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

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    I recently heard Rodney K. Washington speak at the Critical Conversations Summit at Jackson State University. I was instantly impressed with Dr. Washington's keen understanding of the experience of the black male in America and his willingness to attack the issue head-on. Skills like those of Dr. Washington are critical in a nation where black males have been placed into a cage that leads them to kill one another and commit homicide to their own futures every single day. We also need more black male educators put in front of the classrooms of public schools and universities who have yet to embrace the difference between true diversity and cosmetic window-dressing. It is for his decision to dedicate his scholarship to helping his community that Dr. Rodney K. Washington is today's Dr. Boyce Watkins Spotlight on AOL Black Voices:

    What is your name, and what do you do?

    My name is Rodney Washington, and I am Chair and Associate Professor of Elementary and Early Childhood Education in the College of Education and Human Development at Jackson State University. This comprehensive department houses teacher preparation and advanced programs at all levels of matriculation: Bachelors, Masters, Specialist and Doctoral degrees. Disciplines include elementary education, early childhood education, and reading. I provide oversight to nine faculty members and over 950 students seeking careers in the field of education. I am also CEO of a minority consulting firm called Consulting Plus.

    What is the purpose of your company?

    Consulting Plus provides a wide range of services to school districts around the state. Our services include professional development, evaluation and technical assistance in areas such as classroom management, student discipline, and rigor and engagement. The focus of Consulting Plus is to provide practical strategies and solutions to educators in manners that are teacher friendly and population specific. Our goal is to evoke in teachers a feeling of empowerment that makes them want to implement those strategies necessary to keep students in school. Quite often, professional development tends to oscillate between new and exciting to tedious and unnecessary; our goal is to place special emphasis on follow-up and technical assistance with an approach that is not intimidating or overwhelming. We specifically target areas in the Mississippi Delta where many districts struggle to secure resources for onsite services because of their rural locations. These areas are known as Critical Need Areas because recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers present a specific set of issues that have a tremendous impact on student learning outcomes.

    What is your personal, educational and professional background?

    I grew up in Holmes County, which is located in the Mississippi Delta in a small town called Lexington. My parents only completed elementary school but enforced a notion that education was not just necessary but essential. My mother passed away from breast cancer in the spring of my sophomore year of undergraduate studies, and it changed my life. I was a 19 year old African-American male who felt anger without a positive outlet to express grief. In this, I developed a passion for wanting to know why people behaved in certain ways and why a singular incident can be motivational to some people and destructive to others. Thus, began my love of life experiences that would translate into teachable moments to share with young people.

    I am the proud product of Mississippi Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice with a minor in sociology from Mississippi Valley State University. I continued my studies at Jackson State University completing a Master of Arts degree in criminology and justice services with an emphasis in rehabilitation counseling and a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in early childhood education with a cognate in guidance and counseling.

    I began my career as an officer in the juvenile justice system for almost five years which I believe has given me a perspective that drives my approach in working with youth today. I have worked as a correctional counselor in a training school and a correctional administrator in an adult facility. However, it was my position with the City of Jackson under the administration of Mayor Harvey Johnson, Jr. (the capital city's first African-American Mayor) that I would find my niche. A new department was launched during his first term called the Mayor's Youth Initiative which allowed for collaborative projects with local school districts. I was responsible for securing funds to implement innovative programs to serve at-risk student populations from disadvantaged neighborhoods. The project grew from serving initially 25 students to over 560 students across the district in everything from mentoring to after-school enrichment. During this time I served as an adjunct instructor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Urban Studies. After completion of my doctoral studies, I began a faculty appointment at Jackson State University in 2001 and was appointed Chair in 2007.

    Do you have any advice for parents who want to see their own children succeed?

    There are so many angles from which to tackle this simple yet comprehensive question as success by definition is deciphered by individuals in so many different ways. However, I would say to parents:

    o. Communication: Have honest dialogue with your children and hear what they have to say about the things that are important to them. Young people should learn early how to express themselves through verbal exchanges and those skills begin in initial conversations at home.

    o. Exposure: Parents should not pass their inhibitions on to their children; those moments can be new and exciting for both. Reading new books, learning a new language, or trying a new sport can break down those walls of intimidation for an adolescent causing them to feel that there is nothing they can't do!

    o. Involvement: Actively engage your child's academics and activities. It costs absolutely nothing to volunteer at their school, build relationships with their teachers, visit college campuses (vision trips) and local businesses. Let young people see and meet local business owners and people in the community that media rarely highlight. Parents can provide a roadmap for their children by creating a major goal that is filled with mini plans to get there. The time will be well worth it!

    Why are so many black boys not succeeding academically? What are some solutions?

    Sadly enough, as I have observed during my interactions with young males, it is not socially acceptable to show strong academic aspirations. A significant percentage of African-American males are not exposed to a large percentage of male teachers who look like them. Accordingly, the socialization patterns that are shared have to be "filtered" in order for them to use what they think they will need from the messages they are given. A large segment of male teachers will become administrators (principals, asst. principals) shortly after their appointment to a district. And our males see them more as enforcers of regulations or disciplinarians compared to the consistent nurturing role usually representative of the female teacher. Disciplinary issues are another major challenge to the success of young African American males. Educators have to understand the challenges of teaching today's youth with new and innovative approaches to planned instruction that suits their learning style and allows creativity and positive exchange. The frequent use of suspension of young African-American males for incidents without implementing programs to address this area only contributes to a vicious cycle of frustration and powerlessness. These students deemed as chronic behavior problems move from in-school suspension to out-of-school suspension which exacerbates their academic condition. With mandated high-stakes testing it becomes nearly impossible for recuperation.

    Early intervention is essential to change this dynamic. Early childhood programs with an emphasis on self-concept and positive images can begin to level the field on academic perceptions of African-American males. Parents have to approach the education of their young boys with the same tenacity as they would their young girls (most times there is a difference).

    Is there anything else you'd like to share with our AOL Black Voices audience?

    I had the opportunity to hear and speak with Dr. Boyce Watkins when he visited Jackson State University for the Summit on African-American Male Achievement. I felt like a student all over again, his passion for this cause is inspiring, and his message simply challenged us all to take an active part in this process for change. I am certain that through his work and others like him, we can begin to move in a positive direction on this worthy topic.

    Dr. 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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    We've seen enough war films ('Black Hawk Down,' 'Saving Private Ryan'), and we've seen our share of alien films ('Independence Day,' 'Starship Troopers,' 'District 9'), and when you combine both of those elements in one film, we've also seen plenty of that as well.

    With a cast that includes Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Michael Pena, Cory Hardrict, Ne-Yo, Ramon Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Will Rothhaar, and Adetokumboh M'Cormack, 'Battle: Los Angeles' is nothing more than another fast paced, clichéd action/ sci-fi film but visually splendid and enjoyable.

    Directed by Jonathan Liebesman, the film starts off with soldiers in a military helicopter ready to descend on Los Angeles as they watch other comrades be attack by aliens from another world. Flashback to a day earlier, Sergeant Nantz (played by Eckhart) is ready to hand in his walking papers after 20 years of duty and lead a normal life. Still tormented by the fact that he's the only survivor from his last tour assignment, he's willing to train new marines for combat before retiring.

    His arrival doesn't bode well with some of the Marines, including Corporal Jason Lockett (played by Hardrict), whose brother was killed while in Nantz's unit. When news of an alien invasion reaches California, it's all hands on deck and personal matters have to be put aside for the greater good.

    Placed as second-in-command to recently promoted 2nd Lt. William Martinez (played by Ramon Rodriguez), Nantz helps leads a small unit to Los Angeles to extract some civilians held up in a police station. They have less than three hours to get them and get back to the base before bombs are lowered down to kill any aliens in the "hot zone."

    After meeting up with other soldiers, including Tech Sgt. Elena Santos (played by Michelle Rodriguez), the unit finds the missing civilians, including a veterinarian (played by Bridget Moynahan) and a father (played by Michael Pena) and son. With less time remaining before the bombs come down, the remaining humans must get out of the city while alluding several aliens chasing them.

    Aside from the shaky camera and sub-par dialogue, which includes awkward lines (during tense scenes) like "Marines don't quit," or 'I'm a veterinarian, maybe I can help," the rest of the film is a gung-ho action, science fiction film that will have audiences on the edge of their seats.

    He may not have had the lines that Eric Bana had in 'Black Hawk Down,' or Tom Hanks in 'Saving Private Ryan,' but Eckhart is just as good as any one of them in conveying leadership ship skills with some emotional baggage. Having been in plenty of action films from 'Resident Evil,' 'S.W.A.T,' and 'Avatar,' Michelle Rodriguez could have done this role sleepwalking and it would still be effective. Any military unit would be proud to have her on the team.

    As for the newcomers (Cory Hardrict, Ne-Yo, Ramon Rodriguez, Will Rothhaar, and Adetokumboh M'Cormack) in the film, it's a good look for all of them, including Cory Hardrict, who shines as the brother ready to pick up where his dead brother left off. Playing against his type, Ne-Yo's performance is more than what most people would expect from the gifted musician. He's not there for comedic or singing purposes. The guy can act and thankfully this role affords him the chance to show his range.

    In the end, if you love playing the video game 'Call of Duty: Black Ops,' and want to see something similar, you can't go wrong with 'Battle: LA.'


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    Most college students are planning to waste time and money over spring break, partying hard, drinking till they vomit, and doing other things that might get them into trouble. Howard University is encouraging its students to engage in a more enlightened use of its time over spring break, by helping the students to raise money for a trip to support the people of Haiti.

    WHUR, the Howard University radio station and one of the leading stations in the DC area, is helping the students raise the $150,000 that they will need in order to make the trip. The station is holding a radiothon to raise money on Sunday, March 6th from 6 am until 6 pm. In addition to going to Haiti, the students plan to go to other cities across the United States in order to provide "critical services to those in need." The students plan to travel to Haiti, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans and Atlanta, in addition to providing support in the Washington DC area.

    The initiative stems from Howard University's innovative Alternative Spring Break program, where students are encouraged to skip the mindless spring breaks of the past and do something good for their community. The current trip will cover 500 students, including undergraduate, graduate and law students. They will leave on Saturday March 12th and return on Saturday, March 19th. Those who wish to donate can do so by going to

    I want to commend the faculty and administrators at Howard University for what they've done with these kids. I've been considering allowing one of my own children to attend the university, and this program has moved the school up in our ranking. I hope that other universities pursue similar models, for giving our students other uses for their time during spring break might save some of their lives.

    This semester alone, I've written on several cases of college students dying in alcohol-related incidents. I can assure you right now that this spring break is going to lead to more deaths, arrests, sexual assaults and other unfortunate incidents, primarily because we as adults have neglected our responsibility to teach young people about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption and reckless behavior. Spending your springs and summers wasting time, having sex with anything that moves and drinking till you pass out has, for some reason, become an accepted part of the college lifestyle. But the truth is that it doesn't have to be this way.

    This message should resonate most directly with the African American community, where our people are in the greatest and most dire need for the work being done by the students in this program. Rather than our kids spending their time "getting wasted," and engaging in counter productive activity, we should encourage all of our young people to follow the lead of the students at Howard University.

    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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     Joseph Harwell, Cleveland Serial Killer

    What authorities in Cleveland knew was bad enough.

    The remains of 11 women were discovered at the home of Anthony Sowell, 51, who was charged with the serial killings two years ago.

    But investigators wanted to make sure there weren't other victims, so the Cuyahoga County Prosecutors office formed a cold case squad to look at old murder cases in the poor Cleveland community.

    What they found rocked the entire Northeast Ohio region.

    It appears that a second second killer was preying on women in the mostly black and poor eastside of Cleveland.

     Joseph Harwell, Cleveland Serial Killer

    Joseph Harwell, 50, (pictured at the top) was indicted this week on multiple counts of aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping in the deaths of Mary Thomas, 27, (Mary Ann Prater holds a picture of daughter Thomas above) and Tondilear Harge, 33, (sister-in-law Yolanda Cook-Gillis holds a photo of Harge below).

    Harwell is currently serving 15 years to life in prison for killing Teresa Vinson in Columbus in 1997.

    Though Harwell had been eligible for parole next year (is that scary or what?), he can likely forget ever seeing the streets again.

     Joseph Harwell, Cleveland Serial Killer

    The prosecutor's office is now seeking the death penalty for Harwell, as it is for Sowell.

    Having worked as a national writer at the Cleveland Plain Dealer for nearly a decade, I know the streets where authorities say Sowell and Harwell hunted human game.

    What stands out about them most is how interchangeable they are to the streets in Washington D.C., Baltimore, Chicago or Los Angeles, where black folks struggle to make ends meet.

    This sad story makes me wonder how many murderers we would find if we dedicated the resources for cold case investigation units the way Sowell's killings forced Cuyahoga County authorities to do.

    When poor black women go missing, especially those women known to run the streets, few ask probing questions. It's as if a trap door sprung open underneath them and they were swallowed up by the earth.

    Based on the information found in Cleveland, wouldn't it make sense to develop similar cold case units in Los Angeles, where Grim Sleeper suspect Lonnie Franklin Jr. is accused for murdering 10 people, nine of them women?

    While looking for cold case killers will not bring their victims back, it will take the sick and dangerous perpetrators off the streets, where they use the public's lack of concern for poor black people as a shield for their crimes.



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    When it was recently announced that Derek Luke had a role in the upcoming Marvel film, 'Captain America: First Avenger,' many fans and websites were curious as to which character the 36 year-old New Jersey native would play since the studio hadn't mentioned it in numerous press releases on the film.

    Luke will be playing one of Nick Fury's Howling Commando's, Gabe Jones, stated Jones is remembered in the Marvel universe as a fierce fighter who always carried his trumpet into battle.

    Other roles Luke was speculated for were a young Nick Fury, Fury's father Jack or Captain America's Avengers' partner Falcon.

    As the first African-American to serve in an integrated unit, Jones is one of the close confidantes to Sergeant Nick Fury, who would later become the head of the organization S.H.I.E.L.D. Jones would later join him as an agent.

    Nick Fury has been played by Samuel L. Jackson in both 'Iron Man' films and will appear in this film as well as the upcoming 'Avengers.'

    Luke, who made his film debut in Denzel Washington's directorial debut Antwone Fisher, and played a soldier in Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna, last appeared in the 2009 films, Tyler Perry's 'Madea Goes to Jail,' and the rapper Notorious B.I.G. biopic 'Notorious,' where he played Sean 'Diddy' Combs. In 2009-2010, he starred in the now-cancelled NBC medical TV series, 'Trauma.'

    Luke also joins the list of African Americans being featured in upcoming comic books films.

    Besides Samuel L. Jackson, Idris Elba is playing the Norse God Heimdall in Kenneth Branagh's 'Thor,' and Angela Bassett is playing the mysterious Dr. Amanda Waller on the DC' superhero film, 'Green Lantern,' starring Ryan Reynolds.

    Directed by Joe Johnston, 'Captain America: The First Avenger' stars Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Sebastian Stan, Toby Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Dominic Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, and Neal McDonough.

    Scheduled to be released in 3D on July 22, 2011, the film will focus on the early days of the Marvel Universe when Steve Rogers volunteers to participate in an experimental program that turns him into the Super Soldier known as Captain America.

    Born during the Great Depression, Steve Rogers grew up a frail youth in a poor family. Horrified by the newsreel footage of the Nazis in Europe, Rogers was inspired to enlist in the army. However, because of his frailty and sickness, he was rejected. Overhearing the boy's earnest plea, General Chester Phillips offered Rogers the opportunity to take part in a special experiment... Operation: Rebirth. After weeks of tests, Rogers was at last administered the Super-Solider Serum and bombarded by "vita-rays." Steve Rogers emerged from the treatment with a body as perfect as a body can be and still be human. Rogers was then put through an intensive physical and tactical training program. Three months later, he was given his first assignment as Captain America. Armed with his indestructible shield and battle savvy, Captain America has continued his war against evil both as a sentinel of liberty and as leader of the Avengers.


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    Charges Against Danroy Henry's Teammates to Be Dismissed

    Prosecutors sought Wednesday to dismiss criminal charges against four of Danroy Henry's teammates, who were taken into custody after the youth was killed by a policeman on Oct. 17th.

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    The four young Pace University students who stand accused are Joseph Garcia (above, pictured center left), Yves Delpeche (above, pictured far right), Daniel Parker (above, pictured left) and Joseph Romanick (above, pictured center right), who faces the felony charge.

    In a motion that was filed with the Mount Pleasant, N.Y., town court, Westchester County District Attorney (DA) Janet DiFiore wrote, regarding the disorderly conduct, obstruction misdemeanors and criminal mischief charges, "the convictions of these four defendants...
    in this matter, would not serve the ends of justice."

    DiFiore went on to point out in the motion that the reactions of the teammates to the shooting of Henry was mere impulse and certainly not injurious to anyone. She stated that the young men's conduct "was derived from impulsive and youthful visceral reactions to the sudden, unexpected shooting of their friend." The DA cited their ages, status as students at Pace and lack of prior criminal records in the dismissal of the charges.

    The teammates' next court appearance is scheduled for March 24th, and at that time, the charges are expected to be formally dismissed against them.

    Pace University said in a statement Wednesday that it was pleased with the decision by the Westchester County district attorney to dismiss the charges against the men. Three of them still attend Pace, and Garcia graduated in December.

    Last month, a grand jury declined to indict the police officers who were involved in the fatal shooting of Henry, 20.

    The shooting occurred after police officers, who responded to a call about a brawl outside a popular college bar, spotted Henry sitting inside his parked car. The youth's vehicle was positioned in a fire lane.

    Reportedly, Officer Aaron Hess tapped on Henry's driver's-side window. Henry was accused of attempting to drive away, and in the process, Hess ricocheted on to the car's hood and then fired at the youth through the windshield.

    Justice has been served as far as Henry's teammates are concerned. The boys were only trying to help their dying friend in the midst of total madness and were unjustly accused of the misdemeanors that they face.

    The young college students did not have prior criminal records and have been law-abiding citizens. Thankfully, they will not face any further criminal prosecution, and hopefully, their records can be expunged as well. They are ALL deserving of a clean slate!


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    Rev. Jesse Jackson appeared in Milwaukee Thursday night to help plan a counter-attack to workers rights that are under fire in the state of Wisconsin. Just a few hours before Jackson's speech, the state's legislators passed a law stripping public employees of nearly all of their rights to collective bargaining. Rev. Jackson said that the coming State Supreme Court election is an opportunity for the voters of Milwaukee to take a stand and have their rights protected once again.

    "All eyes are on Milwaukee," said Jackson. "The cameras are in Madison, the votes are in Milwaukee." "That's how scared everyone is," she said. "When this collective bargaining ends, they can do whatever they want."

    The election takes place on April 5th and could have a profound impact on how things happen in the state of Wisconsin. As it stands, the State Supreme Court has a four-justice conservative majority, but that majority could change with the April election. If someone legally challenges the Wisconsin labor legislation, the new face of the court could make a huge difference.

    "This is what democracy looks like," Rev. Jackson told the crowd.

    Both Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton are heavily involved in the national fight to protect workers' rights. Rev. Sharpton was recently in Ohio, another state that is pushing to end collective bargaining rights for public employees. The moves in Ohio and Wisconsin are part of a nation-wide effort to cut the power of unions as a remedy to state budgetary problems. Republican leadership, who are not nearly as likely to end tax cuts to businesses or the wealthy, have worked overtime to ensure that working class Americans pay the bill for the financial irresponsibility on Wall Street.

    The presence of Rev. Jackson and Rev. Sharpton in the labor battles taking place across the nation are symbols of the way Civil Rights has evolved in our country. Racial barriers still exist in America and we must continue to fight them. But more importantly, there is a growing battle between the rich and the poor, where America's wealthy have been allowed to dominate the working class for the last 30 years. Since the Reagan era, where taxes were cut for the wealthy and large corporations, American workers have consistently gotten the short end of the economic stick. Additionally, recent efforts to globalize the American workforce has led to jobs leaving the United States at lightning fast speeds.

    As our haggling lawmakers in Washington do all they can to fight our nation into bankruptcy, it should be noted that our current course of action may lead to our nation's demise. Capitalism has been allowed to run unregulated, leading to pharmaceutical companies having the right to decide who lives or dies, and a national debt level that is clearly unsustainable. All the while, the weakest among us (the American worker) has very little representation in Congress, as corporate money has come to define our national priorities. As much as I hate having to admit it, I don't feel so good about America's economic future.

    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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    Dubbed by Publisher's Weekly as the reigning queen of urban fiction, ex-con Vickie M. Stringer has returned with the third sequel to her red hot 'Dirty' series, 'Dirtier Than Ever.'

    True to form, the novel is filled with wild twists and turns that will leave readers on tenterhooks as they turn the page. This time, we find the dynamic trio engaged in a full-on game of life and death: the lovely and seductive Red Gomez, who will stop at nothing to get her way; Bacon, her kingpin boyfriend; and Quentin Carter, the true love of Red's life, who is angling to get out of Detroit's treacherous street game. catches up with the founder of Triple Crown, one of the most successful African American book publishers, to talk about the sequel, her life and the publishing industry.

    BV on Books: So, you've written the third installment to 'Still Dirty.' Is this the end or is there more to come?
    Vickie Stringer: By popular demand, I've added two more installments, 'Down Low & Dirty' and, the finale, 'Dirty Love.'

    BV: Your characters are so unique. How do you develop them? Are they based on people you've met?
    VS: I always, always write about people I know. I don't think the biggest mind could imagine these crazy characters, so they have to be real.

    BV: You are the reigning queen of urban lit. What did you have in mind when you started writing? There weren't many books like yours on the shelves. What was your inspiration?
    VS: I was inspired by Donald Goines.

    BV: Did you think urban lit would become a genre in and of itself?
    VS: Yes, actually, I did. I thought this because of the absence. Just like hip hop was added to music, hip hop was added to clothing, I knew this would be added to publishing. You cannot pioneer without vision. My vision was Triple Crown, and my vision is in fruition today.

    BV: Urban lit has garnered a bad rap for outpacing sale of more serious literature. Do you think it's unfair?
    VS: I think it is unfair and, unfortunately, instead of the genre standing on the merits of commerce, the moniker is negative. And I feel like the Little Richard of the book industry. Triple Crown not only pioneered the genre, we birthed the urban fiction roster that you read today.

    BV: Part of the bad rap is that critics say urban lit has contributed to the black corner in bookstores. Do you agree/disagree?
    VS: There has always been a black corner and always will be a black this or black that until we are taken seriously for the talents that this genre includes. I mean, really, the sales of my work and of Triple Crown authors can compete (numbers-wise) with mainstream authors. I'm furious when I see so many New York Times bestsellers, then research those numbers and those books have not sold close to what my titles or company titles have sold.

    BV: Triple Crown Publications is one of the most successful African-American publishers in the nation and abroad. What accounts for that?
    VS: We are successful first and foremost through the grace of God. I say God because of the timing and the favor my company has with the industry decision makers. Next, there is the fan support that really is the biggest success. Coming in after that is the hard work and dedication of my staff and authors. I'm also very fortunate to have the wisdom that my editor at Atria Books, Malaika Adero, shares. See, I'm not just one of her authors, but someone who can come to her as a veteran with ideas. There is no one set of answers to this question, but I do know that, ultimately, success boils down to one thing: How bad to you want it?

    BV: Finally, what is your advice for aspiring authors?
    VS: Today, your material must be above the best. It must be excellent in all areas: creativity, content and clarity. The bar is high for this genre, and you have to measure up.


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    Did Facebook Help Fuel a Fatal Stabbing? Kayla Henriques, Kamisha Richards

    By all accounts, Kayla Henriques, 18, and Kamisha Richards, 22, were tight. So tight, that Richards threw a baby shower for her friend and was planning a first birthday party for Henriques' son, Alex.

    But the young New York City women had a falling out over $20 less than a week ago, when Henriques asked her friend for the money to buy Pampers but used the money for other items.

    Over the week, the feud moved to the Internet, where the women traded insults on Facebook through the weekend.

    Then it all went tragically wrong. On Monday, Henriques confessed to stabbing Richards at Richards' home in East New York. Police found a kitchen knife at the crime scene and followed a trail of blood to Henriques' nearby home and arrested the young woman, said sources.

    Henriques claimed she killed her friend in self-defense. She has been charged with second-degree murder.

    Richards, a graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was awaiting her scores on the law school admittance test and hoped to start law school this fall.

    This is hardly the first case of a friendship fight ending in a death, but what seems to set this story apart from others is the role that social media played in fanning the flames of anger between the two participants.

    The distance that is part of Internet communication allowed this fight to rage like a wildfire blowing out of control. The back-and-forth messages, which seemed to grow in intensity with each exchange, are easy to send when pecking away at a keyboard.

    Would those angry messages have been as easy to exchange face-to-face?

    Not likely.

    Now all that anyone can do is hold a vigil for the slain woman, as her neighbors did Thursday by sending dozens of white balloons into the night sky outside her apartment.

    No one can reasonably blame Facebook for causing the death, and no one could have predicted the fight would have escalated to the point of murder.

    But it's becoming increasingly clear that a lonely room and computer access embolden people to act in ways they would never consider, if they had to look into the eyes of their target.

    Watch the incident here:


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    "Charlie, he'll get it together. Listen he passed all the drug tests. If the drug tests say he's clean, he's clean. Maybe he's got some emotional issues, maybe, and maybe he's not a drug addict. Let's get him checked on that and see how's the outcome. He might be clean on that. He might be okay. And Charlie is just Charlie and we all need to get some of that new drug Charlie Sheen is on ... I love Charlie."

    -- Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson commenting on bad boy actor Charlie Sheen. ('Access Hollywood Live'),feedConfig,entry&id=612590&pid=612589&uts=1299539396

    Celebrity Stage/Government Names

    What's In A Name?
    Assuming a new identity is nothing new for celebrities who find success in the entertainment industry. It seems as though everyone, from Academy Award-winning funnyman Jamie Foxx to Carmen Electra has a stage name. And even teenage rap sensation Soulja Boy, doesn't use the one he was legally born with. There are many others who prefer to be known by their pseudonyms. Some like Lil' Kim and Redman are obvious. Others like Michael Keaton and Julianne Moore may surprise you. Take a look at the real names of some of your favorite celebrities.

    Celebrity Stage/Government Names

    Michelle Williams
    Real Name: Tenitra Michelle Williams
    Profession: Singer-Songwriter, Actress
    Factoid: While touring across the globe with her former group Destiny's Child, she may have picked up a few entrepreneurial skills from Mathew Knowles. In 2006, Williams was named a minority owner of the WNBA's, Chicago Sky.

    Celebrity Stage/Government Names

    Lady GaGa
    Real Name: Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
    Profession: Singer-Songwriter
    Factoid: It has been reported that Lady GaGa bleached her hair blonde to avoid being mistaken for Amy Winehouse by the media while being discovered.

    Celebrity Stage/Government Names

    The Game
    Real Name: Jayceon Terrell Taylor
    Profession: Rapper, Actor
    Factoid: In addition to being a close friend and high school teammate, NBA star Baron Davis is also reportedly the godfather of Game's eldest son Harlem.

    Celebrity Stage/Government Names

    Real Name: Tramar Dillard
    Profession: Rapper
    Factoid: Before FloRida was rapping about Apple Bottom jeans and topping music charts, he was discovered by none other than Jodeci's own, DeVante Swing.

    Celebrity Stage/Government Names

    Tom Cruise
    Real Name: Thomas Cruise Mapother, IV
    Profession: Actor, producer
    Factoid:Born in Syracuse, New York Cruise has also lived Ottawa, Ontario; Louisville, Kentucky; Winnetka, Illinois; and Wayne, New Jersey

    Celebrity Stage/Government Names

    Real Name: Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner
    Profession: Music Genius
    Factoid: As a solo musician and member of The Police, Sting has sold more than 100 million records and received sixteen Grammy Awards for his work.

    Celebrity Stage/Government Names

    Stage Name: Jamie Foxx
    Real Name: Eric Marlon Bishop
    Profession: Actor, Singer
    Factoid: In between the success of 'In Living Color' and his big-screen role in 'Booty Call,' Jamie Foxx released his debut music recording, 'Peep This,' in 1994.

    Celebrity Stage/Government Names

    Demi Moore
    Real Name: Demetria Gene Guynes
    Profession: Actress
    Factoid: In June of 1998 Bruce Willis and Demi Moore announced the ending of their marriage of 11 years. Since then, the actress has stepped up her cougar status by marrying Ashton Kutcher - another sought after actor, 16 years her junior.

    Celebrity Stage/Government Names

    Bob Dylan
    Real Name: Robert Allen Zimmerman
    Profession: Singer-Songwriter, Author
    Factoid: Dylan previously mentioned that some of his biggest musical influences are Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, Ferdinand 'Jelly Roll' Morton, and Leadbelly, among others.

    Celebrity Stage/Government Names


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    If actress LisaRaye McCoy knows anything, she certainly knows how to keep it really real. And having a reality TV show is a natural fit for the former First Lady of Turks and Caicos. For that reason, TV One decided to bring back her top-rated series, 'LisaRaye: The Real McCoy' for a second season.

    The cable network and the actress announced that she was filming nine new episodes at their New York Upfront presentation n January.

    Now we have a date.

    "We've come a long way since we first started taping season one of this show," said McCoy, who is better known just as LisaRaye. "I am very excited to be back with TV One for season two, and to share with viewers the many exciting developments and blessings in my life over the past year."
    The new season, which kicks off on April 9, will feature appearances from some of her celebrity pals including Sheryl Lee Ralph, Tatyana Ali, Bobby Brown, Elise Neal, Nelly, Twista, Bishop T.D. Jakes, DeRay Davis, Chef G. Garvin and Jacque Reid.

    According to TV One, viewers will find the Chicago native "making waves this season wherever she goes whether she's furthering her career, letting loose her maternal instincts, searching for Mr. Right, or helping out a friend in need."

    Last season was all about bouncing back as an actress and getting over her tumultuous relationship with The Premiere of Turks and Caicos, Michael Misick.

    Now, the mother of one is bouncing from Puerto Rico to Los Angeles, from her hometown of The Windy City to Dallas and Las Vegas and finally getting her professional career back on track with a new VH1 scripted series, 'Single Ladies.'

    'The Player's Club' actress said: "I've had to fight for what I want and deserve, and I hope in some small way I can help inspire people - women especially - to go after what they want and fight for the life they deserve."

    LisaRaye is also focusing on raising money to help defray a close friend's cancer bills and starting her very own line of jeans. Her daughter, Kai, has launched a successful modeling career and, of course, LisaRaye is still looking for love.

    'LisaRaye: The Real McCoy' premieres on TV One on April 7 at 9 pm EST.,feedConfig,entry&id=777016&pid=777015&uts=1299899098

    Reality Bites

    Reality Bites
    The reality TV show phenomenon is showing no signs of slowing down -- as long as viewers keep watching the shows. takes a quick look at some of the most notable personalities within the reality series realm. Join us.

    Reality Bites

    Russell Simmons
    Affiliation: 'Running Russell Simmons' on Oxygen
    Side Note: Before the Def Jam co-founder got his own reality show, he appeared sporadically on his business partner and ex-wife Kimora Lee Simmons' hit E! show 'Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane.'

    Reality Bites

    Melanie Brown
    Affiliation: 'Mel B: It's a Scary World' on The Style Network
    Side Note: Mel B is affectionately known as Scary Spice from the British pop group the Spice Girls, but she made a career comeback on the competition series 'Dancing With the Stars.'

    Reality Bites

    Kandi Burruss
    Affiliation: 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta'
    Side Note: Though she was in her own platinum-selling girl group, Xscape, this Atlanta native won her only Grammy Award for penning 'No Scrubs' for fellow ATL girl group TLC.

    Reality Bites

    Fantasia Barrino
    Affiliation: 'Fantasia For Real' on VH1
    Side note: The 'American Idol' champion (2005) is a best-selling author ('Life is Not a Fairytale') and garnered critical acclaim as Miss Celie in the Broadway musical 'The Color Purple.'

    Reality Bites

    Holly Robinson Peete
    Affiliation: 'The Celebrity Apprentice 3' on NBC
    Side Note: The 'Hanging with Mr. Cooper' actress and her husband/former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete created the HollyRod Foundation in 1997 to honor her late father Matt Robinson who died of Parkinson's Disease and also to raise money for families who are affected by autism.

    Reality Bites

    Al B. Sure
    Affiliation: 'Donald J. Trump Presents: The Ultimate Merger'
    Side note: While vying for Omarosa's love during the show's first season, the former 'Apprentice' star described the R&B crooner as; "the ultimate romantic and perfect gentleman. He sets the tone for all of the bachelors on how to properly court a woman."

    Reality Bites

    Trey Songz
    Affiliation: 'Trey Songz: My Moment' on BET
    Side Note: Born Tremaine Aldon Neverson, this Virginia native, originally put out diss mixtapes aimed at R. Kelly, but quashed his beef with the legendary Chicago crooner when he enlisted Kels help to produce 'Grub On' off his 2007 album 'Trey Day.'

    Reality Bites

    Dwight Eubanks
    Affiliation: 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta'
    Side Note: Although he remains a flamboyant bi-sexual, Eubanks, who owns his own Atlanta hair salon owner, told Essence magazine in 2009 that he was engaged to be married to an Atlanta woman.

    Reality Bites

    Brandi Simpkins
    Affiliation: 'House of Glam' on Oxygen
    Side Note: The Howard University graduate's The B. Lynn Group quickly became the go-to image agency after stylist Crystal Streets nailed Jay-Z as her third client - helping him craft his style persona.

    Reality Bites


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    You're no one until you sit court side at a basketball game. It is the very definition of making it, so it's no surprise when celebrities are snapped on the sidelines of Knicks and Lakers games.

    Sitting in those seats does not come without a catch, though. Apparently you cannot just sit there in jeans and a T-shirt. No, you must have on sparkly jewels, dark sunglasses to block out the bright stardom and stilettos worth thousands of dollars, which I'm sure the man in charge of shining up the court just adores.

    It seems many are dressed for a night out on the town rather than a night on the boards and some, well... some need to fire their stylists. Here are some of our favorite members of Club Court Side.

    --Blackie Collins


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    Meagan Good appeared on the red carpet for the 'Miles From Home' DVD release party in a sultry strapless brown satin cocktail dress with a sweetheart neckline.

    She accessorized the look with simple black peep toe heels and the piece de resistance: a long feather earring dangling from one ear.

    The satin strapless is a safe look for the red carpet, but the lone earring adds a daring touch.

    What do you think? Is her outfit chic or weak?


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    The weather is slowly starting to warm up, and it's time to begin thinking about rejuvenating your wardrobe with bright, fun, spring-ready pieces. To help you get started, we found 10 colorfully chic dresses to help get the ball rolling.

    Left to Right: The Limited Ruffle Neck Sheath Dress, $80. Ali Ro Abstract Print Dress, $35.

    Read on for more options.
    Left to Right: T-Bags Printed asymmetric dress, $80. Ella Moss Jordanna Dress, $95.

    Left to Right: 39 SIXTYONE Sheer Jersey Tee Dress, $60. ASOS Wide Stripe Body-Conscious Midi Dress, $54.

    Left to Right: ASOS Twist Back Midi Dress, $54. Jonathan Saunders Printed cotton tank dress, $93.
    Left to Right: Z by Zandra Rhodes Strapless printed jersey dress, $55. INC International Concepts Dress, Long Sleeve Surplice Ruched Printed, $60.


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    In his first major film role since leaving the long-running ABC series 'Lost,' Matthew Fox will play an assassin in 'I, Alex Cross,' the reboot of the James Patterson franchise character with Tyler Perry starring and Rob Cohen directing.

    Ed Burns has also signed on to play Tommy Kane, Cross's partner, stated

    Fox plays Michael Sullivan, who kills both for money and thrills. He's known as the Butcher of Sligo and shows why, after Cross thwarts one of his killing attempts. Sullivan makes his retribution personal, by killing the detective's wife in gruesome fashion. Then it becomes a mano-a-mano battle between them. Sullivan is one of the best known villains in the Patterson-penned novel series.

    Mark Moss wrote the script, and he and Cohen have generated a new draft that has some twists different from the novel. The film is being produced by QED partners Bill Block and Paul Hanson.

    Perry, after Idris Elba was initially approached, is taking over the role that Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman had when he starred in both Paramount films 'Kiss the Girls' (1997) and 'Along Came a Spider' (2001).

    Tony Goldwyn and Cary Elwes played the bad guys in 'Girls,' while Michael Wincott, Monica Potter and Billy Burke were the evildoers in 'Spider.'


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    Title VII of the Civil Rights Act disallows employers to discriminate against applicants on criteria that relates to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. You can now add another item to the list: discrimination based on whether or not you already have a job.

    An unknown but growing problem is employer discrimination against those who've been out of work for a very long time. Increasingly, companies are putting out ads for jobs that require that the applicant be "currently employed." This makes it more difficult for those who've been seeking work for long periods of time to have a chance to find a job.

    The legislation designed to remedy this problem is referred to as The Fair Employment Act of 2011 (H.R. 1113), which was drafted by Rep. Hank Johnson (D.- GA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D. - Ill). The legislation effectively amends the Civil Rights Act, making it illegal for employers to refuse to hire or give lower compensation to people because of their employment status.

    "I just thought about how unfair that was, to discriminate against people who had lost their jobs due to no fault of their own, who were just victims of corporate downsizing during a tough economy," Johnson told HuffPost. "And then to be penalized for having that status is very unfair. It reminded me of the days when blacks were told to not apply for jobs, when job ads said 'No women allowed.' This really affected me, and I decided that there was something that we could do."

    The bill, if it passes, would put the burden onto the plaintiff to prove that discrimination ever took place. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to prove that discrimination occurred, at least the way the courts have been structured over the last decade. But legislators argue that having the law on the books will at least stem back blatant discrimination with ads requesting that the applicant already be employed.

    This bill is like much of everything else that the American public sees coming out of Washington: modestly helpful, but not very meaningful. Many people of color across America are victims of various forms of discrimination, racial and otherwise. Unfortunately, they often find that their needs and issues are ignored by political leaders who are trapped by the status quo in a historically racist society. Even departments and organizations that haven't hired more than one black person in over a decade are let off the hook, as many are allowed to simply conclude that black people just aren't qualified.

    We can at least say that this legislation is better than nothing, and it is our greatest hope that conscientious legislators like Jesse Jackson Jr. will continue to carry the torch in Washington.

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


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    During the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, there will be a special tribute to Academy Award and Grammy Award winner Quincy Jones for his contributions to cinema, music & philanthropy.

    The announcement was made when the Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) selected the 12 projects for the Tribeca All Access (TAA) program. This year, the program will introduce $10,000 grants for each project along with tailored mentorships to maximize its impact. Now in its eighth year, TAA was created to help foster and nurture relationships between film industry executives and filmmakers from traditionally underrepresented communities. TAA will present the 12 projects throughout a five-day program taking place during the annual Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), presented by American Express, held from April 20-May 1, 2011.

    As part of a new initiative, TFI will present a special Legacy Celebration on Thursday, April 28 at the Hiro Ballroom to honor Quincy Jones for his contribution to cinema and music as well as his philanthropic efforts across the globe.

    The night will include a cocktail reception, a multimedia celebration of music performances and film clips and several presentations from people in the film industry. The annual event celebrates icons that progress the way we look at pop culture and diversified storytelling across several races and generations.

    A winner of several awards in different industries, Jones and his songwriting partner Bob Russell became the first African Americans to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1968 for the tune 'The Eyes of Love' from 'Banning.' That same year, he became the first African American to be nominated twice within the same year when he was nominated for Best Original Score for his work on the music of the 1967 film 'In Cold Blood.' In 1971, Jones would receive the honor of becoming the first African American to be named musical director/conductor of the Academy Awards ceremony. In 1985, Jones scored the Steven Spielberg film adaptation of 'The Color Purple.'

    Along with composing music for 33 films, the Chicago native was the first African American to win the Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, in 1995. He is tied with sound designer Willie D. Burton as the most Oscar-nominated African American, each of them having seven nominations.


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    Goal DIGGERS: The Sankofa Project Takes Girls From Baltimore to Africa to Trace Their Roots

    Eighteen teenage girls from Park Heights sit in a circle at the St. Ambrose Outreach Center in the Park Heights neighborhood of Baltimore City, a neighborhood known more for its heinous statistics -- including alarming drop-out rates and teenage pregnancy numbers -- and less for the bright smiles that fill the room.

    The girls are giving positive affirmations to each other and to the adult volunteers as a way of greeting each other. They are generous with compliments and are eager to share. Any parent of a teenager would feel like they stepped into the Twilight Zone if they entered this room.

    As the girls pour their libations into a plant and offer their thanks, it becomes clear that this is a space where their gentle spirits and positive energy are celebrated. It's a place where they don't have to pretend -- a place where they're safe. Meshelle Foreman Shields, comedienne, mother, wife and director of the Goal DIGGERS: The Sankofa Project provides this safe haven for them.

    Shields, a native of this Park Heights neighborhood, began this program with the help of an Open Society Institute Fellowship. Shields believes that this will be the ultimate transformative experience and hopes to have a program like this become a national model. The girls are being followed by a videographer that will document this transformation.

    The success of this project could change the way educators look at inner-city, largely black educational systems and how they work with and educate their students. If identity is at the crux of student achievement, particularly young girls, and having confidence inside and outside of the classroom, then the national model will have to change as it relates to African-American children.

    It's long overdue for an overhaul.

    Shields took a moment to talk to Aol.Black Voices about this innovative program:

    BV: So I saw your stand-up, you are hilarious. But you also went the traditional route, you went to school...
    Meshelle Foreman Shields: Yes, I was a year away from a doctorate. I took a year of absence going into my fourth year of my Ph.D. My advisor came to a show when I was living in Philadelphia, sat in the back, uninvited, and was just watching me. You know, lightweight stalking. She called me into the office, and I'm thinking I'm in trouble. She was like you're gonna hate yourself if you don't pursue your stand-up comedy because this is a gift. I'm thinking this is kind of nontraditional. I took a leave of absence for a year. I gave God a year to be a rock star and that was 13years ago. Since then I've done a number of premium cable shows. I was studying school psychology at the time, determining giftedness and special needs and learning disabilities. My sister says being a stand-up allows me to treat more people at one time.

    BV: I love the concept of the Goal DIGGERS project.
    MFS: It's a culmination of everything I've ever done. I've been working with kids' groups in the Park Heights community. I grew up in Park Heights and in the northwest suburbs of Baltimore. I've always worked with women and girls of color. I'm just real clear that exposure is everything. Growing up in those two worlds, it was two different worlds and the balance of both of them have made me comfortable in my skin wherever I go.

    There's something that I got from those girls that I went to school with that I always marveled at and in a lot of ways I wish that I had. It wasn't their stuff; it was the fact that a lot of them knew their ancestry and a lot of them could tell stories about their lineage, especially my Jewish girlfriends. And I learned a lot from that and I got invited into some of their inner circles, invited to parties and celebrations and it really struck me and it was something I wish I understood about myself. Goal DIGGERS came out of that feeling. When I went to college I gained access to something my girlfriends knew since they were born -- I went to a historically black university and I was able to get that knowledge from classes. It made me want to know more.

    BV: What were some of the strengths of the girls you grew up with in Park Heights?
    MFS: They were resilient, you could not shake them. That's why I wanted to create Goal DIGGERS, because my girls in the city have become beyond resilient, they're apathetic. And the apathy was just destroying me, watching their bright eyes being destroyed because of what they were being thrown into so early. They are having to reconcile all of these adult issues so early and then on top of that not having an identity, not being real clear where you come from. And that, that some place is a place to be recognized and celebrated. Why should they have to wait another year, another moment, until they have an HBCU experience? What if it never comes, how can we handle that, and so Goal DIGGERS was born.

    BV: Why did you focus on girls?
    MFS: Girls are the first teachers, and because they can give life, they can also take life away. I've seen mothers suck the life out of their daughters and out of their sons, so if we can get the girls straight, then the boys will have to man up. They will lift up the standard. If they can see themselves as a goal digger -- if they can see themselves in that regard -- they will show up differently and that will shift the paradigm. I know it sounds altruistic, but I think if you get the girls right, the boys will follow. They show up and they're confident and consistent and they have things that they want to do. And the boys are, like, I respect your hustle, I respect your flow.

    BV: How did you find the girls?
    MFS: In my proposal I proposed it would be 15 girls and I thought it was a good number for one-on-one face time. We did outreach to schools in Park Heights with assemblies presenting the Goal DIGGERS program. From those outreach opportunities, we offered them the opportunity to come to the open house to register. We then interviewed them and their parents or legal guardians.

    The zip code in Park Heights, 21215, has a higher disparity than any other zip code in Baltimore for sentencing, dropouts, teen pregnancy, they are less likely to vote, less likely to go to college, all kinds of numbers that come out of that zip code. We did want to take girls that may not have this opportunity for intercontinental travel and being in a full-length documentary at the end of this. I think a lot of them probably would not have traveled intercontinentally, let alone, leave Park Heights.

    My intention is to create an institution that cannot be debunked, that if you take a girl, expose her and then your pour into her and show her who she really is -- and in the process you get a chance to spend face time with her and teach her things that she may not have been able to receive in another setting -- then she will be transformed.

    BV: The DNA aspect of the program is incredible.
    MFS: They get exposed to three major things that can shift their life and that they can even take an interest in and can go to school for it. They get exposed to anthropology -- we will be using an anthropological approach to doing this, ethnographic research, just a fancy way of saying gathering stories. Secondly, technology. We're taking those stories and inputting them into a database,, and we're going to be able to fill in the blank on where your ancestors are from in the United States -- their ancestors that were slaves. They may say North Carolina, but they don't know their names, their attributes, where they came from. can tell you that from stories you've gathered from family members.

    Lastly, is DNA testing and that will be done by a group called African ancestry. They have the largest database of DNA samples in the world. We will be able to tell them on their maternal side, if they are of African descent, what country they come from, then we can actually study the country, the people, the language, their highest attributes, even their personality traits, their value systems. So now you're not just a girl from West Baltimore, you're not just a girl from Park Heights, you come from Sierra Leone, you're from the Mende people, the same way my Jewish friends would run off, "Well I'm a Polish Jew and my grandmother was from this side of Poland," they would run it down like it was the alphabet.

    They will also be privy to a lecture series so they'll be getting lectures by some of the top lecturers in the country. Then we'll travel to West Africa, to Ghana, that will be the last piece.

    I am committed to doing this for more than 18 months and my intention is to make it a sustainable program. I'm hoping this will become the national model. It's a huge undertaking. I'm committed to it, just like I'm committed to my children and my husband. If I can do it being the daughter of a teen mother from Park Heights, I'm riding with you. My story is your story.


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    Most people of color know nothing about where any of the stimulus money went. As far as we're concerned, it was allocated by a bunch of politicians who had no interest in stimulating anything in our communities. Well, Craig T. Williams found some of that money and successfully leveraged it into a powerful business. His financial success has given him the freedom to pursue other interests, including writing his first book. It is for his commitment to business success and use of money as a tool for personal liberation that Craig T. Williams is today's Dr. Boyce Watkins Spotlight on AOL Black Voices:

    What is your full name and what do you do?

    My name is Craig T. Williams. I am an entrepreneur owning and operating two construction companies, Pride Enterprises, Inc. and Fidelis Design and Construction, LLC. I am a partner in the Philippe Chow Restaurants, and I have recently launched a multimedia company called Vintage World.

    How did you end up in the field of construction?

    I am a second-generation general contractor/construction manager. My father started his business in 1981 and focused his efforts fully in construction by 1987. I joined him in 1989 and helped him build the business in every capacity from field laborer to vice president.

    Tell us about your company, what it does and the history of it all?

    Pride Enterprises, Inc. (PEI) is a full-service general contractor and construction manager providing construction services primarily in the public sector throughout the Northeast U.S. Our clients include the Department of Defense, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the GSA and almost every other federal agency. Our services include new construction, renovations and additions, infrastructure and design/build projects.

    PEI was established as a means for me to make ends meet while I was working for my father's firm. When a niche emerged in the market, PEI was well-positioned to pursue it. After laying the foundation with several projects, PEI became my primary focus. I continued to support my father's business as a consultant until his untimely death in 2001. At that point the greater long-term opportunity was with PEI.

    PEI has emerged as one of the leading small business concerns in the Northeast U.S. I was honored as a Small Business Administration's Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005, and I have worked with an Iraq War veteran to establish Fidelis Design and Construction, LLC., to pursue another niche market. This protégé firm has exhibited explosive growth and the long-term potential of our partnership is tremendous.

    We noticed that you were able to utilize the stimulus money in a productive way. How did you go about getting access to your capital and making it work for you?

    The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 has had a great impact on my business. Access to the opportunities created by this policy fall within the normal channels of federal procurement. The key is positioning your business for those opportunities. To clarify, in the construction sector bidding on projects is virtually the only way to garner those opportunities. There is a mandate within the ARRA that prioritizes competition for the projects that it has funded in order to promote the greatest procurement efficiency.

    Relative to positioning, the federal marketplace is divided into many initiatives and programs that are designed to address the multitude of government priorities. Understanding this system and aligning your business with the streams of opportunities that it creates is a winning strategy that I have implemented effectively. For example, the federal government has rightly prioritized doing business with veterans. Fidelis Design and Construction, LLC was established to pursue these and other opportunities. In this case, my partner primarily provides access while I primarily provide the capacity to meet the requirements of our clients. It is a winning combination of mutual need and reward.

    What is your professional, educational and personal background?

    As mentioned previously, I was involved in the growth and development of my father's firm in its critical developmental years. This experience provided a practical application for the business training that I received at Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management where I earned my bachelor's degree. In fact, my father's company was the subject of my final project for the finishing course at the college and was a useful tool as I transitioned from the field to management.

    What are the major initiatives and goals for your firm right now?

    In this economy stability is the top priority. We are fortunate to be well-situated in what is currently the strongest sector of the construction industry. We have been able to retain our talent and are enjoying growth while many firms are challenged to adjust to current conditions. Maintaining steady and conservative course is our focus. Making choices that allow us to retain the relationships that we have is the key to navigating these challenging economic times.

    What advice do you have for those who would like to pursue a similar career path as yourself?

    The greatest asset that I have acquired in my career is experience. I'd like to think that I was brought up in the business the right way. Having worked as a laborer and superintendent gave me a perspective on the practical aspects of my industry that my education may have allowed me to sidestep. It not only gave me the basic knowledge of the business, it afforded me the respect of my colleagues. When you're the son of the owner this is more important than you might think. This principal is the cornerstone of every success that I have enjoyed in business.

    As I was elevated within the company and ultimately embarked on my own, it was always an asset to have participated at every level of the business. This would include relationships with stakeholders and clients that I have maintained through every iteration of the business. Preparedness is the most important element in planning for success. Do your homework. Work in the industry to develop the knowledge, skills, and relationships. Partner with an established business to gain strength and position. Although I have enjoyed unique opportunities, I believe these are principals that work universally.

    Is there anything else you would like to share with our AOL Black Voices audience?

    I have been very fortunate to have great role models that paved the way for the success that I have enjoyed. There have been many heroes, both people that I know and ones that I've read or heard about, that inspired me to succeed. For more than twenty years I have had a passion for telling stories. As my life has unfolded my personal experiences have influenced my creative impulses which have led me to embrace the challenge of unearthing forgotten heroes and presenting their inspiring stories to the world.

    I have always been a big fan of classic heroic tales like King Arthur, Robin Hood and The Lord of the Rings. Although I have a deep love for these stories, over time it became increasingly apparent that none of these stories featured heroes that look like me. Role models have made a big difference in my life. My newest venture, Vintage World, is a multimedia company with the mission to tell classically heroic stories that feature a diverse cast of heroes.

    The first offering is The Olympian: An American Triumph, This book, which also represents my debut as an author, tells the story of Dr. John Baxter Taylor, Jr., the first African-American Olympic gold medal winner. The novel chronicles Taylor's journey from his humble beginnings as a standout student-athlete in Philadelphia's public schools to Olympic glory in the 1908 Games in London. I'm very excited about the prospects of this venture and this being the first of several projects in production.

    Dr. 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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    Music Moves: Def Jam Exec Leaves Label Gig & Joins Simon CowellIsland Def Jam chairman Antonio 'L.A.' Reid has long been rumored to become a judge on the U.S. import of the Simon Cowell reality series, 'The X Factor.'

    Yesterday, (though The Hollywood Reporter is taking the credit) it was entertainment blog that first broke the news that the 54-year-old music mogul is the first judge officially signed to the competition series.

    Today came news that Reid has officially resigned from his post at Island Def Jam.

    Below is an unedited copy of the letter sent to the staff:

    "Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can
    understand." -Colin Powell

    To my Island Def Jam family:

    After much consideration, I have decided to leave my position as Chairman of the Island Def Jam Music Group. I have always thrived on growth and the next great challenge, and I look forward with much enthusiasm to what the future holds.

    I am extremely proud of our beautiful roster and all we have accomplished in my seven years with IDJ. We continue to have incredible success together with today's most phenomenal superstars - Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Mariah Carey, Kanye West, Bon Jovi, Jennifer Lopez, Ne-Yo, Rick Ross, The Killers, The-Dream, Chrisette Michele, Jeezy and Ludacris to name a few.

    I want to thank all of you for your amazing contributions.

    With Warm Regards -

    Ne-Yo & LA Reid

    Reid is receiving an early release from his contract with Island Def Jam - his contract doesn't actually end until December - however, there had been rumors that Universal Music Group's new chairman and CEO, Lucian Grainge, was not a fan of Reid and his future with the company was questionable regardless.

    I reported last fall on the 'Tom Joyner Morning Show' that there was talk that Reid, who founded the now defunct LaFace Records (Toni Braxton/TLC/Outkast) with former partner Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds in 1998, would like oversee a label in the Sony Music system.

    With winners of 'The X Factor' earning a $5 million contract with Sony Music, it makes speculation that Reid is jumping ship even greater.

    Related Articles

    Black Music Notes Mar. 19

    3/19/09: Rihanna / Chris Brown
    Contrary to previous claims that Rihanna and Chris Brown reunited in the studio last month to record a new duet, record producer Polow Da Don recently confirmed that the couple recorded the newly surfaced track last year. "The reports are inaccurate," Polow's publicist, Laura Wright, told US magazine. "The duet was recorded long before the incident." According to People, the track, reportedly titled 'Bad Girl,' was intended to be on the soundtrack for 'Confessions of a Shopaholic,' but the song was eventually recorded by the Pussycat Dolls.

    Frank Micelotta, Getty Images

    3/19/09: Kanye West / The Dream
    Seven years ago this month, music heavyweights R. Kelly and Jay-Z released their highly anticipated collaborative album 'The Best of Both Worlds.' Now it appears Kanye West and The Dream are vying to work on a similar project. "Everybody is trying to talk us into it," Dream told 'MTV News' of his and West's friends and business associates. "It was first thought of by me. I was in Miami at the time, and I gave Kanye a call and said, 'The best thing would be for me and you to do an album.'... Let's take the best of both worlds and put it on a CD and try to make something we can sell to the consumers. He says he's with it. We're gonna try to make it happen." For now, you can catch Kanye on Dream's potential third single 'Walking on the Moon,' which is featured on his newly released album 'Love vs. Money.'

    Getty Images

    3/19/09: The Miracles
    Legendary Motown group The Miracles is the latest musical act to receive a Hollywood star on the world-renowned Walk of Fame. The 'Ooo Baby, Baby' singers were presented with the 2,381st star on March 20 by Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, President and CEO Leron Gubler. Motown founder Berry Gordy and Stevie Wonder were also on hand as guest speakers for the ceremony.

    Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

    3/19/09: Chester Gregory
    After several years of blowing audiences away on the 'Great White Way,' Broadway Star and R&B soul recording artist Chester Gregory is preparing the release of his debut album 'In Search of High Love.' The March 31 release finds the multitalented singer introducing himself as a thoughtful and sensitive songwriter blessed with a voice that captivates and demands attention. "While I've thoroughly enjoyed performing on Broadway -- eight shows a week and telling other people's amazing stories -- now it's time for me to share my own," explained Gregory. Highlights of 'In Search of High Love' include the poetic 'Clouds to the Ground,' the crossover-bound 'Say it's Over' and Jackie Wilson's soaring 1967 chart-topper 'Higher and Higher.'

    Jemal Countess, WireImage

    3/19/09: Sammy Davis Jr.
    Altovise Davis, the widow of Rat Pack member Sammy Davis Jr. , recently died at the age of 65. Two days prior to her death, she was admitted to Los Angeles'Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after suffering a stroke. The couple, who met in 1967 on the set of the musical 'Golden Boy,' married in 1970 and remained together until Davis' untimely death of throat cancer in 1990.

    Evening Standard / Getty Images

    3/19/09: Earth, Wind & Fire
    Iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group Earth, Wind & Fire is set to hit the road this summer for a 30-city tour beginning June 5 in Orange Beach, AL. In addition to Maurice White and company gracing the stage will be pop-rock band Chicago, which will perform a full show before joining for a final set together, according to Billboard. The tour will conclude on Aug. 1 in Lake Tahoe, NV.

    Santiago Llanquin / AP

    3/19/09: Kim Burrell
    Gospel vocalist Kim Burrell is on deck to release her first new album in nine years titled 'No Ways Tired.' The project's title is inspired by gospel pioneer James Cleveland's classic of the same name. In addition to covering Cleveland's hit, Burrell also tapped other timeless classics including 'My Faith Looks Up to Thee,' 'What a Friend We Have in Jesus,' 'O Lamb of God,' and 'I Surrender All.' There are also a few originals. 'No Ways Tired' is set to hit stores April 7 via Shanachie Records.


    3/19/09: Mike Jones
    Despite being on hiatus since the release of his debut album 'Who Is Mike Jones?' Houston's own Mike Jones is ready to make his mark on the charts once again with the release of 'The Voice.' Jones' sophomore effort is packed with some of the industry's most talented artist including, Lil' Wayne, T-Pain, Devin the Dude, Hurricane Chris and Twista. He's had recent success with his latest single 'Next To You,' which is currently number 16 on Radio and Records Rhythmic charts. "For the past four years, I have been doing a lot of restructuring, getting this record right, making sure my business is right and more," Jones said of his hiatus. "Now, I am ready to finish what I started. I'm hoping my fans will feel 'The Voice' was worth the wait." Mike Jones 'The Voice' is due in stores April 28.

    Gilbert Carrasquillo, FilmMagic

    3/19/09: Prince
    With the recent announcement that Michael Jackson will return to the stage this summer, another influential artist is also planning to make his return. Beginning March 25, Prince will be performing on the 'Tonight Show with Jay Leno' for three consecutive nights. In addition, the 'Little Red Corvette' singer is also readying the Mar. 29 release of his two new albums 'LOtUSFLOW3R' and 'MPLSoUND.' Prince is the latest artist to promote a release through multiple late-night talk show performances. U2 also recently performed five nights in a row on the 'Late Show with David Letterman' in support of its new album 'No Line on the Horizon.'

    Kevin Winter, NCLR / Getty Images


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