Friday, March 24, 2017

Entertainment

HAMPTON ROADS
A national radio host based in Hampton Roads will be, for the first time, among the radio finalists at the 32nd Annual Stellar Awards in Las Vegas, where this highly anticipated and globally recognized award show for African-American gospel artists unfolds March 25, 2017.

Tanya R. Liverman of Hampton, along with her program director, Michael Stewart, will represent Gospel Central Radio (www.thegospelcentral.com), which is among four nominees for Internet Radio Station of the Year at the Stellar Awards event. Liverman hosts and engineers for Gospel Central Radio and provides interviews with award-winning gospel performers, emerging stars and other celebrities – on air and at special events.

“We’ve always covered the red carpet, and internet radio stations have received awards, but this year, radio winners are being invited to grace the red carpet. That’s exciting,” Liverman said.

Now in its 32nd year, the Stellar Awards event is the first and longest-running gospel music platform dedicated to providing top-notch entertainment to African-American audiences worldwide.

The multitalented Liverman, a former Hampton City Schools educator, has been with Gospel Central Radio since October 2015. Gospel Central Radio, founded by Atlanta-resident Michael Stewart, is a national media and marketing company that has assisted some of the biggest names in the industry, including with management services, booking, graphics, publicity, social media promotions and marketing.

Liverman’s various celebrity interviews have included 2017 Grammy-nominee Jekalyn Carr, Grammy and Dove award-winner Tasha Cobbs, Grammy-nominee Canton Jones and Joshua Rogers, the first male champion and youngest in BET’s “Sunday Best” gospel show.

Active across Hampton Roads, especially with teens and girls, Liverman has assisted with a variety of community initiatives. They have included teaching praise dance and volunteering for the Music Arts Lyrics and Dance Academy (MALD), and the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association in Norfolk, including with a new program to help children understand what happens if a police officer stops them. She is on the board of the faith-based Divine Concept Group, which helps people with personal development, and she has volunteered with Still I Rise LLC, which inspires young people to achieve.

In mid-March she hosted and produced the “Dr. Earle Show” for Norfolk author Dr. Earle Williams, a workshop series held at the Attucks Theatre designed to help former convicts successfully return to the community.

Liverman is featured in April’s special edition of IndiMogul Magazine, which will honor women who have succeeded despite various crises.

“If I have all these gifts, I have to share them,” Liverman said. “I also meet a lot of interesting people through my community activities.”

Liverman has written four books and is also an entrepreneur, including being founder and owner of Native Productions, known for creating websites, graphic designs and book publishing. She also founded G.I.R.L.S. with P.E.A.R.L.S., a leadership program tailored for female students who desire to enhance their emotional, social and academic growth while transitioning to middle school, high school or college.

Born in Wilmington, Delaware, and raised in New Jersey, Liverman has been an active citizen of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Indians of Bridgeton, New Jersey, and has often volunteered to bring awareness about her culture to Hampton City Schools and the general community.

NORFOLK
One of the most famous renowned operatic sopranos of the past century, five-time Grammy Award winner Kathleen Battle brings her critically acclaimed Underground Railroad performance to Norfolk State University’s Wilder Center on March 26, as part of the Virginia Arts Festival.

The concert program will feature Ms. Battle in numerous well-known spirituals, gospel and traditional pieces, including Lord, How Come Me Here?, Go Down Moses, Wade in the Water, Roll Jordan Roll, City Called Heaven, Over My Head, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, I Don’t Feel No-Ways Tired, Farther Along, Fix Me Jesus, Balm in Gilead, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn You Me Roun’, Let Us Break Bread Together, He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand, Gospel Train, Every Time I Feel the Spirit, and the anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing.

When she performed her Underground Railroad program in a sold out show at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in November 2016, the audience demanded five encores, each greeted with a standing ovation. “Ms Battle sang with remarkable freshness and beauty,” wrote Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times. “She sent high phrases soaring and sang with ethereal elegance. The final standing ovation was tumultuous.”

Kathleen Battle’s soaring voice has carried her to the heights of the classical music world, including the stages of the world’s leading opera houses and major concert halls, where critics have compared her unmistakable sound to “the ethereal beauty of winter moonlight” (The Washington Post) and “cream from a miraculous, bottomless pitcher” (The New York Times). But her gifts as a singer extend beyond the realm of classical music, including her work as a great interpreter of spirituals. Her pure emotional power in this music of joy and sorrow cuts through all cultural boundaries.

The show takes its theme from the secret network of abolitionists, Black and white, free and enslaved, who helped provide safe passage to and shelter for thousands of slaves escaping to the North, and to freedom in the years before the U.S. Civil War. The performance includes readings of works by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights giants, which will be read by local leaders in the community.

Ms. Battle will perform with the Norfolk State University Choir, which has received glowing reviews in concerts throughout the United States. The choir, which has performed twice at the White House, is known for the beauty of its choral tone and the ability to render exemplary performances of choral works of the great masters, as well as authentic performances of spirituals, and works by African-American composers.

The performance is directed by Dr. Carl W. Haywood, Director of Choral Activities and current conductor of the Concert Choir and Spartan Chorale at Norfolk State University, where he also serves as Professor of Music. A native of Portsmouth, Virginia, Dr. Haywood has received many honors including proclamations by the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Tickets are $35-$75 and can be purchased online at www.vafest.org, by phone at (757) 282-2822 or by visiting the Virginia Arts Festival box office located at 440 Bank Street in Norfolk between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday-Friday.

Since 1997, the Virginia Arts Festival has transformed the cultural scene in southeastern Virginia, presenting great performers from around the world to local audiences and making this historic, recreation-rich region a cultural destination for visitors from across the United States and around the world.

PHOENIX, AZ.
Joni Sledge, a member of the group Sister Sledge, was found dead in her home in Phoenix on March 10. She was 60. The cause has not been determined, the band’s publicist, Biff Warren said.

Sister Sledge gained mainstream success with the 1979, hit album “We Are Family,” which included the single by the same name, which was adopted by the 1979 world champion Pittsburgh Pirates as their theme song. It has endured as a disco anthem. Its memorable chorus – “We are family/I got all my sisters with me” – reflected the group’s wholesome message of togetherness, and the song shot up the single charts, peaking at No. 2.

She was the second oldest sister in the family act, along with Debbie, Kim and Kathy, who founded Sister Sledge in 1971, when they were all under 21. Sister Sledge first played at churches and events around Philadelphia and then toured for many years, opening for big acts like the Spinners while the sisters were in high school and college.

The group attracted a loyal following after its 1974 debut album, “Circle of Love,” climbed the R&B charts.

In addition to her sisters, she is survived by her son, Thaddeus.

Students at work

At-risk-teens who enroll in The Urban Theatre program often leave the six-week class better off than when they came in.

The secret is to, well, help these troubled teens learn how to play and manufacture fun in the one-and-a-half-hour class that meets in the evening five days a week. In other words, these students learn how to assemble light-heartedness. They do so through games, dramatic exercises, and a final performance that is performed live in Renaissance High in Virginia Beach.

Thanks to a partnership between the Virginia Stage Co. and the Friends of the Virginia Beach Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, the court-ordered program was launched about two years ago. Four sessions are offered during the school year. On March 2, the program accepted a new group of students into its third session.

“The hope is we can create an environment where they can step out of those places, where they are used to being in a place of isolation,” said Ryan Clemens, a Wyoming native, and an actor who earned a master’s in acting at Regent University. He has worked with the group of at-risk students since 2016 but has worked with the Virginia Stage Co. since 2010.

“We try to make it a place where it is less about rules and more about an opportunity to find a sense of self,” said Clemens, whose official title is resident theatre artist.

“I often see students who start the program closed off to the world. We don’t ask why they are here,” he said. “Everyone is here to be a team member. So there is no need to address the issues of the past or rules that have been broken. Through games, improvisation, and other exercises we try to help each student discover life lessons that will help each one become part of the team and part of the community.”

The trick is to turn the notion of play on its head. “Once we get past that discomfort, there are wonderful discoveries, discussions, and connections that can be made. In fact, that idea lies at the heart of the UTP, the Urban Theatre Project,” Clemens said, in a recent email.

No. Students do leave the program and miraculously walk on water or see their eyesight inexplicably restored. “But I see a change in behavior,” Clemens said. “Instead of being solitary now they are working with others in an environment to rediscover a sense of imagination and play.”

This means the transformation unfolds one student at a time. As the students give each other, and themselves, permission to play, in other words, as each one takes a risk and engages in “silly, ‘uncool,’ behavior, these so-called ‘bad kids’ soon get behind the idea,” he said.

For example, Clemens used a noodle as a prop in one class. One-by-one the students eyed the prop and transformed the noodle into a pirate, a baseball, headphones, an Ipod, and a canoe paddle.

Play or engaging in an activity to amuse one’s own self comes easy to Clemens, who is best known for his one-man show on Samuel Clemens.

Yes, he not only plays the famous writer Mark Twain but claims he is his ancestor. In addition to strolling on stage wearing Twain’s trademark white suit, white hair, and white moustache, Clemens also teaches a variety of courses at several universities including Old Dominion University, Regent, and the Governor’s School for the Arts.

“I’m excited when I offer my students ideas that have made an impact in my life,” he said. “I offer the ideas with the hope that they will say, ‘Yes,’ and add information to the idea. I want them to add their voice to the collaborative creative process.”

Clemens added, “My Dad once told me, ‘It only takes one You Idiot, to wipe out a hundred Atta boy’s’ In other words, even the briefest insult can demolish the esteem built by a history of praise. I think of those words when I meet students in our project, and I can imagine that many of them have received plenty of You Idiot and few Atta boys.”

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor

Mahershala Ali is the first Muslim to win an Oscar. He appeared in Moonlight which won the Oscar for Best Picture.

(TriceEdneyWire.com)
The sun shined on “Moonlight,” which won the Oscar for Best Picture during Sunday’s night’s 89th Academy Awards. Actress Faye Dunaway, who presented the award for best picture, announced that “La La Land” had won before realizing she made a mistake.

She then announced that “Moonlight” had won the Oscar for best picture. The cast of “Moonlight” ran to the stage, hugging each other as they celebrated their surprising win. Blacks took home a record five Academy Awards.

Winners included Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney for best adapted screenplay for “Moonlight,” a film about the coming of age story of a boy growing to manhood under brutal circumstances in Miami. Mahershala Ali won an Oscar for best supporting actor for “Moonlight.”

Viola Davis won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in “Fences.”  Davis is the first Black woman actress to win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony award. Mahershala Ali is the first Muslim to win an Oscar. Ezra Edelman’s film “O.J.:  Made in America,” won the Oscar for the best documentary.

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from NorthStarNewsToday.com

Looks like the myth that Black films can’t make big money in Hollywood is about to become a thing of the past.

In early February, “Hidden Figures” passed “La La Land” as the top-grossing (domestically) Oscar-nominated film in Hollywood this season.

“Hidden Figures” focuses on three women who worked at NASA in the 1960s at a crucial time when America was competing with the Soviet Union for dominance in space during the Cold War.
According to BoxOfficeMojo.com, the domestic box office total for “Hidden Figures” was $137,336,830 as of February 17; the domestic box office total for “La La Land” was $130,154,066. The movie starring “Empire” fan-favorite Taraji P. Henson made $12,948,935 at the foreign box office, while the musical, featuring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, raked in $167,671,768 outside of the United States. “La La Land” was released on December 9 and “Hidden Figures” opened on December 23.

“Hidden Figures” was based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, which detailed the careers of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson played by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, respectively.

After working as a human computer at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the precursor to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Jackson earned her engineering degree, was promoted, and became NASA’s first African-American female engineer in 1958. In 1961, mathematician Katherine Johnson worked at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., with Jackson and Vaughan.

Though the character Al Harrison, played by Kevin Costner, was fictional, the depiction of John Glenn asking Johnson to recalculate and re-verify the IBM re-entry calculations was accurate.

According to NASA.gov, Johnson, “calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space.”

The NASA.gov article continued: “Even after NASA began using electronic computers, John Glenn requested that she personally recheck the calculations made by the new electronic computers before his flight aboard Friendship 7 – the mission on which he became the first American to orbit the Earth. She continued to work at NASA until 1986 combining her math talent with electronic computer skills. Her calculations proved as critical to the success of the Apollo Moon landing program and the start of the Space Shuttle program, as they did to those first steps on the country’s journey into space.”

Twentieth Century Fox hosted a screening of “Hidden Figures” along with Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) on Capitol Hill last week. The director of the film, Theodore Melfi was in attendance for a discussion as part of the screening. The film was also screened at the White House in December 2016.

In addition to being nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, Octavia Spencer was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and the story was nominated in the category of Best Screenplay.

Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African-American leadership. She is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. Connect with Lauren by email at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.

By Lauren Victoria Burke
(NNPA Newswire Contributor)

On February 1, the first day of Black History Month, the National Museum of African American History and Culture premiered the Oscar-nominated documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” which features commentary by James Baldwin. The film is a tribute to the staggering contribution of one of America’s greatest men of letters.

Director Raoul Peck spent 10 years completing the film. The documentary was inspired by one of Baldwin’s unfinished manuscripts regarding his friendships and views on three of his friends: Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. None of the three would live to see their 40th birthday. Medgar Evers was assassinated in 1963 in Jackson, Miss.; Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 in New York City; King was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tenn.

At the heart of the film, the jarring documentary provides Baldwin’s sociopolitical observations and showcases the writer’s eloquence and directness as a communicator.
Peck credits Baldwin with changing his life after he read “The Fire Next Time” when he was a teenager.

“The starting point of the movie are the words of a person, a great author, James Baldwin,” Peck said at the The Hollywood Reporter’s Documentary Oscar Roundtable. “My job was to put myself in the background. I knew those words since I was 15 years old.

“If I can summarize the essential part of Baldwin, it is the ability and obligation to always question whatever truth is put in front of you. Beginning with images, beginning with stories, beginning with cinema. This is something that I learned very early on,” Peck told a reporter last week. “And Baldwin gave me the words and the instruments to do that, to be able to deconstruct whatever was put in front of me – ideology, stories, narrative – very concretely.”

Baldwin was an American social critic, novelist, essayist, playwright and poet. His essays, as collected in “Notes of a Native Son” (1955), explore issues of race and class differences in a poignant, sometimes provocative way. His books include “The Fire Next Time” (1963), “Giovanni’s Room” (1965), “No Name in the Street” (1972), and “The Devil Finds Work” (1976).

There hasn’t been anyone who has been able to duplicate the power of Baldwin since his death at 63 in France in 1987. Baldwin confronted the “moral monsters” of racism in the United States and dealt with the complex social and psychological pressures confronting Black people in America.

Baldwin often challenged White Americans on the question of racism.

“It does matter any longer what you do to me,” Baldwin said in an interview in 1965. “The problem now is how are you going to save yourselves?”

Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African American leadership. She is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. Connect with Lauren by email at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from NorthStarNewsToday.com

(TriceEdneyWire.com)
Kevin Hart, the comedian, is getting serious.

Hart will host “Kevin Hart Presents: The Black Man’s Guide to History,” featuring lesser-known African-Americans, including Matthew Henson, the first American to walk on the North Pole, and Robert Smalls, a slave who commandeered and piloted “Planter,” 300-ton Confederate armed vessel and presented it to the Union Army during the Civil War. The History Channel will broadcast the two-hour special on a yet-to-be-announced date this year.

Hart will star and executive produce the two-hour program from Hartbeat Products and Comedy Dynamics, reports Variety.

Henson walked on the North Pole on April 6, 1909, but the credit for the feat was given to U.S. Navy Commander Robert E. Peary.

Henson’s story is told in the biography “Dark Companion: The Official Biography of Matthew Henson,” by Bradley Robinson with Matthew Henson.

Smalls was named a “wheelman” aboard “Planter,” a heavily armed ship. As a wheelman, he knew how to navigate the waterways around Charleston, S. C.

On May 12, 1862, with the white crew on the shore, Smalls stowed his family and other slaves aboard the “Planter” and sailed into Union territory. He received $1,500 and was named a lieutenant in the U.S. Colored Troops.

During Reconstruction, Smalls was elected to Congress from South Carolina. He also helped write South Carolina’s constitution in 1868, according to Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience. He remained in Congress until 1886 when Reconstruction reforms subsided.

Hart will also profile Mae Jemison, the first Black woman astronaut, and Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who in 1849 mailed himself in a wooden crate from Richmond, Va. , to Philadelphia. The journey took 27 hours, Africana reported.

By Dwight Brown
NNPA Newswire Film Critic

James Baldwin, the intellectual, civil rights activist and renowned author, left behind some biting and enlightening words about racism and the status of the Black community that are just as relevant today in this age of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Baldwin was born in Harlem in 1924. He moved to Paris around 1950, eventually taking up residence in the south of France. At some point in his self-imposed exile, he came to the conclusion that he had to turn his attention back to his home country. “I could no longer sit around Paris discussing America. I had to come and pay my dues,” said Baldwin.

In 1979, Baldwin started working on his book, “Remember This House.” The manuscript focused on the lives, views and assassinations of his three friends and colleagues: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, at the time of his death he had only completed 30 pages.

Director Raoul Peck (“Lumumba”) took those few, initial pieces of Baldwin’s non-fiction tome and developed them into a searing documentary that examines the struggles of the 1950s and 1960s in a way that makes his thoughts on race incredibly poignant given today’s sociopolitical landscape in the United States.

Peck assembles archival footage, photographs and contentious TV clips (particularly the fledgling “The Dick Cavett Show” where discussions of the state of the “Negro” got heated). He adds in modern day camera feeds of demonstrators angry over police shootings. The results are a blistering indictment of race relations both old and new.

Voiceovers by Samuel L. Jackson verbalize passages from Baldwin notes. You hear the author chide oppressors, confront Hollywood and challenge the American government. His words recount the intimate relationships and mutual respect he had with the iconic civil rights legends Medgar, Malcolm and Martin, effectively humanizing these political/social deities. He candidly explores their differences and similarities. He reveals the absolute despair he felt each time he heard that one of them had been killed. His ruminations glow with a truth that is timeless.

Raoul Peck and editor Alexandra Strauss have masterfully fulfilled the arduous and artful task of pulling all the pieces of Baldwin’s contemplations together and forming a fiery narrative that makes audiences recalibrate their feelings about race in America. The musical score by Aleksey Aygi adds a piqued sense of urgency and gravitas.

Medgar Evers was killed on June 12, 1963. Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered on April 4, 1968. James Baldwin died of stomach cancer on December 1, 1987. Together, collectively, they left behind a tremendous sociopolitical legacy that finds its due respect in this very powerful and enlightening documentary.

In 93 thought-provoking minutes, I Am Not Your Negro poignantly connects the past to the present with no apologies.

Dwight Brown is a film critic and travel writer. As a film critic, he regularly attends international film festivals including Cannes, Sundance, Toronto and the American Black Film Festival. Read more movie reviews by Dwight Brown here and at DwightBrownInk.com.

NORFOLK
Hampton Road’s own, Richard A. Love is a living Testimony.  He has been chosen for national recognition along with 27 other young, gifted and Black millennials who are redefining what it means to be Black in America today through their work and accomplishments.  

This February, NBCBLK, the African-American vertical of NBCNews.com will reveal the second annual NBCBLK28 list to honor 28 game changers, all  28 years and younger, for 28 days. February 1st and each day following, NBCBLK will showcase an entrepreneur, policy maker, athlete, entertainer, activist, or artist. Some of them are household names like Von Miller, five-time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl MVP and Chance The Rapper 2017, (Olympic gold medalist gymnastics, Simone Biles was recognized in 2016 as NBCBLK28) and others are some of our nation’s finest unsung heroes. 

This year Hampton Roads own youth advocate, artist, and mentor, Richard Love, the artist know as Testimony, is one of the NBCBLK28 heroes. His feature will air on February 16th.

At 12, Richard started his journey writing and performing as a peer leader addressing social justice issues involving AIDS, poverty, racism and diversity.  Richard has spent half his life ensuring marginalized youth are heard. Now, 25, he is Creative Program Manager Teens With a Purpose- creative youth development organization.  Testimony helps young people define and transform their lives and communities through the arts.  

Richard has always put his work with youth ahead of his personal aspirations; yet each day he has developed skills and impact in both.  This poet, musician and teaching artist focuses on creating dynamic, music that exudes love and challenges complacency.  

He combines spoken word poetry, vocals and eclectic guitar styles in his original brand of music.  Testimony cultivates teens’ passion for life, knowledge and purpose, helping them value the power of giving back as he helps shape young leaders who mentor one another.

Music has always played a role in his life. At 16, in his home studio, he started making beats and recording original songs, many of which were used in an AIDS role model story program for teens. To this day, Testimony continues to use art as his vehicle to transform lives.

All the honorees are leaders in their industry. They are breaking barriers and smashing stereotypes about the Black community/Diaspora, redefining what it means to be Black in America. They are young, gifted, and unapologetically Black.

Testimony’s goal is to show the world his soul through his undefined genre.  “I want my music to be THAT place, that sound, where the human group comes together.”   He is a Living Testimony!

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