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

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    Terry McMillan's Twitter Rant

    At first glance, I was shocked and appalled to hear of Terry McMillan's Twitter rant accusing Will and Jada Smith of having "pimped" and "exploited" their kids. McMillan even made the Smith children sound like badly-behaved little Hollywood monsters, saying they were arrogant and hungry for fame. My goodness. Social networking is okay. But social bad mouthing is not. And that goes for on or offline activity.

    Who among us has not talked about the behavior of someone else's children in a one-on-one conversation, over the phone, or in a private setting? But on Twitter? Terry McMillan has over 42,000 followers and is a media savvy author. So even though she seemed taken aback by the public reactions to her Twitter posts, she had to at least have suspected that her comments would generate some buzz and/or controversy.
    In any event, this whole incident does have a silver lining: It opens up the conversation about parents teaching our kids the value of hard work and allowing them to work. When does that start and when should it begin? Is two the best age to begin imparting lessons about hard work -- or is age 12 or 21 more appropriate? Terry McMillan's twitter rant made me start thinking about a few of the larger issues McMillan's comments raised about kids working, and about what is appropriate behavior in general for children.

    Obviously, all parents will have different viewpoints on this. But I believe that Will and Jada Smith subscribe to the viewpoint -- as do my husband and I -- that the earlier you can instill a solid work ethic in your kids the better. And what better way to do that than by allowing children who are ready the opportunity to work?


    That's what Will and Jada are apparently trying to do with their offspring. The Smiths seem to subscribe to a certain parenting philosophy that believes that if you allow a child to develop certain skills early in life, not only will that child thrive and gravitate to what they naturally love to do, but the child can also grow into a financially independent adult. This is obviously a different philosophy than the Tiger Mother brand of parenting, in which a parent dictates virtually every aspect of a child's life.

    When I was growing up, it was nothing to see legions of teens (and even younger kids), bagging groceries at the supermarket for tips, delivering newspapers, babysitting, doing small jobs at convenience stores, or cleaning tables at a family-owned restaurant. These days wealthy parents and entrepreneurs are often advised by tax experts to hire their kids to work in family businesses, in order to save money on taxes. This strategy isn't new; those in the know have been doing it for years.

    I see nothing wrong with introducing children to your line of work, and when possible, allowing them to work with you or for you -- as the Smiths have done. Now certainly, back in the day, kids were paid for their hard work and not financially "exploited." Also, their part-time, seasonal or occasional work did not prevent them from getting an education. McMillan seemed to imply that the Smith children's Hollywood pursuits left the kids uninterested in academics. "What about 4th grade?," McMillan tweeted.

    Well, what do we think we are putting into our fourth grade children's heads when we scoop them up and take them with us to those annual "Take Our Daughters/Sons to Work" events? Of course kids are going to at least think about following in their parents' career footsteps. Will and Jada's kids are no different.

    But it does not matter if your child is going to work with you on the set of the latest blockbuster film in the making, or if the child sits beside you -- as my oldest, my 13-year-old daughter does all the time -- coming up with editorial ideas. I routinely put my teenage daughter to work helping me come up with ideas for books; in fact she was the inspiration and a proofreader for my book series, 'The Millionaire Kids Club.' She's also helped me on TV sets and has used her considerable fashion expertise to help me get "camera ready" for appearances at CNN, FOX, ABC, MSNBC and elsewhere.

    As a practice for the "real world," our two oldest children work in our house and earn money for everything from doing their basic chores, to helping us with our businesses, babysitting, tutoring our 5-year-old, etc. My husband Earl affectionately calls our house "the farm." Instead of milking cows, and raising chickens, he tells the children that there is ALWAYS something around here that needs to be done, and that everyone is expected to chip in and do their share without exception. When Earl leaves his home office and goes upstairs to get a cup of coffee or take a break, he'd better not see a messy whirlwind of a house while three kids sit around lazily watching TV or sitting in the midst of the mess.

    Oh no. There are dishes to be washed, floors to be swept, beds to be made, and chores that need to be done. Unlike some families that expect the chores to be done just because parents said so, my husband actually pays our kids for remembering to perform their chores everyday to perfection. If they miss one single item, the opportunity to earn that money is completely blown that day.

    After this fashion, not only do the kids not get paid, they also get (sometimes lengthy) lectures about responsibility and the importance of doing what you've agreed to do -- along with stories of kids in third word countries that are tasked with raising their siblings, finding food, clothing, and shelter, serving in small militias, and so on. Earl has even gone as far as to place giant easels with "to do" and "don't forget" lists in the middle of our foyer and office space so that the kids cannot avoid one last reminder on their way out to school of the importance of pitching in. It works that way seven days a week in what he calls a "wash, rinse, repeat" cycle.

    The point of all of this "training" is to start preparing the kids for the next level of work and eventually to be self sufficient. So ultimately, you could argue that any money earned by our kids benefits the whole family -- us and them. It is part of our plan to raise intelligent, kind, and caring children, that can take care of themselves and be independent at all levels, including financially. We're not trying to have some 30-year-old kids living in our basement or calling us every month to borrow money, feed their children, etc.

    So if the Smiths can teach their children how to earn a great living at a young age, and stay grounded, more power to them. More parents should do the same.



    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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    13-Year-Old Nadin Khoury Violently Attacked by 'Teen Wolf Pack' While Community's M.I.A.

    Nadin Khoury (pictured), a 13-year-old son of Liberian immigrants living in Philadelphia, was viciously attacked, beaten and terrorized by a group of seven young men while on his way home from school.

    He was jumped, kicked, punched, stuffed in a tree and ultimately hung from a fence outside of his apartment complex, and as often happens these days, one of the alleged attackers filmed the assualt and later posted the incident on YouTube.

    In the video, the attackers can be heard laughing at him as he desperately tries to get away.

    "It's bullying. It's bullying in America at its worst," said Michael Chitwood, superintendent of police in Upper Darby Township, Pa.

    Khoury was not seriously injured in the beating, but he has been unable to go to school because of the threats he and his family have received since the attack. He said the teens, who range in age from 15 to 17, had bothered him before and his family will likely have to move to a different town.

    Unfortunately, videos of young people engaging in violence is all too common, yet this video seems to also showcase the failure of the community in a way words never could.


    Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    Khoury had reported prior bullying incidents to his school and they did nothing. As you can see in the video, a woman walks by Nadin as he is being attacked and crying out for help, and she does nothing. In fact, according to the police, not one person in the neigborhood ever called for help.

    Chitwood believes that people need to take responsibility for bullies in their communities:

    "I find it offensive when members of the community stand up and talk about the cops not doing something when not one person called 911," he said.

    The officer is absolutely right.

    How can we continue to complain that the lives of our children are marginalized and not taken seriously by the police and the media, when our own behavior indicates that we could care less. We don't value our young people enough to help them when they are being beaten in front of our eyes. How can we expect society-at-large to care about our communities if we don't?

    The seven teens were arrested and led out of their school in handcuffs Monday. They were booked at a juvenile detention facility on charges of kidnapping, reckless endangerment and assault:

    "We're dragging them out in handcuffs," Chitwood said, according to the Delaware County Daily Times. "We want to send home a message that this type of behavior will absolutely not be tolerated."

    It is sad that a police chief must declare that this behavior won't be tolerated, instead of the Mothers, Fathers, Brothers, Sisters, neighbors and school personnel.

    The only bright light of this story is Nadin Khoury. Instead of retreating to the shadows afraid of retribution by the thugs in his neighborhood, he will speak out against these criminals, abandoning the ultra-dumb "stop snitching" philosophy that has paralyzed our neighborhoods and left our worst predators on the street.

    Nadin said he plans to testify against the teens in court:

    "Don't be afraid to speak out; tell somebody what's going on, because if you tell them, maybe this will happen and somebody will take action," he told NBC. Nadin is a hero to all of those who feel abandoned and left to fend for themselves amongst the bullies of the world.

    "There's nothing you can do," Khoury told Fox 29 in Philadelphia. "You can't fight back or it comes down even worse. You can't say anything except call for help."

    Khoury said the group of teens targeted others as well:

    "They do it for no reason," he said. "Anybody that's smaller than them, just to get their kicks."


    But Nadin did call for help, and no one answered.

    I hope that his story will illustrate to us that we owe our children so much more than the latest i-gadget or the newest pair of Jordan's. It is our responsibility to protect them from harm and reinforce that they are valuable human beings with limitless potential.

    We have no right to continue to expect others to fight for our young people while we sit idly by, too scared, too busy or too disgusted to intervene.

    At the end of the day, we are responsible for our neighborhoods and our children. Nadin, or any other young person, should never doubt that if they are in trouble, there will always be someone there to help.

    What's the point of having a black president if we continue to abandon future Barack Obamas, often letting them die in the street without a second glance?

    With our apathy, we risk allowing an entire generation to languish and fail. Hopefully, Nadin's bravery and determination to do the right thing will inspire us all to do better by our children.



     

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    What do you do when your sex drive seems to have disappeared? Rebecca Brody explains.

    I am in my early 50's and have a low libido. I have been married for 26 years and rarely do I have a desire to have sex with my husband. I have not been real sexual anyway, but now it seems like I don't have any desire to do anything.
    Can you advise me on how I can get into the mood and increase my libido? Is there medication? Should I talk with my doctor?
    -Low Libido



    Many women struggle with having a low libido, so let me first point out that you are not alone. Having a low libido can impact your identity, life and relationships in negative ways, which is why it is important to address it. With age, women experience perimenopause, which transgresses to menopause, and with less estrogen circulating in your body it feels like your libido has flown the coop. Estrogen heightens your mood, maintaining your interest in sex, as well as stimulating your erogenous zones to increase sensation and make sex pleasurable. Low levels of estrogen can lead to lack of desire, and as the vaginal walls dry they contract, leading to painful intercourse. Physically, the less sex you have, the more painful it can become. Testosterone also plays a role in a woman's libido, and though present in small amounts, it is that pinch of salt that seasons the whole dish. Without it, your sex drive plummets.

    Although modern medicine has created Viagra, a solution for the male libido, the female sex drive is multifactorial, therefore influenced by both physical and emotional stimuli. That being said, there are medications to help increase your libido, which you should discuss with your doctor. Be aware that these medications do have side effects, so ask a lot of questions before deciding to go that route. Another treatment is Zestra, a genital massage oil comprised of a proprietary blend of botanicals that increases arousal, desire, pleasure, genital stimulation and ability to orgasm. To help hydrate the vaginal tissue try a vitamin E oil, which can be rubbed directly on the vagina several times a week. When you do have sex, make sure to use lubricant.

    Addressing the emotional side of your libido will require you to explore intimacy and romance in new ways with your husband. You will have to experiment to learn what turns you on emotionally and visually to help get your mind in the right frame for sex. Try reading erotic literature, as this type of stimuli can heighten your sexual emotions. If you're a visual person, try adult films. Explore your fantasies, and dream about how you want to be touched. The more you work to get your mind in a sexual space, the better your experience will be.

    As frustrated as you might be with the decline in your libido, know that there is nothing wrong with you. This is common in women your age, and is the normal right of passage for a woman's body. To maintain connection with your husband, think about new ways to be intimate and create new experiences that will help grow the bond between you.

    Follow Brody on Twitter @LuvCoach


    Rebecca Brody is a relationship coach and columnist in NYC. She hosts www.ImprovDates.com, and works with private clients. Send your questions to Brody@TheLuvCoach.com or visit her at www.TheLuvCoach.com.

     

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    Tony Award nominee and NCAAP Image Award winner Sanaa Lathan will play the title role of Vera Stark in Lynn Nottage's new play, 'Be The Way, Meet Vera Stark.'

    The New York native recently starred as Maggie the Cat in the West End revival of 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.' Her previous theater credits include: Beneatha Younger in 'A Raisin In The Sun' with Sean Combs, where she received a Tony Award Nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actress.

    This world premiere comedy will also feature the previously announced Stephanie J. Block, Daniel Breaker, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Kevin Isola, and Tony Award-winner Karen Olivo.

    Directed by Jo Bonney, 'Be The Way, Meet Vera Stark' is Ms. Nottage's first play to be produced in New York since she won the Pulitzer Prize for 'Ruined' in 2009.

    The comedy draws upon the screwball films of the 1930's to take a funny and irreverent look at racial stereotypes in Hollywood.

    'Be The Way, Meet Vera Stark' is a seventy year journey through the life of Vera Stark (played by Lathan), a headstrong African-American maid and budding actress, and her tangled relationship with her boss, a white Hollywood star (Stephanie J. Block) desperately grasping to hold on to her career. When circumstances collide and both women land roles in the same Southern epic, the story behind the cameras leaves Vera with a surprising and controversial legacy scholars will debate for years to come.

    The production will begin preview performances on April 6, 2011 and officially open on May 9, 2011.

    Lathan, who currently voices the animated character Donna Tubbs on the TV series, 'The Cleveland Show,' just finished shooting Steven Soderbergh's film, 'Contagion' with Laurence Fishburne.

    Very recently, she met up with the cast of Malcolm D. Lee's 1999 film, 'The Best Man,' where she reunited with Nia Long, Taye Diggs, and Terrence Howard.

     

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    Steve Harvey Taco Bell

    Recently we were all treated to two vastly different lessons in social media-driven brand damaging -- and damage control: Steve Harvey was attacked successfully via YouTube by his ex-wife Mary, and Taco Bell used social media to defeat brand-damaging attacks.

    In one of the most commented events on Black Voices last week, readers reacted to Steve Harvey's ex-wife firing a fusillade of allegations against the bestselling relationship author via a series of YouTube videos. At the same time, an Alabama law firm filed a class action suit alleging that Taco Bell's taco meat is less than 35% beef. While both Harvey and Taco Bell decided to respond to the allegations against them with threats of litigation, Taco Bell attacked its critics head on with a hint of humor using Facebook and YouTube. Harvey, on the other hand, relied on statements sent via his lawyers filled with personal attacks on his ex-wife.


    There is a lesson here in where the real power lies, if you have to pit lawyers against popular sentiment. As we shall see, Taco Bell used social media against the law and emerged victorious. Steve Harvey? It remains to be seen, but he is still struggling.
    Harvey's ex used YouTube to perfection, spreading the word of Harvey's alleged mistreatment without spending a dime. Many offered her a sympathetic ear, and took her side. Steve could have stirred up the emotional support of his fans via Twitter, but chose a more formal route. Here's Steve's response, first reported on Black Voices, which did not exactly strike at fans' emotions:

    Harvey's lawyer, Bobbie Edmonds, released a statement in response, saying they were appalled and aware of the videos and other fabricated documents. According to Edmonds, the videos "contained false, misleading, derogatory, disparaging, malicious, explicit and slanderous information," which led them to be "saddened" that Mary "has resorted to such devious and selfish behavior, with a reckless disregard for their minor son, her adult son and Mr. Harvey's other children." (Black Voices)

    Harvey didn't rebut the allegations specifically, and some chose to view this as Harvey taking "the high road." (Calling someone devious and selfish is hardly taking "the high road," but I digress.) The point is that Steve did not match Mary's direct emotional plea with a similar response. Plus, Steve and his wife Marjorie issuing statements threatening the ex was like an elephant kicking a mouse -- someone who is more powerful kicking someone who's weak. Mary is bitter yes, but still weak. After all, Mary had to take to YouTube to launch this attack and compete for attention against incredibly cute babies and kittens. The public must have really been moved to have responded as they did. The fact that Mary is still garnering public sympathy says a lot about the power of social media to promote emotional connection. With all that emotion on her side, it would take more than lawyers to protect Steve's reputation.

    Yet, Steve Harvey decided to play hard ball with his former wife, didn't get personal with the fans, and the result is that his relationship expert status has been harmed. Could he have taken a softer social media-based approach, and succeeded in escaping this firestorm? It's safe to guess that it could have been so.


    Taco Bell on the other hand was relatively direct about its response to allegations that their tacos contain little beef, cheeky even. They thanked their accusers for suing them in ads running in major newspapers. They launched a simultaneous social media campaign featuring Taco Bell president, Greg Green explaining, via YouTube, that Taco Bell's "seasoned beef" is made up of 88% beef, 3-5% water, and multitude of spices including cocoa powder, plus a "proprietary blend of Mexican spices." Who cares if they have an outside firm verify this? The direct appeal using YouTube was enough for 88% beef taco lovers.

    Taco Bell also took to its Facebook page to highlight ingredient-defending cartoon characters and gave fans an opportunity to declare their love for Taco Bell's seasoned beef. Taco Bell fans delivered:

    i dont care if your meat is made of crap i would still eat it (Jonothan on Taco Bell's Facebook Page)

    Let's all face it. No matter what it is (really) We like it or we wouldn't keep going back. I love Taco Bell Food. I think they are telling the truth. But really, truth or not, I'm eating it and will continue to eat it because it taste good. The calories and nutritional value will be the same no matter what they declare. I'm heading for the Border where the Bell rings loud and clear. (Yum Bob S. on Facebook)

    Taco Bell skipped the personal attacks, lost the lawyers, and launched one of the most powerful social media weapons available: Self-directed public mockery. By the end of the week, the Taco Bell Lawsuit became the butt of jokes on Comedy Central -- while Mary Harvey had landed an interview on 'CNN Headline News.' Angry women have launched a Facebook boycott of Steve Harvey, while the increased attention on Taco Bell's "seasoned beef" is sending more folks running to their joints:

    I ate taco bell twice yesterday. I haven't had it in months, but started craving it once I read about that stupid law suit. I think I am going to eat Taco Bell for lunch today, too. :) (John on Taco Bell's Facebook Page)

    The fact that Steve still can't get out from under after lawyering up is eye-opening. What's the lesson to learn? It's that social media demands authenticity. Therefore, if you are going to respond to personal attacks via YouTube, you had better do so directly -- not through lawyers, surrogates or intermediaries. You can't compete with the emotions of the masses with legal documents. And it's always a bonus if you can talk to the public with relatively good humor. Mary Harvey won out because she was authentic, and Taco Bell turned the tables by being able to make fun of itself.

    If you use social media in your professional life to defend your brand, be ready to keep it real and keep it funny. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are powerful weapons for brand defending and brand destruction. This is something to keep in mind as we use social media in our work and personal arenas.


    Gina McCauley is the CEO of the Blogging While Brown Conferenceand the blogsMichelle Obama Watch and What About Our Daughters. She is currently completing her first book, 'Michelle Obama Watch.'

     

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    It's becoming a war of words between Oscar winner Halle Berry and her ex Gabriel Aubry in the custody battle for their daughter Nahla.

    While Berry recently stated that she 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," Aubry shot back with his own statement.

    "While Gabriel is disappointed in Halle's decision to falsely malign him publicly and for her own purposes, he refuses to be pulled into her dispute over a canceled film production," his rep said in the statement.

    "Gabriel also refuses to air their issues in the press as he believes this may ultimately harm their daughter. The fact is that Gabriel is a caring father who shares custody of Nahla."



    "Halle's continuing allegations in the press are untrue and irresponsible," Aubry's rep added.

    Meanwhile, TMZ is reporting that Aubry has called Halle the 'N' word, and routinely demeaned her with other vulgarities.

    Supposedly, he would also call her a "f**king b***h" and other expletives. And the vulgarities are not limited to face-to-face confrontations. There are vulgar text messages as well, states the site.

    Since splitting up last April, Aubry filed court papers in December to be formally recognized as Nahla's father and is seeking joint legal and physical custody.




     

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    Tax Refund Anticipation Loan

    From Young Black Professional Guide:

    Now that income tax time is here, everyone is scrambling to file by the deadline, especially if they are due a refund. Many of us write off expenses or have exemptions that result in receiving a refund from Uncle Sam. And sometimes, those refunds are very high amounts. It is tempting to want to get those funds immediately when filing instead of waiting the prerequisite six to eight weeks (or about two weeks if you e-file) for a refund check, but is it worth it?

    Many tax preparation firms offer RALs (or refund anticipation loans). They are actual loans that you can take out when you want your income tax refund immediately, or within a few days. In return, the company issuing the RAL gets a cut or percentage of your income tax refund for doing the loan. The interest can be as high as 200 percent of the loan, and can place a major dent in the refund.


    A RAL is only a good idea when there is an emergency and the money is needed right away. If there isn't an emergency, then why take a big chunk out of your income tax refund to have the money immediately? That would not be a smart move money wise.

    Read more about whether to take out a tax refund anticipaiton loan on Young Black Professional Guide.

     

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    Walgreens to Spotlight African American-owned Vendors

    From Diversity News:

    Walgreens, one of the nation's largest drugstore chains, said today that in honor of Black History Month, the company will be giving special recognition to its African-American vendor partners.

    Spotlighting the vendors is a part of its Community Corner initiative showcasing products by minority-owned businesses. The initiative enables Walgreens customers to identify products by diverse vendors through displays, in-store signage and announcements, national print and radio advertisements, in-store product demonstrations and a new Community Corner sticker that will be placed on each featured item.

    In addition to African American-owned businesses, the Community Corner initiative launched awareness campaigns and promotions supporting products produced by women-owned businesses during National Women's History Month in May and products by Hispanic businesses during Hispanic Heritage Month in October.


    According to a company release, the program drove a 12 percent sales increase among featured items and garnered recognition and support from national community and economic development organizations.

    Throughout Black History Month in February, the products by African-American owned vendors will be featured in more than 2,500 Walgreens stores. The products will also be available for up to 50 percent off the regular price at Walgreens.com/cc.


    Read more about Walgreens' African American Vendors promotion on Diversity News.

     

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    Kelley Williams-Bolar Update

    From TheGrio.com:

    On Monday grand theft charges were dismissed against Kelley Williams-Bolar and her father, Edward Williams, in the school residency case that has outraged the nation. But both still face felony counts of tampering with records, and the case continues to be a key part of the national debate over education reform.

    The 40-year-old single mother of two works as a teacher's assistant for special needs kids at a nearby high school and is going to school for her own teacher certification. She lives in an Akron housing project, but sent her daughters to school in the wealthier district of by using her father's home address in neighboring Copley-Fairlawn.


    Read the rest on TheGrio.com.

     

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    Last Night, BlackVoices.com attended the opening of Matthew Lopez's 'The Whipping Man,' which stars two-time Emmy Award winner Andre Braugher, Jay Wilkison, and Andre Holland at the Manhattan Theater Club at New York City Center.

    Directed by Tony Award winner Doug Hughes, the play is about a Jewish Confederate soldier returning to his ruined family home, where he is greeted by the only ones watching the place - two former slaves, who were raised as Jews.

    As the three men reunite to celebrate Passover, and recall the exodus from Egypt in light of their own new liberties, they uncover a tangle of secrets... ties that bind them together and that, ultimately, might cost each man his freedom.

    Blackvoices.com caught up with Braugher as he talked about doing a play about Black Jews.

    "It's an interesting story, and one I'd never heard; the idea that this would be a faith that was shared between master and slave. But all families are interesting in their own ways. From my perspective, the enslaved people in the household were as much Jews as anyone else in the household, and this faith sustained them. When you're raised in a faith it becomes something central to you regardless of the depth of your practice or the limitations or the adaptations that are necessary to do it. It's Judaism that informs the kind of man Simon is and he grabs hold of it because it brings meaning to his life. Life is so difficult, and the institution is so dehumanizing, and it's what he holds on to. Judaism for him is the rock that allows him to continue to stand up straight."

    How much practice did it take for you to learn Hebrew and speak it correctly?

    Braugher: I learned it phonetically, and I talked to a lot of Jews who would correct me when I do it wrong, and that's how I did it, again and again by rote. I did a lot of research and reading and talking. There are talkbacks where the audience comes after matinees and they tell us what they think and ask questions about it. I never miss those 'cause an audience always has a unique perspective on the play and always let us know if we're telling the story correctly. The question is: did they get it?, and when I hear they got something completely different I know I need to go back and sharpen my storytelling.

    Holland, who starred in August Wilson's 'Joe Turner's Come and Gone,' commented on his reseach to the play and working with Braugher.

    "We did a lot of research. Our assistant director Carol Hainey provided us with a lot of source material. A book called "Slave Religion," Frederick Douglas' autobiography, tons and tons of stuff. We read a lot of slave narratives, looked at tons of photos, anything we could get our hands on to get our minds into that space. Obviously, as actors, whatever we couldn't find we used our imaginations to fill in the gaps. The time period is so dense and rich you always end the pay feeling like, "I got some of it but I didn't get all of it," and I dunno if it's possible, honestly, to hold all the history of what our people have been through, but that's what we're trying to do. To honor our ancestors and do justice to our story."

    And working with Jay and Andre?

    Holland: Fantastic. Andre Braugher is a hero of mine, one of the most specific and dedicated actors I've ever met. Ever ever ever. Jay too. Jay and I didn't know each other before, didn't even know of each other before, but working with him has been a real treat, just an open, honest guy who demands honesty every moment. That's what we're trying to do in the story, to tell the truth.

     

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    Jimmy McMillan of "Rent Is Too Damn High" fame has already announced that he wants to take his platform nationwide and challenge President Obama in a couple of years.

    Now McMillan says he wants to keep his future campaign bipartisan with two Republicans he'd like as a running mate.

    And the two lucky GOP members are: Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

    "Newt Gingrich has been there before," McMillan said in an interview on News Talk Radio 77 WABC "He is a good liar."

    Romney, McMillan said, is good looking," and will "keep the ladies from looking at me."

    I'm not sure Romney is that good-looking. McMillan, with his antics and catchy slogan, is used to garnering a lot of attention these days.

    McMillan first broke the news of his run for president to Aol. Black Voices in December.

    "Don't take it personally, Barack Obama. I'm coming after you if you don't wake up."


    Video streaming by Ustream

    He said he was angry with President Obama for the bailout of Wall Street and the automobile industry.

    "I'm not that dumb to not be able to figure out the math. If I have all this student loan debt, why has nothing been sent to me. We should waive every student loan for every student in America," McMillan told Aol. Black Voices in December.

    McMillan received 40,000 votes in his bid for governor of New York state. He's also a pitchman for an Internet auction site and has been seen recently on a local New York City television station in commercials for the station's weather lady.

    Just a few months ago, McMillan was bashing Romney and Gingrich. He said neither was qualified to address the issues facing Americans.

    "I can sit here and say how to control the country in 30 seconds, and they can't say it in 30 years," he said.

    If McMillan thinks the rent is too high, then I'm not sure either Romney or Gingrich would agree with him. So there's no doubt that McMillan is well versed at getting attention, saying outrageous things and making people laugh.

    But he should also use his 15 minutes of fame to talk about the struggles of working people to meet their bills in cities and suburbs across America. That is no laughing matter.

    After all, not much has changed since McMillan ran for governor. The Rent is still Too Damn High!

     

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    One of the men for whom I have a great deal of respect is Dr. Khalil Muhammad, the new Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Professor Muhammad is currently a scholar of African-American history at Indiana University.
    Professor Muhammad's selection for the position was not without controversy. Some thought he was too young and unknown to be granted such a serious and prestigious post. I don't agree with the criticism, but only time will prove us all correct. From my meetings with Professor Muhammad, I found him to be sharp, insightful and down-to-earth. He is a scholar who fully understands, respects and appreciates the gravity of his appointment and the importance of The Schomburg.

    The interview with Dr. Muhammad is below:
    PRODUCTION PLAYER! DO NOT DELETE.


    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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    Most of us know about DJ Kool Herc, one of the great pioneers of hip-hop music. His greatness transcends the genre, and he is respected all around the world. Well, nearly every great legacy can come under fire, and Herc is currently in the battle of a lifetime.

    It was revealed last month that Herc was in the hospital facing very serious kidney stones. It has also been reported that he is without health insurance. DJ Premier admitted publicly that the debacle has been tough for Herc and his family and undermined their finances as well.

    Since being released from the hospital, Herc has begun speaking out on the problems with the United States healthcare system.

    "We live in one of the superpowers of the world!" Kool Herc said to MTV News. "'Give me your tired, your poor ... ' and then you don't take care of them? There should be no weak ants in the colony. There shouldn't be anyone fighting for health care! This has been going on too damn long!"

    "Now we are fighting for health care not just for me, but for everyone. I see this situation as another quest for me to shine light on a sensitive issue for the community. I'm an instrument of God. I'm here for a purpose and I want to be here for the solution."

    A Paypal account has been set up to make donations for Herc's medical bills. The family says that his health problems are serious and he plans to continue speaking out on the healthcare system. It is incredibly ironic that the man who created the industry that opened the door for corporations and individuals to earn billions of dollars finds himself unable to pay medical bills.

    The struggles of Herc against the healthcare system lead me to a couple of thoughts. First, the rest of the hip-hop community should follow Herc's lead and re-ignite the importance of hip-hop as a significant political voice in our society. Even Diddy's recent challenge to President Barack Obama can be followed up with direct overtures for education reform and scrutiny of the prison industrial complex (rappers rap a lot about prison, but they don't rap much about prison reform). I would love to see the hip-hop community take a stand on the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar as it pertains to fixing the horrible educational system to which our children are subjected. Also, I was surprised that more rappers didn't step forward to support their brothers enduring the prison labor strike that took place in Georgia a few weeks ago.

    The second thought I had about Herc's unfortunate experience relates to the healthcare system at-large. America has a healthcare system built on capitalist principles that serve to put a price on human life. If you can't afford the drugs you need to live, then society has no problem seeing you die. If you don't have enough money to afford the best surgery available, then you settle for whatever you can get.

    What's worse about our system is that drug companies and hospitals now have so much at stake that they control the decisions being made by our politicians and are ultimately able to control the direction of our nation. In order for us to have a healthcare system that actually makes sense, there will have to come a time when our politicians have enough courage to seriously challenge the existing system and build something better. Given that the United States is on a downward long-term economic slope, it will only be a matter of time before those who can't afford healthcare anymore begin to reject the political system that serves to keep poor people dying.



    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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    The Onion does a hilarious skit about a blond white woman accused of killing her classmate. The punishment administered by the judge is not the death penalty, a long prison sentence or even community service. Instead, she is punished by forcing her to go on trial as a 300 pound black man. The skit goes on to show the girl's parents crying in court over the judge's cruel and unusual punishment. "No one in this country deserves the horror of being treated like a black man," they say in front of a group of news cameras.

    While the skit was certainly funny in its own right, it was built on a very serious set of functional inequities in America's justice system: black men are more likely to be searched, arrested, convicted and incarcerated for crimes, even when they didn't do anything wrong. While we've heard about the cases of the Scott Sisters and Kelley Williams-Bolar, there are thousands of other men and women in prison after being found guilty of simply being black.

    The inequities of the justice system are rooted in perceptions of juries and citizens leading them to believe that black men are less ethical and more criminal than the rest of our society. A nun in Brooklyn used these biased perceptions to her advantage after lying to police and stating that she was raped and choked by a black man.

    Sister Mary Turcotte of the Apostles of Infinite Love, a sect that has no affiliation with the Catholic Church, went to police to tell her tale in dramatic fashion. Turcotte told police that the man who attacked her was a 6-foot-4, 250 pound black man who dragged her and left her in a snowbank with her breasts exposed. Police then released a sketch of the suspect to the public to get help in solving the crime.

    "I'm pissed off," said 33-year old Brooklyn resident, Reggie Antoine. "It makes me paranoid. It makes women paranoid of us."

    This is not the first case of phantom black people being accused of committing heinous crimes: Charles Stuart, in 1990, killed his pregnant wife and then said that a black man did it. Susan Smith killed her two sons in 1995 and said that a black man did it. In 2009, Bonnie Sweeten said that black men kidnapped her, when in reality, she'd actually taken her daughter to Disney World.

    There are other cases of black people being falsely accused of crime, but it would take a while to list them all. Perhaps cases like this one will remind us to take a deep and serious look at the state of our criminal justice system. There are thousands of men and women incarcerated for crimes they did not commit, and our society enjoys living under the presumption that every man and woman in the prison industrial complex is somehow evil and unworthy of even the most basic of human rights. The truth is that for every case we uncover where someone has falsely accused a black man of a crime he didn't commit, there are likely several others where the liar got away with the hoax.

    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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    Republicans Lose Vote on Health Care

    Republicans were defeated in their efforts to overturn the health care reform law in the Senate, but they think voters will reward them for the effort in the 2012 elections.

    That was the mood coming from the Senate, after the bill was defeated by a vote of 51-47. The mood on the GOP side of the aisle was practically giddy:

    "These are the first steps in a long road that will culminate in 2012, whereby we will expose the flaws and the weaknesses in this legislation," Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the party's campaign chief, told the AP.

    "We think this is just the beginning," added Republican leader Mitch McConnell. "This issue is still ahead of us."

    But Republicans may be in for a rude awakening.

    Despite complaints about health care from the American public, there are changes that are now benefiting millions of Americans, especially in this time of fiscal crisis.

    One of the most prominent changes is the amendment that allows children to stay on their parents' health care plan until the age of 26. That change is especially important as many young people graduate college or technical school and return home unable to find work.





    Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), called the Republican repeal effort "one more hollow, symbolic, pander-to-the-masses amendment," the AP reported.

    "I want to hear their ideas for replacement," she said.

    And that's why this is a prime example of what is wrong with American politics right now.

    Instead of Republicans working to change portions of the health care bill they disagree with, they are plotting for the 2012 presidential election, and it's not just Republicans that play this ugly game; Democrats do it as well.

    In reality, Republicans should be more concerned with the 23-year-old college graduate who can't find a job and who has student loans on deferral. The least we can do is make sure that he can go to the doctor if he becomes ill.

    Meanwhile, Republicans are still talking about deficit reduction. They are right that we need to reduce our tremendous debt; however, it should not be at the expense of the health of Americans.

    There are projections that the health care law will actually help reduce our budget gap.

    And why aren't we looking at other budget-widening items such as our defense spending?

    We are still armed for World War III when many of our recent and unnecessary conflicts have involved on-the-ground battles with smaller, more elusive combatants who use guerrilla warfare techniques.

    Nor is health care reform a government plot to delve deeper into our lives. If most people don't realize it, the government is already deeply involved in health care. Millions of poor Americans receive Medicaid, while every citizen will receive Medicare if they live long enough -- both of these programs are vital to the health of the elderly and poor.

    I'm sure a sick person in Florida who has lost her job and home is not thinking about the 2012 elections at this moment.

     

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    Viking Everson Griffen Arrested Twice, TasedIt's been a rough week for Minnesota Viking defensive end Everson Griffen (pictured).

    Last Friday, he was arrested for being drunk in public while hanging out in Hollywood. He was released on Saturday. On Monday afternoon, though, Griffen was pulled over near the USC campus in L.A. and was unable to produce an ID.

    When police asked him to step out of his car, he took off running, saying he didn't want to go to jail.


    Officers chased after the 6'3", 275-pound baller until they caught up with him. As they tried to subdue him, Griffen fought back, grabbing one of the officers in the crotch. Officers whipped out the taser and gave the baller some shocks until he allowed officers to put the cuffs on him.

    Griffen was initially charged with felony battery, but according to the Los Angeles County district attorney, there wasn't enough evidence to pursue a felony charge.

    He'll most likely be charged with some misdemeanors. Griffen was released earlier this week on $50,000 bail and is set to return to court on February 25th.

    The NFL has yet to comment on the incident, but there will most likely be some fines or even a suspension coming down soon.

     

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    Super Bowl XLV



    As the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers face off in Dallas this Sunday, fans are storing up on salsa chips and crab cakes and everybody has their Ms. Cleo-like predictions.
    Two-time Super Bowl Champion, Houston Texans defensive end Jarvis Green (pictured right) has Green Bay winning by six:

    Super Bowl XLV Predictions


    "I like Green Bay because they are a young team, they are new at this and they look hungry. Aaron Rodgers has been playing like a beast in the playoffs.

    "Yes, Pittsburgh has a strong defense, but I think Aaron Rodgers is up for the challenge and Green Bay has their tradition behind them. It's their time. Final score will be GB 34-PITT 28."

    Two-time NBA All-Star and Dallas Mavericks forward Caron Butler (pictured below) will be there for Super Bowl XLV. The Racine, Wis., native and lifelong Packers fan told Aol. Black Voices that he is predicting a 24-21 Green Bay victory over the Pittsburg Steelers Sunday and sees the same gritty brilliance in Aaron Rodger that he recalls Brett Favre possessed during the 1997 season - the last year the storied Packers franchise won it all:

    "I grew up as a huge Favre fan. You look at Aaron Rodgers and you look at Brett Favre, and you see the same charisma and confidence," said Butler, who spends the off-season with his family in Wisconsin.

    Super Bowl XLV Predictions


    "Aaron Rodgers is a head above the pack. We are going to see two of the best quarterbacks in the league face off at Cowboys Stadium, but Rodgers is coming out on top."

    It's a tough call.

    Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu, the defensive player of the year, will be leading the team on defense against the fleet-footed Big Ben Roethlisburger.

    Polamalu's arsenal includes covering receivers in the secondary when other teams are passing, grabbing interceptions and making bone crunching tackles like a linebacker.

    I have to agree with Butler and Green that Green Bay is going to win, mostly because of their awesome offense. Though I am pulling for Head Coach Mike Tomlin to win for so many reasons, only a few of them are football related.

    Final score: Green Bay 44-Pittsburgh 42


    What's your prediction?

     

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    One of my favorite television personalities is the great Stephen A. Smith. I met Stephen a few years ago when I appeared on his ESPN show, "Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith." Smith's show was my favorite in all of television, primarily because it was a place where black men could be men on the national stage and discuss the issues that mattered most (to us). I told Stephen A. that his show was effectively "The Black Man's Oprah," and we needed more like it.

    It was Stephen's deep commitment to the black athlete in America that led me to realize that his television days were numbered. There is no way on God's green earth that a show so seriously committed to the black male would last on any of the major networks. Stephen's show should never have been canceled, but his show should probably have been on BET or TV One.

    Well, Smith is being given another chance at media with ESPN. It has been announced that Smith is going to return to ESPN as a local radio show host and columnist for ESPN.com. He is going to host a two-hour local radio show on 1050 ESPN (WEPN-AM) in New York City from 7 - 9 pm. EST. He is also going to host another show in Los Angeles on 710 ESPN (KSPN-AM) from 6 - 8 pm EST. He will also cover the NBA finals and All-Star games for ESPN, in addition to writing columns for their website.

    "Stephen A. consistently offers strong opinions on a wide variety of topics," said Norby Williamson, executive vice president, production. "He has a proven track record as an authoritative voice, which will lead to insightful conversation leading into Knicks and Lakers game coverage."

    "Words cannot express how excited I am to return to ESPN," said Smith. "The five-plus years I spent here in my previous stint were unquestionably the best years of my professional career. To have the opportunity to return to a place where I have an abundance of friends - with individuals whose contributions to my life, both professionally and personally, deserves far more credit than I can describe - simply makes my return that much more special. I'm sincerely grateful. And very, very ready. As in right now. Let's go!"

    I have a great deal of respect for Smith and the way he drops it on sports. I've seen him step out of his lane a few times, doing black social commentary on major networks, and I was less than impressed. Another well-known sports writer, Jason Whitlock, also attempted to do a bit of black social commentary and neither of these men were very good at it.

    But when it comes to sports and telling it like it is, there is no black media figure more capable than Stephen A. Smith. ESPN's investment in Smith is a good one, but I'm sure they know that already. Good luck Steve, keep hope alive!

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the Athlete Liberation and Academic Reform Movement (ALARM). To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

     

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    Black History Month - Black Finance

    One of the great challenges for the black community is that we are not quite where we'd like to be economically. Having freedom is not the same as having independence, and although black people were liberated from slavery 150 years ago, we have not yet felt the sweetness of economic independence: Our unemployment rate is nearly double that of white Americans, in large part because white Americans are the owners of the businesses that are granting the jobs. Median black family wealth is roughly 1/10 that of white American families because we've been stripped of the right to create intergenerational wealth and have also developed economic habits that continue to make it difficult for us to break the cycle.

    Given that we are in Black History Month, I thought I would lay out three financial things you can do during the month that might make your life a little more liberated, and also give you the chance to start making black history yourself:

    1) Consider ways to obtain multiple streams of income: No matter how much money you make, you're never safe if you've only got one stream of income. The loss of a job can be devastating, and we are always at risk if everything we need is coming from one source. Look into finding another source of income, whether it comes from taking a second job on the weekends, or selling something that you know others will buy, whatever the case may be. When my career as a public scholar created a great deal of professional risk for me at Syracuse University (people worked to have me fired after Bill O'Reilly came after me), I found that having diversified revenue streams really saved me on multiple occasions.

    2) Make sure your kids learn something about entrepeneurship: Don't just teach your kids to grow up and get a job -- teach them how to create a job. Finding simple websites on the basics of starting a business might be a great start.

    3) Automate your savings account: Saving is harder to do when you have to think about it. I recommend setting up an automatic deduction from your paycheck that goes into your savings or retirement account. Saving has to become a regular part of your financial management process, especially as it pertains to old age. Most Americans are not prepared for retirement, and the government is not going to take care of you when you get older.

    Taking baby steps is the key to making your life a little bit better financially. It's not easy out there for any of us, but at the very least, becoming conscious of damaging financial habits is the first step toward improving your life. Black History Month is a great time to get started, because within the context of studying black history, we are also preparing for a black future. Let's try to make that future into a good one.

    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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    If you have got a few extra curves, then you may think pulling off lingerie is a challenge. Well, it doesn't have to be.

    The key to lingerie, for any shape, is feeling sexy. Let's be honest: Many times, we spend more time choosing it than he does enjoying it. But that's okay -- after all, you have to believe in your product (you) in order to sell it. And it's hard to sell without proper advertising!

    Here are a few tips to guarantee your lingerie is successfully marketing to your number one customer -- just in time for Valentine's Day.


    1. Know your shape. If you have a rounder tummy, try baby-doll silhouettes. If you are top heavy, opt for pieces that offer you some support. Also, remember to play up your best assets. If you have a great backside, a boy short can be your best friend. If you have a great rack, show as much of it as you feel comfortable with -- either with extra cleavage or by wearing something see-through.

    2. Use color to your advantage. Work with your skin tone. Nothing is more dramatic and fresh on dark skin than stark white. Caramel sisters look great in reds, chocolates and warm oranges. Lighter skin really pops in corals and blues. Try wearing colors that complement your eye and hair color.

    3. Don't go overboard with fabric. It's easy for curvy girls to want to cover up their excess bits. But, remember that too much fabric can make you look matronly and can actually work against you by drowning out your figure or making you look boxy. Resist the urge to drape.

    4. Try it on first. The more curves, the harder it can be to judge fit based on size alone. Make sure your desired look translates well to your actual shape.


    SEXY SUGGESTIONS


    Body suits contour and sculpt voluptuous curves. Try this Lane Bryant number in pretty pink satin and racy black lace. ($49.50, lanebryant.com)

    Slips are wonderful for an effortlessly sexy look. They are also a great go-to for the more demure plus-size gal. This green number from Hips and Curves is great against the skin, and the site has a lots of amazing racier options, too! ($63.50, hipsandcurves.com)

    Garters, like this one from Victoria's Secret, are terrific on any shape, and add instant sex appeal. Just add stockings and sexy underwear (or no underwear at all!), cover it up with a dress then surprise your significant other by what's underneath. ($16.50, victoriassecret.com)

    Ladies, what are your favorite sexy pieces for Valentine's Day?

     

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