July 18, 2013

(AP) — Nas has rapped his way to Harvard University.

The Ivy League school announced Tuesday that the 39-year-old rapper is being honored with the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship at its W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. It’s a joint venture with Harvard’s Hip-Hop Archive.

The fellowship will assist students who excel in the arts “in connection with hip-hop.”

Nas is one of hip-hop’s most celebrated lyricists, best known for his reflective rhymes and deep storytelling. His 11th album, “Life Is Good,” was released last year. It earned four Grammy nominations. His hits include “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That),” “Street Dreams” and “I Can.”

The Hip-Hop Archive was established at Harvard in 2002. It supports growing research in hip-hop.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

July 18, 2013

By Zenitha Prince

Special to the NNPA

from The Afro-American Newspaper


In an industry where love and marriage is as inconstant as the latest box office or Billboard ratings, Denzel and Pauletta Washington have defied the odds.

The power couple graces the cover of Ebony magazine’s August issue. And, in a cover story celebrating Black love, the couple discusses the ingredients for their successful marriage: The Washingtons celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary on June 25.

“There’s no magical mystery to [staying together] … We go through up and downs like any couple,” Denzel told Ebony writer Shirley Henderson, as quoted by the Huffington Post.

But persistence is important, Denzel said, the kind of dogged determination he exhibited when he proposed to Pauletta three times.

“We live in a time — and it’s not for me to judge anyone — when people give up too easy,” the revered actor said.

Pauletta, an actress and producer, said the bond has to go beyond lust and passion. What has proven invaluable for them, she added, is maintaining stability amid the often schizophrenic Hollywood scene.

“I live with this man. I see the down part. I see the sad part. I see every part. He has and knows he has that stability in me as his wife. That’s gives him strength, regardless of if he misuses it. I can’t dwell on that. But I do know that gives him a great platform to go and fly,” she said.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey published in the January 2008 issue of O magazine, Denzel praised Pauletta for providing that constancy both for him and their four children.

“When it comes to the kids, I give complete credit to my wife, Pauletta. Early on, we decided that we wouldn’t drag them around to all the places I go. Pauletta was the consistent one who made breakfast every day and took them to school. She taught them their prayers,” he told Oprah.

The couple first met at a hotel restaurant during the filming of Wilma, the 1977 television film biography of track legend Wilma Rudolph. It wasn’t love at first sight, however.

“People who say they knew right away are lying,” he said, laughing. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

The chronicle of the Washington marriage comes amid persistent rumors of a breakup, which both marriage partners deny.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

July 11, 2013

By Dwight Brown

NNPA Film Critic


If you don’t live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you might only know the rudiments of this tragic event and subsequent upheaval: Black man, in handcuffs, shot in back by White police officer in Bay Area Rapid Transit train station. Protests. Riots. Unrest. This thoughtful, methodical and contemporary allegory, which is based on a true story, carries the weight of a Greek Tragedy. The film reveals as much about the incident as it does about our complex attitudes towards race.

Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), an aimless 22-year-old, lives in the East Bay. He has not lived a perfect life. Done a little time for a little crime. Fathered a daughter, Tatiana (Ariana Neal), out of wedlock with his Latina girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz). Lost his job because he couldn’t show up on time. He’s dabbled in drug dealing and has a hair-trigger temper he’s learning to control.

On the other hand, he loves his daughter. Has a strong relationship with his tough-love mom Wanda (Octavia Spencer). Is buoyed by his extended family. His sister wants to borrow money, and though he is dead broke, he tries to help. And his heart is in the right place the day a stray dog is hit by a car and he carries it to the side of road as if it was his own.

It’s 2008.  December 31st, New Year’s Eve. Seems like Oscar is finally focusing on finding a job, being faithful to Sophina and leaving his drug life behind. He’s got a new attitude and great expectations for 2009. Just one more night on the town, what could it hurt? He, his buddies and Sophina plan to head into San Francisco for the festivities.

It’s been said that nothing good ever happens after midnight. It’s the reason moms keep their sons home at night. Wanda, afraid her son and his friends will drive drunk, insists they take the train. BART. It’s a good idea that only fate could make regrettable. Mom, “I told him to take the train. I told him to take the BART I didn’t know they would hurt my baby.”

Oakland born writer/director Ryan Coogler, whose previous credits include short films, takes a big step into the feature film world with this ambitious, well-realized urban drama. His script lays the blueprint. It’s perfectly detailed. With deftness he sets Oscar’s persona in cement. You know he’s an imperfect human being. Neither a saint nor a sinner. He’s a son without a father, an adolescent struggling with direction. Think Tupac. Think of the kid down the street. He’s surrounded by love (mom, Sophina, Tatiana, various uncles). He’s equally courted by crime, drugs and gang violence. His choices are crucial; the difference between life and death.

The other character Coogler develops with great success is Wanda; a mom who doles out her love and acceptance balanced with strict parental discipline. One of the film’s strongest moments is a prison visiting room scene when Oscar gets in a tiff with a fellow con who rankles him. The two young bulls paw the ground and are ready to ram heads when mom takes control. She gets up and leaves, “I’m not coming here again. If you want to put yourself through this…Not me.”  And she doesn’t return.

Coogler’s direction is steeped in realism. No New Jack City swing. No Boyz ‘n The Hood melodrama.  It feels like you’re wandering the streets of Oakland, aimless, searching for a clue to life. The interactions between the characters seem like everyday occurrences. Fights and make-ups with Sophina are normal as rain. Civil communications with White, Black and Latino people are routine. The death of Oscar Grant is unique because fellow passengers captured it on cell phones. Wisely, Coogler starts the film with some of that haunting footage. As the director leads you up to the film’s climax, you are hopeful, even though you know the inevitable.

The filmmaking does have flaws: Sometimes the dialogue seems overly prophetic. On New Year’s Eve, Tatiana tells Oscar, “Don’t go, I’m scared for you.” If those words were actually said that night, so be it.  In this film, they sound too contrived. Also the film ends abruptly, like it only gets to Act II. What happens after the incident is surly as significant and worthy of unveiling as what comes before it. How the subsequent protests, riots and demonstrations lead specifically to justice of any kind is the missing coda.

Michael B. Jordon honed his talent on series like The Wire and Friday Night Lights. His performance seems natural but that doesn’t mean it was easy to achieve. It’s subtle, deep and fiery. Octavia Spencer is up to the challenge of playing mom. Her expressive eyes and amiable manner mix eloquently with a tough undercurrent. This brilliant, performance is the antithesis of her clownish, over-the-top portrayal in The Help. This should be her signature role.

Under the guidance of cinematographer Rachel Morrison, the BART trains look like urban snakes, vipers speeding along tracks and devouring humans at each station. The costumes are unnoticeable (Aggie Guerard Rodgers) and that’s a compliment. The music doesn’t interfere (Ludwig Goransson). The production design (Hanna Beachler) exhibits low-income apartments and prisons with stark visuals.

At that moment when words are said and irrevocable mistakes are made it’s a shocking, immensely disturbing experience. You will leave the theater emotionally devastated.  Grief-stricken. Angry. It’s the mark of a very strong piece of filmmaking and a very sobering reminder that life can vanish in an instant.

Visit film critic Dwight Brown at DwightBrownInk.com.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

July 18, 2013

By Walter Greene

Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News


Model KIARA KABUKURU, a ninety’s super-model with a Vogue cover, a Cover Girl contract and numerous editorial spreads under her belt is back on the scene shooting for several top photographers and receiving the nod from fashion industry heavyweights including: Tom Ford, Gisele Bundchen and appearing in Carine Roitfield’s new magazine. Now 37 years-old, Kiara was discovered in Los Angeles, when she was 17 years-old. She’d re-located from war torn Uganda with her family to Los Angeles when she was 6 years-old. The petite, chocolate beauty brought her talents as a correspondent on the red carpet for the CFDA Awards last month at Lincoln Center. She’s back in New York from living in South Carolina where she mentors at risk children with `Building Dreams Foundation.’ Kiara recently told style.com “For me, to be able to help other people the way people helped me, it just makes sense.”


Her comeback has brought her to top photographers Mario Testino and Steven Meisel, the best in the business, both of whom she’s photographed with in the past. She went back to Uganda to start a documentary about her family history a few years ago. “I interviewed all of my grandparents and found out my maternal grandmother wore hides and here I am in New York wearing clothes. Its really a span of these different worlds. As a child I remember bodies and pools of blood and hiding and being protected, but being that young, you don’t understand everything.” noted the model. When she started modeling she was considered too short, standing at 5’7″ tall. “It was pre-Kate Moss,” recalled Kiara. “People would say `You’re really small – maybe television – maybe commercials’ I came to New York and booked a Levis campaign with Albert Watson, a top photographer. I was sent to go-sees (castings) with Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren, they had a great reaction to me and then I got booked for this huge Clinique job with Mario Testino.”


Kiara remembered those glory days when money was flowing. “I remember we were flying back and forth on the Concorde just to make jobs on time because we were that busy. I mean there was a time obviously when I was making all the rounds and I finally got my big break through Tom Ford doing his charity show in London, I met Tom backstage at his show and he really embraced me, he is such a warm person. When it hit, it was massive. I was working with everybody and shooting the cover of American Vogue. It was pretty amazing. The season I was in Milan and did not book any shows, then Tom booked me exclusively for Gucci and that was huge, because you know, you’re special.”


Then tragedy struck, Kiara’s world came tumbling down in 2000 when she was hit by a truck and dragged along the street while riding her bicycle on 14th Street and 9th Avenue in Manhattan. “I was coming from Chelsea Market and had that accident that messed up my face and knocked out my teeth.” Her beautiful face that made her a top model was mangled. They had to re-construct her face and teeth, needless to say, it was very traumatic. “I had moved back to LA and in 2002 I got the Cover Girl contract for five years. It was amazing, I think they were the best people I could have worked with in the state I was in, because I was  studying acting and had a lot of insecurities about my teeth, I was still going through all these reconstructions and I was having dreams where my teeth would fall out on the set. So I was a bit of a spaz with all that was going on.”


Now, Kiara says she’s extremely grateful and sees the modeling industry as totally different form the glorious 90s. “It’s a much bigger business, it’s a lot more serious.” She added, the difference is reflected in areas like backstage when now there is food for the models. She noted that back in her day there was vodka and champagne. What’s next on her agenda? “What I’ve realized is that I love expressing myself in every way; with my clothes with my acting, with my writing. I’m starting to write a book about my childhood, and my family’s story. And I’ll be speaking at Generation Cure, which is the younger part of AmFAR. There’s a lot of anguish and trauma in the world. I think that when things like this happen you can either become a victim and get destroyed or you can say `OK. So what can I do with this that’s going to make the world a better place?”


On her journey back on the fashion pages, Kiara again credits Tom Ford who planted the seed, she also got a request from Steven Meisel to see her polaroids. Kiara bumped into Tom Bart from IMG Model Management who suggested that she looked so amazing, she should do Tom Ford. “Also, Gisele who’s one of my best friends said `Whats the deal? You should do this.’ Then she started telling all these people like Carine Rothfield about me. There was all this encouragement, and I was like, I’m owning this, I’m healing and resolving the self esteem issues from the trauma of my childhood and coming into all of it. I decided that I was going to give this 110%.” The results include appearances in Vogue Italia’s Black Book and work with Tom Ford, Chanel, Dior and Gucci.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

July 11, 2013


You can expect a message from a distance to arrive this week and you’ll be happy to hear it. The spirit is easily lifted if you remember that you only have to imagine your world the way you want it to be. Create a happy reality tonight!  Soul Affirmation: I let worry fly away.



You’re likely to be efficient and productive this week. Even if you work hard you’ll get satisfaction from a job well done! Use your talents to create some free time for yourself.  Soul Affirmation: With spirit I co-create my week.



Educate those around you in the area of personal growth. Their improvement will bring benefits to you. Humor in communication is the key. Humor in introspection is a must.  Soul Affirmation: Success that has been following me is trying to catch up.



This week romance begins to percolate.  Enjoy your feelings and let your brain relax. Suspend all judgments of others. Being stern won’t work for you this week.  Soul Affirmation: I go along to get along.



Romance will find you this week. Don’t be looking the other way. Your “rap” is especially strong. Make as many of those important phone calls as possible.  Soul Affirmation: Friendships are shock absorbers on the bumpy roads of life.



Don’t take any big gambles this week, the time is not right for a flight into the unknown. A newfound harmony is in store for you and your mate. Your mate will understand your fears.  Soul Affirmation: New insights create new directions and a new cast of characters.



The air can be cleared easily. Admit your need for help. Seek understanding. You’ll help another by seeking help from them. Communication problems will smooth themselves out.  Soul Affirmation: Moving slowly might be the fastest way.



This week should bring an opportunity to further your education, don’t pass it up. Pay special attention to details at work. A friend needs your support. Find joy in giving it.  Soul Affirmation: All things work together for good.



You and your mate should increase your saving for the future this week. Future plans should be spotlighted. A relationship is likely to take a serious turn. Be open to making an unusual purchase.  Soul Affirmation: I can see clearly now the rain is gone. There are no obstacles in my way.



You and your partner are on the same wavelength. If you are presented with a contract this week, it’s an ideal week to reach an agreement. Make the important phone call to set things up.  Soul Affirmation: What I’ve been waiting for has been here all along.



Beware of financial pitfalls that you’ve set for yourself. Strengthen all your relationships by understanding motivations of others. Spend time at home. Enjoy what you already have. Soul Affirmation: Often it’s not what I say but the way I say it that gets the message across.



Don’t expect to win every battle, especially with your lover. This week winning is losing. Backing down is winning. Shyness produces a bold result. It’s easy to collect that long-standing debt.  Soul Affirmation: I keep money on my mind this week.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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