Here’s a look at African American people and issues making headlines throughout the country.
Los Angeles recently held its Sparkle Singing Challenge, sponsored by Sony Pictures and Myspace. The national singing competition promised winners $500 in cash and a chance to compete for the national grand prize—a trip to New York, an appearance on BET’s 106 & Park, a recording session with the Punch Monkeys producer and writing team, and a Myspace homepage feature. The challenge also took place in New York City, Atlanta, San Francisco, Charlotte, St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Miami, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, and Philadelphia. Amateur singers between the ages of 13 and 40 were asked to sing a 60-second a capella song in front of judges DJ Swivel, Brély Evans from the original “Sparkle” film and radio personality Mando Fresko. The remake of Sparkle, which stars Jordin Sparks, Whitney Houston, Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Omari Hardwick and CeeLo Green, opens Aug. 17 in theaters everywhere.
Only 41 percent of Black boys graduate from high school in the United States and more than half of all Black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Elder Mathes Guice, director of the Men’s Ministry at South Florida’s Koinonia Worship Center and president of the Practitioners Technical Institute, considers these facts evidence of a “war on our boys.” Koinonia’s Men’s Ministry has developed programs targeted toward mentors who teach men that through self-actualization and purpose fulfillment, they positively impact young lives around them. The training program consists of skill-building, effective parenting techniques, developing positive peer associations and cultivating activities that support responsible social growth. The mentor training seems to have taken positive effect. During the 2010-2011 school year alone, 94 percent of youth participants showed improvement in productive behaviors, including school attendance, grades and participation in pro-social activities.