Black Press of America Expands And Innovates In 2020 via NNPA

The NNPA is the national trade organization that represents 230 African American-owned newspapers and media companies across the nation, which make up the Black Press of America.

Dr. Colin “Topper” Carew, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, led a discussion that included monetizing the use of mobile devices and other technologies in news publishing and distribution.

“Black Power was about our getting a voice in the political process on a national and regional electoral basis. It was about power, and that’s the basis of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC),” Carew stated. “I’m here because I believe in what you, the NNPA, represent as the Black Press of America.”

Carew, the co-creator of the hit television series, “Martin,” presented a proposal for that will facilitate increased revenue and sustainability for members of the Black Press and the NNPA. Carew’s proposal also included a digital migration training initiative.

“To increase advertising income due to the newly emerging digital economy by emphasizing and employing new digital advertising formats and capturing future digital ad budgets,” Carew explained to the group of publishers.

The proposal, which NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., said was adopted by NNPA’s Board of Director’s, concluded the conference of black newspapers and media company owners.

The conference also featured workshops led and moderated by NNPA Newswire Manager Norman Rich, who also serves as the NNPA Newswire Editor. Part one of Rich’s presentation highlighted the specifications and benefits of participating in the NNPA Digital Network.

Connie Wright, the senior vice president of Housing Affordability Philanthropy at Wells Fargo, participated in a fireside chat with Chavis. The discussion highlighted how Wells Fargo is helping to navigate the U.S. housing affordability crisis by donating $1 billion to help address housing affordability through 2025, including homelessness, available and affordable rentals, transitional housing, and homeownership.

As part of the $1 billion philanthropic commitment, the bank and nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners plan to launch a $20 million housing affordability challenge to uncover new, more rapid ways to increase the availability and sustainability of scalable housing affordability solutions.

Officials from AmeriHealth Caritas, Pfizer Rare Disease, Eli Lilly, Compassion & Choices, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), Reynolds American (RAI), and Google all participated in various training workshops and discussions central to improving African American quality of life and helping to sustain the Black Press of America.

General Motors (GM), the Black Press of America’s longest-standing corporate partner and supporter, formally introduced the future innovations of the automotive industry during a luncheon the company hosted for publishers and conference guests.

Twenty-eight-year-old African American GM engineering executive, Charles Muse, presented a detailed exhibition on autonomous vehicles technologies, electrification advances, and new vehicle designs and functionalities. Muse stated that those technologies have the potential to save lives, help create a better planet, and save people precious time.

“At General Motors, we believe your journey should be safe, clean and efficient,” Muse stated while introducing the company’s mission of “Zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion,” during the luncheon, titled, “Transforming General Motors to reflect a transforming industry.” Muse received a standing ovation from the NNPA Mid-Winter Training Conference attendees.

An annual highlight of the conference was the 2020 NNPA Publisher Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented to The Dallas Examiner’s distinguished publisher, Mollie Finch Belt.

At a lively, entertaining, and emotional Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony, held at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina on Friday, January 24, the Dillard High School students who are in the Broward County Color Guard opened the event by marching into the hotel’s Grand Ballroom in full regalia.

“This is such an honor,” Belt stated as she was accompanied on stage by her son, James Belt III, and daughter, Dr. Melanie Belt. “I’ve received many awards, but there’s nothing like receiving an award from your peers. The Black Press means a lot, and I want to say thank you,” Belt stated.

Westside Gazette Publisher Bobby Henry and NNPA local host publisher for the Mid-Winter Conference, then led many of the attendees in a Greek step dance as DJ Dynamite played George Clinton’s hit song, “Atomic Dog.”

An annual highlight of the conference was the 2020 NNPA Publisher Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented to The Dallas Examiner’s distinguished publisher, Mollie Finch Belt (Pictured are Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., NNPA President and CEO, Dr. Melanie Belt, Mollie Finch Belt, James Belt III, and Karen Carter Richards, NNPA Chair and publisher of the Houston Forward Times).

Courtesy Photo

An annual highlight of the conference was the 2020 NNPA Publisher Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented to The Dallas Examiner’s distinguished publisher, Mollie Finch Belt (Pictured are Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., NNPA President and CEO, Dr. Melanie Belt, Mollie Finch Belt, James Belt III, and Karen Carter Richards, NNPA Chair and publisher of the Houston Forward Times).

NNPA Chair and Houston Forward Times Publisher Karen Carter Richards affirmed that the conference was a tremendous success. “I’m thrilled with the participation of all the publishers and the great ideas they have for the future,” stated Richards, whose daughter, singer Lenora, helped to open the conference by performing several songs at the Chair’s Poolside Reception, including her hit song, “Relax.”

Grammy Winners 2020: See Who Took Home A Gramaphone

Record of the Year

“Hey, Ma,” Bon Iver

“Bad Guy,” Billie Eilish *WINNER

“7 Rings,” Ariana Grande

“Hard Place,” H.E.R.

“Talk,” Khalid

“Old Town Road,” Lil Nas X & Billy Ray Cyrus

“Truth Hurts,” Lizzo

“Sunflower,” Post Malone & Swae Lee

Album of the year

“I,I”- Bon Iver

“Norman F*ing Rockwell,” Lana Del Rey

“When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go,” Billie Eilish *WINNER

“Thank U, Next,” Ariana Grande

“I Used to Know Her,” H.E.R.

“7,” Lil Nas X

“Cuz I Love You,” Lizzo

“Father of the Bride,” Vampire Weekend

Song of the year

“Always Remember Us This Way,” Natalie Hemby, Lady Gaga, Hillary Lindsey & Lori McKenna

“Bad Guy,” Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell *WINNER

“Bring My Flowers Now,” Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth & Tanya Tucker

“Hard Place,” Ruby Amanfu, Sam Ashworth, D. Arcelious Harris, H.E.R. & Rodney Jerkins

“Lover,” Taylor Swift

“Norman F*ing Rockwell,” Jack Antonoff & Lana Del Rey

“Someone You Loved,” Tom Barnes, Lewis Capaldi, Pete Kelleher, Benjamin Kohn & Sam Roman

“Truth Hurts,” Steven Cheung, Eric Frederic, Melissa Jefferson & Jesse Saint John

Best new artist

Black Pumas

Billie Eilish *WINNER

Lil Nas X


Maggie Rogers


Tank and the Bangas


COUNTRY Best Country Solo Performance

“All Your’n,” Tyler Childers

“Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” Ashley McBryde

“Ride Me Back Home,” Willie Nelson *WINNER “God’s Country,” Blake Shelton

“Bring My Flowers Now,” Tanya Tucker Best Country Duo/Group Performance

“Brand New Man,” Brooks & Dunn With Luke Combs

“I Don’t Remember Me (Before You),” Brothers Osborne

“Speechless,” Dan + Shay *WINNER

“The Daughters,” Little Big Town

“Common,” Maren Morris Featuring Brandi Carlile

Best Country Song

“Bring My Flowers Now,” Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth & Tanya Tucker, songwriters (Tanya Tucker) *WINNER

“Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” Jeremy Bussey & Ashley McBryde, songwriters (Ashley McBryde)

“It All Comes Out in the Wash,” Miranda Lambert, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose, songwriters (Miranda Lambert)

“Some of It,” Eric Church, Clint Daniels, Jeff Hyde & Bobby Pinson, songwriters (Eric Church)

“Speechless,” Shay Mooney, Jordan Reynolds, Dan Smyers & Laura Veltz, songwriters (Dan + Shay)

Best country album

“Desperate Man,” Eric Church

“Stronger Than The Truth,” Reba McEntire

“Interstate Gospel,” Pistol Annies

“Center Point Road,” Thomas Rhett

“While I’m Livin’,”Tanya Tucker *WINNER

RAP Best rap album

“Revenge Of The Dreamers III,” Dreamville

“Championships,” Meek Mill

“I am > I was,” 21 Savage

“Igor,” Tyler, The Creator *WINNER

“The Lost Boy,” YBN Cordae Best Rap Performance

“Middle Child,” J. Cole

“Suge,” DaBaby

“Down Bad,” Dreamville Featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG & Young Nudy

“Racks in the Middle,” Nipsey Hussle Featuring Roddy Ricch & Hit-Boy *WINNER

“Clout,” Offset Featuring Cardi B

Best Rap/Sung Performance

“Higher,” DJ Khaled Featuring Nipsey Hussle & John Legend *WINNER

“Drip Too Hard,” Lil Baby & Gunna

“Panini,” Lil Nas X

“Ballin,” Mustard Featuring Roddy Ricch

“The London,” Young Thug Featuring J. Cole & Travis Scott

Best Rap Song

“Bad Idea,” Chancelor Bennett, Cordae Dunston, Uforo Ebong & Daniel Hackett, songwriters (YBN Cordae Featuring Chance The Rapper)

“Gold Roses,” Noel Cadastre, Aubrey Graham, Anderson Hernandez, Khristopher Riddick-Tynes, William Leonard Roberts II, Joshua Quinton Scruggs, Leon Thomas III & Ozan Yildirim, songwriters (Rick Ross Featuring Drake)

“A Lot,” Jermaine Cole, Dacoury Natche, 21 Savage & Anthony White, songwriters (21 Savage Featuring J. Cole) *WINNER “Racks in the Middle,” Ermias Asghedom, Dustin James Corbett, Greg Allen Davis, Chauncey Hollis, Jr. & Rodrick Moore, songwriters (Nipsey Hussle Featuring Roddy Ricch & Hit-Boy)

“Suge,” DaBaby, Jetsonmade & Pooh Beatz, songwriters (DaBaby)

R&B Best R&B Performance

“Come Home,” Anderson .Paak & André 300 *WINNER

“Love Again,” Daniel Caesar & Brandy

“Could’ve Been,” H.E.R. & Bryson Tiller

“Exactly How I Feel,” Lizzo & Gucci Mane

“Roll Some Mo,” Lucky Daye

Best Traditional R&B Performance

“Jerome,” Lizzo *WINNER

“Time Today,” BJ The Chicago Kid

“Steady Love,” India.Arie

“Real Games,” Lucky Daye

“Built For Love,” PJ Morton & Jazmine Sullivan

Best R&B Song

“Say So” — Pj Morton, Songwriter (Pj Morton Ft. Jojo) *WINNER

“Could’ve Been” — Dernst Emile Ii, David “Swagg R’celious” Harris, H.E.R. & Hue “Soundzfire” Strother, Songwriters (H.E.R. Ft. Bryson Tiller)

“Look At Me Now” — Emily King & Jeremy Most, Songwriters (Emily King)

“No Guidance” — Chris Brown, Tyler James Bryant, Nija Charles, Aubrey Graham, Anderson Hernandez, Michee Patrick Lebrun, Joshua Lewis, Noah Shebib & Teddy Walton, Songwriters (Chris Brown Ft. Drake)

“Roll Some Mo” — David Brown, Dernst Emile Ii & Peter Lee Johnson, Songwriters (Lucky Daye)

Best Urban Contemporary Album

“Apollo XXI,” Steve Lacy

“Cuz I Love You (Deluxe),” Lizzo *WINNER

“Overload,” Georgia Anne Muldrow

“Saturn,” Nao

“Being Human in Public,” Jessie Reyez

Best R&B Album

“1123,” BJ The Chicago Kid

“Painted,” Lucky Daye

“Ella Mai,” Ella Mai

“Paul,” PJ Morton

“Ventura,” Anderson .Paak *WINNER

POP Best Pop Solo Performance

“Spirit,” Beyoncé

“Bad Guy,” Billie Eilish

“7 Rings,” Ariana Grande

“Truth Hurts,” Lizzo *WINNER “You Need to Calm Down,” Taylor Swift

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

“Boyfriend,” Ariana Grande & Social House

“Sucker,” Jonas Brothers

“Old Town Road,” Lil Nas X Featuring Billy Ray Cyrus *WINNER

“Sunflower,” Post Malone & Swae Lee

“Senorita,” Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello Best Pop Vocal Album

“The Lion King: The Gift,” Beyoncé

“When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?,” Billie Eilish *WINNER

“Thank U, Next,” Ariana Grande

“No. 6 Collaborations Project,” Ed Sheeran

“Lover,” Taylor Swift

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

“Sì,” Andrea Bocelli

“Love (Deluxe Edition),” Michael Bublé

“Look Now,” Elvis Costello & The Imposters *WINNER

“A Legendary Christmas,” John Legend

“Walls,” Barbra Streisand

Best Comedy Album

“Quality Time,” Jim Gaffigan

“Relatable,” Ellen Degeneres

“Right Now,” Aziz Ansari

“Son Of Patricia,” Trevor Noah

“Sticks & Stones,” Dave Chappelle *WINNER

LATIN Best Latin Pop Album

“#ELDISCO,” Alejandro Sanz *WINNER

“Vida,” Luis Fonsi

“11:11,” Maluma

“Montaner,” Ricardo Montaner

“Fantasía,” Sebastian Yatra

Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album

“El Mal Querer,” Rosalía *WINNER

“X 100PRE,” Bad Bunny

“Oasis,” J Balvin & Bad Bunny

“Indestructible,” Flor De Toloache

“Almadura,” iLe

ROCK Best Rock Performance

“This Land,” Gary Clark Jr. *WINNER

“Pretty Waste,” Bones UK

“History Repeats,” Brittany Howard

“Woman,” Karen O & Danger Mouse

“Too Bad,” Rival Sons

Best Metal Performance

“7empest,” Tool *WINNER “Astorolus – The Great Octopus,” Candlemass ft. Tony Iommi

“Humanicide,” Death Angel

“Bow Down,” I Prevail

“Unleashed,” Killswitch Engage

Best Rock Song

“This Land,” Gary Clark Jr., Songwriter (Gary Clark Jr.) *WINNER

“Fear Inoculum,” Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor, Adam Jones & Maynard James Keenan, Songwriters (Tool)

“Give Yourself A Try,” George Daniel, Adam Hann, Matthew Healy & Ross Macdonald, Songwriters (The 1975)

“Harmony Hall,” Ezra Koenig, Songwriter (Vampire Weekend)

“History Repeats,” Brittany Howard, Songwriter (Brittany Howard)

Best Rock Album

“Social Cues,” Cage The Elephant *WINNER

“Amo,” Bring Me The Horizon

“In The End,” The Cranberries

“Trauma,” I Prevail

“Feral Roots,” Rival Sons

ALTERNATIVE Best Alternative Music Album

“Father of the Bride,” Vampire Weekend *WINNER

“U.F.O.F.,” Big Thief

“Assume Form,” James Blake

“i,i,” Bon Iver

“Anima,” Thom Yorke

Kobe Bryant, NBA Superstar And Future Hall of Fame, Is Dead at 41

It’s hard to believe NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, whose prodigious talent and win-at-all-costs spirit made him one of the most famous and decorated athletes in history, is gone.

He was the rare celebrity who didn’t need a last name. Oprah. LeBron. Beyonce. Kobe. Everyone knew who you were talking about.

Still youthful at 41, Bryant — who died in a helicopter crash Sunday in California — looked like he could suit up and drop 30 points on a rival NBA team. It doesn’t seem that long ago that he was scoring 60 points in his final NBA game, soaking up the cheers of Los Angeles Lakers fans who worshiped him for two decades as one of the city’s favorite sons.

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates victory following Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic in June 2009.

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates victory following Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic in June 2009.

After his 20-year NBA career — all with the Lakers — Bryant is all but assured of being a first-ballot inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame later this year.

“He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force,” said fellow NBA icon Michael Jordan.

An 18-time All-Star, Bryant was known for his remarkable scoring ability — his turnaround jumper was nearly unstoppable — and his championship pedigree. He teamed with fellow All-Star Shaquille O’Neal to win three consecutive NBA titles from 2000 to 2002 and later won two more rings, in 2009 and 2010.

Known as the Black Mamba — a nickname he gave himself — Bryant twice led the NBA in scoring and won the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2008.

Bryant’s daughter Gianna, 13, was with her father on the helicopter and was also killed in the crash, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN.

“Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. That was what we had most in common,” O’Neal wrote on Twitter Sunday. “We love our families. Whenever we got together I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his.”

“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a statement.

“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary … But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.”He entered the NBA at age 17.

Bryant was born on August 23, 1978, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents, Joe and Pam Bryant, gave him the namesake after seeing a type of steak on a restaurant menu. Kobe beef is from a species of cattle, Wagyu, raised in the Kobe region of Japan.

Kobe Bryant's 'Cantine Riunite' youth team in the early 1990's in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Bryant is in the top row, third from the left.

Courtesy Davide Giudici

Kobe Bryant’s ‘Cantine Riunite’ youth team in the early 1990’s in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Bryant is in the top row, third from the left.

He lived in Italy from the age of six to 13 while his father played professional basketball, and he spoke Italian fluently. In one of his final interviews before he died, Bryant told CNN how he developed a love of soccer in Italy but also witnessed racism before moving back to the United States.

“When I was growing up in Italy, I’ve obviously witnessed it firsthand going to certain soccer matches and things of that nature,” Bryant told CNN’s Andy Scholes. “My parents have taught me and educated me on how to deal with those sorts of things.”

Bryant played high school basketball at Lower Merion in Pennsylvania.

“This is a difficult day for everyone in our school community,” said Amy Buckman, a spokeswoman for Lower Merion School District.

“Mr. Bryant’s connection to Lower Merion High School, where he played basketball prior to joining the NBA, has raised the profile of our high school and our district throughout the world. Our school community will always be grateful for his ongoing generosity to his alma mater, including his dedication of our Kobe Bryant gymnasium and his support of our girls and boys basketball teams.”

Bryant went straight from high school to the NBA, drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick of the 1996 draft, making him the youngest NBA player in history at age 17. Bryant was then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for veteran center Vlade Divac.

He soon became one of the most decorated players in NBA history and also won two Olympic gold medals for USA men’s basketball, in 2008 and 2012.

Off the court his dazzling smile sold everything from Nike shoes to McDonald’s hamburgers.

There was controversy, however, when Bryant was accused of sexual assaulting a 19-year-old Colorado hotel worker in 2003. Bryant insisted the encounter was consensual. The criminal sexual assault charge was dropped in 2004, and the accuser agreed to settle her civil lawsuit against Bryant in 2005.

LeBron James: ‘Kobe is a legend, that’s for damn sure’

At 6 feet, 6 inches, Bryant could run the point or play shooting guard, even though his position was small forward.

One of the most memorable games in NBA history came on January 22, 2006, when Bryant scored 81 points in a Lakers’ 122-104 win over Toronto. Only Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962 tops this performance.

And in his final game of his career in 2016, the Black Mamba did it his way, dropping 60 points — on 50 shots — in a Lakers win against the Utah Jazz at a frenzied Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Bryant finished his NBA career with 33,643 points. A day before he died, he was passed by another Laker and superstar, LeBron James, on the league’s all-time scoring list. James accomplished the feat in — of all places — Philadelphia, against the 76ers.

Bryant took to Twitter after James passed him, writing, “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother.”

James, who had “Mamba 4 Life” and “8/24 KB” in gold marker on his sneakers before Saturday’s game, talked after the game about Bryant’s influence on him.

“The story is just too much,” James said Saturday night. “It doesn’t make sense. … Now I’m here in a Lakers uniform, in Philadelphia, where he’s from… it’s surreal.”

James — who, like Bryant entered the NBA straight out of high school — said Bryant was someone he looked up to when he was in grade school and high school.

“Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration,” James said. “It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation.

“He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do. So, just to be able to, at this point of my career, to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it’s very humbling and it’s dope.

“Kobe’s a legend, that’s for damn sure.”

Another Lakers legend, Magic Johnson, posted a series of tweets on the loss of Bryant, including one showing a picture of Bryant with his two different jersey numbers — 8 and 24 — being retired.

“Kobe and I shared so many special conversations about life and basketball,” Johnson wrote in one tweet. “We had so much in common off the court. I used to love talking to him about Lakers basketball, being fathers and husbands and how much we loved Italy. I will miss those conversations and him so much.”

He coached his daughter, Gianna

Bryant married wife Vanessa in 2001. They had four daughters: Natalia (born in 2003), Gianna (2006), Bianka (2016) and Capri (2019).

He and his daughter Gianna were expected at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball game scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Bryant was to coach his daughter’s team in the game.

Bryant said that he had watched little basketball after retiring — in 2018, he won an Oscar for best animated short for “Dear Basketball,” which was based on a poem he wrote — but Gianna’s love of the game sparked his interest in coaching her team.

The two were seen together at numerous NBA games recently, and videos of Gianna’s basketball skills went viral despite her just being 13.

Bryant described Gianna — who had WNBA aspirations — as “hellbent” on going to the University of Connecticut, the alma mater of Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore, two players Bryant recently told CNN “could play in the NBA right now.”

“The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans will come up to me — and she’ll be standing next to me — and be like, ‘Hey you’ve got to have a boy. You and V gotta have a boy and then have somebody carry on the tradition, the legacy,'” Bryant once said in an interview with ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel.

But, Bryant added, Gianna would then pipe up, saying, “I got this.”

CNN’s Brandon Griggs contributed to this report.

The Transformation Of Historical Lexington Market


The transformation of Lexington Market is underway, and we want you to be a part of it.To learn more about and be apart of the redevelopment process, please join us for the next Community Meeting on February 5th, 2020 from 6-7:30pm at Lexington Market (in the Arcade building).

Click here to RSVP for the Community Meeting on February 5th, 2020.

Lexington Market has been a backbone of Baltimore life for more than centuries, and during its history, has been housed in many, many different market structures. Throughout its long history, its spirit of entrepreneurship, enthusiasm, and culture has always undergone. Now, it’s time for another revolution, one that reinvigorates Lexington Market for the next 200 years to come.

Participation in this transformation is the right and responsibility of every Baltimorean. Working together, Lexington Market will be the congregating place for all of Baltimore and a hub for community, culture, health, and wealth-building.

Roll up your sleeves, Baltimore, let’s get to work.

Click here for more info:


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Bad Boys For Life Film Review

Twenty-five years later, their bromance is as fresh as the day they met. Smith, as the mercurial, perpetual bachelor exhibits his best swagger in years. His Mike is like an old club goer who hasn’t realized the crowd around him is young enough to be his children. Lawrence’s curmudgeon and sensitive character plays perfectly against Smith’s brash attitude. He’s hysterical in ways only true comedians can be. The characters’ bond is easy to like and has been cherished by filmgoers who will likely follow them into old age even as these bad boys start to solve crimes in nursing homes.

They first teamed up for Bad Boys in 1995, to great box office success. There was an encore in 2003, Bad Boys II, which was distinguished by incredible stunts. Now, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence go back to the same well one more time. Is there any water left?

Michael Bay (Transformers, Armageddon) directed the first two films, with an over-the-top, over-produced style that seems dated by today’s standards. The smartest choice franchise producer Jerry Bruckheimer made was to hire two new young directors to guide the series into the 2020s. Moroccan-born Belgian filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Black, Gangsta) put their own spin on the footage aided by cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert (Black, Gangsta). What’s on view looks like an ultra-hip extended music video that captures your eyeballs and takes them hostage.

Mike (WILL SMITH), Marcus (MARTIN LAWRENCE) on the streets of Miami in Columbia Pictures’ BAD BOYS FOR LIFE.

Courtesy Photo

Mike (WILL SMITH), Marcus (MARTIN LAWRENCE) on the streets of Miami in Columbia Pictures’ BAD BOYS FOR LIFE.

A sporty looking, deep blue 992-Generation Porsche speeds through the streets of sunny Miami. If a reckless twenty something was behind the wheel, you’d call the car a chick magnet. Instead it’s 51-year-old Detective Mike Lowrey (Smith) steering the vehicle with his lead foot on the accelerator. In his hands the sports car is more a middle-ager’s last grasp at youth. Lowrey’s 54-year-old partner Detective Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) sits petrified in the passenger seat, holding on for dear life and nauseated by the hyper-dangerous ride.

Burnett: “I’m about to throw up.” Lowrey: “You better not. That’s hand-stitched Italian leather. You better drink that s—t!” And so, it begins. Edge of your seat action scenes, perfectly shot. Thrills and chills. Two old friends: One, a swinger, clearly still in the game. The other, a family man a whisper away from retirement with an accountant’s nervous stomach and no love left for a cop’s perilous life.

Directors ADIL EL ARBI and BILALL FALLAH on the set of Columbia Pictures’ BAD BOYS FOR LIFE.

Courtesy Photo

Directors ADIL EL ARBI and BILALL FALLAH on the set of Columbia Pictures’ BAD BOYS FOR LIFE.

According to the blueprint drawn by screenwriters Chris Bremner, Peter Craig (The Town) and Joe Carnahan (Narc, TV’s The Blacklist), this is how the film will play out: A plot involving revenge from a former Mexican assailant Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo, All About Nina) and her minion (Jacob Scipio, Hunter Killer) evolves. Assassinations of lawyers and judges rain down on Miami like a summer storm.

A new police unit named AMMO takes charge of the investigation, headed by a tough captain named Rita (Paola Nuñez, TV’s The Purge) and her elite group: tech wizard Dorn (Alexander Ludwig, The Hunger Games), weapons expert Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens, Spring Breakers) and the very sarcastic Rafe (Charles Melton, TV’s Riverdale). Can they do the job? Will Mike and Marcus hurt or help them?Subtly and brazenly, in humor and family drama, the script rips into the ages of the two protagonists like someone pouring salt on an open wound. The “boys” have lost a few steps and added gray hairs industrial strength Grecian Formula can’t fix. The contrasts between the veterans and the new justice league gets played for laughs persistently, especially between Smith and Melton.

Though the script is solid in most aspects, its dialogue, its rapid-fire banter is its strongest asset. When Smith and Lawrence exchange verbal jabs nothing is off the table. Viagra, becoming a grandparent, the last time either one had sex… The two are extremely competitive and well aware that father time could beat them in a foot race.

Equally strong is the chemistry between the two leads. Twenty-five years later, their bromance is as fresh as the day they met. Smith, as the mercurial, perpetual bachelor exhibits his best swagger in years. His Mike is like an old club goer who hasn’t realized the crowd around him is young enough to be his children. Lawrence’s curmudgeon and sensitive character plays perfectly against Smith’s brash attitude. He’s hysterical in ways only true comedians can be. The characters’ bond is easy to like and has been cherished by filmgoers who will likely follow them into old age even as these bad boys start to solve crimes in nursing homes.

Every member of the cast shines brightly: Joe Pantoliano as the very manic Captain Howard; Kate del Castillo is so evil she would make a witch blush. As Aretas, she sneers: “A bullet is mercy for that son of a bitch.” Paola Nunez makes Rita brave and sensual. A very fluid cameo performance by DJ Khaled, as a smarmy crook, should win him more roles. Jacob Scipio as the evil, coldblooded assassin puts his stamp on this movie. Theresa Randle, Nicky Jam, Massi Furlan, José Alfredo Fernandez and John West Jr. fill out the ensemble.

So, what’s the flaw? The finale looks too artificial: The camera focuses on an empty building, the lens targets two rats. The rodents are so clean and white they look like they came from central casting with personal hairdressers and makeup artists. The building is entirely too majestic (production designer Jon Billington, set decoration Lori Mazuer and Daniela Rojas), like an opera set not an abandoned facility. The sequence seems phony—almost corny.

This final battle is saved by the quick edits (Dan Lebental and Petr McNulty), which have given the entire 2H 3M film a very modern, tight and forceful rhythm. The musical score by Lorne Balfe, with brazen horns during action scenes and soft violins during drama, also helps to counteract this imperfection.

Crime/action/thriller fans will be in their glory with this orgy of violence, blue language, sexy flirtations and good versus evil battles. It’s fun. There’s a strong verve that is completely contagious and will likely help this sequel achieve record-breaking box-office success.

Bad Boys for Life is all it needs to be. And then some! Get ready for it. “What you gonna do when it comes for you?”

Twelve-year-old Baltimore Native Lands Big Role In ‘TROOP ZERO’

On Friday, January 17, 2020, TROOP ZERO, made its debut on Amazon Prime Video. The family-friendly film about is about a girl named “Christmas Flint” (Mckenna Grace) who is growing up in a tiny Georgia town. When Christmas learns that the winners of the annual Birdie Scout Jamboree talent contest will be included on a recording to be sent into space for posterity, her mission in life becomes to join the Scouts and win Jamboree.

However, when Christmas’ efforts are snubbed by the snobbish local Birdie Scout troop and their uptight leader “Miss Massey” (Allison Janney), she rallies a group of elementary-school misfits to start their own chapter.

Baltimore own’s Milan Ray plays one of those misfits. She talked about being in the film and portraying the feisty character “Hell-No Price.”

“I can relate to Hell-No,” said Milan. “We both like to keep our feelings in. She comes off as a bully. But she has a reason. Hell-No is trying to survive by getting food for her and ‘Smash’ who is her friend. She looks over Smash.”

“Smash,” a character who likes to smash things, is portrayed by Johanna Colón.

“It was great working with the cast because we all bonded instantly,” said Milan. “We were all connected. It was great working with all of them. They were so much fun. We have a group chat to stay in touch.”

With grudging help from her dad’s office manager, “Miss Rayleen” (Viola Davis), Christmas and her crew have to bypass every roadblock Miss Massey can find in the fine print of the Birdie bylaws in order to reach the Jamboree and their chance at immortality. From Christmas’ solitary late-night vigils to a final show-stopping musical performance, TROOP ZERO is an endearing and magical tale set against a backdrop of beloved hits of the ’70s, as Christmas forges friendships that will change her life.

“The movie is filled with many emotions,” said Milan.

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“It’s good for all ages and it’s kid friendly. Troop Zero has a message for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are weird or different. People can come together and bond.”

She also talked about working with Viola Davis.

“It was inspiring to work with her,” said Milan. “Working with a beautiful, inspiring black women was wonderful. It was a great learning experience.”

Milan is 12, and in the sixth grade. She has been acting and modeling since she was three. She has appeared in numerous commercials and has done voice overs for many companies and social media campaigns.

“When I went out for the audition for this movie, I auditioned for Hell-No and a character named ‘Ginger.’ I got the role of Hell-No, but I already expected it. I was like ‘yeah!’”

Milan’s most popular spot is a national Wal-Mart “Trolls” commercial. The commercial has had over 10 million views on YouTube.

“I feel good to represent my hometown like this,” said Milan. “I also want to direct and produce films. I also want to do animation. I want to do the whole package.”

Nicole Ray is Milan’s mother.

“I am absolutely proud,” said Ray. “To see your child live their dream is amazing.”

Milan had this advice for aspiring performers.

“It might start off slow and be frustrating, because you are getting all these auditions and not being cast. But don’t give up. Stick with it. A week before I was cast in this film, I talked to my uncle. He said I would get a role, and he was right.”

TROOP ZERO is rated PG and can be viewed on Amazon Prime.

Silence The Violence For 2020

Last week, we began the new decade the same way that we finished the old decade. Last year in Dallas, more than 200 people were murdered, sadly most were African Americans. Though we march for justice and claim “Black Lives Matter,” they clearly don’t matter to us in Dallas, as most of the killings are committed by black members of our society.

Our nation is at war with itself. If you are young, gifted and black, chances are you will not get to be old enough to brag about it. Rory Norman, a one-year-old, was killed last week. His family apparently was targeted in an ambush at their home.

How many children, how many babies, must die at our own hands before we realize we are our biggest enemy.

The City of Dallas and its Dallas Police Department are under political fire. This criticism is warranted as its leadership has the moral responsibility to provide security to its citizens. Whatever it takes to restore safety, sanctity, and sanity, the City must act.

The City of Dallas acting means it must not police and occupy because of crime stats. This was done earlier in a ham-fisted manner resulting in a Dallas citizen, Schaston Hodge, being shot sixteen times by the Texas Rangers.

The Mayor and the city manager are wringing their collective hands because this type of crime is bad for business. How can business interests bring corporate dollars to enrich Dallas further?

Now before we blame the Dallas Police Department on increased crimes of murders and assaults, let’s be real! These are often not random killings, but crimes which reflect our social ills. This crime upsurge cannot be solved by merely policing more or throwing money at the problem. This can only be changed if we change.

We alone must Silence the Violence.

Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall has been given an ultimatum to reduce crime. If she is going to reduce crime, a tremendous task, Chief Hall needs help from the black community. The community, our black community, must police itself.

We must Silence the Violence

The Black Lives Matter movement must immediately be an internal call for Dallas. We must stop the self-inflicted genocide that goes on yearly. If we do not, then 2020 will be just like 2019. If we do not, it will be another number, another death, and another hashtag.

Ed Gray is a presidential scholar at Southern Methodist University. He is the host of The Commish Radio Show airing Saturdays 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on, can be reached at NDG was awarded NNPA’s 2018 Robert S. Abbott Best Editorial for Gray’s “Confederate Statues: The White Man’s Burden” column.

Open House and Tour of The Historic Cloisters Castle

Hello my dear friends, I hope everything is well with you. My prayers go out to the family and friends who may have lost a loved one recently on the streets of Baltimore. I will try to talk about some things that will cheer you up for a moment.

If any of you are planning a wedding or an engagement party, stop looking. I have a perfect place for you that you may not even know exists. I am talking about the Historic Cloisters Castle, which dates back to 1932, with many architectural elements that date back even further which gives the house a much older appearance. The Castle features include a four-story spiral stair tower; chapel; cloistered garden; windmill; elaborate stained-glass windows and doors; multiple fireplaces; hand-painted murals; ornamental ironwork; and balconies. Now doesn’t that sound like a picture of beauty and a place to have an elegant event? Well, the Cloisters Castle invites newly engaged couples to kick off 2020 with a castle tour and meetings with local vendors at their Open House this winter.

Caterers, photographers, florists and more will be on hand to help with all planning needs to create the perfect wedding at this historic landmark of Maryland located at 10440 Falls Road in Lutherville, Maryland. Open Houses are scheduled for Saturday, January 25, 2020 and Saturday, February 8, 2020 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on both days. For more information, call 410-821-7448.

Mark G. Meadows will perform the music of Stevie Wonder on Saturday, January 25, 2020 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Caton Castle Lounge on Caton  Avenue & Hilton Street in Baltimore.

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Mark G. Meadows will perform the music of Stevie Wonder on Saturday, January 25, 2020 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Caton Castle Lounge on Caton Avenue & Hilton Street in Baltimore.

Baltimore has some of the greatest musicians— one of them is Mark G. Meadows, acclaimed jazz composer, pianist, vocalist, collaborator, recording artist, teacher and now actor. There is something for everyone in his music, which harmonizes pop, gospel, R&B, Hip-Hop, funk and jazz. Meadows, who released his third studio album “To the People,” in 2016, began his musical odyssey at the age of three with the gift of a toy keyboard. At age five, he started formal piano lessons under the tutelage of renowned Russian classical pianist and pedagogue Rosalie LeVant. Meadow is also an adjunct instructor at Shenandoah Conservatory and at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., where he directs and arranges for the Mellow Tones. This remarkable musician in person will perform the music of Stevie Wonder at the Caton Castle Lounge on Hilton and Caton Avenue on Saturday, January 25, 2020 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. II will be a great show!

Well, my dear friends, have fun, I got to go, but remember if you need me, call me at 410-833-9474 or email me at UNTIL THE NEXT TIME, I’M MUSICALLY YOURS.

Johns Hopkins Holds 38th Anniversary MLK, Jr. Commemoration

On Friday, January 17, 2020, Johns Hopkins held its 38th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration program in Turner Auditorium. The theme of the event was More Than 50 Years Later: Where Do We Go From Here?

During the event, Dr. Sherita Hill Golden, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Johns Hopkins Medicine, asked the event’s Keynote Speaker Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, President and Dean of the Morehouse School of Medicine questions in a “conversation-like” setting. During their discussion Dr. Montgomery Rice, who is the first woman to lead the Morehouse School of Medicine. highlighted Dr. King’s quote at the top of this story.

“If you want more black males in the classroom, just do it,” she said in noting the decline in the number of black males in the U.S. applying to medical school. “Figure out a way to find those students who have the scores and accept them. Put the resources in place. It’s not rocket science. Then as you do it, make room for significant conversations. We all gain by working together and that quote says it all.”

Dr. Robert Higgins is Director for the Department of Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“This event is an opportunity for all of us to pay homage to a great leader and humanitarian,” said Dr. Higgins. “Dr. King’s legacy lives on and on today and forever.”

During the event, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award was presented to Hopkins employees making exemplary contributions to their communities.

“Today we honor Dr. King’s memory by presenting these awards,” said Jennifer Nickoles, Vice President for Operations and System Integration for Johns Hopkins Health System and event Co-Chair. “They took it upon themselves to make a difference. By doing for others, they joined Dr. King as role models for equality. They empower individuals, strengthen barriers, and move us closer to Dr. King’s legacy for our nation.”

They honorees were: Adebola Giwa, M.D.; Jordan Grant; Dr. Erica Johnson, Vicki Migues-Jordan; Monique Levy; Celia Litovsky; Brittany Avin McKelvey; Kijon Renfroe; and Blossom Tewelde.

Giwa is a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. He raises funds for school supplies for the Loyola Early Learning Center, a Baltimore Head Start school. Grant is a student at Baltimore City College. The 16-year-old works with BMore Live, a community collective established to promote positive youth engagement. Dr. Johnson works at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center as its internal residency director. She and her colleagues formed Project Voice, an educational program designed to strengthen intergenerational ties and promote positive concepts related to aging.

Migues-Jordan is a Clinical Operations supervisor at Johns Hopkins Hospital. For the past 15 years, she had taken it upon herself to create more opportunities to give back to the community. Levy is a Patient Service Coordinator III at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She founded Led Ladies in 2012 to empower women to lead more stable lives.

Litovsky is a graduate student at The Johns Hopkins, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. She volunteers to help organizations that impact local prisons. McKelvey is a Graduate Student at Johns Hopkins University. She was 13 when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She dedicates time to supporting cancer patients and survivors. Renfroe is Project Associate with Johns Hopkins Healthcare, LLC. He has traveled to areas hit by catastrophes to help rebuild homes for families forced out by the disasters.

Tewelde is a medical student at Johns Hopkins University. She is a volunteer for the MERIT Health Leadership Academy, which mentors Baltimore City students interested in a medical career.

The free event also featured musical performances by Unified Voices of Johns Hopkins, and a reception. Kevin Sowers, President of Johns Hopkins Health System also spoke during the program.

“Today. we find ourselves in 2020, and ask ourselves the question, how far have we come’? said Sowers. “No matter how far we advance, there will also be new issues to conquer. It is up to us to educate the next generation of leaders. Light the fire of passion and compassion to overcome obstacles, so that as a society, we continue to move forwards always.”

Census Officials Kick Off $250 Million Ad Campaign In Washington

The U.S. Census Bureau unveiled its $500 million “Shape Your Future. Start Here,” 2020 advertising campaign on January 14, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Nearly $38 million— or approximately 16 percent— of the paid media budget is earmarked toward African American and black audiences. The “Shape Your Future. Start Here,” tagline is geared to helping underscore the notion that people can shape their future by responding to the 2020 Census.

At a news conference at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., Census officials revealed that they would have more than 1,000 ads that target a range of demographics in 13 different languages. Those ads are projected to reach 99 percent of U.S. households.

“The 2020 Census is here and like we say in the ad: ‘Across America, we all count,’” Steven Dillingham, director of the Census Bureau, stated at the news conference.

“The 2020 Census is your census, and its success depends on you. It’s a once-in-a-decade chance to inform how billions of dollars in funding are allocated for critical public services like hospitals and health care clinics, schools and education programs, roads and bridges, and emergency response for the next 10 years,” Dillingham said. “Through advertising, public events, partnerships and digital and traditional media, we are embarking on a nationwide effort to let everyone in the country know about the upcoming 2020 Census and encourage them to respond online, by phone or by mail.

“And we are extremely committed to reaching those people who are historically undercounted.”

The communications campaign includes television and radio commercials, digital, social media and print advertising and messaging on billboards and at bus stops.

The Census’ massive public education effort encourages participation among multicultural and hard-to-count populations with ads in English and 12 other languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

During the conference, several samples of the video advertisements were previewed. In one video, children were featured teaching adults how to count their forms. The ad aims to curb the routine undercounting of children. In another ad that’s specifically geared to African Americans called “The Mural,” Census officials highlight a desire for an accurate count in the black community.

“Taking the 2020 United States Census impacts how funding flows in our communities for many programs and services,” the ad notes. “Because when a community comes together, anything is possible.”

The ads will run on television, radio, the Internet, newspapers, magazines, billboards and various special events.

Bureau officials say there are three main phases of the campaign: Awareness, Motivation, and Reminder. The first began on Tuesday, January 14, the day of the news conference, and will run through March.

The Motivation phase will highlight how easy it is and the benefits of completing the Census, which can be done online, by telephone or through the mail.

During the Reminder phase, officials plan to mount a campaign that points out the urgency to count everyone with as many as 500,000 census takers and other employees swarming the nation seeking to collect data from all residents.

Census officials emphasized the importance of digital for the campaign.

About 29 percent of the paid media portion of the ad budget is allocated toward digital and social media channels; only television, at 39 percent, has a larger allocation. Johnson noted that as many as 65 percent of people are expected to complete the Census online this year.

The 2020 Census is billed as the most extensive collection of statistical information on everyone who lives in the United States and is required by the U.S. Constitution.

Responses to the 2020 Census will shape how more than $675 billion in federal funding is distributed to local communities.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s goal is a complete and accurate count and, utilizing paid media is a critical component of the campaign, according to officials.

In spreading ad dollars, the U.S. Census Bureau has decided against advertising in the Super Bowl this year after previously running ads in 2010 and 2000.

“It isn’t an efficient spend of taxpayers’ dollars,” Alex Hughes, a census program director at VMLY&R, which is handling the campaign, told reporters.

“The work, research and dedication that has gone into this campaign is unmatched to that of any previous censuses,” said Kendall Johnson, executive director of the communications contract for the Census Bureau. “Our outreach is multifaceted with a heavy focus on increasing response among groups that are historically undercounted. And it’s based on the most extensive research ever conducted to under- stand both what motivates people to respond to the census and what prevents them from responding.”