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

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    South Overwhelmingly Votes for Independence in Sudan

    So far, so good in Sudan.

    Sudanese strongman leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir kept his word to allow the historic vote for independence to go forward without government interference.

    So oil-rich South Sudan voted almost unanimously to declare independence from the government-controlled north in preliminary election results announced today.

    Now the hard work will begin. And the world will see whether al-Bashir is fair to the south in establishing a new border with the new nation in the south. al-Bashir should equitably split oil revenues with the south and work to cease the fighting in the blood-drenched Abyei region.

    It's hard to believe that President al-Bashir, a former army officer who took power in 1989, could suddenly see the light and end the violent oppression he has led against the south during his time in office.

    Al-Bashir has been accused of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region of the country by the International Criminal Court. He became the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC though his indictment was opposed by both Russia and China.

    But maybe, just maybe, a leopard can change his spots. Al-Bashir may have simply lost his appetite for blood.

    In 2005, al-Bashir promised the independence vote to the south in exchange for ending the long-running civil war in Sudan that took an estimated 2 million lives.

    While he still bears close watch and an skeptical eye, al-Bashir should be credited for allowing the vote to go forward without corrupting it and letting the world see how badly the south wants its independence.


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    While many sites are reporting that Oscar winner Halle Berry was replaced by actress Katherine Heigl in the upcoming romantic comedy 'New Year's Eve,' has learned that Berry pulled out for other reasons.

    "Halle Berry was forced to pull out of a film production in New York this week due to pending custody litigation involving her daughter. She has attempted to resolve these custody issues amicably with her daughter's father, Gabriel Aubry, directly, but given his lack of cooperation, Halle has no choice but to seek swift judicial intervention," Berry's rep told

    "Halle has serious concerns for her daughter's well-being while in the care of her father for any extended period of time and is prepared to take all necessary steps to protect her. Halle has always made the needs and safety of her daughter her first priority and, both while Halle and Gabriel were a couple and since their breakup, Halle has only acted in her daughter's best interest."

    Berry, 44, and Canadian model Aubry, 35, have a 2-year-old daughter named Nahla.

    After four years together, the couple split last April.

    Directed by Garry Marshall, 'New Year's Eve' is about couples and singles whose lives intertwine one New Year's Eve in New York.

    The film stars Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin, Ice Cube, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Ashton Kutcher, Seth Meyers, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hilary Swank and Sofia Vergara.

    The movie is scheduled for release on Dec. 9.

    In the meantime, Berry's latest film, 'Frankie and Alice,' which garnered her a Golden Globes nomination for her performance as a woman suffering with multiple personality disorder in early-1970s Los Angeles, has been pushed back from its Feb. 4 release date. It's new date is undetermined at this point.


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    It's difficult to name a triple threat who has mastered the art of diversifying a professional career like Vanessa Williams.

    The former Miss America, who currently stars on the hit ABC drama 'Desperate Housewives,' decided to explore her ancestral past on the season two premiere of the Lisa Kudrow-produced NBC show, 'Who Do You Think You Are?'

    In the new episode, Williams uncovers the lives of her great-great-grandfathers and discovers amazing facts about her family tree. sat down with the talented actress to discuss the reasons she let cameras in on her search and her plans to build on that legacy. Some might think this series is along the lines of the PBS specials uncovering your DNA, but this is definitely more in-depth. What was it about this show that made you eager to participate?
    Vanessa Williams:
    I had been a big fan of last year's show, and particularly one of the highlights was Sarah Jessica Parker and the story of her gold-mining pioneer who went out to California, as well as one of her great-grandmothers who was on trial during the Salem witch hunt. They teased so you tuned in, then you wondered if she was executed or not, but she wasn't. Luckily, the judge overturned it and she lived.

    BV: Did 'Friends' star Lisa Kudrow, who produces the series, reach out to you?
    Well, it was a compelling story, and I said, yes immediately because not only did I want them to really delve into my family history, but I knew the show was well-produced. After meeting Lisa Kudrow and one of the other producers, Dan, who went to high school with me, I said absolutely. It was definitely something I jumped on immediately.

    BV: When did you have time to tape the show? You are on 'Desperate Housewives' so that had to be tough to do all of that traveling and production?
    It was last spring. It probably was last April or May, with our final meeting in July. We did the research and it got interesting. They don't tell you anything, but they ask for information from your family. My mom gave them her information, and we went to my Uncle Earl to ask questions. You have really no idea which side of the family they are going to go through and where they are going to find the information, and they also ask you if there is anything that you don't want to know. For instance, if anyone has a jail record or was insane. They are respectable to your wishes.

    BV: Was there anything you didn't want to know?
    No! I said, "Bring it." If there are robbers and thieves, I want a look at it. History gives you a window into your blood and what makes you who you are. It's a combination of nature and nurture. Your environment that you grow up in is very strong in terms of molding you into the person that you are, but also there is a component there that is genetic. It's amazing what you can unravel when you go back in time.

    BV: One of the things that you discuss is the responsibility and weight of being the first black Miss America and how many white people wanted to kill you when you were crowned. Was it tough bringing that up again?
    I've discussed it before, and I am sure once I write a book, I will go in-depth. As a 20-year-old junior at Syracuse University and always viewing myself without any barriers in terms of achievement, and after becoming a national symbol overnight, people dismissed me because of the color of my skin. My mom has a red box where she kept the death threats, and the FBI was well aware of it. There are crazy, sick people in the world and you can be a target for the way that you look and what you represent.

    BV: At the beginning of your episode of 'Who Do You Think You Are,' you say you hope to uncover someone revolutionary in your family. Did you have any idea what you would find out?
    They sit you down and ask you, "What do you expect on your journey?" or "What will be a real surprise?" but I had no idea. I knew of [my great-great-grandfather] David Carl the Civil War hero and that there would be a Civil War component, but in terms of the whole history and the risk that he took and all of the things I learned on my journey from the researchers, it puts history in perspective when they are talking about your family and they tell you that the revolution in December of 1863 is when they allowed black soldiers to enlist.

    BV: And that really inspired you?
    Well, when you then say my great-great-grandfather was living in Long Island next to Manhattan, where black people were lynched for fighting to be soldiers because they were black, and the New York governor was against it. It is like, "Wow, not only did my great-great-grandfather see all of this stuff happening nearby, but he had the courage to be one of the first ones to enlist and bought property that is still in our family." He risked not only being killed in battle but also being captured and enslaved. You can put the dangers of their lives in perspective and they're fascinating.

    BV: It's deep that your family is buried at the same place. Did you know that already?
    That's a colored cemetery, and I didn't realize that until the first day. Basically, you have no idea of that either. They said, "We were going to start at your house," and I didn't know where they would take me, but I knew Emmitt Smith went to Africa. So, when they didn't ask for my passport, I said, "Aw damn, I'm not going overseas," but it was in the middle of shooting 'Desperate Housewives' so they would only let me out for a specific amount of time. Who knows what they would have done had I had more time.

    BV: What does it mean that with your father's passing you finally know the story about the men in your past?
    My dad was a huge history buff, and the problem that we have as African Americans is we don't have the luxury of having the records from our home country, or going to the town that our grandparents are from, or to the local churches where our parents were buried and married, like a lot of English and Italian and Irish people do. Because of being enslaved and being born without records, a lot of our ancestry is a mystery. We don't know where we come from in Africa a lot of the time. My father was always curious and was always fascinated by the past because his mother died when he was 3 and his father died when I was 3. It was the perfect tribute to him and his curiosity, and he would have loved to find this out about these men.

    BV: What legacy do you think your own father left behind?
    My dad was an extraordinary man. He was an educator. Teaching and educating and learning was his life. He was a great conversationalist and always loved to help people. He was a mechanic who could take an engine apart on the sidewalk and put it back together. He was a master carpenter and could build decks. He was like a Renaissance man -- a fantastic father and loving husband. To find those two stories, and the same theme came up with [my great-great grandfather] David Carl coming back and owning a piece of property, and [my great-great grandfather] William Fields -- the way they described him as a legislator. To talk about the impact that he made within his community down South as a slave but also was educated -- they are snippets of who my father was.

    BV: What were the highlights in terms of what you learned with your family history doing the show?
    The two really emotional moments, besides the fact that I could actually see both [old portraits] of them going back to the 1860s, was reading the pension file, and when they asked, "Were you a slave and if so, who was your owner?" and he wrote, "Never." I was like, "Never?"

    BV: Yes, the fact that you know that you had ancestors who were born free men back in the 1800s is incredible. You will definitely open up people's eyes to that, right?
    There are people who do not realize there are free men of color who were born that way. In 1842, he was born a free man of color in New York. Everyone assumes this long lineage of slavery, and of course that exists because we were brought from Africa and we know that. But I know George Wolfe just had a Broadway show, 'A Free Man of Color,' and I'm sure a lot of people scoffed like, "How could that be?" So that was an amazing moment, and I was just so proud.

    BV: What was the other distinctive moment for you?
    The other one was reading the court minutes from the day when Williams Fields passed. The language was so beautiful. It said that this man "loved longs walks and his children. He was a faithful husband and leaves not a lot of material wealth but leaves a spotless name" and he was a schoolteacher. I said, "That couldn't have been closer to characterizing my father." When I read it to my mother, she started crying. These are the men who helped create who I am and the legacy that they left.

    BV: Your episode has perfect timing and is airing during Black History Month. What are your thoughts on why young people should seek knowledge of their ancestral past?
    There are people who research for a living. Be curious, be thirsty, ask questions and go to Go to local libraries and start digging. You don't have to do it alone. I had the luxury of television cameras follow me on my journey and to do work for me, but ask for help. The more you know about yourself the more it informs who you are and helps you.

    BV: Last time we spoke you were wrapping 'Ugly Betty' and it was a sad time for you, but now you're back on television on 'Desperate Housewives.' Was that surprising how quickly you got another gig?
    The transition came really quickly because I had gone from 'Betty' into the Broadway show 'Sondheim and Sondheim,' and 'Desperate Housewives' happened about two weeks after I finished the Broadway show. So, I didn't really have a lot of time to digest the whole transition.

    BV: How has everything been with your new role?
    VW: The experience has been phenomenal. They've been so welcoming and open to having me there. They've sprinkled me around all of the girls' story lines. They've had me bring a sense of fun and drama and humor. It's been a joy. It's a well-oiled machine, [and] going on seven years, so there's not a lot of discovery in terms of working things out. They know what they're doing in terms of production and the cast and crew, but it's a new family and I'm the newcomer. I'm trying to make my way. They've been really fantastic.

    BV: We all know you as a cover girl, and most recently you were featured on the cover of Ebony magazine. What are your thoughts on that experience?
    VW: I was so happy to be asked just because they have a whole new direction and a whole new creative idea. I was one of the first people they came after, and I was happy to be asked and happy to be a part of the new Ebony. They took a much more editorial approach in terms of the style, fashion and photography. Rubin, who does all of Oprah [Winfrey]'s covers, did the photo shoot, but I had my glam squad, Sam Fine and Oscar James, at the helm doing their usual magic. It's great. My first Ebony cover was way back in 1983, so I'm happy to still be asked to be on the cover of anything.

    BV: Another big recent story was you turning down a book deal because they wanted you to talk about your ex-husbands. Is that true?
    I'd gotten a book deal, and we'd gone through a few writers. I knew what the publishers wanted, which was basically a tell-all, and a tell-all is not who I am. I want a complete story of who I am and what has made me the person I have become at 47 years old. We tried to throw other ideas out and pitch different angles, but after just not having everything work together in terms of writing and direction and expectation, it fell apart.

    BV: Why did you take that approach with showing so much integrity and making that decision in this day and age when so many people sell stories to tabloids and make tell-all book deals?
    At 47, I have kids in school and my mom is living. I have a lot of people involved in my life and two ex-husbands. I want to talk about what makes me who I am. My parents, my kids, my teachers and my experiences and really not have to dwell or intrude on other peoples' lives. Maybe when I'm 80, we'll see then if it makes more sense, but at this point, I'd love to write about what makes me me.

    BV: Is there anything going on with you in terms of a return back to Broadway or any films?
    Nothing yet. I have no movies or Broadway. I'm doing the 'Desperate Housewives' thing. I've got a couple of dates. I continue to sing. I just got a chance to sing at Sgt. Shriver's funeral in D.C., which was an honor. Those things come up, and I absolutely am honored to be a part. Show business changes at the drop of a hat. I can get a call that says, "I am looking for you do this movie" in an instant.

    BV: Is there anything that you want to do in the near future that you haven't done yet?
    I'm in the midst of developing a television show. So we're waiting to see if that will get picked up. If it does, I will be an executive producer on a TV show. I've produced things before, but if this goes right, it will be the first time I've done that without me being involved as a star. We are waiting to hear from the network whether it's a go or not, but that's real exciting. It gives me a chance to be creative and work in a medium that I know really well.

    Vanessa Williams' episode of 'Who Do You Think You Are?' will premiere on NBC on Feb. 4 at 8 p.m. EST.


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    Diddy on Barack Obama: 'He Owes Us.'

    Mr. "Take Dat" himself, Sean "Diddy" Combs, is upset with President Barack Obama, and he took his beef where most Hip-Hop artists do... straight to The Source.

    In the January issue of "The Hip-Hop Bible," the entrepreneur extraordinaire claims that President Obama, in the infamous words of Kanye West, "doesn't care about black people."

    "I love the president like most of us. I just want the president to do better. There's a difference between us voting for somebody and us believing in somebody. He's the person that we believed in so I pray night and day that he understands how God ordained his presidency. I feel there was a promise made to God to look after people that was less fortunate, and [many] of those people are African-American..."

    Combs' bold 2004 "Vote or Die" campaign was revisited in the historic 2008 election with a more partisan mantra "Obama or Die." The mogul's support and loyalty apparently makes him an authority on what the POTUS should do for the African-American community.

    "It's something he might not get reelected for, but we elected him," Diddy said. "He owes us. I'd rather have a black president that was man enough to say that he was doing something for black people have one term than a president who played the politics game have two terms."

    I cannot be the only one who finds Diddy's ire a tad hypocritical. While Obama is known to address the importance of family and takes African-American men to task for their sometimes irresponsible behavior, Mr. Combs has 5 children, and has yet to marry, or otherwise show any visible respect for any of the three mothers. Yes... 3 mothers.

    While our President has stressed education, and the importance of recognizing the "winner of the science fair, not just the Super Bowl," Mr. Combs' pool of talent gets younger and younger, and the "money, cash, ho*s" mentality seems to be drilled into them at Bad Boy boot camp.

    While I agree that the President needs to grow a backbone and address the inequalities that the African-American community faces with the same fire and conviction as he addresses the plight of the Hispanic/Latino community, in general he has passed more legislation to elevate the plight of all Americans than any executive in history.

    It is true that Mr. Combs' philanthropic efforts are to be admired; however, he should put his mouth where his money is. Hip-Hop has long been emulated by our youth, and the misogynist lyrics and hedonistic lifestyle poisoning their brains is just as much of a crime, if not more so, than another president without a "Black Agenda."

    Mr. Combs, you owe us.


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    As I sit here preparing to board a flight to New York City to appear with Ed Gordon on his BET show, I am left reflecting on the impact of media in the African American community. I spoke today on a separate show about how media shapes our children in so many ways, from how they dress, the language they use, and all that they consider to be important.

    Upon deeper reflection, I came to the conclusion that access to media is an important tool for the shaping of black minds and also for the continuation of the Civil Rights movement in America. Without media, Dr. Martin Luther King's March on Washington would never have been witnessed by the world. Without media, the world would never have seen pictures of black folks being attacked by dogs or the children in Little Rock, Arkansas walking into a school house with military guards on both sides of them. There is a reason that black folks should fight for media, and it's far deeper than just wanting to "get your shine on."

    Personally, I knew that in order for me to engage in an effective career of public scholarship, I had to understand media and find ways to use the public platform to share knowledge and critical information to my community. That turned out to be a far more effective way to use all this education than to sit around in my office writing scholarly research papers that almost no one will ever read.

    To discuss the impact that media has on the black community, I brought in two guests: Lola Adesioye and Professor Gilda Rogers. Lola is a seasoned veteran of media and has been in the industry for years. Gilda is a professor of African American history. The conversation is below, enjoy!


    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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    Carol Moseley Braun, Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins

    In a sign that the Chicago Mayoral election is coming to a close, Carol Moseley Braun (pictured), former state senator and second runner-up in the race, tried to maintain her lead by defaming the character of a lesser named opponent, Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins. Early voting began Monday for the election scheduled to take place on Feb. 22.

    Watkins, a 53-year-old community organizer, castigated Braun during a blistering debate at Trinity United Church on Chicago's South Side for returning to politics, after "being missing in action'' while the city struggled economically and socially, according to a video provided by the church.

    "Patricia, the reason you didn't know who I was for the last 20 years is because you were strung out on crack," Braun shot back. "I was not strung out on crack. I don't have a record.''

    The comment, designed to shine a negative glow on Watkins' character during the final days of the election, backfired on Braun and ignited a firestorm of controversy. Watkins immediately called for an apology, adding that she didn't' really expect one from Braun. Watkins has admitted to drug abuse as a teen, but never crack, and has been clean for decades.

    Neither Braun, nor her spokeswoman, returned calls to Aol. Black Voices yesterday evening. Black supporters, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush, remained closed mouth, too.

    Carol Moseley Braun Calls Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins Crack Addict at Candidate Forum:

    The low verbal blow could potentially cost Braun votes at a time when she maintains a second place lead behind Rahm Emanuel. She has 21 percent of voter's support, compared to 1 percent held by Watkins, according to the latest Chicago Tribune poll. Emanuel maintains 44 percent of voter's support, while Gery Chico holds 16 percent and Miguel Del Valle holds 7 percent. William "Dock'' Walls holds 2 percent.

    "I don't expect an apology from ambassador Braun, but I do expect her to apologize to the millions of people who have struggled with addiction," Watkins said in a prepared statement. "This incident has definitely said more about her character than mine.

    "We need to change the focus of public safety by changing perceptions,'' Watkins said in the statement, "... we must look at restorative justice reform.''

    Retiring, outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley reluctantly chimed in on the incident during a televised new conference, calling it a bad idea to discuss other people's problems:

    "You have to be very careful - not only a public official, but any citizen, to make comments about someone's substance abuse problem," Daley said. "Everybody in every family has been touched by substance abuse problems."

    Watkins also used the moment to quietly appeal to voters for support in a nation built on giving people second-chances and pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. She said in news reports that people should not be labeled or pushed aside because of their addictions.

    Surprisingly, Emanuel, known for his combative verbal style, has stayed above the political fray during the election. Perhaps it was because he has spent most of the time mired in a court battle over whether he was a viable candidate because of questions pertaining to his residency.

    But last week, he emerged victorious in the challenge when the Illinois Supreme Court ruled he met residency requirements, after leaving to serve as chief of staff for President Barack Obama. Monday, he did not focus on the incident; instead, he focused on announcing support for his campaign by the LGBT community.

    This was not the first time Braun, 63, had her hand rapped for making inappropriate comments. Ironically, the latest episode came at the church where President Obama served as a member for decades and where his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, came under fire from conservatives for his inflammatory sermons.

    Just days after becoming the leading black contender early last month, Braun, the former ambassador to New Zealand, drew outrage when she responded to requests from opponents and the media to turn over tax returns before the election. Her response for declining, "Because I don't want to.''

    She later changed her mind and released returns that showed shaky personal finances.

    Later, during a televised forum for Chicago Public School students, candidates discussed being bullied in high school. Braun went as far as to name her attacker. The woman, who is a doctor, demanded an apology too.

    Meanwhile, Braun is having a difficult time recovering from the latest incident.

    In an off-the-record comment to the Chicago Sun-Times, a Braun supporter openly struggled to shore her up, saying the incident was "killing her ... particularly with elderly black voters.
    "Seniors are very concerned about appearances,'' the supporter said. "They think it was an embarrassment to have two educated black women out here cat-fighting."

    As for Watkins, she is savoring the spotlight and using it as moment to push her candidacy.


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    Florida Judge Declares Health Care Individual Mandate 'Unconstitutional'

    On 'Real Time With Bill Maher' on Friday night, the progressive host questioned former GOP National Committee Chairman Michael Steele on the irony of being fired after the most expansive Republican gains in decades. His instinctive response?

    It was simply a matter of "Republican justice."

    He couldn't have said it better if he were a Democrat.

    Sadly, Republican justice strikes yet again, as Reagan appointee and Florida U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson, declared that the provision requiring individuals to purchase health insurance by 2014 or be penalized is unconstitutional.

    As a part of a 26-state challenge to the Obama Administration's signature achievement, Judge Vinson further states that the entire law is invalid because the individual mandate cannot be "severed" from the rest of the legislation, rendering the entire law in violation of the United States Constitution. While it is expected that the federal government will appeal the decision, seeking an immediate stay in the interim, ultimately this case is predicted to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court.

    It continues to amaze me that a mandate first introduced by the GOP as an alternative to the Clinton health care overhaul is now being attacked at every turn because it was re-introduced by President Barack Obama. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli expressed his amazement that while England's King George III concluded that the British subjects living in America could not be forced to buy British goods, Obama somehow feels he is more powerful than a King of England.

    In other words: the President is being "uppity."

    Try as I might, I've found no evidence of this outrage when Mitt Romney signed a similar law into state law in Massachusetts in 2006.

    I'm still trying to determine why conservative education and research institution, The Heritage Foundation, embraced an individual mandate in the 1990s.

    And I can't seem to find an inkling of GOP disapproval when former President Richard Nixon favored mandating employers provide health care in the 1970s.

    Apparently, elephants do forget.

    Before Obama, individual mandates were the American Way, ushering in an age of so-called personal responsibility. Yet now the GOP considers it "overreach" to not only help underprivileged citizens, but to demand they help themselves.

    I'm not naming any names, but some people need to make up their minds.

    UCLA School of Law professor, Adam Winkle, points out that "the individual mandate is not really so unprecedented." He writes, "In fact, the founding fathers adopted the first 'individual mandate' back in 1792. It required individuals to outfit themselves with guns and ammunition, even if they had to buy those items from private sellers."

    So, mandating guns, good. Mandating health care? Not so much.

    The moral of the story is that the Republicans remain the "Party of No." As long as President Obama remains in charge, any idea he proposes will be considered a detriment to the American people. Even if they thought of it first.

    How's that for good old fashioned Republican justice?


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    With his latest film, 'Madea's Big Happy Family,' set to open in April, director Tyler Perry certainly isn't letting moss grow under his feet. On his next project, however, he'll take direction from someone other than himself (for only the second time in his career).

    reports that Perry is set to star as the iconic Alex Cross in a reboot of the role popularized for moviegoers by Oscar winner Morgan Freeman ('Kiss the Girls' and 'Along Came a Spider'). Ironically, the only film that Perry has appeared in that he didn't direct was a reboot of another movie franchise-- J.J Abrams' 'Star Trek,' in which he played Admiral Richard Barnett.

    "He (J.J Abrams) was the first. It didn't make sense to do a movie that I can do myself," said Perry shortly after the release of 'Star Trek'. "I don't want you to call me and ask me to do a film about a black family. Now, if you want me to do 'Mission: Impossible', or 'Star Trek' or 'Wolverine', which I was called for but I couldn't do because I was doing 'The Family That Preys', but those sort of films, yes, I can do that."

    Perry will star in 'I, Alex Cross,' James Patterson's origin tale of the detective/psychologist. Last August, British actor Idris Elba shared that he was offered the role while speaking at an event in Boston. Looks like talks died down sometime in the last few months.

    Cross is described as an African-American detective and psychologist living and working in the Southeast D.C. After his stint with the FBI, Alex returns to private psychology practice, but continues to consult for the MPD and the FBI as needed, ultimately rejoining the MPD as a special consultant to the Major Case Squad.

    Filming is set to start in June. It'll be interesting to see what Perry brings to the character that Freeman played so convincingly. Luckily Perry isn't a small man, because he'll have some big shoes to fill for fans of the series. Rob Cohen ('xXx: the Return of Xander Cage') will direct the film. No release date has been set.


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    So much for their amicable split.

    Halle Berry is planning to take ex Gabriel Aubry to court to fight for custody of their 2-year-old daughter Nahla. The Oscar winner, 44, even cleared her schedule by pulling out of the star-studded flick 'New Year's Eve,' which is set to begin filming in New York City this week. (She's being replaced by Katherine Heigl.)

    "Halle Berry was forced to pull out of a film production in New York this week due to pending custody litigation involving her daughter," her rep tells in a statement. "She has attempted to resolve these custody issues amicably with her daughter's father, Gabriel Aubry, directly, but given his lack of cooperation, Halle has no choice but to seek swift judicial intervention."

    Behind her decision to head to court?

    "Halle has serious concerns for her daughter's well-being while in the care of her father for any extended period of time and is prepared to take all necessary steps to protect her," her rep adds.

    Though the twosome were often seen cordially co-parenting in the wake of their April split =- including a shared trip to Paris -- the model, 35, filed papers on Dec. 30 asking to be formally recognized as Nahla's father and to establish shared custody.

    Source: MSNBC

    Kevin Eason is a freelance editorial cartoonist and illustrator from New Jersey. His brand of satire covers news events in politics, entertainment, sports and much more. Follow him on Facebook.


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    Florida Rep. Introduces Bill Requiring Teachers to Grade Their Students' Parents

    The late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis famously said: "If we fail as parents, nothing else we do really matters."

    If the controversial efforts of Florida State Rep. Kelli Stargel are successful, not only will nothing else matter, parents will receive a report card documenting their ineptitude. Stargel introduced a bill that requires public school teachers to grade the parents of students in kindergarten through the third grade as either "satisfactory," "unsatisfactory," or "needs improvement." The grade will be documented on the student's report card.

    "We have student accountability, we have teacher accountability, and we have administration accountability, the GOP legislator said. "This was the missing link, which was, look at the parent and making sure the parents are held accountable."

    In the late 1990s, the implementation of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) stirred discontentment throughout communities across the state as it ushered in an era of renewed accountability.

    However, critics didn't see it that way, voicing their valid concerns that teachers were being distracted from vital lessons to ensure that students were passing a standardized test.

    While many parents are seething over the bill, it is apparent that teachers constantly under attack for the low performance of their students are feeling a sense of vindication.

    "This is the real world," says kindergarten teacher Theresa Hill. "You don't always get a superior rating if you're not doing a superior job. That's life. We grade our children based on their performance. Why should the parents be any different?"

    While there are many educators who agree with Stargel's bill, there are others who find it frivolous and without merit.

    Steve Perry, a CNN education contributor and founder of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut, believes the proposed legislation is an exercise in futility:

    "There is nothing in any teacher's training that would put them in a position to be able to effectively judge the parenting of one of their student's parents," Perry argued. "If getting a bad grade was the impetus for people doing things right, then I would have an entire school of kids getting A's."

    Stargel sits on several education legislative committees, and as the mother of five, believes she understands the importance of parental involvement and that some parents are just not aware of the necessity of their influence.

    "I think a lot of parents understand that is something that is critical," she said. "On the other hand, you have some parents that don't realize they are not providing the needs."

    The grading system is based on three criteria written into the legislation:

    o. A child should be at school on time, prepared to learn after a good night's sleep, and have eaten a meal.
    o. A child should have the homework done and prepared for examinations.
    o. There should be regular communication between the parent and teacher.

    "Those three things are key to a quality education," Stargel said.

    While I completely agree with the contention that parents need to be held accountable for their children's education, Stargel is minimizing extenuating circumstances that may affect the parents' lives as well.

    There are many parents who are negligent and deserve to be evaluated for their lack of concern in their children's well-being. Education has lost its importance in many of our communities and in our nation as a whole. Parents must clearly take control of their children's future and stop shifting blame to those who could never be as vested in their success.

    However, the abhorrent state of our public school systems must also be taken into account.

    The Republican Party has historically slashed funds for various education programs, job training, as well as encouraged the use of private school vouchers, instead of utilizing those funds for the improvement of public schools.

    They have voted against health care reform, in favor of cutting social services and mental health programs, and are doing their best to control the reproductive organs of women while voting against sex education in schools.

    Rep. Stargel rightfully agrees that a child should be well-fed, yet belongs to a party that wants to cut SNAP benefits.

    Rep. Stargel rightfully believes that children should have a good night's sleep, yet belongs to a party that wants Section 8 defunded.

    Rep. Stargel rightfully believes that our children's education is a collaborative effort, yet belongs to a party who would rather see education spending cut and military spending increased.

    There is a well-accepted axiom which states, "If you're not a part of the solution, you're a part of the problem. The fact that the sponsor of the bill is a member of the Good Ole Party makes her lose credibility in my eyes.

    Before Rep. Stargel attempts to chastise parents for their lack of involvement, she should look in the mirror and reevaluate why she is a member of a party who is anti-government on all things financial or altruistic, but strives to be omnipresent when legislating family responsibility and morality.

    It may seem far-fetched, but maybe, just maybe, a fair tax system, quality health care, integrated job creation, and affordable housing and education, would go a long way to ensuring that parents are healthy enough -- mentally, physically, and emotionally -- to better care for their children. To think for one moment that there will be an overwhelming shift in parental involvement just because they receive an "unsatisfactory" grade on a report card is extremely narrow-minded.

    As a mother of two young sons, I would never blame my child's teacher for his lack of progress. If a parent knows that their child's school is inadequate or that the teacher is unqualified, then those hurdles must definitely be faced. Ultimately though, our children's success or failure rests on our shoulders, exactly where it should be. So while I completely agree with Rep. Stargel's stance, I am vehemently opposed to her methods.

    There has to be a triangular approach as it pertains to education. Government, educators, and parents must communicate, strategize, and implement innovative ideas to ensure the success of our children; we are only as strong as our weakest link. When neither parents nor teachers are equipped to excel in a challenging environment, a "needs improvement" grade on either part will potentially generate nothing but hostility and resentment.

    At the heart of the matter, sadly getting lost in the heated rhetoric, are our children. Our children who depend on us for shelter, for comfort, and for the chance to succeed in a rapidly growing global society, with many chips stacked against them. There are thousands of them homeless, starving, abused, and abandoned, and as a country we are failing them. So, we are all accountable, Rep. Stargel, even you.

    And it's past time we started acting like it.


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    When you're a celebrity, every place is a fashion show... including the basketball court. But where's the line between casually chic and overdone?

    First and foremost, let's point out the obvious-yet-worth-mentioning: Alicia Keys looks amazing so soon after having a baby. All the more reason to show what you've got. But is the studded, cropped leather jacket and sparkly heels combo fly or too much for a Knicks game?

    You tell us!


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    Bishop Eddie Long has made yet another public appearance, this time on Youtube. Rather than discussing his own legal issues, Long spoke about an investment company that allegedly left many of his members on the brink of financial ruin. In the video, Long discussed a dispute that his church is having with City Capital Corp, a company that came to the church to convince members to invest money with their firm back in 2009.

    In the video, Long said that since City Capital Corp. came to visit his church, some members have faced bankruptcy, foreclosure, or significant losses in their retirement accounts. Bishop Long made a public appeal to the company's former CEO, Ephren Taylor, and the rest of the company to do the right thing and return the money to those who've been hurt.

    In a press release issued on Monday, Bishop Long informed the media that several members of his church alerted him to concerns they had about City Capital. Roughly 20 members of the church invested with the company, according to published reports.

    According to the video, Taylor resigned from City Capital on October 22, in part because of filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Jeff M. Smuda has been chosen to replace Taylor. Taylor had visited Long's church, the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church as part of the company's National Financial Empowerment Tour.

    I was saddened to hear about these allegations as they pertain to Efren Taylor's company. I've received disturbing messages in my email containing allegations of fraudulent behavior by City Capital Corp. While I am not in a position to determine whether or not any of the allegations are true, I can offer a few perspectives as a Finance Professor.

    First, the concept of the "Financial Empowerment Tour" as a tool to lure African Americans into questionable investments is a common weapon designed to exploit our community's lack of financial literacy. Many of us are easily fascinated by fancy financial terms being spewed by experts in fancy suits. This leaves us vulnerable to a multitude of devious financial schemes. So, whether City Capital is guilty of swindling anyone or not, there are companies who work regularly to take advantage of the trust generated by forums being held in a house of worship.

    This case also shows that churches may want to do a better job of screening those who are allowed to provide seminars in front of their congregations. In far too many cases, investment advisers who are also members of the church are allowed to present their information to the congregation without being properly vetted by the church. Again, this doesn't imply that Ephren Taylor was fraudulent, but there are plenty of investment advisers in the church who are seeking to run a game on the other members of the congregation.

    Finally, we must also acknowledge that it may be the case that City Capital did nothing wrong. The stock market has many ups and downs, and being invested is no guarantee that you're going to end up better off financially. Having members who lost money on their investments does not readily imply that either Ephren Taylor or City Capital were fraudulent. But Taylor's pending investigation by the SEC seems to argue that there are broader concerns that may go beyond the standard ups and downs of the stock market. I encourage members of New Birth to wait for the outcome of this investigation before jumping to any conclusions.

    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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    Top Rope Tome: Wrestler Booker T Talks Prison Past in Memoir

    One of the wrestling industry's few Black world champions, Booker T has returned to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and has inked a deal with Medallion Press to release his autobiography, 'From Prison to Promise.'

    The 45-year-old grappler (real name: Robert Tio Huffman), who returned to the WWE this past Sunday at its pay-per-view special 'Royal Rumble,' will drop the tome co-written with Andrew William Wright in September 2012.

    The book shares the hard-knock beginnings of the Shreveport, Louisiana-bred star, whose father died only 10 months after he was born.

    "My mother worked hard to provide for us, and I can say without question that although I may have had many wants, I never had any needs. Sure, we might've been on food stamps, but I always had a warm coat, shoes on my feet, and food on the table," said Booker T.

    The youngest of eight children, Booker T's mother moved her kids to Houston, TeBooker Txas to provide a better environment for her family. In 1978, when the wrestler was only 13-years old, his mother passed away.

    With two deceased parents, Booker T ended up getting involved in gang life and was ultimately sentenced to five years in prison for armed robbery in February 1987. While incarcerated in Navasota, Texas, Booker T made himself a promise to rise above a life of crime and hopelessness to accomplish greater things.

    "I'm at that point in my life where I feel maybe someone else can benefit from hearing what I've been through," Booker T said. "You know, whether their parents passed away at an early age or they got into some serious trouble with the law, there's no doubt in my mind people will not only relate to what I went through, but maybe I can even help keep some of them from going down the same path."

    Booker T ultimately turned his life around and became a superstar wrestler. Having worked for WWE, WCE and TNA, he has held 35 major titles throughout his career including WCW World Heavyweight Championship and WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The wrestler - known for his catch phrase "Can you dig it, sucka?" - was the winner of the WWE King of the Ring tournament in 2006.

    Booker T

    Details on Booker T's return to WWE have not been revealed. There has been speculation that he will only wrestler part-time and work in other capacities like TV commentating, backstage storylines and training wrestlers for the re-launch of the WWE reality show 'Tough Enough.'

    A rep for the WWE hadn't returned a request for comment at press time.

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    This news probably comes as a surprise to no one given the composition of the nation's prisons, but at least there is now some data to back up the obvious.

    A study in Illinois has found that blacks were five times more likely to be imprisoned for low-level drug crimes than whites. In the largely black Cook County, which includes Chicago, the disparity was even worse. Blacks were eight times as likely to be imprisoned for low-level drug crimes than whites.

    The study provides similar data to other national studies about sentencing disparities. It also falls in line with the disparity between the sentencing for crack cocaine and cocaine. Both drugs are horribly destructive but blacks get longer sentences for selling crack.

    The Chicago Tribune writes:

    Police are less likely to take notice of drug activity in suburbs, where crime rates are lower and drugs usually aren't sold on the streets, said David Olson, chairman of Loyola University Chicago's criminal justice department..

    "Minorities aren't necessarily more likely to use drugs than whites, but from the data that's available and from the study, it's evident that they're much more likely to be apprehended," Olson said. "I don't think it's necessarily a policy of the police department to do that. I think it's just an outcome of where they put their resources."

    The difference in police deployments means minorities involved in the urban drug trade are more likely to have more extensive arrest records than suburban dealers and users, which can lead to longer sentences, Olson said.

    This is clearly unfair and an area where lawmakers can have an immediate impact on the lives of individuals and families if they change the laws.

    We are now seeing the financial impact of these policies because states and municipalities can no longer afford to house the flood of prisoners coming in on petty drug charges.

    It is money that can be used to address the real reasons that people in urban communities sell and use drugs. The money that is used to house a disproportionate number of blacks can be used to provide adequate drug-treatment programs.

    That money can be used to improve urban schools and provide job opportunities and training so that people engaged in destroying their communities through drug sales can choose a different route.

    The current drug laws punish one group of people more harshly than others not because they are doing an illegal activity more often than others but merely because of circumstances.

    It is also leaving the drug issues unaddressed in suburban communities. Just because a problem is hidden does not mean that it is not causing a problem.

    Drug issues are already affecting suburban communities in the same way they damage urban communities. Why let racism continue to keep us from addressing a problem that is destroying our nation in a uniform manner?


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    Terrie Williams
    Many of us are familiar with author Terrie Williams and her popular book 'Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting.' I decided to bring Terrie back into the studio last month to discuss the black community's denial when it comes to dealing with mental illness, specifically when it comes to managing the spike in depression during the holiday season.

    The video was shot before the holidays, but was delayed due to production problems. But there will always be a holiday season around the corner, and so will depression. With Valentine's Day coming up, depression in our community might once again become acute.

    The video is below, enjoy!


    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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    Naomi Campbell

    Naomi Campbell has been an exciting public figure for 25 years, augmenting her appearances on magazine covers and runways with tales of assistant abuse. An infamous highlight of the latter portion of her career was Campbell being forced to be a witness in a war crimes trial for the "innocent" acceptance of a blood diamond. Naomi sure knows how to stay in the headlines, and give good drama, as any diva should!

    Well Naomi is making headlines again, this time on the cover of the March issue of the UK's GQ, out February 3rd. In the issue, it is promised that Naomi will answer these questions and more: Who can be expected to innocently accept million-dollar gifts if not an international supermodel? And who can blame her for hanging out with a war criminal if he is giving out such gifts? Or more realistically, you might be asking: What was she thinking?

    It's a good thing that brains are not as important as looks in the world of modelling, because otherwise Naomi would never have lasted for 25 years. On the March cover of GQ, Campbell looks as great as she did at the start of her storied career. That amount of time spent at the top of a competitive industry like fashion is definitely to be admired.

    What do you think? Does Naomi look as good as she did when she first became an international superstar? And was she naive or just plain dumb to accept a blood diamond from the president of a trouble country?

    Leave your comments below!


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    Steve Harvey

    One of my favorite on-air personalities is Charlamagne Tha God, one of the members of "The Breakfast Club" with Power 105.1 in New York City. Charlamagne was also the co-host of The Wendy Williams Experience, arguably the most popular radio show in New York at one point in time. I appeared on the show six times between 2006 and 2009 and it was a great experience each time.

    Charlamagne is known for his raw, in-your-face and borderline insulting interview style, likely something he picked up from working with Wendy Williams for so long. I have no doubt that he's made a few enemies in the industry, but I also doubt that he gives a damn. The man fears no one, and neither did Wendy.

    With that said, I noticed Charlamagne's peculiar interview with Mary Harvey, ex-wife of Steve Harvey. You probably know that Mary seems to have made it her personal mission in life to destroy everything that Steve has worked for. His ex-wife of 17 years went public with a scathing video detailing infidelity, abuse, and abandonment she alleges that Harvey committed against her in the past. The video surely makes you feel for Mary, as she mentioned that she'd stood by Harvey during the lean times, only to be left behind once Steve became a superstar. Given that I wrote the book, "Financial Lovemaking 101," I've spent a lot of time thinking about Steve and Mary's situation and what the long-term financial implications might be for Steve.

    Clearly, Harvey's reputation as the relationship savior for black women all over the world is now in jeopardy after Mary's serious allegations. I've sometimes wondered why African Americans are so quick to rely on a divorced comedian to give them critical relationship advice. But then again, Steve has built a catchy brand and gimmick that has made it rain money for everyone around him.

    We can easily see that there are obvious, significant financial consequences that may result from Mary Harvey's actions. Steve has his mega-deal with the TV Show "Family Feud." I'm sure the show's corporate backers aren't interested in seeing the host of a family-oriented show engaged in a family feud of his own. There is also Steve's nationally-syndicated radio show, which may lose millions of black female fans who are disgusted with the way he allegedly treated Mary. Finally, there are his New York Times best-selling books that once flew off the shelves faster than sugar-covered chitlins. I'm sure Harvey's publishers are just a wee bit irritated with Mary for messing up their highly profitable hustle.

    Personally, as a businessman, financial scholar and black social commentator, I watched Mary Harvey's videos with great concern and intrigue. I wondered how hard Steve Harvey had worked to settle things with his ex-wife before she flew off the handle. I wondered if he'd used carrots or sticks to keep Mary's dirt under wraps. If he tried to work with her and offered her plenty of money to go along with the program, then I am in agreement with his strategy.

    But if Harvey instead took the role of the arrogant superstar who believed he could not be touched, then I feel sorry for him. Steve Harvey, as well as the rest of us, must realize that we can always be touched, and the ones with the easiest ability to take us out are those with whom we once shared a life. Effectively, Mary Harvey appeared to be a woman with nothing to lose: She mentioned being homeless, losing her family and having her child taken away. She also released her video without any fear of pending litigation or long-term consequences for revealing her version of the truth. Mary Harvey's fearlessness in the face of such daunting and overwhelming consequences effectively makes her into Steve Harvey's worst nightmare. You could almost call her a "financial suicide bomber": someone who will destroy herself just to make sure she hurts someone else. This kind of hostility only comes from serious, deep and persistent pain and having your entire family taken from you is just the kind of thing to cause it.

    If there is a way for Steve to make Mary Harvey happy, he'd better do it. This also goes for any other woman out there who has dirt on Steve that makes him vulnerable. Just like the Tiger Woods debacle, Harvey and other celebs must realize that forgetting about the "little people" can lead to your financial and professional demise.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, "Financial Lovemaking 101: Merging Assets with Your Partner in Ways that Feel Good." To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.


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    Valentine's Day Proposal IdeasFor many young couples, there is a certain amount of financial and emotional stress that comes with Valentine's Day. Among women who are dating, the message they get from family, friends and others is that Valentine's Day is the time to know if your guy is really into you. They may even start getting some Valentine's Day proposal ideas. Just as Beyonce sang: "If you like it, then you should've put a ring on it," scores of unmarried women are now telling their men: "If you really loved me, you'd make it official."

    So imagine the stress right now that's weighing on countless men who feel that they have to pick the right ring and pop the question -- or risk being quickly dropped to "ex boyfriend" status -- by this Valentine's Day. After all, once they've been dating for a while, many young couples will naturally have to deal with questions from others about getting engaged and choosing "the ring."

    So "the ring" is definitely being thought about right now -- by men and women alike. And not just any old ring. It's got to be a ring that a woman would be proud to wear and "show off" to anyone who cares to look. While we don't know exactly how many ring boxes will pop open after a Valentine's Day proposal, it is a safe idea to assume that most of those boxes had better contain diamonds, and big ones at that.

    Real or imagined, the pressure to buy as much ring as he can (or cannot) possibly afford will confront any man who is contemplating Valentine's Day proposal ideas.

    Is one carat respectable? That depends. Some women consider two carats a "starter" ring. Will a three-carat rock do the trick and rock her world? Again, it depends. How many carats did her girlfriends or co-workers get when they were engaged?

    All these thoughts and questions loom large for men contemplating a Valentine's Day proposal.

    If a man has taken f-o-r-e-v-e-r to pop the question, the guilt alone may lead him to give his woman a huge "I'm sorry" Kobe-style ring. Or what about guys who currently have kids with their significant others. Those guys are thinking: Should I give a half carat -- or a full carat -- for each child that's already here?

    Well, here's a reality check for you ladies in waiting: The financial stress of getting that big rock works both ways -- impacting both of you equally and lingering with you both over the long haul. So stop wondering, for a moment, whether your man will follow tradition and surprise you with a ring, or whether he'll simply take you shopping and let you pick a modest, affordable ring that you should "say" you like versus the big, blinging ring you really do want.

    Instead, consider this cold, hard truth: No matter what ring you receive as a token of his devotion to you for all eternity this Valentine's Day, it is a ring that you both will live with hopefully forever, along with whatever bill or debt that your fiance goes into to pay for the ring.

    If your guy is already broke or in debt, what will it do to your future finances to have him pick out a ring that costs a few thousand dollars? What will it mean for your marriage? Are money arguments likely to emerge because you two are cash-strapped? Let's say he goes all out, and spends the recommended two months' salary on your ring. Is he paying cash? Probably not. More than likely, he'll drop a shiny Visa or MasterCard on the counter. Actually, it'll probably be a well-worn credit card.

    Maybe it doesn't matter to you. But it should. Just like it should matter to you that two years after your honeymoon to Hawaii, the Caribbean or wherever you jaunt off to, he's still making minimum monthly payments on that credit card. For those of you saying: "Well, he can afford it." Maybe that's true. But the question is: can you afford it? Remember that cute little saying, "What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine"?

    Well, that's exactly what the bank is going to say while they determine your interest rate on your home, car loan, or practically anything else nowadays when they pull both of your credit reports and credit scores after you are married. As you and your new hubby scurry to pay off that credit card debt, you will probably have long forgotten about all of the interest charges that were heaped on top of the cost of that ring, adding to its true cost over time.

    Ladies, I am not suggesting that you guide your man into thinking that it is okay not to give you a ring or that you really don't care if you need a magnifying glass to see the stone or that cubic zirconium or Swarovski Crystal is okay. But just know that how you and your fiance think about and manage your finances now will set the foundation for how those finances will be handled in the future. Overspending now portends overspending in the future. Going into debt now will likely mean more debt in the future. And that includes racking up debt for the engagement ring you're dying to get.

    When I got married back in 2007, my husband Earl wanted to buy me a big diamond ring from a local jewelry store. I said "thanks, but no thanks." Instead, I let him buy a very modest band with small diamonds to go around an absolutely beautiful family heirloom Earl had. That family heirloom was -- and is -- a gorgeous diamond ring. To be frank, I recall getting it insured. But I couldn't for the life of me, tell you what size the ring is: Is it half a carat, one carat, two carats? I honestly do not know.

    What I do know is that every time I look at it, I feel so blessed and grateful for my wonderful husband -- and so happy that he didn't waste a small fortune on a ring that wouldn't have mattered as much to me as the one I now proudly wear.

    Just a little food for thought. Enjoy your Valentine's Day, and your potential proposal, taking these financial ideas to heart!

    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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    Mark Whitaker

    Heads were turning this week as CNN announced that it was hiring Mark Whitaker as it's new Managing Editor. Whitaker, who is African American, once served as the Washington Bureau Chief for NBC News. He took his position at NBC after the sudden death of Tim Russert in 2007. He was also editor at Newsweek from 1998 to 2006.

    The Managing Editor position was created when the CNN/US President, Jon Klein, left the network in September of last year. CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton stated that Whitaker would be "responsible for overseeing and integrating news and editorial content across all of CNN's domestic and international networks and digital platforms, and charting long-term editorial strategy for the organization."

    "Our aim is to position a strong managing editor, working closely with the head of each CNN network and Web site, to generate reporting and analysis that consistently stands out, sparks conversation and captures the true meaning and relevance of the events in the news," Walton said in a public statement. "Mark is a distinguished journalist and news executive who is experienced in leading large enterprises, and I am pleased that he will help direct our long-term editorial approach and strategy."

    "CNN plays an invaluable role in television and digital journalism as a source of non-partisan reporting and analysis, global perspective and groundbreaking documentaries," Whitaker stated on CNN's Web site. "I am excited to be joining Jim and his team in advancing that proud legacy."

    CNN should certainly be applauded for being open-minded enough to conclude that a black man is the best person for the job. Whitaker is a distinguished journalist and has won numerous awards in his chosen field. He's a graduate of Harvard University and has worked hard to build a remarkable career. His wife, Alexis Gelber, has also had a distinguished career.

    While hiring Whitaker is certainly a great first step, it is yet to be seen if Whitaker is the kind of journalist that will truly represent diversity at the highest levels. I've never met Whitaker, but from what I've read and seen, he certainly looks, speaks, and behaves exactly like the type of black managing editor that would be hired by CNN. There is a consistent theme of hiring by CNN and other networks that can be correlated with the Barack Obama phenomenon: The selection of light-skinned, racially-neutral African Americans who fit well within the establishment. Soledad O'Brien, TJ Holmes and Don Lemon are perfect examples on CNN. In fact, Soledad, TJ, Don and Mark could all be siblings of Barack Obama, but none of us would believe they have the same father as Michelle, the first lady.

    This is not, in any way, to argue that these individuals don't represent the essence of blackness, or that coming from Harvard strips you of your "brother card." Highly educated black Americans are as much a part of the black experience as anyone else, and they deserve the chance to represent their own version of racial progress. At the same time, one must speak directly with networks to question why Barack Obama clones are being considered for certain opportunities, while those who look like Wesley Snipes are not.

    There is also the broader question regarding when and if CNN will ever consider allowing an African American to host one of their branded night time shows. While millions of dollars are invested in personalities such as Nancy Grace, Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer, there is not one single African American hosting any major branded show on any of the three major cable news networks. Perhaps this can be the first line of business for Mark Whitaker as he settles into his new position. It's a wee bit awkward that the only time CNN has allowed a black man to host a branded show in recent history was with the selection of comedian DL Hughley, who was forced off the air after public outrage from the African American community.

    All the while, as we have a right to have our own expectations of Mark Whitaker and others who are given access to high profile positions, we must remain cognizant of the fact that his job is not to be CNN's resident black man. He has a world to serve with valuable news content, and thus should be given the leverage of doing his job well without carrying the weight of the entire community on his back. Similarly, African Americans must keep in mind that black faces in high places don't always represent progress, and I encourage others to study Whitaker's background to make an assessment of what he brings to the table.

    The selection of Whitaker to this important position is certainly a step in the right direction. But when it comes to media access and opportunities within journalism, people of color are still getting the short end of the stick. The road to true diversity is not a simple or easy path, and it will take serious corporate courage to break the stronghold of racial inequality.

    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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    Erica Hubbard: Glad To Be Grown on 'Let's Stay Together'

    Actress Erica Hubbard is elated! Not only is her new sitcom 'Let's Stay Together' a ratings success on BET, but she finally gets to play an adult!

    "Aw, you don't understand how good it feels to finally play an adult," Hubbard beamed to "I am an adult, and I was playing a teenager on 'Lincoln Heights' for four years. I'm so happy that I don't have to play a role where I tell my mom or my dad what I'm not going to do in the house and them putting me on punishment."

    The 27-year-old actress currently plays Kita on 'Let's Stay Together,' the Queen Latifah-produced sitcom that became BET's second highest rated show with a debut of 4.4 million viewers.

    "BET is finally doing something they haven't done before. This is history in the making! It feels phenomenal to be a part of history in the making," said Hubbard.

    The actress said this show is needed during these touErica Hubbardgh times in our country because it offers viewers an alternative to the serious realities they face daily.

    "I am really happy that I am on a project that people can tune in and they can laugh," she explained. "They can smile watching us perform and being these characters. In this economy, when you hear all of these stories of all of the disparity, you want to turn on and have some kind of laughter in your life. I do believe that laughter is like medicine for the soul."

    On its premiere episode, Hubbard's character, Kita, ambitiously flexed her questionable singing ability. The hilarious routine became an Internet hit.

    "I ended up looking on and seeing that 'Dead Baby Deer Dirty South Remix' was the number one ringtone for a day. People were tweeting me and telling me that they downloaded it onto their phone. I couldn't believe it," she laughed.

    The Chicago-bred talent is also excited that actress Jackee Harry is playing her mom on the sitcom. Hubbard's favorite sitcom was '227,' and she would love to see the show do a reunion.

    'Let's Stay Together' cast

    "I like '227.' I think everyone on there was hilarious! Regina King is on 'Southland' now but it would be great to see her go back to comedy," she shared.

    In addition to working with Harry on 'Let's Stay Together,' Hubbard is headed to North Carolina to shoot a made-for-television movie called 'The Ideal Husband,' alongside Harry, Darrin Henson, R&B singer Ginuwine and Clifton Powell.

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