Kobe Bryant—A Tribute To A Legend

Kobe Bryant, wife Vanessa Bryant and daughters Gianna Maria Onore Bryant, Natalia Diamante Bryant and Bianka Bella Bryant attend Kobe's jersey retirement

By Brady Rhoades

He’d shoot thousands of jumpers in a ghostly gym after a not-so-great game.

In the dim light of a long flight, while teammates slept, he’d map out formations and tactics on a white board.

He studied cheetahs to improve his body control.

Several months after Kobe Bryant’s shocking death, along with daughter Gianna’s and seven others on a helicopter in Calabasas, Southern California, the world still mourns and celebrates his life.

Emotions waver, but his legacy is bronze-solid.

The Black Mamba moved us in many ways, but let’s start with this: He made us want to work harder. Prepare better. Learn more. Become more excellent at what we do.

He came straight out of Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia and made the NBA all-star team in his second season.

He won five championships, was named finals MVP twice, made 18 all-star teams, won a regular-season MVP award and led the U.S. hoops team to two Olympic gold medals.

None other than Magic Johnson called him the greatest Laker ever.

Kobe Bean Bryant, son of former NBA player Joe Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant, set out to be the greatest basketball player who ever lived, and he just might have pulled it off.

Act II of an extraordinarily purposeful life had just bolted from the starting gate with an Oscar Award for producing the Best Animated Short Film (Dear Basketball), big plans for girls and women’s sports, working to help the homeless, birthing a business empire and his most devoted role: husband and father.

Bryant lived to 41, but he packed a lot of living into those years.

He’ll very shortly be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Kobe and Gigi seated at basketball game and Kobe's arm is placed lovingly around daughter
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center on December 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

He’ll have a statue outside of Staples Center.

His two jerseys—No. 8 and No. 24—will forever hang in the rafters of what’s known as “The house that Kobe built.”

His wife, Vanessa, and his three surviving daughters will no doubt tells stories about him for the rest of their lives.

At a Celebration of Life service at a packed Staples Center on Feb. 24, Vanessa Bryant spoke about her husband and 13-year-old daughter, Gianna (Gigi).

“He always knew there was room for improvement and wanted to do better. He happily did carpool and enjoyed spending time in the car with our girls. He was a doting father, a father that was hands on and present. He helped me bathe Bianka and Capri almost every night. He would sing them silly songs in the shower and continue making them laugh and smile as he lathered them in lotion and got them ready for bed. He had magic arms and could put Capri to sleep in only a few minutes. He said he had it down to a science, eight times up and down our hallway.”

Of Gigi, she said: “Gianna made us all proud and she still does. Gianna never tried to conform. She was always herself. She was a nice person, a leader, a teacher, wearing a white tee, black leggings, a denim jacket, white high-top Converse and a flannel tied around her waist, and straight hair was her go-to style. She had rhythm and swag since she was a baby. She gave the best hugs and the best kisses. She had gorgeous, soft lips like her daddy. She would hug me and hold me so tight, I could feel her love me, and I loved the way she looked up at me. It was as if she was soaking me all in.”

Kobe and LeBron James talking at basetball game
LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 29: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers has a moment on the sideline with former Laker Kobe Bryant in the second half during a game against the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center on December 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

At the same ceremony, Michael Jordan cried his eyes out as he called Kobe, “My little brother.”

WNBA legend Diana Taurasi said, “Kobe’s willingness to do the hard work and make the sacrifice every single day inspired me.”

We’ll tell stories, too.

There was the NBA finals performance against the Indiana Pacers in 2000, when Shaq fouled out and Kobe, barely old enough to order a beer, saved the day, making big shot after big shot on his way to 28 points.

There was the time he outscored the Dallas Mavericks team through three quarters, 62-61. There was the 81-point game.

How about when he tore his Achilles tendon and limped back on the court to drain two free throws?

Kobe—NBA icon Jerry West said the one word suffices—indeed taught us about work and commitment.

He also taught us to be lifelong students.

Earlier this season, this superstar who spoke at least three languages was seen courtside at a Lakers game with daughter Gigi, playfully talking trash to the Dallas Mavericks Luka Doncic—in Slovenian.

He devoured books.

He studied film like a technician.

He taught himself to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” by ear, as a special gift to Vanessa.

We were introduced to him when he was 17, in 1996, and we thought he was awfully brash.

But ESPN commentator Jay Williams said there was a reason.
“Some players are arrogant because they’re entitled. Kobe was arrogant because he worked harder than you.”

He was fierce.

He once said of himself: “A lion’s got to eat. You can either run with me or run from me.”

You have to be hard-core to win five championships. Kobe upbraided Shaq for showing up to camp out of shape. He scolded teammates when he felt they weren’t giving their full effort. He famously shook a finger at a player and called him “Charmin-soft.”

Kobe, holding Oscar, and Vanessa at 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – MARCH 04: Vanessa Bryant (L) and Kobe Bryant attend the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 4, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

“I think he was more sensitive than me,” chuckled Kobe.

For sure, ACT II was off to a startling start. Bryant had put in the toil and sweat to become a high-powered businessman.

In the twilight of his basketball career, he began building an empire, which included a venture capital fund and multimedia production company.

Bryant teamed up with entrepreneur Jeff Stibel to launch Bryant Stibel & Co., a venture capital fund that invested in LegalZoom and Epic Games, among others. The two grew the company into a $2 billion business.

Bryant also formed Kobe Inc., which focused on investing in sports brands. The company’s first investment was in the sports drink BodyArmor, which was valued at $200 million after Coca Cola bought a minority stake.

His next creation was Kobe Studios (later renamed Granity Studios), a multimedia production company focused on podcasts, books, television and films. Bryant wanted to tell stories that educated and inspired. Granity is where Dear Basketball was sired.

In 2018, Bryant wrote The Mamba entality: How I Play. Everyone from fans to motivational speakers to CEOs read it for insight on what it takes to be great.

When he won the Oscar for Dear Basketball, was anyone that surprised? Maybe a little, but you knew he’d settle for nothing less even if he didn’t win that year.

He’d found a new love in business and storytelling. He was not interested in getting involved in basketball, other than helping young NBA players hone their skills. When asked if he would consider coaching, he said: “Absolutely not.”

But 13-year-old Gigi was obsessed with the game, and really, really good. Kobe did not push his girls toward the sport he’d mastered, but when the opportunity arose, he couldn’t help himself. He trained Gigi, who became the “Mambacita.” He could be seen courtside at Lakers and Sparks games with her, pointing out what he always focused on: details.

1 Jan 2001: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes in for a slam dunk against the New Jersey Nets during the NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. Photo credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

On the Jimmy Kimmel show, he said he was a “girls dad” and related a story with humor and pride: “It’s funny. People come up to Gigi and me and say, ‘Don’t you want to have a boy to carry on your legacy,’ and Gigi is like, ‘Yo, I got this. I don’t need no boy.’”

A big part of his legacy is championing girls and women’s basketball. He was one of the first NBA players to regularly attend WNBA games. He reached out to young women playing collegiate ball and gave them tips.

His latest venture was the Mamba Sports Academy, launched in 2018 with Sports Academy CEO Chad Faulkner.

“Mamba Sports Academy is a 100,000 square-foot facility that houses five basketball courts, five volleyball courts, two beach volleyball courts, a turf field, combatives and self defense dojo, a comprehensive sports medicine practice for medical therapy and rehabilitation, a biomechanics lab, a worldclass cognitive training lab, an e-sports training ground, batting cages and pitching mounds, a mondo sprint track, a learning center for academic tutoring and training, and a yoga/cycling studio,” Kobe said on his website.

Of course, it’s known primarily for its basketball programs for girls and boys. This is not your garden-variety stuff. It features intense camps, clinics, and leagues for 5–17-year-olds.

Kobe coached one of the girls basketball teams and quickly transformed it into one of the most elite units in the nation. Gigi was one of the stars, but Kobe’s staff said he coached all the girls as if they were his daughters.

In typical fashion, he told Sports Academy coaches not to take it easy on the girls, but in atypical fashion, staffers and parents describe Kobe as patient, even laid-back. He did not want to micro-manage his players. He wanted them to go through struggles and emerge stronger.

In the past couple of years, we saw Kobe evolving into a different man than the one who’d clenched his jaw, pumped his fist and torched opponents for 20 years. He was, as they say, paying it forward.

And instead of one obsession, he had five: wife Vanessa and daughters Gigi, Bianka, Natalia and Capri.

Those were our last images—a family man with his family.

The Mamba Sports Academy has been renamed Mamba & Mambacita Sports Academy. You get the feeling Kobe would have smiled at that.

Actress Natalie Desselle-Reid, Known for Cinderella and B.A.P.S., Dies at 53

Natalie Desselle-Reid pictured at a Hollywood event gala

Actress Natalie Desselle-Reid has died at 53 after a private battle with colon cancer.

Desselle-Reid’s death was announced on her Instagram page Monday afternoon.

She was best known for roles on the UPN series Eve (2003-2006) and the Robert Townsend-directed 1997 comedy B.A.P.S., in which she played a waitress in Georgia who ends up caring for a Beverly Hills millionaire and living the life of “Black American Princesses.” The cult classic famously co-starred Halle Berry.

Desselle-Reid also appeared in the racially diverse 1997 retelling of Cinderella, starring Brandy and Whitney Houston, and Madea’s Big Happy Family (2001).

She is survived by her husband, Leonard, and children Sereno, Summer and Sasha.

“It is with extremely heavy hearts that we share the loss of our beautiful Natalie this morning from colon cancer. She was a bright light in this world. A queen. An extraordinary mother and wife. Her diverse career touched so many and she will be loved forever. Naturally, we are grieving and processing this profound loss and we thank you in advance for respecting our privacy at this extremely difficult time,” the post read.

Desselle-Reid was also remembered by her manager Dolores Robinson on Twitter, as well as Robinson’s daughter, actress Holly Robinson Peete.

“Natalie was a bright light. She was an amazing actress and comedienne but also an awesome mother & wife,” wrote Robinson.

“Just absolutely decimated by this news…Actress Natalie Desselle, a bright shining star passed away this morning. I got to know her when my mom was managing her. She will be so missed…sending out prayers to her children and husband. Rest In Peace, Sweet Girl,” wrote Robinson Peete.

The day before her death, Desselle-Reid posted an inspirational message on Instagram. The graphic image read, “Sunday is the perfect day to refuel your soul and to be grateful for each and every one of your blessings.”

Next to it, Desselle-Reid added her own words: “Remember, you are Blessed!💛 Refuel your Soul.”

The actress also mourned the death of Chadwick Boseman, who died in August from his own battle with colon cancer.

Continue on to People to read the complete article.

Photo Credit: People

Remembering Supplier Diversity Pioneer Gwen Moore

Gwen Moore

By Laurie Dowling, National Utilities Diversity Council

The world of diversity is dimmed by the passing of former California Assemblymember Gwen Moore, CA-49, on August 19, 2020.

She was a tireless fighter for her constituents and for California and served as the powerful Majority Whip during her tenure, representing parts of Los Angeles and Orange Counties in the California Assembly from 1978 to 1994. However, it is in the area of diversity and supplier diversity that she is most well known in California and nationally.

Assemblymember Moore’s positive impact on diversity in the utilities and communications industries cannot be overstated. In 1988, she was the author of the groundbreaking California General Order 156, which required the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to establish a procedure through which utilities and communication companies would report on their supplier diversity and which allowed the CPUC to set targets for this procurement. This was a game-changer for diverse enterprises and for the utilities and communication companies doing business in California, and its success helped influence supplier diversity engagement by state utility commissions around the country.

With prescience ahead of her time, Assemblymember Moore and her colleagues included not only women- and minority-owned enterprises but also service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. In 2015, GO-156 was expanded to include LGBT business enterprises.
Assemblymember Moore’s legacy in diversity continues robustly today.

On September 1, 2020, the CPUC reported that participating utilities and communications companies – including California American Water, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Sempra Energy, Southern California Edison, Suburban Water Systems, among others – spent $12.7 billion with diverse suppliers in 2019, representing 33.2 percent of the reporting companies’ total procurement dollars.

A highlight of this 2019 report was the work of SouthWest Gas, which spent 70.2 percent of its total spend with diverse business enterprises (DBEs). The report states that GO 156 sets the framework for the CPUC Utility Supplier Diversity Program and encourages each utility and telecommunications company to purchase, at a minimum, 15 percent from MBEs, 5 percent from WBEs, and 1.5 percent from DVBEs, for a total of 21.5 percent. GO 156 has made a lasting impact on diverse businesses in California and on the DNA of corporations in the Golden State and beyond.

Former CPUC President, Michael R. Peevey worked with Assemblymember Moore to bring an increased spotlight on supplier diversity in utilities and communications in California and nationally. He had this to say about her: “Assemblywoman Gwen Moore’s leadership on supplier diversity made all the difference. Before her dramatic efforts, the California Public Utilities Commission did relatively little. Her championing of supplier diversity in the State Legislature gave some of us the heft and muscle to get the utilities to lead the nation in fostering, promoting and achieving the most successful programs in the nation. We all owe her a great debt of gratitude. In former Congressman John Lewis’ memorable words, she caused ‘Good Trouble.’”

Assemblymember Moore was not only concerned with supplier diversity. Her public service record included over 400 bills signed into law to help Californians, especially women, children, and families. Her work for the community was known by her legislative counterparts nationally, and included the Moore Universal Telephone Service Act, which required the provision of affordable telephone service to low-income households, and legislation of special importance to the parents of small children, a bill requiring supermarkets to have a publicly accessible restroom.

Following her time in public service, she was founder and CEO of GeM Communications Group, a woman-owned enterprise designing public affairs, legislative strategies and community outreach programs for corporate and nonprofit clients. Gwen Moore also served on the state and national boards of the NAACP, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the California Black Business Association, among others. She is in the California NAACP Hall of Fame. Assemblymember Moore was a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Gwen Moore was a fearless champion of diversity and opportunity and a beacon to so many. Her loss diminishes our community, but we are all so much better for her time here,” said The Honorable Timothy Alan Simon, President, TAS Strategies, Commissioner Emeritus, California Public Utilities Commission, Chair, California Black Chamber of Commerce.

‘Black Panther’ star Chadwick Boseman dies of cancer at 43

Chadwick Bozeman holding oscar

Actor Chadwick Boseman, well-known for his role of The Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Jackie Robinson in biopic-, 42, has passed away after a four-year-long battle with colon cancer.

Boseman was 43 years old and passed away surrounded by his wife and family.

Though Boseman acted in several smaller roles since the early 2000’s, his acting career really took off in 2013 with the release of 42, playing the lead role of Jackie Robinson. From there, Boseman went on to star in several other historical pictures such as Thurgood Marshall in the movie Marshall and James Brown in the film Get on Up. In 2016, Boseman appeared as King T’Challa aka The Black Panther in the film, Captain America: Civil War and would continue to play the character for four Marvel films.

Being a huge influence to black people, especially children, through his role as The Black Panther, Boseman was also known for going to visit children in the hospital and keeping in touch with children from the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Though Boseman had been fighting colon cancer since 2016, very few people knew of his diagnosis. In fact, many of his friends, co-stars, and executives were unaware of his condition. Through his battle with cancer, Boseman filmed at least four movies, including the four Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

Fans, friends, political figures and organizations alike took to social media on the weekend of Boseman’s death to pay their respects and talk of the influence he had on their lives and the lives of others.

“He made everyone feel loved, heard and seen,” Black Panther co-star, Danai Gurira wrote in an Instagram post to Chadwick, “He played great, iconic roles because he possessed inside of himself that connection to greatness to be able to so richly bring them to life.”

“From his groundbreaking work in Black Panther to his portrayal of Thurgood Marshall,” Vice Presidential nominee, Kamala Harris tweeted, Chadwick Boseman helped paint a new picture of what’s possible.”

But from his influence to his talent and beyond, the legacy he left was best described by Director Ryan Coogler who said, “Whether it was through his art or through his kindness to others, Boseman’s impact on the world was great. He was a caretaker, a leader, and a man of faith, dignity and pride, he shielded his collaborators from his suffering. He lived a beautiful life. And he made great art. Day after day, year after year. That was who he was. He was an epic firework display.”

Honoring John Lewis

John Robert Lewis seated behind desk with books on a shelf in the background

Congressman, freedom rider, and civil rights icon John Lewis has passed away at the age of 80 from stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which he had been fighting since December 2019.

Lewis was laid to rest in the Capital Rotunda in Washington, D.C., along with past American icons such as Abraham Lincoln.

Throughout his life, Lewis was on the frontline on civil rights activism from a very young age. The founder and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lewis was first known as an avid peaceful protestor. Lewis demonstrated peaceful protests throughout many public spaces, such as restaurants, swimming pools, and hotels, and was often severely beaten and jailed for doing so. One of his most famous acts of nonviolent protests occurred in 1961 with the freedom riders, a group of black and white activists who traveled the country via bus in protest of segregated interstate travel. Lewis was one of the original thirteen freedom riders at just 21 years old.

In 1963, Lewis joined Dr. Martin Luther King for the March on Washington where he served as the youngest speechmaker at the event.  Lewis collaborated with Dr. King again in 1965, leading the march in Selma, Alabama, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Known today as “Bloody Sunday,” this march was met with violent demonstrations from law enforcement, a televised event that would lead to the signing of the Voting Rights Act about a week later.

In 1986, Lewis was elected to represent Georgia in the House of Representatives and was quickly penned the “conscience of the Congress” as he continually fought for justice among all people. Lewis would serve in Congress until his death, being reelected sixteen times and continued to give speeches on civil rights during his time.

Though he received a vast number of awards over the years, one of Lewis’ most iconic awards was given to him in 2010 when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barack Obama.

As of late, John Lewis showed tremendous support for the Black Lives Matter protests happening in response to George Floyd and ongoing police corruption. Lewis showed especial pride for the inclusivity of races in these modern-day protests that differed from the protests he participated in for Civil Rights in the 1960s.

At his memorial in Washington, D.C., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated, “Representative John Lewis, the Conscience of Congress, joined the pantheon of patriots. John always worked on the side of the angels. Now, we know, that he is with them.”

Civil Rights Leader Charles Evers Dies At 97

Charles Evers pictured with US seal in the background

Charles Evers, a civil rights leader and historic Black mayor in Mississippi, has passed away. He was 97 years old.

Evers, who was the older brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, reportedly died of “natural causes” at his home in Brandon, a suburb of Jackson, Mississippi.

According to the Associated Press, Evers was surrounded by relatives and his cause of death was not coronavirus related.

Charles and Medgar Evers were both World War II veterans and later became active in the NAACP. Charles was appointed to lead the Mississippi NAACP after his brother was killed in the driveway of his home in 1968.

A year later, he was elected mayor of the southwestern Mississippi town of Fayette, becoming the first Black mayor of a multiracial town in the state since Reconstruction.

During his career, Evers ran several businesses in Chicago and his home state. According to a Mississippi Blues Trail marker, he was a concert promoter with blues legend B.B. King and once in the bootleg liquor business.

On Wednesday, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi issued a statement over Evers’ death, calling him one of his favorite people.

“Charles Evers was never afraid to challenge the accepted norms or fly in the face of political correctness,” Wicker said. “As an elected official, he navigated the circuitous route from Freedom Democrat to Independent to Republican. He used his powerful personality and platform to change Mississippi for the better.”

Continue on to BET to read the complete article.

Civil rights icon Rev. C.T. Vivian dies at 95

Freedom rider C.T. Vivian speaks during the 'American Experience: Freedom Riders' panel

Civil rights leader Rev. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian has died at age 95, his daughter Kira Vivian told CNN.

Vivian passed away at his Atlanta home of natural causes Friday.

“He was the sweetest man,” Kira Vivian said. “He was so loving. What a loving dad. He was the best father throughout my entire life.”

Vivian participated in the Freedom Rides and worked alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The minister participated in his first nonviolent protest, a lunch counter sit-in in Peoria, Illinois, in 1947, according to the National Visionary Leadership Project.

Vivian had a strong religious upbringing and said he felt called to a life in ministry, according to NVLP. With the help of his church, he enrolled in American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville in 1955.

Black leaders, including CT Vivian, left first row, march down Nashville’s Jefferson Street at the head of a group of 3,000 demonstrators April 19, 1960, and head toward City Hall on the day of the Z. Alexander Looby bombing.

That same year, he and other ministers founded the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference, an affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, NVLP said. The group helped organize the city’s first sit-ins and civil rights march.

By 1965, Vivian had become the director of national affiliates for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference when he led a group of people to register to vote in Selma, Alabama. As Sheriff Jim Clark blocked the group, Vivian said in a fiery tone, “We will register to vote because as citizens of the United States we have the right to do it.” Clark responded by beating Vivian until blood dripped off his chin in front of rolling cameras. The images helped galvanize wider support for change.

Vivian also created a college readiness program with the goal of helping “take care of the kids that were kicked out of school simply because they protested racism.”

Years later, the US Department of Education used his Vision program as a guide to create Upward Bound, which was designed to improve high school and college graduation rates for students in underserved communities.

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.


Civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis dead at 80

John Robert Lewis seated behind desk with books on a shelf in the background

John Robert Lewis, the son of sharecroppers who survived a brutal beating by police during a landmark 1965 march in Selma, Alabama, to become a towering figure of the civil rights movement and a longtime US congressman, has died after a six-month battle with cancer.

He was 80.

“It is with inconsolable grief and enduring sadness that we announce the passing of U.S. Rep. John Lewis,” his family said in a statement. “He was honored and respected as the conscience of the US Congress and an icon of American history, but we knew him as a loving father and brother.

He was a stalwart champion in the on-going struggle to demand respect for the dignity and worth of every human being. He dedicated his entire life to non-violent activism and was an outspoken advocate in the struggle for equal justice in America. He will be deeply missed.”

Lewis died on the same day as civil rights leader the Rev. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian, who was 95. The dual deaths of the civil rights icons come as the nation is still grappling with racial upheaval in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests that have swept the nation.

It’s another heartbreak in a year filled with them, as America mourns the deaths of nearly 140,000 Americans from Covid-19 and struggles to bring the virus under control.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced his death in a statement.

“Today, America mourns the loss of one of the greatest heroes of American history: Congressman John Lewis, the Conscience of the Congress,” the California Democrat said.

Lewis had vowed to fight the disease after announcing in late December 2019 that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which was discovered as a result of a routine medical visit and subsequent testing.

“I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now,” he said in a statement at the time.

Lewis, a Democrat who served as the US representative for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District for more than three decades, was widely seen as a moral conscience of Congress because of his decades-long embodiment of nonviolent fight for civil rights. His passionate oratory was backed by a long record of action that included, by his count, more than 40 arrests while demonstrating against racial and social injustice.

A follower and colleague of Martin Luther King Jr., he participated in lunch counter sit-ins, joined the Freedom Riders in challenging segregated buses and — at the age of 23 — was a keynote speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington.

“Sometimes when I look back and think about it, how did we do what we did? How did we succeed? We didn’t have a website. We didn’t have a cellular telephone,” Lewis has said of the civil rights movement.

“But I felt when we were sitting in at those lunch counter stools, or going on the Freedom Ride, or marching from Selma to Montgomery, there was a power and a force. God Almighty was there with us.”

Lewis has said King inspired his activism. Angered by the unfairness of the Jim Crow South, he launched what he called “good trouble” with organized protests and sit-ins. In the early 1960s, he was a Freedom Rider, challenging segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South and in the nation’s capital.

“We do not want our freedom gradual; we want to be free now,” he said at the time.

At age 25, Lewis helped lead a march for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where he and other marchers were met by heavily armed state and local police who attacked them with clubs, fracturing Lewis’ skull. Images from that “Bloody Sunday” shocked the nation and galvanized support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“I gave a little blood on that bridge,” he said years later. “I thought I was going to die. I thought I saw death.”

Despite the attack and other beatings, Lewis never lost his activist spirit, taking it from protests to politics. He was elected to the Atlanta city council in 1981, then to Congress six years later.

Once in Washington, he focused on fighting against poverty and helping younger generations by improving education and health care. He also co-wrote a series of graphic novels about the civil rights movement, which won him a National Book Award.

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

Little Richard, a flamboyant architect of rock ‘n’ roll, is dead at 87

Little Richard palying piano

Little Richard, the screaming, preening, scene-stealing wild man of early rock ‘n’ roll with hits like “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally,” died Saturday at 87, Dick Alen, his former agent, confirmed to CNN.

Alen said Little Richard died in Nashville with his brother and son by his side, and the cause of death is related to bone cancer.

He called the star “one of the legends, the originators” and said Little Richard had “been ill for a good while.”

The pioneer would have stood out in any era. But in the 1950s, when Little Richard came to prominence, he was like no other: a flamboyant, makeup-wearing, piano-playing black man who personified the “devil’s music” to establishment guardians.

Elvis Presley was one thing, but for all his pelvic thrusts and slicked-back, juvenile-delinquent hair, he was at heart a polite Southern boy who loved his daddy. Little Richard, though … well, he may have come from a big Southern family himself, but he represented something else.

“Richard opened the door. He brought the races together,” said arranger H.B. Barnum in Charles White’s 1984 biography “The Life and Times of Little Richard.”

“When I first went on the road, there were many segregated audiences. With Richard, although they still had the audiences segregated in the building, they were there TOGETHER. And most times before the end of the night, they would all be mixed together.”

Little Richard Fast Facts
Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, no onstage slouch, was an admirer as well.

“There’s no single phrase to describe his hold on the audience. I couldn’t believe the power of Little Richard on stage. He was amazing,” Jagger said, according to White’s book.

Little Richard knew his power. “They saw me as something like a deliverer, a way out,” he once said. “My means of expression, my music, was a way in which a lot of people wished they could express themselves and couldn’t.”

He also made no bones about his status. Little Richard bristled when he was overlooked in favor of other early rock figures, telling SFGate.com in 2003, “I created rock ‘n’ roll! I’m the innovator! I’m the emancipator! I’m the architect! I am the originator! I’m the one that started it!”

He had made those boasts 15 years earlier, going off script while giving out the best new artist award at the 1988 Grammys.

Five years later the Grammys finally recognized him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

It’s hard to argue with Little Richard’s stance. “Rock ‘n’ roll” was originally a euphemism for sex, and in his energy, his falsetto “woohs!” and pounding piano, Little Richard personified the life force.

His songs were about many things — ripping it up, ready teddies, girls who couldn’t help it — but above all, they were about “rocking and rolling” in its original, unexpurgated form.

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

A Shoulder to Lean On – Bill Withers heals and inspires even after death

Bill Withers playing guitar

By Tracy Yassini

Bill Withers, who wrote and sang a string of timeless songs, including “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” died from heart complications on March 30, 2020. His music continues to provide healing and inspiration during the coronavirus pandemic as health care workers and communities around the world share versions of “Lean on Me” through social media.

“As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.” a family statement read.

Withers, who overcame a childhood stutter, was born the last of six children in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia.

He joined the Navy at 17 and spent nine years in the service as an aircraft mechanic. After his discharge, he moved to Los Angeles, worked at an aircraft parts factory, bought a guitar at a pawn shop and recorded demos of his tunes in hopes of landing a recording contract.

Though his songs often dealt with relationships, Withers also wrote ones with social commentary, including “Better Off Dead” about an alcoholic’s suicide, and “I Can’t Write Left-Handed,” about an injured Vietnam War veteran.

In recognition of his service, the U.S. Navy Memorial Board will present Withers’ family with the Lone Sailor Award at the organization’s 2021 awards dinner. The award recognizes an impressive list of sea service veterans who have distinguished themselves by drawing upon their military experience to become successful in their subsequent careers and lives, while exemplifying the core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment.

His family shared their own view of a legendary artist, father, and veteran in a public statement, “…a solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other.”

Curly taught us how to dribble, and his Globetrotters made us dance

Pat Williams aka Curly wearing HArlem Globetrotter uniform, smiling, spinning basketball on fingertips

ORLANDO, FLA.—Pat Williams, when he was starting the Orlando Magic franchise from scratch all those years ago, was looking for a fun, friendly, famous face to get people excited about the push for an expansion basketball team in football-fanatical Central Florida.

Little did he know at the time that one of the most legendary basketball players on the planet — the great Curly Neal of the iconic Harlem Globetrotters — had retired and was living in Orlando.

“We were just getting the expansion effort started in June of 1986 when Curly approached me and said, ‘Anything I can do to help, just give me a call,’ ” Williams said Friday. “Well, we sure took advantage of that. Whenever we would have a public gathering or announcement, we’d roll out Curly. We eventually hired him as our first community ambassador.

“Curly was one of a kind. He could light up any room. Just hand him a basketball and he would go to work. He would put on an abbreviated show, a la what he had done for years as a Globetrotter. And it would absolutely delight people, get kids excited and he always left the place with people feeling good about themselves and feeling good about the Magic.”

Curly Neal, whose bald head and ball-handling artistry, made him one of the most famous members of the Harlem Globetrotters during their barnstorming heyday, died at his home near Houston earlier this week at the age of 77.

It was sad news for those of us who grew up in the 1970s when Curly Neal and Meadowlark Lemon, the clown prince of basketball, were bigger celebrities than the NBA stars of the day. When you heard their upbeat theme song — “Sweet Georgia Brown” — we kids would whistle along, snap our fingers and giddily dance around the living room.

It was appointment television when the Globetrotters made their annual appearance on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” and entire families would sit in front of the TV and laugh and laugh and laugh some more at their basketball slapstick. Even though we knew what was going to happen when the Globetrotters played their designated-stooge opponents, the Washington Generals, we howled every time they performed their fake water-bucket gag.

And, oh my God, how we would marvel at Curly’s ball-handling virtuosity. Part of every Globetrotters’ show featured Curly dribbling around and through the entire Washington Generals’ team; acrobatically sliding on his knees, never losing control of the ball or picking up his dribble even when he was on his back.

Continue on to The Star to read the complete article.

Earl Graves Sr., Founder of Black Enterprise And Ultimate Champion of Black Business, Passes Away At 85

Earl Graves Sr.

Black Enterprise Founder and Publisher Earl G. Graves, Sr., the quintessential entrepreneur who created a vehicle of information and advocacy that has inspired four generations of African Americans to build wealth through entrepreneurship, career advancement and money management, has died.

According to his son, Black Enterprise CEO Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., he passed away quietly at 9:22 p.m. on April 6, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Graves was 85.

Graves was widely considered to be the ultimate champion of black business, launching Black Enterprise in 1970 to not only chronicle the rise of African American entrepreneurs, but also provide the tools for African Americans to succeed in the business mainstream and  “achieve their measure of the American dream.”

In his award-winning, now classic, business bestseller, How To Succeed In Business Without Being White, Graves stated his life-defining purpose for founding Black Enterprise in simple, direct terms: “The time was ripe for a magazine devoted to economic development in the African American community. The publication was committed to the task of educating, inspiring and uplifting its readers. My goal was to show them how to thrive professionally, economically and as proactive, empowered citizens.”

Driven by that mission, Graves became a trailblazing entrepreneur in his own right, building Black Enterprise from a single-magazine publishing company 50 years ago, to a diversified multimedia business spreading the message of financial empowerment to more than 6 million African Americans through print, digital, broadcast and live-event platforms.  As such, Black Enterprise was one of two companies that would appear on the BE 100s—the publication’s annual rankings of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses—each of its 47 years. At one point, Graves would operate two companies on the list, including Pepsi-Cola of Washington, DC, one of the nation’s largest soft-drink distributors owned by African Americans.

Graves’ influence and reach also extended into the mainstream of corporate America. One of the few African Americans to serve on the boards of major corporations such as American Airlines, Daimler Chrysler, Rohm & Hass and Federated Department Stores (Macy’s), he was a staunch advocate for African American inclusion in the C-Suite and corporate governance. Graves was also a tireless champion of major corporations doing business with black-owned companies.

Beyond business, Graves was a force in politics, civil rights, and philanthropy. In fact, he played a pivotal role in galvanizing support for the election of the first African American president of the United States, Barack Obama, through his endorsement in Black Enterprise and service as a surrogate campaigning on his behalf. Before that, Graves also championed the historic presidential bids of Rev. Jesse Jackson. Moreover, his fight for racial justice and economic parity earned him the NAACP Spingarn Medal, the organization’s highest honor, in 1999.

Graves was also known for his dedication to family, and especially to his wife Barbara Kydd Graves, who passed away in 2012. Together, they raised three sons, Earl Jr., Johnny and Michael, and were blessed with eight grandchildren.

Born in 1935, Graves reaches the pinnacle of power from humble beginnings in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. It was in that community where he learned the lessons of hard work and perseverance from his parents, Earl Godwin and Winifred Sealy Graves. After graduating from a Morgan State University with a B.A. in economics, he served two years as an officer in the Army, and held jobs in law enforcement and real estate. In 1965, he joined the staff of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy as his administrative assistant. When Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, he decided to start a publication that would provide blacks with the pathway to go into entrepreneurship.

He wrote: “Black Enterprise was just a modest magazine when I founded it—just me, a few brave advertisers like Pepsi, ExxonMobil and General Motors; and a small but spirited staff. And one other person who did just about everything there is to do to put out a magazine—my wife, Barbara.”

Continue on to Black Enterprise to read the complete article.

Pioneering black NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson dies

Katherine Johnson and the stars from the movie Hidden Figures are on stage

NASA: Katherine Johnson, a mathematician on early space missions who was portrayed in film “Hidden Figures,” has died.

Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who calculated rocket trajectories and earth orbits for NASA’s early space missions and was later portrayed in the 2016 hit film “Hidden Figures,” about pioneering black female aerospace workers, has died. She was 101.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Twitter that she died Monday morning. No cause was given.

Bridenstine tweeted that the NASA family “will never forget Katherine Johnson’s courage and the milestones we could not have reached without her. Her story and her grace continue to inspire the world.”

Johnson was one of the “computers” who solved equations by hand during NASA’s early years and those of its precursor organization, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.

Johnson and other black women initially worked in a racially segregated computing unit in Hampton, Virginia, that wasn’t officially dissolved until NACA became NASA in 1958. Signs had dictated which bathrooms the women could use.

Johnson focused on airplanes and other research at first. But her work at NASA’s Langley Research Center eventually shifted to Project Mercury, the nation’s first human space program.

“Our office computed all the (rocket) trajectories,” Johnson told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in 2012. “You tell me when and where you want it to come down, and I will tell you where and when and how to launch it.”

In 1961, Johnson did trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 Mission, the first to carry an American into space. The next year, she manually verified the calculations of a nascent NASA computer, an IBM 7090, which plotted John Glenn’s orbits around the planet.

“Get the girl to check the numbers,” a computer-skeptical Glenn had insisted in the days before the launch.

“Katherine organized herself immediately at her desk, growing phone-book-thick stacks of data sheets a number at a time, blocking out everything except the labyrinth of trajectory equations,” Margot Lee Shetterly wrote in her 2016 book “Hidden Figures,” on which the film is based.

“It took a day and a half of watching the tiny digits pile up: eye-numbing, disorienting work,” Shetterly wrote.

Shetterly told The Associated Press on Monday that Johnson was “exceptional in every way.”

“The wonderful gift that Katherine Johnson gave us is that her story shined a light on the stories of so many other people,” Shetterly said. “She gave us a new way to look at black history, women’s history and American history.”

Shetterly noted that Johnson died during Black History Month and a few days after the anniversary of Glenn’s orbits of the earth on Feb. 20, 1962, for which she played an important role.

Continue on to WTOP to read the complete article.

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