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

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    Actor Brandon T. Jackson, who's currently gracing the big screen opposite Martin Lawrence in 'Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son,' has been tapped as the male lead opposite Minnie Driver in CBS' buddy P.I. pilot 'Hail Mary.'

    The series centers on Mary Beth Baker (played by Driver), a suburban single mom in Atlanta who, after her teen son gets killed, teams up with her son's best friend, KZ (played by Jackson), a fast-talking con artist from the streets, to solve her son's murder and other crimes, stated

    While the Detroit native guest starred on Fox's 'Raising Hope,' this represents his first regular stint on television.

    Driver, who appeared in 2010's 'Conviction' and 'Barney's Version,' was last on the small screen in the critically acclaimed FX series 'The Riches.'


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    Oprah and First Lady Michelle Obama: Newsweek Poll
    Oprah Winfrey has just been voted the most admired woman in America according to a poll conducted by Newsweek and their sister site The Daily Beast. Oprah, who garnered 25% of the votes, was not the only African American woman on the list. Americans also think very highly of First Lady Michelle Obama, who received 12% of the votes, just beating out Condoleezza Rice's 10% take. The entire list of women presented for evaluation ranks as follows:

    1. Oprah Winfrey, 25%
    2. Hillary Clinton, 17%
    3. Michelle Obama, 12%
    4. Condoleezza Rice, 10%
    5. Laura Bush, 9%
    6. Diane Sawyer, 7%
    7. Sarah Palin, 6%

    Read a detailed breakdown of these results on The Daily Beast.

    As this poll is "the national representative sample of 400 women, assessing women's opinions on a number of women's issues, the 2012 election, and Clinton specifically" (according to The Daily Beast), the results are very striking. Sarah Palin seems to think that she can beat President Obama in the 2012 election -- but she can't even beat his wife. Now, we all know Michelle is bad, so this comparison is not meant to put her down in any fashion. But realistically, if the first lady has twice as much nationwide approval than Palin, chances are that the American people have much more confidence in her husband going into the 2012 election, who is already doing the job. Even Condoleezza Rice might make a more viable Republican presidential candidate, based on these numbers.

    Hopefully someone from the Palin camp will see these poll results, and take it as a wake-up call. We can do without her delusional pronouncements for the next several months.


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    For a minute - a brief minute - it looked like Chris Brown was doing well on the comeback trail.

    On the heels of a scorching hot 'Saturday Night Live' appearance, the platinum-selling R&B hottie is readying the release of his new album, 'F.A.M.E.,' via Jive Records on March 22, which has already yielded radio hits with 'No. B.S.' and 'Look at Me Now' (featuring Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes).

    And while his presence on radio and television seems to be along the lines of a winning formula, his Internet activity, on the other hand, has become quite questionable.

    Last week, the zeitgeist was all abuzz about Brown mysteriously bleaching his hair blond.

    This week, the world truly can see that the curtains don't match the rug.

    Nude photos of the 21-year-old Grammy Award-nominated singer (or someone with a striking resemblance to him) have allegedly been leaked - to the Website

    Brown appears to have taken the full frontal shot while standing in front of a mirror with his camera phone.

    Brown's current spokesperson, Tammy Brook, did not respond to queries about the photos today.

    The 'This Christmas' star had one of the most promising music and movie careers before he and his then-girlfriend, pop singer Rihanna, had a tabloid-ready physical altercation in the streets of Los Angeles on Feb. 8, 2009. Since then, brutal photos of the Bajan beauty circulated like wildfire making her the face of domestic violence. Meanwhile, Brown - who is known as the culprit of the abuse - has had a hard time returning to his glory.

    Last year, after lengthy legal proceedings and performing community service, the Tappahannock, Va., native starred in the box-office hit 'Takers,' alongside Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Michael Ely and T.I. - signaling that a comeback could be on the horizon. Musically, however, he's had setbacks. His latest album, 'Graffiti,' didn't live up to his previous two releases and was a critical disappointment.


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    Warner Bros. has fired Charlie Sheen from the hit CBS show "Two and a Half Men."

    The move comes after several weeks of very public battling between the actor and CBS, Warner Bros. and "Two and a Half Men" co-creator Chuck Lorre.

    In a statement, the studio said, "After careful consideration, Warner Bros. Television has terminated Charlie Sheen's services on 'Two and a Half Men' effective immediately."

    Production on the show was stopped in late January after top executives from CBS and Warner Bros. confronted Sheen about his private life. Sheen has made no secret of embracing a sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle. Messy divorces, accusations of violence toward women and trips to rehab have been staples of his life for over two decades.

    None of his personal life seemed to have any impact on his career. He is the highest paid actor in television, with a salary that reaches $2 million per episode when his portion of rerun money is included. Although production was also shut down last year because of Sheen's personal issues, CBS and Warner Bros. never publicly came out against that star.

    That all changed last month when Sheen suddenly became very critical of Lorre, Warner Bros. and CBS. He made fun of Lorre, and CBS and Warner Bros. announced they were suspending production of the show for the rest of the season.

    Source: LA Times

    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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    Memphis Residents and Failing Schools
    Ciara, Quddus and K. Michelle attend the The Get Schooled National Challenge & Tour at East High School on October 7, 2010 in Memphis, Tennessee.

    Memphis, Tennessee is a city that is rich with culture, history and opportunity. I've visited the city on several occasions and found the city and its people to be quite enjoyable on all levels. What's also interesting about Memphis, however, is that it's city schools are failing and it continues to be a town that is plagued with racism: The city itself is mostly black, while wealthier whites live on the outskirts, hoping that the black folks don't come and rain on their parade. The city is not nearly as disconnected from it's legacy of blatant racism as it might want to believe.

    Voters in the city of Memphis are being sent to the polls Tuesday to decide whether or not to transfer control of the Memphis City Schools to Shelby County, which surrounds Memphis. The Memphis City School Board voted on December 20 to surrender its charter and relinquish control of Memphis City Schools to Shelby County, leading to tomorrow's showdown. The referendum effectively allows voters to validate the decision by the school board, overriding Shelby County's legal challenge to the Memphis City School Board decision.

    In an interview on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Roland Martin listened to a local pastor, Kenneth Whalum, who seemed to feel that merging the school districts means that the citizens would be "giving up on their kids." The pastor sounded disappointed that in the city where "Martin Luther King breathed his last breath," such a merger would be allowed to take place. He even compared the surrender of the charter to "making your kids wards of the state." I am not sure of the agenda of those involved in the interview, but what was made clear was that an alternative viewpoint was not even considered. That fact alone made me wonder if there was another side to the story.

    I later heard that Glenda Warren, who works with Stacy L. Spencer, pastor of the New Direction Christian Church, felt other points of view were not properly considered by Roland and Tom. According to Warren's email to Martin, "he (Pastor Whalum) turned it into a race issue stating that a mostly black school district was trying to surrender its kids into the hands of a predominantly white school district." She further went on to provide information and facts that might explain why so many in Memphis are in favor of the merger.

    According to an informational document I received from Ms. Warren, it appears that the situation may not be as simple as Martin and Whalum made it out to be. Shelby County schools has long been accused of being yet another one of the county districts across America that is petrified of having to share resources with students from the city. Perhaps out of concern that the quality of their own schools is going to decline, Shelby County has been working with the Republican majority in the state legislature to obtain "Special District" status, giving the county taxing authority, allowing it to have greater financial independence and avoid a merging with Memphis City Schools. On Minnesota Public Radio, David Pickler, Chairman of the Shelby County School Board expressed his disdain over the idea of merging his county's schools with those of the city of Memphis. Pickler's district is mostly white, while the Memphis City School district is mostly black with more than twice as many students (43,000 to 103,000), so while it might appear that the city of Memphis is handing control over to Shelby County, the truth is that Shelby County citizens would be outnumbered.

    Like most other suburban counties across America, the suburban schools of Memphis are wonderful places to get an education: The sun seems to shine a little brighter, the birds chirp a bit louder and everyone ends up happy and well-educated. The Memphis City schools are the opposite, experiencing the same kind of urban decay being felt all across America, as those who've been granted wealth from their forefathers refuse to share their opportunities with the descendants of slaves. Without the resources currently being provided by the county, Memphis City School funding would be cut in half in the event that Shelby County were to become a special district. As it stands, Shelby County is currently legally obligated to ensure that all students in the county are educated, including those in the Memphis City Schools. With the new Republican majority, the Memphis City School Board effectively realized that Shelby County would get the "Special District" status it had been seeking, leaving the kids of the Memphis City Schools hanging out to dry.

    The Memphis City School Board, seeing that the Republican majority in the Tennessee Legislature was determined to allow Shelby County Schools to become a special district (by lifting a ban on such moves that has been in place since 1982), mobilized a preemptive strike by surrendering its charter to the county, requiring the county to educate all of the children in the county, regardless of where they live. That means that the county's goal of having a special place to protect them from those pesky inner city kids who'd like to be educated has been thwarted.

    After carefully considering both sides of the issue, I am firmly convinced that the Memphis City School board made the right decision. I am also concerned that Roland Martin, a friend for whom I have tremendous respect, didn't take the time to interview those with opposing viewpoints. This issue is too important for the citizens of Memphis to only get one side of the story. I encourage Roland and Tom Joyner to open the door for those who disagree with Pastor Whalum.

    When it's all said and done, the most important issue here is that we all do what is necessary to educate our children. Everyone can see that the kids in our cities are being left behind and not given access to the same opportunities as everyone else. This form of segregation should be disallowed and fought vehemently. With every extra minute we wait before addressing this sickening disparity, we are destroying the life and future of yet another child. It's time to ensure equal funding across the board, so that we can all have access to the American dream.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins on AOL Black VoicesDr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.


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    Roszalyn Akins
    I was introduced to the work of Roszalyn Akins at a conference being held by the Mississippi Learning Institute. Roz (that's her nickname) was giving a presentation about her program called "Black Males Working." I was immediately impressed with the vigor and passion with which Roz approached the important task of mentoring and educating young black boys. Without having the funding or the fanfare that her program truly deserves, Roz has taken the "worst" kids in her district and turned them into academic champions. She reminds us that there is nothing that our kids can't do when they are given an opportunity and a little bit of encouragement. Saving the black male is not just something just that helps black men. It is important to any woman who cares about her son, husband, brother or father. In fact, saving the black male is critical to protecting the black family in America. It is for her never-ending commitment to empowering black boys that Roszalyn Akins is today's Dr. Boyce Watkins Spotlight on AOL Black Voices:

    What is your name and what do you do?
    Hello, my name is Roszalyn Akins, and I am a retired educator from the Fayette County Public School System in Lexington, Kentucky. Well let me say I am semi-retired, because I still help a middle school three days a week. My educational partner is Dr. Roger Cleveland, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University.

    What is the purpose of your organization?
    The BMW Academy is a collaborative program between First Bracktown, Inc. and Fayette County Public Schools that serves to close the achievement gap that exists between African American males and others in our educational system. The mission of the BMW Academy is to educate, motivate, and activate the potential for excellence that lies within every African American male. The young men who participate in the BMW Academy attend school 6 days a week. We serve young men in grades 6 through 12. The young men come from six different high schools, and 12 middle schools. We not only work with the young men to close the achievement gap, but we also strive to get them into the advanced and AP classes in their schools. We monitor grades, behavior, state assessments, and we have very high expectations for every one of them. We not only work with the boys, but we also require parents to attend bi-monthly sessions on how to help their sons be successful in school. The parents are also required to make two positive visits to their son's school a year.

    Why are black boys struggling so much in the school system?
    The reason why our African American males are struggling in Kentucky as well as across this country is because of a lack of expectation level in our schools. It is not that African American males cannot do work at a high level in our schools -- they are not pushed to do so. Many of our African American males are taught by young white teachers who do not understand the learning styles of our African American males. Another reason that African American males are not successful is due to their home and community environment. Many of our young men do not have positive role models in the home or community. Parents need to be more involved with what their sons are watching on television, doing on the computer and the amount of time they play video games. Parents do not stress reading at home anymore!

    What are some of the funding challenges you've run into when it comes to getting money for your program? Is there a way that people can help?
    The BMW Academy is run strictly by volunteers who are teachers in our school system or who have retired from our school system. We also use college students who need community service hours to help with our program. Funding becomes an issue when planning college and educational trips for our boys. We take the boys on a college and educational trip every year somewhere in the United States. Our boys have been blessed to visit Morehouse, Howard, Hampton, Florida A & M, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, and many more. We sell candy bars, have a fish fry, musicals and do whatever we need to do to raise the money. We have some families who have multiple boys in the program so it is difficult for them to choose who will get to go on the trips.

    We also raise money to buy the necessary supplies for the program. We need graphing calculators because we have discovered that in order for our boys to be successful, they need access to school supplies that can help them in the classroom. Some parents cannot pay $115.00 for a calculator, because they need to buy food and clothes for their son. We are hoping to raise money to buy laptops that the boys can check-out to use at home when they have a project due in school. We also need funds to buy books, because many of our boys don't have the correct books on the grade level that will prepare them for college. We are blessed to raise funds by working concessions during football season to pay an ACT instructor for our junior and senior boys. We are praying for enough funding to have our own school every day of the week for African American males. We are making great progress with our Saturday program, but if we could have these boys every day of the week in a regular school setting, we could turn the educational system upside down and close the achievement gap!

    It seems that programs that have been proven to be successful should be in every school district across America. Why haven't the educational powers-that-be helped you to replicate your program nation-wide?
    One of the reasons that this program has not been replicated nationwide is because it takes commitment, commitment, and commitment. We are going into the seventh year of the BMW Academy, and it has survived because of the commitment of our church and the volunteers. We are good at starting programs, but we have issues with sustaining them because we get tired and fizzle out! The state of the African American male is critical, and if we are going to make a difference we need to stop waiting on the school system, the government, or superman, and take back our children to instill in them that they are great and they are candidates for greatness. If we could get churches, community groups, sororities, or fraternities to start the recovering of our African American males, we would see a difference in our school system -- but most of all in our juvenile system. There are Saturdays that we don't feel like doing the BMW Academy, but when we see the faces of over 125 black boys every Saturday saying "I want to be all that I can be," that is all the energy that we need to keep getting up every Saturday morning and visiting their schools all week long!

    What is your take on the debate of charter schools and whether we need more of them?
    The data shows that the most successful charter schools are those that were created for African American males. I don't care if it is a charter school or a school district that says we are going to do something out of the box to help our African American males. Just let us do what needs to be done to close the achievement gap, stop the number of African American males in special education and the number of them that are going to jail. If we can build prisons based on the test scores of boys in the fourth grade, then let us have the schools and teachers who can do what is necessary to meet the needs of African American males and make them successful and not a statistic.

    Is there anything else you'd like to share with our AOL Black Voices audience?
    Let me close by saying that our BMW Academy did not have overnight success, but it has been a wonderful journey as we have been blessed to change the mindset that making good grades and being good in school is acting white to young men who are now competing to make the first 30 on the ACT in our program. We had a 29 this year. They now believe that they don't have to play in the NBA to be a star, they can own a team in the NBA who pays the stars. Many of them had never been out of our state and last summer we took the 20 high school boys with the highest GPA to Europe for 10 days. Now they are talking about studying abroad.

    We raised most of the money to take them to Europe. We are planning our second international trip in 2012, so if anybody out there knows how to help us with the funding we sure could use your help! These trips aboard are truly a step of faith, but we believe that where God guides He also provides. The boys say a creed every week that sets the tone for the program and our expectations. If we can get the creed in their heart and head, I don't worry about what their hands will do and where their feet will go:

    The BMW Creed

    I promise to give my very best to achieve my every goal,

    To be faithful and disciplined with everything in my control,

    Learning as much as I can for knowledge is the key,

    There is nothing I cannot do, but the first step starts with me,

    I represent my family, even my community as a whole,

    And I refuse to let negativity keep me from my goal,

    I will succeed and excel, if I just have faith to believe,

    For I am a future Black Man Working,

    And there is no limit to what I can achieve,

    I will arise above all prejudice and stay positive the whole way through,

    For I am a Future Black Man Working,

    And YOU can be one TOO!!

    Written By

    Rev. Michael Robinson

    Dr. Boyce Watkins on AOL Black VoicesDr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the author of the bookBlack American Money To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To suggest a subject for a Dr. Boyce Watkins Spotlight, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.


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    Star Jones on 'The Apprentice'

    If you tuned into NBC's Celebrity Apprentice last night to catch some of the much-hyped tension between Star Jones and NeNe Leakes you were likely disappointed. Last night's premiere was very mild. Star Jones took charge as the project manager of the ladies' team and succeeded. Although she and Lisa Rinna clashed a bit, Jones and Leakes appeared to be cool. That, as several articles have promised, won't last for long.

    According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Jones called Leakes "ghetto trash," a description that would get many black women's blood boiling. Leakes has labeled the attorney, who gained national celebrity as a co-host on The View, a "horrible bitch and a terrible snob." In addition, Leakes reportedly found Jones's behavior curious since "she's descended from slaves just like me and just like every other black person in America."
    Jones has come out and expressed disdain for Leakes's comments, telling People magazine, "I did Celebrity Apprentice to raise money and awareness for the American Heart Association, which has been instrumental in my life, not to see it reduced to a cliché where black women attack one another for publicity's sake."

    Reportedly Trump loves the tension because that means a ratings bonanza. In 2009, ratings slipped by 21 percent after the season premiere, but rebounded greatly in 2010 due to rocker Bret Michaels's surprising life-threatening condition during the show's airing. As the season goes on, ratings shouldn't be a problem, as many will tune in to catch Leakes and Jones fight tooth and nail. While Trump only sees it as a benefit for him, the real question is -- will it be good news for black women?

    Now it must be noted that Celebrity Apprentice is unusually diverse for a network television show. In addition to Leakes and Jones, LaToya Jackson and Dionne Warwick are also contestants. While Jackson doesn't come across as the brightest crayon in the box, there is something warm about her. She certainly seemed harmless enough and incapable of any conniving board room behavior on the season premiere but time will tell.

    Warwick is another surprise. Considering that we haven't really seen her that much since her stint on the Psychic Friends Network in the 1990s, any appearance from her just seems odd. Let's just say she showed her age and her status with her inability to nail the finer points of operating a credit card machine smoothly. Like Jackson, she didn't appear capable of any backstabbing but it's only the first episode.

    Read page 2 on 'The Apprentice':


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    Researchers at Michigan State University have just found that those who identify with their race more strongly than others tend to be happier. The study, which is set to appear in the journal Cultural Diversity and Ethic Minority Psychology, is the first empirical study to document such a relationship.

    "This is the first empirical study we know of that shows a relationship between racial identity and happiness," said Stevie C.Y. Yap, who is the lead researcher on the project.

    While there have been studies linking racial identity to higher self-esteem, none have actually connected it to happiness. The study surveyed black adults in the state of Michigan. They found that the more the subject identified with being black, or the more important their blackness was to them, the happier they were with life in general.

    The authors speculate that it's the subject's feeling of belonging that fuels the connection. Those with a strong black identity feel connected to their race, making them more comfortable with who they are and their overall quality of life. The results are strongest in women.

    I remember the cold, difficult nights I had during my many years trying to earn a PhD (which I thought I was never going to get). I felt like a fish out of water, being the only African American in the entire United States to earn a PhD in Finance during my year of graduation. I was surrounded by white males who not only completely misunderstood who I was, but didn't really care to try to learn anything about me. My blackness was not considered an asset to my standing as a doctoral student, but actually a liability that I would be able to overcome with hard work and determination. I was being invited into the white male club, and I would remain a member in good standing as long as I promised not to do anything that reminded them that I was an African American male.

    After being frustrated about having to hide who I truly was, I declared a revolution within my own spirit. I realized that as long as I kept trying to be someone else, I'd always be a step behind the people I spent my time emulating. So, I figured that there was nothing wrong with being Boyce Watkins, and that my best strategy for success was to be the best version of Boyce that I could be. That man is a black man who wants to use his scholarly capability to help his community, and he can't apologize for that.

    While sprinting off the "academic plantation" certainly took me out of good standing with the professors who originally supported me, I was able to experience a degree of personal fulfillment unmatched by anything I'd ever done in life. I met volatility from colleagues at Syracuse University, who wondered why I "wasted my time" doing "unimportant scholarly work," but I was also able to have an impact on my community that I never would have achieved had I continued to submit to academic and cultural imperialism. At the same time, I've seen colleagues who played the game, let go of who they were, and walked away from their black identity only to find themselves depressed, humiliated and even suicidal.

    The point in all this? Teaching our kids who they are and reminding them to never let go of their identity is important for their personal development. The old school model of running away from your background must be replaced with models that remind us that black is beautiful, good and something to be proud of. Therefore, even if the rest of the world hates you, at least you will always have love for yourself.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.


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    Allen Iverson
    It appears that life just got more complicated for former NBA star Allen Iverson. It is being reported that Iverson's 6,848 square-foot home in Cherry Hills, Colorado is now in foreclosure. Iverson is an 11-time NBA All-Star and former MVP. He purchased the home in 2008 for $3.88 million and now owes $2.5 million to Wells Fargo.

    I am not sure if this foreclosure is part of a broader financial trend in Iverson's life, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised. For some odd reason, the last five years have produced one of the fastest slides of any player in recent memory. Just a few years ago, Iverson was an NBA beast; slashing, leaping and sprinting his way to magical performances. As the years went by, we saw more and more reports that Iverson's personal life was starting to unravel. Stories about alcoholism and gambling problems were accompanied by an embarrassing drop in his on-court statistics, leading America to conclude that Iverson was becoming an aging also-ran.

    What many black athletes can learn from Iverson's problems both on and off the court is that even if you are a successful athlete, you must always ensure that you have an education. I don't blame Iverson for leaving college early, but I do blame him for not getting an education later on in life. Far too many prominent black male athletes have the platforms of kings, but the mentality of court jesters. They've become convinced that the pursuit of women and bling should override the necessity to use their vast amount of power for the larger public good (for example, these brothers could take a tremendous stand for their friends who are victims of the mass incarceration of black males that has taken place over the last 25 years). Additionally, we all grow tired of seeing one uneducated black athlete after another being left broke by his agent and attorney, both of whom have law degrees from Ivy League schools. The bottom line: A wealthy fool and his money always part ways. So, any athlete, black or otherwise, who insists upon allowing himself to drown in ignorance is begging to be exploited by others.

    I can't describe exactly what's happening with Allen Iverson, but something inside me says that Iverson's story is going to end tragically. This makes me sad, because Iverson's talent, courage, brilliance and relentlessness on the court were virtually unprecedented. I am going to miss this man's play.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins on AOL Black VoicesDr. 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. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.


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    Father Beats Daughter to Death, Police Called Abuse 'Subhuman'

    Prosecutors have determined that the 10-year-old Florida twin girl, whose decomposing body was discovered in a garbage bag last month, was the last bit of evidence they needed in order to officially charge her parents with the "subhuman" treatment she received at their hands.

    Jorge Barahona (pictured above) is accused of punching his daughter to death on February 11. Barahona's spouse Carmen is also facing charges as an accomplice to the inhumane acts committed against the children.

    Nubia, and her twin brother Victor, according to police, lived in a house of horrors. The twins were constantly subjected to torturous acts of violence by both parents.

    Ironically, Nubia's death came just one day after the home was visited by an investigator with the Florida Department of Children and Families after receiving an anonymous tip about abuse in the household. The social services worker concluded that the children were not in any imminent danger although she did not know of their exact whereabouts.

    Reportedly, on that fateful day, the boy, Victor, told authorities that he and his sister were locked in a bathroom. Barahona came and pulled Nubia, whose feet and hands were bound, out of the bathroom and before she died, Victor said he heard her scream and did not see his sibling after that incident. Police records indicate that Barahona beat and punched the little girl about her torso as she screamed and cried until she took her last breath.

    Barahona, three days later, placed both children in his pesticides flatbed truck and police found him on February 14, parked along a busy interstate outside West Palm Beach, Florida. Nubia's body was stuffed into a garbage bag and doused with chemicals, while Victor was covered in chemical burns and was discovered by police convulsing and overcome by fumes. The 53-year-old was then arrested but police had to further investigate all of the abuse allegations.

    The children had allegedly been treated as human punching bags -- repeatedly struck with fists, beaten with objects and often left for days on end bound in a dark bathroom. Weeks before the children were found in their father's truck, Victor's lip had been split open and his parents chose not to seek medical help for him. Victor has a cleft palate which is a birth defect that occurs when the roof of the mouth does not develop normally.

    Carmen, on the other hand is also accused of encouraging the beatings and was a willing participant in the abuse that went on in the home with the children.

    Both parents have been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and child neglect in the girl's death.

    A panel is investigating how in the world did child welfare officials not act more aggressively toward the Barahonas, especially since there have been several abuse allegations in the years before Nubia's death. School officials even got involved and reported to the state investigators that Nubia had been not only hoarding food at school but the child had reported that Carmen hit her. Each allegation however, fell on deaf ears and nothing was ever done to delve into the accusations of abuse further.

    Child welfare officials have acknowledged some oversights on their part, but said the Barahonas deceived many who were working with the family.

    "These people are sociopaths," child welfare attorney Esther Jacobo told the Associated Press. She questioned what safeguards could have prevented the Barahonas from fooling officials only to "get us out of their life in a particular period of time so they can do whatever they are going to do."

    Officials have referred to this case as one that should prompt prosecutors to seek out the death penalty.

    Children need homes that are nurturing, safe and where accidents and injuries are the exception and not the rule. The most important person in a child's world are his or her parents. If you suspect that a child is being abused, it is critical to get them the help that they desperately need. Inaction can only mean years of pain and heartbreak for children who are unable to get out of a bad situation. In their helplessness, they must rely on capable adults who are willing to help them break out of a potentially deadly situation. Take a stand, it's better to be safe than sorry, stop child abuse if you suspect it.


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    She was the baggy-pants-wearing dominant rapper from the South that we all loved. With a style all her own, Da Brat set herself apart from most female artists in the late '90s.

    After getting into a little trouble, she's back on the scene and hopefully working on a few new songs for our listening pleasure. Let's take a peek at the many looks of the hair all the ladies in jail were dying to get their hands on.


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    Funk Band 'Slave' Bassist Mark Adams Dead

    Mark Adams, an original member of one of the hottest funk bands of the 70s and 80s, Slave, passed away Saturday and the cause of death has not been revealed.

    The group was formed in Dayton, Ohio by Steve Washington in 1975 and their popularity spanned nearly a decade.

    The large member band consisted of Adams, Floyd Miller, Tom Lockett, Jr., Charlie Bradley, Tim Dozier, Mark Hicks, Danny Webster, and Orion Wilhoite. Vocalists Steve Arrington and Starleana Young, along with Raye Turner and Curt Jones joined the group's ranks later in 1978.

    The mega group's first off-the-charts hit was "Slide" which put the group on the map in 1977. Slave's successful sound relied heavily on bass with an emphasis on the rhythm section which was then complimented by soaring vocals.

    Slave had a succession of hits from about 1977 until 1984 with such memorable hits such as "Just a Touch of Love," "Watching You" (which is still a party favorite to this day), and "Snap Shot."

    The early eighties brought turbulent times for the group, as several members left and were replaced by others. Four core members departed Slave to form their own group called Aurra in 1981. Arrington also left Slave to go out on his own solo career and had much notoriety with such funk classic hits as "Nobody Can Be You But You" and "Way Out."

    Adams remained a constant throughout the years even through member and recording company changes.

    Slave's most recent release, "Stellar Fungk: The Best of Slave Featuring Steve Arrington", was issued back in 1994 and was a compilation of the group's greatest hits.

    RIP Mark...


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    After running the New York City Marathon last November and adopting a vegan diet, radio personality and long-time Howard Stern co-host Robin Quivers took a page from Michelle Obama's book and joined in the fight for healthy eating by raising money and awareness for programs that inspire healthy eating in young people.

    Through her charity organization 15 Foundation, Quivers raised $20,000 each for food education programs The Sylvia Center and Family Cook Productions.

    The Sylvia Center is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness in farming and children's nutrition by providing hands-on experiences with growing and cooking healthy food. Kids learn about good food through cooking classes and on-site farming education, discovering the many uses of seasonal fruits and vegetables and how they can implement them in their home.

    Family Cook Productions works to bring families together by teaching the importance of eating homemade meals, cooking with fresh ingredients, and eating as a family. Through the organization's Jr./Teen Battle Chef Program, young people develop teamwork and culinary skills while also gaining knowledge and appreciation for nutrition and healthy, sustainable food. They also learn how they can play a significant role in affecting their friends' and family's food choices, helping to prevent unhealthy weight and associated diseases.
    Yesterday, Robin Quivers presented both organizations with a $20,000 check at the Williamsburg Community Center in Brooklyn, NY. In attendance were several Teen Battle Chefs who have been working for the Sylvia Center as culinary interns at NYCHA community centers in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

    Are you interested in joining the fight for healthy eating? Tell us some ways you have changed your eating habits for the benefit of yourself and your family!


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    Trinidad Carnival 2011: Too Commercial
    Trinidad Carnival is one of the famous festivities in the world, attracting revelers from all corners of the globe who seek to partake in the most colorful tradition of the Caribbean. The New York Times has exposed the negative side effect of this two day parade's popularity, which just ended yesterday: The rising costs of participating. What used to be a basically free bacchanalia of costumes and music has evolved into a growing system of enterprise in which savvy entrepreneurs sell spots in the parade well in advance of party time.

    Is this positive for the small native economy or putting a strangle hold on what should be a free-flowing, all-inclusive experience? And even worse, could this rapid commercialization be diluting the very cultural elements that made the Trinidad Carnival full of the spirit that makes it grand? About one of the most successful commercializers of Trinidad, The New York Times writes:

    Mr. Ackin runs one of the country's most popular Carnival bands, the groups of people who don costumes and masquerade - or play Mas, as locals call it - in the raucous annual two-day street parade. The roughly 5,000 spots available in Mr. Ackin's band, Tribe, sell out every year almost as fast as they go on sale. Demand has been so high since he started Tribe in 2005 that Mr. Ackin just started a second band.

    But some say Mr. Ackin and others like him, who have in recent years spun profitable, year-round businesses out of organizing these bands, threaten the existence of Carnival as Trinidadians know it.

    By shunning the conservative, traditional costumes for cheaper, skimpier outfits that are sometimes produced outside of Trinidad, these new bands, critics say, are distorting their forebears' creation and sending work elsewhere at a time when the government and others are trying to turn Trinidadian-style Carnival into a more profitable and exportable industry.

    "We call it two-piece and fries, the bikini and the bras," said Stephen Derek, a traditional costume maker, referring to the skimpy costumes that have become a staple of the new bands. "The costume comes like a fast food. To them, the bottom line is profit. It has nothing to do about country or culture anymore."

    The entrepreneurial bandleaders counter that they are part of a natural evolution, merely offering what people want.

    "If you really look at those people who play Mas with the younger bands, or if you talk to a visitor abroad and say: 'Hey, have you ever heard of Trinidad Carnival? What band would you play with?' they would call Tribe or they would call one of the younger bands," Mr. Ackin said. "That says we are reaching out further than the traditional bands. We are reaching out to the international market." [...]

    Is the reliance on mass-produced bikinis - a far cry from the elaborate, hand-crafted costumes Trinidadians had grown accustomed to - stifling the creative works that have been the hallmark of traditional Carnival, which the government of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been pressing to revive since she took office last year?

    Or does it reflect the country's new energy, representative of a push beyond Trinidad's reputation for complacency in developing revenue streams beyond oil production?

    Read further debate on these questions on The New York Times.

    Cultural debates like these are very common in nations of people who are of African decent. Often our native creations are so colorful, so sensual and so fun, everyone wants a piece of it -- from jazz to gospel to hip-hop. And then the inevitable question arises about the value and inevitable option of selling out. Certainly there is no way to bring an authentic experience of rhythm, fun and music to a growing audience of people without watering it down. And yet purists and often those in authority decry such a choice being made by those with the acumen to expand the audience. But these elders fail to see how a folk art form can be grown in a way that also uplifts the fortunes of the entire community that produced it.

    In the case of the Trinidad Carnival, it would seem that the old folks and the elder stateswoman want to stick with the old ways, even though a little mass production of the Trinidad Carnival experience could make this cultural tradition into an unlikely export -- an export of mystique attracting many more people than the 40,000 visitors who attend every year.

    If the cultural traditions that made Trinidad Carnival a rich community expression are truly in danger, then the government should work to subsidize the aspect of local production that can ensure that these traditions persist. Stopping the expansion of the successful commercial ventures is not the answer. Just as in hip-hop, with its radio and underground contingents, Trinidad Carnival can make room for both the party and deeply authentic versions of the fun.

    Expanding the opportunities for both kinds of carnival experiences will help Trinidad develop a much-needed and internationally-fueled revenue stream. Artists like Miles Davis and Jay-Z have mastered mass appeal and artistry. It can be done.


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    It looks like there's some sugar and spice coming to Steve Harvey's nightly TV show.

    Miss Lawrence, an overnight sensation on Bravo's wildly popular 'Real Housewives of Atlanta' series, has been tapped to join the cast of 'The Steve Harvey Project,' which airs on BET's Centric nightly.

    The feisty cross-dressing hairdresser, stylist and singer will host a segment titled 'Spilling the Tea With Miss Lawrence,' providing entertainment tidbits, celebrity gossip, red carpet commentary and fashion/beauty critiques.

    "I'm so excited," Lawrence said about the opportunity, adding, "I've found the chemistry and talent between us to be really natural."

    "I'll be 'Spilling the Tea' on all the latest who's who, something Miss Lawrence loves to do! Talking music, entertainment, beauty and fashion is so me, honey! They picked the right girl for this one, and it's ALWAYS tastefully done!"

    Miss Lawrence is legally known as Lawrence Washington, a resident of Atlanta, Ga., and owner and operator of the successful Lawrence Washington Atlanta salon. Last year, he released the song 'Closet Freak,' produced with Grammy Award-winner Kandi Burruss, which has become an underground sensation. He is currently in the studio working on a debut opus.

    'The Steve Harvey Project' provides new and longtime fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse of his top-rated daily syndicated radio show. The hour-long series is filmed daily and airs Monday through Friday.

    'Spilling the Tea' is scheduled to air Tuesdays and Thursdays on 'The Steve Harvey Project.'

    The Gender Benders

    The Gender Benders takes an up-close and intimate look at how androgyny has crossed into mainstream entertainment culture via the work and depictions of transgendered people, transvestites, transsexuals, cross-dressers and gay icons. Sometimes dramatic, sometimes comedic, and oftentimes jarring, these gender-bending images leave a lasting impression on all who bore witness. Take a gander.

    Name: Flip Wilson
    Profession: Actor/Comedian
    Gender Bender: As the strong-looking, colorfully dressed, flirtatious and outspoken Geraldine Jones, Wilson is credited with negotiating race and class bias by positively characterizing the average, working-class black female.
    Claim to Fame: After being featured on shows such as 'Laugh-In,' 'The Ed Sullivan Show' and 'The Tonight Show,' he landed his very own sketch variety show, which debuted on NBC in 1970.
    Factoid: Flip Wilson was born Clerow Wilson, Jr., in Jersey City, N.J. on Dec. 8, 1933. On Nov. 25, 1998, he succumbed to complications of liver cancer.

    Name: Milton Berle
    Profession: Actor/Comedian
    Gender Bender: During his television heyday, "Uncle Miltie" (as many referred to him) donned wigs and dresses during his slapstick comedy antics.
    Claim to Fame: In 1948, NBC brought 'Texaco Star Theater' from radio to television, later naming Berle as the permanent host. The vaudevillian-styled show became a ratings hit, winning Emmy Awards after its first season.
    Factoid: Milton Berle was born Mendel Berlinger in New York City on July 12, 1908. He passed away at the age of 93 on March 27, 2002.

    Name: RuPaul
    Profession: Singer/Actor/Drag Performer/Former Talk Show Host
    Gender Bender: RuPaul, born RuPaul Andre Charles, became not only the first drag queen supermodel after signing a contract with M.A.C. Cosmetics, but he was also the first drag queen to have his own talk show.
    Claim to Fame: At the height of the supermodel era, RuPaul released a dance/house album called 'Supermodel of the World' led by the hit single 'Supermodel (You Better Work).' It became an MTV hit and topped the dance charts.
    Factoid: On his 'Foxy Lady' album, he covered Diana Ross's 'Work That Body' and also appeared on her music video for the single 'I Will Survive.'

    Name: Wesley Snipes
    Profession: Actor
    Gender Bender: Snipes's character, Noxeema Jackson, in 'To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, is a drag queen who, along with fellow drag queens Vida Boheme and Chi-Chi, who set off on a road trip to Los Angeles only to have their car break down along the way.
    Claim to Fame: Though his first movie was 'Wildcats' with Goldie Hawn, Snipes, made a name for himself in two popular black films of the early '90s, playing Nino Brown in 'New Jack City' and as Shadow Henderson in Spike Lee's 'Mo' Betta Blues.'
    Factoid: Snipes holds a fifth degree black belt and also practices Capoeira, a Brazilian martial arts.

    Name: Boy George
    Profession: Singer/Songwriter
    Gender Bender: Influenced by David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Boy George's androgynous look made him a standout in his group Culture Club.
    Claim to Fame: Culture Club's 1983 debut, 'Kissing to Be Clever,' included the #1 song 'Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.'
    Factoid: Boy George, whose real name is George Alan O'Dowd, later confessed to being bisexual and dating his Culture Club drummer Jon Moss for whom he wrote a great deal of his hit songs for.

    Name: Sylvester
    Profession: Musician/Drag Performer
    Gender Bender: Sylvester got his start performing with a group of transvestites called The Cockettes in San Francisco. Record label pressure to reshape his image resulted in his reportedly showing up to meetings in full-on drag.
    Claim to Fame: His first solo album, 'Step II,' which was released in 1978, earned him the name "The Queen of Disco," following the success of two disco classics 'You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)' and 'Dance (Disco Heat).'
    Factoid: Before he passed away from complications due to AIDS, Sylvester (real name: Sylvester James) lived out one of his dreams, singing backup for his idol Aretha Franklin on her album 'Who's Zoomin' Who?'

    Name: Felicity Huffman
    Profession: Actress
    Gender Bender: As "Bree" in 'Transamerica,' Huffman plays a man-to-woman preoperative transsexual who finds out that she has a son before her final surgical operation.
    Claim to Fame: Huffman has gained popularity as the character Lynette Scavo on ABC's 'Desperate Housewives.'
    Factoid: In 2005, Oprah Winfrey granted Felicity's "Wildest Dream" when she got to sing backup for her idol Tina Turner on Winfrey's talk show.

    Name: Grace Jones
    Profession: Model/Actress/Singer
    Gender Bender: On the cover of her 1981 album 'Nightclubbing,' Jones flaunted an androgynous look, with square-cut hair and a padded suit jacket, cigarette in mouth. Her height and overall new look was said to have influenced the cross-dressing movement of the 1980s.
    Claim to Fame: Jones began her career as a model in New York and was once a muse to Andy Warhol. Her disco recordings were welcomed by a loyal gay following. Jones also appeared in 'Boomerang' as Helen Strangé.
    Factoid: Jones was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica.

    Name: Dustin Hoffman
    Profession: Actor
    Gender Bender: In 'Tootsie,' Hoffman played Michael Dorsey, an unemployed actor, who takes on the role of Dorothy Michaels, a female soap opera actress, and later falls in love with the show's leading actress.
    Claim to Fame: Dustin Hoffman's first memorable role was in the 1967 film 'The Graduate' as a young college grad named Benjamin Braddock who gets himself into a messy situation by having an affair with a married woman and falling in love with her teenage daughter.
    Factoid: In 1982, he reportedly wanted to play the title role in 'Gandhi,' but ended up signing up for 'Tootsie.' Oddly enough, he lost the Oscar for 'Tootsie' to Ben Kingsley who played Gandhi.


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    Successful Black Men and Depression

    Clutch Magazine has unearthed a new study, which finds that black men are more likely to suffer from depression as they experience greater economic success. This is shocking news in a society that equates money with happiness. But it seems that not even greater wealth can magically erase the emotional harm caused by the increased exposure to racism that career growth can bring. Clutch writer Leslie Pitterson states on the subject:

    The hard times have affected all of us, but the recession has really taken a toll on black men -- even the ones you wouldn't expect.

    More prone to be negatively affected by the downswing in the economy, black men are experiencing levels of joblessness not seen since decades past. When the unemployment rate among black men reached 16.7% in 2010, some compared their experience to the great depression.

    With more and more African American men losing their jobs, new research from the National Survey of American Life showing poor Black men at high risk for depression does not come as much of a shock. But what is raising many eyebrows is the survey's other notable finding: affluent black men are at higher risk for depression than those on the other end of the income spectrum.

    According to the recent survey, black males who earn $80,000 and more were more likely to report symptoms of depression than those who made $17,000 and below. Besides proving that every baller doesn't look as gleeful as Dipset's Jim Jones, the study gives new insights into black men's measurements of wealth and emotional well being.

    Darryl Hudson, PhD at the Center on Social Disparities in Health at the University of San Francisco said that the depression in affluent black men could be linked to the stress of "integrated environments" where they are "more likely to be exposed to racial discrimination." However, he cautions that the issue is less abut blame than complexity, saying:

    "African-Americans with greater socioeconomic resources are farther away from their social support network, both physically and socially."

    Read more about these surprising findings on Clutch Magazine Online.

    This type of social isolation is something that blacks of both genders experience as they climb the corporate ladder. Perhaps black women are able to deal with it better, as in general women naturally create support networks and share their feelings. This gives those who are exposed to harsh business climates more of an outlet for disturbed emotions. Hopefully, black men who have been successful will soon learn to create the deeper connections they need independently, and make treating the wounds inflicted through achievement a priority.

    Support can be found in numerous black professional organizations, by joining African American alumnae groups, through church and political organizations, and among other black men who are informal peers. Some groups African American men can join include:

    -The National Black MBA Association
    -National Conference of Black Lawyers
    -BDPA (Black Data Processors Association)
    -National Society of Black Engineers
    -National Society of Black Physicists
    -Association of Black Health-System Pharmacists
    -National Association of Black Accountants
    -The Association of Black Psychologist
    -The National Forum for Black Public Administrators
    -The National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers

    In the age of the Internet, if you need social support, there is an easily accessible network that can help you get it. Ubiquitous sites like Facebook make it easy to start your own. The important thing is for our black men to take action and get the support they need, if they don't find the necessary understanding among current friends and family.

    This study shows that the time is now for black male professionals to take their emotional lives as seriously as their careers, even if it seems embarrassing. We need our successful black men to remain healthy and find positive ways of unleashing the pent up frustrations that come from navigating a difficult world. The assets, both emotional and financial, that stable black professionals bring to their families and communities are an important key to solving many of our persistent social problems.

    But clearly, we see once again that money isn't everything. People and connections matter as much as cash. This reports makes me hope that this is a lesson all communities learn.


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    We hope this article reaches you before you make a dash out of the office for a lunch full of health mistakes. However, lunch hour is probably not the only time women make bad food decisions.

    Many of the health issues that we deal with could be reduced or even prevented if they were more cautious with food choices.

    Although health problems can be hereditary (and there's no escaping that), daily habits, including food choices and fitness patterns, can determine the severity of diseases.

    According to the National Stroke Association, one half of all African-American women will die from stroke or heart disease. Ironically, this is one health issue that is not always caused by genetics.

    We must fight the facts.

    Icilma Fergus, MD. FACC., assistant professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, says one of a woman's best preventative measures is to eliminate processed foods and foods made with high fructose corn syrup from her diet.

    According to the National Stroke Association, one out of three African Americans suffer from high blood pressure. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is cause by high levels of sodium and water in the blood stream, which cause the veins to pump with agitated force.

    Fergus recommends green leafy vegetables as one of the top healthy food options to reduce high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

    "[Green vegetables] are a source of fiber which cleans out your intestines; they are low in calories and high in nutrients," says Fergus, chair of community programming for the Association of Black Cardiologists.

    Sulforaphane, a phytochemical found in broccoli, increases the amount of enzymes that can deactivate free radicals and carcinogens, which causes certain types of cancer. Free radicals and carcinogens change the body's DNA and cause tumor growth.

    According to Stanford Medicine's cancer center Website, phytochemicals fight off bacteria found in plants, and can also be found in green vegetables, dark berries (raspberries and blueberries) and soy nuts.

    Fergus also says the omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, balance good and bad cholesterol levels to reduce heart risks, but it also drags tumor developments.

    "You want to make sure you include fish in your diet," Fergus says. "Fish should most likely be baked, broiled or boiled."

    Other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include kidney beans, flaxseeds and nut oils.

    Aside from eating foods packed with phytochemicals and omega-3 fatty acids, it is important to stick to a fitness diet.

    "The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week to stay fit," Fergus says.

    With alarming high blood pressure and stroke rates, it is important to choose foods with specific benefits using alternative cooking methods and incorporate a fitness routine in your daily schedule.

    It can be difficult to challenge habits that you are comfortable with, but it will reduce various cancer types, hypertension and stroke risks.

    Need some food ideas? Check out the gallery below.


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    The trailer for 50 Cent's forthcoming film, 'Things Fall Apart,' in which he plays a college football player who's struck with cancer, has appeared online.

    Recently shown at the Miami Film Festival, this is the film where the rapper lost a lot of weight to be in character.

    Directed by and also starring Mario Van Peeples, who plays Jackson's father, the film also features Ray Liotta as the doctor aiding him during his treatment process. The cast also includes Lynn Whitfield as Jackson's mother, Tracey Heggins, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Steve Eastin, Ambyr Childers, and Cedric Sanders.

    The rapper/actor undergoes an astonishing physical transformation as Deon Barnes, a promising Michigan football running back who dreams of one day getting drafted by the Miami Dolphins. A well-liked young man whose winning disposition makes him a hit with just about everybody (especially the girls), Deon has a line on a Heisman Trophy until he one day collapses in the locker room following a big win. The diagnosis, delivered by his doctor (played by Liotta), is cancer, and Deon's blessed life comes crashing down around him as he undergoes chemotherapy, losing his hair and over 60 lbs of muscle, his hair falling out, leaving him an emaciated shadow of his former self.

    Based on the true story of a close friend, 50 Cent also co-wrote and co-produced this moving film, and provides many of the bracing original songs that make up its soundtrack. Like John Lee Hancock's 'The Blind Side,' football here becomes a vehicle for familial expressions of love, resentment and ultimate reconciliation.

    After 50 Cent's last two films 'Gun' and 'Caught in the Crossfire' were released straight-to-DVD, director Van Peebles feels that this film represents a major change for the actor/rapper and spoke to exclusively about casting him in his film.

    "'Things Fall Apart' is the first movie where 50 doesn't carry a gun, and he's really stepping out of the box of what we know him as. He really took the challenge well. Initially I wanted to do 'Things Fall Apart' as an actor then they got me in there. I kinda felt like Al Pacino, "They keep pulling me back!""


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    It's still a recession, but definitely not a reason to cut back on hanging with your girls. Check out these 10 free or inexpensive ways to have fun with your girlfriends.

    1. Potluck Dinners
    Choose a theme (Mexican, soul food, etc.) and have everyone cook up a new dish. This is a great way to hone your cooking skills, and the perfect excuse to try creating something new. There's bound to be leftovers, which makes this an easy way to save on lunch money. Can you say two for one? (Take this to the next level and make it a monthly tradition with rotating themes.)

    2. Wine Night
    White or red, this is the perfect addition to any girl talk. Grab your favorite friends and a few bottles of wine and let the good times roll. No need to pick up the most expensive bottle - there's plenty to choose from under 20 bucks.
    3. Mani/Pedi Sessions
    Slip off to your local salon for their $20 combo deal. There are plenty of these around the country, so find your spa today!

    4. Book Clubs
    Choose a theme, or a topic of the month, and find a corresponding book. This is an incredible way to dig deeper on a particular topic, or the perfect excuse to just gather as a group and chat about various issues. Many books are now equipped with discussion questions, making them the perfect choice for a book club.

    Here are a few to jump-start your book club today: The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz or the entire Yada Yada Prayer Group series by Neta Jackson.

    5. Spontaneous Picnics
    What's better than enjoying the sunshine with your girls?! Grab a few blankets, a bottle of wine, cheese and a few other snacks and spend the afternoon just relaxing.

    6. Quarterly Girlfriend Gifts
    Who says secret Santa has to be limited to Christmas? Here's how you do it: Everyone randomly select a name, and with a $15 (or less) budget, choose a small gift for one of your girlfriends. Remember the nail polish Alana said she wanted, or Bridget's favorite movie that just came out on DVD? Now's the perfect time to make her day. Gather at a friend's house for the ultimate gift exchange.
    7. Get Your Workout On
    It's important we encourage each other to have a healthy lifestyle. Hold one another accountable by taking free classes at the gym, or doing group walks/runs around the park.

    8. Free Concerts
    In a variety of cities around the country, there are a myriad of free spring/summer concerts. Check out your local paper's style and entertainment sections for those coming near you.

    9. Matinee Movies
    Forget seeing a movie after the lights turn down! Head to your local movie theatre for a matinee with your girls and save at least $6. And, of course, grab your Skittles, Raisinets, and M&Ms from the drugstore before you head in. Who are they trying to fool charging $4 for a small pack of Sour Patch Kids? Child please.

    And last, but certainly not least...

    10. One of the greatest inventions of all time - the Unlimited Brunch
    In cities around the U.S., for $20 or less (some around $12.95), you can enjoy a fabulous brunch with more mimosas and bellinis than you and your girls can handle. (Not sure these are offered in your town? Head to your favorite restaurant and encourage the owner to look into it. It's great for business. Get involved; it's your civic duty!)

    Tell us! What are some things you and your girlfriends love to do?

    Jovian Zayne is a writer, photographer and occasional radio host in New York City. Jovian also works with Janelle Monae & The Wondaland Arts Society along with Teach For America. Read more from Jovian on Word Up Haay! and follow her on twitter @jovizi for laughs, encouragement and your daily dose of quick wit.


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    Etta James: Son and Husband Battle Over Her Fortune

    From The Daily Beast:

    The bedridden blues icon is too sick to speak up as her son and husband battle over her estate in court. Christine Pelisek reports on the sordid drama.

    Once known for her feisty, outspoken riffs on stage, R & B icon Etta James can't speak up about the vicious legal battle escalating between her husband and son over control of her savings.

    Known for her signature catalogue of songs-"At Last," "I'd Rather Go Blind," and "Call My Name"-the 73-year-old songbird suffers from dementia, leukemia, and numerous other ailments and is now bedridden at her ranch-style home in Riverside County, California.

    "She is not really capable of making any rational decisions at this point," said James' court-appointed attorney Dennis Sandoval.

    In fact, her ability to make decisions is at the heart of the family saga. Her son, Donto James, claims he has power of attorney over his mother's affairs while her husband, Artis Mills, says she was in no condition to give him that sort of power. James' erratic behavior at the time-which ranged from dozens of performances to strange comments and cancellations-have made this "he said, he said" all that much more difficult to decipher.

    The rift began last November when Mills, James' husband of 41 years and tour manager, filed a petition to gain access to three of the singer's bank accounts, estimated to total around $1 million. He said he needed to pay for her business affairs and mounting medical bills. Mills says he spends around $30,000 a month for private medical care, which includes two full-time nurses and a round-the-clock doctor.

    The following month, James' son Donto, a drummer in his mother's band, filed legal papers asking the court to grant him conservatorship of his mother's estate. He also asked that the court appoint an independent administrator to handle her finances. There has been no mention of a living will.

    Donto, who is Mills' stepson, also questioned whether his mother is getting proper care by her $20,000-a-month live-in doctor, Dr. Elaine James.

    "There are a lot of allegations flying everywhere," said Sandoval.

    Discovered in 1954, James, who was born Jamesetta Hawkins, became one of the most influential singers of her time, known for her bluesy riffs and slow burning melodies. Her rise to fame was hampered by a debilitating heroin addiction, stints in rehab, and troubles with the law.

    By the late 1980s, the saucy and self-possessed singer had kicked her drug habit and hired a new manager, Lupe De Leon. James' career flourished in the 1990s under his management. She won a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance in 1994. But by the late 1990s, the 5'3" singer's weight, which topped 400 pounds, began to prevent her from performing.

    In 2001, she underwent gastric bypass surgery at a clinic run by Hollywood weight-loss surgeon Dr. Mathias Fobi, whose patients include Roseanne Barr and American Idol judge Randy Jackson.

    It was at Fobi's clinic where Etta James met Elaine James, a bariatric surgeon. According to the doctor, the singer had difficulty eating and became intermittently anorexic. James, who is no relation, regularly dropped by the singer's house in Riverside to bring her chicken soup.

    For the singer, who crooned about heartache and redemption and inspired generations of singers, her life and care is now left up to the courts to decide.

    "She wouldn't eat or drink," said James about the singer she affectionately calls "Grandma." Over the years, James visited the singer and even prepared a New Year's Eve dinner for the singer and her husband.

    Those years were filled with both bouts of sickness and creativity.

    Read page two on The Daily Beast: The War Over Etta James' Fortune


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