Impacting the Next Generation

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By Tawanah Reeves-Ligon

It would be hard in 2021 to not recognize the name or face of award-winning actor Michael B. Jordan. He is particularly known for his film portrayals of shooting victim Oscar Grant in the 2013 drama Fruitvale Station, boxer Adonis “Donnie” Creed in the Creed films (an offshoot of the classic Rocky franchise), as well as Erik Killmonger in 2018’s record-shattering Black Panther, all three of which were directed by Ryan Coogler. He also recently starred in (and helped produce) Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, an action thriller digitally released on Amazon’s Prime Video service in April. His upcoming film, A Journal for Jordan, is based on a memoir of the same name, directed by veteran actor Denzel Washington and co-produced by Jordan’s company, Outlier Society Productions. It’s expected to release this December. Jordan has also been recognized as a style icon, one of Time 100’s most influential people of 2020, and is People Magazine’s current ‘Sexiest Man Alive.’

A Model for the Movement
For this continuously rising star,

Actor Michael B. Jordan attends 'Prossima Fermata Fruitvale Station' photocall at hotel Bernini
ROME, ITALY – MARCH 06: Actor Michael B. Jordan attends ‘Prossima Fermata Fruitvale Station’ photocall at hotel Bernini. (Photo by Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images)
everything he does is about so much more than the fame and the accolades. “I love mentorship. The next generation, they’re the future. They’re the key to everything. They’re supposed to be better than us,” Jordan shared with Black EOE Journal. “So, trying to groom the next batch of talent of humans across the board, not just in the arts, but just across the board, I think is really important. The fellowship program, the Outliers Fellowship program, [is something] I am really excited about.”

The program is an internship and mentorship initiative that Jordan announced during Black History Month last year during the Obama Foundation’s MBK (My Brother’s Keeper) Rising! event. The Outlier Fellowship provides access, community and opportunity to underrepresented LA youth entering arts, media and entertainment.

However, Jordan and his Outlier Society are raising the stakes in their efforts towards a more diverse and inclusive industry. Along with the fellowship program, Outlier Society can also boast itself as one of the few media companies to adopt the inclusion rider. The inclusion rider is a contract attached (by a star or company) to a film or television contract stating that the project’s production team must take steps to recruit and hire both cast and crew members from historically underrepresented groups. For Jordan, though, this is less a boast than an obvious step in the right direction. “You just got to do it. You can’t overcomplicate it,” he said of what’s needed to see less disparity and more inclusion in media and entertainment, both in front of and behind the camera.

“As the producer, I chose…” he shared about one of his more recent projects, “There’s also a lot of vehicles for talent that may not have gotten all of the swings that I’ve gotten or opportunities in certain roles or certain genres. Being able to create around talent is something that I’ve always been interested in doing and am looking forward to doing more of in the future.”

Jordan’s impact has also been evident in his hometown of Newark, N.J. where he’s supported Audible’s charity, Newark Working Kitchens, an organization he’s proud to say served “over one million meals this past year…” He also launched the “Hoop Dreams Classic,” an HBCU College Basketball Showcase in Newark last year at the Prudential Center. Furthermore, he surprised students in his hometown at both at his alma mater, Newark Arts High School, last year and at Barringer High School. His Barringer High visit was part of the Coach Foundation’s involvement in The Future Project, which puts professional directors into high schools around the country to offer inspiration and guidance to students dreaming of careers in the arts.

Strategic and Intentional

Michael B. Jordan, Kendrick Sampson and others participate in the Hollywood talent agencies march to support Black Lives Matter protests
Michael B. Jordan, Kendrick Sampson and others participate in the Hollywood talent agencies march to support Black Lives Matter protests on June 06, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)

Michael B. Jordan is not afraid to stand for those things he believes to be right, even in the face of adversity. For years, he has been quite outspoken on the causes and issues he feels most strongly about, even getting political by joining protests, like his participation in the “Big 4” Hollywood talent agencies march to support Black Lives Matter in June 2020 as well as being a part of movements to encourage voting and support voting rights. “Everybody has their part they have to play…I’m very strategic. I plan. I think things through. I try not to emotionally react to certain things. You also got to know the business that you’re in and how to move on certain issues and how to actually get real movement. Timing is everything.”

Unfortunately, there are many who believe that celebrities and influencers should not participate in such activities or speak on issues outside of their industry. ‘We’re here to be entertained, not preached to,’ is a common sentiment that many netizens share. What is Jordan’s response to that?
“‘Shut up and entertain?’ That’s never going to be me,” he said, “I’m not the guy that talks just to talk or is loud for the sake of being loud. The things I do, and how I do it, all has a purpose, and I don’t need the credit for everything that I’m doing either, so I try to move and make impact the best way I know how. Sometimes that’s not always aesthetically pleasing to the masses, but bigger picture and behind closed doors, I try to make an impact the best way I know how for the long game, and not just for the quick fix until people become distracted again and try to move on to the next thing.”

Working with a Mission
There’s a clear trend in the types of films Jordan has chosen to

Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong'o, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Michael B. Jordan and Andy Serkis winners of Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture for 'Black Panther
(L-R) Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Michael B. Jordan and Andy Serkis winners of Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture for ‘Black Panther,’ pose in the Winner’s Gallery during the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium. (Photo by Terence Patrick/Getty Images for Turner)
produce, direct and star in. From Fruitvale Station to Black Panther to 61st Street, the television series he is executive producing for AMC, slated to premier next year, about a promising young black athlete embroiled in the corrupt Chicago criminal justice system. There’s a criterion to the types of work he wants to do. “It usually has to say something. It has to mean something. I know every movie won’t be a Fruitvale Station or a Just Mercy,” he shared. “I like a lot of different types of movies and genres and I want my career, when you look back at it to be a reflection of that, eclectic and diverse.”

Eclectic and diverse are perfect descriptors of his repertoire from sci-fi fantasy, comic book franchises, action thrillers, dramas, romances and sports films to soap operas, biopics, crime TV and even voice overs in children’s shows.

According to Michael, he wants to do work he won’t regret. “I want to look back on it and be really proud…it’s got to make an impact no matter what it is, and [I want to] have fun doing it.” He has a strategy “of doing a bigger film and then do a smaller film and kind of have that balance of being able to do these intimate smaller films and still being able to do a movie that’s bigger, more commercial and sort of broader. If you look back at some of the work that I’ve done, it’s kind of played in both those spaces. As an actor, you play a part in a bigger machine. As a producer, you have a few more hats. As a director, you’re telling a story from your perspective and telling a story that you’re trying to say. As I’ve gotten older, [I’m] just being very selective with pushing my career forward.”

Focused on the Future

Actors Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan attend Warner Bros. Pictures Invites You to
Actors Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan attend Warner Bros. Pictures Invites You to “The Big Picture,” an Exclusive Presentation Highlighting the Summer of 2015 and Beyond at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners.(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

Jordan has much to look forward to in his personal and professional future. He is set to make his directorial debut next year, taking the helm for Creed III. Having had the opportunity to work with other great directors such as Denzel Washington, Ryan Coogler and Sylvester Stallone, who directed four out of the six original Rocky movies that the Creed franchise is based on, Jordan has been able to take what he’s learned and apply it to his own ingenuity and experience.

“Getting wisdom and gems from the generation before me is always a great thing,” said Jordan, “I think just watching Ryan [Coogler] from the beginning. Fruitvale Station was the first time I saw somebody who really looked like me close to my age that was directing a movie. Writing and directing, it was crazy. He kind of really showed me that it was possible. Now, watching him go through it, being so close to the process (the development process), seeing all the meetings he’s gone to, and all the steps to it. Also, observing Sly [Stallone] and how he did it. What was that formula like? What were the responsibilities of directing in that type of way? He’s also somebody who starred and directed himself, what was that process like? And for me, learning from every director I’ve work with and collaborated with. Imagining myself doing it: ‘In that situation, I would be doing what?’ OK, cool. That’s question I’ve got to answer. I’ve got to know about this; I’ve got to know about that. I’ve been doing that for a long time, and I finally got to the point now where I feel confident in what I’m about to do in the story I’m telling.”

And he’s already considering how to pay the knowledge, and the torch of success, forward. “I’ve been extremely blessed, so to be able to take my blessings, opportunities, situations that I’ve been able to learn from and grow from and be able to pass that forward to the next generation is something that’s always excited me. It’s always been the answer in a lot of ways.”

For Jordan, the future is about assessing the best ways to address the issues that face our society so that those who follow can live in a better world. “Trying to find, ‘What’s the solution; how do we get better; how do we grow as a people?’ and all those things,” he said about his focus, mindset, and approach to his work. “Our time on this Earth is short. To make it count, to learn as much as you can and pass those experiences on to make somebody else’s life a little bit easier — that’s the approach that I’ve been on.”

THE BATMAN

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The Batman movie poster promo

A killer targets Gotham’s elite sending Batman on an investigation. As evidence mounts, he must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit, and bring justice to corruption.

www.TheBatman.com

@TheBatman

#TheBatman

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.

‘Sex Education’ actor Ncuti Gatwa will be the first Black lead in ‘Doctor Who’

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Actor Ncuti Gatwa at the premiere of the second season of the Netflix series Sex Education. Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

By , NPR

Actor Ncuti Gatwa will play the role of The Doctor in the show Doctor Who, the BBC announced Sunday, in a historic casting selection that marks the first time a Black person has been cast to star in the show’s central role full-time.

The 29-year-old Gatwa, best known for his work in the Netflix series Sex Education, is also among the youngest Doctors yet.

“There aren’t quite the words to describe how I’m feeling. A mix of deeply honoured, beyond excited and of course a little bit scared,” Gatwa said in a press release. “Unlike the Doctor, I may only have one heart but I am giving it all to this show.”

Gatwa was born in Rwanda and raised in Scotland. He began his professional acting career eight years ago after graduating from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, one of the world’s top performing arts schools.

In Netflix’s warm-hearted series Sex Education, Gatwa plays the vibrant Eric Effiong, a gay high school student.

As a gay Black teen who is the best friend of the show’s main character, the role of Eric could have been a trap of cliches as the “gay sidekick” or “Black best friend” for a straight white male protagonist.

Instead, Gatwa’s Eric stands out from the ensemble cast with a fully realized personality and inner life. The actor has twice been nominated for Best Male Comedy Performance at the British Film and Television Awards.

He becomes the 14th actor to be cast in the iconic role, following the departure of Jodie Whittaker, who was the first woman to play the role when she was cast in 2017.

In 2020, a Black person played a variation of the Doctor role for the first time when Jo Martin was cast as the Fugitive Doctor.

The new season of Doctor Who is also marked by the return of showrunner Russell T Davies, who helped revive the show in 2005 after a 15-year hiatus. Davies stepped away from the showrunner role in 2009.

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

Pharrell Williams wants to fund minority business leaders who want to uplift their communities

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Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition, and Pharrell Williams, Founder, Black Ambition.

By Talib Visram, Fast Company

In a lighthearted moment at Fast Company‘s Most Innovative Companies Summit, the CEO of Black Ambition, Felecia Hatcher, suggested that the concepts behind today’s biggest crowdfunding businesses, like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, were invented years ago by Black communities.

“All you had to do was look at the Black church,” she said. “We pass a plate every Sunday from one pew to the next. That’s how we funded scholarships. That’s how we fixed the roof.”

But there was a more poignant message to her comment, too. “We’ve had to be innovative out of necessity,” she said, given the lack of historical financial support for communities of color.

Innovation among minority communities has existed but hasn’t received due credit, capital, or support. Filling that gap is the aim of Black Ambition, a nonprofit organization and pitch competition founded by musician and record producer Pharrell Williams, which distributes startup capital and mentorship to Black and Latino entrepreneurs. Williams and Hatcher spoke to multimedia editor KC Ifeanyi about the competition returning for its second year, what they learned from its debut, and why they’re not looking for entrepreneurs who only want to line their own pockets.

The concept behind what they’re doing is the “uninterrupted founder.” That is: “What would your life look like if nothing stood in the way of you achieving success?” Hatcher explained. Throughout history, minorities in America have been faced with systemic racism that’s locked out opportunities for capital. Of the $148 billion that venture capitalists provided in funding in 2020, only about 3% went to Black entrepreneurs. “I always say [that] most Black and Latinx entrepreneurs, we get a round of applause from everyone, [but] we don’t always get the round of funding,” Hatcher said.

Williams added that the lack of networking power has also blocked success. “I know people [who] have had much better ideas [than me], and because they just didn’t have the ecosystem to go knock on the door, or pick up a phone, or send an email and get the codes, they lost out on genius ideas.”

Black Ambition hopes to provide both the capital and the networking. It’s awarding prizes of up to $1 million to founders. Last year, the organization gave its top prize, $1 million, to Livegistics, a Detroit-based software company whose operating system provides real-time digital records to stakeholders in the construction industry. It invested in 34 companies, and trained and supported 300 with mentorship by partners including Adidas, Chanel, and the Visa Foundation.

In a separate category, it’s also awarding up to $100,000 to founders who currently attend historically Black colleges and universities. “HBCUs have always been the fertile ground for growth in the Black communities,” Williams said. “They’re like little baby cities of potential.”

Click here to read the full article on Fast Company.

SERENA WILLIAMS BACKS BLACK WOMEN-OWNED STARTUP PROVIDING CUSTOMIZED WIGS THROUGH AI

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Serena Williams in a brown dress bent down in a seated position

By Days Tech

Serena Williams is a trailblazer in additional methods than one. This time she’s backing a enterprise aimed toward using synthetic intelligence to supply magnificence customers with custom-made wigs.

Parfait is a brand new wig customization platform aimed toward disrupting the business by being the primary to make use of facial recognition and synthetic intelligence to supply consumers with customizable wig merchandise. The firm raised $5 million in funding spearheaded by Upfront Ventures and Serena Ventures, in keeping with experiences.

“Parfait’s mission to leverage Al to solve core issues for both the tech industry and communities of color is something we, at Serena Ventures, have believed in since the beginning,” Serena Williams stated in a press release.

“She went on to say, “It’s been inspiring to witness their incredible achievements so far, and we’re proud to invest in this next phase of Parfait’s growth.”

Founded by former Target and Amazon government Isoken Igbinedion, the primary seed of funding will assist enhance Parfait’s manufacturing and enhance its provide chain to enter new markets throughout the globe. Through the improved facial recognition Parfait makes use of, the tech-based magnificence model goals to make the wig business extra inclusive to fulfill the hair targets of magnificence customers from all backgrounds.

“Training models used in facial recognition technology are largely unbalanced, often relying on training datasets that are similar in makeup, and do not represent the visual composition of faces worldwide. This often results in poor performance for users who do not fit into that dataset, often represented by white faces and male features.”

Williams shared her pleasure for the brand new funding in an Instagram Story put up, as captured by Essentially Sports. With Parfait aligning with Williams’ rules for her VC agency, the brand new firm is on the highway to success with the total help from one of many best athletes and Black feminine traders of all time.

Click here to read the full article on Days Tech.

Viola Davis on Hollywood: ‘You either have to be a Black version of a white ideal, or you have to be white’

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Viola Davis speaking to audience standing behind podium

By , The Guardian

Many of us had existential thoughts during lockdown, and assuaged them with new hobbies. We did thousand-piece puzzles. We crocheted and knitted. We learned new songs on our guitars, baked overzealously, and connected with our plantlife. For Viola Davis, knocking around in her $5m mansion in Toluca Lake, Los Angeles, it was writing, though the nature of it was less assuagement than staring into the coalface of an existential crisis. Who am I? What is my life supposed to mean? If this isn’t it – the Oscar winning, the formidable trail of accolades, the palatial bathrooms and saltwater pool – then what is?

“I lost my mind during the pandemic,” she tells me from her bedroom, dressed pre-photoshoot in a grey sweatshirt and loose woollen hat. “I just wandered around this house like Mary Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” She laughs about it (she has a deep laugh and a deep, mighty voice inherited from her grandmother), but the memoir resulting from the time spent writing is anything but light. She has a story to tell, a gripping, emotive, at times spine-tingling story, with pathos and pain, triumph and redemption, setting a new benchmark for the celebrity confessional. Finding Me is a page-turner, written with narrative knowhow and stylistic competence.

Over a matter of months – interrupted by the filming of The First Lady, in which she plays Michelle Obama, and The Woman King, a historical drama set in the Kingdom of Dahomey (now southern Benin) in west Africa, both projects from her company JuVee Productions – she grappled on the page with the spectre of her poverty-stricken childhood and her subsequent thorny rise to the top, a place that turned out to be less comfortable than imagined.

“Whenever you’re still, whenever you’re quiet, whenever you put everything down, then everything in your life comes into full focus. It comes at you like a jackhammer,” she says of the big, Covid-induced pause. But it was not only the pandemic that led her to the blank screen. The crisis was already in process. “I think it’s been happening ever since my status started to rise,” she says. “When it first rises, it’s nothing but excitement, nothing but an understanding that this is a culmination of your hard work, your talent. You just feel like God has blessed you – I still feel that.

“And then it moves along: what no one tells you about being ‘on top’ is the minutiae of it, the cost of it, the pressure of it, the responsibility, and finally the disillusionment. You feel like you’ve found something you love to do and you’ve made it, your life’s all sewn up – and then you hit it, and it’s just a level of emptiness, of wondering what your life means, and then you crash and burn. I had to go back to the source and revisit my life, revisit my stories, to sort of catapult me into something so I could find home – find me. I’d been lost in it all.”

In 2016, with her Academy Award win for best supporting actress for her role in Fences, based on an August Wilson play, Viola Davis became the first African American to achieve the triple crown of an Oscar, Tony and Emmy for acting (the Tony was for a Broadway role in Wilson’s King Hedley II; the Emmy for the TV legal thriller How to Get Away With Murder). She is the most nominated Black woman in the history of the Academy Awards (she received nominations for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, another Wilson adaptation, as well as The Help and Doubt) and has been ranked in the top 10 of the New York Times’ list of the greatest actors of the 21st century. Her execution of her roles is both exacting and magnanimous, ever astute, possessing a haunting integrity that makes each character seem profoundly known, tangible and self-possessed.

The consummate humble artist, she deems fame and glory secondary to the work; she is modest about her trophies, and dismissive of efforts by her actor husband of almost 19 years, Julius Tennon, and their adopted daughter, Genesis, to splash them around the house. “If it were up to me all the awards would be in the garage,” she says. “I mean, it’s just not my style – it’s a bit too much. Listen, it’s not that I haven’t looked at the Oscar or whatever and thought: wow, that’s pretty awesome. I’m very grateful, but, you know, you can’t live there. Soon as you get it, you walk off the stage, you’re an Oscar winner, but then it’s like, and now what? And then you gotta go on to the next job, and start all over again with that impostor syndrome.”

Click here to read the full article on The Guardian.

Ironheart is Reportedly Looking to Cast a ‘Black, Latina or Afro-Latina’ Trans Woman

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Ironheart animated cartoon cover, iron heart is holding iron man while wearing casual street clothes

By Rebecca Kaplan, Movie Web

Marvel Studios is reportedly looking to cast a smart, confident transgender female character in the Disney+ series Ironheart. According to POC Culture, Marvel sent out a casting call for the upcoming series for a “Black, Latina or Afro-Latina transgender” actress between 18 and 22 years old. If the studio follows through with casting a trans actor, the Ironheart actress would be the fourth trans actor to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and third trans woman. Ironheart stars Dominique Thorne (Judas and the Black Messiah) as Riri Williams, as well as Anthony Ramos and Lyric Ross in yet-to-be-announced roles. In the comics, the character is a super genius by five years old and enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by 15 years old. After her best friend and father are killed in a drive-by shooting, Riri wants to protect her hometown and the ones she loves, so she reverse engineers Tony Stark’s Iron Man design to create her own suit of armor—the most advanced of its kind since Stark’s Iron Man designs themselves!

“One of the characters that will be introduced in the upcoming Ironheart Disney+ series is going to be a Black, Latina or Afro-Latina transgender character,” said POC Culture’s Ron Seoul-Oh. The publication’s report continued on, adding, “the character is portrayed as she/her, [who] is around 18-22 years old.”

The casting call for the character also describes her as “smart” and “confident,” “with a mystical bent and unique sense of humor,” adding that she is “unapologetically nerdy about things that excite her…even if they might be terrifying to others.” Although this casting description doesn’t point to any specific character from Marvel Comics, fans are excited about the prospect of a POC trans woman joining the cast of Ironheart.

There are also rumors the show is looking to cast an older non-binary actor for a major role and Marvel and Disney are considering making Riri bisexual.

This Would Not Be the First Trans Character in the MCU

After The Walt Disney Company and CEO Bob Chapek’s failure to oppose Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the company needs to earn back goodwill and trust with its LGBTQIA+ audiences. Even if it seems like shouldn’t be remarkable to see a trans actor on-screen, it still is. Not backing out on its recent promise to have more diversity and inclusion in its content—for example, by casting a Black, Latina or Afro-Latina transgender character in Ironheart—is a first step toward Disney showing it’s a true ally to the queer community.

Although it’s worth celebrating more trans representation on-screen in Ironheart, casting a trans female character in the Disney+ series wouldn’t be a first for Marvel, especially now the Netflix shows seem to be back into the canon with Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) appearing in the MCU. For example, trans actress Aneesh Sheth (The Walking Dead) played Gillian, a trans woman and Jessica Jones’ (Krysten Ritter) assistant in Jessica Jones Season 3. Notably, Gillian’s trans identity isn’t a plot point.

“There’s no narrative around her identity, which I think is wonderful because trans people exist in the world, and it’s not always about their [trans] narrative,” Sheth told iNews.

Click here to read the full article on Movie Web.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Confirmed as U.S. Supreme Court Justice!

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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

First African-American woman to join.

The Senate has voted 53 to 47 to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the 116th Supreme Court justice.

When sworn in this summer, Jackson will be the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s high court.

“This is one of the great moments of American history,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said before the vote. “Today we are taking a giant, bold and important step on the well-trodden path to fulfilling our country’s founding promise.

This is a great moment for Judge Jackson but it is an even greater moment for America as we rise to a more perfect union.”

President Biden called the vote a “historic moment” for the nation. “We’ve taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America,” Biden posted on Twitter.

All 50 Senate Democrats, including the two independents who caucus with them, voted for Jackson’s confirmation. They were joined by three Republicans: Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Click here to read the complete article posted on NPR.

Rihanna Says Pregnancy Has ‘Unlocked New Levels of Love’ for Her Mom in Birthday Shoutout Post

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Rihanna as a child with her mother in a church room. Both are wearing matching white dresses

By Natasha Dado, People

Rihanna has love on the brain!

The 34-year-old music superstar, who is expecting her first child with boyfriend A$AP Rocky, posted a throwback photo from her own baby days in an Instagram tribute for her mom Monica Braithwaite’s birthday Tuesday.

Sharing a snap of the mom and daughter matching in white dresses and hair accessories in church, the Anti artist opened up about how pregnancy has made her appreciate her mom even more.

“Today is my Queen’s birthday!!! Being on the verge of motherhood, unlocked new levels of love and respect I have for my mommy in a way that I could never explain!” Rihanna wrote.

“She’s the true MVP and I wanna give her her flowers every second I can!” she continued. “Love you mumzzzz!!! Happy Birthday! We gon celebrate on da link up!”

Rihanna revealed last month that she is in her third trimester, telling PEOPLE in February that she’s enjoying having fun with fashion as her body changes.

“I’m enjoying not having to worry about covering up my tummy,” the star said. “If I feel a little chubby, it’s like, whatever! It’s a baby!”

The Fenty Beauty founder also said that style gives her an extra shot of confidence when she needs it.

“Right now, being pregnant, some days you just feel like, ‘Ugh, I just want to lay here on this couch all day.’ But when you put on a little face and a little lipstick, you transform,” she said. “You put some clothes on, and it’s like, when you look good, you feel good. I’ve heard that for a very long time, but it’s true. It really can get you up off that couch and make you feel like a bad bitch.”

Rihanna and A$AP Rocky, 33, revealed in January that they are expecting their first child together with photos taken in the rapper’s neighborhood of Harlem.

Soon after the news broke, a source close to the couple told PEOPLE that the fashion mogul “couldn’t be happier” to become a mom and that the couple can’t wait to meet their little one.

Click here to read the full article on People.

Jon Batiste and Silk Sonic take home major prizes at 2022 Grammys

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Jon Batiste and Silk Sonic take home major prizes at 2022 Grammys

By, and , NPR

At the 64th Grammy Awards, which took place Sunday in Las Vegas, the major prizes were spread among a number of winners, including Jon Batiste, Silk Sonic and Olivia Rodrigo.By the numbers, the night’s biggest winner was Jon Batiste, who took home the majority of his five awards in what the Grammys call the premiere ceremony, the pre-telecast event during which the vast majority of prizes are given out annually. In a group of 10 heavy-hitting contenders, Batiste won album of the year for We Are.

Batiste also won best American roots performance, best American roots song, best score soundtrack for visual media (which tied with Carlos Rafael Rivera’s score for The Queen’s Gambit) and best music video for “Freedom.” Batiste had led the Grammys this year with 11 wide-flung nominations including best contemporary classical composition.

“I just put my head down and work on the craft everyday … It’s more than entertainment for me, it’s a spiritual practice,” Batiste said in his acceptance speech for album of the year, shouting out the other performers nominated in the category. “Be you, that’s it.” He also stressed that there are no “best” artists or albums, rather that “it’s like a song or an album is made and it almost has a radar to find a person when they need it the most.”

Before picking up the album of the year prize, Batiste also gave a jubilant, technicolored performance of his song “Freedom,” dancing and leading performers off the stage and into the audience, where he finished the song jumping atop the table where Billie Eilish was seated.

The throwback R&B act Silk Sonic — led by the duo of Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars — won four awards: record of the year, song of the year, best R&B performance (in a tie with Jazmine Sullivan) and best R&B song of the year. Mars is a Grammy favorite. This was his third win for record of the year, and his last solo album, 24K Magic, swept the top categories four years ago. Silk Sonic made its television debut at last year’s Grammys with “Leave the Door Open,” which would accumulate awards throughout 2022’s awards show.

“Because of you guys, me and Andy are going to be singing this song forever!” Mars said in his speech accepting the first award of the night for song of the year. “Rest of our lives,” echoed Anderson .Paak, who later joked, when accepting another award for the same song, that it was hard for the duo to “stay humble.” Silk Sonic opened the Grammys with their performance of “777,” a fitting ode to the ceremony’s 2022 location: Las Vegas.

Singer Olivia Rodrigo took home the prizes for best new artist, best pop vocal album and best pop solo performance. She had been nominated for seven awards. Rodrigo performed her hit “drivers license” during the show, set against the backdrop of a suburban street fit with a real car. The 19-year-old singer-songwriter teared up during her acceptance speech as she accepted her best new artist award, telling the audience it was her “biggest dream come true.”

Jazmine Sullivan took home two Grammys, including best R&B album for her album Heaux Tales, after being nominated for Grammy Awards twelve times before winning at this year’s ceremony. “I don’t know what I heard, I almost didn’t believe it,” Sullivan said in her acceptance speech, appearing stunned after her name was called for best R&B album.

Foo Fighters won three Grammys, sweeping all the non-metal rock categories. But the band, who had previously been scheduled to perform during the telecast, retreated from public view after the sudden death of its drummer, Taylor Hawkins, at age 50 on March 25 while on tour in Colombia.

The telecast of the 64th Grammy Awards was, in general, a zippy, good-humored evening lightly peppered with awards presentations and generally filled with feel-good performances. But the evening took two serious turns, with a heartfelt In Memoriam segment that began with an extended tribute to Hawkins followed by a medley of songs written by Stephen Sondheim and a taped appearance by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

In his emotional message, Zelenskyy spoke about the plight of his people and of his country’s musicians, “who have traded their tuxedos for body armor.”

President Zelenskyy’s remarks were followed by John Legend’s performance of “Free,” which also featured Ukrainian musicians Siuzanna Iglidan and Mika Newton as well as poet Lyuba Yakimchuk.

There was no singular theme running through the night’s wins and losses, and while there were a few quick nods to the intensity of last week’s Academy Awards, the Grammy’s rolled out smoothly. With only nine awards given out during the televised ceremony, the show gave a heavy focus to its wide-ranging performances.

J. Balvin performed a medley of his hits “Qué Más Pues?” with Argentine singer Maria Becerra and “In da Getto.” And boyband BTS delivered a spy-themed performance for their song “Butter,” with seamless choreography and audience participation from Rodrigo.

Lil Nas X, in a variety of glittering costumes, performed three of the biggest songs from his 2021 album MONTERO: “Dead Right Now,” “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” and “Industry Baby” with rapper Jack Harlow. Both Lil Nas X and Doja Cat, known for their viral, conversation-starting antics as artists and performers, appeared on stage during the night. Lil Nas X’s performance was ambitious but almost demure compared to the incendiary acts the star’s fans and critics may have come to expect, and Doja Cat’s acceptance speech for best pop duo/group performance, which began with her noting she almost missed her win due to being in the bathroom, ended with the rapper choking up with gratitude.

Billie Eilish, who swept the four top categories in 2020 and picked up record of the year in 2021, was nominated for seven awards but won none. Still, she delivered the night’s hardest moment of rock and roll spectacle with her song “Happier Than Ever” alongside brother and artistic collaborator FINNEAS. During her performance, Eilish wore a t-shirt featuring the late Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins.

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

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.

Keke Palmer Partners With Amazon To Amplify Support For Black Women Business Owners

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keke palmer wearing all red

By Ngozi Nwanji, Afto Tech

In April 2021, Keke Palmer landed a deal with Amazon after her Instagram sketch videos went viral, as previously shared by AfroTech. Now, the actress has teamed up with the e-commerce giant for a new partnership that shines the spotlight on other Black women bosses like herself.

According to Essence, Palmer and Amazon partnered to support Black women business owners in honor of Women’s History Month. Within the collaboration, the duo worked to put together a selection of Black-owned brands to highlight, as well as speak to two of the founders for Amazon’s conversation series.

After becoming an entrepreneur and launching her record label, Big Boss Entertainment, in 2018 — her own personal experience has led her to help women who look like her kickstart their ideas, too.

“It’s time to put the spotlight back on Black businesses to remind people that we gotta support each other. Also, to understand that when you are buying Black, you’re sometimes buying into a newer business,” Palmer shared with Essence. “So they need proper support, encouragement, and tools to be able to even get to some of the places as these other corporations. It’s just the only way that we continue to create not only generational wealth for our community. To me, it just makes sense — it’s to counteract all of the systemic injustices. We have to go that much harder to push back businesses to the forefront.”

Keke Palmer’s Curated List Of Black-Owned Brands
Below are the brands and people selected by Palmer:

Culture Tags
Obia Naturals
EPIC Everyday
Orijin Bees
Darlyng and Co.
LIVE BY BEING
Crystal Swain-Bates
Kanda Chocolates
Bossy Cosmetics

Words Of Advice For Entrepreneurs From Keke “Keep A Bag” Palmer
“Take it day by day and don’t be so hard on yourself. Understand that it’s a process and that Rome wasn’t built in a day and yes, you are gonna run into issues and things aren’t gonna go. Right. But all of it is a stepping stone. It’s not meant to make you give up. It’s meant to help you.”

Click here to read the full article on Afro Tech.

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