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Black Entertainment, Money, Style and Beauty Blogs - Black Voices

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    New Year's Eve has come and gone, but don't let the same thing happen to your resolutions! If you've made a goal to exercise more in 2011, don't let last year's fitness fashion stop you. The key to maintaining a long-term workout regimen is consistency, but that's not possible if you don't feel confident.

    BlackVoices' 10 workout-wear tips will help you to stay motivated and maybe even turn a few heads the next time you hit the gym.

    Make No Excuses
    Plus-size women have complained about not finding cute workout clothes in their sizes, but now there's no excuse not to look great at the gym. Brands like Junonia have a variety of styles and sizes that go up to 6X, making it easier to find a look that's just right for you.

    Invest in a Lightweight Jacket
    If the gym isn't your thing and you're more interested in pounding the pavement, invest in a warm but stylish workout jacket. Just be sure it's not bulky like your normal winter jacket, because you will work up a sweat and need the ability to freely move your upper body. This stylish belted Run Winter Jacket by Stella McCartney ($216, is cute and practical for winter runs.

    Avoid Odor and Bacteria
    Sweat and odor aren't chic, especially when you're working out in a room full of people. This year, get clothes that come with antibacterial technology, like a workout tank by Alo ($53, The tank's antimicrobial treatment prevents the increase of bacteria and keeps clothes odor free.

    Be on Time
    Keep track of your running times or yoga class schedules with this funky sports watch ($32, by Casio. It's not just cute, but it's also functional, offering features such as a day and month calendar, stopwatch and the ability to go under water. Now, there's no reason to ever miss an aerobic class again.

    Get the Right Shoes
    Shoes are probably the most important thing you will wear at the gym. When looking for workout shoes, don't go with casual styles like Converse, which have very little support or structure. Instead, find a shoe that coordinates with your primary workout, whether it's running, spinning, or a mild aerobics class. A shoe like the New Balance 870 ($100, is built for a light-impact workout, like the elliptical machine, and even offers side panel ventilation to prevent lingering odors.

    Remember the Details
    Sure, socks aren't glamorous, but they are essential for just about any workout. These days, simple items like socks come packed with tons of technology, ensuring you get the most out of your fitness regimen. If you're in need of new socks, be sure to stock up on K-Swiss Training Socks ($10, The socks come with pad cushioning to reduce soreness and pressure, an anti-slip wedge, and mesh for ventilation.

    Go Seamlessly from Work to Play
    Who says your workout has to end at the gym? While adding an additional workout to your life may seem like the last thing you want to do, sleek new footwear is making it stylish and fun to keep up with your fitness goals. FitFlop Footwear's Tall Boots ($225, are engineered to help tone and tighten your leg muscles while you walk, all with the look of a fashionable winter boot. Styles come in leather or suede and a variety of colors, allowing you to continue the workout long after you leave the gym.

    Don't Show Up Empty-Handed
    We've all seen that woman in the locker room who brings her workout clothes in a grocery bag or tattered tote. In 2011, step up your game and protect your valuables in a great sports bag that comes with various compartments and features, such as Ful's Sports Duffle Bag ($50,

    Keep it Right and Tight
    When you're cleaning out the garage or taking out the trash, sweats and an old T-shirt are just fine. But take pride in your appearance when you workout and ditch the baggy clothes. From yoga to dancing, break a sweat in clothes that hug your curves but allow you to move without restriction. Stock up on a few pairs of these leggings ($16.50, from Victoria's Secret's Pink line. These leggings will allow you to see your workout movements clearly due to its light and stretchy fabric.

    Protect "the Girls"
    Bra shopping is hard enough without adding the prospect of jumping, running or bouncing into the mix. The two keys to finding the perfect sports bra are fit and size. You want a bra that protects each breast separately because this will cut back on excess bouncing and provide more support than a typical sports bra. Also, look for sports bras that come in regular bra sizes, which fit more accurately and securely. Comfort Choice Active Support Bra ($19.99 to $24.99, fits those criteria and comes in a range of colors.


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    Waka Flocka Flame Is Back Behind Bars

    There is something about a jail cell that just seems to be a draw for far too many rappers. Waka Flocka Flame is starting out the New Year in the slammer -- again!

    The New York-born crunk hip-hop performer turned himself in to Atlanta's Henry County Sheriff's Office on Monday on charges that run the gamut from drugs and weapons possessions to street-gang activities to a probation violation.

    Waka, whose real name is Juaquin Malphurs, just can't seem to steer clear of law enforcement's radar. The 24-year-old top-selling artist was shot and robbed at an Atlanta car wash last January. He's serving four years probation for possession of a sawed-off shotgun. In March of last year, the rapper was also jailed for violating his parole by leaving the state for a concert.

    Waka's current charges stem from a raid at his suburban Atlanta home just last month. During the raid, police detained his "partner-in-crime," Gucci Mane, and other associates. Waka was not home at the time of the police entry. Authorities found drugs and weapons at the home.

    TMZ reported after the raid that prostitution might have also been involved. Waka's mother, Debbie Antney, who also serves as her son and Gucci Mane's manager, vehemently denied any of her clients' involvement in prostitution.

    Waka, whose single 'No Hands' is No. 2 song on Billboard's rap chart is being held on $31,950 bond.


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    Montel Williams Busted with Pot Pipe at Airport

    Former talk show host Montel Williams got busted at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee on Tuesday as he tried to go through airport security.

    Williams, a medical-marijuana proponent, was issued a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents. The 54-year-old was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis more than years ago and has fought for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. The sometimes-actor and infomercial spokesperson has been forthright in revealing that he uses the drug to ease the effects of his condition.

    About seven years ago, ironically, Williams experienced the very same thing at a Detroit airport when he was stopped for carrying drug paraphernalia.

    The Montel Williams MS Foundation, which the entertainer founded to further the scientific study of MS, is his main focus these days. Williams is also committed to locking arms with medical-marijuana advocates to ask Congress to allow him, and other MS victims, to use the drug without facing the confines of a jail.

    Meanwhile, the TSA allowed Williams to continue on his merry way, but he had to pay $484 in fines.


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    Is Editing the N-Word from

    One of the most disturbing scenes from the ABC miniseries "Roots" was the part where LeVar Burton's defiant Kunta Kinte was flogged until he whimpered in tired breath "my name is Toby." It was as disgusting as it was disturbing, but it brought home the message of how ugly chattel slavery was in Colonial America and thereafter.

    No version of the show has ever been changed to satisfy political correctness, so it brings question as to why new editions of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" would be published without the controversial (and too-often debated) 'n-word." The author, Mark Twain, used it and made his meaning plain when he published it in 1885.

    If you'd never been assigned to read Huck Finn in fourth grade, it's pretty much a sequel to "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," and involves the adventures of two boys living in the Antebellum South and their attempt to free an enslaved friend. Twain, known as much for his wit as he was for his white hair and handlebar mustache, rarely held back when it came time for social commentary and did not censor himself much in his writings.

    But that's the point. Because Twain never wrote with light ink, his message always got across and he is still widely read an entire century after his death. So despite how painful it is for us to read the word "ni**er," perhaps that was his intent.

    Tons of comedians and rappers defend the use of the n-word because they feel embracing it nullifies the damage it can do. But I think the opposite. It should do as much damage as pouring alcohol on an open wound. They say it doesn't mean the same thing for this generation, that its meaning has been turned upside down.

    They are wrong. I don't know of a single person who became more educated, wealthy or enlightened because they go around saying "ni**er" all the time. I have yet to see a societal problem solved, a war ended or a disease cured by the n-word.

    And that's why it should not be edited out of Twain's novel. Its use by the characters is clearly to denigrate Jim and all other blacks. The prose of the book makes it clear that its use doesn't nullify anything. Simply put "ni**er" is how racists want to look at blacks. Huck Finn illustrates that fact with the point that a truly free person would never want to wear the name given to him by someone who hates him.

    That is something you can never turn upside down.

    Racial slurs are not a good part of our language. They are meant to hurt and they should stay that way. Yes, we have to acknowledge that groups of people begin to use their epithets among themselves, and it does serve a defensive psychological purpose.

    At the same time, those same epithets should be regarded as ugly bastardizations of our language, rather than something we make a permanent part of the vernacular for 14-year-olds with pants hanging below their butts, who say the n-word on public transportation with little regard for who hears him.

    At that point, it becomes a sign that people really don't have to think before they speak. It becomes a sign that we're teaching our children they don't have to be responsible with their words. And when that happens, words really do lose their meaning.

    And we become a culture of people who have nothing to say at all.


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    O.J. Pal Cuts Deal for Prison Release

    Clarence "C.J." Stewart, convicted thief and O.J. Simpson co-defendant, has cut a plea deal with prosecutors in Clark County, Nevada that will free him from prison after his 2008 conviction.

    How long do you think it will be before we hear from Simpson's attorneys looking for a deal to free the disgraced football legend?

    Stewart was convicted in 2008 of helping Simpson in a ridiculous attempt to get back his own sports memorabilia from sports dealers which Simpson said had been stolen from him.

    The episode which played out in a Las Vegas hotel room was so comical, with Simpson and friends bearing weapons and hurling movie-line threats against the sports agents, it seemed like it might have been an outtake from on of Simpson's "Naked Gun" movies.

    But in the end, it was the hotel room incident, not his deep involvement in the murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman a decade earlier, that ultimately sent one of the greatest running backs in NFL history behind bars.

    The Nevada Supreme Court threw out Stewart's conviction in October saying he didn't get a fair trial because he was tried alongside Simpson. He served 27 months of the 7 and one-half year to 27-year prison term.

    Simpson is facing a 33-year prison term and might be serving a significant portion of it before he gets any freedom.

    A spokesman for the prosecutors' office said Simpson was offered a plea deal to serve a little more than 2 years in prison during the trial. He turned it down, gambling he would be found not guilty.

    "He rolled the dice in Las Vegas and lost," said Clark County D.A. David Roger.

    Simpson dodged a bullet when he was found not guilty of the Brown Simpson/Goldman murders in 1994 despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

    If O.J. were smart, he would have kept his nose clean, stayed out of trouble and avoided silly gun play in Las Vegas hotel rooms. Then he would have been able to live out his life playing golf and trading on his fame as a slightly sullied but attention-grabbing grandfather.

    Can you imagine the money O.J. would command in the new reality show-driven world of television today?

    Instead, the 63-year old is behind a prison cell. And it looks like he will be there for a while.


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    2010 was filled with quite a few celebrity heartbreaks, but we're happy to see that 2011 is off to a hopeful and loving start!

    Sherri Shepherd received the ultimate Christmas gift from boyfriend Lamar Sally. According to People, Sally popped the question to 'The View' and 'Newlywed Game' host the day after Christmas, but not before asking Shepherd's 5-year-old son, Jeffery, for permission.

    "Upon arriving back to Lamar's home in Los Angeles from a trip to San Diego, Shepherd was surprised to find their accommodations had been decorated with lights by one of Sal's best friends, her dog was wearing a Santa beard and hat, and in the middle of a dish of Sherri's favorite but forbidden M&M's (she is diabetic) was a tiny little box," her rep told People.

    The couple -- who have been dating for more than a year -- were introduced by the fiancé of Shepherd's good friend Niecy Nash. The two plan to tie the knot during August in Shepherd's hometown of Chicago.

    Shepherd isn't the only one headed toward marital bliss. Actress Vivica Fox, 46, and her party promoter beau, Omar "Slim" White, 27, are also engaged. According to People, White presented Fox with an 8-carat diamond ring over the holidays while the two were staying at the Ritz-Carlton on South Beach.

    "She is over the moon - so excited, so in love," a source close to Fox told People. "They are both eager to start their lives together and have a family." The couple went through a brief breakup in 2010, before reconciling. This will be Fox's second marriage (she was previously wed to singer Christopher Harves) and White's second.

    Eva Gets Her Groove Back

    Despite being in the midst of a public divorce from her basketball husband Tony Parker, Eva Longoria is dealing with it just fine with the help of her new man, Eduardo Cruz. The New York Post reported that Cruz, who is Penelope Cruz's younger brother, was spotted at the actress' home around the holidays.

    Longoria's neighbors claim she's been spending a great deal of time with the Latin singer, who is 10 years her junior. "He's there at least three nights out of every four -- he turns up and he leaves the next morning," a source told OK!

    Longoria's rep denies that the two are an item saying, "Eva and Eduardo are friends." We're just glad to see her moving on -- even if he is just a rebound.


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    Real-Life Superhero Fights Crime in Seattle Suburb

    By now, you must have heard the story of the real-life superhero, complete with an identity protecting mask, colorful bulletproof crime-fighting suit and Taser nightstick, who is running the streets of suburban Seattle to stop crime.

    Yeah, that is a good one! About as funny as a hernia, which, by the way, I hope this so-called crime-fighting fool suffers from when trying to run down his next thief.

    I'm sorry, but I see little that is cute, amusing or even safe in the idea of this clown patrolling the streets like Superman.

    Like most people I know, I have enough to worry about just walking the streets.

    The last thing I need is for some fool in his skin-tight drawers running up to me in a dark alley. Call me a humorless old man, but I would look for the nearest bottle or board and lay it across his skull if I saw him approach me without cause.

    It seems this foolishness is the brainchild of a man calling himself Phoenix Jones, who has been on his crime-fighting crusade for the past nine months.

    He said he has been stabbed and had several guns pulled on him but hasn't been seriously injured -- yet. That will change someday soon, I assure you, if this man with a serious Superman complex doesn't get his costumed butt off the streets and into a mental ward.

    If he were really serious about stopping crime, he would organize a neighborhood watch along the lines of the Guardian Angels, who have been bringing safer streets to American communities for decades.

    But dressing up like a comic book character and trying to stop crime on real streets in America is a fool's errand. The criminals Phoenix Jones runs into won't crumble with one punch or fire bullets that always miss the target like comic book bad guys.

    They play for keeps.

    Then we will see how many people are laughing when this clown ends up dead.

    Check out Phoenix Jones here:


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    Gibbs Leaving As Obama's Chief Mouthpiece

    No one has been a more visible spokesperson for President Obama than 39-year-old Alabama-native Robert Lane Gibbs.

    With his stocky build and bulldog demeanor, Gibbs has fielded every query imaginable at news briefings about the president with admirable loyalty, calm and humor.

    But that will come to an end next month when he will leave his post next month to work as a strategist and speech maker for Obama's upcoming re-election campaign.

    From defending health care reform legislation to smoothing over Obama's infrequent slips of the lips, Gibbs had become a regular presence to millions of political-news junkies across the nation.

    While seeing a new face explain the president's policies at briefings will take some getting used to, the change of presidential press secretaries is fairly routine. The job requires extremely long hours of daily preparation and tremendous attention to detail that burns out the best spokespeople.

    So far, vice presidential spokesman Jay Carney and Gibbs' top deputies Bill Burton and Josh Earnest are being mentioned as possible successors.

    Gibbs' departure could be the first of a few at the White House, which is still smarting after getting beat down at the polls in November's election.

    White House Chief of Staff Peter Rouse could also be replaced in the coming months with William Daley, former U.S. commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton, who is rumored to be in line for the chief of staff gig.


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    Debt-Free in 2011
    If you want to get out of debt in 2011, you're not alone. A survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling reveals that reducing debt is Americans' top financial New Year's resolution. What else are Americans planning to do to fix their finances? According to the NFCC survey, which was conducted online, individuals who were polled stated the following:

    My #1 New Year's resolution for 2011 is to:
    A. Decrease debt: 69%
    B. Increase savings: 7%:
    C. Improve my credit score: 18%
    D. Decrease my dependence on credit cards: 7%

    It's high time Americans got serious - and I mean really serious - about becoming debt free. Studies like the NFCC's often show that people want to get out of debt, say that they plan to pay off debt, and yet fail to follow through. As a Money Coach, I know that LIFE often gets in the way of people's best intentions.
    LIFE is an acronym that describes the four ways that your budget gets out of whack - forcing you to spend more than you planned for the month, or causing the best-laid plans to get scrapped because of unforeseen events and unanticipated situations. When emergencies and other unexpected things happen, you can wind up in debt - or unable to pay off that debt you've vowed to get rid of.

    But you can counter this problem with careful planning and by recognizing how LIFE events can impact your budget. Here is what LIFE means:

    -Listed items are under-calculated.
    The "L" in LIFE stands for expenses that are "Listed" items in your budget, but your numbers are actually way off the mark. Unfortunately, many individuals who draw up budgets don't use very precise numbers.

    People have a tendency to underestimate their spending. Take cellular phones, for example. If you own one, you probably account for it in your monthly budget with a figure like $49.99 - or whatever your basic monthly charge happens to be. But do you find that you regularly talk beyond your allotted cell phone minutes, so that you wind up with a mobile phone bill closer to $80 per month? If so, you need to adjust your budget and put in more realistic numbers for this expense.

    Household bills, like electricity and gas, are another area where people get tripped up. They include these expenses as a flat cost in their budgets, say $100 a month. But their heating or air conditioning bill is routinely far more than that $100, especially during times of extreme weather.

    -Impulse purchases seduce you.
    The "I" in LIFE stands for "Impulse" items that you buy on a whim.

    We all make impulse purchases from time to time - but some people do it on a regular basis. It may be that you're reading the newspaper and you see a discount coupon for a retail store you like. And before long, you're at the mall, shopping. Other times, you may be surfing the Internet looking for information, when a pop-up advertisement seduces you with some intriguing offer. Next thing you know, you've whipped out your credit card to buy some product or service. You've also derailed your plans to become debt-free.

    -Forgotten bills surface.
    The "F" in LIFE stands for "Forgotten" bills.

    Some bills get paid annually or perhaps twice a year. If you're not careful in your planning, you can exclude these expenses from your budget, and then when the bills come due, you realize you forgot all about them.

    Has this ever happened to you? If so, don't omit from your budget those expenditures that may not be paid on a monthly basis - things like your homeowner's or auto insurance, the maintenance fee for the vacation timeshare you own, your gym membership, or any annual fees you pay to belong to personal, professional or civic organizations.

    -Emergency or unexpected events occur.
    The "E" in LIFE stands for "Emergencies".

    Lastly, there are obviously times when emergencies - like a burst boiler unit - can ruin a budget. Try to minimize these events with preventative measures, such as regularly servicing your boiler, having routine maintenance done on your car to avoid breakdowns, and making periodic visits to the doctor to stave off serious medical conditions.

    Once you realize that LIFE happens to everyone, you can take some steps to safeguard your budget. Start by reviewing your finances and taking a hard, realistic look at your overall spending habits. If you've been vastly under-calculating listed items in your budget, make the necessary adjustments. If you make too many impulse purchases, carry less cash with you or put your credit cards away, to minimize the temptation to buy on a whim. Also, fine-tune your budget so you don't forget any one-off bills. And finally, consider what you can do to reduce those "emergency" situations - especially the kind that can be cured with a little preventive medicine.

    Getting out of debt will only happen with a plan and by exercising the diligence necessary to stick to that plan. I know that from first-hand experience, having dug myself out of $100,000 in credit card debt in just three years. I can tell you unequivocally that it's a wonderful feeling to be debt free.

    So let today mark the day you get serious about having zero debt too. You can begin now, simply by thinking for a few moments about your own budget busters and answering two basic questions. First, which of these areas in LIFE seem to consistently ruin your finances? Write them down. Now, most importantly, ask yourself: What can I do to prevent these problems -- and others that have kept me in debt -- from recurring in the future? Write your answers down again, and refer back to them frequently.

    Once you can answer these questions, and live with the answers (read: solutions) you've created for yourself, you're well on your way to reaching your goal of becoming debt free.

    Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, an award-winning financial news journalist and former Wall Street Journal reporter for CNBC, has been featured in the Washington Post, USA Today, and the New York Times, as well as magazines ranging from Essence and Redbook to Black Enterprise and Smart Money. Check out her New York Times best seller 'Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom.'


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    Golden Voice: Ted Williams, Homeless Man

    It's shaping up to be a true rags-to-riches story. Ted Williams (pictured), a homeless man from Ohio, often stood on the side of the highway with a sign proclaiming that he had "the God-given gift of voice."

    A reporter from The Columbus Dispatch saw Williams and decided to film a video. When Williams opens his mouth, it's immediately clear that he is not exaggerating. His voice sounds exactly like the one you hear when the radio announcer says the station's call letters or that guy whose voice you hear narrating movie trailers.

    And we've all been tricked in to seeing some bad movie because the announcer's voice combined with the best scenes in the movie actually made the film seem interesting.

    Williams has that type of voice.

    His story is typical in many ways. Williams says struggles with drugs and alcohol, beginning in 1996, landed him on the side of a highway:

    "I have a god given gift of voice. I'm an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times. Please! Any help will be greatfully appreciated. Thank you and God bless. Happy holidays," Williams wrote on his sign.

    He gave motorists a sample of his magnificent voice for a buck a pop. Williams says he was an ex-radio announcer who has been clean for two years now. After the video appeared online, it went viral with more than 3 million people viewing the clip.

    Since then, Williams, a father of nine, has begun making a slew of media appearances. He appeared on the CBS' "The Early Show" and had already cleaned up quite well with a new haircut. The Cleveland Cavaliers have offered him a job as an announcer and living expenses. NFL Films also wants him to do some work for them.

    The Cavaliers aren't concerned about Williams' past. The AP reported that Williams has been arrested and served time for theft, forgery and drug abuse. His most recent arrest was May 14 when he pleaded guilty to a minor theft charge. Williams listed his address as "Streets of Columbus" on law enforcement documents.

    "We believe in second chances and second opportunities," Tracy Marek, the team's senior vice president of marketing told the AP. "The gentleman deserves an opportunity to explain certain situations. We're not jumping to conclusions. It's not fair."

    Williams' hopes are modest.

    "I would just like to have a job, a home, an apartment or anything to be able to cook in. I would like to get my life in a responsible area of a 53-year-old man, a taxpaying citizen and try to put some of my bad memories ... I'm not going to forget where I came from ... but I just want to put some of that on the back burner and continue with my life, whatever is left to live," Williams said. "I was holding that sign with the hopes or wishful thinking that someone was going to ride by and say, 'Hey man I got an Internet radio station that could use some production work.'"

    But now Williams is getting much more. One of the benefits of his media tour is that he will get to come to New York to see his 92-year-old mother.

    "One of my biggest prayers that I sent out was that she would live long enough to see me rebound," Williams said.

    "She has always been my best friend," he said, crying. "When I was a kid, she would take me down to Radio City Music Hall and on the subway. I'm just glad that she is still around. I prayed that she would live long enough that I could make her proud and see could her son do something other than stand along the side of the road with a sign asking for money."

    Williams' mother Julia Williams said she's happy to see her son getting his act together.

    "This will be my day to see my son get up and do something to help himself," said Julia Williams. "He has so much talent. I hope this will be the thing for him. He came from a nice family. And then he went poor, poor. So, maybe this will build him up and let him see that there's more in life than hanging around with the wrong people, and taking drugs."

    Williams says he's now more "appreciative of life." He says he has found God and, even before his new found fame, had found a sense of peace.

    "I can't believe what's going on," said Williams. "God gave me a million-dollar voice, and I just hope I can do right by him."

    It's such a wonderful story that you can't help but smile. It's always sad to see talented people who are loved by their family and friends succumb to drugs and alcohol. Williams' story should serve as a cautionary tale to all of those who think that nothing will happen to them if they dabble in drugs. Williams' addiction became so severe that he couldn't properly utilize his God-given gifts.

    Williams now has a second chance and hopefully he will get the tools and support that he needs to make the most out of it. I don't know about you, but I'm curious how Williams' voice sounds in movie theater surround sound.


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    Tavis Smiley
    What is your name and what do you do?
    My name is Tavis Smiley, and what I attempt to do is to enlighten, encourage, and empower people through a number of broadcast and internet outlets.

    What are some of your thoughts on the importance of financial education in the black community?
    Put simply, too many of us spend money we don't have, to buy stuff we don't need, to impress folk we don't even like. If we could ever arrest this development, we could get on down the road toward financial prosperity.

    What personal philosophy do you follow on money?
    The same advise my Grandfather gave me years ago: "Make all you can. Can all you can. Sit on your can." In other words, make it, invest it, and watch it grow.

    How do you think the internet and social media has helped or hindered financial education?
    The short answer is, there is so much financial information available via the internet that ignorance is no longer an acceptable excuse. I've tried through my internet outlets, namely through a program that we call Road to Wealth, to empower people with financial information that can help them live better lives and leave greater legacies.

    Do you have any financial and professional advice for the black community?
    Yes, save more and spend less. It's really that simple.

    Is it necessary for President Obama to create more economic programs targeted towards the black community?
    ABSOLUTELY! This notion promulgated by the White House that "a rising tide will lift all boats," is nonsense. All the boats didn't go down at the same time, and all the boats are not going to come up at the same time. Wall Street and Harlem are on the same island called Manhattan. Wall Street is coming up and Harlem is going down. And besides, if when the tide does comes up, and you're in a yacht and I'm in an inner tube, we've still got a problem! And we haven't even talked about the folk who are in the water! But I digress.

    What has been the scariest/funniest/best moment in your career?
    All three of the above are yet to come. What I love most about the work that I do is that every day is uniquely different. On any given day I try to do something that scares me; I'm always looking for the funny; and while I don't believe in "best," I'm always striving to get better.

    What surprised you the most about the financial side of your industry?
    That I could work this hard and make so little. I'm working like a Jamaican!

    How has Twitter helped you in building your brand and running business?

    On Twitter, I try not to focus on the frivolous, although I ain't mad at others who do. What I attempt to do is to use Twitter to comment on the things that matter most to me. These are serious times, with serious issues that demand a serious discourse. I'm constantly amazed at the power of Twitter to do good. You should follow me, @TavisSmiley!

    Do you have any financial and professional advice for aspiring public figures out there?
    Sure. We live in the age of truth and transparency. Recognize it and you will prosper. Ignore it at your own peril.

    What upcoming projects do you have in store for us?

    They're all listed at That said, 2011 is my 20th year in broadcasting, and we have a number of events and projects that we're unfolding throughout the year to celebrate the occasion.

    Is there anything else you'd like to share with our AOL Black Voices audience?
    Yes. I love you and there ain't nothing you can do about it!


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    2010 was filled with notable music releases from some of today's biggest names, including Drake, Kanye West and Keyshia Cole. Some of our favorites hip-hop stars -- such as Nas and Lupe Fiasco -- had their albums pushed back by their labels much to the dismay of fans.

    And artists such as Jill Scott, Lil Wayne and Beyonce are rumored to be in the lab cooking up new music. takes a look at (and makes some predictions about) which artists will produce 2011's biggest albums.


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    Last night, right when I was about to go to sleep, I got a call from CNN's 'Anderson Cooper 360.' Well, I think they call it 'AC360' now, but who's keeping track? At any rate, they wanted to talk about a book that most of us have heard about called 'Huckleberry Finn,' written by the late Mark Twain.

    My trusty assistant, who effectively runs my life, gave me the news: "They want you to talk about the book 'Huckleberry Finn' and whether or not it's good that the latest version takes out the n-word. They're surprised that you, as a professor, are okay with the change."

    I paused for a second and then asked, "They do know I'm black, right?"

    Actually, I could never say that being black is a condition for finding the change acceptable, since several of my academic colleagues have been looking at me cross-eyed. But before I became a professor, I was a little black boy in public school who didn't enjoy hearing my white English teacher recite the n-word 219 times to make a point. Did I need to hear the word over and over again to get the point of the book? Did it make sense that my white friends, unable to understand the broader lessons being shared by this verbal abuse, were reciting words from the book in order to provoke me into a fight? Perhaps my principal would have taken all this into account before suspending me for knocking someone out for repeating that word in my presence in a derogatory way.

    Here's the deal: I would not, for one second, advocate for the idea of some government agency making a law stating that the raw version of 'Huckleberry Finn' should not be available for those who wish to read it. But when it comes to the version of the book that is forced down the throat of black schoolchildren, parents should at least have a choice.

    In nearly every form of artistic expression, the concept of age appropriateness come into play. We don't play music on the radio with profanity, no matter how relevant the language is to making the point of the artist. The politically relevant hip-hop classic 'F*ck the Police' by NWA would never be played in its rawest form for kids in a public school, in spite of the fact that this song was released right before the L.A. riots and reflects the dramatic and storied relationship between black men and the police. Although the four-letter word in the chorus is relevant to making the artists' point and would be perfect for a Hip-Hop, Race and Politics class, it would not be acceptable for the song to be played in a public school.

    Those who stand adamantly against any type of filtering for any art form in any context for any age group have a long fight ahead of them, since we are consistently deciding which movies, songs and video games are appropriate for our children. There are a multitude of ways to teach the atrocities of slavery to young people without using Huck Finn, the same way I can teach young people about the horrors of rape without forcing them to watch a rape in process.

    So, the bottom line appears to be this: Those who've chosen to modify the original form of 'Huckleberry Finn' are making the same business decision as any studio that releases a made-for-TV version of a film or a version of a song for the radio. By creating the clean version of the art form, the market is expanded and more copies of the work can be sold. The business model and logic are the same, even if the art happens to be 125 years old.

    We'll be discussing the topic again on CNN's 'Joy Behar Show' tonight at 9 p.m., I'll be on with my good friend Marc Lamont Hill, who happens to disagree with me. But brothers can disagree without either one of us being completely correct. His points on freedom of speech are certainly valid and relevant, but Marc also doesn't have teenage children.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce's commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here.


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    Obama Expected to Name New Economic Adviser
    Perhaps President Obama is taking advantage of his higher approval rating to make changes, showing the American public that this time he really means business -- in terms of making the economic environment of the U.S. his top priority. The rallying cry of many of Obama's main critics has been "jobs, jobs, jobs!" Some think that the president's lack of focus on jobs cost the Democrats control of the House, and that he wasted a lot of his political capital focusing on health care when creating jobs is our number one issue. Well, as one of his first major moves in 2011, President Obama is showing that he has re-focused in alignment with the wishes of the people by naming a new economic adviser, set to be announced on Friday. The Associated Press reports:

    The White House says President Barack Obama will likely announce his new chief economic adviser on Friday, the same day the government issues its monthly unemployment report.

    Gene Sperling, a Treasury official and deficit hawk with ties to Wall Street and the Clinton administration, is considered most likely to take over as director of the National Economic Council. He would replace Lawrence Summers, who has returned to his teaching position at Harvard University.

    Other White House staff changes are expected in the next few days.

    The government will issue the December unemployment report on Friday. The unemployment rate continues near 10 percent. Obama has said creating jobs and getting people back to work will be his highest priority for the remaining two years of his term.

    Former Economic Adviser Lawrence Summers was critiqued by our BV blogger Dr. Boyce Watkins in 2010 as an unfortunate choice for the Obama administration, because he was too out of touch of the real needs of the average American: Jobs. Hopefully Sperling, who has real-world experience working with the federal government is a better choice and will make economic leadership decisions that will both stimulate jobs creation and be feasible to implement within the current political atmosphere. Some think that hiring Washington insiders is a bad thing, but sometimes it's good to have people around who know how to get things done in a complicated and extremely political city.


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    Phylicia Simone Barnes: Black and Missing

    Baltimore police suspect foul play in the disappearance of 16-year-old Phylicia Simone Barnes. The North Carolina teenager was visiting family in Baltimore over the holiday weekend, when she was reported missing on Dec. 28th.

    Police are seeking nationwide assistance in locating Barnes, because they believe she may have been taken out of the state of Maryland:

    "It is likely that she may have been taken outside the state of Maryland," Baltimore Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told in an e-mail.

    "Detectives are growing increasingly concerned with this disappearance and now suspect foul play, possibly abduction,"Guglielmi wrote. "Investigators have no leads."

    Barnes was scheduled to graduate early from high school and wanted to attend Towson University. She has no criminal record and no history of running away. Homicide detectives are now involved in the case.

    Both Barnes' mother and father have spoken out. The family gathered at a vigil Saturday and pleaded for the safe return of their daughter:

    "I know she's traumatized right now. She's scared out of her mind right now. She's a little innocent girl who does not do any harm to anyone," said Barnes' mother, Janice Sallis.

    "My family is not sleeping. My family is not eating," said Barnes' father, Russell Barnes.

    The Charlotte Observer is reporting that Barnes' mother is upset because the apartment where her daughter was staying with her older sister had been visited by at least 20 men.

    "Deena Barnes misled me," Sallis said to the Observer. "I'm a very protective mother. She assured me it would be just she and Phylicia.

    This is a sad case that only emphasizes how important it is that we know where are children are at all times.

    Barnes was last seen wearing a navy blue pea coat with a hood, a turquoise shirt and blue jeans, white slipper-boots and was carrying a caramel-colored purse.

    Anyone with information in the case is urged to contact Baltimore Police at 443-984-7385.


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    Russel Simmons New Book
    Russell Simmons, in an essay on the Huffington Post promoting his new book, Super Rich: A Guide To Having It All, asks his audience: What would you do if you were super rich? The answers may surprise you. People responded on Twitter with a range of answers showing the breadth and depth of the spirit of caring. Here are some of Russell's top answers:

    @buyhousescheap wrote, "If I were #SuperRich I would rebuild Haiti."

    @313Don214 said, "If was super rich I would buy an apartment building to give the homeless a second chance."

    @Tim Summa wrote, "I would put away enough money to help my family, then I would start to help the youth. There would be after school programs, or maybe I would start my own schools."

    @Antwon Butler Sr said, "I will help with all the inner city school and make sure they all get an education jus like the private school kids get, ya dig."

    @FlavianaMatata said, "If I was #SuperRich I would...make sure at least 25% of Tanzania ppl could use internet..."

    And there are even more great ideas where that came from, showing that people also have an instinct to share wealth, not only horde it. During this difficult time in America when so many are losing their economic security through job loss or the loss of a home, it is eye-opening to see in plain words that fiscal uncertainty can't crush the basic human desire to provide for the welfare of others.

    So I ask also you, BV community: What would you do if you were super rich? It's a great question, and I commend Russell Simmons for asking it. It opens up a dialogue that helps to put our personal financial problems in perspective and become interested in helping our world. I for one would work on establishing education centers, group living facilities and jobs training programs for single mothers in an environment that supports the care of both mothers and children, in order to break the cycle of poverty that so often affects this vulnerable group.

    What would you do if you were super rich?
    Leave your comments below!


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    Coming out this week is 'Season of the Witch,' starring Oscar winner Nicolas Cage.

    Directed by Dominic Sena, the film also stars Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell Moore, Robert Sheehan, Claire Foy, Ulrich Thomsen, and Stephen Graham.

    Nicolas Cage stars in this supernatural action adventure about a heroic Crusader and his closest friend who return home after decades of fierce fighting, only to find their world destroyed by the Plague. The church elders, convinced that a girl accused of being a witch is responsible for the devastation, command the two to transport the strange girl to a remote monastery where monks will perform an ancient ritual to rid the land of her curse. They embark on a harrowing, action-filled journey that will test their strength and courage as they discover the girl's dark secret and find themselves battling a terrifyingly powerful force that will determine the fate of the world.

    Out on home video is 'The Lena Baker Story,' which stars Tichina Arnold and is based on the true story of an impoverished and uneducated African-American woman's struggles in rural 1940s Georgia.

    Also starring in the film are Beverly Todd, Peter Coyote and Michael Rooker.

    Convicted and sentenced for the accidental killing of Elliot Arthur, the tyrannical, pistol-packing White man she was hired to care for - in a trial and deliberation that together lasted less than four hours - Baker was only 44 years old when she died in 1945 - the only woman to be sentenced to death by electric chair in the state of Georgia.

    Said Baker before the switch was pulled, a barbaric death requiring several shocks and lasting six minutes, "What I done, I done in self-defense, or I would have been killed myself. Where I was, I could not overcome it. God has forgiven me. I have nothing against anyone. I picked cotton for Mr. Pritchett and he has been good to me. I am ready to go. I am one in the number. I am ready to meet my God. I have a very strong conscience."

    Also out on DVD is 'Mama Flora's Family,' which stars Cicely Tyson, Blair Underwood, Queen Latifah, Hill Harper, Mario Van Peebles, Shemar Moore, Della Reese, and Erika Alexander.

    Winner of two NAACP Image Awards, this miniseries from Alex Haley takes up where his 'Roots' saga left off. The story spans fifty years and examines the struggles of Mama Flora, the black matriarch, and her family, including son Willie, granddaughter Diana and first-born son Luke, who was stolen from her at birth. She instills an understanding of God and family during a time when those ideals were questioned and never backs down as she observes three generations of her family live through the ever-changing American black experience.


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    Bad Business: 'Law & Order' Star Allegedly Ripped Off By Manager
    Tamara Tunie is looking for some "law and order" of her very own.

    The 51-year-old actress, who stars on 'Law & Order: SVU,' is accusing her former business manager of swindling her.

    The alleged culprit Joe Cilibrasi, who is not a certified accountant, is being accused of stealing $1.48 million from Tunie and classic music conductor Michael Stern to produce Broadway shows.

    Joe CilibrasiCilibrasi was a financial backer of the Tony Award-winning musical 'Spring Awakening,' a show that Tunie was also a producer of. He also produced the Broadway show 'Legally Blonde' and is a producer on a forthcoming musical version of 'Bonnie & Clyde,' who is slated to open on Broadway in August.

    On Dec. 23, 2010, Cilibrasi pled not guilty in Manhattan Supreme Court to nine counts of fraud. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    Prosecutors claim that Cilibrasi wrote checks to himself from clients' accounts.

    Hired by Tunie as her business Tamara Tuniemanager in the early 1990s, prosecutors believe by 2002 Cilibrasi had taken out a credit card in her name and used it to get himself a card by posing as her spouse.

    The McKeesport, Pennsylvania-bred actress is married - just not to Cilibrasi.

    Tunie, who also starred on 'As the World Turns' for 16 years, has been married to singer Gregory Generet since 1995.

    Tunie sued Cilibrasi in April 2010. Her court papers say the alleged thefts were discovered in early 2010 by a new accountant.

    The actress has not commented on the ongoing suit.

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    Kenyatta Kendrick was just 6-years old and sleeping in her bed when she died. She was the victim of a drive-by shooting. Two teenagers and a 25-year old were charged and may face the death penalty for their offenses.

    The three young men being charged are 18-year-old Aaron McDowell, 17-year-old Bernard Nix, and 25-year-old Stalandus Slaughter. The incident occurred in Eclectic County, just 30 miles from Montgomery. Kenyatta was a first grader at Eclectic Elementary School.

    "She was asleep in her bed when she was struck by a bullet in her side," Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin told the Associated Press. "Any homicide is bad, but you're dealing with a 6-year-old here."

    Kenyatta's 19-year old uncle, Darren Kendrick, was sleeping in a chair and was hit in his hip and left ankle. Police said that they found 18 rounds of ammunition at the scene of the crime. The rounds came from an AK-47 or SKS assault rifle. The suspects have been charged with one count of capital murder and another count of assault. They are being held without bond.

    "I ran into the house and saw my nephew laying in the chair with half his foot blown off," said Darren Kendrick's uncle, George Kendrick. "He told me that his leg hurt. I looked over in the bed beside him and saw the baby. I went over to touch her and wake her up and said 'Boo, Boo,' and saw blood on the bed. I pulled the covers back and saw that she had been hit in the side."

    My daughter's middle name is Kenyatta, so I couldn't help but cry on the inside as I was asked to write about this incident. The violence that kills our youth is unforgivable, inexplicable with pain that is simply insurmountable. While one is quick to feel the impact of these tragedies when they occur, very few of us stop to wonder where in the heck a group of teenagers were able to obtain access to AK-47 assault rifles.

    Childhood should involve playing, fights in the park, random inconsequential mischief and slowly learning about the world. It should not involve being shot in your sleep, having half your foot blown off or going to prison for the rest of your life. If we want to solve the problem of violence in our communities, we must dig to the root of those who earn billions each year by supplying guns and drugs to teens who are convinced to murder one another. The manufacturer of these guns should be held accountable regarding exactly how the weapons got into the hands of teenagers in the first place.

    Without committing ourselves to truly ascertaining the depth, nature and functionality of the youth violence problem, we are going to keep on missing the point. The point right now, to me, is that Kenyatta should still be alive and it was our society's apathy that killed her. Someone should have hell to pay, and I'm not just talking about the shooters.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.


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    Robert Butler Jr Shoots Self, Vice Principal Dead, Principal Wounded, Millard South High School Shooting, Omaha Nebraska

    Robert Butler Jr. (pictured above) was considered a "normal" teenager. The son of Omaha Police Detective, Robert Butler Sr., he transferred from Lincoln Southwest High School to Millard South High School on October 6th, 2010.

    Wednesday, he was found dead in his red Honda blocks from his new school with a self-inflicted gunshot wound after walking into the principal's office and shooting both the principal and vice-principal.

    Assistant Principal Vickie Kaspar died from her injuries. She would have turned 58 years old on Thursday. Principal Curtis Case is in serious but stable condition at Creighton University Medical Center.

    Millard Superintendent Keith Lutz described Case as "young and energetic . . . I'm sure he'll pull through this."

    As frantic parents came to pick up their children from near-by Divine Shepherd Lutheran Church, police were still trying to determine Butler's motive for the heinous crime. The only clues come from the student himself via his Facebook page:

    "Everybody that used to know me I'm sry but Omaha changed me and (expletive) me up. and the school I attend is even worse ur gonna here about the evil (expletive) I did but that (expletive) school drove me to this. I wont u guys to remember me for who I was b4 this ik. I greatly affected the lives of the families ruined but I'm sorry. goodbye."

    Butler did not shoot any students.

    "He was popular with students and seemed real pleasant," said Southwest Principal Rob Slauson, who described Butler as "a fairly normal, average" student.

    Students at Butler's former school ran in the office crying after they received word of the shooting via text messages.

    "Our hearts and prayers go out to the Millard South community ... And also to Robert Butler's family," Slauson said.

    Superintendent Lutz said the district would be looking at how Butler was able to bring the gun into the school, while claiming that although they had practice drills in case of extreme situations "some things you just can't prepare for."

    The school was immediately locked down after the shooting, with teachers barricading doors to protect students in the school's cafeteria. Many of them texted their parents and friends attempting to discover what was going on beyond the locked doors.

    My heart ached as I read this story for several reasons.

    Primarily for the slain administrators who were cut down with apparently no provocation, leaving their families empty with no answers. Secondly for the family of young Robert Butler who will spend the rest of their lives without their son. Suicide is never easy, but no parent should outlive their child.

    My heart also aches for young Robert Butler, who was able to articulate through his message that he was in --what he felt was, insurmountable pain, and apologized in advance for the people he knew he would hurt through his actions.

    Our children are in war zones each day they step out of the door, even in schools where they are supposed to be safe. Whether he was bullied or facing internal demons that led him to feel that violence was his only option we may never know, but the tragedy in Omaha is one that is reflective of Pearl, MS, Columbine, CO, and countless schools where many teenagers are living nightmares that many parents aren't even aware exist.

    As Mayor Jim Suttle called for the city to bond together, we must all strive to bond more with our children. Pay attention to them and what's going on daily in their lives. Be intrusive if necessary. You never might be the only friend they have.


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