Deqa Dhalac saw it in their faces when she started campaigning. Some people, she says, seemed scared to open their doors when she knocked. Others saw her hijab and assumed she didn’t speak English. But Dhalac kept knocking and telling her story. And she says a lot has changed since those days back in 2018, when she first ran for City Council in South Portland, Maine — and won. On Monday she became the first Black mayor of the small city on the state’s Southern Coast. And she’s believed to be the first Somali American mayor in the United States. South Portland’s other city councilors, who are all White, elected her in a unanimous vote, heaping praise on Dhalac for her dedication to the community and thoughtful consideration of issues.
Dhalac, 53, says her election shows what can be accomplished when people find ways to connect with each other instead of putting up walls.
“People will always have some kind of reservation…but will get to know you, listen to you and see who you are through that,” she says. Given that Maine is the whitest state in the country, and that South Portland is 90% White, Dhalac knows her election sounds surprising to some. But she says that it shouldn’t be. And that’s one reason she ran for office in the first place. She hopes her election as mayor will inspire others to follow in her footsteps.
“I’m…really proud of the fact that I’m going to be opening a lot of paths for other folks who look like me, especially our young community members, to say, ‘If this woman can do this, actually I can do that,'” Dhalac told the City Council last month after her nomination. “And also not only for immigrant, first-generation or Black people, but also young, White individuals who may have been afraid or don’t want to be a part of the civic duties that we all have. … I say, ‘Yes, if I can do this, yes, you can do it. We really, really need you, each and every one of you in this beautiful city of ours, to step up.'”
Her election marks multiple milestones
Dhalac’s inauguration is a milestone for Somali immigrant communities that have grown in size and become more established in states like Maine, Minnesota, Ohio and Washington. As that’s happened, more Somali Americans are taking on roles on local school boards and city councils — and also serving as lawmakers, like Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota.
Dhalac is the first Somali American mayor in the United States, according to New American Leaders, an organization that trains and encourages immigrants to run for office. But the organization says they hope she won’t be the last.
“Her leadership will certainly make a big difference not only in South Portland, but around the country,” said Ghida Dagher, the organization’s president. “She’s going to serve an example for Somali Americans across the country to step up and step into their own leadership journey. … It’s about owning their own power and potential in our democracy.” Dhalac’s election is also a historic first for South Portland, which has never had a Black mayor before, says Seth Goldstein, vice president of the South Portland Historical Society. Goldstein, who teaches history and leads historical tours in the area, says he’s happy to watch this new chapter in his city’s history unfold. “It’s very exciting, I think that it is reflective of the way that the community here is gradually changing,” Goldstein says. About 6,000 Somalis live in Maine, Goldstein said, thanks to a wave of migration that began in the early 2000s.
Their arrival hasn’t always been met with open arms. In 2002, the mayor of Lewiston, Maine, drew national media attention when he wrote an open letter telling Somali immigrants not to come to his city.
But Dhalac says the people she’s met in Maine have been welcoming, and in recent years she’s seen more Somalis and other immigrants taking on leadership positions in the state. In the past, she says, immigrants were more hesitant to run because they were focused on making ends meet and supporting their families.
“I think we were always kind of afraid to get involved. … We were waiting on somebody (else) to do something,” she said.
In 2018, Dhalac got tired of waiting.
According to Axios, Francia Márquez will become the South American nation’s first Black vice president after Gustavo Petro won the country’s presidential runoff election on Sunday.
Márquez celebrated the historical moment with a poignant statement that spoke to the marginalization of Black Colombians, “It’s time to move from resistance to power.”
The 40-year-old former maid turned attorneys and activist became Petro’s vice-president elect after the leftist guerrilla leader beat a millionaire real estate mogul in an election usually won by Colombia’s moderate and conservative politicians. France 24 reported that Márquez’s win signified a shift in political and social shift in a nation plagued by a fundamentally racist country.
Born in Yolombó, a town in the province of Antioquia, Black people were considered the minority– representing only 2% of the population. Márquez’s representation of Blacks in Colombia is much-needed in politics given the country’s 6.2% Afro-descendant population having been ignored and marginalized since the nation’s inception.
About Márquez’s victory, Olga Lucia Gonzalez, an associate researcher and specialist on Colombia at the University of Paris-Diderot, shared with France 24 the excitement behind her win, “Within the population, there has been a lot of popular anger in recent months directed towards the political class, particularly linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. Francia Marquez comes from civil society and not from the traditional political elite. This is an argument that she plays on, and that goes greatly in her favour.”
Gonzalez also explained that Márquez did address issues that weren’t necessarily important to previous Colombian administrations, adding, “But above all, she is a woman, Black, Afro-Colombian, and she brings with her issues that until now have been totally forgotten, like the relationship to colonialism, sexism, racism.”
Sunday’s election also had another Black candidate– Marelen Castillo, the running mate of runner-up Rodolfo Hernández,.
On the importance of having Black leadership within the second nation in the Western Hemisphere with the largest Black population, Colombian anthropologist Eduardo Restrepo told AXIOS, “Afro-Colombians are overrepresented in the numbers of forcibly displaced people and victims of violence. This idea inherited from colonial times that some people are meant to govern and others to be governed.”
A performing arts center at Compton High School that’s being built with the help of music mogul Dr. Dre is one step closer to becoming a reality.
The Compton native – who donated $10 million to the project – joined city and school leaders for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the first step in getting the center up and running.
The facility will include a 1,200-seat theater and will be a place for young people to be creative in a way that will help further their education and positively define their future.
“When I was approached about funding a performing arts center that would provide an arts and technological education to students and be accessible for the community at large, I was all in,” said Dr. Dre. “I wanted to give the young people of Compton something I never had.”
Dr. Dre – born Andre Young – grew up in Compton and first rose to fame as a member of NWA, whose debut album was titled “Straight Outta Compton.”
He later found success as a solo artist, producer and businessman.
The performing arts center will be the first new high school facility to be built in almost a decade in the greater Los Angeles area.
Compton High School is more than 100 years old.
“This is very historical for Compton,” said Compton Unified School District Board President Micah Ali.
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).
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.
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.
(CNN) President Joe Biden has selected Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to the Supreme Court, setting in motion a historic confirmation process for the first Black woman to sit on the highest court in the nation.
Biden will deliver remarks on Friday afternoon announcing the selection, the White House said. CNN first reported Biden’s decision.
Jackson, 51, currently sits on DC’s federal appellate court and had been considered the front-runner for the vacancy since Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement.
She received and accepted Biden’s offer in a call Thursday night, a source familiar with the decision told CNN, but was present for DC Circuit Court hearings Friday morning.
Biden met with Jackson for her Supreme Court interview earlier this month, a senior administration official said, in a meeting that the White House managed to keep secret.
For more than a year, the President had familiarized himself with her work, reading many of her opinions and other writings, along with those of other contenders.
But the official said Biden also was impressed by her life story, including her rise from federal public defender to federal appellate judge — and her upbringing as the daughter of two public school teachers and administrators.
Afro-Latinas are very much a part of the Black diaspora, yet there’s still a major lack of representation. Growing up, I rarely saw Afro-Latinas in television series, movies, books, or advertising campaigns. Although I recall seeing Afro-Cuban singers like Celia Cruz and La Lupe in music, there was still a massive part of the media counting us out. Pop culture consciously spoke to Latinas who saw themselves reflected in celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, and Mariah Carey. Although these A-listers are glamorous, respectfully, they do not represent the diversity of Black beauty within our community. They cater to Euro-centric beauty standards such as fair skin, light eyes, and straight hair.
Hence Afro-Latinos within the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Honduras, Panama, and Colombia, to name a few, are curating their own spaces. And this is especially true of the hair, makeup, and skin-care industries, where influencers and entrepreneurs are forging a representation path for those who identify with these experiences. Here, we collected the perspectives of Afro-Latinas who turn to Black women for inspiration and are honoring the African diaspora and embracing their Black beauty through their brands and the content they share on social media. Because, as Lulu Cordero points outs, “Our hair, skin, hips, etc., are a part of Black beauty.”
When Alexa Dolma came to Houston from Honduras, she did not see any representation of herself among the masses. The influencer identifies as Garifuna, a mix of African and Indigenous ancestry, mainly from the Caribbean coast of Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Belize. Over the years, Dolma tells POPSUGAR, she’s grown to be more vocal and confident about celebrating her Afro-Latina roots on her page and Garifuna Bosses, the platform she created to represent and highlight other Garifuna women. Dolma has featured Black women like Kalifa Marin and Eunice Suazo, the founders of Tru3 B3llas, a hair-care brand that offers detangler brushes, edge controls, and bonnets. “I felt the need to do this because, as a blogger, I always came across pages that highlighted other bloggers, and I never saw one who did the same thing for my people,” she explains.
As a proud Black Latina, Dolma says she saw herself in the rom-com “Nappily Ever After” featuring Sanaa Lathan. Based on Trisha R. Thomas’s novel of the same name, the film illustrates the relationship between Black women and beauty standards imposed on them by society. “This movie shows that our hair is beautiful whether bald or full of coils,” the beauty influencer says.
Lulu Cordero, the CEO of Bomba Curls, wasn’t always proud of her natural hair. Like many, growing up she heard the word pajón when people referenced her hair, but when she stepped into womanhood, Cordero decided to let go of the relaxer and embrace her natural texture. Being an Afro-Latina from the Dominican Republic, she always knew the beauty benefits of natural ingredients, and that’s how she decided to formulate her line of curly-hair products featuring fundamental formulas such as cafecito, rosemary, and more.
“Our hair, skin, hips, etc., are a part of Black beauty. These are all gifts from our ancestors, and by celebrating said gifts, I honor them,” says Cordero, who remembers watching Dorothy Dandridge in “Carmen Jones” as a pivotal moment in celebrating Black beauty and representation. The 1950s American musical features an all-Black cast and tells the story of a parachute-factory worker and an Army corporal. “I’d never seen anything like it before. Before that, I’d only seen Latino media, which has a history of erasing us.” Seeing the iconic Black actor sport a sultry red lip and epitomize retro glam gave the beauty entrepreneur hope.
Like many Afro-Latinx women, Sherly Tavarez grew up hearing the phrase pelo malo, which means “bad hair.” After years of chemically treating her gorgeous curls, the fashion stylist decided to design apparel to debunk the notion of “bad hair” once and for all. The Dominican blogger created Hause of Curls and is now known for her shirts and accessories that read “Pelo Malo Where?” and her feed that features diverse women within the natural hair community.
“My first time appreciating the beauty of my Afro-Latinidad was when I watched the Netflix series ‘Celia,'” Tavarez says. “It taught me about my background, roots, what it was like to be an Afro-Latina back in the day, and how much we have had to fight to be seen.” She adds: “Back when I was straightening my hair all of the time and honestly being a slave to my hair, I didn’t feel like my true self. I felt like I was celebrating a version of myself that other people told me to be. I didn’t even know what my natural hair looked like until I stopped applying heat and relaxing my hair. Now I celebrate by sharing my journey to natural hair with others and by building this community we have at Hause of Curls.”
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.
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.
If there is one name that has become synonymous with heroism, it is Stacey Abrams.
“Whatever happens,” author and niece of former president Trump, Mary L. Trump tweeted on the evening of Nov. 3, 2020, “@staceyabrams is a hero.”
“She is one of THE heroes of the US election #StaceyAbrams,” tweeted actress Thandiwe Newton on Nov. 6 2020.
Hillary Clinton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Susan Rice, Viola Davis and Whoopi Goldberg were among those who tweeted thank you’s to their new hero during the 2020 election.
The 49-year-old Abrams founded Fair Fight, an organization dedicated to addressing voter suppression, in 2018 and is credited with registering 800,000 new voters across Georgia who were affected by voter suppression in time for the 2020 U.S elections.
On Dec.1, 2021 Abrams had her own tweet to share:
“I’m running for Governor because opportunity in our state shouldn’t be determined by zip code, background or access to power.”
Besides being a candidate for governor, Abrams also happens to be a tax attorney, romance novelist, and former state representative, serving in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017 and as minority leader from 2011 to 2017.
Abrams is a powerhouse. A superwoman. A hero.
But the journey of the hero we often see, in literature, movies and life, is not one without conflict. From Odysseus to Luke Skywalker, the hero’s journey is a long one that begins with a departure, followed by an initiation and ultimately a return.
Abrams’ journey is no exception.
Act I: The Call to Action
Abrams was born in 1973, the second of six siblings, in Madison, Wis. Her parents, Robert and Carolyn Abrams, raised their family in Gulfport, Miss. before moving the family to Atlanta, Ga., where they pursued graduate degrees at Emory University and eventually became Methodist ministers.
Abrams interest in politics began at a young age. When she was 17, she was hired as a typist for a congressional campaign, which led to a promotion to speechwriter, based on the edits she had made while typing.
It was during high school that she learned an important lesson about her worth too.
In 1991, Abrams was valedictorian of her high school class and received an invitation to meet the Governor of Georgia. The family didn’t have a car, and instead took the bus to the Governor’s Mansion. Upon arrival, the guard at the gate stopped the Abrams family, saying the event was private, and they didn’t belong there. Her parents presented the the invitation, stating their daughter was invited to the event.
“I think two things happened that day,” Abrams said when she recounted the story to CBS news in May of 2021, “One, they were not going to let me be denied this honor that I’d achieved. But two, I think they wanted me to see my responsibility is to not let someone else tell me who I am and where I belong.”
Abrams earned a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies from Spelman College, studied public policy at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, where she earned a Master of Public Affairs degree and earned a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School.
After law school, Abrams worked as a tax attorney at Atlanta’s Sutherlan Asbill & Brennan law firm, primarily working with tax-exempt organizations, health care and public finance.
Abrams was appointed a deputy city attorney for the City of Atlanta in 2002. Then in 2006, she won a seat as a Democrat in the Georgia Assembly and became the first female minority leader of her party.
In 2010, she co-founded Nourish, Inc, which was eventually rebranded as the invoicing solution business, NOW Corp. She became district attorney for Atlanta and then minority leader for Georgia’s House Democrats in 2011, all while writing romance novels under the pen name, Selena Montgomery.
Her level of accomplishments up until this point already seemed heroic. Abrams was just getting warmed up.
Act II: The Road of Trials
Abrams became the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia in 2018 and the first black woman to become the gubernatorial nominee for a major party in the United States. Abrams ran against then Georgia Secretary of State, Brian Kemp. She ultimately lost to Kemp by less than two percentage points.
Abrams claimed there was a gross mismanagement of the election by the Secretary of State’s office. The Associated Press reported at the time that Kemp put nearly 53,000 voter registrations on hold ahead of the election, nearly 70 percent of them from Black people.
Allegations of voter suppression sparked a massive voter registration effort, spearheaded primarily by Abrams.
Within days of the election, Abrams founded Fair Fight, an organization devoted to promoting fair elections, encouraging voter participation in elections and educating voters about elections and their voting rights.
It is no coincidence voter suppression is most notably associated with the civil rights movement. Voter suppression, particularly of voters of color, isn’t always easy to understand if you’ve never experienced it Abrams has said.
“When you’ve never had to think about the hardship of voting, then yes, these conversations on voter suppression seem absurd to you,” Abrams said in her May interview with CBS News, “When you have never spent more than seven minutes in line, it is nearly impossible to imagine that there are poor Black people who stand in line for eight hours, miss an entire day’s wages, risk losing their jobs simply to cast a ballot in an election that may or may not have any benefit in their lives.”
After her loss, Abrams fought to campaign against voter suppression
in the run-up to the 2020 election through Fair Fight, making sure that everyone who had the right to vote, did so.
Her efforts were successful.
In the 2018 election, her campaign registered more than 200,000 new voters. In 2020, Fair Fight and her other organization, the New Georgia Project, registered more than 800,000 new voters.
Besides fighting against voter suppression, Fair Fight has taken on other causes that align with Abrams’ platform.
In 2019, Abrams launched Fair Count to ensure accuracy in the 2020 Census, stressing the need for greater participation in civic engagement from the POC community, and the Southern Economic Advancement Project, which is a public policy initiative to broaden economic power and build equity in the South.
More recently, Fair Fight has turned its attention to the state’s healthcare system.
In October, Fair Fight launched a new seven-figure ad campaign urging Gov. Brian Kemp to help Georgians by supporting an expansion of Medicaid.
Paying off medical debt is another part of Fair Fight’s advocacy.
“I know firsthand how medical costs and a broken healthcare system put families further
and further in debt,” Abrams said in a statement on Fair Fight’s website, “Working with
RIP Medical Debt, Fair Fight is stepping in where others have refused to take action. For people of color, the working poor and middle-class families facing crushing costs, we hope to relieve the strain on desperate Americans and on hospitals struggling to remain open.”
In November, Fair Fight celebrated the win of 12 Fair Fight-endorsed candidates in local elections across Georgia.
“Democrats in Georgia scored key victories as Fair Fight-endorsed, pro-voting rights candidates prevailed in every corner of the state,” said Fair Fight Political Director André Fields.
Abrams used her loss to build a sturdy platform on which she could stand, and see tomorrow.
Act III: The Hero Returns
Abrams announced her campaign for Georgia governor on Dec. 1, 2021, promising to fight for economic equality and expand health care access.
“I’ve never stopped fighting for Georgia. I’ve never lost faith that — together — we can build a brighter future for all of us,” Abrams said in a statement on her official campaign website, “Together, we can keep more money in families’ pockets, help our communities prosper and give our children the greatest opportunities to thrive.”
Polls conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies in November suggest a race against Kemp, her long-time political rival, could be a close one, again. Abrams trailed Kemp by 3 points among likely voters in the state.
Abrams’s journey has been a long one that, truthfully, is still ongoing. As she prepares her gubernatorial bid, she is also laying the groundwork for the next leg of her journey: a bid for the presidency.
“When someone asks me if that’s my ambition, I have a responsibility to say yes,” Abrams told CBS News, “For every young woman, every person of color, every young person of color, who sees me and decides what they’re capable of based on what I think I am capable of.”
On the eighth and final season premiere of Black-ish Tuesday, Michelle Obama made a guest appearance after the show’s main characters attended an event for When We All Vote, an organization that Obama founded to help register and turn out voters across the country.
What began as Andre (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross)’s chance encounter with the former first lady turned into a casual dinner at the Johnson house.
Obama’s main scene mostly consisted of the rest of Dre and Bow’s family interrupting with attempts to try and impress her. And there were also a few moments of conversation among Obama, Dre and Bow about what it’s like having teenage kids.
“When our girls were that age, you should have seen how they rolled their eyes, especially at their father,” Obama said during the episode.
But clearly the cameo for Obama, who was personally asked to appear on the show by Ross herself, was all about getting the word out about voter registration. And while it was subtle within the episode, Obama reiterated the objective with a tweet after the show aired, reminding people to get themselves and others registered.
Meanwhile, viewers on Twitter celebrated Obama’s appearance on the hit series with plenty of praise and even a few requests like, “Please decide to be president in 2024” and “I too would like to invite you over for dinner.”
Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Entertainment.
The University of Oxford has made history by appointing Patricia Kingori to a full professorship, making the sociologist the youngest Black woman ever to receive tenure at Oxford or Cambridge. Kingori, born in Kenya to a Kenyan father and Caribbean mother, spent her childhood in St Kitts, before the family moved to the UK during her early teens. Her sister, Vanessa Kingori, is the first female publisher in British Vogue’s 102-year history.
She studies the everyday ethical experiences of frontline workers in global health, and “was awarded this historic distinction in recognition of the quality and global impact of her research on academia and beyond,” the university said on Dec. 13. Kingori is in her early 40s.
From Kenya to Oxford, via St Kitts
During her eight years at Oxford, Kingori has consistently obtained large and competitive funding grants, written frequently cited and impactful publications, supervised numerous DPhil candidates, and taught hundreds of students, the university said.
However, Kingori’s road to professorship wasn’t without roadblocks. For instance, she was awarded a Wellcome Doctoral Studentship to fund her PhD with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine just a month after she gave birth to her first child. After a year’s maternity leave, she relocated to Kenya with family to do fieldwork. But her career nearly stalled when civil unrest forced her to leave in 2007. Pregnant with her second child at the time, she thought people would write her off at work.
But 10 months after she left Kenya, she was able to go back, armed with two new supervisors, to bring her data collection back on track.
After completing the PhD, she bagged the Wellcome Research Fellowship to do postdoctoral research at the University of Oxford’s Ethox Centre. Since then, her career at the British institution has taken off. Within a span of five years, she went from being a research lecturer to an associate professor.
Kingori beyond academia
In addition to garnering accolades in academia, Kingori has also served as an adviser to multiple organizations including the World Health Organization, Save the Children, Medecins San Frontières, the Nuffield Council of Bioethics, and the Obama administration’s White House Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment in Africa Initiative.
Currently, Kingori is the recipient of a Wellcome Senior Investigator award, leading an interdisciplinary team of researchers exploring global concerns around fakes, fabrications, and falsehoods in health. Outside of her research, Kingori also helms several diversity initiatives, including a visiting scholarship for Black academics to the University of Oxford, and an internships program for students of color.