Miko Marks is blazing trail again as Black women find place in country music

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Singer Miko Marks poses for a portrait outside a studio

By Andrew Gilbert, Datebook

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.”

Miko Marks sins autographs in front of a wall of her album covers
Miko Marks is blazing trail again as Black women find place in country music. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle 2008

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).

Click here to read the full article on Datebook.

Lil Nas X ‘Will Never Trust Pants Again’ After ‘SNL’ Wardrobe Malfunction

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Lil Nas X seated on the set of Jimmy Fallon's talk show with special guest David Groll.

, HuffPost

Lil Nas X is setting the record straight about splitting his pants on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, assuring fans the wardrobe malfunction was not a publicity stunt. Appearing on “The Tonight Show” Monday, the two-time Grammy winner recalled what was going through his head during the memeable moment, which took place toward the end of his debut live performance of the No. 1 smash “Montero (Call Me by Your Name).” “I’m pretty much going down the pole, doing my little sexy drop down and boom! I feel air,” he told host Jimmy Fallon. “I’m like ‘OK, there’s definitely a breeze going on.’ And I also felt some popping still happening while I was down there.” Lil Nas X was unable to halt the “SNL” broadcast, of course, so he held a hand over for his crotch for the remainder of the song to avoid a Lil Nas X-rated moment. “You know what the worst part is? At the end of the performance, the dancers are supposed to touch me and tug on me and they were tugging on the pants,” he said. “I was like, ‘Please God, no.’”

Though the Atlanta rapper and singer has a sense of humor about it now, the wardrobe malfunction apparently weighed on his mind as he prepared for his late night television spot. As the interview aired, he joked on Twitter that he’d opted for a red tartan skirt for his “Tonight Show” appearance because he “will never trust pants again.”

Click here to read the full article on HuffPost.

George Floyd’s friends have turned their pain into action in the year since his murder

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George Floyd painted mural and speakers talking to news stations on a podium

By Christina Maxouris, CNN

The day after George Floyd’s funeral, Jonathan Veal drove from Houston and back to his Oklahoma City home still grappling with what had happened: his close friend — a brother, really — was killed by a Minneapolis police officer and the brutal video of his last moments had been viewed by millions.

The last time the two had spoken was just several months earlier, in January, when Floyd reached out to say happy birthday. They reminisced over their time playing basketball and football for Houston’s Jack Yates High School. Floyd told Veal about the new life he was setting up in Minneapolis, his efforts to become economically stable and provide for his family and shared that his faith had grown stronger.

At the end of the conversation, Floyd signed off: “With love from 88 to 42” — their old jersey numbers.Veal and Floyd had been a lot more than teammates. They had become family. Alongside their other good friends Vaughn

Dickerson, Jerald Moore and Herbert Mouton, they had spent most of every day together growing up and never lost touch. And now Floyd was gone. Knowing they shared his pain, Veal reached out to his three friends and they began communicating every day — texting, calling, supporting each other, sharing pictures.

“But then, we were like, ‘OK, what do we do?’ We could find a level of closure but also, we could keep the legacy of our friend,” Veal said. “So that’s how 88 C.H.U.M.P. came about.”
The four men say they created the 88 C.H.U.M.P. nonprofit organization — Floyd’s jersey number and an acronym which stands for ‘Communities Helping Underprivileged Minorities Progress’ — as a way to keep Floyd’s legacy alive and address some of the challenges that the community they grew up in, Houston’s Third Ward, has faced for decades. They’ve launched initiatives to tackle systemic inequities, police brutality and opportunities for the inner city youth, among other efforts.
“We understand this is going to be a daunting task,” Veal said. “But we’re committed to it because Floyd gave that much to us.”
But the four weren’t the only ones galvanized by their friend’s killing. Across Houston, others who say they were lucky to know Floyd, the neighborhood’s “gentle giant,” have taken on new efforts in the past year pushing for change in his honor.

‘Blood brothers’
Dickerson, who still lives in Houston, said he had been thinking about creating an organization like 88 C.H.U.M.P. for nearly two decades. He finally shared it with Veal, Moore and Mouton after Floyd’s killing.
“We refuse to let one of our blood brothers from a different mother go out like that,” Dickerson said. “I know he’d be doing it for us, without a doubt.”

Immediately, the four hit the ground running, focusing initially on the November 2020 elections by conducting voter education and registration drives, including events in partnership with the Houston Texans — and helping residents of Houston’s Third Ward community make it to the polls on Election Day.

They set up conversations between the Third Ward community and the local police department. Over the summer, Veal said, 88 C.H.U.M.P. facilitated several dialogues in partnership with Houston police and the group plan to start another round of those conversations this summer.

But perhaps one of their biggest focal points has been the youth.

“We’re trying to actively get more kids involved with after-school programs such as computer literacy, teaching them how to write essays, math, social studies, science,” Dickerson said. “This is what’s needed for these inner-city youths to keep them active. If they don’t have no parks to go to, no boys and girls clubs, no after-school activities, what do you expect, they’re going to get in trouble.”

The group told CNN they’re hoping to set up scholarships for local high school students in Floyd’s honor and create programs that would introduce young adults to professionals and opportunities across different fields.
“It’s just something that we feel like we have to do,” Mouton said. “We have to keep (Floyd’s) name alive and we have to push these initiatives in his honor.”

Finally, 88 C.H.U.M.P. plans to kick off a fundraiser this month for a new football field in the high school they used to play for, a field they say hasn’t changed much in the past three decades.
Ultimately, the organization exists to help level the playing field for underserved communities, Veal said. It’s a long road ahead, he says, but one they’re willing to walk.

“There’s going to be a lot of emotions that come along with that, good, bad, ugly,” he said. “It’s worth it. It’s going to be difficult work, but it’s going to be worthwhile work, rewarding work.”

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Billboard Music Awards: Drake’s son joins him to accept artist of the decade

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Drake and his son standing on stage accepting his award at the billboard music awards

By Mark Savage, BBC

Drake’s son Adonis made a surprise appearance at Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards, joining his father onstage as he won an artist of the decade prize. The rapper, 34, gripped his son’s shoulder throughout his speech, before hoisting him into the air and saying: “I want to dedicate this award to you.” The three year old burst into tears, and left the stage clinging to his father’s leg.

Meanwhile, The Weeknd was the night’s big winner, taking home 10 awards. Among his prizes were best artist; top Hot 100 album for After Hours; and top Hot 100 song for Blinding Lights. The star, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, more than doubled his career total of Billboard Music Awards, having previously received nine trophies.

Korean pop band BTS also picked up four prizes, winning best group for the second time in three years; and top social artist for the fifth consecutive year. The band is now just one year short of equalling Justin Bieber’s six-year hold on the social award from 2011- 2016.

Here are some of the other highlights and talking points from the show.

Machine Gun Kelly painted his tongue black

Best rock artist winner Machine Gun Kelly arrived at the ceremony with a rather unusual oral condition: A jet-black tongue. Had he gone overboard with the charcoal toothpaste? Developed a crippling liquorice habit? Been cursed by an evil dentist? Sadly not. A visit to his Instagram reveals that the musician had someone paint his tongue carefully with a cotton bud. On the red carpet, he made sure everyone noticed, sticking his tongue out for fans, sticking his tongue out for the cameras, and (hold your stomachs) touching tongues with his girlfriend, Megan Fox.

His reasons are still unclear. Is it a reference to The Rolling Stones Paint It Black? Or is he simply a big fan of giraffes? We may never know.

Pink admitted her childhood crush

Pink accepted the Icon Award from rock star Bon Jovi, and confessed she’d been obsessed with the star when she was eight – locking herself in her bedroom for a week after he got married.

“I’m very glad you found lasting love, Jon, but you broke my heart. I take this as an apology,” she laughed, indicating her trophy.

To celebrate her prize, the star performed a career-spanning medley of hits, including Who Know, Get The Party Started and Just Give Me A Reason.

But the highlight was a breathtaking aerial acrobatic routine, performed with her nine-year-old daughter Willow, set to their duet Cover Me In Sunshine.

Click here to read the full article on BBC.

Billy Porter Breaks a 14-Year Silence: “This Is What HIV-Positive Looks Like Now”

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Billy Porter in a black and white photo posed to the side looking at his right hand

BY BILLY PORTER, AS TOLD TO LACEY ROSE, The Hollywood Reporter

Billy Porter takes a long deep breath. “I have to start in 2007,” he says, having settled in across the table. He’s here, at Little Owl in the West Village, to get something off his chest — something that’s been shrouded in secrecy so long, he can barely remember life before.

“In June of that year,” he continues, a ball of nerves, even if the performer in him refuses to let on, “I was diagnosed HIV-positive.” In the 14 years since, the Emmy-winning star of Pose has told next to no one, fearing marginalization and retaliation in an industry that hasn’t always been kind to him. Instead, the 51-year-old, who has cultivated a fervent fan base in recent years on the basis of his talent and authenticity, says he’s been using Pray Tell, his HIV-positive character on the FX series, as his proxy. “I was able to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate,” he reveals, acknowledging that nobody involved with the show had any idea he was drawing from his own life.

Now, as the Peabody Award-winning series, a ball-scene drama set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis, concludes its third and final season, Porter is preparing for what’s next. There’s a memoir, over which he’s agonized and blown deadlines, set for later this year; a Netflix documentary about his life, which will keep him in business with Pose co-creator Ryan Murphy; a 2021 take on Cinderella, in which he’ll play the fairy godmother; a directorial debut; a host of new music; and much, much more.

But the Broadway-trained actor, who is an Oscar shy of an EGOT, isn’t interested in entering the next phase of his life and career with the shame that’s trailed him for more than a decade. So, with Murphy by his side for support, and a cadre of documentary cameras hovering above, Porter tells his story. An edited version follows.

Having lived through the plague, my question was always, “Why was I spared? Why am I living?”

Well, I’m living so that I can tell the story. There’s a whole generation that was here, and I stand on their shoulders. I can be who I am in this space, at this time, because of the legacy that they left for me. So it’s time to put my big boy pants on and talk.

Click here to read the full article on the Hollywood Reporter.

The Underground Railroad Team Talks Aaron Pierre’s Distracting Beauty as Caesar — and That Episode 2 Shocker

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Underground railroad actor wearing vintage clothing from the time

By , TV Line

To be clear, The Underground Railroad is a serious and thought-provoking work of art. The 10-part limited series, which Oscar winner Barry Jenkins adapted from Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, is now streaming on Amazon Prime and is in many ways a visually rich conversation starter on American slavery and race relations. But part of that visual is Krypton‘s Aaron Pierre as Caesar — who, within five minutes of watching Episode 1, has the ability to make viewers focus on little else but him. Or, as one fan on Twitter phrased it, “he reminds me of Javier Bardem — a face that just wants to be looked at. Powerful looking dude.”

Thankfully, Pierre is a wonderful actor, and his ability to convey great depth with just a slow-boiling sidelong glance is in and of itself a reason to pay attention to him opposite star Thuso Mbedu, TVLine’s most recent Performer of the Week.

Speaking of which, Mbedu says she noticed the London native’s charms as much as viewers have and will — but only as herself. As Cora, who initially and quizzically tells Caesar she won’t run away with him to freedom, she can’t see his handsome face and broad shoulders or hear his seductive baritone voice.

“Caesar was friends with the group who called Cora names at every single turn,” Mbedu recalls. “He was part of that crew. So she’s not seeing him for the god that he is. She’s seeing all the ugly. But that’s Cora. As Thuso, I was like, ‘Hey, Aaron!’”

Jenkins agrees and says Cora’s other hurdles as an enslaved Black woman eclipse Caesar’s pretty blue eyes.

“Cora absolutely would question running away with Caesar because I think in that moment, Cora can’t see anything and she cannot see how beautiful he is,” Jenkins contends. “The only thing she can see is that the person who should want her the most, her mother, abandoned her at this plantation. That’s all she can see. Caesar’s job, as handsome as he is, is to very slowly and subtly remind her that ‘I see you. I need you. I want you. You are special.’ I think that’s the role he plays in her life.”

Click here to read the full article on TV Line.

Woman who got $50K scholarship in Drake’s ‘God’s Plan’ video earns masters degree

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James standing with her graduation cap and shawl in a white dress after winning the drake gods plan scholarship

By , The Grio

Destiny James, a young woman who received a $50K donation from Drake in 2018, is celebrating a full circle moment and the “God’s Plan” rapper is too.

This week, the 23-year-old Denmark, South Carolina native shared that she was graduating from a master’s program in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Mama, I mastered it. Daddy, I did it. 4 days until I am officially UNC Alum,” James wrote in her Instagram post. Drizzy congratulated her in the comments.

“LETS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO DES,” the Toronto rapper wrote. Drake also posted a photo of him and James on his Instagram story, REVOLT reports.

James began her undergraduate studies in 2015. After appearing in the music video for Drake’s 2018 single “God’s Plan,” James used the $50K scholarship to complete her bachelor’s degree in public health from the University of Miami and she graduated from there in 2019. James never applied to the scholarship but her story made it to the right university administrators who ultimately positioned her to feature in Drake’s video, E! Entertainment reports.

Back in 2018, James shared her gratitude on social media, saying the rap artist’s donation was an epic surprise. “Drake told me that he has read great things about me and appreciates how hard I’ve worked through so many trials and decided to give me $50K for my tuition. @champagnepapi THANK YOU SO MUCH!!’ You don’t understand what this means to me!,” said James.

The “God’s Plan” music video, which was directed by Karena Evans and now has well over a billion views on YouTube, captures James’ reaction along with other recipients of the four-time Grammy award winner’s generosity. The University of Miami’s picturesque campus is juxtaposed with the everyday economic struggles shown in stores, schools, churches, and other parts of the city that Drake visits.

As theGrio previously reported, Drake brought both the party and the money to students at the University of Miami and Miami Senior High School. In addition to his donation to James, the rapper wrote a $25,000 check to the high school and also promised to “design new school uniforms,” according to the Miami Herald.

Click here to read the full article on The Grio.

Last Name Ever, First Name Greatest: Drake to Receive Artist of the Decade Award at 2021 Billboard Music Awards

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Drake poses in the press room during the 2019 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada

By Shanelle Genai, The Root

Cue the “Toosie Slide!” On Tuesday it was announced that Drake will be receiving the Artist of the Decade Award at this year’s Billboard Music Awards.

Variety reports the award takes into account Billboard consumption data from 2009 through 2019, noting that during that time the Canadian rapper racked up a historic 27 awards—the most of any artist ever. Additionally, during his 10-year run, producers also pointed out that Drake had nine No. 1 albums, the most of any artist during the decade and 33 Top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, the most by any artist ever. (GOAT shit, I know that’s right!)

This year’s BBMAs will also see Drake vying for eight more ‘“Ws,” including Top Artist, Top Male Artist, Top Billboard 200, Top 100 Artist, Top Streaming Song Artist, Top Rap Artist, and Top Streaming Song alongside fellow “Life is Good” rapper Future. I don’t know about you but as The Root’s resident Drake stan, I have to say—I’m glad to see the Certified Lover Boy getting this recognition.

But Shanelle, Drake always gets recognized. What are you saying?

OK, but not like this. This award is for Artist of the Decade, which means whether you wanted to or even knew it or not, you have been hearing Drake consistently in some form or fashion for the last 10 years. “Nonstop.”

I don’t think that’s technically what it me—

And if you haven’t heard Drake, then you’ve most definitely been privy to the influence he’s had on the culture. Whether it’s through his gif-worthy facial expressions and debatable dance moves or a caption on Instagram, Drake’s influence is unmatched. Period point blank. And I, for one, am always glad when people have to talk about it. He told us back in 2013 to see who’s still around a decade from now; seeing as how we’re just two years shy of 2023 and he’s still relevant—it’s safe to say that Drizzy Drake is here for a good time and a long time.

Click here to read the full article on The Root.

J. Cole Dropping ‘Applying Pressure: The Off-Season’ Documentary

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j cole performing in front of an all blue background while wearing a bob marley t shirt

, Billboard

J. Cole season is upon us. The rapper revealed on Sunday that his new movie, Applying Pressure: The Off-Season Documentary, will drop at 1 p.m. ET on Monday (May 10) on YouTube. At press time there were few details about the Scott Lazer-directed film that will accompany the MC’s upcoming album, The Off-Season.

“This is the moment that a lot of your favorite rappers hit a crossroads,” Cole says in the 26-second teaser clip, during which he hops on a midnight flight, toils in the studio and shoots hoops by himself. “Are you okay with getting comfortable? Did you leave no stone unturned creatively? And when I thought about that feeling, I was like, ‘Nah, I’m not cool with that.'”

The album, due out on Thursday (May 14) was “years in the making” according to a recent post from Cole about the follow-up to 2018’s KOD. The Off-Season is the first of three albums the rapper teased in a December 2020 Instagram post that caused speculation surrounding his retirement from the rap game. According to the post, the following albums will be titled It’s a Boy and The Fall-Off, a play on his first mixtape released in 2007, The Come Up.

Last week, he previewed the album via a new song, “i n t e r l u d e,” which he co-produced with T-Minus and T. Parker.

Click here to read the full article on Billboard.

Meghan Markle adds children’s book author to her resume

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Meghan Markle smiling away from the camera wearing a tan sleeveless blazer

By Kerry Justich, Yahoo! Life

Meghan Markle is adding published author to her resume after writing a children’s book that’s set to be released on June 8.

The Duchess of Sussex’s secret project is titled The Bench, according to an announcement by Penguin Random House, and is about “the special bond between father and son — as seen through a mother’s eyes.” The story is inspired by the relationship between Markle’s husband Prince Harry and son Archie, who turns two years old on Thursday. The book is also illustrated by artist Christian Robinson.

“The Bench started as a poem I wrote for my husband on Father’s Day, the month after Archie was born,” Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, said in a statement. “That poem became this story. Christian layered in beautiful and ethereal watercolor illustrations that capture the warmth, joy, and comfort of the relationship between fathers and sons from all walks of life; this representation was particularly important to me, and Christian and I worked closely to depict this special bond through an inclusive lens. My hope is that The Bench resonates with every family, no matter the makeup, as much as it does with mine.”

The book comes as a surprise after the couple signed a multi-year deal with Netflix to produce documentaries, feature films, scripted television series and children’s series last fall. But the move still makes sense for the soon-to-be mother-of-two who told Oprah that “the most important title I’ll ever have is mom.” Markle is even set to narrate the audiobook edition.

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

A new generation of Black male teachers starts its journey in partnership with Apple

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man sitting on a couch in a home while video chatting on his laptop

By Apple Newsroom

For more than 100 years, teaching has run through Hillary-Rhys Richard’s family.

Growing up in Katy, Texas, Rhys, as he’s known to his friends, listened to his mother, Astrya Richard, tell stories of her ancestors — four generations of educators who saw teaching as a calling, and learning as a tool for change.

By the end of high school, Rhys had never had a Black male teacher, and that absence, along with his family’s deep connection to education, helped steer him to follow in their footsteps.

This week, Rhys, 18, will complete his freshman year remotely as part of the inaugural class of the African American Male Teacher Initiative at Huston-Tillotson University. The first-of-its-kind program was created in partnership with Apple as part of the company’s ongoing and deep commitment to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Apple’s multiyear partnership with Huston-Tillotson complements other engagements the company has established through its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, working alongside the HBCU community to develop curricula and provide new learning and workforce opportunities.

At Huston-Tillotson, Apple is providing scholarships for the program’s students, called Pre-Ed Scholars, as well as hardware, software, and professional-development courses for students and faculty.

“Every student should have the chance to be taught by someone who represents them,” Rhys wrote in his application essay to Huston-Tillotson. “In order to build strong children, we need strong male teachers to forge a path through being the example for students. The baton has to be passed for us to continue pushing forward. I stand ready to run my leg of the race.”

Currently, only 2 percent of all US teachers are Black men, something the program at Huston-Tillotson seeks to change. When Black students are taught by a Black teacher, they are significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college.

Huston-Tillotson President Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette has witnessed the power of that relationship firsthand. Her son had a Black male teacher in the fifth grade, and it transformed his education.

“It just really did something magical for him,” says Dr. Burnette. “So this is personal for me because of my own experience raising an African American male. It’s my mission to be able to get these young Black men in classrooms, so they can pour into other vessels like themselves because they have shared experiences. And there’s nothing like being taught by someone who has a shared experience.”

It’s the reason Dr. Burnette prioritized the creation of the African American Male Teacher Initiative and sought out a partner in Apple.

Click here to read the full article on Apple Newsroom.

Kendrick Carmouche to be first Black jockey in Kentucky Derby since 2013

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Kendrick Carmouche pictures in a blue jockey helmet while smiling away from the camera with joy

By the Associated Press, ESPN

Long before Kendrick Carmouche started riding horses growing up in Louisiana, Black jockeys were synonymous with the sport.

Black riders were atop 13 of the 15 horses in the first Kentucky Derby in 1875 and won 15 of the first 28 editions of the race. Everything has changed since: Carmouche on Saturday will be the first Black jockey in the Kentucky Derby since 2013 and is just one of a handful over the past century.

Carmouche is one of the few remaining Black jockeys in the United States. Much like Marlon St. Julien in 2000, Patrick Husbands in 2006 and Kevin Krigger in 2013, his presence in horse racing’s biggest event is a reminder of how the industry marginalized Black jockeys to the point they all but disappeared from the sport.

“As a Black rider getting to the Kentucky Derby, I hope it inspires a lot of people because my road wasn’t easy to get there and I never quit,” Carmouche said. “What I’ve been wanting all my career is to inspire people and make people know that it’s not about color. It’s about how successful you are in life and how far you can fight to get to that point.”

Carmouche is the son of a jockey, and he has won more than 3,400 races and earned $118 million since beginning to ride professionally in 2000. He came back from a broken leg three years ago and set himself up for his first Kentucky Derby mount by riding 72-1 long shot Bourbonic to victory in the Wood Memorial on April 3. Bourbonic will leave from the 20th post in Saturday’s race at Churchill Downs.

He is also a rarity in a sport now dominated by jockeys from Latin America.

“Obviously there haven’t been many in recent decades, but if you go back to the early years of the Derby, the late 1800s, early 1900s, Black jockeys dominated the Kentucky Derby,” NBC Sports analyst Randy Moss said. “Guys like Isaac Murphy and Jimmy Winkfield.”

Carmouche joins St. Julien as the only U.S.-born Black jockeys in the Derby since 1921, which even then was long after the era dominated by Murphy, Winkfield and others.

Chris Goodlett, a historian at the Kentucky Derby Museum, cited a combination of Jim Crow laws and segregation in the United States, intimidation by white riders, and decisions by racing officials, owners and trainers for the decline of Black jockeys in the early 20th century. One example was white counterparts riding Winkfield into the rail at Harlem Race Track outside Chicago and injuring him and his horse.

“Consequently, white trainers and owners would be [more] reluctant to ride Black jockeys on their horses due to instances like that,” Goodlett said. “We see it also just from an administrative point of view, as well: fewer licenses being issued to Black jockeys, sometimes not issued at all.”

Brien Bouyea, communications director for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, said many Black jockeys left for Europe because of better working conditions and never returned. Manny Ycaza came from Panama and blazed a trail for Latin American jockeys, who used riding schools and other factors that changed on-track demographics.

Along the way, participation by Black people in the Kentucky Derby ebbed and flowed with significant contributions along the way, including grooms Will Harbut with Man O’War in 1920 and Eddie Sweat with Secretariat in 1973 and trainer Hank Allen with Northern Wolf in 1989. Harbut’s great-grandson, Greg Harbut, co-owned 2020 Derby runner Necker Island and helped found the Ed Brown Society, named after the 19th-century Black jockey and trainer, to further diversify racing.

Husbands was well aware of his place in history when he rode Seaside Retreat in the 2006 Derby and said he feels a connection to Carmouche this year because “the steppingstone that he’s doing for his culture is the same stuff I was trying to do for my culture.”

He said Carmouche becoming the first Black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby since 1902 “would be a blessing. It would bring tears to a lot of people’s eyes.”

Click here to read the full article on ESPN.

‘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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