Upcoming ‘AfroPop’ Docuseries Designed To Give Audience A Unique Experience

Out of a dire need for more programming focusing specifically on the global black experience, a group of aspiring producers and filmmakers created “AfroPop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange,” to give viewers a unique portrait of black life other than what is widely portrayed in mainstream media.

AfroPoP is a public television show based in the U.S. featuring independent documentaries and short films about life, art and culture from throughout the African Diaspora which includes all of Africa, the Caribbean, Canada, South America, Europe, the U.S. and anywhere people of African descent have made a significant contribution to the culture. AfroPoP, according to its webpage, is the only series on American public television focusing solely on stories from the African Diaspora.

The independent documentary series is produced by Black Public Media (BPM), of which Leslie Fields-Cruz is executive director, distributed by American Public Television (APT), and partially sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

“Many complicated, opposing and controversial viewpoints are often presented about Africa. Perhaps because of this, Africa is one of the most fertile grounds in our modern age for new, fresh and exciting exploration,” says an AfroPop webpage.

Angela Tucker, AfroPop, Co-Executive Producer

Mariama Shepherd

Angela Tucker, AfroPop, Co-Executive Producer

Angela Tucker, an Emmy-nominated producer, writer and director, will also play a crucial in the production and dissemination of the content included in this season of AfroPop.

The documentary series co-executive producer is based in New Orleans and has an extensive background in filmmaking and producing.

Some of her most noteworthy directorial work includes: “Paper Chase,” a teen comedy in pre-production with Gunpowder and Sky; “All Styles,” a feature length dance film in post-production starring Fik-shun (“So You Think You Can Dance”); “Black Folk Don’t,” a documentary web series featured in Time Magazine’s “10 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life,” and (A)Sexual, a feature-length documentary that streamed on Netflix and Hulu for four years.

“Since I was young, I was always aware of there not being enough content that was about black life,” Tucker said of what sparked her to interest in black filmmaking.

“I really just always think about myself as a young person and how I really longed to see people that looked like me. From seeing people that looked like me in all different types of situations, you know you’re better able to understand yourself and the world that you live in.”

The Brooklyn, N.Y., native went to film school at Columbia University, and from there entered into the film industry working initially at a social issues documentary production company, which is when she met Fields-Cruz, the founder of AfroPop.

“We just sort of had a shared interest in finding more out… about black media,” Tucker said of the relationship that she and Fields-Cruz developed early on.

AfroPop is a documentary series in its 11th season. It will feature stories spotlighting the global black experience, and was created mainly to help bring stories of the African diaspora to American viewers.

Tucker saw the series as a means for providing further opportunities for black up-and-coming filmmakers.

“I think AfroPop allows or provides an opportunity for filmmakers to really grapple with complicated issues that are facing black people.”

Danielle Brooks, AfroPop Hostess

Terrence Jennings

Danielle Brooks, AfroPop Hostess

Each season has a different celebrity host. This season, Danielle Brooks will be the hostess and will be chiefly responsible for uniquely introducing the series’ five episodes. Brooks was approached by Fields-Cruz and series director Duana Butler, and agreed to host without hesitation.

Previous hosts of AfroPoP have included Idris Elba; Anika Noni Rose; Wyatt Cenac; Gabourey Sidibe; Anthony Mackie; Yaya DaCosta; Jussie Smollett; Nikki Beharie; and Nicholas L. Ashe.

This season will premiere on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, January 21, 2019 at 8 p.m. on the WORLD Channel, which is offered on most cable television providers. New episodes will air every Monday through February 18, 2019.

Tucker, moreover, accentuated the necessity for cross-cultural understanding in regards to the enlightenment AfroPop will provide for those unfamiliar with black culture.

“And also for people who are not black, I think it’s important for them to have a better understanding of different aspects of black life, just to understand us better.”

Throughout AfroPop’s offseason, episodes from this season will be rebroadcast on various channels. Tucker has been with AfroPop since 2011. She explained how the series has evolved, especially in its delivery to diverse audiences.

“One thing I would say is the internet has played a big role in letting more people have a better understanding [and] know how to find the series, and kind of raise the profile of the series,” she said.

“I think every year more and more people know about that, and that only benefits not only the films but the filmmakers. And I think we’ve always been really fortunate to get talent who also kind of helped raise the profile of that.”

The main topics covered in the upcoming season of AfroPop will include a look into the genocide in Rwanda, black politicians in the U.S., “a law enforcement unit in charge of fighting against abuse of Congolese women and children” activism against apartheid in South Africa and black cultural identity.

The single greatest aspect of AfroPop, said Tucker, is that it sends a message that the black community is not monolithic.

“There’s no one set of experiences that are singular to the black community,” she said. “So what this season rolls out— you’re able to really see that first hand by traveling all over the world.”

Tucker said she expects the docuseries gives the black audience an experience it will never forget.

“I hope that [black America] not only gets to see different parts of the world, but also what different characters felt.”

Viewers can find more information on the series, by visiting www.blackpublicmedia.org, http://afropop.tv/ or following them on Twitter (@BLKPublicMedia) or on Facebook. For viewing information, check local listings or www.APTonline.org.

National Trust Raises Over $10 Million To Preserve Historic Black Sites

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that one-year after the launch of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund the organization has hit a funding milestone, raising more than $10M dollars for this $25M initiative.

The Action Fund aims to uplift stories of African American achievement, activism, and community, crafting a narrative that expands a view of history, and that helps to reconstruct our national identity while inspiring a new generation of activists to advocate for diverse historic places, according to the announcement.

“We are proud of how over this past year we’ve helped to broaden the conversation about the places that matter,” Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a news release. “Since the launch of the Action Fund, we have seen overwhelming support across the country in saving spaces that tell the full American story.”

Launched in partnership with national foundations, and with support from a National Advisory Council, including co-chairs Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, and actress and director Phylicia Rashad, the Action Fund has changed the landscape of African American preservation.

In year one, the Action Fund empowered youth through a hands-on preservation experience, modeled innovative approaches to interpreting and preserving African American cultural heritage at historic sites, continued on-the-ground work protecting significant historic places, and launched a national grant program.

“The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund has seen remarkable grassroots engagement, in the more than 800 grant applications asking for help protecting African American historic places, and in the tremendous community support at newly-launched National Treasures like the John and Alice Coltrane Home,” said Brent Leggs, director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. “As we embark on year two of the Action Fund, we will continue working to foster a national landscape where every person can see themselves, their history, and their potential in our collective story.”

In this inaugural year, the Action Fund was able to award 16 grants, totaling more than $1M, to preservation organizations across the country, with funding going to support the preservation of sites and stories of black history.

The grants, presented at Essence Festival this July, covered work in communities from Birmingham to the South Side of Chicago, including sites of struggle and strength, according to the announcement.

“The Action Fund grant enabled us to move forward with the goal of transforming the August Wilson House into a community space, a hub of art, memory, and interpretation that will support young artists in Pittsburgh and across the country, and celebrate August Wilson’s legacy,” said Paul A. Ellis, Jr., executive director of the August Wilson House, an inaugural grant recipient.

Ellis, an attorney, is also Wilson’s nephew and the founder of the Daisy Wilson Artist Community, named after Wilson’s mother, Daisy.

“This house and this community are more than just a place where August lived— they are the inspiration for his plays, and the physical representation of what he was able to accomplish,” he said.

In addition to grant funding, the National Trust through its Action Fund has supported four new National Treasure designations, including the childhood home of singer Nina Simone, and Memphis-based Clayborn Temple, famed for its role in the Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968.

In the coming year, the National Trust has pledged to continue work on key preservation efforts, including conducting research exploring the impact that preservation has on contemporary urban issues that disproportionately affect communities of color— equity, displacement and affordability.

Additionally, support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will continue, from celebrating their history to advocating for the reauthorization of the HBCU Historic Preservation Program, which ensures that their histories and legacies are preserved.

“The Action Fund draws support from a renowned group of leaders in academic, business, government, arts and philanthropy, as well as the continued support of first-year lead funders Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, and others,” Leggs said.

BGE CEO Calvin G. Butler Jr. Honored With Governor’s Champion Of Service Award

— BGE Chief Executive Officer Calvin G. Butler Jr. was awarded the 2018 Governor’s Champion of Service Award from the Governor’s Office of Service and Volunteerism at the 35th Annual Governor’s Service Awards in Annapolis. Butler was recognized for his commitment to volunteerism in Maryland.

“I am extremely grateful to be recognized by Governor Hogan, Lieutenant Governor Rutherford and Van Brooks of the Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism for exemplifying the Governor’s spirit of volunteerism,” said Calvin G. Butler Jr, BGE’s chief executive officer. “This award recognizes me, but is a broader tribute to BGE’s 3,200 employees and speaks to the dedication they demonstrate every day to make a difference in the lives of our customers.”

Exelon, BGE’s parent company, has committed $35 million to Maryland nonprofits over the last five years and our employees volunteer 30,000 hours every year in Maryland with nonprofits that serve our communities to address economic development, public safety and civic issues to help enhance our neighborhoods.

The Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism was created and appointed by the Governor in 1994 and serves as a body of ambassadors for service and volunteerism in local communities. BGE previously received a citation for volunteerism and philanthropy in 2016.

Through the use of shareholder dollars, BGE supports programs that deliver measurable and sustainable impact in areas of education, environment, community development and arts and culture. To learn more about BGE’s community investments, visit: bge.com

Actor Omar Epps Discusses Black Fatherhood At Summit In West Baltimore

This year’s “Building Capacity Creating Impact Summit,” a conference hosted by the Center for Urban Families(CFUF), which focuses on workforce development, family strengthening and fatherhood, featured an exceptionally noteworthy guest whose recent work exhibits an insightful message with glaring relevance particularly in Baltimore’s black community.

Award-winning actor Omar Epps was the speaker at the annual Practitioners Leadership Institute (PLI) summit on October 20, 2018 in West Baltimore.

PLI, an initiative of CFUF, is a social service and community-based organization focused on developing practitioners working in the fields of family strengthening, workforce development and fatherhood.

Epps, known for his roles in timeless cultural films including “Love and Basketball” and “Juice,” was invited to discuss his new book, “From Fatherless to Fatherhood” and provide some valuable insight to local community members.

Epps’ new written work is an in-depth memoir of his upbringing as a young black male without a father, and the obstacles he overcame to become a successful and an involved father of three children.

“I think a lot of us— men and women— can relate to growing up without a parent and the effects that [has] on you,” Epps told the Baltimore Times. “Hopefully the book can be used as a tool of inspiration. And one of the main messages that I speak about is power of choice is always at our disposal. So it doesn’t matter what choices a person makes, a man makes— even if he had gone astray from fatherhood, he can always make the choice to get back on track.”

During the hour-long discussion, which was led by Joe Jones, the CEO and founder of CFUF, Epps covered a wide array of topics, from his navigation through the film industry, to life with his wife and three children, to various themes in his book, along with the journey of writing his book.

“I think my ultimate goal for writing this book ‘Fatherless to Fatherhood’ is trying to spark a change of narrative in our community,” Epps said to the audience of about 30 in a conference room at the CFUF.

With eloquence, grace and poise, Epps also stressed the necessity for black fatherhood and the challenges associated with being a father.

The Brooklyn, New York, native spoke openly about the deep-seated resentment he once had toward his father, a man whom he says never made a concerted effort to establish any type of relationship with him. But instead of letting the bitterness cultivate and intensify, Epps says he used that negative energy as fuel to change the narrative, to become successful, and to start and raise a beautiful family— ultimately showing his father he “made a grave mistake.”

A panel discussion addressing the current and changing funding landscape in Baltimore with some of the city’s most noteworthy corporate and community-based philanthropists, including Maryland Senator-Elect Antonio Hayes, John Brothers with the T. Rowe Foundation and Tomi Hiers of the Annie Casey Foundation was also on the agenda.

The PLI Fellows (Boys and Men of Color Academy) were recognized and given awards during a networking brunch. The award recipients were comprised of grassroots leaders representing Baltimore’s change agents who are working to support boys and men through programs offering mentoring, media, health and wellness, entrepreneurship, self-development and education.

Jones says he brought Epps in because he felt the message conveyed in his book “From Fatherless to Fatherhood” was congruent to what he and his organization want to communicate to the Baltimore community.

“What we do here, programmatically, particularly around our fatherhood work, we’re always looking for someone who has the experience and capacity to bring that message and to talk about it in a very authentic way,” said Jones, a fatherhood program coordinator. “And, with Omar, he has a new book— so it’s apropos for what we wanted to do. What we didn’t anticipate is how authentic he would be, and how much he would resonate with the audience.”

Epps brought his mother, Bonnie Maria Epps, whom he acknowledged as one of the most influential figures in his life.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my mom. I have an incredibly strong, loving mom who instilled a sense of self-worth in me at a very, very young age. And that’s the one thing that’s guided me through my life,” Epps said.

At the end of the discussion, Epps answered questions from the audience and expressed sentiments of optimism. He also signed books and took pictures with conference attendees.

Community Organizations Launch ‘One Book Baltimore’ Initiative Citywide

— More than 10 local organizations have come together to collaborate on “One Book Baltimore,” a new citywide initiative designed to provide opportunities for students, families and community members to connect through literature by reading the same book.

This year’s book is “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone. Launched at the Baltimore Book Festival last month, discussions and programming will be held across the city focused on the initiative’s themes of peace and anti-violence. Baltimore City Public Schools 7th and 8th-grade students will receive free copies of the book, and additional copies are available for check-out at all Enoch Pratt Free Library locations.

“Dear Martin’ follows its protagonist, Justyce McAllister, a young black teen, through his senior year of high school as he grapples with issues of race and identity through a series of journal entries addressed to Dr. Martin Luther King. The book was selected with input from students, teachers, librarians, and other Baltimore community members. By choosing a gritty narrative that explicitly deals with peace, anti-violence, and racial equity, One Book Baltimore’s collaborators hope that individuals may engage in meaningful open dialogue about their experiences and the challenges facing our communities, and that they may ultimately see a new path for themselves.

“To know that children— and adults— across the City of Baltimore will be reading and engaging with Dear Martin is an honor beyond measure, said author Nic Stone, about her book being a part of the One Book Baltimore initiative. “It is my deepest hope that slipping into Justyce’s shoes will open eyes and minds in a way that will move the world we inhabit a bit closer to that of Dr. King’s Dream.”

The idea for this initiative emerged from conversations among several local leaders in the wake of the social unrest in Baltimore that followed the death of Freddie Gray.

“We saw that other cities had used family literacy efforts to bring communities together and foster meaningful conversation,” said John Brothers, president of the T. Rowe Price Foundation.

Special programs tied to the book and themes of peace and anti-violence are scheduled through out the fall at Pratt Library locations across the city, including: community discussions about Dear Martin led by the Pratt’s Community Youth Corps, and a collaboration with the Media Rhythm Institute. There will be series of One Book Baltimore activities at every Pratt Library location during the Baltimore Ceasefire weekend scheduled for November 2-4, 2018.

Stone return to Baltimore to talk with City School’s students and for a discussion at the Pratt’s Northwood branch on Wednesday, December 12. Additional details on One Book Baltimore programming will be posted at www.prattlibrary.org/onebook.

One Book Baltimore, is a collaboration among the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore City Public Schools, Baltimore Ceasefire 365, Maryland Humanities, Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, Maryland Book Bank, First Book, CityLit Project, WBAL-TV, the T. Rowe Price Foundation and others.

Annual Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival Returns To City Dock In Annapolis

On Saturday, September 29, 2018, the 29th Annual Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival returns to Annapolis City Dock from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Locals and tourists can expect another action-packed day full of music, dance, eclectic entertainment, food and art for all ages while remembering an African, Kunta Kinte, who was brought to Annapolis on the Lord Ligonier in 1767 and sold into slavery. Kunta Kinte was introduced to the world by the late author Alex Haley in his novel, “Roots.”

Among the entertainment lineup scheduled on the Anne Arundel Community College Community Stage is a performance by Nathan Richardson, an accomplished performance poet and author who will portray abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. Simrin Speaks, a young artist, poet and inspirational speaker will be featured in an hour of young talent entitled the Generation Z Power Hour along with Annapolitan, child rapper Young Dylan, who has appeared on The Ellen Show.

Kankouran West African Dance Company from Washington, D.C. is scheduled to celebrate West African culture through dance and drumming. The music group “Clones Of Funk” return to the main stage as a headliner. Charis Jones, singer of the Boo’d Up Go Go Remix will entertain festival goers, along with other featured acts, including: Got My Own Sound; Annapolis Drum & Bugle Corp; and Craig Dobson and the Christian Cavaliers of Annapolis.

Jan F. Lee, chairperson of the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival and a host of volunteers have been working hard behind the scenes to meet their goal of making the festival bigger and better than last year. Over 90 vendors in food, arts and crafts, education and community categories will join the cultural celebration commemorating Kunta Kinte’s arrival in Annapolis; the perseverance, education, and cultural heritage of Africans, African-Americans and Caribbean people of African descent.

“We have more vendors than we’ve had in recent years,” said Lee, as she explained the importance of the involvement of both businesses and the community.

Over 90 vendors in food, arts and crafts,  education and community categories will join the cultural celebration commemorating Kunta Kinte’s arrival in Annapolis.

Andrea Blackstone

Over 90 vendors in food, arts and crafts, education and community categories will join the cultural celebration commemorating Kunta Kinte’s arrival in Annapolis.

There are many opportunities for sponsorships by local businesses. If sponsorships grow each year, bigger acts can be brought to the festival and local businesses, companies and organizations have the opportunity to get their brand and their names out to all of the people attending the festival, as well on-line.

Volunteers also contribute to the growth and success of the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival. Lee says that volunteers are always needed, during the festival.

Sisters Carolyn Young and Danielle Young have answered the call to volunteer during the festival for a little over 20 years. Their parents, Thomasine and William Young were previously food and entertainment chairs of the festival and the sisters are continuing to following in their parent’s footsteps by volunteer to chair the Food Committee and Arts & Crafts Committee.

“We’re getting bigger and we’re really excited about that, because we’ve worked on being bigger and [want] to get different age groups to understand the culture. We have vendors— and we have vendors of all ages,” Danielle said. “One of the exciting things that we have this year are young entrepreneurs— young children from ages 7-16.”

As a part of application process to participate in this year’s Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival, youth submitted essays about what inspired them to want to be a young entrepreneur, and what got them involved in what they make and sell.

“The festival has always included youth and young people,” Lee said. “But we really wanted to highlight them and give them an opportunity to shine in a different way this year.”

Her 16-year-old son, Daequan Smith who has been volunteering since he was four or five years old represents the next generation of Kunta Kinte festival goers.

“At the Kunta Kinte Festival, maybe you think it is just for African-Americans or native Africans, but as it’s grown, I think the public has seen that it’s for everyone. So we’re trying to reach a wide variety,” Carolyn said. “It’s not just for the older ones. The younger ones need to learn [about] their heritage and be proud of it.”

All nationalities and all ages are invited to attend the festival.

For more information about the Kunte Kinte Festival is available at: www.facebook.com/KuntaKinteFest/.

Broadway And Singing Sensation Cynthia Erivo Headlines BSO Gala

On Saturday, September 15, 2018, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) will present a dazzling program of Broadway hits and orchestral favorites for its 2018 Gala Concert.

The Orchestra will perform Strauss’s “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks” and selections from Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.” But perhaps just as exciting, the gala will feature a performance by Cynthia Erivo, who has gained global acclaim for her role in the hit Broadway revival of “The Color Purple.”

Among the numbers the Tony and Grammy award winner will perform are popular hits like “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

“I’ve never performed in Baltimore before,” Erivo said. “[However], the audiences can expect to enjoy themselves and I’ve picked a couple of different numbers that you probably wouldn’t expect me to do. I hope they can connect with me and have some fun and I think they will have a lot of fun and I want them to not just feel good but I want to sound good.”

Currently, Erivo is playing the female lead in the Fox television feature film, “Bad Times at The El Royale,” starring opposite of Jeff Bridges and Chris Hemsworth.

She recently wrapped up filming the Lionsgate feature, “Chaos Walking,” with a cast featuring Mads Mikkelsen, Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley and David Oyelowo.

In 2017, she filmed her feature debut in Steve McQueen’s “Widows,” with Oscar winner Viola Davis.

“It’s been busy. Many things are happening that are surprising and wonderfully exciting, and it’s been kind of crazy in between, because I have had different performances in Los Angeles and at the Kennedy Center,” Erivo said.

When asked where she draws her inspiration, she answered from her mother.

“My mom inspires me the way she raised me and the way that she’s one of those women who works really hard and seems to be able to achieve whatever she wants,” Erivo said. “She has the kindest heart and always makes me feel that I’m doing work that I’m meant to be.”

Erivo says she also uses Viola Davis and superstar Barbra Streisand as “templates of what she wants to achieve in life.”

She is looking forward to the gala and performing with BSO, which is internationally recognized as having achieved a preeminent place among the world’s most important orchestras.

Acclaimed for its enduring pursuit of artistic excellence, the BSO has attracted a devoted national and international following while maintaining deep bonds throughout Maryland with innovative education and community outreach initiatives.

The BSO made musical history in September 2007, when Maestra Marin Alsop led her inaugural concerts as the Orchestra’s 12th music director, making her the first woman to head a major American orchestra.

“It’ll be lots of fun!” she said.

For more about the BSO or for gala tickets, visit https://www.bsomusic.org/.

KIPP Baltimore Graduate Awarded $10,000 Scholarship

Latron Fleet, a graduate of KIPP Baltimore has been awarded a $10,000-per-year scholarship to help pay for his education at Morehouse College. The scholarship was made possible through a $600,000 United Negro College Fund (UNCF) scholarship program launched in partnership with Kevin Hart’s Help From The Hart Charity and KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Public Schools.

The $600,000 scholarship program will provide funding to support KIPP students from eight different cities who are attending 11 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Latron and the other students attended a scholarship program in Los Angeles, California, on Monday, August 6, 2018. During the program, they were presented with their scholarships by none other than actor and comedian Kevin Hart himself.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Latron. “I have always been a fan of Kevin Hart. When he walked in, we were all shocked and overjoyed. It was a surprise, because no one told us he would be there. I got to meet him for the first time.”

Hart made a $100,000 scholarship gift in 2015 through UNCF to four deserving college students. His latest donation is a continuation of his efforts to help students earn a college degree.

“Education and knowledge are powerful,” said Hart. “I just wanted to do my part in providing opportunities for our future leaders, especially from my Philly hometown, and show support for HBCUs. This is just the beginning; trust me when I tell you there are a lot more kids who want to go to college who don’t have the money to make it happen.”

UNCF is the largest provider of college scholarships for students of color in the United States, awarding more than $100 million in college scholarships annually to deserving students. Latron and the other scholarship recipients were selected based on their academic and personal accomplishments. They may also receive substantive renewable awards based on need.

Latron is a 2018 graduate of St. Paul’s School, and will attend Morehouse College in the fall. He will receive $10,000 each of the four years he is at Morehouse.

“This scholarship eases the stress on my family”, he said. “I have a brother and two sisters under me. My brother is in high school and preparing for college himself. By the time he reaches college, my family would still be paying for both his education and mines. This scholarship eases that financial burden.”

KIPP is a national network of 224 public charter schools dedicated to preparing students in educationally underserved communities for success in college and life. KIPP schools are part of the free public school system and enrollment is open to all students. KIPP Baltimore is located at 4701 Greenspring Avenue in Baltimore.

“KIPP taught me great organizational skills,” said Latron. “KIPP also prepared me for the workload of any situation. That really helped me to move forward in life, because I struggled with organization.”

Latron highlighted the efforts of Nicole P. Yeftich, Senior Manager of College Support at KIPP Baltimore.

“Ms. Yeftich knew about a scholarship that was only for KIPP students, and wanted me to apply for it.” recalled Latron, who produces and writes music and aspires to be an entertainer or manager. “She really helped me through the process. I really appreciate all of her efforts.”

He added, “I am also grateful to Kevin Hart and UNCF. Anyone who gives scholarships to people in need is appreciated.”

Yeftich, who noted that KIPP actively supports their students throughout their high school and college years, agreed with Latron.

“One of the biggest challenges we see on our College Placement Team, is the gap funding that is crucial,” she said. “Latron is one among many students incredibly capable. Unfortunately, the gap that exists between the cost of attending college, and what federal, state and universities are able to give, is enormous and prohibitive.”

She added, “The generous philanthropists like Kevin Hart who step in to create opportunities like this one are game-changers.”

NNPA, New Journal and Guide Host National Black Parents’ Town Hall in Norfolk

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) recently hosted its second National Black Parents’ Town Hall Meeting on Educational Excellence at the Gethsemane Community Fellowship Church in Norfolk, Va.

The event, which was livestreamed on Facebook and jointly hosted across the country in Los Angeles, kicked off the NNPA’s annual convention.

Panelists for the event, where questions and comments were discussed regarding the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), were Linda Langley Davis, the director of educational services for Hampton Roads, Inc.; Fred Smoot, a former Washington Redskins cornerback and motivational speaker; Rev. Dr. Kirk T. Houston, the founder and pastor of Gethsemane Community Fellowship Church; and Deidre Love, the executive director of the nonprofit Teens with a Purpose.

Dr. Elizabeth Primas, the program manager for the NNPA ESSA Public Awareness Campaign, moderated the panel.

“I’m a product of the Norfolk public schools and I’m also the mother of a child educated in the public school system and, as someone who’s taught for 33 years, I know the struggles teachers endure and it’s an uphill battle,” Davis said.

Each of the panelists acknowledged that teachers wear many hats, should be paid more, and all need the support of parents.

Smoot, who’s now a motivational speaker, said its important that educators realize that each student is different.

“Every child succeeds when they are taught in a different way. We have to stop the exit test and find out in the beginning what they need,” he said.

Houston, who once served on the local school board, said everyone, including parents, need to be educated about ESSA.

“One thing I learned on the school board was how little I know about education policies,” he said. “We need parental enlightenment and stakeholder participation,” Houston said.

Love, whose students gave an inspiring spoken-word performance before the town hall, said that the voice of the youth must be heard.

“Our mission is to create that platform to encourage young people to use their voice,” Love said.

The panelists and moderator all noted the sobering statistics facing African American youth, including that 45 percent of Black students attend high-poverty schools compared with just 8 percent of Whites.

The high school graduation rate of Black students is 76 percent, the second lowest among all ethnic groups, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“In 40 percent of U.S. schools, there are no teachers of color on staff,” according to a report by the Center for American Progress. “As a result, White students—and teachers—in these schools may miss opportunities to question assumptions about race, class, and privilege that they might encounter in their communities…”

As one parent at the meeting noted, school segregation today is worse than it was during the Civil Rights Movement.

One young person in attendance said that sobering fact has made life difficult for him.

“In some schools, I feel very uncomfortable, because I’m like the only Black person in the school while other schools I feel comfortable where teachers are African American, and they can relate to me,” said 11-year-old Doran Glass. “At school, I feel like I’m being looked at as a criminal.”

Glass’ sobering dialogue shifted the discussion of the meeting.

“That was a brave thing for this young man to stand up and be heard,” said NNPA President Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

Another young person asked what could be done to encourage more students to participate in discussions about education.

“The question came up about how to get young people more involved in events like this and the right answer is to ask that young person who asked that question is: what is it that he thinks should be done,” said Gregory Huskisson, the vice president of content and audience for the Wave newspaper in Los Angeles. “We need to do a better job of getting young people involved. The second thing is what kind of structural thing can you build into the program that would be more enticing for young people.”

Huskisson said it was a privilege to take part in the town hall from Los Angeles.

“The issue is critical to organizations like the Wave and the NNPA and we need to be focused on getting together and collaborating on getting solutions, because we are solutions-based organizations and we’re involved in a lot of community-based programs and projects,” Huskisson said. “Anytime the NNPA creates programming that’s focused on solutions in our community, especially ESSA, we are all about it and I applaud Dr. Chavis and the NNPA. I look forward to the next ESSA town hall.”

Stacy Brown is an NNPA Newswire Contributor and co-author of “Michael Jackson: The Man Behind the Mask: An Insider’s Story of the King of Pop.” Follow Stacy on Twitter @stacybrownmedia.

UA Basketball’s New Original Series Home Court: Baltimore

Under Armour Basketball’s new inaugural series, Home Court: Baltimore is now live on YouTube! This first season spotlights UA’s home base of Baltimore, Maryland, and explores the cultural impact basketball, style, food and music rooted in Charm City. Sarunas Jackson, star of HBO series Insecure and a former hooper, takes viewers on a journey of discovery, where he meets up with locals at iconic establishments within various inner-communities for an intimate view of B’more’s unique culture.

Baltimore is known for its tough attitude and preserving authenticity to the highest degree. Watching the series offers viewers a front seat to discover the streets of Baltimore and dive into the resilient nature of the city through the subcultures present in the game of basketball, homegrown fashion trends, truly local eats and the artists influencing Baltimore sounds via the underground club music of which the city is notorious for.

Directed by Shomi Patwary—a filmmaker known for his work with A$AP Mob, Beyoncé and Pusha T.

Episode 1: Ball-timore, where to hoop and how they ball

  • Conversations with NBA shooting guard Will Barton and Team Thrill, a youth basketball program he founded, and their greater vision of how they “protect the family”, represent the city, and what they hope to accomplish through the game
  • Balling with local legends Aquille Carr and Terry Hosley to showcase how the game has shaped their lives and casting a spotlight on the heated cross-town rivalries between the East and West side

Home Court: Welcome to Ball-timore

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