In quest to find birth family, woman makes ‘life-altering’ discovery: She’s a princess

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Sarah Culberson saw the unthinkable during her first visit to Bumpe, Sierra Leone in 2004 — children wandering with missing limbs, schools reduced to rubble, entire neighborhoods destroyed or burned.

This was no leisurely trip to the West African country known for its white sand beaches, though. Arriving in the small town of Bumpe, Culberson was taking stock of the land she would now serve as princess. “It was overwhelming. The reality wasn’t just, ‘I’m coming to meet my family and everything’s perfect.’

                                                                                                                                                           (Photo Credit – Monika Sedziute/NBC News) 

It was a reality check. This is what people have been living through. This is my family. How is this princess going to be part of this community and make a difference in the country?” Culberson said. “I felt the unrest of Freetown. I could feel in the air that people were nervous and trying to protect themselves. Even though there had been peace for two years, people were still on guard.”

Just two years earlier, a decadelong, brutal civil war in Sierra Leone had come to an end. A rebel force waging a campaign against the government had killed tens of thousands of people, and left many with missing limbs, and the economy in tatters.

Culberson didn’t know much of this history when she began searching for her biological family at 28 years old. She was raised in West Virginia after being adopted by a white family, and later learned that her biological mother died when she was 11 and her father lived in a village in Sierra Leone. Her search for her birth family culminated in a call from her uncle; he delivered the news that changed Culberson’s life forever.

Read the full article at NBC News.

YOUR HEALTH MATTERS: African American models wear their natural hair and talk mental health

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African American models wear their natural hair and talk mental health

By Annie Krall, WBay

“A woman’s hair is her crown” a saying which takes on a deeper meaning for black women. Wearing their natural hair for example in afros or braids is a source of cultural pride. But it sometimes invites social and professional rejection.

Some of the African American women in our community and across the country tell us heavy is the head that wears the crown in the struggle for racial equality. For black women, having access to products and stylists who know how to care for their hair and makeup can be life-changing.

“Just access to basic products sometimes can be a huge barrier to being able to feel really good about how you’re looking,” Renita Robinson the vice-president of diversity and inclusion at Prevea Health shared. “So, with African American hair there are curl patterns and you can have super curly hair. My hair is super super curly. So, when my hair was longer when it was 12 inches long, when it got wet it was probably about an inch. It curls up super tight. You have to straighten it to have it look longer.”

It’s a local problem. Trying to find a hair stylist with different textured hair can be difficult. Which is why visiting black hair stylists like Shear Images Salon in Appleton is so crucial. However, it’s not just a problem of beauty access in Northeast Wisconsin. It’s a national issue.

“I’ve been on sets where I actually came with a full afro like this, it was actually bigger, and I left with my hair straight, and it wouldn’t revert back,” model, entrepreneur, and mental health advocate Tanaye White remembered. “I’ve been on sets where the makeup artists didn’t have my foundation color and I was literally on set looking like Casper the Ghost. I’ve been on sets where I’ve had to run into the bathroom and do my makeup myself because no one knew or had what I needed.”

Working for brands like Adidas, Sports Illustrated, and Juicy Couture featuring her natural afro, Tanaye said was a turning point in her career. As was the summer of 2020 for the modeling industry after the race riots with the creation of the Black Beauty Roster. An entertainment industry directory of hair and makeup artists with expertise on people of color.

An initiative to prevent models showing up to fashion shows and feeling, “just exhausting,” Mamè Adjei, a model, actress, and activist, emphasized. “Exhausting and a little traumatizing to be honest because we’ll go on set and I would just love to get up and be on set like my white counterparts and not worry about doing my hair or makeup. But I have to come prepared as with anything in life.”

When asked about having that expertise about different skin tones and different hair types, how important is that to sort of see makeup artists who are able to work on models like you, who actually have that familiarity that a lot of times wasn’t there.

“I love Black Beauty Roster because they really amplify the voice of D&I,” Tanaye replied.

Showcasing the beauty and strength of black women in Northeast Wisconsin.

“If a person doesn’t feel good about belonging or has issues around belonging and those kind of things,” Renita said. “Of course not looking good is only going to exacerbate it particularly if there is bullying. Or if there are environments where people are making comments to make you feel more vulnerable.”

These black women emphasized three points. First, fostering positivity and understanding even if you don’t regularly have to think about your hair. Secondly, to use resources like YouTube to learn more and be an ally or do outreach. Finally supporting local black hair stylists or joining the Black Beauty Roster to inspire change.

Click here to read the full article on WBay.

Kevin Hart Signs $100 Million Investment Agreement To Create HARTBEAT, Which Will Be Led By An All Black Leadership Team

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HARTBEAT Team L to R: CCO Bryan Smiley, Chairman Kevin Hart, CEO Thai Randolph, and CDO Jeff Clanagan

By Corein Carter, Forbes

Kevin Hart, trailblazing entrepreneur, executive, and entertainer, has now combined Laugh Out Loud and HartBeat Productions to create one of the leading sources of comedic storytelling and experiences with HARTBEAT, after more than a decade of leveraging his individual success to build the two high-growth companies.

With the mission of keeping the world laughing together, the multi-platform company creates entertainment at the intersection of comedy and culture. Hartbeat Productions’ best-in-class television and film production capabilities are combined with Laugh Out Loud’s extensive distribution network, as well as marketing, sales, experiential, branded content, digital, and social capabilities.

HARTBEAT was established with a $100 million investment from Abry Partners, a private equity firm that took a minority stake in the new company. Evolution Media Capital and a team from Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP led by Sophia Yen, a partner in the Entertainment Group, advised HARTBEAT on the deal.

The creation of HARTBEAT and the capital raised with Abry Partners mark the beginning of a new era in comedy. Hart is proud of what has been delivered. As part of the agreement, Nicolas Massard, a partner at Abry Partners, will join the HARTBEAT board as part of the agreement. Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, will remain a shareholder in Laugh Out Loud after signing a multi-year, first look deal and taking an equity stake in the network in 2020.

Hart discusses his commitment to building the most innovative and inclusive comedy storytelling company. “In an industry where people love to say no and shut doors, I’ve been confident in forging our own path and using our success to open doors for others. We’re taking the new entertainment blueprint we’ve built to the next level with this merger and funding, paving the way for a new generation of comedic talent. I can’t wait to bring more comedians, experiences, and heartfelt stories to the world.”

HARTBEAT intends to use the funds to expand its team, accelerate growth for existing brands and franchises, and develop a new IP that will appeal to a global audience. This will be accomplished by collaborating with today’s most influential stars and rising comedic talent, both in front of and behind the camera, using HARTBEAT’s creative engine, relationships, and resources.

The existing leadership from Hartbeat Productions and Laugh Out Loud will continue to oversee day-to-day operations. Thai Randolph, who previously served as President & COO of Laugh Out Loud and COO of Hartbeat Productions, has been appointed CEO of the new entity. Hart will serve as Chairman in the interim. Bryan Smiley of Hartbeat Productions will become President & Chief Content Officer, and Jeff Clanagan of LOL will become President & Chief Distribution Officer. Leland Wigington, co-founder of HartBeat Productions, will lead a new production banner under HARTBEAT.

Randolph spoke with For(bes) The Culture about the emergence of HARTBEAT.

“Commercially, it’s a milestone moment. In terms of the company’s capitalization and valuation, as well as the possibility of expanding the team to create more content. We are breathing rare air when it comes to scaling companies of this size, especially when it comes to having a company that is minority owned and run by people of color.” Randolph continues, “We don’t consider diversity to be an initiative because, the composition is more than half women and half people of color. We are diverse by design because it’s just good business. With the mission of keeping the world laughing together, we have a team that looks like the world around us, so we can program relevantly to those audiences.”

The LOL! Network was named one of the top 10 media publishers in an April 2021 Conviva report that ranked the size of social media audiences across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube. It came in ahead of major players like Hulu. The merger and capital raise will allow HARTBEAT to expand and invest in the future of comedic entertainment, producing more in-demand content and experiences where comedy meets culture.

HARTBEAT is a full-service entertainment company that develops, markets, and distributes the most culturally relevant IP and experiences in comedy and beyond. The company is divided into three divisions:

● HARTBEAT Studios led by Bryan Smiley finances, develops, and produces comedy and culture-related film, television, and content.

● HARTBEAT Media, under the leadership of Jeff Clanagan, connects with consumers all over the world through events, gaming, music publishing, Web3 initiatives, and a vast distribution network.

● PULSE, the company’s branded entertainment studio, works with companies like P&G, Lyft, Sam’s Club, Chase, and Verizon to provide creative and cultural consulting.

Operating under HARTBEAT Media, the LOL! Network will continue to be the company’s flagship consumer brand, reaching audiences across its O&O social media, audio (SiriusXM) and OTT partners (Peacock, Roku, Tubi, PlutoTV, Vizio, Redbox, Xumo, and more).

With projects featuring Tiffany Haddish, Hasan Minhaj, Amanda Seales, Deon Cole, and Affion Crockett, HARTBEAT creates hit vehicles for A-list comedians and brings the next generation of comedic voices into the mainstream.

HARTBEAT is currently working on more than 60 projects with 15+ entertainment partners, all of which are in various stages of development. The company also has several multi-year strategic partnerships, including the unscripted first look deal with NBCU’s Peacock, a film deal with Netflix, a partnership with SiriusXM, and a deal with Audible via the joint venture SBH Productions with Charlamagne Tha God.

Among the upcoming projects include: Me Time (Netflix) with Mark Wahlberg and Regina Hall, “Storytown” (HBO Max), the F. Gary Gray action heist Lift (Netflix), #1 on the Call Sheet documentary (Apple TV+), “Die Hart” season 2 (Roku), “So Dumb It’s Criminal” with Snoop Dogg (Peacock), and a new season of the Hart-led sports talk show “Cold as Balls” (LOL Network).

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

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.

The CROWN Act highlights years of workplace hair discrimination finally being legally reprehensible

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Linda Husser modeling Zoom meeting crown (hair)

By Amiah Taylor, Fortune

The House of Representatives passed legislation on Friday, March 18, in a vote of 235-189, that would ban hair-related discrimination.

The CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, first introduced to Congress in March 2019, prohibits prejudicial treatment towards individuals on the basis of their hair texture or hairstyle. This is the first step on a federal level needed to officially get the bill signed into law. The bill now goes to the Senate.

“Routinely, people of African descent are deprived of educational and employment opportunities because they are adorned with natural or protective hairstyles in which hair is tightly coiled or tightly curled, or worn in locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, or Afros,” according to the bill.

Personal style and grooming choices do have negative educational and employment consequences for Black people in ways that are not consistent for white individuals. For example, in clinical settings, Black nurses have been told to cut their hair for the sake of ‘infection control’ whereas their white peers are merely told to tie their hair up. “Black nurses worldwide have experienced ‘racial gaslighting’ through the profiling and policing of their hair, to the point of being driven out of nursing,” according to the Journal of Nursing Management.

Black nurses are not the only professionals who have been threatened with dismissal over “looking unprofessional,” when they show up to work with their hair in its natural state. In 2016, a Black woman was allegedly fired from her position as a waitress for wearing her natural hair in a bun. In 2019, a Black news anchor was fired over wearing a natural style, because of a company policy which stated on-air talent could not have “shaggy and unkempt,” hair. In 2021, a Black woman who stopped wearing wigs over her afro-textured hair was fired promptly from her sales position at American Screening.

Studies show that Black women with “Afrocentric hairstyles” are viewed as less professional than their counterparts who wear Eurocentric hairstyles, that are rooted in European standards of beauty which often emphasize straight hair. Whether it’s corporate America or the service industry, Black people have historically been expected to change their appearances to fit into the aesthetic norms of white professional settings. Echoing this sentiment, in a Feb. 28 statement in support of the CROWN Act, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler cited a 2019 study conducted by the JOY Collective in which 80% of Black women said they believed they had to alter their natural hair to gain acceptance in the office.

“While this study illustrates the prevalence of hair discrimination, it is the people behind those numbers that make this legislation so vital,” Nadler said. “For example, a Texas student was told that he would not be allowed to walk at graduation because his dreadlocks were too long; a Florida boy was turned away from his first day of school because his hair was too long; and a New Orleans-area girl was sent home from school for wearing braids.”

Nadler’s point about how hair racism affects school aged children is apparent in the petition of Latrenda Rush, which has gained over 89,000 signatures as of Mar. 21.

Rush was preparing for her son Joshua’s graduation from Abeka Academy, a Florida-based Christian school, when she was informed that he would be barred from walking during the graduation ceremony because of his hair. Abeka Academy’s grooming policy required male students not to have hair that exceeded their ears and specifically banned Black hairstyles such as braids and dreadlocks.

Abeka Academy has since apologized on Facebook, stating regret over their “insensitive rule,” and removing their ban on dreadlocks. However, the fact remains that without Rush’s vigilance, and the social pressure of a public outcry, Joshua and other Black students like him may have been excluded from walking during their graduation ceremony because of implicit bias against their racial hairstyles.

If passed in the Senate, the CROWN Act could potentially rectify the ongoing discrimination Black people face for wearing their hair in natural styles, by adding legal consequences for schools and employers alike. The social media response was that inclusive work and academic environments that do not chastise people of color for their natural hair are long overdue.

Click here to read the full article on Fortune.

Celebrate Black Women in Film With These 20 Classics

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4 black women in film movie covers

By , The Cut

There is something nourishing about seeing your realities reflected back onscreen. Multidimensional stories that don’t force you to settle for bits and pieces of yourself in characters who don’t experience the world like you do. Films that carefully and tenderly explore the interior lives of Black women and girls — our happiness and sadness, our friendships and romances, our varied relationships to our mental health and our bodies, our undoings and rebirths and all the messiness that comes with being human in a deeply imperfect world. While these kinds of stories have long been told, they’re rare and often underappreciated in mainstream Hollywood because, well, Hollywood.

Fortunately, there are resources that make finding dynamic stories much easier: Black Women Directors, an ever-growing digital library founded by Danielle A. Scruggs, spotlights Black women and nonbinary filmmakers across the diaspora. Maya Cade’s Black Film Archive is a growing register of Black films from 1915-1979. Transgender Media Portal features Black filmmakers, as well as other artists of color, with stories that center trans and queer people in front and behind the camera. And film festivals like Black Femme Supremacy, founded by Nia Hampton, are great for finding new stories and connecting with other film lovers.

While this curated watch list doesn’t scratch the surface of what’s out there, these 20 films centering Black girls and women are a great starting point of stories for us and by us.

Jinn (2018)

Photo: Orion Pictures Corp/Courtesy Everett Collection

Guided by filmmaker-writer Nijla Mu’min, this tender coming-of-age story set in the Crenshaw community of Los Angeles follows 17-year-old Summer (Zoë Renee) as she experiences first love, a deepening relationship with Islam, and the ups and downs of a mother and daughter’s clashing self-discovery.

I Like It Like That (1994)

Director Darnell Martin and lead Lauren Vélez are a union that continue to shine on screen almost 28 years later. If you’ve got a soft spot for seeing New York City on film — the stoop hangouts, confrontations in the bodega, ruminations on the train — then this tale of a fly working mom struggling and persevering in the Bronx will feel like a hug.

The Watermelon Woman (1996)

Filmmaker Cheryl Dunye wrote and starred in this seminal mockumentary that’s now a must-watch part of the queer-cinema canon. The story centers a filmmaker and video store clerk, who is also a Black lesbian in ’90s Philadelphia, as she searches for information about a mystery queer Black woman from a silent film. Expect a delightful dose of nostalgia — hello, video-store connections!

Abundance (2021)

Amber J. Phillips is a filmmaker and art director whose hilarious sharp cultural commentary “imagines a world where Black womanhood is an abundant overwhelming experience of safety, pleasure, and joy.” Her latest project, which she wrote, produced, and stars in, is a 31-minute meditation on identity divided into three parts — fat, angry, queer. Abundance is directed by Kym Allen, with cinematography by Sade Ndya.

Baldwin Beauty (2020)

This 11-minute gem of a short film follows Farrah (Raven Goodwin), a new-to-Los-Angeles hairstylist who makes a house call and meets a lively group of friends pregaming before an outing. The film was written and directed by Thembi Banks and was a 2019 Sundance selection.

Jezebel (2019)

A young woman (Tiffany Tenille) enters the realm of cam modeling with encouragement from her big sister, who works as a phone-sex operator. The film is inspired by the lived experience of writer-director-co-star Numa Perrier (hay, Black & Sexy fans!), and explores stepping into one’s womanhood and the realities of survival for two sisters as they simultaneously process grief.

Miss Juneteenth (2020)

Writer-director Channing Godfrey Peoples honors the Fort Worth, Texas, community she was born and raised in with Miss Juneteenth. The film follows Turquoise (Nicole Beharie), a single mother and past Miss Juneteenth pageant winner, as she pushes through hard times and trying to establish her independence while dreaming big for her teen daughter (Alexis Chikaeze).

Pure (2021)

17-year-old Celeste (Mikayla Lashae Bartholomew) grapples with her queerness and the traditions of her affluent community on the eve of her cotillion. Writer-director Natalie Jasmine Harris, who brings the authenticity of a third-generation debutante, is currently adapting the short film into a feature-length script.

The 40-Year-Old Version (2020)

Photo: Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection

Finding your groove at any age can be tough. Add in being an artist who is sensitive about your shit in an industry full of white nonsense, grieving a parent, a younger Brooklyn boo, and casually being roasted by NYC teens from your drama class, and whew! Radha Blank’s black-and-white dramedy — which she also wrote, produced, directed, and starred in — is a delight. Bonus incentive to watch: We get to see Blank rap-ping!

A Luv Tale (1999)

In 1999, Sidra Smith wrote, produced, and directed a film centered around a photographer (Gina Ravera) and a work-consumed magazine editor (Michele Lamar Richards) who find themselves increasingly drawn to each other. It’s a fun and sensual portrayal of romantic love between Black women, friendship, and taking a leap of faith in the name of love. Expect to see familiar faces like Tichina Arnold, MC Lyte, Ajai Sanders, and Angela Means.

Happy Birthday, Marsha! (2018)

A shining aspect of artist Tourmaline’s creative output is her archival work of Marsha P. (“Pay it no mind”) Johnson and her experimental film portraiture of Black trans and queer elders. In this short, which was co-directed by Sasha Wortzel and stars Mya Taylor as Marsha, viewers get to go back in time hours before the pioneer sparked the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City.

Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (1992)

Filmmaker Leslie Harris’s tale of a high-school junior, Chantel (Ariyan A. Johnson), from Brooklyn with big dreams is a classic. The headstrong teen’s life plan is set: Graduate early, keep on the path to becoming a doctor, and leave the projects — but as life often reminds us, things rarely play out exactly how we envisioned it.

Click here to read the full article on The Cut.

Gabrielle Union Wants Us to Love Black Women ‘As They Show Up’

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Gabrielle Union wearing beige in front of a cartoon background of brown squares

By , GLAMOUR

Gabrielle Union couldn’t have a more perfect name. The actor understands that the most important part of her job is not the glitz and glam (though she’s pretty incredible at that part too) but the power of unity. Throughout her career, she’s made it a point to uplift others—especially other Black women—through charity work, her production company I’ll Have Another, and her platform, which she uses to speak out against racism in the industry.

Union’s latest project is participating on panel of Black female founders hosted by Taraji P. Henson and Sally Beauty on February 22. The roundtable will feature not only the two celebrity brand owners, but the founders of smaller hair brands including The Doux, True + Pure Texture, and Mielle Organics. It may seem strange that these women who are technically competitors are coming together, but according to Union, at the end of the day, it’s bigger than selling shampoo and edge control.

“When I started my hair line, one of the first people to reach out was Taraji,” Union tells Glamour. “She was like, ‘Send me products. I’ll promote it.’ And always in the back of your mind, you’re like, But you have a hair line—are you sure?” But then Henson pointed out: Union had been one of the very first people to post Henson’s line when it launched. “That’s what we do because there’s enough space for all of us. And so we’re like, ‘Okay, how do we take what we do for each other, and expand that?’ And so, at Taraji’s behest, we created this roundtable of founders.

“You just wish that you could have done things sooner to make sure that everyone got included in these kinds of projects,” Union continues. “But what I love about how Taraji and I have always moved through Hollywood and the world, is this world is big enough for all of us to thrive. And sometimes when we put ourselves or we get put in little boxes, we can’t always see what the others are doing, or what they’ve demanded and gotten, or what worked, or why something didn’t work. And sharing those resources, sharing that information, being mentors—it just wasn’t always encouraged. But the way it’s always worked with us is we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. And if I have information, you have information. And if I have a platform, you have a platform. How can we expand that? And that’s what we’ve come up with with the founder’s roundtable.”

She continues, “It’s easy to support people as they’re winning an Oscar or winning the Super Bowl or whatever. It’s easier to be a fan and support them. But when people are at their darkest moment, who really shows up?” she asks. “And when it’s time for real solidarity, who really shows up? And, luckily we walk the walk, and that we talk. So hopefully it inspires more people to do the same.”

Ahead of the roundtable—streaming live on February 22 at 7 p.m. C.T.—we caught up with Union for a quick round of Glamour’s Big Beauty Questions. Read on for her beauty essentials, self-care secrets, and thoughts on toxic beauty standards.

Glamour: In addition to Taraji, you’re hosting the roundtable in partnership with Sally’s Beauty. Why is this partnership important to you?

Gabrielle Union: Well, they’re everywhere. That’s first and foremost. And they’re in all communities. There are times when I am in search of specific products, geared toward more melanated folks, and it’s impossible when I’m on the road to find products. But Sally’s is in pretty much every major community; they’re there and they’ve always been there. There’s a respect for their customers. And they truly do embrace diversity and inclusion. It shows in the way that their customers are not demonized or profiled just for screwing off a top, or going to feel the consistency of something, or smell something. That’s encouraged. That was the biggest deciding factor when we were looking for distribution partners.

What’s one beauty trend you are obsessed with right now?

Ooh, those magnetic lashes. Full disclosure, I didn’t get how it was going to stay on. I tried it and it worked. And if you’re like me, somebody who has a hard time putting on fake eyelashes, it’s a lot easier. I can’t remember the brand I use, but the ad popped up—and clearly that kind of stuff works, because my ass bought it! I’m also one of those people who doesn’t normally follow directions, but I followed the directions and it actually worked. Fancy that!

What is the best beauty advice either your mom or someone else in your life has given you?

Make sure to take your makeup off at the end of the night and wash your face. Because what it looks like the next day is that you’re making poor life choices. And of course that is not exactly the words that they used, but that has proven to be true.

Fill in the blank. I love my hair when…

I love my hair when the big, beautiful, luscious curls are just doing what they’re supposed to do on the first try. That’s when I probably love my hair most.

Since you do travel a lot, is there a city or a country that gives you the greatest beauty inspiration?

Oh, there’s so many. Probably the women in Paris, Parisian women of all races. I mean, it’s a different level. We went there this summer, and I just started following a bunch of these women on Instagram. And I go to one account, it leads you to five more, and it leads you to, “Well, if you like this, you’ll love these.” And now I’m just obsessed with these French beauty and fashion influencers. I’m all the way in.

Click here to read the full article on GLAMOUR.

Here’s the story behind Black History Month — and why it’s celebrated in February

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black history month sign

By , NPR

Every February, the U.S. honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation. Black History Month celebrates the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are an indelible part of our country’s history.

This year’s theme, Black Health and Wellness, pays homage to medical scholars and health care providers. The theme is especially timely as we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected minority communities and placed unique burdens on Black health care professionals.

“There is no American history without African American history,” said Sara Clarke Kaplan, executive director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University in Washington, D.C. The Black experience, she said, is embedded in “everything we think of as ‘American history.’ ”

First, there was Negro History Week
Critics have long argued that Black history should be taught and celebrated year-round, not just during one month each year.

It was Carter G. Woodson, the “father of Black history,” who first set out in 1926 to designate a time to promote and educate people about Black history and culture, according to W. Marvin Dulaney. He is a historian and the president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

Woodson envisioned a weeklong celebration to encourage the coordinated teaching of Black history in public schools. He designated the second week of February as Negro History Week and galvanized fellow historians through the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which he founded in 1915. (ASNLH later became ASALH.)

The idea wasn’t to place limitations but really to focus and broaden the nation’s consciousness.

“Woodson’s goal from the very beginning was to make the celebration of Black history in the field of history a ‘serious area of study,’ ” said Albert Broussard, a professor of Afro-American history at Texas A&M University.

The idea eventually grew in acceptance, and by the late 1960s, Negro History Week had evolved into what is now known as Black History Month. Protests around racial injustice, inequality and anti-imperialism that were occurring in many parts of the U.S. were pivotal to the change.

Colleges and universities also began to hold commemorations, with Kent State University being one of the first, according to Kaplan.

Fifty years after the first celebrations, President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month during the country’s 1976 bicentennial. Ford called upon Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” History.com reports.

Why February was chosen as Black History Month
February was chosen primarily because the second week of the month coincides with the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Lincoln was influential in the emancipation of slaves, and Douglass, a former slave, was a prominent leader in the abolitionist movement, which fought to end slavery.

Lincoln and Douglass were each born in the second week of February, so it was traditionally a time when African Americans would hold celebrations in honor of emancipation, Kaplan said. (Douglass’ exact date of birth wasn’t recorded, but he came to celebrate it on Feb. 14.)

Thus, Woodson created Negro History Week around the two birthdays as a way of “commemorating the black past,” according to ASALH.

Forty years after Ford formally recognized Black History Month, it was Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, who delivered a message of his own from the White House, a place built by slaves.

“Black History Month shouldn’t be treated as though it is somehow separate from our collective American history or somehow just boiled down to a compilation of greatest hits from the March on Washington or from some of our sports heroes,” Obama said.

“It’s about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America,” he continued.

(Canada also commemorates Black History Month in February, while the U.K. and Ireland celebrate it in October.)

There’s a new theme every year
ASALH designates a new theme for Black History Month each year, in keeping with the practice Woodson established for Negro History Week.

This year’s Black Health and Wellness theme is particularly appropriate, Dulaney said, as the U.S. continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“As [Black people], we have terrible health outcomes, and even the coronavirus has been affecting us disproportionately in terms of those of us who are catching it,” Dulaney said.

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

This Afro-Latina Never Saw Herself Represented Growing Up — Here’s How She’s Working To Change That

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Afro Latina - Bianca Kea sitting behind a table of jack and green apples

By Refinery 29

Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, Bianca Kea was acutely aware that outside of her family, there were no other Afro-Latinxs that looked like her. No one she could relate to or look up to. But that all changed when she moved to New York City.

“Moving to New York City was such an eye-opening experience,” she recalls. “And it was the first time somebody actually identified me as Afro-Latina — I had never heard the term before, and I was able to learn about my heritage, my history as an Afro-Mexicana.” Her experience — the realization and recognition of being Afro-Latina, of being both Black and Mexican, and not feeling like she had to choose one or the other — led to her launching Yo Soy AfroLatina, an online platform and lifestyle brand that celebrates “Afro-Latinidad in the Americas and validates our hermanas’ experience.” It was born out of not seeing herself represented and wanting to create something that would not only make an impact on the culture, but also cultivate a community. “We all have different experiences — we’re not a monolith — and it’s important for people to understand what it means to be at the intersection of two beautiful cultures,” Kea says. “I hope we’re able to break down stereotypes, empower people, and allow them to be Afro-Latina. Just be yourself.”

That’s why Refinery29 is partnering with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple to produce Valiente Y Fuerte — a video campaign designed to amplify the voices of Latinx creatives like Kea who inspire us every day. Watch the video above for more information about Yo Soy AfroLatina — and how Kea is turning her passion into a legacy.

Click here to read the full article on Refinery 29.

Because of Black women, the period drama ‘The Gilded Age’ has a Black story line done right

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scene from "the gildead age"

By Helena Andrews-Dyer, The Washington Post

Fans of high-society high jinks will instantly recognize the dazzling and dizzying characters of “The Gilded Age,” the long-gestating period drama from “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes that premiered Monday on HBO. But there is one conspicuous exception.

Among the blindingly White milieu of social-climbing “wives of,” acid-tongued grand dames, bored heiresses, buzzing staff and one wide-eyed country cousin is Peggy Scott, an ambitious young Black woman who shines instead of shrinks.

In the first episode, Scott, played by actress Denée Benton, arrives to newly gold-plated Manhattan via train with the show’s fish-out-of-water character Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson). On-screen, Peggy’s journey is rather quick. Off-screen, it took 10 years, two networks, at least four Black women and exactly one global pandemic for her to get here.

It started with Fellowes, who, while doing research for “Downton,” took an intellectual detour into new moneyed New York and become fascinated with the robber barons of the era. They redefined what it meant to be rich, laying the Italian-marbled foundation for economic inequity as they built their grand palaces across from Central Park.

“How Peggy came around is that the more I researched this period of American history, the more it seemed to me that the whole Black community, they were so substantial a part of the American people at that time,” Fellowes said in an interview before asking his co-writer Sonja Warfield for an assist. “Sonja, what was the name of that period? The rebuilding?”

“The Reconstruction,” answered Warfield, who doubled the number of heads in the “Gilded Age” writer’s room from one to two when she joined Fellowes, famous for writing his expanding canon of British period dramas — including all six seasons of “Downton” — entirely on his own.

“I felt we very much needed a Black story line and principal character,” he said. “The revelation that there was this functioning prosperous Black bourgeois in New York in the second half of the 19th century was kind of new to me. And I was so interested to learn it, then I just felt that other people might be interested, too. It was really as simple as that.”

But is wasn’t quite as simple as that.

Benton, who plays Peggy, said the self-possessed young woman viewers meet in the show’s premiere is not the same woman she met on the page in 2019. That beta version was flatter, lacking a world of her own outside of the venerable van Rhijn household, where she works as a secretary.

Peggy’s broad strokes were a start, said Benton, a stage actress who was nominated for a Tony Award in 2017 for her starring role in “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” and played Eliza Hamilton in “Hamilton” on Broadway. The actress knows her 19th-century female characters and saw a clear opportunity for Peggy to stretch — to give her an interior life, her own agency, her own world.

To do that, the character was afforded “little moments of dignity,” Benton said. Peggy doesn’t solely exist in the all-White world of the Gilded Age; she has her own purpose, her own family drama and a secret the audience won’t learn until several episodes in. Later in the series, viewers will see her in a world that is entirely Black and unconcerned with whatever drama is going on in the burgeoning Upper East Side. Peggy’s story also has modern-day relatability: the tension of respectability politics in the Black community, code-switching between racial worlds and the stress of being “the only one” in any given room.

And should viewers get their Googling fingers in a knot looking up the probability of Peggy’s existence, historian Erica Dunbar, who played such an integral role in the production she was eventually promoted to co-executive producer, said you simply can’t do a show about New York without Black people.

“This is about world-making,” Dunbar said. “This is about bringing characters who’ve been relegated to the margins into the center.”

It’s also about correcting the record. Too often, Black American cinematic history focuses on slavery, the Civil War, the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights era. “There is a 40- to 50-year gap that hasn’t been explored in ways that are nuanced and show Black life in the North,” Dunbar explained.

Added Benton, “This is the Peggy that’s doing the ancestors proud.”

Click here to read the full article on The Washington Post.

Rihanna honored as ‘national hero’ of Barbados

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By Lisa Respers France, CNN

Rihanna’s homeland wants her to continue to “shine bright like a diamond.”

The singer was honored Monday in her native Barbados during its presidential inauguration, which served to mark the country becoming a republic.
Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley told the crowd, “On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you the designee for national hero of Barbados, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty.”
“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation by your works, by your actions, and to do credit wherever you shall go,” Mottley said.

The makeup and fashion mogul was appointed as an ambassador of Barbados in 2018.

According to a statement from the Barbados Government Information Office released at the time, the position gives the celeb “specific responsibility for promoting education, tourism, and investment for the island.”

She also became one of the Caribbean island country’s cultural ambassadors in 2008, doing promotional work for its tourism ministry.

In a move that received a great deal of support in the country, Barbados formally cut ties with the British monarchy by becoming a republic almost 400 years after the first English ship arrived on the most easterly of the Caribbean islands.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Biden signs bill into law making Juneteenth a national holiday

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President Joe Biden speaks during an event to mark the passage of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Washington. Vice President Kamala Harris stands at left.

Originally posted on CNN

President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law legislation establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a US federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The holiday is the first federal holiday established since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983 and becomes at least the eleventh federal holiday recognized by the US federal government.

The US Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday that most federal employees will observe the holiday on Friday since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas, in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Only a handful of states currently observe Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

The legislation, which was passed by Congress on Wednesday, gained momentum following Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd last year. It was also spurred after Democrats won the White House and control of the House of Representatives and the US Senate.

The bill passed the House on Wednesday with a 415-14 vote after the Senate unanimously passed the legislation the day before.

The bill had bipartisan sponsors that included Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

Lee told reporters ahead of the final passage of the bill, “what I see here today is racial divide crumbling, being crushed this day under a momentous vote that brings together people who understand the value of freedom.”

Read the full article on CNN

Photo Credit: CNN

‘Ma Rainey’s’ hair and makeup team make history with Oscar win

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Viola Davis as Ma Rainey in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom" standing in front of a microphone with her right arm in the air while she sings

MARK OLSEN, LA Times

The hair and makeup team behind “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” — Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, and Jamika Wilson — made history when they were nominated for the Oscar, with Neal and Wilson being the first Black people recognized in the category. Now they have made history again as that category’s winners.

The team transformed Viola Davis into 1920s blues singer Ma Rainey, who, in the Netflix adaptation of August Wilson’s celebrated play, is seen during the course of one day spent largely in a sweltering Chicago recording studio. There are precious few photographs of the real-life Ma Rainey, so the team had to extrapolate much of its work from additional research.

Creating a period-accurate horsehair wig and a makeup look that would run and smear just so as the story progressed, the team devised a look that was part glamour and part grit, moving from precisely pulled-together to deliriously disheveled

Neal created the wigs; Wilson, Davis’ longtime hairstylist, put them on the actress. As makeup artist Lopez-Rivera, who also has a long-running collaboration with Davis, said of the character’s makeup and overall look, including her sweat, in an interview with The Times, “It was applied precisely to look messy.”

In accepting the award, Neal spoke of her grandfather, who was a Tuskegee Airman, represented the U.S. in the first Pan-Am Games and graduated from Northwestern University yet was barred from a job as a teacher because he was Black.

“So I want to say thank you to our ancestors who put the work in, were denied but never gave up,” Neal said. “And I also stand here as Jamika and I break this glass ceiling with so much excitement for the future. Because I can picture Black trans women standing up here and Asian sisters and our Latina sisters and Indigenous women. And I know that one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking, it will just be normal.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times.

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