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

The National Reality TV Awards, launched in the United Kingdom to celebrate the best in the world of reality TV entertainment, recently announced its official launch in the USA. The show will make history as the first ever European-born awards show to launch in the USA, and will be webcast live and also televised for syndicated broadcast to TV partners in more than 22 countries after its launch on August 30. All nominations are submitted by the public by voting for their favorite shows, celebrities or participants. Reportedly, there were more than 550,000 public submissions and 1.5 million votes received in the UK last year. The U.S. awards ceremony promises to be even bigger. More than 475,000 submissions have already been received for the U.S. version of the National Reality TV Awards. The deadline for submissions is May 15, and the official nominees will be announced at a press conference on May 24 in Los Angeles.

District of Columbia
Actress Vivica A. Fox and Demetria McKinney, star of Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, will host the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s 15th annual Spirit of Democracy Awards Gala. Presented to individuals and organizations who have demonstrated a consistent commitment to social justice and creating balance in the democratic process, the gala will be held Thursday, May 17, at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. Michael Baisden, nationally syndicated radio personality, author, and philanthropist is among the honorees. “This year we are proud to be [the theme] ‘Celebrating Our Brothers.’ The leadership of these men in their respective fields helps to empower underserved communities across the country” said the coalition. “These strong, positive men also set an example of excellence in achievement for young brothers across the country.”

Bob Johnson, founder and chairman of the RLJ Companies and Tracey E. Edmonds, president and COO of Our Stories Films, recently announced plans to produce a new film inspired by the hit reality show “Basketball Wives.” The film will be loosely based on the lives of star and fan favorite Shaunie O’Neal and her friends, and will follow the life of a young woman and her boyfriend as the couple deals with relocation following his NBA draft and the tests and trials that come with being together in professional sports. “We’re proud that we’ve been successful in demonstrating the talent and creativity among our African American actors, writers, and directors,” said Edmonds. “Going much further than the series, the film will have the ability to dig deeper into the personal challenges that couples face while living in the world of professional sports. It promises to be rich and unpredictable in story and will feature empowered characters that will be relatable to a broad audience.”

The four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal recently donned a cap and gown to receive his doctorate degree from Barry University in Miami. After leaving Louisiana State University early for the NBA, Shaq went back to school and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and now a doctorate in education. O’Neal said there are three reasons he hasn’t just kicked his feet up and lounged on an island since his retirement. “One, I promised my parents I would [follow my passion for education]. Two, I wanted to continue my education and three, I wanted to challenge myself,” he said. The graduate wants to become a motivational speaker and plans to go to law school.

New York
Inspired by President Barack Obama’s 2010 Father’s Day address, Fathers Incorporated has launched its Ties Never Broken campaign. Fathers Incorporated, a not-for-profit organization, is committed to eliminating fatherlessness and increasing the commitment of men to become mentors. Over the last several months, the campaign has garnered international attention and is supported by the White House and several major urban cities. New to the team in championing the mission of responsible fatherhood is Fred Hammond, the Grammy and multiple award-winning performer, producer and writer. Hammond joins fellow co-spokesperson Chris Broussard, journalist and sports analyst for ESPN. “I am excited to serve in this honorable capacity of saving our children,” said Hammond. “I’ve spent my life striving to be a responsible father and man, and I find it unacceptable what’s happening to our children because of the disengagement of fathers and able-bodied men.”

Urban Victory Network Inc. recently launched a new online delivery platform for Black films at Michael Eastman, CEO of Urban Victory, believes the movie industry is long overdue for a film revolution leveraging the latest online technologies. “Many excellent films that premiere at regional and international Black film festivals never get distribution beyond the festivals. America and the world are being deprived of some really fantastic films,” says Eastman, a Harvard University and Harvard law graduate. Urban Victory aims to change that. “We will host an online film festival this summer, and at the conclusion of the festival, offer filmmakers 70 percent of net revenue on our ad-supported and subscriber-distribution platforms,” says Eastman. UVN has issued a call for film submissions for their online film festival scheduled to start in July. Filmmakers may submit short films (less than 40 minutes) free until May 15 at Those who submit films and are accepted for the festival will have the opportunity to win up to $2,000 in prize awards. UVN will also give away a pair of regional Black film festival passes to three online subscribers worth up to $200 for providing feedback and input on the films featured.

Mbathio Beye was recently crowned the first Miss Black France under a heavy cloud of controversy in the racially charged city of Paris. The pageant was a joint project between the French Representative Council of Black Associations (CRAN) and the organizers of the traditional Miss France competition. But many decried the contest as unnecessary and divisive. Even CRAN’s founder and former president Patrick Lozes called it hardly progressive. He later said such exclusive events undercut attempts at integrating Blacks into French society. “Everything possible must be done so that these people recognize themselves as French, and not as Black people living in France,” he added. “We can’t start having ethnically exclusive contests if our ultimate goal is to have all-inclusive national contests. It’s a serious strategic error.