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

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

By, and , NPR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

Diddy pledges $1M to Howard University in speech accepting BET lifetime achievement award

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While accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award, Diddy pledged to donate $1 million to both Howard University and Jackson State University.

By Ida Domingo, ABC 13 News

Sunday night’s BET Awards was not only a big night for Sean “Diddy” Combs but also for Howard University in D.C.

While accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award, Diddy pledged to donate $1 million to both Howard University and Jackson State University.

“I want to donate a million dollars to Howard University,” Combs said to the audience before he left the stage. “Also, I’m gonna drop another million dollars on Deion Sanders and Jackson State, because we should play for us. Thank you everyone from the bottom of my heart, I love y’all.”

The announcement came as Combs accepted the award from surprise presenter Kanye West alongside Babyface.

“I got this dream of Black people being free,” Combs said. “I got this dream of us controlling our own destiny. I got this dream of us taking accountability and stop killing each other. I got this dream of us being rich and wealthy and living on the same block. I have this dream of us unifying.”

“Y’all know I wouldn’t be here without Howard University, Combs said before starting an “HU” chant during his speech.

Combs attended Howard University in the late 1980s but left to pursue a career in music. In 2014, he returned to receive an honorary doctorate from the university.

Also during Combs’ speech, he paid homage to the late Andre Harrell, who launched his career, as well as his mother for working several jobs during his childhood and the late Kim Porter, his longtime girlfriend and mother of his three children.

Click here to read the full article on ABC 13 News.

Khaby Lame– The Most Followed Influencer On TikTok

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Khaby Lame – The Most Followed Influencer On TikTok

By Keka Araujo, BET

Black excellence is reigning on TikTok. Twenty-year-old Khabane “Khaby” Lame recently surpassed Charli D’Amelio as the most followed user on the popular social media platform.

The Senegalese influencer reportedly has almost 100,000 more followers (he has 143.4 million) than the dancing influencer (142.3 million). The popular TikToker built his massive following in the beginning by making dance vids, comedic skits and video game reactions.

It wasn’t until 2021 that the Lame’s account blew up after his hilarious and expressive reactions to life hacks. His viewership took off after his reaction only vids caught the eyes of TikTok platforms. Fans made it their business to elevate the 22-year-old social media star.

Lame explained the magic behind his success.

“I came up with the idea because I was seeing these videos circulating, and I liked the idea of bringing some simplicity to it,” Lame told CNN. ” I thought of a way to reach as many people as possible. And the best way was not to speak.”

The creator now lives in Italy and has amassed over 2 billion likes for his hilarious videos.

Black TikTokers called the social media platform out over allowing white creators to steal from Black trendsetters.

BET.com reported choreographer JaQuel Knight partnered with Logitech to ensure that Black creators copyright and monetize their projects.

“I am so thrilled to announce this collaboration with The JaQuel Knight Foundation and Logitech, a remarkable step in our goal toward creating a system of protection for young creators,” Knight said.

He continued, “The JK Foundation was ultimately started to provide a place of support for dancers (during an extremely fragile time in the pandemic, nonetheless), and to put the power back in the artists’ hands – not just for myself, but for the next JaQuel Knight. For all of the little boys and girls who look like me.”

Click here to read the full article on BET.

Naomi Osaka launches media company in partnership with Lebron James

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Tennis Player, Naomi Osaka poses for a photo with LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers after the game on April 4, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.

By Ian Krietzberg, CNBC

Four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka is launching a media production company in partnership with The SpringHill Company, a media conglomerate created by Lebron James.

The production company, called Hana Kuma, will produce scripted and nonfiction content, starting with a New York Times documentary about Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to U.S. Congress, according to a press release. The announcement says Hana Kuma will highlight “empowering” and “culturally specific” stories.

“There has been an explosion of creators of color finally being equipped with resources and a huge platform,” Osaka said in the release. “In the streaming age, content has a more global perspective. You can see this in the popularity of television from Asia, Europe and Latin America that the unique can also be universal. My story is a testament to that as well.”

The SpringHill Company, founded by NBA star James and business partner Maverick Carter, will provide production and strategic resources to Hana Kuma, the release said. Hana Kuma also has partnerships with crypto exchange platform FTX and health platform Modern Health.

In May, Osaka launched an athlete representation agency called Evolve.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

Tracee Ellis Ross Partners With Non Profit To Support Black Women-Owned Businesses

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Tracee Ellis Ross Partners With Non Profit To Support Black Women-Owned Businesses

By Angela Johnson, The Root

She’s already crushing the beauty game with her PATTERN line of hair care products and accessories. Now actress and entrepreneur Tracee Ellis Ross is teaming up with the non-profit Buy From A Black Woman (BFABW) and H&M USA to inspire and support other Black women business owners. According to a June 13 press release, H&M will partner with Buy From A Black Woman for the second year in a row to shine a light on Black women-owned businesses. And this time, Ross will serve as the non-profit’s ambassador.

In a June 10 sit-down with Buy From a Black Woman founder Nikki Porcher at H&M’s LA showroom, Ross shared her advice on achieving success with other young Black female entrepreneurs. “I am proud to help support Buy From a Black Woman and the incredible network of business owners they’ve brought together,” Ross said. “Black women and their contributions are often overlooked, which is why it’s crucial for us to come together to build, strengthen and create our own opportunities for success.”

Buy From A Black Woman launched in 2016 with a mission of providing Black women with all of the tools they need for success, including educational programming, an online directory and funding. In the second year of their partnership, H&M USA plans to donate $250,000 to BFABW and provide sponsorship for the Buy From a Black Woman Inspire Tour, which will place products from Black women-owned businesses on shelves in select H&M stores across the country.

BFABW founder Nikki Porcher says she believes Ross is one of the best advocates for the cause of supporting businesses owned by Black women. “It’s hard to describe in words what it means to have Tracee Ellis Ross as an ambassador for Buy From A Black Woman. This year we are celebrating and showing the world that Black Women are living examples. I couldn’t think of a better example to help us spread our message of just how important it is to buy from and support Black Women Business Owners better than Ms. Ross. We are truly honored to work with her and to continue our partnership with H&M,” she said.

Click here to read the full article on The Root.

Jennifer Hudson Becomes an EGOT at the 2022 Tony Awards as She Wins for A Strange Loop

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Jennifer Hudson on the red carpet in a black off the shoulder gown

By Jen Juneau, People

Jennifer Hudson has officially achieved EGOT status! The actress and singer clinched her first-ever Tony Award on Sunday evening, when A Strange Loop won best musical. (Hudson, 40, serves as a producer on the show.) It was the final trophy she needed to complete the EGOT quartet of having won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.

Hudson won her first of the big four awards, an Oscar, for her role in 2007’s Dreamgirls. She is a two-time Grammy winner, having nabbed her first one for her 2009 self-titled album. The American Idol alum went on to score a Daytime Emmy last year, for the animated short Baba Yaga, which she co-produced and lent her voice to.

Hudson previously joked when asked about her plans to achieve EGOT status, “I should get two more dogs.”

“I got a dog and named it Oscar, and then I won my Oscar. And then I got a dog and named it Grammy, and then I won my Grammy,” she said at the time. “So I think I should get some dogs and name them Emmy and Tony — and it’ll give me good luck, and I’ll win. [They’re] like my good luck charms.”

Presented by the Broadway League and the American Theater Wing, the annual Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre (as the Tonys are officially known) recognize the highest honor in U.S. theater — the equivalent of TV’s Emmys, music’s Grammys or the film industry’s Oscars. It’s a necessary award in achieving EGOT, the grand slam of show business.

Click here to read the full article on People.

How R&B Allows Black Women To Express Their Sexuality

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R&B singer on stage

By Okay Player

Since the beginning of time, people have included their experiences in the art they make. Sexual experiences are not exempt from that. R&B, in particular, has served as a space for singers to explore their sexual desires, specifically women. Although listeners are most used to hearing women sing about love (and the joy and heartbreak that comes with it) in R&B, the genre has also allowed them to explore a part of themselves that is often too taboo to touch on — sex — in both subtle and unsubtle ways, often to the surprise of listeners who tend to see R&B as a sanitized genre or don’t get the sly, suggestive lyrics being presented to them.

One of the best examples of a woman R&B artist treading the line between directness and subtlety is Janet Jackson’s 1993 album Janet. A step away from being known as the baby sister of Michael Jackson, Janet allowed her to explore her sexuality freely in a way she hadn’t done before. A standout from the album, “Any Time, Any Place,” is a testament to that. On the song, Jackson expresses pure joy in her public displays of affection toward her lover, declaring “I don’t care who’s around” during its chorus in a way that speaks to the pleasure of wanting to touch — and be touched — by a romantic interest.

In a 1993 Rolling Stone review of the album, Touré wrote that Janet is “A significant, even revolutionary transition in the sexual history and popular iconography of Black women.” To see Janet depart from her conservative image and create an album promoting sexual liberation not only served to expand her artistry but also foreshadowed how women would continue to express their sexuality in contemporary R&B.

However, some R&B artists have come under fire their lyrics, especially those that are more explicit. Two years after Janet came Adina Howard’s Do You Wanna Ride?, a fusion of hip-hop, new jack swing, and R&B that included the hit single “Freak Like Me.” Driven by a g-funk beat, Howard channels the bravado and confidence of male rappers, singing about how she needs someone to be just as freaky as her to be satisfied sexually. Unfortunately, not everyone was in support of Howard’s sexual anthem. In a 1995 Washington Post profile of Howard and Do You Wanna Ride?, a handful of Black women spoke about the artist’s explicit lyrics and persona, among them Christina Kirksey, a 17-year-old National Political Congress of Black Women intern who called Howard’s lyrics “nasty and vile.”

“I have to constantly fight against catcalls and sexual harassment on the street and here comes Adina Howard. I need a freak in the morning . . . I cannot stand her because all she does is show her behind,” Kirksey said at the time.

Gregg Diggs, then music director of BET, also spoke unfavorably about Howard’s music, saying: “Because she’s a decent singer with a solid voice, I think it would have been wiser on her part if she had focused more of her energy on her talent and not her sexuality.”

But Howard succinctly speaks to the importance of Black women being able to openly express their sexuality and not having to ignore their inner freak. She shares in the profile: “When people have a problem expressing sexuality, it becomes a bigger problem because a lot of things start in the bedroom. Sexuality should be open, expressive. I’ve never been hypocritical. I’ve never been one of these girls lying too loudly about not wanting to do it.”

This expression of sexuality continued on in 2000 with singers like Jill Scott, who expressed her desires in a way that were direct but also poetic. For fans that were surprised by her viral microphone antics during a live performance in 2018, they clearly weren’t paying attention to songs like “Love Rain” from her 2000 debut album, Who Is Jill Scott? Words And Sounds Vol. 1.

On the track, she expertly blends the poetic and overt. In the second verse, you can hear how Scott is deeply satisfied with her lover, ultimately declaring “Better than love, we made delicious.” Even in name, “Love Rain” plays with innuendo, hinting at sexual acts and experiences that aren’t often mentioned in R&B.

In the 2010s, sexual desire and expression from Black women in R&B has become more common — especially toward the end of the decade. CTRL, SZA’s 2017 major label debut, began with “Supermodel,” a track where she declares that it was the sex that kept her in a temporary love that didn’t end well. There’s also “Doves in the Wind,” where she’s not only hesitant to tell someone how they’re not satisfying her the way she wants (“High key, your *beep* is weak buddy / It’s only replaced by a rubber substitute”), but she yearns for sexually (“I’m really tryna crack off on the headboard / And bust it wide open for the right one”). In 2019, we saw the release of Summer Walker’s Over It and Ari Lennox’s Shea Butter Baby, with the former more along the lines of the alternative R&B of SZA and the latter more traditional R&B. But in both, they’re expressing their wants freely. “Girls Need Love“— which first appeared on Last Day of Summer mixtape — reappeared as a remix with Drake on Over It, with the singer offering a chorus that Howard likely would be proud of, and a first verse that is unabashed in its want for one lover over countless other options. Shea Butter Baby is more reminiscent of Jill Scott, with Lennox offering subtle (but still suggestive) lyrics centered around sex, as is the case with hit single “BMO.” But Lennox also doesn’t hesitate to say exactly what she wants — whether that be on “Up Late” or “Pop.”

So, it’s understandable that Lennox also made an appearance on fellow R&B artist Jazmine Sullivan’s 2021 EP Heaux Tales, with the song “On It.” Lennox and Sullivan are unapologetic in their wants, not only demanding that their lover prove their worthiness but letting them know what what they want to do and what they need to feel satisfied.

Click here to read the full article on Player.

H.B.C.U.s Have a Spirit All Their Own. Pop Culture Is Paying Attention.

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Pop Culture icon beyonce at a concert

By 

The collective moment when I first saw a three-dimensional reflection of my own college experience in popular culture happened not once but twice: on the television series “A Different World,” which premiered in 1987, and in Spike Lee’s film “School Daze,” which debuted in 1988. Together, they presented a meditation on the many layers and complexities of Black campus life that I had not seen before.

The magic for me wasn’t in particular characters as much as it was in the plot lines and the elements of culture imported from H.B.C.U.s, or historically Black colleges and universities. These recognizable moments from my own experience — campuses filled with students who celebrated the diversity of Black culture; the Greek steppers whose chants and thunderous stomps filled the gym; the homecomings that felt more like a family reunion — could have been plucked from any of the more than 100 H.B.C.U. campuses across the country, including my alma mater, Florida A&M University (FAMU).

When they appeared more than 30 years ago, “A Different World” and “School Daze” harnessed the power of familiarity and affirmation — and marked one of the first big moments of visibility for H.B.C.U.s in mainstream culture.

Finally, I thought, a defining chapter in the lives of so many Black Americans was being told in a big, big way. Finally, our H.B.C.U. history and inheritance, our legacy and sense of belonging, were being mined for storytelling.

Finally, we saw ourselves.

Over the decades, what began as sporadic nods to Black campus experiences has grown into more: portrayals that are both authentic and that challenge stereotypes about H.B.C.U. college life. While there is room for more — and more varied — narratives, in 2022 it is no longer an anomaly to see a television show set at an H.B.C.U., or an H.B.C.U. marching band featured in a music video or commercial, or a real-life celebrity or athlete wearing H.B.C.U.-branded apparel.

Earlier this year, the CW network released “March,” an eight-episode docuseries about the marching band at Prairie View A&M University in Texas. The CW’s new show “All American: Homecoming,” a spinoff of the popular “All American,” takes place at the fictional Bringston College in Atlanta, which is home to several real-life H.B.C.U.s.

“This just felt like an organic opportunity where I can extend what we’re doing on ‘All American’ and explore a whole new different world of Blackness at an older, broader level,” Nkechi Okoro Carroll, the showrunner for “All American: Homecoming,” said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, adding, “It’s time that people understand we’re worthy of being the ‘A’ story, the H.B.C.U. experience is worthy of being the ‘A’ story.”

In the fashion world, Ralph Lauren used the vintage finery worn by students at Morehouse and Spelman Colleges between the 1920s and the 1950s as inspiration for his new capsule clothing collection, developed in collaboration with the schools and released in March.

And in one of the biggest nods by one of the biggest stars, Beyoncé incorporated the high-stepping electricity of an H.B.C.U. marching band and the iconography of Black Greek life into her historic headlining performance at Coachella in 2018, which came to be nicknamed Beychella. (The performance was documented in “Homecoming,” a behind-the-scenes concert film on Netflix.) The unmistakable sound (her band included performers who had marched in H.B.C.U. bands), the precision choreography, the call-and-response chants, the unwavering spirit — the performance was every bit a visible and visceral celebration of deeply rooted H.B.C.U. traditions.

“This feels like a very new and different moment around the acceptance and visibility and pop-cultural representation of H.B.C.U.s,” said Mark Anthony Neal, the James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of African and African American studies at Duke University.

Will Packer, a top filmmaker and a graduate of FAMU, has both witnessed and contributed to the rise in visibility of H.B.C.U.s. He also remembered the one-two punch of “A Different World” and “School Daze” as his own meaningful introduction to seeing H.B.C.U. life onscreen.

“That was the first time I saw those images and was able to really process them in a way that said, Oh, this is a real place,” said Mr. Packer, whose producing credits include “Ride Along” and “Straight Outta Compton.” Seeing those early depictions, he said, was “not just something fresh out of Hollywood but someplace I can have access to.”

Click here to read the full article in The New York Times.

‘Obi-Wan’ Star Moses Ingram Speaks Out Over Racist ‘Star Wars’ Backlash: ‘I Question My Purpose’

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Obi-Wan Kenobi and Reva

By Samantha Bergeson, Indie Wire

Just days after “Obi-Wan Kenobi” debuted on Disney+ May 27, star Moses Ingram has already received countless hateful social media messages.

Ingram plays a Jedi hunter Inquisitor named Reva, who actively tracks down Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan. While Lucasfilm and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” director Deborah Chow anticipated fan hate toward a Black female character, Ingram addressed the onslaught of DMs and comments she has received thus far.

“Long story short, there are hundreds of those. Hundreds,” Ingram said in an Instagram video after screenshotting messages that threatened her and called her racial slurs. “And I also see those of you out there who put on a cape for me and that really does mean the world to me because, you know, there’s nothing anybody can do about this. There’s nothing anybody can do to stop this hate. And so I question my purposes even being here in front of you saying that this is happening.”

Ingram continued, “I don’t really know. I don’t really know. But I think the thing that bothers me is that like, sort of this feeling that I’ve had inside of myself. This feeling that no one has told me, but like I just got to shut up and take it. I just got to bury it. And I’m not built like that. So I really just wanted to come on, I think, and say thank you to the people who show up for me in the comments and the places I’m not going to put myself. And to the rest of y’all, y’all weird.”

Ingram’s Instagram Stories included threats saying her days were “numbered” and slamming her for not being the first Black person in “Star Wars” history.

“You suck, loser. You’re a diversity hire and you won’t be loved or remembered for this acting role,” one message read.

Another said, “How the f**k does an alien know eubonics?”

The “Queen’s Gambit” alum also included a soundbite from “The Read” podcast during which she said: “You know what’s really crazy, you would think sci-fi and fantasy would be the most welcoming, the most accepting genres because they are so often storylines that are ridiculous and made up of like, aliens and weird shit, comic book shit, and n***** having special powers and all that.”

The official “Star Wars” Twitter addressed the backlash to Ingram early Tuesday, posting, “We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold. If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”

The “Star Wars” page continued, “There are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist.”

Ingram previously acknowledged that Lucasfilm “actually got in front” of the anticipated racism to her casting. “‘This is a thing that, unfortunately, likely will happen. But we are here to help you; you can let us know when it happens,’” Ingram said earlier this month. “Of course, there are always pockets of hate, but I have no problem with the block button.”

John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran formerly received racist fan harassment following their respective roles in the recent Skywalker trilogy, leading to Boyega having a “very honest, a very transparent conversation” with Disney executives to not sideline Black and POC characters in the franchise.

Click here to read the full article on Indie Wire.

Pierrah Hilaire On Going Viral Teaching Her TikTok Followers About Black Fashion Brands

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Pierrah Hilaire wearing orange for her article On Going Viral Teaching Her TikTok Followers About Black Fashion Brands

By Robyn Mowatt, Okay Player

Pierrah Hilaire, a Brooklyn-based content creator, was on TikTok before the platform forced its way into the fashion conversation and became a go-to source for people to keep an eye on growing (and dying) trends. But she noticed a problem: that most of the creators behind “Fashion Tok” as she calls it were mostly filled with white creators who also weren’t highlighting the brands — especially Black ones — she admires and enjoys. So, she decided to fill a void and share the brands she had an affinity for, making her TikTok account a popular destination to learn about Black-owned brands and designer pieces in the process.

Originally from Miami, Florida, Hilaire’s roots in fashion stem from her parents; her father was always stylish, while her mother modeled in New York City during her twenties.

“I’ve been obsessed with fashion ever since I could remember because of my parents,” she said over a Zoom call. “I’ve always loved [it].”

Hilaire began modeling as a teen; as she got older, she began dreaming of moving to New York and working in fashion in some capacity, inspired by all of the blogs she voraciously read about New York-based designers.

“The plan was to just go to medical school and stay in Florida,” she said when speaking of her life before taking the leap and moving to New York City. Even as she was studying psychology and putting in work at clinics, Hilaire was still making time for modeling.

“[I went] to school and studied,” she said. “There were times I would even go to clinics and help the physicians in the hospital. But then, I would have my bikini underneath and run to the beach for castings.”

In 2018, she decided to put her medical school ambitions behind her and told her parents she was relocating to New York (Brooklyn) to pursue modeling. The early stages were tough; although she had family support, money was hard to come by and she had only saved up a few month’s worth of salary from a hospital job. But she eventually landed on her feet when she began working in corporate for companies like PepsiCo, while also balancing a social media management side job and participating in as many fashion-related opportunities as she could.

Around this time, Hilaire began seeing Telfar bags in her neighborhood. Unfamiliar with the then-rising Black brand, she began researching it and other Black brands. This, paired with the racial reckoning of 2020 amid the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, led to Hilaire using her knowledge of fashion to shed light on Black-owned brands and designs on her TikTok account.

Hilaire sees TikTok as a fashion discovery tool, and even her first viral video on the platform reflects that. Highlighting bags by Telfar, Brandon Blackwood, Homage Year, and CISE, the video propped up names that have since become more known and popular in recent years, helping the video go viral in the process. Since then, she’s gone on to create additional compilation clips centered around menswear brands, gender-inclusive lines, sustainable fashion houses, and more.

We recently spoke with Hilaire about how she got her start in New York, the role she plays as a content creator, and the rise of Black luxury brands.

Do you feel you naturally fell into highlighting Black designers on your TikTok account?

Pierrah Hilaire: I think it was a mix. I didn’t see what I wanted in the TikTok space. It was predominantly non-black even though we were leading the trends. I always liked to know who was behind a brand that I was buying into. I would ask on Instagram all the time and people would tell me, “Oh, we’re black or women-owned.” And I liked knowing where my dollars were going.

Then, around the Black Lives Matter resurgence [in 2020], I realized, “What can I do to help out?” [Highlighting Black designers] was my form of activism. I went to some of the marches [and] donated to [organizations too].

I was literally sitting in Zoom meetings at my corporate job stressed out. At one point, we were in a lot of racial sensitivity trainings that weren’t even geared toward me. And I felt the least [I] could do [was] support the smaller Black businesses. So, I just started creating a list of brands that I would want to buy into or that I already have bought into, and I was on TikTok for a year already before I really took it seriously. So, when I posted it did really well, and I just kept it going.

How do you feel about the responsibility of sharing these brands with your followers?

As a creator, it’s great when the video does really well when it comes to numbers, but it’s not about the numbers. I think I care about the one person in the comment who’s like, “Oh, I didn’t know about this brand and I’m going to buy into it because ultimately it’s about supporting each other.”

But on top of that, what I love to see is growth. I hope people pay attention to [these] brands because — yes, I love them — but they’re doing amazing work not just for the business. A lot of these brands tend to help their community. I know my money’s not just going to the brand and the brand owner’s pockets, but to the community that they’re serving. That’s where you see the impact, and I think that’s the most important part of some of these videos.

Click here to read the full article on Okay Player

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

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African American models wear their natural hair and talk mental health

By Annie Krall, WBay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article on WBay.

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

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

By , NPR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

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

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

By Talib Visram, Fast Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article on Fast Company.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
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