angular with a cartoonish feel, was created by Nina Chanel Abney as if in juxtaposition of the gravity and seriousness of Young’s accomplishments. But she is employing symbols to represent the many aspects of Young’s efforts.

Click here to read the full article on The Smithsonian.

Scholarship Connoisseur Encourages Students to Apply for STEM Scholarships and Internship Opportunities Now

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black female student sideways view smiling carrying books wearing backpack

IOScholarships is the first of its kind scholarship and financial education platform for minority and underrepresented STEM students. The technology has been designed with a streamlined user-friendly interface that offers great functionality to help high school, undergraduate and graduate students find scholarships and internship opportunities.  IOScholarships proprietary matching algorithm can match students with life-changing scholarships where their diverse background is valued.

“Now is the time for students to apply for college scholarships,” said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of  IOScholarships. “While there are many scholarships that have qualifications like a minimum 3.5 GPA, there are just as many that have lower GPA requirements or don’t even take GPA into consideration at all.”

GPA is an important factor for getting scholarships but is not the only thing that’s important. Schools are looking for dedicated students, who contribute to their community or are involved in STEM organizations or activities. They want to see leadership and perseverance, and while these can sort of be reflected in a GPA, they mostly shine through in extracurriculars.

The majority of the scholarships featured on  IOScholarships come directly from corporations and organizations, rather than solely from competitive university pools – thereby maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education. There’s plenty of money that goes unused every year, students just have to search for it.

Each month IO Scholarships adds hundreds of new curated scholarships to its database and posts “The Scholarship of the Week” on its Instagram social media accounts(@IOScholarships), making it easy to find new scholarship opportunities.

In addition to providing scholarships, the  IOScholarships platform features a scholarship organizer, news articles designed to provide guidance on how to apply for scholarships, and money saving tips. The platform also offers a Career Aptitude Quiz designed to help students identify the degrees and professions that best fit their skills.

For more information about  IOScholarships visit www.ioscholarships.com or for weekly STEM scholarships email maria.fernanda@ioscholarships.com.

16 Black women who shaped history

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black women have changed history. Photo is of Maya Angelou

One of the best ways to get inspired is to examine the stories of courage and strength of others. As part of Together, We Rise, a 31-day package highlighting amazing Black people, experiences, allies, and communities that shape America and make it what it is today, we’ve compiled a list of Black women who have made historic impacts in our nation and the world as a whole.

The history-making Black women included in this group defied odds, broke boundaries, and left special marks of excellence in their communities, paving the way for other Black women to do the same.

Elizabeth Freeman (unknown-1829)
Freeman, also known as Mum Bett, was a nurse and midwife who successfully sued Massachusetts for her freedom in 1781, becoming the first African-American enslaved woman to win a freedom suit in the state. Her suit helped lead to the permanent abolition of slavery in Massachusetts altogether.

Ona Judge (1773-1848)
Ona Judge, known by the Washingtons as Oney, was a mixed woman born into an enslaved family on Mt. Vernon and brought to Philadelphia to serve at the President’s House. On May 21, 1796, a 22-year-old Ona successfully escaped her enslavement to President George Washington while he and Mrs. Washington ate dinner. She fled to New Hampshire.

Harriet Tubman (unknown-1913)
American abolitionist Harriet Tubman is most known for her efforts to move slaves to liberation in the Underground Railroad, a network of antislavery activists. Her legacy is indelible in the movement to abolish slavery, as she is documented to have made approximately 13 trips through the Underground Railroad to lead dozens of slaves to freedom — and never got caught, despite a $40,000 reward for her capture.

Ida B. Wells (1862-1931)

Ida B. Wells was a prominent Black investigative journalist, educator and activist in the early civil rights movement. She was one of the founders of the NAACP (National Assocation for the Advancement of Colored People), and led a powerful anti-lynching crusade in the U.S. in the 1890s.

Rosa Parks (1913-2005)
Rosa Parks, a trailblazer known for her courageous participation in the Montgomery bus boycott, sparked a movement against racial segregation on public transit. Her defiance to give up her seat led to her arrest on Dec. 1, 1955, but sparked a revolutionary movement. The United States Congress has since honored her as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement.”

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)
Maya Angelou has a distinct voice as a Black writer and activist. She left her legacy with a large collection of memoirs, poems, essays and plays. She rose to fame in 1969 after the publication of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” one of her autobiographies that details her early years as a young Black woman.

Nina Simone (1933-2003)
Nina Simone possessed a unique raspy voice and had a massive impact on the jazz community, as well as continued involvement in the civil rights movement. In her early years, she changed her name from Eunice Kathleen Waymon, her birth name, to her new alias, Nina Simone, so she could disguise herself from her family while trying to make a career in jazz as a pianist and singer. She rose to fame and recorded more than 40 albums between 1958 and 1974.

Audre Lorde (1934-1992)
Audre Lorde made incredible contributions to feminist literature. In her writings, she highlights her experience being a Black lesbian woman and confronts issues of racism, homophobia, classism and misogyny, giving voice to other Black female writers and activists.

Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)
“Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin was ranked ninth in Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” twice and it’s said that no one understood soul music better than Aretha. She also was the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992)
Marsha P. Johnson, born Malcom Michaels Jr., was the first American self-identified drag queen. She was one of the first gay liberation activists and one of the most prominent figures of the Stonewall riots in 1969. When asked what the “p” in her name stood for, she responded, “pay it no mind,” and continued to use that phrase when asked about her gender identity.

Click here to read the full article on Today.

How Jennifer Hudson and ‘Respect’ Could Set a Record for Black Women at the Oscars

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Jennifer Hudson in the movie 'Respect'

By Clayton Davis, Variety

Jennifer Hudson’s name is already written in the Academy Awards history books. At 25, she became the youngest Black woman to ever win an acting Oscar for her turn as Effie White in “Dreamgirls” (2006). She’s also the first to do it for a debut role. Her work in the Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect” has her contending for two possible Oscar nominations: lead actress and original song, for the track “Here I Am (Singing My Way Home),” co-written by Carole King and Jamie Alexander Hartman. Already a Tony Award away from EGOT status, she could break another record if she lands those two coveted noms.

Hudson would be the first Black woman to be nominated in three individual categories if she snags both nods. Only three Black women have been recognized in two individual categories: Viola Davis, Whoopi Goldberg (actress and supporting actress) and Oprah Winfrey (supporting actress and best picture). For comparison, Warren Beatty and George Clooney have been nominated in six. When it comes to Black men, Spike Lee has been acknowledged in five, winning in adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman” (2018).

Dual noms for Hudson would also mark the third time a Black woman has received multiple nominations in the same year. The first two were Mary J. Blige (nominated for supporting actress and for the song “Mighty River” from “Mudbound”) and Cynthia Erivo (nominated for lead actress and for the song “Stand Up” from “Harriet”). They’re not only the first Black women to achieve this feat, but also the first by anyone in Academy history.

Hudson’s possible recognition isn’t significant merely for herself; a nod in best actress would represent a historical accomplishment for her “Respect” director Liesl Tommy. Tommy would be only the second Black woman to direct a Black leading actor or actress to a nomination (behind Erivo by Lemmons). Noteworthy, when you add Leslie Odom Jr.’s double noms for the song “Speak Now” and supporting actor for his turn in “One Night in Miami” from Regina King last year, the three talents recognized for acting and song, have all been directed by Black women.

Although we see improvements in representation for POC in the Academy, the showing for Black women is among its most notable shortcomings. There have been just over 3,100 Oscar statuettes handed out in 93 years. Of that, only 17 were awarded to Black women. Again, for comparison, one man, Walt Disney, was rewarded with 26 Oscars from 1932 to 1969, nine more than the total number of Black women from 1929 to 2021. Additionally, two Black women have been granted honorary statuettes (Winfrey and Cicely Tyson). Disney himself was given four (even one that had seven miniature Oscars on it for “Snow White”).

Hudson’s turn as the Queen of Soul has many devoted fans among awards groups. However, recency bias and mixed reviews have created significant hurdles for “Respect’s” awards prospects. Opening in mid-August, three weeks before Venice and Telluride, the positive buzz for the movie was swallowed up by premieres of more prominent titles. And with the releases of fellow MGM/United Artists Releasing counterparts “House of Gucci” and “Licorice Pizza,” both of which had better reviews and box office, “Respect” seemed to have become an awards season afterthought.

Click here to read the full article on Variety.

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