Here’s a look at African American people and issues making headlines throughout the country.

Tropical Polynesian Productions, led by Hula instructor Kalena, will perform an ancient Hula dance at the Arizona Aloha Festival in March at Tempe Town Lake in Tempe with Napua O’ Polynesia, led by Carolyn Castro. The two will be the first African American Hula instructors to perform at the festival. Their performance will be on Saturday, March 10 at 3:45 p.m. Castro and Kalena say they are honored to have been given this opportunity to perform. They are known for their energetic and upbeat dances. Both have been dancing since childhood. For more information about the upcoming Arizona Aloha Festival, see their website at

The nominees for the 43rd NAACP Image Awards were announced recently during a live press conference from the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. Vanessa Williams, Tracee Ellis Ross, Corey Reynolds and Craig Robinson announced the categories and nominees. The NAACP Image Awards celebrates the accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature and film, and also honors individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors. Winners will be announced during the two-hour star-studded event, which will air live on Friday, Feb. 17, on NBC.

District of Columbia
First Lady Michelle Obama was joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at Parklawn Elementary School to speak with parents about the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new and improved nutrition standards for school lunches. “An important accomplishment of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that President Obama signed into law last year, USDA is making the first major changes in school meals in more than 15 years, and doing so in a way that’s achievable for schools across the nation,” said the USDA. “The new standards make the same kinds of changes that many parents are already encouraging at home, including ensuring kids are offered fruits and vegetables every day of the week, substantially increasing offerings of whole, grain-rich foods, offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties and making sure kids are getting proper portion sizes.” Obama and Vilsack joined children in the lunch line in Parklawn’s cafeteria where the school’s food service employees and celebrity cook Rachael Ray served a healthy, delicious meal that met the new and improved nutrition standards.

Jenny and Rufus Triplett have survived incarceration, raised three young men, run their own multimedia company and are celebrating 22 years of successful marriage. Out of all their many trials and tribulations, however, Ebony magazine recently recognized them as “Couple of the Year.” Highlighted in the February 2012 issue of Ebony, the Triplett’s are acknowledged for their faith, perseverance and commitment. “Their seemingly plain and simple approach has resonated through their marriage tips and relationship advice given to newlyweds, engaged, dating and long-term couples,” the magazine said. The Triplett’s are the owners of Dawah International, LLC, a multimedia company that publishes Prisonworld magazine and distributes Prisonworld Records. They also co-host their own weekly radio show, the Prisonworld Radio Hour. Fueled by their own personal experience in the prison system, they write a successful motivational and information blog and are requested speakers for correctional facilities, nonprofit organizations, corporate functions, schools, colleges and universities. The couple is also preparing for their upcoming book “Surviving Marriage In the 21st Century: 13 Easy Tips That Will Help You Get to 20 years and Beyond.”

United Airlines, the world’s largest airline, has named an African American chief pilot of one its five U.S. regions. Capt. James Simons Jr., a United Airlines pilot for 22 years, will manage 1,450 pilots for the Chicago-based airline’s Northeast region, which is headquartered at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va. He is a member of the board of directors of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals. Capt. Simons will manage pilots at Dulles, John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airport in New York City, Newark Liberty International Airport, Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport, and Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.

Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown was invested during a ceremony at the Hale Boggs Federal Court Building at 500 Poydras St. in New Orleans recently. Judge Brown is the first African American woman appointed to the United States District Court in the state of Louisiana. She was nominated by President Barack Obama in March 2011 after first being recommended by Sen. Mary Landrieu. At the urging of both senators Landrieu and David Vitter, the U.S. Senate quickly and unanimously confirmed her nomination on Oct. 3. She received her judicial commission the following day and was sworn in and began active service on Oct. 5, 2011. Prior to her appointment to the United States District Court, Judge Brown was city attorney for New Orleans, the city’s chief legal officer, managing and directing 75 staff attorneys and a number of outside law firms in addressing all matters impacting the city.

Cameron Whitten, 20, an Occupy Wall Street activist, entered his name into the race for mayor of Portland. Whitten gathered the papers to register on Nov. 14, the day after he was arrested during the Occupy Portland eviction. Whitten says he is running because City Council is on uneasy terms with many Portland residents, “Portland has a history of economic and racial oppression which is still apparent in its highly segregated neighborhoods. Although the city flaunts its liberal, progressive politics, it is lagging behind in employment and education in comparison to the rest of the country.” Whitten’s vision is to help Portland address its crisis, ranging from economic equality, police accountability, political transparency, and foreclosure reform. He requests that all person and non-person entities contribute no more than $200 to his campaign, giving all income levels proper access to their public officials.

The Urban Invitational, the annual, round-robin collegiate baseball tournament designed to give Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their baseball programs national exposure, is relocating to Houston, Texas, and will feature five HBCUs, the most-ever in the tournament’s five-year history. The Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park will be the primary site of the tournament on Friday, Feb. 17, and Sunday, Feb. 19, while the games on Saturday, Feb. 18, will be played at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. Two of those contests will air live on MLB Network and Alabama State University (Montgomery, Ala.), Grambling State University (Grambling, La.), Southern University (Baton Rouge, La.), Prairie View A&M University (Prairie View, Texas) and Texas Southern University (Houston, Texas) will all participate in the Urban Invitational along with NCAA Division-I school University of California, Irvine.

AMC Theatres®, the second-largest motion picture exhibitor in North America, and Codeblack Entertainment, a leading new media and film company helmed by Jeff Clanagan, have announced a multiyear partnership to exclusively release films at select AMC locations. T.D Jakes’ “Woman Thou Art Loosed!: On the 7th Day,” starring Blair Underwood and Sharon Leal is the first film to roll out under this new agreement. The film will be released on April 13, at AMC locations nationwide. Codeblack Enterprises LLC is a global new media and entertainment company focused on connecting with diverse African American and urban audiences.

A song in his heart
President Obama sang a little of Al Green’s “Lets Stay Together” while addressing the crowd at a fundraiser at Spike Lee’s house last week. Spike Lee’s fundraiser cost $38,500 a plate and Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon, and Al Green were three of the celebrities who gladly paid the price to support the president for the upcoming election.