Jasmine Jordan on Creating Her Own Lane at Jordan Brand and WNBA Stars Finding Out She’s Michael Jordan’s Daughter

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Jasmine Jordan and peer holding up a basketball

By Peter Verry, Yahoo! News

Jasmine Jordan has a famous father, but she also works for Jordan Brand as a field rep in its sports marketing division, highlighting future athlete icons — especially female ones.

What’s more, not only is Jordan Brand signing WNBA stars, but the company is committed to providing equal treatment.

“Once we started to expand the roster, [we were] having the conversations of, ‘We say we’re Jordan Family, we’re offering white-glove service to tier 1 athletes. Let’s make sure that is felt when we bring these ladies on board too,’” Jasmine Jordan, the daughter of NBA icon Michael Jordan, told FN.

Although she has a job working for the namesake label of her father, Jasmine Jordan would much rather play the background and make a difference for the better than have a role in the forefront. Below, the basketball field rep for women’s sport marketing shares her thoughts on preserving her father’s legacy and ensuring Jordan Brand is always at the forefront of sneaker culture.

ON BEING A JORDAN WORKING AT THE BRAND:
“It’s powerful, it’s special. To have the name and work for the brand, it doesn’t feel real. People say all the time, ‘That’s your brand.’ I say, ‘No, it’s not,’ [but] yes, it is. I’m aware of it, but I don’t think about it as much as people around me do. I’m blessed with the name and an opportunity, but I don’t take it for granted.”

ESTABLISHING HERSELF AS A PROFESSIONAL:
“Those who have interacted with me even for 5 seconds, they see I don’t own the room. I have no desire to own the room. I am happy to be standing in the back, grabbing water for my athletes, checking on everybody because that’s who I am. I didn’t come in with my last name printed out in an office and taking executive roles. I’m going to work my way to that point. I want to make sure that if a role or an opportunity presents itself down the line, I can say that I did the entry job, worked my way to manager, director, executive. I took my learnings to find my way to the top.”

ROLE IN SIGNING FEMALE ATHLETES:
“I did a lot of research during COVID, had a lot of conversations. I got the green light in mid-2020, saying, ‘Hey, we’re about to expand our roster’ — that’s all I needed. I had a list of ladies we could consider signing, and Anthony [DiCosmo] said, ‘Create the roster how you want it to look.’ I made sure no two players were alike, every player had their own story and they were killing it in their own way on their team.”

WHEN ATHLETES FIND OUT HER DAD IS MJ:
“Some of our ladies know from the jump like, ‘That’s Mike’s daughter.’ But I had an adorable moment with Te’a Cooper. She had no idea. It wasn’t until I posted ‘Happy Father’s Day’ on my Instagram and she texted me right after, ‘You did not tell me he is your dad.’ And I was like, ‘Te’a, I assumed you knew.’”

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

Serena Williams says she will retire from tennis sometime after the U.S. Open.

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Alexis Ohanian-Serena Williams pictured at HBO event

By Oskar Garcia, NY Times

Serena Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam champion who has been the face of tennis since winning her first U.S. Open in 1999, said in a magazine article published online on Tuesday that she planned to retire from the sport after playing again in the tournament, which begins later this month.

Williams, who long ago transcended her sport as a dominant cultural figure, said in an as-told-to cover story for Vogue that she has “never liked the word retirement,” and preferred the word “evolution” to describe her next steps. “I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me,” including working with her venture capital firm and growing her family.

She was not explicit about when she might stop playing, but hinted on Instagram that the U.S. Open could be her last tournament. “The countdown has begun,” she said, adding, “I’m gonna relish these next few weeks.”

Williams said that she and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, planned to have another child.

“In the last year, Alexis and I have been trying to have another child, and we recently got some information from my doctor that put my mind at ease and made me feel that whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family. I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.”

Williams, whose last Grand Slam tournament victory came while she was pregnant during the Australian Open in 2017, was eliminated from Wimbledon in June in the first round.

“Unfortunately I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year,” Williams said. “And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York. But I’m going to try. And the lead-up tournaments will be fun.”

Williams has won nearly $100 million in prize money.

With the caveat that there still may be more to come from her this fall, Serena Williams has put a dazzling array of achievements into her sport’s record books.

She has won 23 Grand Slam singles events, ranging from 1999 when she was 17, to 2017. They included seven Australian Opens, three French Opens, seven Wimbledons, and six U.S. Opens. She also has 10 further appearances in Grand Slam singles finals.

Click here to read the full article on the NY Times.

Meet Afro-Latina Scientist Dr. Jessica Esquivel

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Dr. Jessica Esquivel

By Erica Nahmad, Be Latina

It’s undeniable that representation matters and the idea of what a scientist could or should look like is changing, largely thanks to pioneers like Afro-Latina scientist Dr. Jessica Esquivel, who is breaking barriers for women in STEM one step at a time.

Dr. Esquivel isn’t just extraordinary because of what she is capable of as an Afro-Latina astrophysicist — she’s also extraordinary in her vulnerability and relatability. She’s on a mission to break barriers in science and to show the humanity behind scientists.

Dr. Esquivel makes science accessible to everyone, no matter what you look like or where you come from. As one of the only Afro-Latina scientists in her field, and one of the only women who looked like her to pursue a Ph.D. in physics, Dr. Esquivel knows a thing or two about the importance of representation, especially in STEM fields and science labs.

Women make up only 28% of the science, technology, engineering, and math workforce in the U.S. Those disparities are even more severe when you start to look at minority populations.

“When you start looking at the intersections of race and gender and then even sexuality, those numbers drop significantly,” Esquivel told CBS Chicago. “There are only about 100 to 150 black women with their Ph.D. in physics in the country!”

Fighting against the isolation of uniqueness
Dr. Jessica Esquivel recalls being a nontraditional student and being “the only” when she entered graduate school for physics — the only woman in her class, the only Black, the only Mexican, the only lesbian — and all of that made her feel very isolated.

“On top of such rigorous material, the isolation and otherness that happens due to being the only or one of few is an added burden marginalized people, especially those with multiple marginalized identities, have to deal with,” Dr. Esquivel told BeLatina in an email interview. On top of feeling like an outsider, isolation was also consuming. “Being away from family at a predominately white institution, where the number of microaggressions was constant, really affected my mental health and, in turn, my coursework and research, so it was important to surround myself with mentors who supported me and believed in my ability to be a scientist.”

While she anticipated that the physics curriculum would be incredibly challenging, she was definitely not prepared for how hard the rest of the experience would be and how it would impact her as a student and a scientist.

The challenges she faced professionally and personally made her realize early on just how crucial representation is in academia and all fields, but especially in STEM. “It was really impactful for me to learn that there were other Black women who had made it out of the grad school metaphorical trenches. It’s absolutely important to create inclusive spaces where marginalized people, including Black, Latina, and genderqueer people, can thrive,” she said.

“The secrets of our universe don’t discriminate, these secrets can and should be unraveled by all those who wish to embark on that journey, and my aim is to clear as many barriers and leave these physics spaces better than I entered them.”

When inclusion and equal opportunities are the ultimate goal
Dr. Jessica Esquivel isn’t just dedicating her time and energy to studying complex scientific concepts — think quantum entanglement, space-time fabric, the building blocks of the universe… some seriously abstract physics concepts straight out of a sci-fi movie, as she explains. On top of her research, she put in so much extra work to show people, especially younger generations of women of color, that the physics and STEM world is not some old white man’s club where this prestigious knowledge is only available to them. Dr. Esquivel is an expert in her field; she knows things that no one else currently knows and has the ability and the power to transfer that knowledge to others and pass it down to others. There is a place for everyone, including people who look like her, in the STEM world, and she’s on a mission to inspire others while working to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM space.

“Many of us who are underrepresented in STEM have taken on the responsibility of spearheading institutional change toward more just, equitable, and inclusive working environments as a form of survival,” she explains. “I’m putting in more work on top of the research I do because I recognize that I do better research if I feel supported and if I feel like I can bring my whole self to my job. My hope is that one day Black and brown women and gender-queer folks interested in science can pursue just that and not have to fight for their right to be a scientist or defend that they are worthy of doing science.”

Click here to read the full article on Be Latina.

Arizona Afro-Latina is raising awareness of her culture as leader for female empowerment

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Franchela Ulises founded the organization "Mujeres of all Shades" where she focuses on female empowerment for all races and colors. The Afro-Latina educates them through the acceptance and confidence of knowing that they are beautiful and important. Photo courtesy Uriel Iturralde

By , NJ

Where are you from?

It’s a question that Franchela Ulises hears often in Arizona when she speaks in Spanish. In her native language.

She is used to the question. But she’ll never get used to the strange looks from others when she’s in public. She’s seen that look at the grocery store or at the park when she’s with her kids and they’re all talking in Spanish.

Sometimes she laughs it off. Other times, she lets her frustration flow.

Franchela was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Her parents are from the Dominican Republic.

In the country of her parents, Franchela doesn’t attract attention. Here in Arizona, in a desert state on the border with Mexico, a Black woman who speaks Spanish is watched with curiosity and sometimes reveals the prejudice toward people who share her heritage.

Facing discrimination. Not feeling recognized, included or accepted as an Afro-Latina. It’s exhausting, she says.

Franchela channeled her frustration into creating “Mujeres of all Shades.” The organization helps women of all races and cultural and ethnic backgrounds champion their own style, their own identities, their own expressions of beauty and brilliance.

She’s cultivating a collective of women who are changing the fashion industry to be more inclusive of what women want and how they want to be seen and heard.

Together, they fight for confidence and self-esteem and against stereotypes about beauty, race and gender. For Franchela, it is a movement.

She has three daughters. She wants them to see more Afro-Latinas represented on television and other media.

On a cool day in downtown Phoenix, Franchela is posing for photos and speaking in Spanish and English. She explains what life is like for Afro-Latinas in Arizona.

She fixes her hair and adjusts her jacket with splashes of vibrant colors from lime green to indigo blue. She crosses her legs and sets aside her Gucci bag.

Looking at the camera with the confidence of a Hollywood star on stage, a model on the runway or mama with three babies, she smiles and says: “I’m Afro-Latina.”

She releases a mischievous laugh adding, “I’m a little bit of everything.”

Franchela is 30 years old. She tries to explain how she defines herself, shows her identities in simple, straightforward ways that still seem so complicated in the eyes of people who do not know her cultural mix and her roots.

Click here to read the full article on NJ.

Jackie Robinson Museum opens in Manhattan after 14 years of planning

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Jackie Robinson wearing baseball uniform holding a bat

Long dreamed about and under construction for longer than the big league career of the man it honors, the Jackie Robinson Museum opened Tuesday in Manhattan with a gala ceremony attended by the 100-year-old widow of the barrier-breaking ballplayer and two of his children.

Rachel Robinson, who turned 100 on July 19, watched the half-hour outdoor celebration from a wheelchair in the 80-degree heat, then cut a ribbon to cap a project launched in 2008.

Her 72-year-old daughter, Sharon, also looked on from a wheelchair and 70-year-old son David spoke to the crowd of about 200 sitting on folding chairs arrayed in a closed-off section of Varick Street, a major thoroughfare in lower Manhattan where the 19,380-square-foot museum is located.

“The issues in baseball, the issues that Jackie Robinson challenged in 1947, they’re still with us,” David Robinson said. “The signs of white only have been taken down, but the complexity of equal opportunity still exists.”

Rachel Robinson announced the museum on April 15, 2008, the 61st anniversary of Jackie breaking the big league color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. Robinson became NL Rookie of the Year, the 1949 NL batting champion and MVP, a seven-time All-Star and a World Series champion in 1955. He hit .313 with 141 homers and 200 stolen bases in 11 seasons and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962.

Robinson, who died in 1972, had an impact beyond baseball, galvanizing a significant slice of American public opinion and boosting the civil rights movement.

“There’s nowhere on the globe where dream is attached to our name — or our country’s name,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said. “There’s not a German dream. There’s not a French dream. There’s not a Polish dream. Darn it, there’s an American dream. And this man and wife took that dream and forced America and baseball to say you’re not going to be a dream on a piece of paper, you’re going to be a dream in life. We are greater because of No. 42 and because he had amazing wife that understood that dream and vision.”

A gala dinner was held Monday night to preview the museum, which contains 4,500 artifacts, including playing equipment and artifacts such as Robinson’s 1946 minor league contract for $600 a month and his 1947 rookie contract for a $5,000 salary. The museum also holds a collection of 40,000 images and 450 hours of footage.

A 15-piece band played at the ceremony, attended by former pitcher CC Sabathia, former NL president Len Coleman and former Mets owner Fred Wilpon along with players’ association head Tony Clark and Hall of Fame president Josh Rawitch.

“Without him, there would be no me,” Sabathia said. “I wouldn’t have been able to live out my dream of playing Major League Baseball.”

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, director Spike Lee (wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers cap) and former tennis star Billie Jean King also were on hand.

“It seems like we’re more divided than ever,” King said. “People like Jackie Robinson was a great reminder every single morning, every single evening that we have to do the right thing every day.”

Original projections had a 2010 opening and $25 million cost. The Great Recession caused a delay.

Read the complete article originally posted on ESPN here.

US Black business ownership sees rise thanks to women, study finds

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Black Business Ownership with two black female business owners standing in their bakery store

By , The Guardian

Black business ownership is surging in the US despite the coronavirus pandemic, research shows, with a rise in businesses owned by Black women.

At the start of the pandemic, Black-owned businesses suffered. Between February and April 2020, Black business ownership dropped by more than 40%, the largest drop of any racial or ethnic group, according to a report from the House committee on small business.

When government aid became available, Black business owners received fewer small business grants than white business owners, with paycheck protection program funds only reaching 29% of Black applicants versus 60% of white ones.

But according to research from University of California Santa Cruz economist Robert W Fairlie, Black business ownership is now up by almost 30% on pre-pandemic levels.

The Biden administration has said a record number of people are starting their own businesses. Women of color are the fastest-growing group of female entrepreneurs.

“At a time when folks are rethinking their lives and choices, it is not surprising that more Black women are electing to become CEOs of their own companies rather than waiting for their intelligence and skills to be recognized at their current firms,” Melissa Bradley, founder of 1863 Ventures, an agency for Black and brown entrepreneurs, told Business Insider.

Pandemic layoffs could be another factor in the rise of Black business ownership. Job insecurity caused by Covid-related restrictions prompted many people to explore alternative options, including starting businesses.

Diamonte Walker, deputy executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, told the Pittsburg Post-Gazette: “Being beholden to corporations and institutions just doesn’t feel like a safe bet in times of uncertainty, whereas the risk of starting a business now starts to feel a lot less than the risk of sitting on a job not knowing when your number is coming up.”

Experts say the emergence of female Black business owners could be explained by Black women wanting more control over their work life.

Millions left their jobs during the pandemic due to inadequate pay, lack of childcare options and debates about remote work, all compounded by systematically low pay and workplace discrimination.

“If you start your own business, some of those obstacles may not be as acute as if you were relying on employment from someone else,” the Wells Fargo chief economist, Jay H Bryson, told Insider.

“There may be avenues that certainly benefit anybody, but proportionally they’d be more beneficial to the Black community than other parts of the population.”

Click here to read the full article on The Guardian.

3 Strategies Female Founders of Color Can Use to Secure Funding

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woman looking at her computer screen with a white coffee mug next to her

By Xintian Tina Wang, Inc.com

Black and Latina women founders received only 0.43 percent of the $166 billion in VC funding dished out to startups in 2020. That’s according to ProjectDiane, a biennial report on the state of Black women and Latina founders by the organization DigitalUndivided.

Two women who are beating the odds are Kelly Ifill, the founder and CEO of Guava, a neo-bank and community platform designed to serve Black entrepreneurs and small-business owners, and Evelyn Rusli, an angel investor and the co-founder and president of baby food brand Yumi. The two sat down with All the Hats editor Teneshia Carr to talk about the best strategies for overcoming the hurdles to getting funding as a female founder of color. Here are three that stand out.

1. Be prepared to hear ‘no’ and keep pitching.
Rusli says she receives probably hundreds of rejections when pitching to investors, but encourages founders to stay positive nevertheless. “I think you have to pitch a lot of investors in the beginning, where not everyone is going to say yes. In fact, you’re going to get many nos,” says Rusli. “For every no out there, there is a yes. If you believe so strongly in your vision and that’s why you took the leap, then you just have to continue to knock on those doors and try to find the angles.”

Ifill agrees and suggests that pitching is a numbers game — by pitching more, you’ll come to understand what resonates with investors best. “Some investors will give you feedback, so you can scrap from your pitch what’s not working and what you need to double click on,” she says.

2. Find a compelling story.
Practice telling your pitch story to get it right and tight. Investors are humans, and they respond to stories that have humane aspects.

“We don’t pay attention to the storytelling aspect of the pitches enough,” says Ifill. “Try to tell stories of the lived experience of people that you’re trying to change or an industry problem that you’re trying to solve. I find that’s [led to] the most successful moments that I have had with investors.”

3. Leverage your network to find the right investor
LinkedIn can be your go-to platform to get to know people in your industry. Rusli urges being unafraid to cold call people you don’t know. “People reach out less than you think they do in general. If an investor finds your subject line interesting, they might just respond.”

Click here to read the full article on Inc.com.

How 3 Black Women Entrepreneurs Achieved Industry Firsts

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Black women entrepreneur Tiffany Mason, founder of Harlem Pilates.

By Rebecca Deczynski, INC.com

Someone always has to go first–but occupying that role isn’t necessarily easy.

While Black women are the fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the United States, they remain underrepresented in many industries. And especially when it comes to securing capital, a lack of previous representation in an industry can be a barrier.

“During the time I was building my business, I was generating tons of money, but I just couldn’t get funded,” says Robin Wilson, founder of home textile brand Clean Design Home (originally called Robin Wilson Home). “I remember going to a seed capital group and showing how successful my business was, and a woman said, ‘I don’t know any brands like yours–I’m not trying to be racist or anything.’ I said, ‘I can’t really unzip myself and become something I’m not.’ So I was out.” After years of bootstrapping, Wilson became the first Black American female founder of a global, licensed hypoallergenic textile brand, and now has several successful companies under her holding company, A Blue Egg Corporation.

Wilson is just one example of the Black women entrepreneurs succeeding in spite of systemic barriers. Inc. spoke with her and two others to find out their best takeaways for strategizing, connecting with investors who get you, and achieving “firsts” in their respective industries.

Make the connections you can
By day, Rada Griffin is a senior software engineer for NASA, working on a project that will send the first woman to the moon in 2024. But in her off hours, she’s the owner of Anissa Wakefield Wines and Alabama’s first certified Black female winemaker. In 2006, the Huntsville, Alabama-based entrepreneur started a catering business on the side and quickly developed an interest in wine. “Back then, you really had to know someone in the winemaking business to get some insight about it,” she says. After years of self-study, she launched her business in 2017, releasing her first vintage of wine the following year. She became a certified winemaker in 2021, after she completed an online program through Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration.

Of the more than 8,000 wineries in the United States, about one-10th of 1 percent are Black-owned, Phil Long, president of the Association of African American Vintners, told Bloomberg in 2020. Finding people who are open-minded to diversity and inclusion, Griffin says, has been key to her success. She connected with a few other Black women winemakers working in Napa, where she produces her wine. “I’ve come across some really, really great people who have kind of taken me under their wing,” she says. “If you don’t reach out to people, if you don’t go talk to people and understand what it is that you’re doing or what you need to do better, you’ll keep making the same mistakes.” Griffin says that the support she’s gained from her network has made all the difference–she turns to her fellow winemakers for advice and inspiration.

Turn “no” into a learning opportunity
Tiffany Mason, founder of Harlem Pilates–the first Pilates studio in Harlem–recently won a $30,000 grant from Squarespace to put toward her business. But fundraising previously wasn’t easy. For that reason, she bootstrapped her business, running lessons from her apartment for about two years before she started looking for a brick-and-mortar space in 2019. After approaching a few banks, she got approved for a small personal loan, which allowed her to take the next step in opening her business.

“I got a lot of noes,” she says. “Eventually, you understand that noes are feedback to help you get better. It’s important to take those responses and learn how to refine your messaging.” On her part, Mason says that early noes taught her to become more confident in her pitch, being “loud and proud” about owning the only Pilates studio in her neighborhood. While trying to secure her initial bank loan, Mason says that she took a more passive approach, and didn’t really emphasize how significant her business was for her neighborhood; when she applied for Squarespace’s grant, she went in the opposite direction–to great success.

Understand the power of branding
Wilson started her career in the corporate world at the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. When the company went public in 1999, she gained the financial opportunity to pursue her real passion–so, she went to NYU to get her master’s in real estate finance and launched her business, Robin Wilson Home. Over the years, she’s faced ups and downs, and particularly had a hard time garnering VC interest. “As a woman and a person of color, there’s real fiscal inequality,” she says.

But in the summer of 2020, she saw sales of her 2015 book Clean Design tick up, amid increased calls to support Black-owned businesses. Around that time, she had a conversation with an old business school professor, who advised her to change the name of her business to help expand her appeal.

Click here to read the full article on Inc. Com.

Soul Life Travel, the First Black and Women-Owned Travel Agency in Costa Rica

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Soul Life Travel, the First Black and Women-Owned Travel Agency in Costa Rica

By Yamily Habib, Be Latina

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a myriad of things in the way we live. Not only did we learn to value our personal spaces and our community solidarity, but we put into perspective the way we travel and the value we place on freedom of movement.

Combined, these learnings have made us more sensitive to the fair representation and authenticity of our experiences.

For Sadie Jordan and Emily Orgias, these life lessons came to fruition in Soul Life Travel, the first Black and women-owned travel agency in Costa Rica — Jordan’s mother’s native home (Jordan was born in the States).

After years of giving travel tips to their family and friends in the region, always trying to bring value to the authenticity of the Caribbean, Jordan founded Soul Life Travel; Orgias joined her afterward as a travel specialist.

This agency combines their decade-long experience in the travel industry and their more than fifteen years of personal globetrotting.

Soul Life travel offers unique and authentic trips that compete with irresponsible tourism, which poses a growing threat to local culture, especially in Costa Rica.

“We believe that sustainable travel is both possible and essential, which is why we craft exciting tours that highlight, not harm, the essence of places you visit,” the founders explain on their website “Our personal connection to the region not only enhances our expertise and commitment to the local community but also motivates us to carefully design tours that are tailored to every desire in your dream trip.”

As Jordan told Travel Noire, there are many things people don’t know about Afro-Caribbean Costa Rican culture. With Soul Life Travel, the founders hope people will learn by researching and planning trips for them. Their goal is to bring people together around culture, wellness, and adventure in the often forgotten Caribbean coast.

“I created Soul Life Travel to show Black and brown people our cultures. A lot of things connect us, whether it be our cuisine or how our mama’s throw down in the kitchen, and so many experiences,” Jordan said.

Soul Life Travel offers many tours, including “A Taste of Costa Rica,” “A Week In Costa Rica,” and “Afro-Caribbean Costa Rica.”

Click here to read the full article on Be Latina.

Zendaya Makes Emmy History Once Again as Youngest Producing Nominee for ‘Euphoria’

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Zendaya in a nude dress on the red carpet

By , Rolling Stone

Zendaya made history in 2020 when she became the youngest woman — and only the second Black woman (after Viola Davis) — to win in the lead drama actress category at the age of 24. Now, with the 2022 Emmy nods out, Zendaya, has made history yet again as the youngest producer to be nominated for an award after Euphoria’s Outstanding Drama Series nod. Zendaya serves as both a star and executive producer on the series.

The general drama series nod comes as she received three other nominations for her role as Rue Bennett in the HBO drama. She was, once again, nominated for Lead Actress in a Drama Series and also received two nods for Outstanding Original Music for both “Elliot’s Song” with Dominic Fike, and”I’m Tired” with Labrinth.

In the Lead Actress category, she faces off against Killing Eve‘s Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh, Ozark‘s Laura Linney, Yellowjackets’ Melanie Lynskey, and Morning Show‘s Reese Witherspoon.

Meanwhile, Euphoria is nominated for the Outstanding Drama Series category against Better Call Saul, Ozark, Severance, Squid Game, Stranger Things, Succession, and Yellowjackets. (Squid Game is the first non-English-language series to be nominated for the prize.)

The list of “firsts” doesn’t end there for the Oakland-born star. With her nominations, she’s also the first Black woman (and only second Black person) to receive both songwriting and acting nods in the same year.

More history could be made next year by Zendaya as she revealed in a recent interview with Vogue Italia that not only does she want to direct, but she “probably” will direct a future episode of Euphoria. “I was supposed to direct Episode 6 [of Season 2], but then I had to act in it,” she said in the interview. “I didn’t have enough time, so, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to this time around. I wanted to have enough time to do it the right way, so next season probably.”

Click here to read the full article on the Rolling Stone.

Cedric the Entertainer: Long Live the King

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By Tawanah Reeves-Ligon

You’d have to go pretty far and wide to meet someone who doesn’t know the name Cedric the Entertainer.

Born Cedric Antonio Kyles, the multihyphenate comedian, producer, entrepreneur, host and actor has been a recognizable face in entertainment for almost 30 years. Many recall Cedric from his time as a former host of BET’s ComicView and Def Comedy Jam in the 90s. Others will remember him for his co-starring role in the hit sitcom on WB The Steve Harvey Show, next to fellow comedian and friend Steve Harvey.

However, most fans hear his name and immediately think of the sensation that was The Original Kings of Comedy tour and video in 2000 where he performed beside fellow legends Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and the late Bernie Mac.

No matter how you know his name, face or signature laugh, Cedric the Entertainer is always guaranteed to bring a smile to the faces of his audience. He has hosted talk shows, led game shows and even recorded comedic interludes on rap albums: one triple platinum (Jay Z’s The Blueprint), one quadruple platinum (Ye’s Late Registration) and one certified diamond album (Nelly’s Country Grammar). For over 20 years, he has appeared in numerous movies (such as the Barbershop, Madagascar and Ice Age franchises) and television shows, including his current hit The Neighborhood, recently renewed for its fifth season and produced by Cedric’s production company, A Bird and a Bear Ent., which he manages with his longtime partner Eric Roan.

What’s kept him going all these years?

The constant inspiration from fellow artists. “Now, I’m just motivated continually to do great work,” Cedric shared with Black EOE Journal. “We had so many new creators that came on the scene and are doing great things to where I feel like, now, there’s heavy competition all around and great, and you just want to be a part of the conversation.” He’s talking about writers adding culture and depth to the conversation like Ava Duvernay, Lena Waithe and Kenya Barris. He also referenced fellow comedian creators like Kevin Hart. “You just want to keep leveling up,” he said. “That’s why I stay busy and stay at it and stay motivated. I’m actually just excited that the energy is…moving forward and not slowing down…”
And Cedric hasn’t slowed down either.

Building an Empire
From lead comedian at a White House Correspondents’ Dinner to Broadway to host of this past year’s 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards, he is always finding ways to bring joy through his work.

Cedric the Entertainer and son Croix accept the award for Favorite Video Game for “Madagascar: Operation Penguin” (Photo by Jesse Grant/WireImage)

Along with The Neighborhood, his company also produces two shows on the Bounce TV network that are about relevant issues and stories, particularly in the Black community: Johnson, a show that follows the lives of four Black men in their 30s navigating the trials of everyday life. They are childhood friends and happen to have the same last name… Johnson. The other program is a dramedy called Finding Happy about a Black woman working in the Atlanta radio industry, played by comedian and actor B. Simone, who, with the help of some friends, decides on her 36th birthday to make a decision to change her stagnant life and find her own happiness.
According to Cedric, “I guess as far as what has changed [over the years], I feel like so many creators are gaining more and more control of their brands and their ideas that they want to see and do and that becomes even more motivating… the fact that your creativity doesn’t have to be limited to a group of producers, creators or networks that have no idea what you’re about and what your people want to see. Now there’s just a wide array of opportunities.” He also commented on the emergence of new streaming networks and platforms, both large-scale like Netflix, and smaller ones such as those started by social media influencers and content creators from underrepresented backgrounds.

Cedric Antonio Kyles aka Cedric The Entertainer with the picture of his mother at the ceremony honoring him with a Star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

“The networks have to up their game because the streamers are so hot,” he shared. “It opens up the playing field for diversity all across the board. When you think about it, across the cultural diaspora that we have in this country, it just gives great opportunity to see shows and people from different cultures which really allows all of us to grow…and, of course, it’s forced the major institutional networks to have to change up because they’re now getting left behind. So now that gives an opportunity for so many other people to create.”
Along with his creativity on the screen and stage, Cedric the Entertainer is also an ardent businessman. He released his own line of hats a few years ago in his signature style called Who Ced?. “I loved hats from very early on in my career. I had a couple of images when I started to do comedy, and one of them was of my grandfather wearing his fedora. I thought it was cool to do when I was on stage, so I started rocking them and eventually I wanted to expand my brand.” The line was intended to be an inexpensive, everyday wear accessory. However, they’ve recently undergone a rebrand and will soon be launching a new line called Egg & Butter, which will feature hats that are more upscale and Italian-made. Visit eggandbutter.com to sign up for the mailing list for news of the official launch date. He also debuted another business in January of this year, a 100 point, three-time gold medal-winning, two-time Best in Class red blend wine he named after his mother. According to Cedric, “I partnered with Smith and Devereux winery in Napa [Valley]. It’s called Zetta.

Cedric the Entertainer (C) with his father (L) and sister (R) attend the ceremony honoring Cedric The Entertainer with a Star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

My mother’s name was Rosetta. It’s a Napa Valley blend red, beautiful wine. You can go to smithdevereux.com and get a case, get a bottle. It launched on her birthday, January 4.” 10 percent of all profits are donated to the RedRoseReads Foundation to support literacy programs throughout the U.S.
But that’s not all he’s working on. “I’m sure I’ve got a hundred other businesses. I stay busy. I’ve got a very cool thing called Fan Room (fanroomlive.com) that I do which is kind of like an online green room situation where celebrities meet their fans in a virtual environment, and they sit and talk, and they chill with them in the Fan Room. It’s pretty cool. That’s been growing. We started that over the pandemic.”

Always Giving Back
What may surprise many isn’t that Cedric the Entertainer gives back. It’s how many ways and through how many organizations. For example, there’s the Cedric “The Entertainer” Charitable Foundation scholarship that he started in 1996 for high school students in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).

Arsenio Hall and Cedric the Entertainer attends the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation 9th Annual “Big Fighters, Big Cause” Charity Boxing Night presented by B. Riley FBR, Inc. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation)

“My mother was an educator, a reading specialist,” he said. “She passed a few years ago, but she instilled in my sister and myself this idea of philanthropy, to be able to help give back to help those less fortunate. I started that with an educational program mainly for kids who grew up in single parent households who needed a little help to go to college… partnered with UNCF…partnered with my alma mater Southeast Missouri State University as well as any HBCUs. We’ve been doing that since ‘96, helping kids go to college. We deemed that very important.”

But that’s not all.

Cedric the Entertainer (C) poses with his daughter Lucky Rose Kyles and wife Lorna Wells. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

“From there, when my mom got ill, [my sister and I] really got involved in women’s health issues. We started a women’s health pavilion in St. Louis, Mo. at St. Mary’s Hospital in her name, the Rosetta Boyce Kyles Women’s Pavilion that deals with all kinds of women’s health issues from athletics for young students to cancer to the heart to just getting people rides to the hospital. That initiative has been something we’ve done for about six years. Of course, I’ve worked with the American Diabetes [Association] because my dad deals with diabetes. So, we did the neuropathy campaign, really trying to get especially Black males to go get checked out; something we don’t do in our culture. We always try to man it out and tough it out and don’t realize these are things we can actually fix and prevent if we got a heads up soon enough.”

Long May He Reign
Cedric the Entertainer’s good work is never done, and we’re thankful for that.
His commitment to making a difference in the world through charity and philanthropy is admirable, but one can’t forget his work with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to help mentor a new generation of voices in media and entertainment.

Cedric The Entertainer attends the 8th annual Cedric The Entertainer Golf Classic Lexus VIP pairings party celebration. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

“My work with the Academy is all about improving the minority participation in this industry, especially coming in at the internship level and giving people the opportunity to be here, to be working and be involved with these shows.”
Cedric has been an outspoken supporter of diversity and inclusion in American society as well as a champion of racial and social equity. “It’s very important. You need a group of people that’s truly and completely about advocacy…We do need people who are all about the advocacy; they’ve got to stay and make people accountable, to show that we’re necessary and worthy of all the stuff we’re asking for.”

But what’s next for The Entertainer?
Anything. Maybe even music?
“I’m a person who likes to write songs. I write little songs and jingles quite a bit.

I haven’t really introduced my music, so I guess people will come to find that out soon,” he told Black EOE Journal. “I haven’t really ever [shown that]. I do them for jokes, but I haven’t really shown some of the sincere stuff that I do.” Well, we’re excited to see what the future holds. Hearing about any new projects Cedric has up his sleeves will surely be sweet music to our ears.

The Rock’s Daughter, Ava Raine, Debuts Nickname In First WWE NXT Promo

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The Rock’s Daughter, Ava Raine, Debuts Nickname In First WWE NXT Promo

By Robert Gunier, Wrestling Inc.

As noted, WWE NXT held another live event last night in Orlando, Florida, headlined by Bron Breakker successfully defending his NXT Championship against Tony D’Angelo. Elsewhere on the card, the leader of Toxic Attraction, Mandy Rose, defeated Ivy Nile to retain her NXT Women’s Title, and The Creed Brothers defeated Joe Gacy and a member of the DYAD to retain their Tag Team Titles.

But one of the biggest stories coming out of the show isn’t about the in-ring action at all. Fresh WWE NXT talent Ava Raine, the real-life daughter of The Rock that signed with WWE in February 2020, cut her first promo at last night’s event. She was presented as a heel to the audience as she talked down to Cora Jade and the rest of the NXT women’s locker room.

Raine also revealed what her nickname will be going forward and it’s possibly a nod to a recent horror film. Raine, a fan of cinema influenced by the supernatural, apparent by the many references to “The Craft” (1996) on her social media, was referring to herself as “The Final Girl” during her in-ring promo. The film, “The Final Girls” was a horror/comedy film released in 2015 that first debuted at the SXSW Film Festival before receiving a wider release in the United States later that Fall. The premise of the movie sees the protagonist, Max, along with her group of friends, getting trapped inside a B-horror film where they must use the tropes they’ve learned from watching horror movies to survive. There’s no certainty this film influenced the new description Raine is giving herself in NXT, but the connection is possible.

“The Final Girl” is also a common trope in horror cinema as a whole. She is recognized as the last girl or woman surviving in the film as the story becomes centrally focused on her.

As seen in the photos below, Raine was trending after she dropped the promo last night, signifying that we might be approaching a televised debut for the 20-year-old. She has been teasing her debut for several weeks until last night when she finally revealed her persona to a live crowd.

Click here to read the full article on Wrestling Inc.

Simone Biles Makes History as the Youngest to Receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom

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Joe Biden putting the Presidential Medal of Freedom award on Simone Biles

By Njera Perkins, Pop Sugar

Simone Biles continues to break records and make history. On July 7, the 25-year-old Olympian, along with 16 other honorees, received the esteemed Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor — making her the youngest person to ever do so, according to President Joe Biden.

Beyond being a world-renowned gymnast, Biles was honored as a “prominent advocate for athletes’ mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault,” the White House previously announced.

“Today, [Biles] adds to her medal count of 32 — I don’t know if you’re going to find room,” President Biden joked during his remarks at the White House. Biden then praised Biles for her ability “to turn personal pain into a greater purpose, to stand up and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” During the award ceremony, Biles wore a bright smile and black tweed blazer dress as Biden placed her medal around her neck, and her fiancé, Jonathan Owens, was there to cheer her on from the front row.

Biles was honored alongside other recipients like Megan Rapinoe and Denzel Washington, though the latter wasn’t present for the ceremony due to a positive COVID test, CNN reported. The actor will be awarded his medal at a later date.

Over the years, Biles has shattered glass ceilings in the sports world and become the most decorated gymnast in world championship history. Now, her latest accomplishment only solidifies that she’s a true trailblazer. Ahead, check out more photos of her receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House.

Click here to read the full article on Pop Sugar.

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