August 07, 2014
Just last year, Chadwick Boseman successfully channeled the spirit of Jackie Robinson in “42”, a powerful biopic about the Hall of Fame great who made history when he integrated Major League Baseball in 1947. In Get on Up, the gifted young actor is already impersonating another legendary African-American, the Godfather of Soul, James Brown (1933-2006).
Unfortunately, this revisionist fairytale works better as a jukebox musical than as an accurate recitation of the late crooner’s checkered past. The problem is that Brown simply is hard to portray sympathetically, despite his overcoming abject poverty and a dysfunctional childhood on the road to superstardom.
Yes, he was abandoned by abusive parents (Viola Davis and Lennie James) at the home of an aunt (Octavia Spencer) in Augusta, Georgia who did her best to raise him in the absence of a father figure. Nevertheless, James dropped out of school in the 7th grade, took to the streets, and spent several years behind bars for an armed robbery committed at just 16.
Upon parole, he made a foray into showbiz after joining the Famous Flames, the first of numerous R&B groups he would headline over the course of a career marked again and again by bad break-ups due to disagreements he had over salary with disgruntled sidemen. Brown would also have further run-ins with the law, ranging from repeated arrests for domestic violence against three different battered wives, to embezzlement, tax evasion and bankruptcy, to another three years in prison for illegal drug and weapons possession, assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.
Somehow, Tate Taylor (The Help) has figured a way to put a positive spin on the tarnished legacy of this terribly-flawed figure. Rather than have the film unfold chronologically, the inventive director has crafted an oft-confusing flashback flick which jumps backwards and forwards in time in dizzying fashion with no apparent rhyme or reason.
That scattershot approach ostensibly enables “Get on Up” to sidestep the more tawdry episodes on Brown’s resume without appearing to leave gaping holes in his life story. Consequently, the movie sits on solid ground during gyrating Boseman’s lip-synched, onstage performances of such James Brown hits as “I Feel Good,” “It’s a Man’s World,” “Super Bad” and “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud,” but not so much whenever it shifts its focus to its morally-objectionable protagonist’s poor people skills.
A nostalgic indulgence which, like the cinematic equivalent of a fluffy fanzine, eschews serious criticism of a revered icon in favor of a pleasant parade of his most memorable classics.
Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, drug use, profanity and violence
Running time: 138 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures
To see a trailer for Get on Up, visit: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=guOS6ev6hQ0
July 31, 2014
By Steve Furay
Special to the NNPA to The Michigan Citizen
James “J Dilla” Yancey, the late Detroit music producer whose stardom has grown globally since his passing in 2006, is headed toward enshrinement in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. Dilla’s mother Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, announced the news at the ninth annual “D.C. Loves Dilla” event on July 17.
The legendary hip hop musician will be represented in the museum by his MPC beat machine and his custom Moog synthesizer.
“It’s a beginning,” said Yancey on stage during the Howard Theater tribute concert that featured N’Dea Davenport, Maimouna Youssef and Pharoahe Monch, “and (there’s) so much more to come now that I’ve been practicing what I’ve been preaching to you guys: That when you’re given something special, it’s made to like, love, share. Love is not made to put in your pocket or your home, it’s for sharing. And gifts are made for sharing. So we’re going to share the equipment.”
Yancey introduced the audience to Timothy Anne Burnside of the Smithsonian Museum, who worked with the longtime Conant Gardens, Detroit resident to secure the contribution of the equipment.
“On behalf of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and from the bottom of my heart, we want to thank you for sharing your son’ legacy with us and for trusting us to share it with the world,” said Burnside.
She stated the two items donated “will be used to tell not just Dilla’s story and not just the story of hip hop, but through it will be a story of creativity, of innovation, of perseverance and of dedication.”
The Smithsonian Museum’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has a tentative opening schedule of late 2015 to early 2016. As part of the Smithsonian Institute, the museum will be a part of the world’s largest art, culture and research complex.
“This museum is the final jewel in the crown in the Smithsonian Museum on the (National) Mall,” said Burnside. “This museum will celebrate African American history and culture through every possible lens, through every experience, through history, through politics, through music, through art, through dance, through fashion, spoken word — you name it, it will be there.
“And I’m here to announce today, that also there, when you walk though those doors will be Dilla.”
J Dilla was long considered a master of hip hop production in Detroit, working with many Detroit hip hop artists from an early age, including Slum Village, Phat Kat, 5 Elementz and others. From his basement studio in his mother’s house in Conant Gardens, he would go on to work with Erykah Badu, Common, The Roots, Pete Rock and A Tribe Called Quest, before finally leaving for Los Angeles.
The donated equipment includes the Akai MPC 3000, a popular sample and beat sequencing machine for music producers, and a Moog “Minimoog Voyager” synthesizer, custom made by the brand’s creator Dr. Robert Moog, a prize of his collection received late in his career while J Dilla struggled with his health.
LAWT News Service
The historical Watts Summer Festival (WSF) will celebrate its 48th year on Saturday, Aug. 9, at Ted Watkins Park (next to the tennis courts) from noon until 7:30pm. The community is invited to come out and enjoy culture, continuous music, food, and activities including a petting zoo, Children’s Village and more. Vendors will offer unique items and social service agencies will provide valuable onsite information of services available to residents of all ages.
The venerable event will open with the pouring of libations in memory of those who lost their lives in the 1965 Watts Revolt, by Tulivu Jadi, vice chair of Organization Us and Alma Jackson, WSF board member. Mpinduzi Kuthaza, WSF board member, will give the history of the Watts Festival and recognize the Festival’s honorary co-chair, Congress member Maxine Waters. The “Tommy Jacquette Legacy Torchbearer Award” will also be presented to a deserving young Watts resident.
On Friday, Aug. 1, the documentary film “WattStax: The Living Word” will be screened with discussion at the Watts Senior Center, 1657 E. Century Blvd., Watts. The 1972 all-star concert was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and organized by Memphis’ Stax Records as a fundraiser for the Watts Summer Festival. Lester Jones, WSF Board Member, will moderate. 1 pm – 4pm.
On Saturday, Aug. 2, the Watts Village Forum “Building a Healthy Community” will be held at Beulah Baptist Church, 1454 E. 100th St., Watts. A panel of local professionals will discuss three elements of building and maintaining a healthy community, focusing on mental, physical and non-violent solutions. Panelists include Dr. Yoshado Lang, Emmada Psychology Center; Dr. Stan Frencher, Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital; and Aquil Basheer, A Better L.A. and PCITI (Professional Community Intervention Training Institute). WSF Board Member, Kathy Williamson, will moderate. 11am - 1pm.
For more information, visit www.WattsFest.org and Watts Summer Festival, Inc. on FaceBook.
Aries March 21 – April 19
Although homey affairs may claim part of your time and attention, the main focus is on leisure, pleasure, and enjoying yourself. You'll be in your element if you're the entrepreneurial type. However, a conflict or challenge could require a creative solution. As Mercury moves into Leo on Thursday it adds even more energy to your zone of romance and entertainment. This could be a time of energetic activity if you proceed with caution and don't give in to risk taking or recklessness.
Taurus April 20 – May 20
With a focus on domestic matters and family affairs your home is your castle this week and for some time to come. Mercury's entrance into Leo may encourage planning and organization associated with home-based projects or perhaps a spot of remodeling. However, it helps to confer with a partner before you go ahead. Differences of opinion could mean you clash on essential issues. Home entertaining could be positively delightful, especially this week when you may have more than one good reason to celebrate.
Gemini May 21 – June 21
You may need intense focus to push past obstacles and overcome challenges. Narrowing your focus and concentrating on one goal might be the best way to make good progress. There's a very vital and lively energy showing up in your communication sector. If you're dissatisfied with your job, you might be tempted to look for something else, in which case this could be a great time to apply for jobs or schedule interviews. Be sure to promote yourself on your CV!
Cancer June 22 – July 22
Things seem to be looking up as Mercury joins Jupiter in your financial zone. If previous months have been disappointing, this week and the months ahead may begin to make up for it. Use this opportunity to promote your goods and services, send out CVs, and make use of all your skills. With Mars now zipping through Scorpio, it's likely that creative efforts may have an intensely passionate streak that could earn you a lot of money if promoted in the right circles.
Leo July 23 – August 22
Mercury bops into your sign this week, adding even more emphasis to self-expression, the sharing of ideas, and pursuing personal goals. You may be on fire with plans that you've been mulling over for some time. In fact, your enthusiasm could reach new heights when your entrepreneurial abilities and fabulous business sense go to work for you to reap rich financial rewards. But life at home could be a drain on your energy. The presence of Mars here could be the catalyst that helps overcome any challenges.
Virgo August 23 – September 22
The week ahead could be one of successful activity along with a renewed level of energy. You can do very well if you can keep track of what you're doing without being tempted into risky moves. Paying attention to your intuition and even your dreams may provide helpful guidance along the way. The focus on your spiritual sector makes this a positive time for all kinds of practices, such as meditation, yoga, or anything else that soothes the spirit and calms the mind.
Libra September 23 – October 22
The accent on socializing is very pronounced, making this one of the best times of the year to connect with others, network, or date. As Mercury zips into Leo there will be even more reasons to accept invitations, attend events, and keep your social calendar fairly full. On another note, you could be pouring your energy into fixing your finances, which has to be a good thing. Career matters are also in focus, although you might need to make one or two compromises if you want to get ahead.
Scorpio October 23 – November 21
You can't hide from the spotlight, although you might not exactly enjoy being there in the first place. Mercury's presence in Leo as of Thursday encourages you to focus on self-promotion. If you're hoping to get a new job, explore a different career path, or improve your business success, it's vital to do so. This month in particular offers many opportunities to impress the right people. Mars in your sign suggests keeping your plans to yourself until it makes sense to unveil them.
Sagittarius November 22 – December 21
Can you resist the call of the wild? With a happy accent on expanding your horizons and entering new territory, the adventure may have only begun. This week you might want to commit to travel plans, or at least to exploring various options open to you. You may also need time out to reflect more deeply on personal issues. Giving yourself the opportunity for deep healing and cathartic release could encourage a powerful inner transformation. The ability to let go may be essential in all of this.
Capricorn December 22 – January 19
Mars encourages you to mix and mingle with influential people, so your social life seems to be positively upbeat right now. An accent on business success might encourage you to move in entrepreneurial circles, which is all to your good. This may be one of the best times of the year for upsizing your business plan and aiming for the stars. The only mistake you can make is thinking too small. If you're hoping to make a certain sum of money, add a few extra zeros on the end for good measure.
Aquarius January 20 – February 18
You may be in relationship heaven right now, especially if you're getting attention from all the right people. As folks continue to promote you behind your back, you may find job opportunities rolling in, and contracts, social invitations, dates, and much more. Naturally it won't happen at once, but by now you could be getting an inkling of what's to come. Along with this, your determination to succeed in your career is all to your credit. This is the time when you can aim high and have every chance of getting there.
Pisces February 19 – March 20
Lifestyle issues continue to be in focus, and this includes your job, health, and everyday routines and habits. The cosmos is currently encouraging you to think big - the bigger the better. The next important point is to make a plan to accomplish your dreams. If you can break a key goal into things you can do on a daily basis, there's no reason why you can't achieve it in style. At the same time, you may crave passion and change of the kind that can transform you on a deep inner level.
July 24, 2014
By E. Willa Simpson
In this insightful new book “On My Brother’s Shoulders: An African American Anthology and Tribute to People of Color,” E. Willa Simpson takes readers on a journey through the African American experience in the United States as retold in poetic terms. This literary work pays tribute to countless African American leaders who sacrificed their basic freedoms and in many cases even their lives for the longevity of the “human race.” Through Simpson’s scholarly, thought provoking analysis of the movement and unique critical dialogue as reflected through firsthand interviews with key civil rights leaders including Angela Davis, Michael Eric Dyson, Mamie Till Mobley and Howard Bingham (producer of motion picture film Ali); Simpson’s work promises to leave readers pondering just how deeply African Americans were affected by their shackled enslavement, the psychological impact of lynchings and tumultuous history in the United States. Simpson senses the worth involved in honoring the lives of those who contributed unselfishly to the struggle for justice and equality.
“On My Brother’s Shoulders” is a significant contribution to African American history as it provides a first hand account of the aftermath of the Emmett Till Lynching of 1955 as retold through Emmett Till’s beloved mother; longtime educator and civil rights advocate Mamie Till Mobley. Simpson states, “This literary work pays tribute to those who came before us and laid down their lives so that future generations would be able to have better and continue to sing a triumphant song.” Simpson's book presents a timeless journey through the early civil rights movement as portrayed through the skillful retelling of the brutal lynching of Emmett Till a fourteen year old youth who was accused of having wolf whistled at a white woman. Through Simpson's thoughtful examination of the ideology behind lynching noted filmmaker, historian and poet; E. Willa Simpson pays tribute to countless African American leaders including Angela Davis, Michael Eric Dyson, Medgar Evers, Ida B. Wells, Mamie Till Mobley and more. “I am hoping that this book will begin the process of opening up critical dialogue in the African American community as it relates to the many social injustices pervasive during the civil rights movement and thereafter, combined with the impact of post-traumatic slave disorder and brutal assassination of our leaders. We can only begin the process of healing once we begin to examine the ideologies and social structures that contributed to the racial persecution of Blacks in the United States, openly acknowledge these injustices and seek out specific solutions to existing issues that are still prevalent in the African American community today,”… E. Willa Simpson.
This book was written in hopes of getting older generations talking and sharing with younger generations about their experiences during the early civil rights movement and with being Black in America; as well as to create a general interest among youth to study their history beyond the walls of the traditional public school system and academia. Simpson states “We must change the course of history through the intentional inclusion of our stories in history books as retold by African Americans and further legitimized by the educational system, however in the meantime we must diligently pursue the truth of our experience in this country (including post-traumatic slave disorder) for ourselves. The lynching of Emmett Louis Till was one of the most talked about lynchings in the history of the United States and a necessary part of our understanding of race relations that should be included in educational texts throughout the country.” As Angela Davis stated in this anthology of interviews, “The case of Emmett Till marked a moment of “extreme de conscience,” a moment of coming to consciousness in a very intense way about the need to bring about social change.” And it is this imperative need to re-envision history as portrayed through the eyes of key civil rights leaders that is still relevant to social issues existing today. “On My Brother’s Shoulders: An African American Anthology and Tribute to People of Color” is available for purchase now at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, Books a Million, Kobo Books, and other Major Retailers. You may follow the author at her website located at www.ewillasimpson.com.
E. Willa Simpson is a longtime advocate for civil rights and justice; formerly residing on the local advisory committee of the “Tavis Smiley” Foundation. Simpson’s many accomplishments include film and television production, in addition to several publishing credits receiving national acclaim. Simpson made her directorial debut with a documentary entitled “The Lynching Tree” featuring political activist Angela Davis; and is currently working on several upcoming literary and theatrical projects. Contact Media Relations (562) 607-9533, Email:
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