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
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*
Want to hear a scary story? Here’s one: A family reckoning with a senseless, pervasive horror flees home to what they hope will be a place of safety and prosperity, only to find themselves pursued by that same demented presence.
Evil forces gather — their new home is haunted, too. Bloody visions terrorize them day and night. The dog is poisoned. It’s only a matter of time before the bodies start mounting.
But in the 10-part Amazon series “Them,” as in any good horror story, there is a twist: The victims are simply a middle-class Black family in the 1950s, seeking a better life in a Los Angeles suburb; the senseless horror is the racism of their white neighbors, who want them out. As the situation devolves, certain terrifying events may be supernatural, or they may be psychological.
And yet, as the series, the first season of which drops on Friday, asks: Does that distinction matter when the danger is ever-present?
“As the sinister elements outside the home ratchet up, that obviously allows for the cracks and fissures within each of them to be infiltrated by something malevolent,” the series’s creator, Little Marvin, said of the Black family at the center of “Them.” “But that malevolent thing, as sure as there is a supernatural component to our story, is deeply rooted in the emotional and psychological lives of these characters.”
It must get hard to believe your own eyes when your senses are being shocked over and over by cruelty, I said.
“Welcome to being Black,” Little Marvin replied.
Welcome, also, to the legacy of codified racism in America, which provided Little Marvin with a conceptual starting point for “Them.” Like the Jordan Peele film “Get Out” or last summer’s HBO hit “Lovecraft Country,” “Them,” which counts Lena Waithe as an executive producer, uses horror-genre conventions as allegorical octane for racist machinery that is all too real. And as “Watchmen” did for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, the show is likely to educate many viewers on an ugly relic of American history that is not widely acknowledged: racially restrictive housing covenants.
If real estate legalese doesn’t sound like fodder for an edge-of-your-seat horror story, consider the implications. Just as government redlining helped create and reinforce segregation by determining who was eligible for mortgages, racial covenants did the same by restricting who was allowed to buy a property at all, finances be damned. A deed might explicitly forbid all owners, present and future, from selling the home to anyone of African or Asian descent. Many older deeds still bear such language
“Any house that was built between 1938 and 1948, in a subdivision, I would be surprised for it not to have racial restrictions in them,” said Carol M. Rose, a professor emeritus at Yale Law School who has studied racial covenants extensively. Those restrictions, Rose explained, which first appeared in the late 19th century, exploded in the early 20th century as farmlands were subdivided for large swaths of new housing
Racial covenants were notoriously common around northern cities like Detroit and Chicago — the Midwest didn’t mandate separate drinking fountains, but segregation and violence were just as real. And California was no different. A Supreme Court decision in 1948, Shelley v. Kraemer, made racial covenants no longer enforceable, creating opportunities for nonwhite families in places like Compton, Calif., where “Them” is set.
Deprived of a legal means of keeping their neighborhoods white, some racists resorted to extralegal methods, which is where the horror really begins. Sometimes the method was vandalism. Others, a Molotov cocktail.
“California is part of the story because people think that California is this sort of easy, breezy racial space, and no, it’s terrible,” said Jeannine Bell, a law professor at Indiana University who wrote “Hate Thy Neighbor,” a book about the violence faced by people in integrating neighborhoods. “It’s terrible for precisely the reasons that this series explores. The methods used in the Midwest were also used in California.”
The Emory family of “Them” flees the South as part of the Great Migration, in which, from 1916 to 1970, an estimated 6 million Black people left the region for cities of the North and West. Like them, the Emorys seek economic opportunity; the father, Henry (Ashley Thomas), is a college-educated engineer and World War II veteran, and he has relatives in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts. When he lands a job out West, the family hits the road.
Target said it will hire more Black-owned companies, launch a program to identify and support promising minority entrepreneurs and add products from more than 500 Black-owned brands to its shelves or website.
Altogether, the discounter said Wednesday, it will spend more than $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by 2025.
“We have a rich history of working with diverse businesses, but there’s more we can do to spark change across the retail industry, support the Black community and ensure Black guests feel welcomed and represented when they shop at Target,” chief growth officer Christina Hennington said in a news release.
The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and protests across the country have ratcheted up pressure on corporate leaders to advance racial equity and do more than simply cut a check — or risk losing business. The uneven death toll of the coronavirus pandemic and financial toll of the recession also spotlighted the country’s sharp racial disparities with health care and economic opportunity.
Floyd was killed in Target’s hometown of Minneapolis, now the site of the murder trial for the police officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck. One Target store, located near the site of Floyd’s death, had to be completely rebuilt and some of its other stores were damaged during rioting.
Companies have spoken out about diversity and inclusion as consumers pay attention and some direct their dollars toward businesses that align with their values. Generation Z — the group of teens and early 20-somethings who are aging into shopping and establishing relationships with brands — care more about social justice compared with former generations, according to an annual survey of teens by Piper Sandler released Wednesday. Teens surveyed by the firm ranked racial equity as their most important political and social issue, followed by the environment and Black Lives Matter.
Over the past year, major retailers like Nike, Walmart and Ulta Beauty have rolled out their own pledges, such as devoting more shelf space to Black-owned products, evaluating how they hire and promote employees, featuring more Black people in their ads and reducing the number of police or security in stores to prevent racial profiling. A growing number of retailers, including Macy’s, Sephora and Gap, have signed on to the 15 Percent Pledge, which aims to make Black-owned products on store shelves proportional to the country’s Black population.
Among Target’s changes, the retailer said it will more actively seek out advertising firms, suppliers, construction companies and other kinds of businesses that are Black-owned. It said it will create a program called Forward Founders for early-stage start-ups led by Black entrepreneurs to help them develop, test and scale products to sell at mass retailers like Target. It will be modeled off of Target Accelerators, a program for start-ups that the retailer uses to foster up-and-coming brands and ultimately, to sell fresh and exclusive products that attract customers and help it differentiate from competitors.
In some categories, such as beauty, Target said it already has 50 Black-owned and Black-founded brands — but would like to add more for other kinds of merchandise.
Getty and the city of Los Angeles are expected to announce Tuesday the launch of the African American Historic Places Project, a three-year initiative to identify and preserve landmarks that represent Black heritage across L.A.
Led by the Getty Conservation Institute and the Office of Historic Resources within L.A.’s Department of City Planning, the project will address a disparity in local landmark designations: Only about 3% are connected to African American heritage. The goal of the project is to more accurately reflect the history of the city.
The Office of Historic Resources knows that its landmark designation programs do not yet reflect “the diversity and richness of the African American experience in Los Angeles,” said Ken Bernstein, principal city planner and manager of the office. “There’s much work to be done to rectify that disparity and ensure that the heritage of African Americans in Los Angeles is fully woven into our historic designation, and recognition of historic places in Los Angeles.”
The project is a continuation of a nearly 20-year partnership between the Getty Conservation Institute and the city on local heritage projects.
In 2005, a city-matched grant of $2.5 million from the GCI launched a program to identify and map places of social importance, including historic districts, bridges, parks and streetscapes.
Data from surveys conducted between 2010 and 2017 led to the creation of HistoricPlacesLA, a digital portal designed to inventory, map and contextualize the city’s cultural heritage sites. In 2018, the Office of Historic Resources developed a model to guide preservation work in Black communities, using themes including civil rights, religion and spirituality and visual arts.
Click here to read the full article on Los Angeles Times.
The Weeknd is getting involved with the military conflict in Ethiopia — donating a million dollars, which will provide food for people who need it there.
The singer, who is of Ethiopian descent himself, partnered with World Food Program USA — a UN World Food Programme affiliate — to send over a million bucks toward relief efforts in the North African country … which has been mired with bloodshed and chaos for months. Specifically, Abel’s money will provide the equivalent of 2 million meals for citizens there who have been caught in the middle of the feuding factions … many of whom are running out of resources, like food.
TW says, “My heart breaks for my people of Ethiopia as innocent civilians ranging from small children to the elderly are being senselessly murdered and entire villages are being displaced out of fear and destruction.” He goes on to encourage others who can to donate as well.
If you haven’t heard, Ethiopia has been embroiled in a bitter battle with its own people since November — when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an attack on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front — the ruling party in the northern part of the region.
Beyonce has made history at the 2021 NAACP Image Awards.
The music icon now has the most NAACP Image Awards in history after she racked up four awards for the 52nd event, NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson announced on Saturday.
The NAACP Image Awards hosted a series of non-televised virtual events recognizing winners in over 60 categories in the five days leading up to its televised ceremony on Saturday. The two-hour virtual event, which was hosted by Anthony Anderson, aired live across ViacomCBS networks including BET and CBS.
Beyonce took home wins in the Outstanding Female Artist, Outstanding Hip Hop/Rap Song, Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration (Traditional), and Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration (Contemporary) categories during a virtual event on Thursday.
Johnson celebrated Beyoncé’s achievement on Twitter, writing, “Congratulations
@Beyonce on winning the most #NAACPImageAwards in history!”
Representatives for the NAACP Image Awards did not immediately return requests to confirm Beyoncé’s total tally of wins, but the “Black Parade” artist has won at least 20 Image Awards as a solo artist since the 2004 ceremony when she first won the Entertainer of the Year award. She won that award again in 2019. Her former group, Destiny’s Child, racked up a handful of wins in the Outstanding Duo or Group category in the early to mid-2000s.
Beyoncé has already made music award history this month.
She won four awards at the Grammys on March 14, bringing her total wins to 28 ― the most Grammys won by a female artist.
There have been some roadblocks along the way — but Dwayne Johnson is one step closer to living his dream of being a superhero. The Hollywood actor and former wrestler has announced that his DC Comics movie “Black Adam” will now debut in July 2022.
Johnson, who plays the powerful villain attempting to redeem himself, took to Instagram on Sunday to share video footage from Times Square, showing an animated graphic of the movie plastered across the New York landmark’s digital screens.
As the premiere date appears in flashing neon lights, an ominous voice-over declares: “The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change.”
“A disruptive and unstoppable global force of a message from the man in black himself. ‘Black Adam’ is coming July 29, 2022,” the caption on the Instagram post reads.
“Black Adam” will mark Johnson’s debut as the DC character, who is the enemy of Shazam — played by Zachary Levi in the DC Extended Universe.
Revealing the project in 2019, Johnson said the role of Black Adam was “unlike any other I’ve ever played in my career.”
“As a kid, Superman was the hero I always wanted to be. But, a few years into my fantasy, I realized that Superman was the hero, I could never be. I was too rebellious. Too rambunctious. Too resistant to convention and authority,” he wrote in an Instagram post.
He added that Black Adam is “blessed by magic with the powers equal to SUPERMAN, but the difference is he doesn’t toe the mark or walk the line. He’s a rebellious, one-of-a-kind superhero, who’ll always do what’s right for the people – but he does it his way.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris kicked-off the night in a special recorded message highlighting the importance of the NAACP and saluting its work. The star-studded evening featured appearances from Alicia Keys, Andra Day, Arsenio Hall, Cynthia Erivo, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Martin Lawerence, Michelle Obama, Misty Copeland, Regina King, Samuel L. Jackson, the cast of Tyler Perry’s Sistas, Swizz Beatz, Tracy Morgan, Will Smith, and Mc Lyte.
Following the week-long virtual experience, on Saturday, March 27th, the NAACP celebrated the stellar achievements of the 52nd NAACP Image Awards winners during a special LIVE broadcast on BET and simulcast across ViacomCBS networks including CBS for its first time, as well as BET Her, Comedy Central, Logo, MTV, MTV2, Paramount, Pop, Smithsonian, TV Land, VH1, BET PLUTO, and CMT.
Winners of the night included D-NICE (Entertainer of the Year), Viola Davis (Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series – “How To Get Away With Murder” and Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture- “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Regé-Jean Page (Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series –“Bridgerton”), Issa Rae (Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series – “Insecure”), Stacey Abrams (Social Justice Impact) and “Bad Boys For Life” starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence (Outstanding Motion Picture).
The late Chadwick Boseman won the award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture – “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. Chadwick’s wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, accepted the award in his honor, encouraging fans to be proactive about their health and visit StandUpToCancer.org for more information about detecting the signs of colon cancer.
During the ceremony, legendary entertainer, film icon and two-time Image Award recipient Eddie Murphy was inducted into the acclaimed NAACP Image Awards Hall Of Fame. The Hall of Fame Award was presented by Eddie Murphy’s collaborator and long-time friend Arsenio Hall.
NAACP President and CEO, Derrick Johnson, presented NBA superstar, business entrepreneur, and philanthropist, LeBron James, with the President’s Award which was presented in recognition of a special achievement and distinguished public service.
Civil Rights Movement Icon Rev. D. James Lawson, was recognized with the NAACP Chairman’s Award during the ceremony. In his acceptance speech, he recalled a time in High School in 1944, where he went door-to-door soliciting memberships for his local NAACP chapter in Ohio.
Image Award Outstanding Female Artist nominee Jazmine Sullivan, kicked-off the music portion with an electrifying performance of “Pick Up Your Feelings” from her latest album Heaux Tales. Additionally, Grammy Award-winning singer Maxwell took to the stage to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his debut album Urban Hang Suite, performing “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)”.
Additional guest appearances included Alicia Keys, Andra Day, Arsenio Hall, Cynthia Erivo, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michelle Obama, Misty Copeland, Regina King, Samuel L. Jackson, the cast of Tyler Perry’s Sistas, Swizz Beatz, and Tracy Morgan. MC Lyte served as the night’s Voice Over announcer.
Tonight’s LIVE show followed the week long NAACP Image Awards Virtual Experience, which invited fans to join the Image Awards in a celebration of “Black Excellence”–including the non-televised awards program, virtual red carpet, and a curated conversation series. The Virtual Experience additionally played host to the night’s post-show virtual afterparty which featured classic cuts by DJ Questlove, current cuts by DJ Kiss, and a Jazz Lounge performance by Robert Glasper and Lalah Hathaway. Fans can relive all of the Image Awards moments from the week in the Virtual Experience’s NAACP Theatre at virtualexperience.naacpimageawards.net.
The 52nd NAACP Image Awards is presented by Wells Fargo, and sponsored by AT&T, FedEx, Nike, Bank of America, American Airlines, Airbnb, Alaska Airlines, AARP, Ford, and Hilton.
The NAACP Image Awards honors the accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature, and film and also recognizes individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors.
For all information and the latest news, please follow NAACP Image Awards on Instagram @NAACPImageAwards.
Founded in 1909 in response to the ongoing violence against Black people around the country, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation. We have over 2,200 units and branches across the nation, along with well over 2M activists. Our mission is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.
NOTE: The Legal Defense Fund – also referred to as the NAACP-LDF was founded in 1940 as a part of the NAACP but separated in 1957 to become a completely separate entity. It is recognized as the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization, and shares our commitment to equal rights.
BET, a subsidiary of ViacomCBS Inc. (NASDAQ: VIACA, VIAC), is the nation’s leading provider of quality entertainment, music, news and public affairs television programming for the African-American audience. The primary BET channel is in 90 million households and can be seen in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, sub-Saharan Africa and France. BET is the dominant African-American consumer brand with a diverse group of business extensions including BET.com, a leading Internet destination for Black entertainment, music, culture, and news; BET HER, a 24-hour entertainment network targeting the African-American Woman; BET Music Networks – BET Jams, BET Soul and BET Gospel; BET Home Entertainment; BET Live, BET’s growing festival business; BET Mobile, which provides ringtones, games and video content for wireless devices; and BET International, which operates BET around the globe.
Following is the complete list of winners for the 52nd NAACP Image Awards:
LIVE SHOW CATEGORIES
Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
Regé-Jean Page – “Bridgerton”
Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
Viola Davis – “How To Get Away With Murder”
Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series
Issa Rae – “Insecure”
Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
Viola Davis – “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
Chadwick Boseman – “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Outstanding Motion Picture
“Bad Boys For Life”
Rev. D. James Lawson
Hall of Fame Award
Entertainer of the Year
Social Justice Impact
Outstanding Social Media Personality
Outstanding Literary Work – Fiction
“The Awkward Black Man” – Walter Mosley
Outstanding Literary Work – Nonfiction
“A Promised Land” – Barack Obama
Outstanding Literary Work – Debut Author
“We’re Better Than This” – Elijah Cummings
Outstanding Literary Work – Biography/Autobiography
“The Dead Are Arising” – Les Payne, Tamara Payne
Outstanding Literary Work – Instructional
“Vegetable Kingdom” – Bryant Terry
Outstanding Literary Work – Poetry
“The Age of Phillis” – Honorée Jeffers
Outstanding Literary Work – Children
“She Was the First!: The Trailblazing Life of Shirley Chisholm” – Katheryn Russell-Brown, Eric Velasquez
Outstanding Literary Work – Youth/Teens
“Before the Ever After” – Jacqueline Woodson
Outstanding Directing in a Documentary (Television or Motion Picture)
Keith McQuirter – “By Whatever Means Necessary: The Times of Godfather of Harlem”
Outstanding Writing in a Documentary (Television or Motion Picture)
Melissa Haizlip – “Mr. SOUL!”
Outstanding Documentary (Film)
“John Lewis: Good Trouble”
Outstanding Documentary (Television – Series or Special)
On January 20, 2021, Kamala Harris made history by becoming the first woman Vice President of the United States, being elected with her running mate, President Joe Biden.
In addition to being the first woman to hold the office, Harris is also the first Black and Indian American person in her position.
Growing up in Oakland, Harris was raised by two immigrants. Her father, Donald Harris, was originally from Jamaica and is an economics Professor at Stanford University and her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, who immigrated from India, was a civil rights activist and a breast cancer researcher. Before passing in 2009, Gopalan raised Kamala and her sister on the words, “Don’t sit around and complain. Do something,” a motto that has guided Harris throughout her life.
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
In 1986, Harris earned her Bachelor’s degrees in political science and economics from Howard University, one of the most well-known HBCUs in the country. From there, Harris went on to attend University of California’s Hastings College of Law through the Legal Education Opportunity Program. She graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1989 and was admitted to the California Bar a year later. While attending both schools, Harris was heavily involved in extracurricular activities such as the economics society, the Black Law Students Association, and the debate team.
Harris life in politics began early, working as a deputy district attorney in Oakland for several years until she was elected as California’s attorney general. She was the first black woman to hold that position and oversee one of the country’s largest Justice Departments. While in office, Harris created an environmental crimes unit, promoted criminal justice reform, and helped establish legislature for equality for the diverse races and the LGBTQ communities.
Harris went on to serve in the U.S. Senate in 2017 where she worked on the Committees on Budget, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, and Intelligence. She was also a member on the Black and Asian Pacific American Congressional Caucuses, as well as the Congressional Caucus for Women’s issues. She advocated for the same issues during her time in the Senate, additionally advocating for women’s rights, immigration rights, and the passing of the Justice for the Victims of Lynching Act.
Now, in her position as Vice President, Harris’ campaign continues to bring the rights of all people to the forefront, putting COVID-19 issues, health care, climate change, systemic racism, and the economy as a priority.
Vice President Harris has shown both gratitude and hope since her election to office. On November 7, 2020, Vice President Harris spoke on her victory, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last — because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
For his entire tenure as an Avenger, Anthony Mackie had never been the first name on the call sheet.
In a galaxy of stars populated by Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson, the actor was aware of his place in the on-set pecking order, but would never miss an opportunity to make his presence felt.
“Number six on the call sheet has arrived!” Mackie would routinely shout on films like “Captain America: Civil War” and the box office-busting “Infinity Saga” sequels, according to Marvel chief creative officer Kevin Feige.
It exemplifies the sort of winning tone that the 42-year-old actor has brought to his superhero character the Falcon, aka Sam Wilson, for six movies from the top-earning studio — wry and collegial humor, with the potential to turn explosive at any moment. Both Mackie and his character are set to burn brighter than ever when the Disney Plus series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” lands on March 18.
On that call sheet, “Anthony is No. 1,” Feige is happy to report, “but it still says ‘No. 6.’ He kept it because he didn’t want it to go to his head.” The series is essentially a two-hander with his friend and longtime co-star Sebastian Stan, the titular soldier. All six episodes were produced and directed by Emmy winner Kari Skogland (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Loudest Voice”). The series, for which combined Super Bowl TV spot and trailer viewership earned a record-breaking 125 million views this year, is reported to have cost $150 million in total.
For Mackie, though, the show comes at a critical time for both his career and for representation in the MCU. Sam Wilson is graduating from handy wingman (Falcon literally gets his job done with the use of mechanical wings), having been handed the Captain America shield by Evans in the last “Avengers” film. While it’s unclear if he will formally don the superhero’s star-spangled uniform moving forward (as the character did in a 2015 comic series), global fandoms and the overall industry are still reeling from the loss of Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed Marvel’s Black Panther to culture-defining effect. With this new story, Mackie will become the most visible African American hero in the franchise. And when asked whether he’ll be taking the mantle of one of its most iconic characters, he doesn’t exactly say no.
“I was really surprised and affected by the idea of possibly getting the shield and becoming Captain America. I’ve been in this business a long time, and I did it the way they said you’re supposed to do it. I didn’t go to L.A. and say, ‘Make me famous.’ I went to theater school, did Off Broadway, did indie movies and worked my way through the ranks. It took a long time for this shit to manifest itself the way it has, and I’m extremely happy about that,” Mackie says.
Feige says that, especially with the advent of Disney Plus and the freedom afforded long-form storytelling, the moment was right to give the Falcon his due.
Venus Williams is once again lending her voice to the movement for gender equality.
The five-time Wimbledon champion penned a moving essay for British Vogue on Monday about using her platform to advocate for equal pay.
In 2007, Williams became the first woman to receive equal prize money to her male counterparts. While men and women now get equal prize money at the majors and combined events, Williams said there is still a long way to go in the sport and across all industries to make sure women are valued in their fields.
“There is still a mindset that women’s tennis isn’t as valuable as men’s,” she wrote. As four-time Olympic gold medalist, Williams said “we must not allow [that mindset] to dictate society’s progress.”
“I firmly believe that sport mirrors life and life mirrors sport,” Williams wrote. “The lack of equality and equal opportunities in tennis is a symptom of the obstacles women face around the world.”
The tennis player added that, in the United States, women made 82.3 cents for every dollar men made in 2019. Inspired by that “shocking” statistic, Williams said she is initiating a campaign called #PrivilegeTax.
Ahead of Equal Pay Day on March 24, customers at participating brands can donate 19 cents at checkout to benefit the Girls Inc. of Greater Los Angeles organization. Brands partnering with Williams for the campaign include Nordstrom, Tracy Anderson, Tom Brady’s TB12, Carbon38, Credo Beauty and Happy Viking.
Nashville can be a lonely place for a Black woman breaking into the country music scene. And Miko Marks knows this firsthand.
The Oakland singer, who recorded two well-regarded albums during a Tennessee sojourn in the mid-aughts, said she found a warm welcome just about everywhere she performed except for the home of country music itself.
“I was always open to wherever my path would lead, but things did not work out in Nashville,” Marks said, noting that she felt fitting in required tamping down her identity.
Music City may not have been ready for Marks, but she helped clear a country music trail for other Black women, and now she’s getting back on the horse with her first new album in 14 years. Working closely with the creative team at the recently launched East Palo Alto label Redtone Records, Marks recorded “Our Country,” a rollicking, gospel music-infused session that thrums to the justice-seeking frequency of Black Lives Matter.
“These songs were made out of the experience we’re going through right now,” said Marks, who celebrates the album’s Friday, March 26, release with an acoustic performance that will be live-streamed on her YouTube channel and Facebook page. “The music is there to speak to the times.”
The album grew out of a vivid dream Marks had, but not in the sense of fulfilling a long-held ambition. Rather, late in the summer of 2019, she literally dreamed about musicians she hadn’t worked with for more than a decade. A quick phone call put her back in touch with Justin Phipps and Steve Wyreman, the Redtone Records founders who perform together as the Resurrectors.
Phipps and Wyreman were excited to get back in touch with Marks and realized a song they’d recently written, “Goodnight America,” would be ideal for her rich contralto. An elegy for a country headed in the wrong direction, “it didn’t fit anyone we were currently working with,” Phipps said. “When Miko reached out, we sent it to her and she sat with it for a while. Ultimately, she felt it resonated with where she was and where she wanted to be going.”
When Marks released the song as a video last year, a few weeks before the pandemic lockdown, it was definitely a departure from where she’d been. Before “Goodnight America,” she’d always avoided taking a political stance in her music, preferring to focus on personal themes. With “Our Country,” she’s jumped into the fray.
“I definitely feel like there’s a conversation being had that’s long overdue,” Marks said. “I am hopeful. I feel that the times are different than when I started out.”
Marks grew up with gospel music, singing in church in Flint, Mich., “but I was always drawn to country music,” she said. “Loretta and Patsy, Kenny Rogers and ‘Hee Haw’ were huge in my household. It was a normal thing. It wasn’t until I was older that there was this line clearly drawn, but country music has its roots in Black music. Even the banjo is from Africa.”
She met her San Francisco-raised husband David Hawkins when they were students at Grambling State University in Louisiana, and by 1996 the couple settled in the Bay Area. Though she loved singing, Marks said she wouldn’t have pursued a career in music without Hawkins’ encouragement, and after recording a Jeffrey Wood-produced demo at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, she decided to give up her day job in San Francisco as a legal secretary and try her luck in Nashville.
Working with producer Ron Cornelius at Mirrome Records, she released her debut album, “Freeway Bound,” in 2005 and followed it up with 2007’s “It Feels Good.” Both albums featured first-call studio talent that caught the attention of mainstream country music audiences. And yet, while the sessions were well received, the indie label couldn’t break Marks into country radio and it became clear that Nashville didn’t really know what to do with her.
In 2006, the Bay Area welcomed her back. Marks became one of the region’s most visible country music singers, performing everywhere from the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo and San Francisco’s Pier 23 to the Saddle Rack in Fremont and Oakland’s Overland (the latter two permanently shuttered during the pandemic).
After her amazing performance as LaKeisha on the Starz show Power, LaLa Anthony has now landed a major new role alongside Power producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, on an upcoming drama. Inspired by true events, Black Mafia Family will tell the story of two brothers from 1980’s Detroit who started one of the most influential crime family in the country.
LaLa Anthony will plat Markaisha Taylor, the wife to flamboyant drug dealer and head of the family Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory.
She is also best friend to her husband’s brother and fellow boss Terry “Southwest T” Flenory, which will make for some interesting dynamics as family loyalty is called into question.
The brothers’ vision is to take their business beyond the drug trade and into the world of hip-hop to become global icons.
Meanwhile, Markaisha has her own plan to harness Terry’s seriousness and sense of purpose to make herself rich.
As the two grow closer and ultimately intimate, their relationship will mean the demise of Markaisha’s marriage as well as Terry’s reputation on the streets.
Snoop Dogg has also joined the cast as Pastor Swift, the Flenory family’s spiritual advisor.
His character description reads: “He’s a man of The Word, with the aura of an ex-con.”
“The Pastor believes in the power of the Lord, and does his best to keep Meech and Terry in good graces.”
He will eventually make his way into the family and become a close confidant, although “Meech and Terry’s father resents all the attention the Pastor showers over the Flenory’s family, but no one can deny all the good the Pastor does for them.”
Joining the show is also Serayah, who will play Demetrius’s girlfriend, Lori Walker.
She is a smart, driven, yet naive college athlete who fell for Meech’s bad boy charm when the couple was younger.
After having a daughter with him, Lori is now more mature and clear-eyed.
Her world centres more around her daughter, and she expects less out of Meech, which makes him want her more.
Click here to read the full article on Express UK.
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