Across Black America
Here’s a look at African American people and issues making headlines throughout the country.
President Barack Obama’s top Hollywood fundraiser has reportedly resigned as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas and returned to Los Angeles in the hopes of patching up the president’s battered relationship with the entertainment industry. Nicole Avant, the daughter of music executive and Democratic activist Clarence Avant, was one of Obama’s earliest Hollywood supporters, raising millions for the president’s 2008 campaign. She was rewarded with a diplomatic post, which she has now put aside to support the president’s reelection, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Sources have characterized the relationship between the Obama administration and Hollywood as tense because some of Obama’s top money-givers have apparently felt ignored and disregarded except when the president needed campaign contributions. To that end, Avant and her husband, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, will host a major fundraiser attended by first lady Michelle Obama at their Beverly Hills home on Jan. 31, to rekindle Hollywood’s support.
Bounce TV will launch its first major on-air promotional campaign later this month. “TV Our Way” will feature Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union and Regina Hall, who star in the upcoming Screen Gems/Rainforest Films motion picture, “Think Like a Man.” The film is an adaptation of Steve Harvey’s best-selling book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” and is the story of four friends who conspire to turn the tables on their women when they discover the ladies have been using Harvey’s relationship advice against them. The movie will be released March 9. All three stars taped promotional pieces for the “TV Our Way” campaign, as well as the Bounce TV’s upcoming tribute to Black History Month in February. Hart also taped promos for Bounce TV’s new “Brown Sugar Saturday Night” weekly primie-time franchise, which launched this week. “Brown Sugar Saturday Night” will showcase urban cinema featuring some of the most popular African American movies of all time—“Shaft,” “Cleopatra Jones,” “The Mack,” and “Super Fly.”
Tavis Smiley was set to deliver the keynote address at an MLK luncheon hosted by the Peoria Civic Center next week in central Illinois until a group of Obama supporters demanded that he be replaced or face a boycott, Politico reported. One of Obama’s most consistent critics, Smiley has often accused the President of not doing enough for the poor and the millions of African Americans who helped put him into the Oval Office. Smiley, the PBS talk show host, says he was ousted as the speaker because he was trying to hold the president accountable. Smiley’s replacement will be Hip Hop intellectual and Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson. Smiley was set to earn $37,000, but will be given a smaller cancellation fee instead.
The Beauty Supply Institute is hosting the 2012 Beauty Supply Entrepreneurship Winter Conference in Las Vegas on Feb. 18. The conference has reportedly inspired others to become Black store owners within months of attending, despite not having the capital or direction to open. The conference consists of six classes, take-home materials that covers store layout, obtaining funding, selecting a location and more. The conference will take place at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino. Registration includes conference admission, lunch and materials. Registration closes on Jan. 31, or when capacity has been reached. To register, visit www.beautysupplyconference.com
Beyonce Knowles and Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter gave birth to a daughter named Blue Ivy Carter late Saturday at the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, welcoming perhaps the most anticipated celebrity child of this new decade. Beyonce announced her pregnancy at the MTV Video Music Awards in late summer 2011 and has still continued to perform as part of promotion for her latest album “4.” Rumors have said that the couple paid $1.3 million to rent out the entire fourth floor of the hospital for privacy, including asking staff to turn in their phones, and having security cameras covered with tape, although that has not been confirmed. Jay-Z has already released a song dedicated to his new daughter, titled “Glory.”
After a lengthy legal battle between a Black South Carolina church and members of the Ku Klux Klan, a judge has ruled that the church owns a building where KKK robes and T-shirts are sold. A circuit judge ruled last month that New Beginnings Baptist Church is the rightful owner of the building that houses the Redneck Shop, which operates a Klan museum and sells Klan robes and T-shirts emblazoned with racial slurs. The judge ordered the shop’s proprietor to pay the church’s legal bills of about $3,300. Since 1996, the Redneck Shop has operated in an old movie theater in the town of Laurens. Ownership of the building was transferred in 1997 to the Rev. David Kennedy and his church, New Beginnings, by a Klansman fighting with others inside the group, according to court records.
The 27th annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards have announced the lineup of Gospel performers, including Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, James Fortune & FIYA, Ricky Dillard & New G, Earnest Pugh, Richard Smallwood & Vision and William McDowell. The show is hosted this year by Dorinda Clark Cole and Marvin Sapp and will be taped before a live audience on Saturday. The telecast is scheduled to air in national syndication from Jan. 21- Feb. 26 on the GMC cable network and local markets around the country.
The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF) has extended the entry submission deadline for the 37th annual Gracie Awards until tomorrow. The Gracie Awards recognizes the portrayal of women in entertainment, news, commercials and other programs. Established in 1975, Gracies recognize exemplary programming across a wide spectrum of media, national and local markets and content areas. The Gracies honor programming and individuals of high caliber in radio, television, cable and web-based media, including news, drama, comedy, public service, documentary and sports. Winners will be selected in national, local and public markets, as well as students. Women working in television, radio, or digital media are encouraged to submit their entries or to nominate the work of their colleagues. Winning entries will be honored at the two-day awards celebration in May.
The African American Film Critics Association honored the special achievements of actors Richard Roundtree and Hattie Winston, and filmmaker George Lucas at the AAFCA Awards hosted by journalist Kevin Frazier this week. Roundtree received the 2011 Legacy Award for helping expand the way men of color are represented in film through his role as John Shaft in “Shaft” (1971) and his work in “Roots” (1977). Winston, the first African American woman to appear in a national commercial, received the 2011 Horizon Award for her work in film, theater and music, which paved the way for African American actresses in all three genres. Lucas received the 2011 Cinema Vanguard Award for his innovation and creativity in film. Lucas’ Star Wars franchise featured actors James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams and Samuel L. Jackson. His upcoming film “Red Tails” (2012) is the story of the world-renowned Tuskegee Airmen. “AAFCA was thrilled and honored to bestow recognition to an incredible group of honorees this year,” said Gil Robertson IV, founder and president of the organization.
Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, Ph.D., deserve high props for their summer poverty tour. They started on an Indian reservation, hit the inner city, and looked at poverty in all of its manifestations. While many dismissed their high-profile tour as a political ploy, I am absolutely convinced of their sincerity.
In addition, these two men are among the few who have dared utter the “p” word in public.
This is the debate our community was waiting to have. It is a “must have.” We will discover everybody’s motives as this conversation shakes out—those who claim they’re with Obama, and just want him to “do something” to help Black people; those who just want to ‘push him’ to be ‘great;’ those who just want ‘what’s best for the people,’ and those who are true Obama-haters, but can’t admit it lest they lose legitimacy with the very people they claim to represent.
This is an issue I’ve known about for some time, but have chosen to remain silent on it, beyond a few friendly admonishments. But the issue has rocketed into the mainstream public discourse with the launch of a poverty tour. It’s a conflict between two people I highly respect. One I love and one I revere. I got mad love for Tavis Smiley, because of where he comes from and the voice he has represented the last 20 years. I consider him a friend, and I hope he considers me one.
NEW YORK, N.Y.—BET Networks announced that actor/comedian Kevin Hart has been tapped to host this year’s BET Awards. Ranked among the top five cable award shows every year among total viewers. The brightest night in music will broadcast live from the historic Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, June 26 on BET.
In February and again in April, President Barack Obama met with significant elements of the African American community to discuss what Blacks saw as their most critical need, and how they could work together with the White House to improve the condition of African Americans in the country. He met with the NAACP’s Ben Jealous, the Urban League’s Marc Morial, and Rev. Al Sharpton.