Novelist of the Black Experience Toni Morrison Dies at 88
Toni Morrison, the Nobel laureate in literature whose best-selling work explored black identity in America-and in particular the often crushing experience of black women-through luminous, incantatory prose resembling that of no other writer in English, died on Monday in the Bronx. She was 88. Her death, at Montefiore Medical Center, was announced by her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf. A spokeswoman said the cause was complications of pneumonia. Ms. Morrison lived in Grand View-on-Hudson, N.Y. The first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1993, Ms. Morrison was the author of 11 novels as well as children’s books and essay collections. Among them were celebrated works like “Song of Solomon” which received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1997, and “Beloved,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.
A series about Judge Mablean Ephriam is coming to the small screen thanks to her Emmy winning producer (daughter) Taj Paxton! Described as “family drama series” inspired by the 70-year old’s life as the owner of her private family law practice. Most known as a former Los Angeles prosecuting attorney, she also served as a lead attorney in L.A. inaugural Domestic Violence Unit.
Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger leads the list, the Murdochs drop from the Top 10, and Lebron James stakes his claim in a year of merger and #MeToo rising. Disney CO Igler remains most powerful person in entertainment, only adding to his empire with $71 billion of 21st Century Fox assets. But his dominance is one of the few things that hasn’t changed since THR publishes 2017’s list of Hollywood’s most influential figures. Along with Disney-Fox, 2018 saw AT&T win a judge’s blessing to acquire Time Warner, spawning new entity WarnerMedia – whose chief, John Stankey, arrives at No.4.
According to Variety, Bailey was “a clear front runner from the beginning,”following months of meeting with other talent. THR reports “the decision was made today with the budding actress notified Wednesday morning.” Halle and her sister Chloe started as a cover duo, who caught Beyonce’s eye and wound up opening for her during her Formation World Tour and the On the Run 2 Tour with Jay Z. The also performed “America the Beautiful” at the Super Bowl in 2019.
African American movie director for “Boyz in the Hood” John Singleton died Monday due to complications from a stroke he suffered almost two weeks ago. He passed at age 51 which was confirmed by his family that he was taken off life support. “John Singleton left an indelible mark on the world through his masterful artistry, and uncompromising humanity, ” talent agency ICM Partners, which signed Singleton in 2014, said in a statement. “He was a visionary filmmaker and social commentator who created a path for a new generation of filmmaker, many of whom he mentored, in a way they never saw possible.”
After suffering a stroke April 17 while in hospital, the Academy Award-nominated director was placed in a medically-induced coma. He reportedly had checked himself into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after experiencing weakness in his leg, according to TMZ. Singleton’s family said Monday he had hypertension, which is blood pressure that puts more stress on blood vessels and vital organs.
At the young age of 24, Singleton became the youngest and the first black filmmaker to receive an Oscar nomination for best director and best original screenplay for “Boyz n the Hood,” starring Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Angela Bassett, Nia Long, Regina King, and Laurence Fishburne. “Boyz n the Hood,” the 1991 crime-drama, centered on the three friends growing up during the gang and drug culture in South Central Los Angeles, became one of Singleton’s most notable films and remains a classic to this day.
Singleton directed a number of iconic films that examined the complexities of inner-city life and coming of age for African Americans, including “Poetic Justice” and “Baby Boy.” He’s also behind the movies “Abduction,” “Shaft,” “2 Fast 2 Furious,” “Rosewood” and “Four Brothers.” Furthermore, Singleton recently created and was executive producer of the FX drama “Snowfall,”about the start of the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles and it’s ultimate radical impact on the culture as we know it, ” according to FX Networks. In September, the show was renewed for a third season.
The slow wheels of change for more diversity and inclusion is finally turning. Leading the pack, Netflix has hired Vernā Myer to serve as their Vice President of Inclusion Strategy. Her role will include promoting cultural diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout Netflix’s operations worldwide.
She has worked for Netflix as a consultant prior to moving into her new role. She has also worked for the past two decades for various corporations to improve the discrimination towards race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Myer is an author, a TED talk speaker, and a contributor on multiple platforms. (Deadline)
To watch one of Vernā Myer’s TED talks visit the link below:
Ava DuVernay is stepping into the superhero universe.The filmmaker has come on board to direct “New Gods” at Warner Bros. as part of the studio’s DC Extended Universe. “New Gods,” based on the DC Comics series of the same name, is aimed at creating a new universe of properties for the studio. Created and designed by Jack Kirby, the comic was first released in 1971.The movie marks the second major superhero tentpole directed by a woman, following another DC property: Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman.”
DuVernay directed Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” becoming the first woman of color in Hollywood to helm a live-action film with a production budget of $100 million. The time-travel fantasy has grossed $42.2 million in its first six days in North America.
The New Gods are natives of the twin planets of New Genesis and Apokolips. New Genesis is an idyllic planet ruled by the Highfather, while Apokolips is a dystopia filled with machinery and fire pits ruled by the tyrant Darkseid. New Genesis and Apokolips call themselves gods, living outside of normal time and space in a realm known as the Fourth World.
DuVernay tweeted last year that Big Barda, who is one of the New Gods, was her favorite superhero character of all time.
Half a dozen “New Gods” series have been published following the original. The most recent, “The New 52,” was issued in 2011.
DuVernay also directed the Oscar-nominated documentary “13th” and the civil-rights drama “Selma.” She is the creator and executive producer of the OWN series “Queen Sugar.”
“New Gods” would be a major addition to the DC Extended Universe, which Warner Bros. launched in 2013 to take advantage of the massive DC library and compete with Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe. The DCEU launched with 2013’s “Man of Steel,” followed by “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Suicide Squad,” “Wonder Woman,” and “Justice League,” which was the lowest grosser of the five titles, with $657.9 million worldwide.
“Aquaman,” starring Jason Momoa, is the next title in the DC Extended Universe, set for release on Dec. 21. The studio is also moving ahead with a “Wonder Woman” sequel with Gal Gadot and director Jenkins returning. The pic hits theaters on Nov. 1, 2019.
In the wake of the box office under-performance of “Justice League,” Warner Bros. is re-organizing the DC film operations by promoting Walter Hamada to president of DC-based film production in an effort to exert more quality control over its big-screen efforts. Toby Emmerich, who was promoted in 2016 to president and chief content officer at Warner Bros., worked with Hamada at New Line, which he ran before moving over to the main studio.
Emmerich was promoted early this year to the post of chairman of the Warner Bros. Pictures Group with oversight of worldwide theatrical production, marketing and distribution.
DuVernay is repped by CAA, and attorneys Gordon Bobb and Nina Shaw.
Colorism is a contentious topic within the Black community but with her short film, Charcoal, which follows two Black women and their journey to overcome internalized colorism, filmmaker Francesca Andre tells a personal and heartfelt story of the affect colorism has on Black women.
ESSENCE spoke to Andre about the film, which has been shown at a number of film festivals and picked up various awards, including the Visionary Award at 2017’s Crystal Ship Mini Indie Film Festival and the award for Best Short Film at Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival.
Andre touches on Hollywood’s roles in perpetuating colorism, what gets left out of the conversation on the issue, and why it is so deeply entrenched in our community.
What inspired you to create a short highlighting colorism?
One of my most vivid childhood memories was impacted by colorism. When I was a child, my school distributed Christmas presents to all the children. I received a beautiful Black doll made of cloth. In Haiti, they are called “poupe twal.” When I took the doll home, I was teased and many called my doll ugly because it was a dark-skinned doll. I stopped playing with the doll and asked for a different doll.
I grew up hearing people refer to my father and my grandfather as “ugly” solely because of their dark complexion. I also grew up seeing women being praised for their beauty after bleaching their skin. Now we are in 2017, and it’s still happening. We are still getting messages from major brands saying lighter skin is better. There‘s also a lack of representation in film and television, in media, in storytelling and a lack of dialogue within our own communities. I wrote charcoal as a way to highlight these issues, spark conversation and empower Black women to fully love themselves, skin, hair and all. I am grateful for all the actresses who helped bring this story to life —Chengu Kargbo, Lorry Francois, Kweta Henry, Heather Smith and Khamaly Bryan.
What do you think is often left out of conversations on colorism within the Black community?
The Black community is huge. It’s not only African Americans —there are so many other components and people from the African Diaspora. However, one thing is clear: We don’t talk enough about healing, collective healing. We have internalized so much toxic stuff that it takes a conscious effort to deprogram and recondition ourselves. Colorism is not dormant.. people are still being defined by their skin tone and hair texture.
Charcoal highlights how these are ideas about skin color are passed down in families. We know why colorism exists, but in a time where Blackness is being celebrated with hashtags like #melaninpoppin and #blackgirlmagic, why do you think these prejudices against dark skin still exist and are passed down to other generations?
The celebration of our blackness is viewed as a movement and often perceived as political. Blackness, being proud of our blackness makes this world uncomfortable. It’s shocking to me that loving yourself as you were created can be viewed as being political. It goes against the oppressive system that was created to destroy everything that makes you, you. For me, it was my hair. It was a journey for me to embrace and restore the relationship with my hair. I was 12 when I had my first relaxer. The celebration of our blackness has not been made mainstream and it’s not global yet. May we continue to embrace our magic, may we continue to heal, and to prosper.
We know the beauty industry perpetuates these ideas by selling products that use coded language, at least in the U.S., to sell skin lightening and brightening products, but what about Hollywood’s role in perpetuating colorism?
Hollywood handles images and images shape perceptions. That’s the danger in having a small group of people calling the shots. This is why it’s important to support women filmmakers and filmmakers of color because whoever controls your image and your stories, controls your future and defines your culture.
How can we eradicate an idea that is so deeply entrenched in our community?
I’m not sure I have the answer on how we can eradicate something that has been ingrained in us for centuries, but we can definitely start with dialogue and encourage more representation. The idea that one kind of complexion is better than the other is a lie, so let’s start spreading the truth. The beautiful thing is that Black women here in America are changing the narrative by using and amplifying their voices with hashtags like #melaninpopping, but healing is not an overnight thing. These ideas were not embedded in us in one day —there was an entire system that supported them, which is why we are still discussing racism, colorism, self-hatred. However, we know the truth, and through dialogue, we have the power to shift these types of divisive and regressive ideas.
Catch a screening of the short film at St John’s University, Manhattan Campus on Feb. 8 or the Brooklyn Academy of Music on March 14.
Lupita Nyong’o, Chadwick Boseman, Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, and director Ryan Coogler explain how ‘Black Panther’ elevates women to the center of the action like no other Marvel superhero movie before it.
Black Panther Film Review
Posted by Wilson Morales
February 6, 2018
When Marvel first announced that they would make a stand-alone film for Black Panther, the first for a Black superhero in their MCU, some may have wondered whether they could pull off the same success that the studio has had with their other stand-alone films (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Ant-Man). While we have seen War Machine and the Falcon in other Marvel films, Black Panther is the one character, other than Luke Cage (whose character is on the Netflix series), that most folks are familiar with.
After the jubilant fanfare the character and Chadwick Boseman received from his first appearance in “Captain America: Civil War,” there was no question that the time was now for his film to come out. With director Ryan Coogler at the helm and this being his third film following Fruitvale Station and Creed, suffice to say, Black Panther is a hit! It’s emotional, powerful and action packed to satisfy comic book fans as well as newcomers who probably haven’t seen a Marvel film, but want to experience seeing Black excellence on the big screen.
With a star-studded cast that includes Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, John Kani, Florence Kasumba, and Sterling K. Brown, Coogler has put together a Marvel film that has sense of realism that they haven’t had with their other films. There a lot of political aspects that resonates with today’s world in regards to the rich and the poor and whether or not resources should be shared.
Everything you wanted to see in this film, from the characters, the story, the action scenes, the costume designs, and the production values are firing on all cylinders. While Boseman is the lead, he is aided immensely by Jordan, Wright, Nyong’o, Gurira and Freeman. Each character is given ample time to establish their identity and along with co-writer Joe Robert Cole, the film is also filled with some humor that keeps kids entertained without losing them to a language they are too young to understand.
Taking place after “Captain America: Civil War,” when his father King T’Chaka (John Kani) was killed, T’Challa (Boseman) returns home to the undiscovered, isolated home of Wakanda where he has to prepare to be named the new King and continue the legacy of the Black Panther. With his younger sister and tech wizard Shuri (Letitia Wright), stepmother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and his all-female band of soldiers aka the Dora Milaje at his side, T’Challa is in great hands. With many different tribes gathering for the ceremony, T’Challa’s rise to the throne is initially challenged but he prevails.
Meanwhile, outside of Wakanda, a man by name of Erik Kilmonger (Jordan) is seen in London robbing a Vibranium item and gives it to Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), the man responsible for T’Chaka’s death. Vibranium is the heart and soul to Wakanda and its technical advantage over the world is mostly desired by others. When word gets to the folks in Wakanda that Klaue has been located in South Korea, it’s agreed by T’Challa, mentor Zuri (Whitaker) and his chief counsel W’Kabi (Kaluuya) that Klaus must be apprehended and brought back to Wakanda to face justice. Setting out on this mission are T’Challa, Okoye (Gurira), his most trusted ally and head of the Dora Milaje and his former lover Nakia (Nyong’o), a war dog and undercover spy for Wakanda.
Based on the various trailers and clips shown, and without revealing any spoilers, we know that CIA agent Everrett K. Ross (Freeman) is also on the hunt for Klaue and while it seems (from the trailer) that both T’Challa and Ross managed to capture him, there’s a larger threat to both of them that neither saw coming and the world of Wakanda may never be the same.
The moment the trailer was released, the thing that stood out was how amazing each setting looked. From start to finish, costume designer Ruth Carter’s vibrant colors for the characters and Hannah Beachler’s dazzling production values makes this a beautiful film.
Having played Jackie Robinson, James Brown and more recently, Thurgood Marshall, Boseman is no stranger to embodying the spirit of a well-known character, and as Black Panther, he commands attention, but it’s actually the other characters who stand out. Jordan’s Kilmonger, in particular, is the strongest villain in the MCU thus far. One can make the argument for Thor’s Loki, but the more Loki sticks around and pops up in the other Marvel films, the less he’s hated. Kilmonger has a purpose, and while he’s menacing in his actions, there’s an emotional core that one could side with. He’s not a one-note character who will be forgotten after the film is over. His actions has consequences that will be remembered and Jordan, having working with Coogler on his previous films, is having a ball playing the villain you love to hate.
Another scene-stealer is Wright, who as younger Shuri, is basically the female version of Q from the James Bond franchise. She’s smart, savvy and just as strong as her brother. Not only that, but ALL of the women are fierce. From Okoye, the Dora Milaje and Nakia, there is no damsel in distress here and to see the women fight as a unit and without fear is a triumph. Wonder Woman and the Amazons paved the way and Black Panther continues to empower women as equals.
At a running time of over two hours, some may have quibbles on the pacing of the film, but each scene is either filled with a landscape that’s too gorgeous to ignore or an action scene where you want more. Marvel has given Coogler the latitude and tools to have Black Panther readers and fans be proud and where people can feel connected and entertained.
A sports announcer once said he aimed to give his listeners a view from every seat in the house. What if an event series exploring race relations in this country and the policing of African-Americans did just that? What if a 10-hour film was created that asked the difficult questions and sparked real conversation and change? SHOTS FIRED is that “What if?”
From Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Beyond the Lights,” “The Secret Life of Bees,” “Love & Basketball”) and Reggie Rock Bythewood (“Notorious,” “New York Undercover,” “Get on the Bus”), SHOTS FIRED is a 10-hour event series that examines the dangerous aftermath of two racially charged shootings in a small Southern town, providing an explosive autopsy of our criminal justice system.
When JOSHUA BECK (Mack Wilds, “The Wire”), an African-American Sheriff’s deputy, kills an unarmed white college student, a small town in North Carolina is turned upside-down. Before the town has a chance to grapple with this tragedy, the neglected murder of an African-American teen is brought to light, opening wounds that threaten to tear the community apart.
Leading the Department of Justice’s inquiry into these shootings is seasoned investigator ASHE AKINO (Sanaa Lathan, “The Perfect Guy,” “Love and Basketball”) and a young Special Prosecutor, PRESTON TERRY (Stephan James, “Race,” “Selma”), both of whom are African-American. As they start to peel back the layers of both cases, they suspect a cover-up that may involve some of the state’s most powerful people, including fiercely political North Carolina Governor PATRICIA EAMONS (guest star Academy-, Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actress Helen Hunt, “As Good As It Gets,” “The Sessions”). She’s in a tough re-election fight, and the recent shootings in her state are making it even tougher. Meanwhile, real estate mogul and owner of a privatized prison ARLEN COX (Academy- and Golden Globe Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss, “The Goodbye Girl,” “Jaws,” “Madoff”), is pulled into the volatile debate over policing in the town, and LT. CALVERT BREELAND (Stephen Moyer, “The Bastard Executioner,” “True Blood”), a seasoned veteran in the Sheriff’s Department, gets caught in the middle of the investigation.
As Ashe and Preston navigate the media attention, public debate and social unrest that come with such volatile cases, SHOTS FIRED tackles the racial divide from every seat in the house.
SHOTS FIRED is produced by 20th Century Fox Television, in association with Imagine Television and Undisputed Cinema. The series is created and executive-produced by Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood. Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo also serve as executive producers. “Like” SHOTS FIRED on Facebook at facebook.com/Shots Fired. Follow the series on Twitter @ShotsFiredFOX and join the conversation using #ShotsFired. See photos and videos on Instagram @ShotsFiredFOX.