The national gay rights group Freedom to Marry has begun running an ad across Alabama featuring a female Black couple with the slogan, “All families deserve respect.” Alabama has a history against gay marriage. That changed, at least legally, on Feb. 9, when a federal court order took affect striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, said that the ad is about letting people know that gay couples should have the same legal rights as other couples, such as being able to be included on work-issued health insurance policies. “We want to really underscore the message that (gay) families in Alabama don’t have the same protections and freedom to marry,” he said. However, state officials, including Gov. Robert Bentley, say that their opposition has to do with upholding the state’s right to control its own affairs and protecting traditional marriage – not antipathy toward gays. The state is awaiting a decision from the U.S. Circuit Court in Atlanta to see if it will be able to appeal.
Radio personality Big Boy is leaving KPWR-FM (Power 106), but not without controversy. Emmis, which owns Power, has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Big Boy (whose real name is Kurt Alexander). The lawsuit seeks millions in damages as well as an injunction to stop the popular personality from working at competitor iHeart Media. Both sides are requesting a hearing be held on the motions before Big Boy’s contract expires on Feb. 28. Emmis claims that it discovered Big Boy 20 years ago when he was working as a bodyguard and invested a lot of money in making him a star. The suit alleges that he broke his contract by not allowing Emmis a first right refusal to match an offer from any competitor. Radio insiders believe Big Boy is going to start at iHeart-owned KHHT-FM (Hot 92.3). It’s being reported that iHeart offered him more than $3 million.
A campaign by Walmart employees has been launched calling on the company to terminate Art Van Riper, a manager at one of its stores. Van Riper reportedly told a Black employee, “If it was up to me, I’d put that rope around your neck.” Van Riper is still employed by Walmart despite the fact that a federal administrative law judge found in December that Walmart illegally disciplined workers who went on strike because of his alleged racist and violent threats. The victim, his coworkers, and members of Our Walmart Civil Rights have launched a petition asking Walmart to terminate Van Riper, rehire the associates who protested the incident and put human resources practices in place to ensure racist threats of violence never again happen in a store. In just a few days, it earned more than 40,600 signatures and is still in process.
The Black Leadership Coalition has set up a march in South Los Angeles called the “March for Justice and Unity” on Saturday, Feb. 21. The group will gather members to help to make a powerful statement of justice, peace and unity within the African American community. Organizers hope to draw young people to participate. The march will begin at Denker Avenue and King Boulevard in front of the southwest LAPD headquarters and will end at Leimert Park on Crenshaw Boulevard. Some of the participants include Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, West Angeles COGIC; Bishop Kenneth Ulmer, Faithful Central; Nolan Rollins, president Los Angeles Urban League; Sen. Isadore Hall; Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer; Charisse Bremond-Weaver, president Brotherhood Crusade; George McKenna, Los Angeles Unified School Board; Maulana Karenga, Ph.D. African American Cultural Center; as well as several unions, churches, fraternities, sororities, political clubs and a host of others.
A big winner at last Sunday’s Grammys was music education, as well as Diamond Bar High School. Ford Motor Co. expanded its long-time support of the Grammy Foundation’s “Grammy in the Schools” initiative by donating additional money through its Drive 4 UR School program—as well as a new 2015 Ford vehicle to the 2015 Music Educator of the Year. The Music Educator Award™ was established by the Grammy Foundation and the Recording Academy® to recognize current educators (K through college, public and private schools) that have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education, and that have demonstrated a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in schools. Ford will award a new 2015 car or truck to the Music Educator Awardee, Jared Cassedy.
Political, business and community leaders will convene in Fort Lauderdale July 29 – Aug. 1, for the 2015 National Urban League conference. The event is intended as an inspiring and empowering confab that will provide professional, civic engagement, business development and networking opportunities. Participants can hear from leaders and influencers on topics including education, business, the economy, health and justice. The event will also feature exhibits, entertainment, a volunteer zone, health zone, and chances to win prizes. The conference will also provide a career and networking fair, women of power awards and young professionals summit. Go to www.nui.org for more info.
Police in Roswell, just north of Atlanta, are looking into the possibility that there was foul play involved in the case of Bobbi Kristina Brown. The daughter of the late Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown was found unconscious face down in a bathtub and remains in a coma in an Atlanta hospital. According to multiple media sources, the police are looking into the relationship of Bobbi Kristina and Nick Gordon, the young man Houston adopted and who was brought up alongside Bobbi Kristina. Although Bobby Brown says the two were not married, Bobbi Kristina admitted to a romantic relationship with Gordon. According to TMZ, Bobbi Kristina has injuries on her body that police are looking into. The two have allegedly had domestic violence issues in the past.
Chicago’s Black-owned furniture designers, BK Ellison of BKE Designs, has been selected to compete in Spike TV’s “Framework.” Ellison is one of 13 emerging designers who put their artistry and skills to the test by competing in challenges on the show for 10 weeks for the chance to win a $100,000 cash prize and the opportunity for their work to be sold through a major manufacturer. The show is hosted by Golden-Globe winner, actor, rapper and author Common and is judged by renowned names in design, Nolen Niu and Brandon Gore. Ellison is also the only African American male participating in the show.
ViiV Healthcare announced a $10 million initiative to fuel a concerted community response to the HIV epidemic among Black men who have sex with men (MSM) in Baltimore, Md., and Jackson, Miss., two U.S. cities hard hit by HIV/AIDS. The goal for this new initiative, named “Accelerate!,” is to help speed up community-driven solutions to increase access and engagement in supportive HIV care and services by Black MSM. The new program aligns with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and its imperative to focus on communities most disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. The first phase of the initiative will include ethnographic research with Black MSM and community members to identify gaps, assets, challenges and priorities, along with an intensive mapping process. The insights obtained will help determine the right approach and inform the next phase of this initiative in the effort to reduce the epidemic among Black MSM and affected communities, and strengthen the systems that support and sustain programs that work.
Sons of Serendip, the Black acapella group that was a finalist in the last season of “America’s Got Talent,” has a hit album on its hands with its debut, self-titled CD. According to Billboard, in its first week of release, the album was No. 4 on the Heatseeker chart, No. 14 on the Internet Album chart and No. 2 on both the Mountain and South Atlantic regional charts. Members of the quartet are classically trained and came together while in graduate school at Boston University. Micah Christian is a teacher from Randolph; Cordaro Rodriguez is an attorney from Charlotte, N.C.: Kendall Ramseur is a cello instructor from Charlotte; and Mason Morton is a teacher from Atlanta.
Philanthropists Alonzo and Tracy Mourning are set to host a night of charity and entertainment to kick off this year’s National Basketball Association All-Star Weekend today at No. 8 in New York City. Tracy Wilson Mourning and Gayle King, co-anchor of “CBS This Morning” and editor at large for O, The Oprah Magazine, will host the “Power of Influence Through Sisterhood,” a charitable event to support the Honey Shine Inc. mentoring organization. The event features a red carpet followed by a “Lets Talk About It” cocktail party, with a discussion about the importance of mentorship and the role it plays in creating strong girls and women. Special guests will include Hip-Hop pioneer, feminist and founder of Hip Hop Sisters Foundation and EducateOURMen initiative MC Lyte, NBA players, NBA wives and a host of other high profile celebrity guests. Another part of the evening is the “Groove With a Purpose” event, which will be co-hosted by the Mournings, with MC Lyte DJing. Mourning is a former member of the Miami Heat, which won an NBA championship in 2006. He was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2014.
The “American Masters” series and Pittsburgh PBS affiliate WQED join forces to explore the life and legacy of playwright August Wilson from his roots as an activist and poet to his indelible mark on Broadway. “American Masters – August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand” premieres Friday, Feb. 20, at 9 p.m. on PBS in honor of the 70th anniversary of Wilson’s birth, the 10th anniversary of his death and Black History Month. The DVD will be available Feb. 24. Unprecedented access to Wilson’s theatrical archives, rarely seen interviews and new dramatic readings bring to life his seminal 10-play cycle chronicling each decade of the 20th century African American experience. Film and theater luminaries, including Viola Davis, Charles Dutton, Laurence Fishburne, James Earl Jones, Suzan-Lori Parks and Phylicia Rashad, share their stories of the career- and life-changing experience of bringing Wilson’s rich theatrical voice to the stage.
In honor of Black History Month, Philadelphia-based Comcast, in conjuction with Xfinity, is celebrating by highlighting the work of African American technology entrepreneurs and content creators. Throughout February, Comcast will feature a special collection of programming across Xfinity TV platforms. The celebration will culminate on Feb. 25 with a two-part, live-streamed online talk show featuring a panel of rising stars making an impact in the world of tech and content. The panel will showcase an inspiring new generation of innovators who will discuss the challenges and successes of pushing boundaries in technology, TV and film. The live online talk show will begin streaming at noon ET on Feb. 25 and be accessible to all on Xfinity.com/celebrateblacktv. In addition, Xfinity will offer a collection of Black History Month programming with a special focus on content featuring African American icons who have achieved historic “firsts” in the African American community, including films such as “Venus and Serena,” “The Great Debaters,” “Pride,” “The Medgar Evers Story,” “Bird,” “I Am Ali “and “Malcom X.” Other features include TV specials such as “The Black List” on TVOne and Angelique Kidjo on Al Jazeera America. This month, Comcast is also expanding “His Dream Our Stories,” which was launched in 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with new interviews and an extended collection of videos that will feature key moments in civil rights history. In partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative, Comcast will feature “Moments in Civil Rights History with D’Army Bailey.”
Austin, which was recently ranked No. 11 for “Cities Where African Americans are Succeeding Economically” by Forbes magazine, has launched a proactive marketing initiative to promote the city of Austin to African Americans. The move is a unique and historic effort, for the country’s fastest growing city and the only city in the U.S. with a declining Black population, to actively attract and retain Black talent. The effort is being launched by the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce. The multi-media and diverse campaign integrates portraits, videos, personal testimony and substantial social media to help stimulate visibility and engagement within Austin’s growing community. The ongoing quarterly initiative profiles individuals from a range of industries, ages, life situations and geographical locations within and around the Austin. Visit www.iamblackaustin.org for more info.
The Hampton University School of Pharmacy (SOP) is hosting the 37th annual Conference on the Black Family March 18-20 on the school’s campus. The conference theme is, “Controlling Diabetes: A Call to Action for Minority Families.” For the last two years, Hampton University SOP faculty has spearheaded efforts to provide information about diabetes and highlight its casualties, particularly in the African American community. SOP Dean Dr. Wayne Harris said the emphasis of this year’s conference is informational and an opportunity to promote prevention. Since 1978, Hampton University’s Conference on the Black Family has created a forum for prevalent issues concerning the Black family. HU President William R. Harvey. Ph.D., saw a need for consistent dialogue in the African American community and initiated the conference to fill the void.
Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.