Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Good Hair

There have been books and movies written about black women and their relationship with men, with other black women, and with their families. And now, their relationship with their hair. Good Hair, a documentary exploring hair culture in the African American community, is produced by actor and comedian Chris Rock, who came up with the concept for the film after his daughter Lola asked him, "Daddy, how come I don't have good hair?" Rock set out to find answers to his little girl's question.

On September 24th, an advance screening of Good Hair was held in Washington, D.C. during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's legislative weekend, sponsored by the

The film successfully entertains and informs at the same time. Featuring cameos by some of Hollywood's top black actresses including Raven Symone and Nia Long, they share their experiences with "creamy crack" (aka hair relaxers), their hair weaves, and what they will and will not do to protect their hair (including, ahem, during intimate moments). The most hilarious and insightful cameos come from Rev. Al Sharpton (known for his relaxed and curled hair), poet Maya Angelou and rapper/actor Ice-T.

The film goes behind the scenes of the Bonner Brothers international hair show (and if you're a Real Housewives of Atlanta fan, you'll recognize someone) and the hair weave industry. And Chris Rock? He helps to whip up a batch of perm, make hair weave in India, and even conducts scientific research on hair relaxers. Who knew an ingredient found in relaxer can disintegrate a soda can?

So what is the answer to Lola's question? The film exposes many more issues in black hair culture and in the black hair industry, which is a billion dollar industry, but is not run by or rarely benefits black people.

The film opens nationwide on October 9.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rap Artist Big Boi Returns to Hometown for Youth Summit

Via Press Release: He’s used to headlining shows as a member of the award winning duo, Outkast. But this week, Antwan “Big Boi” Patton didn’t come back to his hometown of Savannah, Georgia for a concert. He came back for the community.

Patton headlined Chatham-Savannah Youth Futures Authority Community Summit at the Savannah Civic Center which seats 1,200. The annual event was held last Thursday and Friday, and featured two days of talks and special sessions intended to increase the community dialogue on social issues related to young people and families.

One of the highlights of the event was the “Family Engagement Night: A Call to Action” with a special focus on self development of our youth. Patton, who is also founder and CEO of The Big Kidz Foundation- a non-profit dedicated to developing socially conscious youth, delivered the keynote address. Mr. Patton challenged of city officials, community leaders, educators and Savannah’s Mayor Otis Johnson, PhD to use their resources to “Save our Villages!” He also urged hundreds of youth present to be leaders and to use the words wisely to better their future.

Guest, Jennifer Lester, Executive Director of Big Kidz Foundation and Big Boi

The summit consisted of an opening luncheon with a presentation by the Georgia Family Connection Partnership on Collaboration; a community breakfast with a special focus on the Georgia Birth to Five Coalition; and summit sessions on the topics of the juvenile code, teenage pregnancy prevention, public school education, and early childhood health care.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

BlackPlanet Rising Hosts Community Days in Local Communities

Last month, Interactive One, LLC, launched BlackPlanet Rising, an online platform that provides tools, information and connections for African Americans to give back their time and resources to the community. If you’re looking to volunteer in your community, the site has partnered with Volunteer Match, one of the Web's most popular volunteer networks, to provide you with opportunities that match your interests.

Beginning in the month of September, BlackPlanet Rising is hosting community days in select cities to launch their new platform. On Thursday, September 24th, BlackPlanet Rising partnered with Dress for Success in Washington, D.C., an organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support, and career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

Volunteers painted, cleaned and organized the office in preparation for new clothes donations to help women find and maintain jobs. With unemployment rates rising, the efforts of Dress For Success are more important than ever, and this project will help get their offices up and running so they can focus on their mission.

Maria Weaver Watson, Director of Strategic Marketing for Interactive One, oversees BlackPlanet Rising. Due to her personal passion for philanthropy, she was selected to lead this initiative, although her background is in marketing. She shared that her goal for BlackPlanet Rising is for it to become a resource for anyone seeking to give back in their community.

Next stops for BlackPlanet Rising Community Days: New York and Philadelphia! Help to paint tennis courts in Harlem, and renovate a school in Philadelphia. To volunteer for either city, sign up HERE. (Note: Disregard dates on website, new dates will be announced soon.)

For my readers in the D.C. area, you can support Dress for Success DC by donating women’s clothing - they especially need shoes (sizes 10-12), undergarments and dresses. You can also donate your time to help women select clothing and accessories to wear for job interviews, or host a clothing drive. Nidra Dyer, operations manager for Dress for Success shared with me that corporations such as Bank of America allow their employees to take time off (paid time off!) to volunteer. Visit them on the web at

In photo: Nidra Dyer of Dress for Success and Maria Weaver Watson of BlackPlanet Rising

Friday, September 25, 2009

How Sweet The Sound

Choir Director of Remnant Concert Choir (Mt. Ararat Baptist Church), the Washington, D.C. winner of "How Sweet the Sound" National Gospel Competition held on September 24, 2009 at the Verizon Center, presented by Verizon Wireless
How sweet is the sound? Just ask the Remnant Concert Choir, who was named the best church choir in Washington, D.C. last night during Verizon Wireless’ How Sweet the Sound national gospel competition. They won the crowd favorite, best large choir and overall top honors, winning a total of $15,000. The sold out crowd was brought to its feet as the choir sang a stirring rendition of Blessed Assurance. Judge and gospel artist Marvin Sapp was left speechless.

Now in its second year, this national competition not only finds the best church choir in America, but also helps to support the African American church community. Last year’s winner, Acme Missionary Church of Chicago, used their winnings to build a new sanctuary and to record a music CD.

Last night’s highlights included gospel great Marvin Sapp performing his #1 single, Never Would Have Made It, and performances from R&B singer Kelly Price and gospel artist Ty Tribbett, who all served as judges. The staging area is magnificent, beautifully showcasing the wonderful choirs who competed for the top prize.

This is a great activity especially for families and youth groups. For the kids and the aspiring gospel singers, there’s even gospel karaoke-of which you may be selected to be shown on the big screen! The price? You can’t beat it. Tickets start at $5! Also, you can support survivors of domestic violence by donating old wireless phones at How Sweet the Sound venues nationwide, or at your neighborhood Verizon Wireless store.

Upcoming cities include Newark (9/25), Philadelphia (9/26), Detroit (9/28), Chicago (9/30), Atlanta (10/2), Memphis (10/5), Los Angeles (10/8), Oakland (10/10) and the finale in Detroit on November 7. I highly recommend attending this amazing cultural event! If you attend in your city, let us know how you liked it!

The Resurrection Baptist Church Mass Choir celebrate winning in the Best Large Choir category of the Verizon Wireless' "How Sweet the Sound" competition at Toyota Center on September 19, 2009 in Houston, Texas
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Photos: Wireimage
Thanks to the folks at PMKHBH for the invite and the complimentary ticket!

R&B Star Usher Donates $1 Million to Launch International Youth Service Movement

Usher Raymond IV and Partners Launch International Call to Service at the Clinton Global Initiative Involving 5,000,000 Youth Around the World

NEW YORK, Sept. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Usher's New Look (UNL), a non-profit organization supporting youth to use their talents and become corporate and community leaders, today announced Powered By Service, a bold new initiative to rebrand service and fundamentally change the role of youth in communities. Powered by Service is designed to get young people in the world over - involved in changing the most pressing problems facing them and their communities --whether it be preventing malaria, stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, ending gang violence or increasing access to clean water. The goal of Powered By Service is to mobilize over 5,000,000 youth in a global call to service that will ultimately touch the lives of 50 million individuals.

At the Clinton Global Initiative, Chairman and Founder of UNL, Usher Raymond IV, pledged $1 million to Powered By Service to support young people as they address the world's most pressing problems through innovative service projects.

"Over the last 10 years through the work with New Look's partners including HandsOn Network, City Year, Public Allies and ServiceNation, I have seen the POWER of putting service learning skills in the hands of youth," said Usher. "Youth can change problems in a local community or halfway around the world through service. It's a matter of putting the skills and the financial resources directly in their hands and letting them create change on their terms. Powered By Service is not about one organization or one campaign it is about collaborating with diverse partners to build on the foundation of service so many have created. Only by working together can we inspire all young people to be Powered By Service!"

Young people all over the world can participate in Powered By Service. Participants will have access to online toolkits and opportunities to apply for financial resources to support their projects. Grants will be awarded to exceptional service ideas so that youth are not only called to serve, but have the tools they need to create real change.

Together, UNL, Powered By Service, and young leaders have the power to make significant change on a global scale. For more information about Usher's New Look or Powered By Service, please visit the Web site at or

Source: PRNewswire/Photo: Wireimage

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Celebrities Get SMART and Shop For A Cause

Via Press Release: On Thursday, September 24th at 7pm, silver screen and TV actress, Terri J. Vaughn (The Steve Harvey Show, Soul Food, All of Us, Tyler Perry drama Daddy's Little Girls) hosts SMART; a series of eco-conscious brand experiences benefiting the Decatur-based greenspace destination and community resource - Wonderland Gardens. Anne Fontaine Paris, one of the fashion industry’s most respected designer houses, serves as the backdrop for the launch event and welcomes Atlanta’s elite for an intimate shopping experience and champagne toast at 3500 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30326. Partial proceeds benefit Wonderland Gardens.

Perhaps no one understands the idea of reinterpreting a classic better than Anne Fontaine, the Brazilian French noted designer and philanthropic environmentalist who was listed as “What to Wear” in Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine. Known most for designing 'the ultimate shirt' styled classically or frothy with ruffles, tucks or lace, and even ever-so-chic ballooned sleeves, Fontaine understands the desire for externally flattering shirts, but upholds a philosophy of women’s self well-being. Each shirt has a stringent French label that certifies the origin and compounds of Fontaine’s products.

Carla Byrd, Principal Consultant of A Byrd’s Eye Image Branding Group, developed the SMART SERIES as a way to engage eco-smart brands for the betterment of the community. “Healthy living is key to a healthy community,” says Byrd, “and whether it’s through fashion, culinary arts or transportation, I feel that living green is living keen! It's exciting to drive consumers towards a more eco-awareness consciousness.”

About Wonderland Gardens: Wonderland Gardens is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit committed to stewardship of the Earth through programs that actively promote organic gardening, green education, recycling and encouraging healthy living in communion with nature. For more than a decade, Wonderland Gardens, located in Decatur, Georgia, has been an 8.5 acre community resource that provides education programs, invigorating nature walks, restful flower gardens and organically grown fruits and vegetables that are available for public viewing and consumption. To RSVP for the event, contact jenfarris[at] or call (404) 814-2373.

Project Runway & Models of the Runway Star Launches Charitable Clothing Line

Via Press Release: Lifetime's Project Runway and its spin-off Models of the Runway aired Thursday, August 20th, both featuring New York model Emarie Wiltz. Models of the Runway brings viewers into the lives of the models who grace the catwalk for the most popular fashion design show. Project Runway Season 6 debuted to 4.2 million viewers.

A native of New Orleans, Emarie launched her clothing line, Global Recess on August 20th, the same day as the Project Runway and Models of the Runway premieres. Global Recess is a high end casual apparel line focused on spreading global responsibility through fashion. According to the company's website, the fashion line builds awareness and promotes action toward global issues that are often overlooked or unheard of, including but not limited to: human trafficking, the military use of children, and poverty.

Each issue has its own unique design, yet maintains a cohesive brand identity. Packaging includes a short description of the issue it is combating and information regarding the charitable organization receiving the proceeds. A portion of the proceeds of each sale is donated to a selected organization combating that specific issue, thus fostering a “Global Recess.”

Emarie has traveled the world as a model, both domestically in the United States and as far away as Southeast Asia. She has used her successes as a model to step behind the scenes of the fashion industry- conducting marketing management for Fortune 500 fashion companies, the production of advertising campaigns featured in New York City's Times Square and the production of countless numbers of fashion shows. Now, Wiltz's energy is focused on her own company, Global Recess.

For more information on Global Recess, visit

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ford Motor Company Fund Honors Freedom's Sisters in Local Communities

There are many African American women who have helped fight for civil rights, justice and freedom in this country. Dynamic women such as Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Harriet Tubman and Mary McLeod Bethune. Also included in that group of women are Ella Jo Baker, one of the founders of the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee that organized sit ins and challenged segregation rules; Septima Poinsette Clark, known as the grandmother of the civil rights movement; and Constance Baker Motley who wrote the original complaint in the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education.

These women are featured in the national traveling exhibit Freedom’s Sisters that honor 20 remarkable African American women who have made significant contributions to expand our nation’s rights and privileges to all Americans. Freedom’s Sisters is made possible through a grant from the Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Ford Motor Company. In honor of the exhibit, Ford has launched a search for local Freedom’s Sisters who have shown commitment to community through their participation in social causes and humanitarian efforts.

In July, twenty women were honored during the annual Essence Music Festival in New Orleans (in photo above). And this month in partnership with the National Council of Negro Women, twenty women were honored in Washington, D.C. during the annual National Black Family Reunion on the National Mall. Held on September 13, 2009, women from all over the Washington, D.C. area came out to support and congratulate their local Freedom’s Sisters.

In photo: Washington, D.C. Freedom's Sister honoree Thelma Jones, representative from the NCNW, Justine Love, radio personality, Pamela Alexander of the Ford Motor Company Fund and Dr. Dorothy Height,

“Ford is thrilled to honor D.C.’s Freedom’s Sisters,” shared Pamela Alexander, director of the Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services. “Through this exhibition and the associated programs we celebrate the accomplishments of an amazing group of women who have truly impacted the world.”

The exhibit also includes educational and community outreach components, including an essay contest for middle school students which awards savings bonds to the winners for use in future educational endeavors.

The exhibit is currently in Birmingham, Alabama until October 3rd, with upcoming cities in 2010 that include Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and Philadelphia. For more information on the exhibit, visit HERE.

Source: Press Release/Photos: Wireimage and BGB

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Insider: Anthony McGill

Immediately before President Barack Obama took the oath of office during our nation's 44th Presidential Inauguration, a classical quartet that included Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Gabriela Montero performed ‘Air and Simple Gifts,’ written by composer John Williams for the Inauguration. If you recall, one member of the quartet was African American. Meet our latest Insider, Anthony McGill.

A principal clarinetist for New York’s Metropolitan Opera, McGill is among the few African Americans to play for a symphony orchestra. He shares about that historic moment, “It was the greatest experience of my life. To be a part of history and to be able to see everyone come out for the Inauguration made it unbelievably special for me. It really was the biggest stage I'll ever be on for the rest of my life. A memory I'll never ever forget.”

Anthony shares that being from the South Side of Chicago, some would say he’s not “supposed” to be a classical musician. “My parents taught me that I could become whatever I wanted, so I did. That is the message I hope to spread to the youth of today by sharing my music with them and the world.”

He began playing instruments at the age of nine by watching his older brother, Demarre R. McGill, who is now a principal flautist with the San Diego Symphony. Anthony's father shared in a Chicago Sun Times article about raising their sons: “Our goal was to expose them to as much artistic endeavor and culture as possible, just to keep them busy along with their school work. We didn't want them to [get involved] with all kinds of things that are out there on the streets in Chicago. We had them in everything -- tennis, tae kwon do, swimming, basketball, visual arts, music. And lo and behold, they really had an affinity for music. They sort of chose music themselves.”

So how did Anthony get the opportunity to play during the Inauguration? Yo-Yo Ma, the world renowned cellist invited him. He had followed Anthony’s career after they played together in Tokyo eight years earlier. In high demand as a teacher, Anthony currently serves on the facilities of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, Mannes College of Music and the Manhattan School of Music Precollege.

Read on to learn about Anthony’s charitable activities, his favorite musical artists, and about efforts to expose African American children to classical music:

What inspired your interest in classical music? My older brother started playing when we were very young. He inspired me to play an instrument and then I fell in love with music. It was gradual at first but once I felt chills for the first time listening to music, I was hooked.

Do you know how many African Americans are currently playing in symphony orchestras? I don't know exactly how many but you could probably count on it not being very much more than 20. There are, however, many more that freelance, teach, and play in smaller ensembles.

Are you a part of, or aware of any efforts being made that are encouraging African American participation in classical music? Yes I am. There are efforts on a small scale that encourage and support kids in cities to play music. Some of these reach African American youth that happen to go to these schools such as Education Through Music here in New York. And in Chicago, the Merit Music Program (where I got my start) also provides music education to inner city youth. Also, the Sphinx Organization supports older students pursuing a career in music. I hope there are many more of these types of programs that I don't know about.

What other genres of music do you listen to? Who are some of your favorite music artists? I love jazz, R&B, Alternative, Rock, HipHop, Soul...basically I like good music and musicians. Wynton Marsalis, Radiohead, Jay-Z, Marvin Gaye to name a few. I try not to really focus on genres so much, only music that makes me feel good.

What charitable initiatives are you involved with? I am on the Artistic Advisory Board of the Third Street Settlement School in New York City. And very recently I have been asked to be on the National Advisory Board of the Merit Music Program in Chicago. I give to Merit in whatever way is needed, whether it is mentoring, masterclasses, time or money, because it gave me my start.

To learn more about Anthony McGill, visit his website at and enjoy listening to wonderful music while you’re at it!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mary J. Blige and Gucci Partner for Charity

In 2007, eight time Grammy award winner and actress Mary J. Blige co-founded the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now, Inc., (FFAWN) to inspire women from all walks of life to reach their individual potential. In a recent interview with Blige shared, “My foundation, FFAWN, is something that's really, really big to me right now....I'd like to continue growing as a businesswoman and a philanthropist.”

Last year, you the readers, voted Mary as your #1 black celebrity philanthropist, and she is definitely holding on to that title with her charitable projects this year.

The Foundation's website states that establishing the Mary J. Blige Center for Women is its primary programming initiative, along with a workshop series to help empower women. Upcoming initiatives are providing grants to organizations and scholarships for women pursuing their education.

On September 16, 2009, Gucci and FFAWN joined together to host a star studded cocktail reception unveiling Gucci’s newest offering, a limited edition Twirl watch encrusted with black diamonds, of which a portion of the sales will benefit FFAWN. Gucci’s creative director, Frida Giannini says, “Mary J. inspires all of us with her songs and now through her commitment to the empowerment of disadvantaged young women. It’s a win-win situation.”

The reception was held at Gucci’s Fifth Avenue store during New York Fashion Week, and New York’s most fashionable and charitable came out to support this worthy cause. Among the people I spotted were Alicia Keys, Serena Williams, Lebron James, Russell Simmons, Vanessa Simmons, Steve and Marjorie Harvey, singer Estelle, Donald Trump, Lisa Price of Carol’s Daughter, and Thelma Golden of the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Mary J. Blige, Serena Williams and Alicia Keys

FFAWN co-founder Steve Stoute, Mary J. Blige, NBA player Lebron James, Savannah Brinson and President & CEO of Gucci, Daniella Vitale Photos: Wireimage

Guests enjoyed hors d'oeuvres, champagne, specialty drinks and shopping on Gucci's three levels. Here are a few of my photos:

Nationally syndicated radio host and best selling author Steve Harvey, with wife Marjorie Harvey

Singer and music producer Ryan Leslie, and Sylvia Rhone, President of Universal Motown

Spencer Means of Corcoran Group Real Estate, fashion stylist and author June Ambrose, and Emil Wilbekin, Managing Editor of

Fashion stylists Zakeyah Ryan and Alexander Allen

Lisa Price, Creator of Carol's Daughter

For more information, visit the FFAWN website at

Thanks to FFAWN for the invite!

Assistance from: and Elle News Blog

Celebrity Philanthropy in the News

Ruben Studdard Fights And Sings For Those With Sickle Cell Disease

Via press release: Season 2 American Idol winner Ruben Studdard learned about sickle cell disease at a young age, when he spent many days with his mother and his choirmates at Birmingham, Alabama's Rising Star Baptist Church at sickle cell awareness and screening events. The R&B singer, whose fourth album 'Love IS' was released earlier this year, is now lending his voice to those efforts as the official spokesman of Be Sickle Smart.

Be Sickle Smart (BSS) is a nationwide grassroots health-education program aimed at increasing awareness of iron overload among people living with sickle cell disease. BSS selected Ruben Studdard's original "I'm A Fighter," produced by John Jackson, as the official campaign theme song. Studdard co-wrote the inspirational campaign anthem from the perspective of a person infected with sickle cell disease. The soulful song is powerful and poignant, and offers this empowering message: " I might get knocked down / but don't count me out / I'm in a title bout / and it's the fight of my life.... / I Will Win."

The song is streaming at Studdard has upcoming performances in six cities called "Empowerment Days" where there will be an iron overload education presentation and free iron overload screenings. Upcoming cities include:

9/19 Memphis, TN
10/1 Orlando, FL (National SCDAA Gala)
10/10 Jackson, MS
10/22 Baton Rouge, LA
10/24 Raleigh/Durham, NC
Nov. TBD Austin, TX

Visit for more information about the events and for details on the locations.

6th Annual Ludacris Foundation Benefit Dinner, October 24, 2009, Washington, D.C.

Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and the Ludacris Foundation invite you to a special evening dedicated to celebrating the spirit of those who make significant contributions toward the betterment of community by opening doors and creating legacies. Honorees: Quincy Jones (Chairman’s Award), Kevin Liles (President’s Award), BET Chairman and CEO Debra Lee (Corporate Award), Hon. Maxine Waters (Congressional Leadership Award) and Kenny Carroll of the DC Writers Corp (Community Service Award). Visit HERE for ticket information and to RSVP. (Deadline to RSVP is 10/7)

More celebrity philanthropy news: I just got back from Mercedes Benz NY Fashion Week! Be sure to check back later today for my photos from Gucci and Mary J. Blige's FFAWN (Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now) charity event.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Crisis in the Crib: Tonya Lewis Lee Raises Awareness of African American Infant Mortality

The infant mortality rate in the African American community is twice higher than the general population – and Tonya Lewis Lee is on a mission to help reverse this trend.

Lee is a wife (of filmmaker Spike Lee), mother, attorney, best selling author, an award winning television producer, and the spokesperson for A Healthy Baby Begins with You, a national campaign to raise awareness of infant mortality in the African American community.

Launched in 2007 by the Office of Minority Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, Lee shared that once she learned about the infant mortality rate in the African American community, she had to get involved. Infant mortality is defined as the death of an infant during their first year of life.

On September 9, 2009, Lee was in Washington, D.C. to premiere the documentary Crisis in the Crib, that highlights Lee, along with physicians, researchers and college students known as Preconception Peer Educators, in their quest to raise awareness around the issue. In the photo is Lee (on left) with Jeff Johnson, author and Tom Joyner Morning Show commentator at the press conference held at the National Press Club.

Most of the footage was filmed in Memphis, ground zero for African American infant mortality. During one scene, a couple sits and watches their infant in a hospital neonatal unit, their second child that was born premature. The father displayed visible anguish that he couldn’t do anything for his child but to wait, and it pained him to see his child in that condition. A low birth weight infant is one of the three leading causes for infant mortality. The other two are congenital malformations and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In addition, some of the risk factors that contribute to infant mortality are disproportionately found in the black community- late prenatal care, poor nutrition, and obesity.

An important component to any health campaign is getting the word out. The campaign's Preconception Peer Educators share everyday healthy living and important preconception health messages with their male and female peers well before they think about pregnancy. The college students are trained in preconception curriculum, and then placed in Healthy Start Programs, State/City Health Departments, State Offices of Minority Health, and community based organizations for placement in summer internships, volunteer or paid work opportunities. The documentary featured peer educators from Spelman College, Fisk University, Meharry Medical College, Morgan State University, the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Nursing and LeMoyne-Owen College.

Tonya Lewis Lee with Maaden Eshete (left) and Janesia Simmons (right)
The campaign has developed marketing materials such as brochures that provide tips for mothers before, during and after pregnancy, and a handbook for pregnant women and women who are planning a pregnancy to reduce risk. To view a clip of the documentary, visit the website HERE.

For more information on A Healthy Baby Begins with You campaign and to get your college involved in the Preconception Peer Educator program, visit the website at and visit their Facebook page HERE for updates.

On Our Toes in the Hamptons Part II

On August 22, 2009, Evidence Dance Company held its 6th Annual 'On Our Toes in the Hamptons' fundraiser. The event was attended by over 300 luminaries from across the country and is known as the premier African American cultural event of the Hamptons summer season. I received many emails about this event from my previous post, so I decided to post more photos! See event coverage HERE.

The Honorable Bernard Jackson, guest and Princess Keisha Omilana of Nigeria

Gini Booth with Audrey Gaul of Sag Harbor, NY; Andrea Hoffman of Diversity Affluence and Bruce Michael, Executive Director of Evidence Dance Company

Dan Bythewood, Alicia Bythewood, Brie Bythewood and Alicia Rodriquez
First Lady of New York, Michelle Paterson and actress Lynn Whitfield

Audrey Smaltz, Ken Smaltz and Gail Marquis
Susan L. Taylor, Founder, National Cares Mentoring Movement with husband Khephra Burns
Reginald Van Lee, Evidence Board Chair

Evidence Dancers

All photos by Rob Rich

Friday, September 11, 2009

Upcoming Events

Actor and All For Africa Board Member Jeffrey Wright and BET's Jeff Johnson attend All for Africa's Art and Couture benefit at Cipriani in NYC, April 2009

September 21-28-NYC: All for Africa Announces International Palm Out Poverty Week Highlighting the Palm Oil Initiative, A New Model for Creating Long Term Sustainable Development for Community Programs Throughout Africa

All for Africa, a non profit organization that works towards community initiatives to create long term sustainability on the continent of Africa, presents International Palm out Poverty Week, September 21-28. Their goal is to raise $500,000 to benefit the Palm Oil Initiative.

The overall goal of the Initiative is to raise $20 million in order to implement the planting and harvesting of one million Palm Trees in West Africa. When mature and producing oil, these trees will generate approximately $20 million annually for the next 30 years. This annual revenue earned from the trees will be distributed amongst programs across Africa such as schools, clinics, and other community based organizations.

In New York City, All for Africa is hosting a number of fundraisers for UN officials and African dignitaries, a golf tournament at Manhattan Woods Golf Club, a social networking mixer for business professionals, a Fun-raising soiree, and the Atrium Gala at the Carlton Hotel. In addition, the Girlfriends of Atlanta Georgia will be hosting two events including a Teen Outreach program with a Movie Madness night, and A Midsummer Safar Affair at the Westin Hotel.

Support the organization at their upcoming NYC events:

Tuesday, September 22nd – Africa After Work Business Networking Event
Venue: Islero, Location: 247 E. 50th Street (btwn 2nd and 3rd Aves), Time: 6:30-9:00 pm
Cost: Free admission! RSVP required HERE.

Thursday September 24th - Elaeis hosted by L'AltruistVenue: Cain Luxe, Location: 544 W 27 st btwn 10th and 11th Ave, Time: 7:00-10:00 pm
Drum and dance performances; Music by Dj Moma and Friends
Tickets: $20 advance tickets; $30 at the door; tickets can be purchased HERE.

Friday September 25th – Atrium Gala at the Carlton HotelVenue: Carlton Hotel, Location: 88 Madison Ave, New York, NY, btwn 28th and 29th Streets
Time: 8pm-midnight
Tickets: $250 advance tickets; $400 VIP Celebrity Lounge; tickets can be purchased HERE.

Visit the website at

October 3-Grand Prairie, TX: National Black MBA Association and Florida A&M Alumni Present Annual Scholarship Golf Tournament

The Dallas-Fort Worth Chapters of the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA-DFW) and the Florida A&M University Alumni invite the community to team up for education as they host their Scholarship Golf Tournament on the greens at the Riverside Golf Club in Grand Prairie, Texas on Saturday, October 3. They are swinging clubs for dollars to help raise funds to provide scholarships for local students to advance their education. Corporate professionals, families, community groups, entrepreneurs and civic organizations are all encouraged to support this effort.

For more information, visit the website at

September 26th-Hollywood CA: Hip hop artist Common will host the Common & Friends concert to benefit the Common Ground Foundation. A new lower ticket price has just been announced....$65. See your favorite hip hop artists live! Visit the website at for more information.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Get Schooled Initiative Aims to Solve America's Education Crisis

Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Gates Foundation, attends the "Get Schooled" Los Angeles Conference and Premiere at Paramount Studios on September 8, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.
Via Press Release: On September 8th, Viacom (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with initiative partners AT&T, Capital One Financial Corporation and NYSE Euronext, launched the Get Schooled initiative with a national broadcast and an education conference at the Paramount Pictures lot in Los Angeles.

Get Schooled is a national program that connects, inspires and mobilizes people - from policymakers and corporate leaders to communities and kids - to find effective solutions to the problems facing our education system. It provides resources and information, community outreach and creative programming that engage a range of audiences to address America's education crisis. Get Schooled's co-developers are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom, including BET Networks, MTV Networks and Paramount Pictures.

The five-year initiative aims to generate greater awareness and engagement in addressing the nation's education crisis and to offer practical resources and support to students.

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, BET's Debra Lee, and Joel Klein, Chancellor, NYC Department of Education, attend the "Get Schooled" Los Angeles Conference and Premiere
"We couldn't be having this conversation at a better time," said Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Gates Foundation. "The education crisis is damaging our ability to compete in the global economy, and we need to do more to engage all Americans - from policymakers and corporate leaders to families and young people - in our efforts to support students in completing their education and achieving their dreams."

The Get Schooled initiative also announced yesterday the results of a poll conducted by The Winston Group showing that an overwhelming percentage of Americans believe that the United States is lagging behind other nations when it comes to the quality of education.

R&B singer Monica performs at the Get Schooled event
As part of Get Schooled's mission to foster a national dialogue on education issues, AT&T is organizing "screening parties" and discussions around the premiere of the TV broadcast of Get Schooled: You Have the Right. Local events, organized with community partners, will take place in 14 cities across the nation.

Joel Klein shared, "For years, the conversation around public education has been that we as a nation will never fix our schools until we fix poverty. That is so backwards. So we have to change the conversation. The real truth is, we will never fix poverty in America until we fix our schools. I know this, not just from my work over the past seven years in New York City, but from my own life story."

"Our teachers have one of the most difficult and one of the most important jobs in the world. We should support them, while also realizing that they are not all equally effective. That's why we must insist upon real accountability for our educators."

To find out more about Get Schooled and the initiative's groundbreaking national television premiere, visit

See related post HERE.

Source: Press Release/PRNewswire
Photos: Wireimage

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Conversation

Actor and author Hill Harper was once told by a book publisher that men of color didn't read. He wanted to prove them wrong. In 2006, Harper authored Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny, a part memoir/part motivational tool for young men. While promoting the book on tour, he was often asked, what about our young women? In 2007, he followed up with the NY Times bestseller, Letters To a Young Sister. With these two books, Harper wanted to start a movement of self education and mentorship for youth. Now, its the adults turn.

Today, Harper releases his first book for adults, The Conversation: How Black Men and Women Can Build Loving, Trusting Relationships. In it, he tackles the crisis of male-female relationships in the black community. He shares, ..."if we take a look at the data about how few single black men and women are building long term relationships and creating two parent households, the news is sobering. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are bearing witness to the extinction of the black family. We are in the midst of a crisis."

The data he's referring to is that only 30% of African American children are being raised in two-parent households. What is the cause for this? Why aren't black families staying together? What is happening to black male-female relationships? Why are 70% of black professional women single? Harper's book begins this long overdue discussion in The Conversation.

As a single man, he claims to be no expert on relationships, so he enlists the help of his friends, family, and even strangers. He begins his journey by attending a dinner party where he is surrounded by loving couples, where he questions where his own life partner is. As he interviews others throughout the book, he shares that as a single man, is he part of the problem? What are his fears and expectations in his own relationships?

The book delves into topics that men and women don't always communicate about prior to entering into a long term relationship such as, premarital sex, contraception, and past relationships. In their conversations, Harper shares their insights on what they really think about each other (which is very interesting). The men share their insight about topics such as why some men cheat, what they look for in a woman, their challenges in dating black women and what makes them commit. The women discuss topics such as their value to black men, why they feel we have trouble sustaining relationships and their thoughts on interracial dating.

So how can you use the book to enhance your own relationships? He shows you how. Not only does Harper want the reader to begin The Conversation with him or herself, but with their friends and family. By hosting a Conversation party at his home, he learned even more about black male-female relationships and shares how you can do the same. Harper provides a handy question guide in the book to get your own Conversation party started.

It is his hope that by hosting these Conversation parties, it can begin to open up a dialogue between black males and females so that we can begin to repair our relationships, and ultimately our communities. Now, its your turn.

Harper wants to host Conversation town hall meetings in cities across the country. By purchasing his book, he'll be able to show potential corporate sponsors that this is a much needed event that needs to happen. Visit the website at to sign up for updates and tour information.

**Win a copy of the The Conversation! Send an email to blackgivesback[at] gmail[dot]com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line by Friday, September 11th. Winners announced next week!

{Complimentary books provided by the publishing company}

The Ludacris Foundation Hosts Annual LudaDay Weekend to Support Metro Atlanta Families

Hip hop artist and actor Ludacris, The Ludacris Foundation, and Nissan South have partnered to give away 20 used vehicles to several deserving Metro Atlanta area residents during his LudaDay weekend, held on September 6, 2009. Ludacris transformed the holiday weekend into LudaDay Weekend to celebrate with friends and ardent fans, as well as, an opportunity to give back to the community. “My foundation’s LudaCares Initiative is dedicated to supporting youth and families in need”, said Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges.

“Our major focus is youth and supporting the family structure stated Roberta Shields, President of The Ludacris Foundation. The Foundation helps people year around through our LudaCares Program. This year we want to do something to help youth and families manage during these tough economic times. Having a vehicle to get back and forth to work and daycare can make the difference in getting and keeping a job, she stated.”

Joya Montgomery, Ludacris and Roberta Shields attend Stars For Cars Luda Day Car Giveaway at Nissan South on September 6, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Twenty people were selected to receive a car based on their one page essay to the Foundation on why they needed a vehicle. Each vehicle donated carried a standard 30 day power-train warranty and free gas for 30 days. For more information on the Ludacris Foundation and the LudaCares Car Giveaway, visit the website at

Source: TLF Press Release
Photos: Wireimage

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Detroit News: Music Producer Gives Back to Detroit & More

Snippets via Press Release: Carlos "LOS DaMystro" McKinney has produced hit songs for Usher, Mariah Carey, R. Kelly, Ciara, Jordin Sparks, J. Holiday and The Dream, and has performed with jazz greats including Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Elvin Jones, Sonny Rollins and Kenny Garrett. LOS was born into an eminent Detroit jazz family. The musicians in his family include uncles: pianist Harold McKinney, bassist Ray McKinney, trombonist Bernard McKinney and drummers Earl McKinney and Walter Wallace.

From September 4th through September 9th, DaMystro Music and LOS DaMystro will celebrate his family with the City of Detroit at three events: Friday, September 4th, 12PM, Harold McKinney Street Renaming Ceremony, Location: Paradise Valley at Harmonie Park; Saturday, September 5th, 3PM, “The Keys to the City: Detroit Pianists” Panel, Location: Detroit Talking Tents at Woodard Avenue; and Monday, September 7th “McKinFolk” Musical Tribute to Harold McKinney, Location: Detroit Jazz Festival.

During the Festival, LOS will participate in “The Keys to the City: Detroit Pianists” panel. The week of events will end as LOS, and his DaMystro Music business partner John Huffman IV, will donate a DaMystro Music Business Workstation to LOS’s alma mater, Cass Technical High School. LOS will provide a music production demonstration on the workstation with DaMystro Music Group recording artist Tayma Loren.

The nationwide workstation donation, sponsored by the L.A. Reid Music Publishing Company, will allow music students to write, produce, edit, market and distribute music with an iMAC computer, Logic Express software, M Audio 61 keyboard, M Audio USB microphone, Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and an iPod. “It is our honor to be working with LOS to provide students with the tools and education they need to produce music and create opportunities for success," says Anthony "T.A." Tate, President of the L.A. Reid Music Publishing Company. Source: Huff Events & PR

In other Detroit news:
Via Bill Cosby lends support to Detroit’s public school system.

The 2009 edition of Child Trends cites Detroit as having the highest teen birth rate. View data from Detroit and other cities HERE.

Upcoming Event: The Detroit Public Library is hosting an Evening with Susan Taylor, Editor in Chief Emeritus of Essence Magazine and Founder of the National Cares Mentoring Movement. This event is part of International Literacy Day.

Date: September 8, 2008
Time: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Where: Main Library, Friends Auditorium
Cost: FREE
Book signing at 8:00 pm

Photo of the Day

Singer KEM performs at Mack & Third - A Call to Service concert and food drive on August 30, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Wireimage

Former College Football Players Join Together to Give Back

Former players from three of college football's legendary rivals - Florida, Florida State and Miami have partnered with established community organizations and their individual foundations to create opportunities for underprivileged children through academic and recreational grants. They are: Warrick Dunn (FSU), Kevin Everett (UM), Willis McGahee (UM), Myron L. Rolle (FSU), Samari Rolle (FSU) and Ed Reed (UM). Together they form the Make a Play Foundation. The organization's goal is to use a collective voice to help promote growth and change for children and families in their hometowns.

The players are participating in a challenge, ‘Trash Talk for Charity,’ that will raise funds for their foundations and initiatives. To participate, fans choose one of their university's favorite players to support and a rival player to ‘talk trash' to. With each dollar donated, fans can add one point to their favorite players' total and deduct one point from a rival players' total. The player who has the most points at the end of the week will be crowned the champion, winning the battle between the charities. About each player:

Warrick Dunn: Donations will benefit his foundation's "Home for the Holidays" program, which provides down payment assistance and complete home furnishings to single-parent families in Tampa, Tallahassee, Atlanta and Baton Rouge, LA.

Kevin Everett: The Kevin Everett Fund provides financial assistance to those who have been affected by spinal cord injuries and traumas. In 2007, Everett suffered an injury to his spinal cord, which doctors predicted a less than 10% chance for a full recovery. One month later, Everett took his first steps and that December, was able to walk for the first time. The foundation raises funds to bring about education and awareness of spinal cord injuries and provides financial assistance to those who have been affected by these traumas.

Willis McGahee: The Willis McGahee Foundation was established to help underprivileged children in the Baltimore and Miami areas by providing them with the tools, resources and encouragement they need to become self sufficient. The Foundation provides toys during the holidays, Thanksgiving meals, schools supplies, books, educational materials, and dental supplies to children in need and their families.

Myron L. Rolle: Established in 2009, the Myron L. Rolle Foundation is dedicated to the support of health, wellness, education, and other charitable initiatives. The Foundation supports the FSU College of Medicine Scholarship program, and funds the "Our Way to Health" Program, the Myron Rolle Wellness and Leadership Academy, Myron's Health Clinic in the Bahamas (Exuma) and provides academic scholarships for top student-athletes from his hometown and from the Bahamas.

Samari Rolle: After being diagnosed with epilepsy in 2007, Samari along with his Rolle with Me Foundation has partnered with the Epilepsy Foundation to bring awareness to the disorder. He was selected as the Ravens' 2007 Ed Block Courage Award winner by his teammates and named a finalist for The Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP in 2008. The foundation annually organizes free youth football camps, Thanksgiving food drives, holiday parties for Baltimore youth, a summer reading program, and has provided equipment for youth athletic leagues, and book bags and school supplies for underprivileged children.

Ed Reed: Reed's foundation has supported a majority of projects in Baltimore and his hometown of Destrehan, Louisiana by providing school supplies, college scholarships, athletic equipment and holiday gifts for children in both areas. He has also organized a Children's Fitness Day and Thanksgiving turkey drives.

The 'Rivals Challenge: Trash Talk for Charity' began on Saturday, August 29th and will run through Monday, September 7th at midnight. Fans can donate online through the Make a Play Foundation's official website at: or by calling 352-514-2681.