Hyundai appoints Erwin Raphael to Lead Genesis USA

Special to the NNPA from IR+Media

Hyundai Motor America President and Chief Executive Officer David L. Zuchowski announced this week that Erwin Raphael has been appointed as General Manager for Genesis Motors USA.

Last November Hyundai’s worldwide Vice-Chairman Chung Eui-Sun announced the company would be launching Genesis, globally, as an independent luxury brand of Hyundai.

Industry insiders expect Genesis will be heavy competition for Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the U.S. market.

As General Manager of the newly formed organization, Raphael will be responsible for the strategic direction and management of Genesis operations in the United States, including sales and marketing. This summer, he will oversee the introduction of the Genesis G90, a sleek, new large luxury sedan that has been awarded five-star ratings for safety and design. Raphael will assume his duties March 1, 2016.

Consumers recently got a peek of the brand’s creative marketing strategy during the 2016 Super Bowl with a commercial featuring comedian Kevin Hart. USA Today’s Ad Meter awarded the commercial this year’s best.

“The position of Genesis General Manager is a critical one to the growth of this brand in the United States and I couldn’t be happier to have Erwin take this key position,” said Zuchowski. “Erwin’s depth of product knowledge, broad dealer experience and skill at flawless execution all will be called upon as he drives success for this new brand,” he said.

Raphael has been at Hyundai for the last six years, serving in various roles. Most recently he was the Western Region Director and General Manager for Hyundai Motor America where he was responsible for overseeing the operations of more than 165 Hyundai dealerships in the 12 western-most states. He has held other leadership positions at Chrysler, Toyota Motor Manufacturing and International Truck and Engine Co.

“I’m delighted to assume the position of General Manager for the Genesis brand,” said Raphael. “There’s a lot of work to be done to make this brand the success we all know it can be. With the help of a great team, I know we will exceed expectations.”

In addition to his operations roles at Hyundai, Raphael is a founding member and co-chair of Hyundai’s Diversity Council where he advocates for greater dealer diversity, and multicultural marketing. A United States Army veteran, Raphael is credited with creating a stronger relationship between Hyundai and veterans returning from combat.

Comcast, Smithsonian Channel, MLB host premiere screening “The Hammer of Hank Aaron”

Comcast, Smithsonian Channel and Major League Baseball partnered to present a private, premiere screening of “The Hammer of Hank Aaron.” The screening took place on Wednesday, February 17, 2016, at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture located at 830 E. Pratt Street in Baltimore. The event also included a VIP reception, a panel discussion, and a Q&A session.

“The Hammer of Hank Aaron.” is part of Smithsonian Channel and Major League Baseball’s MAJOR LEAGUE LEGENDS series, which tells the stories of four players who transcended the national pastime and left legacies as true American icons: Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams.

Damion Thomas, Sports Curator for Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and David Royle, Executive Vice President of Programming and Production for Smithsonian Channel answering questions.

(Photo: Ursula Battle)

Damion Thomas, Sports Curator for Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and David Royle, Executive Vice President of Programming and Production for Smithsonian Channel answering questions.

“The Hammer of Hank Aaron” features extensive newly captured interviews with baseball icon Henry “Hank” Aaron, who was born on February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama. The film details his upbringing in Alabama, and the influence Jackie Robinson had on his life. Robinson was the first black baseball player to integrate Major League Baseball.

“He was telling the whole world, no matter who you are, black or white, if you can play the game, give him a chance,” said Aaron who recalled cutting school to hear Robinson speak at a Mobile, Alabama drug store. “And I thought that by him coming into the league, that if you give him an opportunity, you are going to have to give me an opportunity.”

The film also provides a rare and personal glimpse into the life of Aaron as he reflected back on how he hit bottle caps with homemade sticks as a youngster, and how his softball and baseball talents eventually caught the attention of a scout with the Negro League’s Indianapolis Clowns, who offered him $200 a month to play for the team.

“I left Mobile with two dollars in my in my pocket, and a satchel with one pair of pants,” recalled Aaron. “And I think they were my sister’s pants, and I went to Spring Training with the Indianapolis Clowns.”

After quick success with the Clowns, Aaron signed with the Milwaukee Braves in 1954. In 1957, he won the Most Valuable Player Award of the National League, and would crush a home run to clinch the National League pennant for the Braves, who would go on to defeat the New York Yankees in the 1957 World Series.

In 1966, at the height of the Civil Rights era, the Braves would relocate to its epicenter in Atlanta. While the film highlighted Aaron’s crowning achievements, it also served as a painful reminder of the racism and hatred that accompanied the Jim Crow-era in which he played. Some of the film’s most riveting moments occur after Aaron recalled the death threats he and his family received as he drew closer to unseating Babe Ruth as the all-time home run king.

“It was overwhelming,” said Damion Thomas, sports curator for Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. “Some people were congratulating him, while some people were threatening him. Hank Aaron received about 900,000 pieces of mail, which would probably take up the space in this room.”

However, Aaron did not allow the threats to stop him from earning his place in baseball history. On April 8, 1974, he hit homerun number 715, breaking Ruth’s record of 714. Aaron would finish his 23-year career with 755 career home runs. A 25-time All-Star selection, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.

“As a kid, I heard Hank Aaron speak, and it really had an impact on me,” said Lameteria Hall, who attended the screening. “Watching this film 40 years later was very filling. The film talked about Aaron’s sad and happy moments, but as a kid, I only saw happy. I’ll never forget when Hank Aaron spoke to us. He was such an inspiration.”

“The Hammer of Hank Aaron” will kick-off the Smithsonian Channel and Major League Baseball’s MAJOR LEAGUE LEGENDS series, and will premiere February 29 at 8 p.m. on the Smithsonian Channel.

Could Ravens Lardarius Webb’s future in Baltimore be in doubt?

The Baltimore Ravens brass are in Indianapolis this week for the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. NFL personnel will frequently have discussions with player representatives. Most of the talk will be about the upcoming free agency period, which starts on March 9, 2016.

Lardarius Webb remains one of the best defensive backs on the Ravens team. He played multiple positions in the secondary last year. He started the season as one of the team’s perimeter cornerbacks and then moved inside to cover slot receivers when the Ravens went to their nickel package. Webb saw some time at safety as well. It was an easy transition for him because he played the position when he was in college at Nicholls State. The Ravens have considered using Webb at safety this season, but will want him to renegotiate his contract.

If the Ravens keep Webb on the roster, he will hold a $10 million salary cap number. The team can save $4 million if they release him, but that means he would still account for $6 million of the Ravens salary cap space.

Ozzie Newsome was quick to point out how the pass defense improved when Webb was moved to free safety. “I think the biggest move is ‘Webby’ [Lardarius Webb] to safety,” Newsome said. “The way the game is going, to have someone that has some range— has some really good ball skills— back in the back end is very [much] needed.”

The secondary definitely got better when they moved Webb to a new position. They were able to cut down on the amount of plays in which opposing teams gained large chunks of yards. That was a problem that frequently put the Ravens behind in games.

The Ravens will likely ask Webb to either take a pay cut or be released. Webb re-negotiated his contract last season. Whether or not he will do that again remains to be seen. One thing is for sure— he wants to be a Raven.

Webb says he is looking forward to carrying the momentum of winning their last home game into next season.

“It means a lot to this team, to this defense, the way we ended the game on defense, just to let them know, the defense, we are still here. We’ve still got that Ravens dominant defense,” Webb said. “We just have to put our little pieces together. I think we’re going to rally from this one and continue this from now into the next season.”

We will find out soon if Webb is going to be a part of the Ravens defense next season.

Sorority holds youth symposium in Annapolis

The Lambda Delta Sigma Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. of Anne Arundel County has partnered with Georgetown East Elementary School in Annapolis to host a free youth symposium entitled “Building Partnerships to Support Our Youth” on Saturday, March 12, 2016 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Boys and girls may attend the one-day youth symposium, although some topics will focus on girls, ages 13 to 17. The event will feature educational workshops and offer opportunities for attendees to learn more about community organizations that provide services for youth and families in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. Parents may stay to hear a special presentation about human trafficking. Youth workshops will be linked to the sorority’s signature program, Project Reassurance, which was originally conceived to support teen mothers. The project now focuses on Healthy Choices, Healthy Living and Healthy Generations (H3) to help reduce teen pregnancy.

Deena Marshall, chair of the youth symposium, said that the chapter adopted Georgetown East Elementary School last year. This marks the second time that the event will be held there. Additionally, chapters nationwide will host the 19th annual symposium on March 12 as a unified effort to support youth. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. is a leading international, non-profit community service organization that was founded by seven educators in 1922 at Butler University in Indianapolis, Ind.

“We are very committed to giving back to our community,” Marshall said. “We really try to broaden our impact as an organization and as a chapter, too.”

Kimberly N. Ellison-Taylor, the basileus of the sorority, explained that several programs have been designed to positively impact the lives of young people. However, she regards the youth symposium as a great example of a program designed to foster a stronger collaboration with young people, while addressing issues directly impacting them.

“Last year we provided workshops on Financial Literacy, Anti-Bullying, and Water Safety/SWIM 1922. This year, we will also showcase a session on RunJumpThrow (RJT)— a partnership with the USA Track & Field organization. We are asking young people to run, jump (and) throw with us— having fun and learning at the same time about the benefits of movement regardless of physical or athletic ability. As adults, we are stakeholders in the success of our youth— educationally, mentally and physically. Parents, in particular have a vested interest in these areas and also learning more about how we can more effectively support our youth,” Ellison-Taylor said.

“The Youth Symposium is a great program and we are sowing seeds for areas that will significantly benefit youth today and in the future. Parents have noted renewed interest from their young people in the areas (previously) discussed at the Youth Symposium, as well as ongoing friendships with other participating youth. I am delighted to be the president of Lambda Delta Sigma and leading programs that invest in our future leaders.”

For more information about the event, email and to register, visit:

Urban teachers keeping black history in curriculum

When deciding on a black history project for her fourth grade class at Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary School, Naadir Billingsley took into account how the students would connect to the project and she used their background knowledge to enhance the learning experience.

When Se’Kayla Harrell spoke to her fifth grade class at George Washington Elementary School, she was surprised that her students knew just the generalities of Black History Month, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

Naadira Billingsley

Naadira Billingsley

“This was very shocking to me but it only showed me how big of an opportunity we had this year to explore and introduce the students to new people and how great their history actually is,” Harrell said.

Both Billingsley and Harrell say they’ve decided to make black history a part of their regular curriculum.

The two educators were trained through Urban Teachers, a teacher prep program in both Baltimore and Washington, D.C., that specifically supports teachers to enter into urban and low-income city schools.

“Urban Teachers helped me to prepare for teaching black history to my students because they emphasize the importance of making connections with students,” Billingsley said.

“When deciding on a Black History Month project … I let the students guide their project and what they wanted to learn about African-American history,” she said. “I thought about the ‘why.’ It wasn’t just a project because it was February and Black History Month. I thought about how the students can use the information they learned from this research project in other classes and for the rest of their lives.”

Incorporating African-American history into the curriculum is extremely important because African-Americans were and remain a large part of America’s history, Harrell said.

“African-Americans also aren’t represented nearly enough as they should be and Black History Month is usually the only time that we would see them,” she said. “I believe that working in urban schools gives us an even greater responsibility of letting our students see a reflection of themselves in what they learn and my students have been extremely receptive to this. They are excited to learn about some of the amazing accomplishments of African-Americans and this unit has pushed then into inquiring and thinking about their history on their own. The enthusiasm in the classroom is always at an all-time high.”

Formerly called Urban Teachers Center, Urban Teachers was founded in 2009 as a means to solve what officials called a critical challenge in urban education, the new teacher quality.

The organization built a break-the-mold teacher preparation program from the ground up to ensure every teacher would get the experiences and support they need to produce results with students.

Urban Teachers started in what was identified as the highest-need districts in the nation, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and, since 2010, they’ve welcomed more than 500 aspiring teachers, preparing them for the classroom and to become top-notched educators.

“I think the most important aspect I learned from Urban Teachers is that no teacher is perfect and teaching is a practice,” Billingsley said.

“Every lesson is not going to go perfectly as planned and that’s okay. You can be a great teacher but there is always room for improvement and collaboration with your colleagues,” she said. “This is the most important because the hard days will come when you feel like nothing went as planned. Those days you may feel defeated, but having this thought in the back of your mind, brings me to work the next day, with a clear mind, and ready to teach the best lesson I can for my students.”

For Harrell, the most important aspect of Urban Teachers is the support she receives and the ability to shadow a veteran teacher while having coaches to observe progress.

“Being able to constantly apply the teaching strategies and skills that we’ve learned in class in actual urban classroom setting is an irreplaceable benefit that has allowed me the most growth as a new teacher,” Harrell said.

Passing score for GED test changed

In 1942, the original GED® test was released. Since that time, the GED (General Educational Development) test has opened doors to better jobs and college programs for more than 20 million graduates. The GED Test is a United States high school equivalency test, and is delivered in over 60 countries around the world. To date, there have been four generations of the GED® test: the original GED® test released in 1942, the 1978 series, the 1988 series, and the current series released in 2002. GED Testing Service is the creator of the one official GED Test.

GED Testing Service recently announced a major change to the GED Test passing score and the addition of two new performance levels. In most states, the passing score for high school equivalency is moving from 150 to 145. Many states, including Maryland, are able to implement these enhancements immediately, while others will require additional approval or rule changes to implement GED Testing Service’s recommendations.

In addition to the passing score change, the GED program will also include two optional levels above high school equivalency to signify college readiness, and for some test-takers the opportunity to earn college credits.

“The recalibration of the passing score being moved from 150 to 145 is based on extensive analysis of data we have been collecting for 18 months,” said CT Turner, Senior Director of State Accounts & Government Relations for GED Testing Service. “We found GED test-takers performed better than some high school graduates. We also found that more of our testing graduates are going into career training than ever before, and more were doing better at community college than some high school grads.”

Turner added, “We want people to have the same expectations of adult learners that they have for high school graduates. There are many adult test-takers who score between 145 and 150 and were just a few points off from passing. The change in the test score is exciting because it means they can meet the 145 standard and can move on.”

GED Testing Service offers the only learner-centric program that is recognized and portable from state to state. According to GED Testing Service, the program is based on the expectations and standards for college- and career-readiness and will lead to better outcomes in education. GED Testing Service also highlighted the new “GED College Ready” performance level score of 165-174, which signifies readiness to enter credit-bearing college courses, and the new “GED College Ready + Credit” level score of 175-200, which signifies that a student qualifies for up to ten hours of college credit.

“The 165 performance level score is an indicator that someone is ready for college courses,” said Turner. “It could really jump start someone’s career.”

GED Testing Service notes that while the academic content areas in which candidates are assessed— English language arts (reading/writing), social studies, science, and mathematics— have not changed, the priorities and assumptions by which proficiency in these areas is assessed have evolved.

“Since the GED Test assesses academic skills and knowledge typically developed in a four-year high school education program, it is of utmost importance to GED Testing Service that the GED continues to evolve as secondary education evolves,” said Turner. “In addition, right now in the U.S., there are not enough people who have the required skills or knowledge to fill about four million available jobs.”

He added, “The GED test can help solve this economic need by opening the doors for millions of adult learners to college courses, apprenticeships and job training— the pathway adults need to gain skills and knowledge, fill these jobs and care for their families.”

According to GED Testing Service, the GED College Ready and GED College Ready + Credit levels will apply to any student who has taken a GED test since January 1, 2014. GED Testing Service is also recommending that states retroactively apply the 145 passing score to test-takers who have tested since January 1, 2014.

“The reaction to the change in the test score has been very positive,” said Turner. “People have cried and screamed with joy. Many have taken the test and were just a point away from passing. Taking the test requires hard work and a lot of persistence. The GED Test is a lot more than a test. It really helps to change lives. Our goal is for adult learners to get the jobs they want. The GED Test offers that opportunity.”

For additional information visit

The Ben Carson I knew is gone

I’m not angry about Dr. Ben Carson’s latest comments about President Barack Obama for one reason only; they’ve instead pushed me into a state of mourning as I watch the continued diminishment of a man who had long been a living, breathing icon of Black History Month all by himself.

I no longer even know how to process what Carson has become. Should I celebrate his accomplishments? Or despair over his patented, painful ignorance?

It was bad enough that he suggested to Politico’s Glenn Thrush on Saturday that Obama isn’t authentically black — a trope I thought we left in 2008 — because Obama’s upbringing didn’t resemble Carson’s. It’s worse that he also absolved Donald Trump of his naked bigotry.

“I have not witnessed anything that would make me say that about him,” Carson responded when Thrush asked if Trump was racist.

Carson talked about not being very observant of such things. Such things as Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States, Trump’s talk of Mexican rapists, Trump’s history of inflaming racial tensions in the “Central Park” jogger case even after the five young black men who had been falsely convicted were found innocent — implying that you find racism only where you expect it, as though the recipient is the cause of discrimination.

Carson wasn’t observant enough to know about the Department of Justice’s case against Trump in the 1970s for allegedly using a racial code to keep black renters out of his properties: Staff members were told to mark their applications with a “C” for colored.

Carson wasn’t observant enough to catch a recent article in The Guardian detailing Trump’s history, including this tidbit:

“In February 2000, when Trump was again flirting with a run for the White House, he took out anonymous ads in local upstate New York newspapers, in an effort to shut down a rival casino backed by a group of Native Americans. Beneath a picture of needles and drug paraphernalia, the ad stated: “Are these the new neighbors we want?” It added: “The St. Regis Mohawk Indian record of criminal activity is well documented.”

The man who could only muster up an “it’s not the tone that I would use” while discussing Trump is the man who compared the signature domestic achievement of the nation’s first black president, the Affordable Care Act, to chattel slavery.

On Saturday, he also told Thrush this:

“I mean, like most Americans, I was proud that we broke the color barrier when [Obama] was elected, but … he didn’t grow up like I grew up. … Many of his formative years were spent in Indonesia. So, for him to, you know, claim that, you know, he identifies with the experience of black Americans, I think, is a bit of a stretch.”

And this:

“They assume because you’re black, you have to think a certain way,” he said. “And if you don’t think that way, you’re ‘Uncle Tom,’ you’re worthy of every horrible epithet they can come up with; whereas, if I weren’t black, then I would just be a Republican.”

Carson has perfected the racial two-step, in one breath bemoaning that some people question the motives of black conservatives and in the next revoking Obama’s black American card. It is the clearest sign yet that he knows how to capitalize on victimhood in ways those he excoriates never could.

It hurts because just about a month ago, I got a glimpse of the person I had long believed to be the real Ben Carson, the “Gifted Hands,” pre-political version, at a Martin Luther King Day prayer breakfast in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where top presidential candidates routinely make appearances to pay respects to King more than overtly scrounge for votes.

Carson was relaxed and funny, inspiring.

A young black man “has no reason to believe his ancestors weren’t involved in the development of this country,” he told the mixed-race crowd, while listing off a who’s who among black American historical figures, such as Andrew Beard, Lewis Latimer, Daniel Hale Williams and Charles Drew. “Walk down the street, and for any nationality, you can point out tremendous contributions that were made. That’s one of the amazing things about this country in which we live. Our diversity is not a problem; it is a strength. And we have to stop allowing ourselves to be divided.”

Because of his exploits in pediatric neurosurgery, he could have included his name in that list and no one would have batted an eye. Instead, he talked more about how his mother instilled a love of education in her children and about a scholarship program that has helped thousands of young people than about himself.

Ever since that day, I have been longing for the moment he’d become that man again. But no longer. That dream is dead. The chances seem better that he’ll be hosting a show on the Fox News Channel than reclaiming what was an unblemished place among black American icons.

“The purveyors of division have come in and they have wreaked havoc on our society,” Carson told that Myrtle Beach crowd.

No one held up a mirror as he spoke those words. Had they, maybe Carson would have been observant enough to notice his own reflection.

Issac Bailey has been a journalist in South Carolina for two decades and was most recently the primary columnist for The Sun News in Myrtle Beach. He was a 2014 Harvard University Nieman fellow. Twitter: @ijbailey The views expressed are his own.

‘Black girl magic’ is more than a hashtag; it’s a movement

Coming of age in the early ’90s, Marcia Smith says, her mother made sure she would grow up to be a proud black woman, instilling in her from a young age what it means to love yourself, culture and heritage.

As a little girl, she remembers, it would take her mom an eternity to get out the door in the morning. “Oh, Mommy, it’s taking you so long to get ready,” Smith lamented. Her mother would quip back, “It’s not easy being a beautiful black woman. When you are a black woman the world needs to recognize your presence so you step out with your best foot forward because the spotlight is always on you.”

Growing up, Smith proudly donned apparel that displayed slogans like “educated queen,” “back to the motherland” or “black power” mixed in with Pan-African colors.

But by the time Smith, 29, graduated from Howard University in 2008, she saw there was a need to breathe life back into this fashion movement.

Smith began to wonder, “Where is the love of self? Now, I don’t want to wear a dashiki all the time but I do want to have a shirt that encompasses self-empowerment.”

“I saw there was a lack of self-identity and a lack of self-confidence amongst the black community, and what I wanted to do when I started to come out with my brand is not necessarily bridge the gap but mend the wound.”

HauteGreeksCouture is Smith’s Instagram clothing boutique. She ships thousands of orders per week, she said, to clients ranging from recent high school graduates to broadcaster Gayle King. Her apparel boasts messages such as: “Black Women Are Magic,” “Black by Popular Demand,” and even lyrics from Beyoncé’s new song “Formation.”

“Formation,” a tribute to Beyoncé’s black heritage and the beauty of the black woman, made waves when it was released two weeks ago, with some calling the song and video’s message racist or anti-police.

By now, anyone plugged into social media has seen the terms #blackgirlmagic, #beingablackgirlislist or #melaninonfleek. These hashtags are accompanied by a range of photos, from black women rocking natural tresses to Beyoncé’s backup dancers at Super Bowl 50 or simply a photo of a small child basking in the sun’s rays.

But #blackgirlmagic and similar phrases have become more than just a hashtag on social media or a caption for tweets during Black History Month.

“The concept is important because it names and identifies the ways that black women make space for themselves, celebrate themselves, and connect to each other,” said Asia Leeds, an assistant professor at Spelman College in Atlanta. “I think that the various hashtags allow us to curate our magic and facilitate new connections and discoveries.”

There has even been backlash about the weight that #blackgirlmagic carries. A writer at explained why she’s not on board with the movement. “Black girls aren’t magical. We’re human,” she wrote.

Tianna Sankey, 15, explained what the hashtags mean to her and why they’re necessary.

The high-schooler created blkgirls, a page on Instagram dedicated to showing beauty and excellence among black women across the world. She curates this content by using #blackgirlmagic, #melaninonfleek and #blackgirlsmatter. Sankey created the page last year and has already gained over 60,000 followers.

“My entire motive was simply to highlight the beauty of the black woman and promote self-love,” said Sankey, who lived in Jamaica until she was 11 and moved to the United States four years ago with her family.

“This type of space was needed because black girls and women need to know it’s not OK for those ‘black jokes’ being made and it’s not OK to feel like you’re any less than anyone else because of the color of your skin.”

Sankey said she gets daily messages from women and young girls telling her that her page has changed how they feel about themselves.

Phrases like #beingablackgirlislit #blackgirlmagic #melaninpopping are being used by black women among each other to affirm their beauty and intellectual prowess, unapologetically celebrating every inch of themselves and each other. Spelman professor Michelle Hite said it’s a natural outgrowth of the way black women support each other offline.

Hite, who teaches English studies, said the phrases have become a way for black women to say, “I see you [black woman] and I see you excelling and being successful in a context that is hostile to your very presence there, which makes it all the more glorious.” Hite admitted it has been her affirming relationships with black women that have made her “recovery” possible.

Many black women have to recover from the traumas they may experience simply being a black woman in today’s society, according to Hite.

Hite recalled that during a group discussion, a student told her about attending a sleepover with white friends. The student came out of the bathroom wearing a headscarf, which was used to protect her hair at night. She said the girls at the sleepover told the student she looked like Aunt Jemima. Hite said the student couldn’t muster a response. On an overnight college visit, the student wore the same headscarf and a black student told her she looked like an African princess.

“It was the same scene but the outcome enabled her to recuperate her sense of dignity and a sense of humanity that was no longer humiliated by something that she was doing everyday but all of a sudden in this context with these white girls it became shameful,” Hite said.

“It’s black women who have acknowledged that ‘I’ve done enough.’ Black women, who have always been the ones who have given me permission to love myself and like myself.”

Film Review: Triple 9

— Honor among thieves? Not with this bunch. These guys are playing a mean duplicitous game, and as they do, you can’t guess who will survive. That’s the mark of a solid, tense cop/crime/thriller. A good one will keep you speculating, until the last bullet leaves its chamber.

Terrell Tompkins (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Russell Welch (Norman Reedus) and his brother Gabe (Aaron Paul) go back a long way. They were in a special ops unit, and they haven’t lost their nerve. They can shoot a guy, rob a bank and create a lot of chaos without much of a conscience. Marcus Atwood (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr.), two dirty cops, work with them.

The guys rob a bank in broad daylight in Atlanta. They’re out to steal a safe deposit box. Gabe, not one to stick to a plan, takes money too. They’re in the midst of a getaway when a red dye bomb in the dough goes off and causes mayhem. The heist was a job for a Russian-Israeli mob boss named Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet). She is not satisfied with the catch. She has another assignment for the group, and if they balk, she will kill them, one by one. Or, she won’t allow Terrell to see his son who is the offspring of her flighty, dizzy sister Elena (Gal Gadot, Fast & Furious 6 & 7).

A Sergeant Detective Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson) tracks the robbers. His nephew, Chris Allen (Casey Affleck), a cop, joins Marcus’s gang task force unit, becoming Marcus’ partner. Things are getting too close. The guys may have to resort to a deadly “999” scheme diversion. Triple 9 is a highest priority police code for “officer down.”

With movies like “The Proposition,” a Western, and “Lawless” (starring Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf) a Depression-era drama, Australian director John Hillcoat has demonstrated a penchant for cold violence perfectly orchestrated in gunfights and brawls. He is the steady hand that starts this urban story with a bang and ends it with more murder. Scenes of cops in the projects chasing drug dealers feel real. When the robbers deceive each other you don’t question much. Rarely has Atlanta seemed so gritty, but cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis (The Drop), production designer, Tim Grimes (The Wrestler) and Hillcoat take you to the wrong side of the tracks and hold you hostage.

Matt Cook’s screenplay puts a slight twist on the crime genre by grouping several disparate variables into one story: dirty cops, former special op soldiers, an alcoholic investigating detective and a heartless lady crime lord. Mix in a largely African American city, a depressed Latino neighborhood, White working class cops and the “Kosher Mafia,” and the multi-cultural potpourri becomes intriguing.

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anthony Mackie are superb actors, but both look a bit too clean-cut to be sleazy. Within the confines of their physical attributes and perfect diction, they do their best. Norman Reedus is decent. Winslet’s accent as the unforgiving Irina is tolerable.

Clifton Collins Jr., one of America’s best character actors, is far more believable in his role as a filthy, devious lawman. Casey Affleck proves once again that he is the better actor in the family. (Why didn’t they cast him in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice?) When Harrelson smokes a joint, drinks booze or snorts drugs, you never question his commitment—to the character. Aaron Paul as the weak-minded, low-life, prostitute-using Gabe and Luis Da Silva Jr. as the skinny, but deadly gang leader Pinto give the most invisible portrayals. You know they’re actors, but their characters seem like they were fished out of the gutter.

In the beginning the boys seem like they are committing a simple, but elaborately planned crime. As the film progresses, it is obvious that they have entangled themselves in a bigger, more powerful web than they perceived. That’s when you move from the back of your seat to the edge, as the noose around their necks tightens.

The solid direction, storytelling and acting by Hillcoat, Cook and the cast don’t reinvent the crime thriller genre. They just add to the trove.

Johnson & Johnson told to pay $72 million in talcum powder cancer case

— Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay damages to the family of a woman who died of cancer she said was caused by the company’s talcum powder.

Lawyers for the family say a jury in St Louis, Missouri, awarded $72 million in damages.

Jackie Fox died of ovarian cancer in 2015, aged 62, two years after being diagnosed with the illness. Her family said she used Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder for nearly 50 years, and claimed her death was a direct result.

The family argued the company knew about the possible risks of using products containing talc, but failed to warn consumers about them.

The case is part of a wider lawsuit brought by nearly 50 women against Johnson & Johnson.

Responding to the verdict, Johnson & Johnson issued a statement saying its products are safe.

“The recent U.S. verdict goes against decades of sound science proving the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient in multiple products, and while we sympathize with the family of the plaintiff, we strongly disagree with the outcome,” Carol Goodrich, a Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman, said in a statement sent to CNN.

Talc is a naturally occurring mineral composed of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. It’s used to absorb moisture in many kinds of cosmetic products, from baby powder to make up.

Scientists are divided over the potential risks of talc. Lawyers for Fox’s family presented several studies they said prove the link between talc and ovarian cancer. Other studies say the evidence is too weak to make the connection.

The American Cancer Society says it is not clear if products containing talcum powder increase cancer risk. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, classifies talc as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Because products containing talcum powder are classified as cosmetics, they do not have to undergo review by the Food and Drug Administration. However, they must be properly labeled and “they must be safe for use by consumers under labeled or customary conditions of use,” the FDA states.