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WAKANDA

FOREVER!

MEET ‘BLACK PANTHER’ STARS LETITIA WRIGHT & MIAMI’S SOPE ALUKO

FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2018

The Songstress Anita Baker

Begins Farewell

TOUR

JITG Host Rickey Smiley Celebrates Life, Laughs & Turning

THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE 2018 JAZZ IN THE GARDENS MUSIC FESTIVAL


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Editor’s Note

Say it's not so. Songstress Anita Baker, who has literally been "giving us the best that she's got" for three decades, has announced she is retiring from music this year. Baker’s Jazz in the Gardens performance marks the beginning of her farewell tour. And she’s hyped. In January, Baker, 60, Tweeted: “So Much 2

CELEBRATE with you #2018… Farewell Concert Series beginning in March… We’ll paint pictures together 2 last a Lifetime… Let’s Party!” No need to tell us twice, Anita. The 13th annual JITG lineup promises to deliver. Personally, I’m excited to be in the presence of Motown royalty. Smokey Robinson, who just turned 78, still has women swooning after more than six decades in the industry. Although he has an endless number of hits in his catalog, we simply can’t let him leave the stage without singing classics like “Being With You,” “Tears of a Clown,” and “Quiet Storm.” Chaka Khan, 64, is another

FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2018

favorite of mine. The mesmerizing synthesized loop to “Ain’t Nobody,” which she recorded with Rufus, takes me back to my awkward, innocent high school years. The minute Chaka belts out “I Feel for You,” don’t be surprised if I hit the ground and break out a few breakdance moves straight from her music video (just kidding). I’m also anxiously awaiting Fantasia, 33, to hit center stage. If you’ve ever seen her perform live, you know this powerhouse holds nothing back. So get ready to experience her shoes flying, her sweat dripping, and her raspy voice moving through your body.

There’s so much more to JITG than the music. There's the cultural food, dozens of vendors, and thousands of friends you'll be partying with over two days (March 17-18). Again, this year’s JITG is bittersweet as we watch Baker take, perhaps, her final bow in South Florida. As she serenades us with “Sweet Love,” let’s get up out of our seats at Hard Rock Stadium and show her some love.

The GMCVB proudly serves as the Official Destination Sales and Marketing Organization for Greater Miami and the Beaches. We strive to showcase all of Miami to our visitors and are hopeful that each of the attendees of JITG will also venture out to our heritage neighborhoods while here and patronize some of the businesses that make up the fabric of our multicultural community. The theme for the GMCVB’s Multicultural Department is “Engage,

Embrace and Rediscover Miami’s Multicultural Jewels.” I hope both residents and visitors enjoy the musical experience and artistic and cultural treasures during this year’s Jazz in the Gardens Festival.

Russell Motley Editor-in-Chief, MIA Magazine

Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau is excited to continue our support of the Jazz in the Gardens Women’s Impact Conference &

Luncheon, and the Jazz in the Gardens Festival. Jazz in the Gardens, produced by the City of Miami Gardens, is highly regarded and is one of the most anticipated music festivals in the country. We want to continue to work with Miami Gardens to make the festival a premier national and international event. This year’s two-day star-studded lineup is world class and represents a dynamic mix of musical genres.

Yours Truly, Connie W. Kinnard

Vice President, Multicultural Tourism & Development Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau Greetings and welcome to the Greater Fort Lauderdale community. GFL is truly a multicultural experience and is one of the most diverse areas in the United States with a vibrant mix of African American, West Indian and Hispanic cultures. As a gateway to the Caribbean and the destination of choice for African-American travelers, the area offers world-class beaches and resorts, upscale shopping and dining, and a myriad of attractions and cultural events.

The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau and the City of Miramar are commanding the national spotlight with the development of a permanent home and national training facility for the American Tennis Association along with a Black Tennis Museum. Visit www.ATEFonline.org to learn more. Join us May 16-18 for the Synergy Summit for Cultural & Heritage Tourism. Visit www.culturalheritagesummit.com. Family reunions continue to find their niche in GFL with reasonably priced lodging and enjoyable intergenerational fun. Greater Fort Lauderdale has it all!

Subscribe to and view the digital version of Legacy Magazine Facebook: Facebook.com/TheMIAMagazine Twitter and Instagram: @TheMIAMagazine #BeInformed #BeInfluential #JITG CREDO OF THE BLACK PRESS "The Black Press believes that America can best lead the world away from racial and na�onal antagonisms when it accords to every person, regardless of race, color or creed, full human and legal rights. Ha�ng no person, fearing no person, the Black Press strives to help every person in the firm belief that all hurt as long as anyone is held back."

Albert Tucker

Vice President, Multicultural Business Development Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

Member of the Black Owned Media Alliance (BOMA)

Dexter A. Bridgeman CEO & Founder Russell Motley Editor-in-Chief Zachary Rinkins Editor-at-Large Yanela G. McLeod Copy Editor Shannel Escoffery Associate Editor Md Shahidullah Art Director


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Do & Dine Dine

Do Dine in or take out their flavorful entrees like grilled chicken, grilled tilapia, or lobster tail, accompanied by fun sides like fried broccoli and veggie rice; all while tapping your feet to the latest Hip Hop tunes in the ceiling or music videos on the dining room screens.

ARLINE’S RESTAURANT 2770 NW 167th Street, Miami Gardens Arline’s is a family owned soul food and seafood restaurant. They offer breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring all your favorites from grits, to meatloaf and chicken, to grilled salmon, accompanied by homemade cornbread. Arline’s is a dine-in restaurant, however, take out is encouraged as well.

WORLD FAMOUS HOUSE OF MAC 56 NW 29th St., Miami Food truck with fun and unique comfort food dishes and entrees; several inspired by or based with mac and cheese. This late night spot also offers happy hour specialty drinks.

CAFÉ IGUANA HAPPY HOUR 8358 Pines Boulevard, Pembroke Pines The funkiest Friday night happy hour in town, boasting drink specials, the best of R&B and Hip Hop music, and no cover from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Sunday brunch with a twist. Banging Hip Hop and R&B beats serenade your brunch buffet. Specialty offerings include red velvet waffles, and shrimp with grits.

CONCH HEAVEN 11275 NW 27th Ave., Miami Easy breezy neighborhood restaurant popular for its conch-inspired dishes and Bahamian food favorites.

MLK RESTAURANT 2469 NW 62nd St., Miami Small breakfast and lunch eatery with big taste. Variety of soul food breakfast and lunch items.

CRABMAN 305 2006 Opa-locka Blvd., Opa-locka Seafood is king at Crabman 305. Crabman 305 is a quaint, take-out spot that offers crabs, shimp and various fish dinners and side orders in the heart of the city of Opa-locka.

MIAMI FINGALICKING 12490 NW 7th Ave., Miami; 17647 NW 27th Ave., Miami Finga Licking is a modern-day Hip Hop version of the soul food restaurant.

TOPGOLF 17321 NW 7th Ave., Miami Gardens Large, fun, entertainment venue with a myriad of games, a lounge, music and a high-tech driving range that the entire family can enjoy.

JACKSON SOUL FOOD 950 NW 3rd Ave., Miami; 14511 NW 27th Ave., Opa-locka A legendary Miami soul food staple for more than 30 years, Jackson Soul Food offers all of your down-home Southern favorites for every meal. Fried catfish, boiled fish and grits, corned beef hash for breakfast, and meatloaf, ribs and fried chicken entrees for dinner with sides like macaroni and cheese, pigeon peas and rice, and okra with stewed tomatoes topped off with cornbread or biscuits.

TOP NOTCH CIGAR & WHISKEY LOUNGE 19801 NW 27th Ave., Miami Gardens Smooth R&B vibe, cocktails, cigar lounge with dance floor.

CHEF CREOLE 200 NW 54th St., Miami Haitian restaurant offering Bahamian and Creole favorites, including oxtail, grio, beans and rice, just to name a few.

Compiled by Dine Black Miami, an initiative by Cedric Dawkins, president of Freez Frame Marketing & Media and host of the upcoming Magic City Wine & Food Festival; The Taste of Liberty City, on March 31 at the Sandrell Rivers Theater in Miami.


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Music Producer Rico Love Leads Annual FMAC Conference

By Danielle Stedman

Grammy award-winning writer and producer Rico Love has a few surprises up his sleeve as curator of the annual Film, Music, Art, Culture (FMAC) Rico Love Conference, organized in collaboration with the Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival. Love says FMAC’s vision is to provide a platform for industry professionals to educate and impart knowledge about all aspects of the entertainment business. “[And] to have a hand in influencing the culture at all costs, especially when you are in the position of having a little bit of power, understanding the business and understanding the elements to have the relationships,” says Love. Love has assembled an all-star lineup of panelists who run the

spectrum in arts and entertainment, including tech leaders Brian Brackeen and Felicia Hatcher, music video and film director Gil Green, Miami recording artists Trina, Pleasure P, Amara La Negra, and TXS (pronounced Texas) who is scheduled to perform music from her debut album “Everything is Bigger.” For Love, defining the spark of what makes something great or recognizing excellence is a large component of how to hit big as an artist or professional in any industry. FMAC is a seminar to highlight what it takes to develop greatness and “how to recognize the elements that make something amazing.” “I think it’s important for us to dive in, network, build and cultivate,” adds Love. FMAC is a one-day music c onference scheduled for March 15, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at Florida International University’s Koven Center in North Miami. For more info on FMAC, visit www.jazzinthegardens.com/fmac

FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2018

A. Randolph Leads JITG’s First House Band By Zach Rinkins

A. Randolph performing with Smash For the first time, Jazz in the Gardens (JITG) is adding a house band to perform between lead performing acts. Miami-native A. Randolph is no stranger to JITG, having performed in previous years at the music festival’s opening night party. “It is an incredible feeling to be the first to perform on the second stage” says A. Randolph, who will also perform as a marquee act on Saturday, March 10. “We are going to have fun. It is an exciting opportunity for myself and future second stage performers. Jazz in the Gardens is a major festival, and it’s growing.” Although A. Randolph and his band Smash occasionally perform

songs by other artists, he also creates original tracks like “Love of My Life” and “Pretty Lady.” Without revealing details about his JITG performance, he promises, “I have a few tricks up my sleeve. We plan to keep the crowd hyped.” Here’s more of MIA magazine’s exclusive interview with A. Randolph: MIA: What type of impact can this opportunity have on an artist? AR: “We really appreciate the JITG team for selecting us. It really gives us the opportunity to connect with thousands of people.” MIA: What is the Smash band? AR: “We take records and go hard with it. The Smash Room is my multimedia entertainment company and also the band’s name. We are a community of musicians that enjoy creating a fusion of music. We always have the foundation of a crazy drummer, keyboard, guitar, and bass. We hope to add some horn players and a few surprises at JITG. My principal instrument is the piano. I often perform with the keytar.”

Jazz in the Gardens Supports Trayvon Martin Foundation; Upcoming Docu-series Reveals New Details about Case By Russell Motley, MIA Editor-in-Chief

Mayor Oliver Gilbert, Sybrina Fulton, Jay Z in Miami Gardens.

For Tracy Martin, February 26 is a day to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. “It’s hard just to get up on that day and do normal everyday things,” says Martin, referring to the date his son, Trayvon, was taken away from him at the hands of a former neighborhood watch volunteer whose name he refuses to utter. “It’s just a dark day. We just continue to pray and thank God that we had 17 wonderful years with him.” Six years after that fateful day,

Martin and Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, continue to forge ahead, spreading their message of social justice through the Trayvon Martin Foundation, which is based at Fulton’s alma mater, Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. This year, nearly 2,000 supporters turned out for the foundation’s annual “Peace Walk and Peace Talk” on Feb. 10, five days after what would have been Trayvon’s 23rd birthday. The walk started at Miami Carol City Park and ended several blocks away at the Betty T. Ferguson Center in Miami Gardens. The “peace talk” part of the event involved everyone from community leaders to young people to celebrities engaging in honest dialogue to crack down on violence. Supporting the foundation’s mission, Jazz in the Gardens presented Martin and Fulton with a

$5,000 donation at the event. Martin says financial support such as this fuels their programs and outreach efforts. “It feels good knowing that the people you surround yourself with, in the place you call home, really support you,” says Martin. Jay Z fans were stunned when the rapper, music producer and entrepreneur made a surprise appearance on stage. It was a well-kept secret that showed just how well connected the foundation is with prominent supporters. “When you have a well-known person such as Jay Z, you really don’t want to advertise it because you want people to come out to support you for the cause, for the injustice, for what you’re marching for,” says Martin. “You don’t want the people to come out just because we have a big name artist there.”

Jay Z, 48, who now tops Forbes’ list of Hip Hop’s Wealthiest Artists, is more than just a supporter of the Trayvon Martin Foundation. He’s a business partner. He’s an executive producer of the upcoming six-part docu-series about Trayvon’s life and the events surrounding his death. Martin hopes the documentary will help viewers understand what happened outside of what they may have seen on the news or heard in conversations. “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story” debuts at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on April 20. The trailer on YouTube says the Paramount Network film will be released in July. “It’s going to be very informational, very educational,” says Martin. A lot of things will be revealed that didn’t come out in the trial, so it will have a huge impact not only on our community, but this country.”


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scenic route

Sawgrass Recreation Park, Weston

Here the road less traveled happens to be a river — of grass. Enjoy the ride and watch all things Greater Fort Lauderdale 24/7 on Hello Sunny TV. Find us at sunny.org. Join us for The South Florida Synergy Summit for Cultural and Heritage Tourism, May 16-18, 2018. culturalheritagesummit.com

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Saturday, March 17, 2018 Parking Lots Open at 2 p.m. | Gates Open at 3 p.m.

Trombone Shorty is his stage name and Orleans Avenue is his band, but his parents named him Troy Andrews. Andrews has performed at the White House five times. He also backed Macklemore and Madonna at the Grammys, and rendered the iconic sound of the adult characters in The Peanuts Movie. Andrews, who hails from the Big Easy, released his latest album, “Parking Lot Symphony” on the legendary Blue Note record label.

Mary Wells’ “My Guy,” The Temptations’ "My Girl,” and The Supremes’ “Your Heart Belongs to Me,” all have one thing in common. They were written by Smokey Robinson, the poet laureate of soul. Robinson’s Miracles was the first group managed my entertainment icon Berry Gordy. With “Shop Around,” Robinson and the group delivered the million-selling record for Tamla Records, a subsidiary of Motown Record Corporation.

Chaka Khan entered the music scene as the featured singer in the interracial funk band Rufus. Her vocals made hits like “Tell Me Something Good” and “Sweet Thing” a permanent fixture on the airwaves. Khan came roaring back in the late ‘70s as a soloist belting out anthems like “I’m Every Woman” and “I Feel for You.” Having paid her dues and worked with music legends like Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones, she’s earned the title Queen of Funk.

R&B mainstay Fantasia stole hearts when she won the third season of the American Idol live musical competition television series. Since her 2004 victory, she has lived up to that promise and given listeners musical gems like "I Believe," "When I See U," and "Bittersweet." Throughout her 14-year career, Fantasia has sold millions of records and left concertgoers thrilled after her live performances.

Sunday, March 18, 2018 Parking Lots Open at 2 p.m. | Gates Open at 3 p.m.

The JITG stage will serve as one of the final showcases of the musical wonder that is Anita Baker. The eight-time Grammy-winning vocalist announced this as her final year of live performances. Impending retirement aside, Baker’s “Sweet Love,” “Body & Soul,” and “Just Because,” will ensure that her rhythmic legacy endures. Her albums, “Rapture,” “Giving You the Best That I Got,” “Compositions,” and “Rhythm of Love,” are still amazing listeners decades after being released.

Multi-platinum R&B soul man Joe came to national attention when he told the ladies he was willing to do “All the Things (Your Man Won’t Do)” in 1997. In addition to his own hits like “Stutter,” and “I Want to Know,” the genrebending Joe has been featured on Big Pun’s “Don’t Want to be a Player,” Mariah Carey’s “Thank God I Found You,” and G-Unit’s “Ride Wit U.” Joe has been performing and writing hits for nearly 30 years.

For three decades, saxophonist Walter Beasley has artfully redefined the phrase “musical Renaissance Man” for the modern generation. Beasley is the highest selling full-time professor/ recording artist in history. The Boston-based musician has balanced a successful career as a contemporary jazz recording artist and performer with an equally thriving presence in the field of music education. Beasley is a professor of music at Berklee College of Music.

Pennsylvania-born singer, songwriter, and pianist Avery Sunshine honed her musical skills like many performers of color – in the church. During a media interview, Sunshine revealed that her stage moniker was a combination of two of her favorite fictional characters: Shug Avery from “The Color Purple,” and Sunshine from “Harlem Nights.” The Spelman alumna recently released her album “Twenty Sixty Four.”


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Rickey Smiley Returns to Host JITG; Looks Forward to Turning 50 By Russell Motley, MIA Editor-in-Chief

Rickey Smiley at JITG in Miami Gardens.

Rickey Smiley ain’t joking. One of the comedian’s biggest pet peeves is when folks walk up to him – with little regard for his personal space or his time – and proceed to have a full-blown conversation about whatever’s on their mind. Usually random stuff, he adds. “One dude the other day said, ‘My mama lives not far from your mama’ and I’m like, come on, man,” says

Smiley, who had to laugh at himself while describing the awkward encounter. So note to self: If you see Smiley at the 13th annual Jazz in the Gardens, by all means, say hello. Tell him how much you enjoy the “Rickey Smiley Morning Show.” Then keep it moving. Smiley returns for his fourth year as host of JITG. This year, he will be keeping festivalgoers in stitches in between acts that include: Chaka Khan, Fantasia, Smokey Robinson, and the soon-to-be retired Anita Baker. “Some of us were born because of Anita Baker,” says Smiley, who spoke to MIA magazine via phone from his home in Birmingham, Ala. “I just want to hear her sing songs from [the album] “The Songstress,” which is one of my mom’s favorites. My mom used to play Anita Baker all the time when I was a kid.”

A single father of four, Smiley keeps a busy schedule. When he’s not hosting his popular syndicated morning radio show (which airs in South Florida on 99 JAMZ FM, weekdays from 6 a.m.-10 a.m.), he’s on the road doing stand-up comedy or recording one of his hilarious prank phone calls. Or he’s meeting fans at book signings for his personal, empowering page-turner, Stand by Your Truth. Smiley also keeps busy with filming “Rickey Smiley for Real,” his TV One reality series featuring his family at home and his morning show family that includes: Da Brat, HeadKrack, Rock-T, Gary With Da Tea, Juicy, and Special K. Currently in its fifth season, Smiley says expect to see TV cameras from his reality show following him while at JITG. Although he’s not divulging much about next season’s storyline, he hints that at least one of his children has

been booted from the show. “Sometimes my kids, a couple of them, think the reality show is their ticket to fame,” says Smiley. “One of them decided they were just going to ride on that instead of going to school or trying to educate themselves and do what they’re supposed to do. They won’t be back on [my reality show]. So it will be all of my kids, minus one.” This year, Smiley turns 50 on August 10. To celebrate, he is gearing up for one of his favorite pastimes: boarding his luxury boat and cruising more than two hours across the Atlantic Ocean from Miami to Bimini, the closest Bahamian island near Florida. It is there that he says he finds both adventure and peace. “You know, 50 is the new 35,” Smiley chuckles. “I feel great. I love my mind. I love being by myself. I love me.”

Mayor Oliver Gilbert: Miami Gardens Open for Business, Developments, Jobs By Zach Rinkins For the past six years, Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert III has been aggressively leading change for the 14-year-old City of Progress. If you have seen the expanded Hard Rock Stadium, the opening of Topgolf, and other developments, you know that city leaders are anything but reactive. “We are seeing a lot of things happen in the city that people said could not happen in Miami Gardens,” said Gilbert. “When you drive by and see something under construction, or see many opportunities to apply for jobs in the city, you know the community is changing.” Change for the city, which is home to more than 100,000 residents, looks like new construction, premium entertainment, upgraded amenities, and additional retail space. “Last year, we’ve doubled the amount of development in the city,” said Gilbert. “We try to make it easy to build and develop here. But, in that context, we want to make sure businesses do the right thing in the

Starbucks opened in October 2017 on 19401 NW 27th Ave. in Miami Gardens as part of the company's nationwide initiative to open stores in underserved, low to medium-income communities.

community by hiring our residents.” During his first mayoral campaign, Gilbert discussed the importance of creating jobs within the city. Now, it is not unusual for residents to see their neighbors working at local establishments like Topgolf, Wawa, Waffle House, and Starbucks, among others.

“If we can use our muscle and might as a city to encourage private employers to hire Miami Gardens residents, we will do that,” Gilbert said. “We do it for all of the biggest developments. So, when they come in and talk to us about things they want to do in the community, we insist that our residents get the first

opportunity to be employed in those projects. We push very hard on that and people have been very receptive.” In 2014, city residents approved a $60 million general obligation bond for park improvements and crime prevention. The city recently renovated and re-opened the Historic Bunche Park pool and have more projects in the pipeline. “We broke ground on Buccaneer Park and we’ve awarded the RFP (request for proposal) for Risco Park,” said Gilbert. “We partnered with the school board to create a STEMoriented environment that gives kids an opportunity to pursue interests beyond athletics. We are excited about those projects.” On the entertainment front, the city is poised to host the College National Championship, the Miami Tennis Open, the Rolling Loud Festival, and Super Bowl LIV in 2020. “We try to be disruptive in the status quo,” said Gilbert.


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EMBRACE, ENGAGE AND REDISCOVER MIAMI’S MULTICULTURAL JEWELS The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau Congratulates Jazz in the Gardens on its 13th Anniversary March 15-18, 2018

MiamiandBeaches.com © Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau — The Official Destination Sales & Marketing Organization for Greater Miami and the Beaches. // CS 02627

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About Town Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs at the Adrienne Arsht Center Feb. 26-March 3, featuring choreographer and dancer Jamar Roberts of Miami. Photos by EyeworksProduction.com

Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, Alvin Ailey's Jamar Roberts and Master Class students at the Arsht Center.

Alvin Ailey's Jamar Roberts with Master Class students at the Arsht Center.

Miami Commissioner Ken Russell presents Key to Miami to Jamar Roberts at the Arsht Center.

Alvin Ailey's Jamar Roberts leads students in Master Class at the Arsht Center.

More than 600 Miami-Dade County students attend a private screening of "Black Panther" in Miami Lakes with a special appearance by actor Sope Aluko who plays Shaman in the movie. Photos by Onyx Media Pro.

Former Miami Heat player Okaro White with young moviegoers

Opa-locka Commissioner Matthew Pigatt with members of Girl Scout Troop #357.

"Black Panther" actor Sope Aluko with Florida Memorial University students.

Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam and wife Angela Messam watch "Black Panther."


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Black Panther Breakout Star Letitia Wright Inspires Miami Gardens Students By Russell Motley, MIA Editor-in-Chief When Hollywood newcomer Letitia Wright told her mother she had landed the role of Princess Shuri in Marvel’s “The Black Panther,” she said her mother initially thought she was referring to the revolutionary Black Panther Party. “I just had to tell her no, but it’s close to it,” Wright explained to about 200 students at Florida Memorial University during a Q&A session on the opening day of the film. “We’re still doing positive things [in the movie].” Wright, 24, plays the Black Panther’s tech savvy teenage sister who is the genius behind Wakanda’s most advanced technology, including creating T’Challa’s (Chadwick Boseman) superhero suits and gadgets. However, Wright has fast become a fan favorite, even among fellow castmates like Miami’s own Sope Aluko, who plays Shaman in the movie. "I think she was the breakout star,

By Cristin Wilson

'Black Panther' actor Sope Aluko shows Miami-Dade students the Wakandan salute at a Miami Lakes movie theater on the movie's opening weekend.

Nigeria-native Sope Aluko, who plays Shaman in “The Black Panther,” had a chance to watch the premiere of Marvel’s action-packed blockbuster in her home country. Instead, she chose CineBistro, a favorite Miami spot for the actress who now calls South Florida home. “It was just this wonderful feeling

and I'm so in a play happy for during Black her," said History Aluko Month, during a which is phone celebrated interview. “I in October loved her in the quick wit, United toughness, Kingdom. and Her Black Panther star Letitia Wright, center, shows students at Florida smartness. character Memorial University the Wakandan salute by crossing her arms She’s a was an over her chest. great role iconic civil model for young girls called geeks." rights activist who she had never The British actress embraces her heard of named Rosa Parks. character’s geekiness in hopes of “That was interesting because that inspiring students from South Florida was my first introduction to what it to South Africa. meant to play not only someone so “If you look at Shuri, she makes important in the Black community, learning fun,” Wright said. “She’s into but it also gave me an education science, into math, into technology, about someone who stood up for the into engineering. She heals people, Black community,” Wright said. and on top of that, she still has time Wright said she now turns down to pick on her brother.” stereotypical acting roles, instead At 12, Wright landed a pivotal role choosing positive characters, like

Shuri, that uplift her race. Joining an all-star cast that included Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker, and Angela Bassett, Wright said everyday on the movie set in Atlanta was a learning experience. “It was amazing,” she said. “I grew up watching Angela Bassett in ‘Akeelah and the Bee,’ and in full 360 [degrees] she’s playing my mom and she’s just as graceful, just as amazing, just a beautiful soul. These people have inspired me for years.” Wright said she’s particularly proud of the positive influence “Black Panther” is having on Black children. She wishes when she was a kid that her generation would have had a Black superhero on the silver screen to revere. “Kids who are 10 years old watching this movie are feeling like kings and queens,” Wright added. “I wish I had this movie at 10 years old.”

Miami Actor Shares Silver Screen with All-star Cast of ‘Black Panther’ and we knew it was special, but this has just blown everyone away,” said Aluko, reacting to the recordbreaking film that is expected to gross $1 billion worldwide. Aluko got her big moment on the big screen in the fictional African country of Wakanda, gasping for air when co-star Michael B. Jordan, who plays the villain Killmonger, clasped his hands around her throat. “We all came in and wanted to make everyone proud,” Aluko said. “It felt like I was working with family.” Although Wakanda has Black Panther fans dreaming of packing their bags and moving to the fictional country, Aluko said she’s staying put in Miami, the city she loves. The actor arrived in Miami 21 years ago to visit her uncle. Shortly afterward, she married her husband Ola Aluko, started a family, and made the Magic City her family’s home.

Armed with an engineering degree and a master’s degree, Aluko worked in corporate America for 15 years before walking away to pursue her lifelong dream of acting. “I love being an actor,” said Aluko, who took classes at the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Aluko struggled to recall the first paying acting job she landed about nine years ago. She’s not certain if it was a TV commercial advertising legal services or an infomercial that aired during the early morning hours, offering insomniacs a solution to snoring. Nonetheless, she said, “Everything made me learn about the business.” A dual citizen of the United Kingdom and the United States, Aluko speaks several languages and has travelled the world. The mother of two children said shooting Black Panther in Atlanta for five week was

challenging because it was the longest stretch of time she had ever been away from her husband and two boys, 15 and almost 13. Her absence, however, did not affect her parenting. She said she was on the phone with her son’s principal early one morning discussing classes he should take. Aluko said motherhood and her strong Christian faith were two things she and Angela Bassett bonded over while on the set of “The Black Panther.” She added that the entire cast got along like family. “There were so many moments that were wonderful,” she said. Aluko has a few more projects in the works including another Marvel film, which she said she is not at liberty to discuss. She will also share the screen in 2019’s “Best of Enemies” which stars Taraji P. Henson.


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AN INDEPENDENT SUPPLEMENT BY MIA MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS GROUP TO THE MIAMI HERALD

FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2018

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