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Volume 1 Number 4 Feb/March 2018

BLACK PANTHER:

#1 With A Billion Dollar Bullet...4


MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR

Volume 1 Number 4

February/March 2018

PUBLISHER Rosalind J. Harris

GENERAL MANAGER Lawrence A. James MANAGING EDITOR Gordon Jackson

CONTRIBUTING COPY EDITOR Laurence C. Washington COLUMNISTS Kim Farmer FILM CRITIC BlackFlix.Com

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Mark Isaacs Gordon Jackson ART DIRECTOR Bee Harris

GRAPHIC DESIGNER Jody Gilbert Kolor Graphix

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Melovy Melvin

CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Gordon Jackson

The Gulf Coast Urban Spectrum is a monthly online publication dedicated to spreading the news about people of color along the coastline states of the United States including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Contents of the Gulf Coast Urban Spectrum are copyright 2018 by Bizzy Bee Enterprise. No portion may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher. The Gulf Coast Urban Spectrum welcomes all letters, but reserves the right to edit for space, libelous material, grammar, and length. All letters must include name, address, and phone number. We will withhold author’s name on request. Unsolicited articles are accepted without guarantee of publication or payment. Write to the Gulf Goast Urban Spectrum c/o Denver Urban Spectrum at P.O. Box 31001, Aurora, CO 80041. For advertising, subscriptions, or other information, call 303-292-6446 or fax 303-292-6543 or visit the Web site at www.gulfcoasturbanspectrum.com or www.denverurbanspectrum.com.

“Wakanda Forever!”

And Why I Call My Grandchildren “King” And “Queen” Queen Michaela

W

King Gordon IV

henever I had the privilege of seeing two of my three grandchildren – Gordon IV or “Little Gordy,” now 21 months old and Michaela, 10 months old, I started referring to them as “My King” and “My Queen” within a few months after their respective births. The movie of the year is part of the reason why. We are witnessing history! The mega-film Black Panther has hit No. 1 with a Billion Dollar Bullet! The timing has been near perfect with the film being released to pay homage to both Black History Month (February) and Women’s Appreciation Month (March). As some people scratch their heads and try to figure out why the movie is such a gigantic 10-figure phenomenon in both national and worldwide box office sales, others have embraced the fact that Black Panther is simply much more than a movie, but part of a movement that could dictate a brighter future for people of color and champions of diversity. That’s the kind of future I desire for me with whatever years I have left, my adult children and also my grandchildren. Although they probably will not actually serve on anybody’s throne, I want to assure – even at their current delicate young ages – they start developing the very best and most positive self-images, a critical element needed to help them establish that strong inner-confidence core, along with a strong will for excellence to boldly dare to succeed later in their lives. There’s no question now: Black Panther is not only the most successful movie in history that features a predominantly black cast, but has now become the most influential and high-impactful media project, with enough dynamic impact to raise an entire nation. That’s important to recognize when you detect how Blacks and Africans have been negatively depicted in most traditional Hollywood films, especially since the release of the contentious and image-destructive movie Birth of a Nation in 1915. Today, when my grandchildren look in the mirror, the strong deplorable stereotypical influences from conventional Hollywood could be offset from films like Black Panther and the recently released A Wrinkle in Time. That dramatically decreases the possibility that my grandkids, via large screen, won’t be seeing themselves as nothing above thugs, gangsters, criminals, maids, butlers or someone considered irrelevant, nonproductive or unimportant in society. Black Panther has the potential, combined with other developing elements in the Black community, to reverse all of that. Although the colorful multi-cultured and highly technological nation of Wakanda is fictional, it represents what Africa could have been had not been for the suppressive and violent colonialism dealt to them over the past centuries by several European nations. Africa can – and will – harbor strong FIRST WORLD nations, not THIRD WORLD countries. Black Panther himself is the lead superhero character, not the backup or third string: he’s the MAN. Shuri, the technologically-savvy little sister of Black Panther can and will encourage more girls to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). And then there’s the bold and astonishing Dora Milaje, the team of women military fighters commissioned to protect Black Panther. Their sheer fearlessness and strength is capturing the hearts of not just Black women but aspiring women around the world. It has the potential to vastly redefine how women envision themselves. The multiple positive symbolisms and messages behind these characters in the film are too numerous to discuss in this column, but never has there been such a concentration of them in one movie, until Black Panther. The ultra-powerful images and depiction of the African and African American could totally destroy all of the falsely-installed past negative images that has programmed millions to accept mediocrity, welcome hopelessness and settle for less in their lives. Right before our eyes, Black Panther is providing much more than just pure entertainment value, but presenting itself as a powerful tool that shapes the minds of individuals, groups of people and an entire country. If you haven’t gone out to seen Black Panther yet, it’s a must-go. It will easily satisfy your basic quest of being thoroughly entertained. Additionally, for African Americans it can alter your perspectives about how you see yourself, very much for the better. I’ll keep calling my grandchildren “King” and “Queen,” in hopes of helping produce part of a platform that will help them discover the God-given greatness inside of them, then execute, bringing it out so that they build a life of eminence and become outstanding spiritual citizens of the world. Wakanda Forever! Gordon Jackson, Editor Gulf Coast Urban Spectrum Gulf Coast Urban Spectrum — www.gulfcoasturbanspectrum.com – February/March 2018

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“Black Panther” The Novel, Penned by Mississippi Native Compiled by Gordon Jackson

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he neutron-bomb explosive success of the movie Black Panther is making black history right before our eyes and has taken on a life of its own that will be ingrained in the fabrics of culture and the arts for future generations. Under the tip of this enormous iceberg have been hundreds of behind-the-scene contributors carrying on this legendary media project in their own ways. One is Mississippi native and University of Mississippi graduate Jesse J. Holland, who has been assigned by comic book magnate Marvel to write the official novel of the comic book hero sensation. For Holland, it was a very easy decision to accept the offer, having been an avid reader of the “Black Panther” comic books since his childhood. “I was lucky enough that Marvel came to me and asked me if I wanted to write this novel,” Holland told the Clarion Ledger. “I didn’t pitch it to them. I said, ‘Of course! As long as I’ve been reading “Black Panther,” I would love to do this,’ so that’s how I got to do it.” Holland’s novel reeducates the public on the origin of T’Challa, the original “Black Panther” who was first introduced by Marvel Comics back in 1966, but he also updates accounts for the present day. Holland, 46, now based in Bowie, Maryland, became immersed with a cluster of comic book super heroes such as the Avengers, the Incredible Hulk, the Justice League and of course the “Black Panther,” starting at about 5 years old, thanks to his father getting him started. After graduating from

Ole Miss, he took on his “day job” as a race and ethnicity reporter for Associated Press, but started redirecting his specialty of writing toward other endeavors. “I started writing my own comic books when I was smaller,” Holland said. “When it came time to go to college, I decided I needed a major that would help me write, and the one thing you do in journalism every day is you write. I got lucky enough that after all these years of writing journalism, when I started writing books people remembered that I liked comic books.” Holland’s most accomplished specialty projects became the publishing of the book “Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington,” in 2007, followed by “The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House.” chronicling the lives of the slaves who lived in the White House and about the 10 of the first 12 Presidents of the United States the owned slaves. Holland was finishing his second

history book when he was contacted by an editor from Disney Lucas Film Press. Discovering that he was a Star Wars fan, the editor asked Holland to write a book about Stormtrooper Finn, the black lead character who was featured in the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Holland gleefully accepted. Afterwards, Marvel asked him to write “Who is the Black Panther.”

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To note historically, Holly Springs, Mississippi is also the birthplace of Ida B. Wells Barnett (1862-1931), the highly decorated journalist, columnist, newspaper publisher, civil rights activist and feminist, known for her courageous work with “The Red Record,” which kept account of all the lynching of blacks in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She went on to become a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. Holland also teaches creative nonfiction in the Masters of Fine Art in Creative Nonfiction program at Goucher College in Towson, Maryland. While at Ole Miss, he was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and took on many duties. They included being a reporter and editor with The Daily Mississippian, hosting a show on the campus radio station. He was very familiar with being on the campus, often accompanying his mother while she was pursuing and acquiring her Master’s Degree in English at the school. Holland revisits Oxford as often as possible, usually, at the same time, also visiting his parents in nearby Holly Springs. He plans to continue writing, both for the AP and publishing his own novels. . Editor’s note: Jesse Holland’s “Who is the Black Panther?” is in bookstores now. Sources: Clarion Ledger, The National Press Club, University of Mississippi


Civil Rights Pioneer “Looks Back to Move Ahead,” Gives Vivid Accounts at Biloxi Museum

Canton, Mississippi’s Flonzie

Brown Wright presented her story as a true Civil Rights pioneer during her book signing at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum in Biloxi in January. Before a respectable audience at the museum, Wright gave stirring recollection of her attempts to register to vote as a young African-American woman in Madison County, only to be turned away by a white County Clerk in the early 1960s because she did not “pass the test.” Wright remembered facing “test” questions that had nothing to do with voting rights, such as “How many soap bubbles are in a bar of soap?” and “How many jelly beans are in this jar?” The white supremacists who controlled county government at the time used these questions and the payment of a poll tax to keep Blacks from registering to vote. Wright’s response to the clerk who turned her away was ‘One day, I’ll have your job.’ She soon followed through on that promise with fierce but steady determination. Wright’s experience led to a 1965 complaint from the U.S. Department of Justice led by Attorney General Robert Kennedy which found that, of the 10,366 adult Blacks in Madison County at the time, only 152 had been allowed to register to vote, whereas more than 5,000 of the 5,622 whites in the County were registered voters. Oppressive strategies such as poll taxes, irrelevant test questions and violent voter intimidation had been the tools used by a white minority to maintain positions of power over a black majority in Madison County, as well as dozens of other counties in the Deep South. Through civil rights

By Mark Isaacs

efforts by Wright and others, such did not last when brought to national attention. Therefore, Wright fulfilled her promise in 1968 when she was elected Election Commissioner in Madison County. She continued to fight for voting rights and against active voter intimidation, which did not go away of its own accord. Local elections were still being monitored by out of state lawyers sent by the U.S. Justice Department in 1971. Wright also played a pivotal role in the 1966 “Walk Against Fear” march. James Meredith, the first Black student to successfully enroll at the University of Mississippi, was shot in Hernando, MS., just 18 miles south of Memphis, while on his planned 200-mile trek from Memphis to Jackson. Numerous other Black civil rights leaders organized to take up the march in support of Meredith’s efforts to “bring injustice, discrimination, dehumanization, and all other forms of racism to a screeching halt.” They included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael. Wright recalled how she received a phone call one day while she was actively involved in helping to plan the march from her home in Canton. The caller on the other end of the line was Martin Luther King, Jr., who had already heard that if one wanted to get something done in Madison County, a person best call Ms. Wright. Wright recalled Dr. King’s words: “Ms. Flonzie, this is Martin King. I am on my way to Canton and was wondering if you could find housing and food for 3,000 marchers who are with me?” Wright said that she had little time to organize all of these arrangements, but was still able to deliver on all fronts. Marchers were housed and fed

in church gyms by an ‘army’ of volunteers organized by Wright, who went on to introduce Dr. King before he spoke on the very steps of the Madison County Courthouse, where she and other Blacks had been turned away from registering to vote just a few years before. The night before the march, Dr. King met with 12 of the march leaders including Wright, where he talked openly of his expectation of a violent and early death, given the threats he and his family endured on a constant basis. “He challenged us to continue the struggle (like him) when his inner feeling, would become a frightening reality,” Wright said. “He challenged each of us to continue our involvement in spite of the difficult days ahead.” This moment has been compared to when Jesus spoke similarly with the 12

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Apostles at the Last Supper. Wright’s appearance in Biloxi was in cooperation with the Mississippi Humanities Council, where she serves on their Speakers Bureau. Her talk at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum complemented an on-going exhibition at the Pleasant Reed house called ‘A City Within a City’ with photos documenting the African-American community in Biloxi and the Civil Rights struggles there to integrate its beaches in the ‘60s and early ‘70’s. . Editor’s note: All of the above accounts are in Ms. Wright’s memoir, “Looking Back to Move Ahead: An Experience of History, A Journey of Hope.” To purchase the book, email flonziebrownwright@att.net ($18 total includes sales tax & postage). Editor’s note: Mark Isaacs is a businessman in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and a community activist in South Mississippi.


Literary Speaking: Loud and Clear

Two South Mississippians Exhorting Power With Pen

Ward, 41, also received a grant from the MacArthur Foundation in 2017. She is now an associate professor of English at Tulane University.

Prior to joining the faculty of Northwestern, Trethewey taught as the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing

NATASHA TRETHEWEY has also reached levels of national and international prominence, primarily as a poet, but also as a writer and teacher. Born in Gulfport, Mississippi in 1966, Trethewey’s poetry draws her own memories as well as a researcher of other experiences centered primarily on her being the daughter of an AfricanAmerican mother and a white father. Since her parents were married at a time in the South when interracial marriages were illegal, she freely incorporates racial injustice into her thoughts. Trethewey received the 22nd Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities category in October 2017 (complete with a $250,000 cash award), presented by the Heinz Family Foundation. Tretheway’s structural poetic style combines free verse with traditional forms like the sonnet and the villanelle. After winning the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2007 for “Native Guard: Poems,” Tretheway served as the Poet Laureate for both Mississippi and the United States in 2012. She served her second term as the United States Poet Laureate in 2014.

at Emory University, where she also directed the Creative Writing Program. Trethewey gained national attention with her first collection of poetry, “Domestic Work,” which won the inaugural Cave Canem Poetry Prize for exceptional work by an AfricanAmerican poet. The poems were inspired by her grandmother, whose multi-faceted life involved being a housekeeper beginning 1937, then an elevator operator, beautician, factory worker and seamstress. Trethewey’s third volume of work was the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Native Guard: Poems,” which connected her personal family history with the forgotten history of the Louisiana Native Guards, a black Civil War regiment that won a key battle off the Gulf Coast. Trethewey’s memoir is entitled “Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.” She now teaches in Northwester’s Litowitz Creative Writing Graduate Program, a new joint Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and Master of Arts in English degree program. .

By Gordon Jackson

I

n this day and age where there has come a revived strongest need for Black Expression since the Civil Rights Movement and the 1970s, two African American South Mississippi-born artists have blasted into the literary scene and are on a roll, both having won prestigious national accommodations for their works over the past several months. Not to mention, they have also turned their own personal tragedies into triumph.

JESMYN WARD won her second National Book Award for fiction last September for “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” a dark, fablelike family epic set in contemporary Mississippi that grapples with race, poverty and the psychic scars of past violence. Critics have compared the novel to works by acclaimed author Toni Morrison. The book’s story about Jojo, a 13-year old boy dealing with his thoughts as he, his drug-addicted mother and his sister travel to meet Jojo’s white father when he is released

from prison, was described by the National Book Award judges as “a narrative so beautifully taut and heartbreakingly eloquent that it stops the breath.” Ward acquired her second National Book Award six years after she took home the top prize for “Salvage the Bones, a fictional story about a family’s traumatic journey of surviving Hurricane Katrina, set at Ward’s hometown of DeLisle, Mississippi and inspired by her own personal experience in 2005. Ward’s autobiography, “Men We

Reaped,” gives riveting accounts of her life that involved losing several relatives and friends to drugs, car accidents and violence. In her acceptance speech, Ward noted that even today, it’s still a challenge for a cross-section of readers to look at the plights of the Black Southerners and relate to the story as their own. “They said, ‘Why should I read about a 13-year-old poor black boy or his neglectful, drug-addicted mother?’” she said.

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Prime Mover of Alabama Senate Race Upset Victory to Speak At NAACP Event

Biloxi NAACP Mother of the Year to be Announced

One of the emerging dynamic

young forces in the New Civil Rights

Consulting LLC; •Project Director for Grantmakers for Southern Progress/Neighborhood Funders’ Group; •Former director of the Gulf Coast Fund for Ecological Health and Community Renewal. The Freedom Fund Banquet will also announce the 2018 Mother of the Year that will represent the Biloxi NAACP branch. Currently, four candidates representing local churches are vying for the honor. The winner will go on to compete in the State NAACP Mother of the Year Contest to be held in Jackson later this spring. . Editor’s note: Tickets are $50 per person, $500 per table. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 228-432-0206.

era will give the keynote address at the 2018 Biloxi NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet.

LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, will speak about her history-making achievement at the dinner, to take place Saturday, April 7, 2018 at the IP Casino, 850 Bayview Ave., Biloxi. The program begins at 6:00 p.m. Brown gained national attention with work performed during the most controversial political race of 2017. She took strong lead in the Black Voters Matter Fund’s aggressive grassroots organizing and voter mobilizing campaign that helped result in a historically high Black voter turnout for the Alabama Senate race between Democrat Doug Jones and embattled Republican Judge Roy Moore last December. The strong Black voter turnout was primarily instrumental in Jones pulling a major upset win over Moore in a politically overwhelmingly Republican state. Brown will reflect on her incredible achievement, but also cover on what must be accomplished for success in the 2018 midterm elections. Brown, a highly active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., has gained other remarkable inroads in several other capacities, including: •Principal Owner of TruthSpeaks

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Ground Rules

Must See............llll It’s Worth A Look.....lll See At Your Own Risk.ll Don’t Bother.....................l

REEL ACTION - WWW.BLACKFLIX.COM Black Panther

Editor’s note: Samantha Ofole-Prince is an award-winning writer and contributor to many national publications and is Blackflix.com’s Senior Critic-at-Large. Khaleel Herbert is a journalism student at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Laurence Washington is the creator of BlackFlix.com. Like Blackflix.com on Facebook, follow Blackflix.com on Twitter

F

Black Panther llll

By Laurence Washington

asten your lap strap! Black Panther has all the thrills of any Marvel superhero movie to date. The action is spectacular and the sets are lavish. The film cost billions of dollars to make (which they’ll probably get back in a weekend), and you can see where every dollar has been spent. Black Panther also offers a great storyline, as T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to rule the fictional country of Wakanda, after his father’s assassination, only to be challenged by his estranged cousin Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) for the throne. However, Black Panther offers more than popcorn thrills; its historical featuring and all-Black cast, and a Black superhero headlining a Hollywood big budget movie. Black Panther also echoes ‘60s civil rights activists who were at odds on whether to use peace or aggression to level the playing field in a white privileged world. The film also empowers Black women and youths, who for the first time can identify with a big screen superhero that looks like them. It’s really a landmark achievement. Even though Boseman is the film’s signature hero, he’s upstaged by Danai Gurira (General Okoye), who wields a mean spear. Okoye is just as powerful and resourceful as her male counterparts, and should probably get her own big budget movie. But that will never happen. Oscar winner Lupita Nyon’o turns in another solid performance as Nakia, T’Challa’s love interest, and like Okoye, she’s a strong no nonsense character. Five minutes in, Black Panther met all of my expectations. Two hours later, it surpassed them checking all the boxes. It does, however, suffer from the same affection as all Marvel movies, some of the fight sequences go on a little too long. It’s great dessert, but you can’t live off a steady diet of sweets.

That aside, Black Panther is brilliant and the supporting cast is magnificent. Of course there are two after credit scenes, one of which whets our appetites for the big showdown with super baddie Thanos this summer’s Avenger: Infinity War. Save me an aisle seat.

mines metal vibranium (the material that provides strength to Captain America’s shield), director Ryan Coogler clearly knows his way around the genre. With the exception of a few, the predominately all Black cast hail from Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. Xhosa, one of the official languages of South Africa, is spoken in the movie, which offers a brilliant glimpse to a fictitious African county called Wakanda and captures

Meet the Supporting Cast of Black Panther By Samantha Ofole-Prince

Black Panther

You don’t need to know anything

the African tradition both visually and orally. Blackflix.com senior critic-atlarge Samantha Ofole-Prince catches up with the supporting cast for a breakdown of who’s who. Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o plays a Wakandan spy and Black Panther’s love interest who hails from the River tribe. When we are first introduced to her character Nakia,

about this Marvel property to enjoy Black Panther. Delightfully relevant, fresh, funny and non-formulaic, Marvel Studios has struck gold again with this sensational superhero treat. A film about an African superhero (Chadwick Boseman) who is also the King of a wealthy and technologically advanced African nation, which

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she’s undercover in Nigeria tracking a terrorist group. Describing Nakia, Nyong’o says, “She’s a bit of a rebel, but is also a loyalist to her country. She is this world traveler, so her style is definitely influenced by the experiences she’s had.” Zimbabwean actress Danai Gurira has the most powerful role and plays Okoye, the King’s protector and head of the all-female Wakandan Special Forces (the Dora Milaje) and is clearly ready (as demonstrated in a few funny scenes) to take down anyone who messes with T’challa/Black Panther. A part that required her to shave her head bald, the actress says it took some time getting used to the bald look and recalls being shocked the first time she looked in a mirror. “There was pride around the shaved head and beauty. Okoye doesn’t want a wig when she has to go undercover and hates it. She has pride walking with that bald head,” she shares. Afro-British actor Daniel Kaluuya plays W’Kabi, Royal Counsel to T’Challa. “He’s got an African male ego and I find that quite interesting and really honest,” shares Kaluuya. “It’s like seeing what that does to a man when he’s been brought up in this certain tradition that is quite sexist in a way and seeing whether he can develop and overcome it. And anyone can.” Twenty-three-year-old Guyanese actress Letitia Wright plays the tech-savvy Princess Shuri, Black Panther’s/T’Challa’s little sister. She is second-in-line for the


REEL ACTION - WWW.BLACKFLIX.COM

throne behind her brother and is the smartest person in Wakanda. The brains behind Black Panther’s suits and technology Shuri is smart, witty and a delight to watch. There’s a really engaging scene where they have a playful banter as she teases T’Challa about his ‘royal slippers’ while briefing him on the gadgets she’s specially designed for his mission to Asia. “Shuri is someone who’s very innovative. Her brain is always working, and she’s always thinking of solutions to help her country and building gadgets and things like better armor,” adds Wright about the character. Trinidadian actor Winston Duke dons on the perfect dialect and delivery as M’Baku, leader of the Jabari mountain tribe of Wakanda. He doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Black Panther/T’Challa and the royal family and initially challenges him for the throne. “He’s a self-professed man of deep integrity,” shares Duke. “He really cares about his people, and he’s deeply shaped and defined by his cultural identity,” adds the actor who says the language training was fun. “I do more of a Nigerian Igbo influence. It’s not Igbo, but it’s influenced by Igbo because the rest of the cast is doing South African Xhosa. M’Baku’s mountain-strong people, who have been sequestered in the hills in the mountains, have developed to some degree their own culture. We wanted something that had its own personality and had its own beauty. So we referenced Igbo, and that helped. The rhythm of that language influenced.” The strongest character and most memorable role are played by the charismatic Michael B. Jordan who previously collaborated with Coogler in Creed and Fruitvale Station. Jordan’s character is the villainous Erik Killmonger, who has deadly tactical skills and knowledge of Wakanda. Describing Killmonger, Jordan says, “He is always ten steps ahead and that’s a very dangerous attribute to have as a villain because he’s going to sit and wait, and he’s going to plan and calculate every move.” In smaller supporting roles, Angela Bassett plays Queen Mother Ramonda, T’Challa’s mother, while Forest Whitaker rounds off the supporting cast as Zuri, the spiritual leader of Wakanda. A good friend to former King T’Chaka, he’s now a mentor figure to T’Challa and is also the keeper of the Staff of Bashenga and tends the garden which supplies Black Panther his powers. Other cast members include South African actors John Kani, Atandwa Kani, Uganda’s Florence Kasumba and Isaach De Bankole.

Navy Honors the Contributions of African Americans during 2018 African AmericanBlack History Month

AAFCA Recipient Edward James Olmos Says He’s an African First

Submitted by Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs

By Samantha Ofole-Prince

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WASHINGTON (NNS) — The Navy joins the nation in celebrating the history of African American Sailors and civilians during African American/Black History Month, Feb. 1-28. This year’s theme is “African Americans in Times of War,” which recognizes the contributions African Americans have made to the nation during times of war from the Revolutionary War to present-day conflicts. This month’s observance has its origins in 1915 when historian and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Dr. Woodson and the association initiated the first Negro History Week in February 1926. Every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as National African American/Black History Month since 1976. “We should celebrate our unique backgrounds because each Sailor brings something different to the fight and this makes us a stronger, more lethal team,” said Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander of the Carl Vinson Strike Group and one of Navy’s African American flag officers. The strike group is currently deployed to the Western Pacific. African American Sailors and civilians play an integral role in the success of the Navy as part of the One Navy Team. African Americans serve in every rank from seaman to admiral and perform duties in nearly every rating in the Navy. Currently, African Americans make up 17 percent of all Navy personnel, or roughly 64,000 Sailors. This includes more than 58,000 enlisted a nd 5,000 officers. Further analysis shows 17 percent of E-8 and E-9 Sailors are African Americans that hold a range of leadership positions. Nearly four percent of flag officers are African American Sailors. A breakdown by gender indicates there are currently over 45,000 African American males and more than 18,000 African American females currently serving in the Navy. “Those serving today owe our succe ss to the veterans who transformed our Navy into a more diverse force,” said Fuller. According to the September 2016 “One Navy Team” memo from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson, actively being inclusive and open to diverse perspectives will produce leaders and teams who learn and adapt to achieve maximum possible performance, and who achieve and maintain high standards, be ready for deci sive operations and combat. Diversity also influences various thoughts, ideas, skill sets, and experiences which ultimately helps increase the effectiveness of the Navy. Integrating Sailors and civilians from diverse backgrounds enables the Navy to recruit and retain the nation’s top talent from a wide pool of skilled personnel. The Navy supports minority youth development and encourages the pursuit of careers in science and industry through science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. The Navy also partners with organizations including the National Naval Officers Association, the National Society of Black Engineers, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in support of African American service members and civilians. . Editor’s note: A complete educational presentation, including a downloadable educational poster on African American/Black History month, can be requested from the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) by email at deomipa@us.af.mil. For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.

est-known for his work in Blade Runner, the cult TV series Battlestar Galactica and the Oscar nominated animated film Coco, actor and activist Edward James Olmos was recently honored by the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA). At the event held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles, AAFCA, a professional association that promotes AfricanAmerican film productions, honored the renowned actor with the Legacy award at their annual special achievement awards luncheon. Throughout his 40 year career, the Mexican-American actor has worked tirelessly to expand Latino representation in Hollywood and as he accepted his accolade, Olmos, who earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of real-life inspirational teacher Jaime Escalante in the 1988 film Stand and Deliver recalled a speech he had made several years ago about using the word race as a cultural determinant. He talked about his roots being African first, Asia and then Caucasian, which he said “is what makes me brown.” Olmos continued saying; “I cannot wake up in the morning without saying thank you to my roots.” In a heartfelt speech, the actor also thanked the association for the honor and for “being here and on time.” Olmos, who has been tapped to star and direct the flick The Devil Has a Name, a true tale about corporate greed, was one of several honorees at the luncheon which is now in its third year. Film critic Claudia Puig received AAFCA’s Roger Ebert Award and ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey, who in 2016 became the first African-American president of ABC Entertainment Group, was presented with the Ashley Boone Award. .

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Trump’s Monthly Box of Food for Our Poor B

By Dr. Glenn Mollette

ack in the ‘70s, my dad brought some delicious cheese home from our local town. “They were giving this cheese out in front of the courthouse so I picked some up” he said. The cheese was all part of the so called fight against poverty. My dad was a hard-working coal mining man so we had food to eat. However, who is going to turn down free cheese? The cheese was actually pretty good. Processed cheese developed by James L. Kraft of Illinois in 1916 became a mass

production of Colby and cheddar with curds and emulsifiers that tasted good and had a very long shelf life. The cheese would become a staple of the American diet but also a symbol of American poverty. Through the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program, a significant portion of America’s low income people were eating cheese packaged and distributed by our government. The seventies were a while back but today we are hearing that America is going to advance to a new solution for feeding our hungry. The current administration is proposing that America help the hungry with government-picked, nonperishable food every month instead of food stamps or at least replacing some of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program known as SNAP. Of course this sounds better than passing out cheese to low income

families. Digestive systems respond differently to the intake of cheese. Distributing healthy food to low income families sounds interesting. We all need to eat healthy. When I was a child my first encounter with helping out the hurting was watching advertisements on television about donating for CARE packages to the poor in other countries. We now are hearing about a CARE package from Uncle Sam to America’s low income people. I do not know what the packages will contain but I have heard canned fruit, chicken or fish, beans and among other things peanut butter. You can never go wrong with peanut butter. What about nuts? I’ve heard a handful of nuts every day are good for you? What about salmon? Alaska has a lot of salmon. I would like to see more wild Alaska salmon distributed in America instead all the farm raised salmon which is not supposed to be very healthy.

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Unfortunately, I don’t think the CARE package to America’s low income families is the solution to saving America. The idea behind this new endeavor is to cut America’s costs. We are trillions of dollars in debt and now the current administration with this new budget is recommending increasing our debt even more to so we can increase defense spending. I’m not opposed to increasing our defense spending. I am very opposed to all of the wars in the Middle East and nation-building which is driving us further into debt. Why would we jump on America’s most vulnerable hurting people to solve our nation’s economic woes? I agree the food stamp or SNAP program needs help. The overhaul should limit Americans to five years of lifetime use of the program. No one should be allowed to buy soda pop, cookies and candy on the program. I suppose ice cream might be okay. The emphasis should be buying healthy food at the stores. Americans are already very obese and buying junk food through the SNAP program is adding to America’s debilitation. I also hear stories of Americans buying a lot of soda pop and selling it cheap for cash to buy drugs. There definitely must be some reform on how much junk food can be bought through the SNAP program. Sending low income Americans a box of food or requiring them to line up at a government distribution center reminds me of something I’ve seen on television maybe like from Russia or Germany. Are we going to force our poor to line up and get their food rations for the month? I think the idea of America’s corporations paying less in tax dollars should be good for America if it will keep factories in our country. I agree with this move. We need the jobs. However, if we are going to make up the difference by cutting back on Social Security, Medicare and SNAP recipients then we are not a very good people. The idea of corporations paying less in taxes is to stimulate our economy which should mean more cash flow, more tax dollars to help our nation and more money to pay down our debt – if that’s how we are going to use the extra money. Charities across America give out water, food baskets and used clothing. Most of them provide a respectful service. The government of the United States of America can do better by our poor than a monthly box of food. . Editor’s note: Dr. Glenn Mollette has authored 12 books. His column is read in all 50 states. Email GMollette@aol.com or visit www.glennmollette.cm.


“Wakanda” Girls From Across The Country Will Join Nicole Ari Parker As Program Chair Of The At The Well Summer Leadership Academy At Princeton University To Make Their Own Brand Of Magic

New York, NY (BlackNews.com) – Actress Nicole Ari Parker will serve as the Program Chair of the At the Well Young Women’s Leadership Academy to be held at Princeton University on July 22-August 3. The summer enrichment program will empower fierce girls of color to be great leaders not unlike those represented in the fictional nation of Wakanda from the movie Black Panther. Seven-time NAACP Image Award nominee Parker is best known for her outstanding performance as ‘Teri Joseph’ of Showtime’s award-winning original series “Soul Food.” Nicole is now back on Showtime guest starring in the 2nd season of the hit series “I’m Dying Up Here.” She also recurs as Giselle Barker on the Fox hit show “Empire.” Parker can be seen in the upcoming film Headshop and reunites on the big screen with Forest Whitaker in the action thriller How It Ends set to release in 2018. Parker states, “We must show a level of support for our young women of color that enables them to become great leaders.” The At the Well Young Women’s Leadership Academy is designed for current 10th and 11th grade students and is in its eighth year. Students from across the globe are welcome to apply. The Program focuses on developing strong leaders through academic, social and career components. Girls participate in small group projects and share dorm space that helps to create networks and build lasting bonds long after the program ends. The curriculum includes critical reading, essay writing, college scholarship boot camp, and leadership workshops. The Academy offers a safe place for students to share the challenges of personal and school life. Speakers will include The D. L. Hughley Show Co-host Jasmine Sanders, scholar Julianne Malveaux, motivational speaker Brandi Harvey,

2016 Democratic National Committee Chief Leah Daughtry, physician Michele Reed, QVC Inventor Lisa Ascolese, attorney Renee Hill, and plus-size supermodel Liris Crosse. Workshop topics comprise of financial literacy, body image, entrepreneurship, health and wellness, and selfesteem. Social activities include a trip to New York. Students have benefitted immensely from the program. Academy Alumnus Imani McClendon graduated from Spelman College after receiving a full scholarship and $40,000 in

aid by using our techniques. Dahnielle Milton, a 2017 alumnus of the program, wrote, “For the first time in forever, I am able to read books in a day and actually understand what I am reading because I am using these techniques you have taught me.” To date, 100 percent of the Academy alumni have been accepted to college. Jacqueline Glass, the program Founder and Princeton Theological Seminary alumnus states, “The Academy lives out our mission to empower young women locally to become effective leaders globally.” A

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Ninth Grade Weekend Intensive is available for students on August 3-5. New for 2018 is Editor’s note: From the Fire: Leadership Academy for Young Men; a two-week program operating July 22-August 3 with a focus on mentoring and Rites of Passage that features actor Delroy Lindo as Program Chair and actor Danny Glover as Keynote Speaker.. Editor’s note: The application deadline for all programs is March 31. For more information and to apply, go to www.atthewellconferences.org. Select need-based financial aid is available.


Disrobing the Many Layers of Black Panther Op-ed by Dante J. James

It’s the same old story. Nothing in this world happens unless white folks say it happens. And therein lies the problem of being a professional black storyteller - writer, musician, filmmaker. - James McBride

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he above quote by author, James McBride is my point of reference in an effort to expand the parameters of the discourse around the Marvel Comics film, Black Panther – an incredible box office success. According to box office mojo, as of March 7, world-wide receipts top $920 million worldwide. With an estimated $108 million, Black Panther delivered the second largest second weekend of all time surpassing Jurassi c World’s $106.5 million second weekend of June, 2015. The film’s record breaking commercial success and rave reviews regarding the imagery of Africa and Black women are grounded in complex interpretations of African culture coupled with Black pride in an almost entirely Black cast. However, without exploring the craft and merits of the filmmaking I’d like to expand the parameters of the discourse about the film by using the James McBride quote as a framing device. Brilliant marketing and the releasing of Black Panther at a time when Black people throughout the diaspora are under siege by corporate greed, oppression and exploitation have had a positive impact on the box office. Additionally, attempts to devalue Black humanity as evidenced by America’s judicial, political and economic policies and practices have exacerbated the desire for Black affirmation. These issues are further complicated by numerous racist comments from the U.S. President, Donald Trump. His reference to African nations as “shithole” countries reinforces the need for Black youth in particular and Black people in general to ‘escape’ into an imaginary world in-which Black people have, intelligence, humanity, dignity, and power. The imag e at the entrance to Wakanda and the name of the film, Black Panther, is both consciously and subconsciously associated with the Black Panther Party founded in 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California. Consequently, Oakland connects the fictitious African nation Wakanda to contemporary Black America and the legacy of the Black Panther Party. However, it is interesting to note that one of the core objectives of the Black Panther Party was fighting the oppression and exploitation of multinational corporations like Disney, the parent company of Marvel Comics. It is also of note that Disney has profited for decades on films grounded in Black culture, often misrepresenting and denigrating the culture. Additionally, Disney is currently resisting raises for its labor force in spite of a 4.42 billion quarterly increase, up 78 percent as result of Trump’s tax cuts. In the title of his review of Black Panther, for The Guardian, Khanya Khondlo Mtshali states, “Black Panther is great. But let’s not treat it as an

act of resistance.” He further writes, “Conflating the film with the resistive efforts of grassroots activists and organizers, we risk disrespecting our radical traditions which are increasingly being commodified by corporations whose interests have never been with the people.” Real-life representations of the humanity, dignity, and intelligence of Black people worldwide can be found in our history and our literature; a history that is grounded in many of the values our community is celebrated in Black Panther. Consequently, it did not require creating a fictitious world and characte rs to see those values on the big screen. Denzel Washington’s, The Great Debaters and Nate Parker’s, The Birth of a Nation, both told stories of real Black people in the real world respecting each other, honoring Black legacies and fighting for the humanity, dignity, and freedom of Black people. Yet, unfortunately, many in our community failed to support these finely crafted films of very important an d relevant stories that resonate with contemporary America. Some corporate media outlets, and regrettably some in the black community, chose to discuss Parker’s past instead of the artistic and editorial merits of the film. Our literature is rich with stories of self-definition and internal interpretations of black experiences. Many of them are derivatives of the social, political, economic and judi cial oppression of Black people but also connect to the images of Black women, Black humanity, respect, and connections to our ancestors; the values that our community is embracing in Black Panther. I urge corporate entities and our community to support efforts to tell these stories. This dichotomy is directly connected to the James McBride quote, “It’s the same old story. Nothing in this world happens un less white folks say it happens. And therein lies the problem of being a professional Black storyteller – writer, musician, filmmaker.” White corporations like Disney control the representations and interpretation of Black experiences, culture, and history. Their interest is pure capitalism, supplemented by the desire of Black people worldwide to see their humanity and dignity on the big screen. This expl oitation of Black culture and the psychological needs of Black people are central to the successful production, promotion, and marketing of Black Panther. Corporate controlled white media, and some in the black community, are comfortable with a film that creates a fictional world. A world according to Mtshali “provides dark skinned girls and women with heroes who share the same features which society ridicules them for.” Mtshali further states, “Let’s remember watching a film is not a brave act of resistance. There is plenty more work for us to do.” As a Black man, independent filmmaker, activist, and scholar I agree with Mtshali, there is much work for us to do. The challenge is how to we incorporate the pride, values, dignity, and resilience we embrace in the film Black Panther into our real-life fight for equality and justice within our families, communities, politics, business, religious organizations and our art. . Editor’s note: Dante J. James is an Emmy awardwinning independent filmmaker. For more information on his work and company, Black Pearl Media Works, email dante@blackpearlmw.com or visit www.blackpearlmediamw.com.

Legendary Performer and Civil Rights Activist Honored on New Forever Stamp Newest Addition to Black Heritage Stamp Series

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he U.S. Postal Service celebrated the life and legacy of Lena Horne as the 41st honoree in the Black Heritage stamp series during a first-day-of-issue ceremony at Peter Norton Symphony Space. “Today, we honor the 70-year career of a true American legend,” said Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman, who dedicated the stamp. “With this Forever stamp, the Postal Service celebrates a woman who used her platform as a renowned entertainer to become a prolific voice for civil rights advancement and gender equality.” Joining Stroman to unveil the stamp were Gail Lumet Buckley, an author and Horne’s daughter; Christian Steiner, photographer; and Amy Niles, president and chief executive officer, WBGO Radio. The stamp art features a photograph of Lena Horne taken by Christian Steiner in the 1980s. Kristen Monthei colorized the original blackand-white photo using a royal blue for the dress, a color Horne frequently wore. Monthei also added a background reminiscent of Horne’s Stormy Weather album, with a few clouds to add texture and to subtly evoke the album title. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp. Born in Brooklyn, NY, on June 30, 1917, Horne was a trailblazer in Hollywood for women of color and used her fame to inspire Americans as a dedicated activist for civil rights. Horne began her career as a dancer at Harlem’s Cotton Club and later became a featured vocalist with touring orchestras. The rampant racial discrimination she encountered from audiences, hotel and venue managers and others was so disconcerting that she stopped touring, and in 1941, she

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made her move to Hollywood. A year later, she signed a contract with MGM — one of the first long-term contracts with a major Hollywood studio — with the stipulation that she would never be asked to take stereotypical roles then available to black actors. Her most famous movie roles were in Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather, both

released in 1943. During World War II, Horne entertained at camps for black servicemen, and after the war worked on behalf of Japanese Americans who were facing discriminatory housing policies. She worked with Eleanor Roosevelt in pressing for anti-lynching legislation. In the 1960s, Horne continued her high-profile work for civil rights, performing at rallies in the South, supporting the work of the National Council for Negro Women, and participating in the 1963 March on Washington. Horne’s awards and honors include a special Tony Award for her onewoman Broadway show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music; three Grammy Awards; the NAACP Spingarn Medal; and the Actors Equity Paul Robeson Award. She was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 1984, and her name is among those on the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.. Editor’s note: Customers may purchase the Lena Horne Forever stamp at The Postal Store at usps.com/shop, by calling 800STAMP24 (800-782-6724) and at Post Office facilities nationwide. A variety of stamps and collectibles also are available at ebay.com/stamps. Share the news of the stamp using the hashtags #LenaHorneForever and #BlackHeritageStamps.


To My Brilliant Black Daughters, Nobody Can Take Away Your History

To my beautiful, brilliant Black daughters:

I have so many hopes and dreams for you, that if I tried to say them all, they would run longer than the entire Harry Potter series! My hopes for you, my two beautiful Black girls, are so simple and yet also entirely grandiose. My dreams for you, beautiful Black girls, are that you are free to be whoever you want to be. If you only get one lesson from me, your mother, let it be this: Your history didn’t start with slavery, and white people’s history didn’t start in the United States of America. As your Black parents, your father and I are teaching you our viewpoint. Our Black culture begins with the beginning of humans. In fact, the first humans lived in Africa. The first civilizations were in Africa. Our Christianity began in Africa. Africa is our homeland and everything about Africa should bring you pride. Wear your African-ness, your Blackness with pride! Your history, the history of the continent of civilization in Africa, starts in modern day Sudan, around 6000 B.C. In fact, the first “empire” of two great nations happened between modernday Egypt and modern-day Sudan. We will be sure you know those modern names are European names. We will teach you their deep-rooted African names: KMT and Meroe. We are teaching you the history of Ancient Kemet, Meroe and Nubia. You will learn of the African civilizations, the use of iron and tools in Africa, the resource riches of the African continent and the complicat-

ed, fascinating history of over 10,000 years of human civilization. Africa had kings and queens and warriors, slaves, artists, scientists, mathematicians, farmers, sailors, inventors and musicians. You come from a beautifully talented Black culture. As your mother, I have told you repeatedly that you are already free to be whoever you want to be. But, as you approach adolescence and spend more time in schools than you do with your parents, you may begin to doubt that I told you the truth. See the books that you will read and the lessons you learn, will not validate your potential exactly as you are, beautiful, brilliant Black girls, from a legacy of beautiful, brilliant Black women.

You Must Learn Their History But You Can Take A Broader Perspective

In formal school education, you will be exposed to a different viewpoint. Most school curricula in the United States are completely uninterested in young, brilliant Black girls like you learning about your culture, discovering multiple viewpoints or forming your own opinions. In school, you will likely be inundated with stories of Europe: Ancient Greece, Roman Empire, the Medieval Period, Dark Ages, Industrial Revolution and the British Empire. Then you will be told all about the greatness of the United States of America that comes from the rich history of Europe. You will be forced to memorize, learn and admire the brilliance and beauty of Europe and white people.

Want to be part of a winning team!

This is something I cannot protect you from. You must learn their history. But remember, more than facts are at stake. In those classrooms, you are seeing only their viewpoint. You can take a broader perspective.

Our Blackness is Beautiful, Brilliant and Resilient

The United States of America was founded in 1776. On July 4, 2018, the U.S. will be 243 years old. Europeans landed in the Americas in 1492 and have been interacting with indigenous land of the First Americans, for almost 550 years. Understand this, my beautiful, brilliant Black daughters. Your history is over 10,000 years old. The enslavement of Black people by white people is at best, only 550 years of your history. That is a mere 5.5 percent of your totality. Sure, the enslavement of Black people by white people, and our subsequent struggles to become totally free, is important to know and learn. But they are a very, very small part of who you really are and who you, and we, as Black people, can be. What makes you, and other beautiful, brilliant, Black children, different from many white children, is you know that their history isn’t just fact – it is a viewpoint. And, that you, as a Black American, as a Black African, have completely different interpretations of history, of heroes, of scholars and who is “important.” As your parent, I wish you were free, my beautiful, brilliant Black children to speak openly, honestly and without fear about who you are and your Black history. But it is not always safe for you to do that.

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Talking about Ancient Egypt being African can get you in trouble. Having a name that “sounds Black” can lose you a job. In fact, much of life will be devoted to protecting yourself from White people’s false views about who Black people are and what they have and can do. But I promise you, with all that I am; I will tell you the truth – just as my mother told me the truth. Your ancestors who came to the Americas 500 years ago not only survived attempted physical and cultural genocide; they kept our Black African story, culture and beauty alive. Remember 550 years is nothing compared to over 10,000 years. Our last 550 years is not our whole story. In fact, it is just a tiny piece of the story. No matter what White people think, or try to tell you about who you are as a Black person, we have a very different perspective. As your parent, I swear on the lives of all our ancestors over our 10,000-year history, I will never let you forget how beautiful and brilliant you are, my Black daughters. Nor will I let you forget our beautiful, brilliant Black culture. You are part of a beautiful, brilliant, Black people that has a history and presence throughout the world. 500 years? Ha! You are in but a minute of your 10,000-year story. Our Black is brilliant, beautiful and most importantly, resilient. . Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared on EducationPost.org. ShaRhonda Knott-Dawson is married and the mother of two free-spirited and strongwills girls. She writes on politics, education, current events and social justice.

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February is American Heart Month February of

By Kim Farmer

each year, we celebrate American Heart Month. The first heart month occurred in February 1964 after it was proclaimed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Since then, Congress has regulated the President of the United States to make an annual proclamation designating February as American Heart Month. Despite all the advances in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, this organ still is the number one cause of death worldwide. In the US alone the numbers are staggering: •Each year at least 600,000 people die from heart disease. Overall, every one in four deaths is due to some type of heart disorder. •Heart disease does not favor either gender, it is the leading cause of death for both women and men. •The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease, which is responsible for about 380,000 deaths each year. •Every year nearly 750,000 Americans have a heart attack and of these nearly 20 percent will go on to develop a second heart attack. And with each heart attack the risk of death is greatly increased. •Worldwide nearly 17.5 million people die from heart disease and countless millions suffer from the symptoms. Heart disease affects people of all ethnicities in the US, with the highest rates of death in American Indians, African Americans and Asians. The one fact that is ignored by the consumer is that unlike many other diseases including cancer, the majority of heart disorders can be prevented. Not only does prevention reduce the costs of healthcare but it significantly improves the quality of life. So in February, consumers are being urged to take steps to improve their heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease. Fortunately, the prevention of heart disease is not expensive at all- in fact it is 100 percent free. Start by eating healthy: This means eating a diet rich in fruits, veggies,

Sculptor Ed Dwight Releases Limited Edition Obama Bronze Sculptures First Couple of United States Honored for Black History and Women’s History

Denver, CO (BlackNews.com) – Nationally recognized sculptor Ed Dwight, one of the most prolific and insightful sculptors in America, is honoring President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama with limited edition bronze sculptures. Dwight, whose very diverse background includes former Air Force Test Pilot, America’s first African American astronaut candidate (chosen by President John F. Kennedy), IBM computer systems engineer, aviation consultant, restauranteur, real estate developer and construction entrepreneur, has succeeded in all these varied careers. But for the last 30-plus years, he has focused his direction on fine art sculptures, large-scale memorials and public art projects. He has created more than 100 public art commissions across the United States in his 32 year career. In 2010, Dwight was commissioned by Doug Morton and Marilyn Brown of Denver, CO to create Inauguration of History and Hope Inaugural Sculpture Scene of President Barack Obama. This life size memorial composed of the President, the First Lady, the First Daughters, and Chief Justice John Roberts administering the Oath of Office. The exhibit was unveiled at the Colorado History Museum, Denver in 2010 and is anticipated to tour the country in the years to come. In honor of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, Dwight is releasing limited edition bronze sculptures in honor of America’s First Black Family. “I am honored to create these sculptures of our First Black Family (couple) of the United States and make them available for the community to remember the significance impact the Obama’s had on our country and the world,” Dwight said. The sculptures of President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and a combination, can be viewed here on page 20. . Editor’s note: For more information, visit www.eddwight.com, email eddwight@eddwight.com or call 303-329-9040. About Ed Dwight Studios: Ed Dwight Studios, Inc., located in Denver, CO, is a studio, gallery, and foundry in a 25,000 sq. ft. facility. Since all the research for all the memorials is conducted in-house, the studio enjoys one of the larger historical based book, video, DVD collections in the country. The art gallery is open for viewing and maintains a full range of Ed’s sculptures for viewing. The studio is open for visits and tours.

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nuts, unsaturated fats, whole wheat, grains and fish. Limit the intake of meat, saturated fat and simple carbohydrates like sugar. Consuming salty or sugary snacks should be limited and done in moderation; however it is important not to deprive yourself of any one specific food or nutrient. Stop smoking: There is ample evidence to show that smoking not only causes lung cancer but in fact affects every organ in the body. Smoking causes premature wrinkling of skin and enhances atherosclerosis. If people were to stop smoking today, a significant number of healthcare workers would be out of a job. There is no magic bullet to cessation of smoking. While there are many types of medications available, most do not work. The simple answer is to go cold turkey; it will save you money, aggravation and improve your health. Exercise: The best way to lower the risk of heart disease is by doing some type of physical activity. You don’t have to run a marathon each weekend or go cycling 100 miles every day; even walking is as good as any other exercise. The fact is that exercise should become a part of your lifestyle. If you walk briskly for one hour a day, then you could possibly have a deficit of 300 calories (based on your weight and intensity) and this amount to 2000 calories at the end of the week. In a month you can lose 8,000 calories, which is about 2 pounds of weight. In a year, that is 24 pounds of weight loss without having spent a penny on an exercise machine or joining a gym. Of course exercise has many other benefits; you can the outdoors, breathe in fresh air and reduce stress to name a few. Recognize this special month and start fresh with a new awareness for your heart. Take care of it since you only have one and it needs to last the rest of your life! . Editor’s note: Kim Farmer of Mile High Fitness & Wellness offers in-home personal training and corporate wellness solutions. For info, visit www.milehighfitness.com or email inquiries@milehighfitness.com

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Colorectal Cancer Awareness M

By Kim Farmer

arch is colorectal cancer awareness month. Despite vast improvements in our knowledge over the past four decades, colorectal cancer is still the second leading cause of death from cancer. Colorectal cancer affects all racial groups and is most common after the fifth decade of life. Every year, close to 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 55,000 individuals die from the disease. When caught early, this type of cancer can be cured with surgery however it can be prevented in most individuals over the age of 50 with regular screenings. Today, many types of screening programs for colorectal cancer have been developed and are readily available in the community. What are symptoms of precancerous lesions of the colon? The majority of these precancerous lesions (polyps) do not cause any symptoms initially. But over time, polyps can become large and turn into a cancer. In some people, the polyp may present with the following symptoms: •Blood in the stools- this may be seen as specks or drops of blood when wiping •Vague abdominal cramps that come and go •Constant bloated sensation •Loss of weight for no apparent reason It is important to understand that these are not specific symptoms for colorectal cancer and may be caused by many other disorders of the bowel. But if these symptoms persist, it is important to see your healthcare provider. People who have polyps have no way of knowing if they have these lesions and thus, a screening test is extremely important. Types of screening tests available: •Colonoscopy every ten years starting at age 50 •Fecal occult blood test. This test checks for blood in the stools but is not very specific.

•Sigmoidoscopy screening every five or ten years and may be combined with the fecal blood test •Stool DNA test every 1-3 years •CT colonography (also known as virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years These screening tests help detect precancerous polyps (abnormal growths in the colon) before they turn into a cancer. Since screening also helps detect cancer early, the treatment is often curative. Most of the screening tests are covered by medical insurance and have no downtime. But the best way to treat colon cancer is by preventing it in the first place.

So what should one do to prevent colon cancer? •First start by becoming physically active as this will not only decrease the risk of cancer, it will improve your overall health and wellbeing •If you are over the age of 50, speak to your healthcare provider about a colorectal cancer screen. There are several types of tests available and your doctor can help you decide which is best for you •Limit the intake of alcohol •Do not smoke •Eat a healthy diet that consists of veggies, fruits, cereals, nuts, whole

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wheat and fish. At the same time, limit the intake of saturated oils and meat If you are over the age of 50, there is no reason to wait as this type of cancer is a serious matter. Encourage your friends and loved ones to get screened regularly, stay active and eat a healthy diet. All of us can make a difference in fighting this preventable disease. Thanks for reading! Editor’s note: Kim Farmer of Mile High Fitness & Wellness offers in-home personal training and corporate wellness solutions. For more information, visit www.milehighfitness.com or email inquiries@milehighfitness.com.


Damon Dash’s Film, Honor Up, Gives a Violent, Soulful Rendition of Urban Life By Allison Kugel

The life of Damon Dash appears

to be an epic triumph to some, a Shakespearean tragedy to others. It depends on where you’re standing when you look at him. After speaking with the hip hop mogul turned entrepreneur and filmmaker, I can tell you Dame Dash’s story is more nuanced and complex; and is still being written. Dash hopes his new film, Honor Up, a semi-autobiographical story about the code of street honor; executive produced by Kanye West, and starring

Dash, Nicholas Turturro, Michael Rispoli and Cam’ron; will give audiences an authentic portrait of who he is beyond the media’s checkered narrative. He tells me the unwavering code of honor depicted in the movie has informed every choice he’s made in his adult life. A kid from Harlem, New York, who lost his mother in his youth, Dash quickly took on a hustler’s mentality, adopting the OG street code which propelled him from promoting nightclubs and rap artists to reaching the

apex of the music industry with the success of he and Jay Z’s Rock-A-Fella records label, and the urban lifestyle brand, Roc-A-Wear. It was Dash’s unwavering vision and tenacity, and his loyalty to artists he believed in, that launched the careers of Jay Z, Kevin Hart, Kanye West and his ex-wife, fashion designer, Rachel Roy. Since splitting from Jay Z and dissolving Roc-A-Fella records, he’s been painted by the entertainment industry as an incorrigible and unruly outsider; a man who wouldn’t drink the Kool-Aid or fall in line with Hollywood or music industry politics. As Dash made clear to me during out conversation, he refuses to ever bow down to corporate demands, and therefore chooses to selffund his many projects, from film and art to fashion. After years of personal and professional heartbreaks, Dash found an unwavering ally in longtime love and business partner, Raquel Horn. Horn is Dash’s creative muse and collaborator, while Dash is Horn’s mentor and idea facilitator. Together, the two have launched Dame Dash Studios, Dash Diabetes Network, their Poppington fashion line, and the beginnings of an independent movie studio. Damon Dash is a man in his creative renaissance… and in love. Allison Kugel: Tell me about the most influential people in your life… birth to present day? Damon Dash: My mother was a big influence in my life. She passed away when I was fifteen. I would say Muhammad Ali was a big influence on my life, my OG Daniel (Dash’s childhood mentor, Daniel Jenkins, the inspiration behind Dash’s new film, Honor Up) is one of the most influential people in my life from when I was younger. That was one of the reasons why I made the movie, Honor Up. Allison Kugel: Your mom passing when you were fifteen, how did it impact who you became? Damon Dash: It made me fearless. The one thing I was afraid of up until I

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was fifteen was that my mother would die, and then she did. It made me very aware of my mind, in that, if you worry about something it usually realizes itself. I try not to worry about anything. Because my mother spoiled me, and she wasn’t there to spoil me anymore, it made me the business savage that I am. I wanted to maintain that lifestyle. At the time, my pops wasn’t going to be able to give me that, so I had to do it myself. I think in a strange way, if my mom was still here I wouldn’t have made the history that I’ve made, because nothing would have felt so urgent. Someone can teach you how to survive, but you really don’t get those skills until you have to. [Her passing] made it where I had to, and she taught me well. Allison Kugel: You refuse to take a paycheck. You’re someone who has to have ownership in everything you do. Speaking for myself, I can say there was a time in my life when I asked myself if I was for sale, or if I was not for sale. Can you recall a defining moment when you asked yourself that same question, and determined that you were not for sale? Damon Dash: I’ve been a street entrepreneur since I was very young, since my mother died, because I had no choice. I’ve never had a boss. I’m from Harlem and I think I’m cooler than everybody, so it would be hard for me to have someone telling me what to do. It’s not about working for somebody, because I always have equity. I have something, and then I may need to take it to another level, so there would be a business relationship or a partnership. But I would always walk away from certain partnerships, because I didn’t like the moral value of that person. I would probably end up having to strangle them because it’s very frustrating when people don’t have principals and morals. It’s offensive when someone that I don’t respect presents me with an opportunity to work for them and tries to control me. I don’t even know what that means, working for someone else. It’s not a mathematical equation that makes sense to me. Allison Kugel: How do you define God? Damon Dash: You can’t define God. That’s how I define it. It’s undefinable. I can’t fathom God; just one entity controlling everything. I have no idea, and the 90 percent of our brain that we can’t use or access, we can’t really fathom what that is. Maybe if I had access to more of my brain, I could begin to fathom that. Allison Kugel: You don’t have a sense of knowing, or belief about it? Damon Dash: If there is a God, it’s a woman. Allison Kugel: And why do you say that?


Damon Dash: Why wouldn’t it be that way? Men are stupid. God could never be a man, because men are too insecure. There are wars we fight. It’s illogical and stupid. That’s all insecurity. I don’t think God would have those characteristics. Allison Kugel: What did you learn about love from your time with Aaliyah? Damon Dash: I learned exactly how happy love can make a person. It was a feeling that I never knew existed before. What it did teach me is to recognize love, and to appreciate love. It also taught me never to mess with an artist, because they’re always on the road. You never see them. The more you love them, the more you miss them. It made me appreciate what I had in that moment and it made me recognize love with my girl Raquel (Dash’s girlfriend and business partner, Raquel Horn). I knew that feeling. It was familiar to me, because I felt that with Aaliyah. Allison Kugel: Describe Aaliyah’s character; the person you knew her to be. Damon Dash: Aaliyah loved life. She loved to laugh. She was color blind, a great soul, a ridiculous amount of swag and great taste. And those were the same exact qualities I saw in Raquel. For me, the greatest thing about Aaliyah was that we were both from somewhat of an extreme circumstance, you know, urban, in the hood. And we both had such a desire for things that were so unhood. But in those environments that were unhood, we would still have that hood swagger and we could laugh at things. Aaliyah and I used to spend a lot of time laughing at the corniness of life. We both found people’s insecurities very funny. Allison Kugel: How many times in your life have you had that feeling? Damon Dash: Two. Aaliyah and Raquel. Allison Kugel: Would you like to see a movie made about your beginnings, during the rise of Roc-A-Fella Records, and that time in your life? Damon Dash: That’s inevitable, whether I make it or somebody else does. I am very aware and clear of what I have done, and my impact on this world. They’ve already made Aaliyah’s story, and I was in that. Let’s say they don’t do my story, everyone else’s story that I’ve been a part of, I’ll be in there. At the end of the day, I like to control my likeness, so I’ve already started that process. This movie, Honor Up, is about me and my ideals growing up. Allison Kugel: We’re going to get to the movie, so don’t comment on it yet because we’re going to go in-depth with it. Damon Dash: I love when a woman tells me what to do (laughs). Allison Kugel: (Laughs) What is your

opinion about how the media has cast you over the past decade? What have they gotten right, and what have they gotten wrong? Damon Dash: I’ve been able to manipulate them exactly the way I’ve wanted to. I’m very aware that an independent person like me that does things on his own, my success would mean other people’s failure. Everyone that’s getting robbed, and everyone that’s doing the robbing, would fail. I’m the guy that doesn’t rob and does

Allison Kugel: Where did the negative portrayals of your character come in? Damon Dash: I didn’t want to do Rock-A-Fella anymore. I wasn’t trying to just do music. I didn’t want to be typecast. I wanted to do fashion. I wanted to do things that were multicultural, and I wanted to run around the world. And I knew walking away from Jay Z, that all Jay Z fans were going to start with me and try to get at me. I know that controversy sells papers. At that point, I was like, “Yo, I’m about to

everything honorably. If I can show that I can do things honorably, that would make other people need to do things honorably. The way they were portraying me in the newspapers, it wasn’t very intelligent. Allison Kugel: Do you think you’ve been caricaturized? Damon Dash: In the beginning, it was more brazen and arrogant, and about me pouring champagne on women, which was a character. That was Champagne Dame. They never showed Damon Dash the businessman; Damon Dash, the single father raising his son alone from the time he was eight years old; Damon Dash living with Type 1 Diabetes; or the man who’s running all these different companies.

Makaveli myself (a reference to the late Tupac Shakur). I’m out. I don’t really need to be here no more. I want ya’ll to leave me alone.” I needed everybody to think I wasn’t doing well so nobody would ask me for nothing no more. But all those years, I owned Rachel Roy, a $75 million company. I was running around the world, I had galleries and things like that. But Dame was under the radar. And they left me alone. I always thought it was funny that they made me the underdog. I could have been nice. I could have worked with these people that have no morals and no values and spent their money instead of having to keep re-investing my own money. Allison Kugel: But you walked away. Damon Dash: I decided freedom was priceless, happiness is priceless. I

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needed to raise my daughters. It wasn’t conducive for my daughters in a hip hop environment, because you have a bunch of young, insecure, aggressive men. And I didn’t want to have to go to jail for nothing. I realized that with the internet there is no buffer, and I can tell the truth whenever I want. No one can stop me. Whoever wants me will come find me, and they’ll see the truth. Allison Kugel: Let’s talk about your new movie, Honor Up. You wrote and directed this movie, you play a central character, and you put up your own money to make it. How long has this story been in you, wanting to come out? Damon Dash: I always knew I would tell this story, but what made me want to tell it now, and in this way, was a moment when I was hearing a lot of things about people I was close to from my past, that contradicted all our morals and values. It bugged me out; because these were the people I respected the most. I just couldn’t believe it, and it hurt. Then there were other things going on that were bringing me down. [Director] Lee Daniels (Precious, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) owes me $2 million. He’s doing well and he’s running around, and he’s not paying me. The shit is pissing me off. Where I’m from, he would have ended up in a trunk. You know what I’m saying? I can’t do those things, and I’m not going to do those things. So I made a movie about it. I want people to understand my morals and principals, why I don’t look the other way and who taught me. I also ran into my OG (a mentor of Dash’s named Daniel Jenkins), who I hadn’t seen in about twenty-five years. He was a guy who was very influential in the neighborhood. Because he was cool with me, all the dangerous guys looked at me a certain way as well, so I never had to be scared. One day I saw him walking across one of the toughest blocks in Harlem and he had his kids with him. He was fresh, his kids had little motor cars and they were fresh, and I was like, “That’s the kind of dad I want to be.” I want to be that guy as a dad. That was probably the most impactful lesson he ever taught me, because I’m a great dad and that’s more important than anything. When I finally got back with him, I knew I had to make a movie about our story. Allison Kugel: This movie, Honor Up, will help people to better understand you and what makes you tick. Damon Dash: I think people need to know the rules. Maybe people aren’t living by them now, and that’s the reason I kind of stay in my bubble. Maybe now people will understand why I don’t compromise, why I won’t Continued on page 18


Damon Dash

Continued from page 17 bend over for a dollar. Because I was taught the right way by certain kind of people. With this movie, I want people to hear the voice that taught me, from the voice that taught me. When you see this movie, you’re going to see my real OG, the voice I heard when I was fifteen. Allison Kugel: A big theme in Honor Up is the street code of not being a snitch, not talking to the police. Let’s set up a scenario. In December 1990, John Gotti was arrested by the FBI and NYPD. He was indicted on multiple counts of racketeering, extortion, jury tampering and murder. He strongly believed in the oath of silence he took as a “made man” with the Gambino family. He didn’t provide any information to the government; he didn’t strike a deal with prosecutors. John Gotti went away for life and he died in prison. Weighing everything: family, life, everything… had that been you, would you have stuck to the street code like he did, and gone away for life? Damon Dash: You’re joking right? Allison Kugel: No. I’m not joking. Damon Dash: If you’re gonna do the crime, do the time, period. Two people sign on to a contract, whether everybody else’s principals are different, you sign on to a contract, and you have to abide by it. Allison Kugel: You do know that a lot of guys don’t abide by it. Damon Dash: That’s why I made the movie. That’s why I got out of the streets. I knew that at some point I would have to kill, or I’d have to go to jail and I would have to do the time. Allison Kugel: You would not make a deal or rat anybody out. You would go away for life. Damon Dash: Yeah, if I did the crime? Yeah. That’s the game. You think I would be so low as to put one of my friends in jail? Someone that I hung out with, I know their kids, I know their girl? Just so I don’t go to jail, I put him in jail? Nah, I couldn’t live with myself. If you make a conscious choice to do something, you got to stand behind it. Now if you’re a civilian, and let’s say someone accused you of doing something you didn’t do, you never hustled and all that other stuff, you didn’t sign on to that game. That’s a different story. But for someone that signed on to the game, you know you’re not supposed to be doing that. Allison Kugel: Is there a spiritual component to your beliefs? Damon Dash: I understand spirituality. I read “The Seat of the Soul” [by Gary Zukav]. That book changed my life. That was actually the connection between Aaliyah and me. Allison Kugel: Did you read that book together?

Kanye West and Damon Dash

Damon Dash: All of those books, yes. And I made my whole crew read that book. Me and Aaliyah – that was our connection. We read all of those books. That book scares me, because when she died I had all those books around me. I had one book called, When You Lose Your Soulmate right on the bed. I was so into that, that I almost felt like it was to prepare me for her death. If I hadn’t read those books, I don’t think I would have dealt with it the same. Allison Kugel: Have you read, Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr. Brian Weiss? That’s my favorite one. Damon Dash: Yes, I did. I read so many of those books. That’s what got me through [Aaliyah’s] death. But I had so many of those books scattered around my room. At every bed post I had something related to the soul and the evolution of it. I think I’m about at a deep purple right now. Allison Kugel: (Laughs) Your crown chakra is fully activated. Damon Dash: I’m floating. Allison Kugel: Kanye West executive produced your movie, Honor Up. The two of you go way back to when you launched his music career. What was different about working with Kanye on a film, versus musically? Damon Dash: This time I’m the artist and he’s the businessman. Whereas, I used to showcase his art, he’s now showcasing mine. He used to play his records for me. Now, I was coming back and playing cuts of the film for him. It was a total role reversal. It was a great example of the OG being happy that someone younger than you can have more power than you with certain things, and can help you. You build people, so they can build you. I wasn’t expecting him to do all that he did. You never know what Kanye’s going to do, but I know that he’s inspired by art. It was the first time that, instead of me helping somebody, somebody was helping me. He gets it. Some people don’t understand that helping people makes you

the happiest. The happiness that Kanye got from helping me, it was contagious. Allison Kugel: Can you see you and Kanye West forming an ongoing partnership with a film production company? Damon Dash: We just started one, that’s what we’re doing! You know me; I don’t play. I hit you with flurries. I’m prepping to shoot my third movie right now. This film was the first time, to my knowledge, that I have ever seen Kanye put his name on something that he can’t control. The fact that he acknowledged my art in that way shows that this is some real art. Kanye is not going to co-sign something corny. But the respect level was there, which is what I appreciated the most. Allison Kugel: What do you say to people who feel that a movie like Honor Up, which does depict street violence, is perpetuating a stereotype, or that it’s a negative influence on your younger fans? Damon Dash: Any movie that’s about war, you have to show the war to learn from it. Whoever looks at it like that isn’t from the street. They don’t understand. I’m not trying to preach to the converted. That was my reality, and that’s what I learned from. That’s what smartened me up. I hope that people can see every element in this movie. The story is authentic. There are so many different artistic levels. It’s not just bullets. It’s about the message. Its art and I think anyone who really looks at it will recognize it as art. Allison Kugel: When you wake up in the morning and your feet hit the floor, which is foremost on your mind, making money or making art? Damon Dash: Making art. Never making money. I think money is overrated. That’s why I spend so much of it. I don’t even want to hold it; get it out of here. It makes people go crazy. I wouldn’t do anything for money that I wouldn’t do for free. Allison Kugel: A lot of people may not know that you are a Type 1 Diabetic and

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have been since the age of fifteen. Damon Dash: I made it public a long time ago, but people don’t talk about those kinds of things. I always thought it was important to bring awareness to it, because I’ve had it since I was fifteen and I have noticed all the misconceptions that come with it. It’s a 24-hour disease. And for me, as a diabetic, I always want to hear about another diabetic’s story. I know if they are winning, that I can win. And there are a lot of celebrities that have it, and they don’t want to talk about it. I’ve never understood that. They think it’s a weakness, whereas I think its strength. I want people to know that every great thing I’ve done, every time I’ve made history, it’s always been as a diabetic. We started a network called the Dash Diabetes Network. We talk about diet, working out, mental well-being and just being healthy, overall. When you’re a diabetic you have to live a healthy lifestyle. You have no choice. I’m a vegan. Well, let me say I eat a plantbased diet. I can’t say I’m completely vegan, because I still own a leather jacket or two and I have leather seats in my car. Rocky (Dash’s nickname for his girlfriend and business partner, Raquel) has created a vegan handbag as part of our Poppington fashion line. Allison Kugel: Let’s talk about your network, Dame Dash Studios. It features your films, your radio show, musical projects, your Poppington fashion line, Dash Diabetes Network and your personal travels around the world. It’s like a VIP ticket to all things Dame Dash. Tell me about the vision for this studio… Damon Dash: At the end of the day, the direct to consumer relationship is the new wave, and it keeps me independent. I can stay uncensored and I can say what I want; can’t nobody fire me. I can do whatever I want, and above and beyond anything, I can pass it down to my children. I can pass it on to my wife. Raquel is wifey for lifey. She is the one who inspired me to embrace my artistic nature after watching me make everybody else famous. Falling in love, embracing art, that’s why I say that I’m purple right now (referring to the color associated with spirituality), because I’m elated. I’m happy. I just love the fact that I’m being artistic, that I’m being unapologetic about my point of view and fearless about speaking on my art. Damon Dash’s movie, Honor Up, hit select theatres and On-Demand February 16.. Editor’s note: Allison Kugel is a syndicated entertainment and pop culture journalist, and author of the book, Journaling Fame: A memoir of a life unhinged and on the record. Follow her on Instagram @theallisonkugel.


Gulf Coast Urban Spectrum February/March 2018  

Gulf Coast Urban Spectrum is an online publication based in Biloxi, Mississippi and also serving Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida. This...

Gulf Coast Urban Spectrum February/March 2018  

Gulf Coast Urban Spectrum is an online publication based in Biloxi, Mississippi and also serving Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida. This...