Black Fashion Week: stunning setting and showpieces

The lineup of models at Ralph Leroy's show at Montreal Black Fashion Week on May 31, 2015. PHOTO: Pierre Marie Victor Salomon
The lineup of models at Ralph Leroy’s show at Montreal Black Fashion Week on May 31, 2015. PHOTO: Pierre Marie Victor Salomon Pierre Marie Victor Salomon

Part-time Montrealers Ralph Leroy and Helmer Joseph were among a dozen designers to show at the magnificent Église St-Jean Baptiste Friday and Saturday as part of Black Fashion Week. Leroy staged an all-white show with a stunning finale of showpieces, including one ensemble of multiple tiny ruffles that took seven workers 400 hours to create.

Leroy divides his time between Montreal, New York and Haiti, where he opened an atelier in January as a learning centre for young people. “It’s a way to give back to my country,” Leroy said.

Similarly, couturier Helmer (as he and his collections are known) divides his time between Paris, Montreal and Haiti. In Paris, he is under contract for two collections, while in Haiti he is working toward setting up a couture school. Known for his technical wizardry in hand-crafted lace and embroidery, Helmer burst onto the Montreal scene in 2007. He will show his menswear at Toronto Men’s Fashion Week in August.

Black Fashion Week is a production of Adama Paris, which also stages events in Paris, Prague and Salvador de Bahia.

A showpiece by Ralph Leroy that took 400 hours of work, shown at Montreal Black Fashion Week May 31, 2015. PHOTO Pierre Marie Victor Salomon

A showpiece by Ralph Leroy that took 400 hours of work, shown at Montreal Black Fashion Week May 31, 2015. PHOTO Pierre Marie Victor Salomon

Pierre Marie Victor Salomon

A look by couturieur Helmer Joseph shown at Montreal Black Fashion Week May 30, 2015. PHOTO Sachin Shrestha

A look by couturier Helmer Joseph shown at Montreal Black Fashion Week May 30, 2015. PHOTO Sachin Shrestha

Sachin Shrestha


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Arts, cultural groups host events on Detroit 1967 civil unrest

Whether a native Detroiter or transplant, if you live in the region, you’ve likely heard about the pivotal events in the city in July 1967 — events that are still shaping race relations in the region today.

No one disputes the events took place. But beginning with the words people use to refer to the civil unrest — riots, uprising, rebellion — interpretations and truths vary with perspective.

More than 60 local arts and cultural organizations are striving to foster greater understanding and common ground through exhibitions of pictures, home movies, oral histories and art created by people living in the city at that time or influenced by the events, as well as  discussions, panels, performances and other events.

The first of the events kicks off Thursday night with “12th Street, Detroit, 1967: Employment, Housing, Policing and Race Relations in Evidence,” at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University.

The exhibition will provide the public with access to details that may have only been known by historians and academics up until now, with materials from the library’s 40-plus archival collections on the uprising. It will help visitors learn how to analyze archival material and see it as a community asset and will be accompanied by a web exhibit and document sets for use in K-12 classrooms. It runs until January.

Enabling visitors to learn first-hand about the circumstances in Detroit at that time is a way to help them create their own insights based on evidence, the library’s outreach archivist Meghan Courtney said in a recent post on the Reuther website.

Also on display now through winter at the library is an exhibition of previously unpublished photographs of Detroit’s 1967 civil unrest by photojournalist Tony Spina.

Spina, chief photographer for the Detroit Free Press at the time, was reportedly awoken on the morning of July 23, 1967, by a call from City Editor Neil Shine, telling him “the city was on fire” and asking him to hurry to the newspaper. Over the next five days, Spina shot pictures from the ground, air, military vehicles and the middle of firefights, documenting one of the worst examples of civil unrest in American history.

On Friday, the Detroit Artists Market’s exhibition, “Now and Then: Artists Contemplate the Summer of 1967,” opens.

The exhibit will bring together a wide range of voices and perspectives represented in artwork to help understand the impact of that time. The exhibit runs through May 27.

Those exhibits and others planned by five other major cultural groups in the city are laid out in a “passport” brochure developed by the Detroit Historical Museum as a memento of the 50th anniversary. Visitors can pick the brochure up at the library, DAM, Detroit Historical Museum, Michigan Science Center, Detroit Institute of Art, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

The Detroit Historical Museum’s “Detroit 67: Perspectives” opens in June. As part of visual components and oral histories collected over the past two years, the exhibition will include a look at the perspectives indicated even by the words used to describe the uprising.

In every discussion the Detroit Historical Museum has had over the past two years as it developed the exhibition, the issue of what we call it comes up, said Rebecca Salminen Witt, chief development and communications officer

The DIA and Wright Museum coordinated their exhibitions to run concurrently starting July 22 and complement each other.

The DIA exhibitions focus on the art created by mostly African-American artists working collectively and independently at the time of the uprising and beyond, and artists working in later decades who were inspired by art from the civil rights movement. The Wright exhibition compares the uprisings of the past to the upheavals during the 21st century and features 40 national artists, whose works illustrate tragedy and transformation when people rebel.

The DIA and Wright teamed on content creation, focus groups, interpretation and marketing for the exhibits, marking what DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons said he hopes is the first of many collaborations to come between the two.

“Artists are often at the forefront of examining issues that require change,” Juanita Moore, president and CEO of the Wright Museum, said in an email.

“Both the DIA and the Wright are using this art to tell a story of a period of great disparities, injustice and tremendous change. By coming together we are able to tell the story much more in depth and with much more clarity.”

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Maxine Waters: ’92 L.A. Rebellion Was A ‘Defining Moment’ For Black Resistance

It’s been 25 years since the Los Angeles rebellion, but Rep. Maxine Waters remembers it like it was just yesterday.

The California Democrat was traveling on business when Rodney King was brutally beaten by LAPD officers on March 3, 1991. She told HuffPost that she remembers watching the footage from her hotel bed.

“I sat straight up and all I could say, ‘Oh, my god! Oh, my god! Look at this,’” Waters said. She and black Americans across the country shared the same outrage. 

King, who was pulled over after a high-speed chase with the LAPD, was released from jail without being charged. But black people’s anger increased as they witnessed the 17 cops who did nothing but watch as their colleagues beat King walk free. The residents of Los Angeles reached their boiling point on April 29, 1992, however, when a mostly white jury acquitted the four white cops who assaulted King. That is when the city rebelled.

Kirk McKoy via Getty Images
Critics say police gave up when the uprising started in 1992, letting big chunks of the city burn. Street cops say commanders held them back, fearing violent clashes would produce an endless stream of Rodney Kings.

America has seen iterations of this play out in BaltimoreFerguson, Missouri, and Charlotte, North Carolina, in recent years, with a similar narrative. Though Los Angeles of 1992 saw much more blood and destruction ― more than 50 killed, 2,000 injured, 9,500 arrests and $1 billion in property damages ― the reality of black Americans being denied justice when brutalized by the state strings these events together. But Waters said the L.A. uprisings were a milestone in the history of black people demanding justice.

“These were people who had been basically forgotten,” Waters told HuffPost in March. “And because of Rodney King’s beating and the current emotion that was stirring in that, it was like people were saying, ‘We’re here. You can’t do this to us. Look what you’re doing, look how you’ve been. Not only have you been with this consistent police abuse but the same people don’t have access to opportunities and jobs and health care and on and on.’ So it was a defining moment in this country and I think a defining moment in the way that black people resisted.”

The acquittal of King’s abusers, along with the 1991 killing of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, set the stage for the L.A. rebellion. It started at the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues and spread throughout Los Angeles like a wildfire. People were killed and injured, stores were robbed and destroyed, and the city was literally burning and seemingly abandoned by police.

Jean-Marc Giboux via Getty Images
Then-Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton takes a tour of South Central Los Angeles with U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters on May 4, 1992.

 “When the insurrection broke out, I rushed to L.A. and went straight into public housing developments,” Waters recalled. “The streetlights were out, the stores were closed down. [I was] working to try and get food to children and milk to kids and diapers.”

Waters, who represented California’s 29th District at the time, held a press conference the day after the acquittal. At that point, the death toll was at nine and dozens of people were injured. Waters gave context to why residents had a right to be mad and criticized investigators for not handling the case with urgency and failing to persecute the officers involved.

“There are those who would like for me and others and all of us to tell people to go inside, to be peaceful, that they have to accept the verdict,” she said, standing alongside representatives from the Congressional Black Caucus and the NAACP. “I accept the responsibility of asking people not to endanger their lives. I am not asking people not to be angry.”

She continued: “I am angry and I have a right to that anger and the people out there have a right to that anger. There are some angry people in America and young black males in my district are feeling, at this moment, if they could not get a conviction with the Rodney King video available to the jurors, that there can be no justice in America.”

Waters remained a champion for her city over the six days of the uprising and beyond.

In addition to sending disaster relief supplies like food and diapers, Waters pounded the pavement to bring peace to South Central. She demanded the resumption of vital services like electricity and water to the area. Along with Jesse Jackson, Waters urged the Justice Department to file civil rights charges against the four acquitted cops.

When the city issued a curfew and authorities and news outlets painted the black people who were rebelling as “thugs,” Waters actively worked to shift that narrative. It wasn’t just a matter of semantics ― it was about privileged and powerful people using dangerous and racially charged language to belittle the longstanding concerns of residents of color. She opposed Mayor Tom Bradley’s use of the word “riot” to describe what was happening ― she urged him to describe it as “an insurrection.”

Cheryl Chenet via Getty Images
Along with Jesse Jackson, Waters urged the Justice Department to file civil rights charges against the four acquitted cops.

“I guess every day, I was out, the TV cameras were out,” Waters told HuffPost. “And I’d get up early in the morning, go to the TV stations trying to explain to them the difference between rioting and people who’ve been dropped off of America’s agenda and find themselves in a situation where the kids are hungry and the place is burning and at that time, everybody was being seen as a ‘robber’ and a ‘thug’ and someone who was responsible for the burning. … What I tried to do was take it out of the discussion of ‘these are just no good, crazy rioting people’ and to talk about what I call an insurrection, which made a lot of white people mad.”

She took on a more understanding tone than others when addressing her constituents. She sent a letter to them, reprinted by the Los Angeles Times, to remind them to keep hope alive and urge them to end the destruction and violence:

When the verdicts come down, there will be thousands of police, sheriffs and National Guard on the streets. If you take to the streets with a Molotov cocktail in hand, a gun in your belt or a brick ready to throw, you give the police the legal right to kill you.

Our anger and frustration must not drive us to the streets. We must use our minds and our God-given talents and our legacy of perseverance and struggle. We must fight our battles in the courtroom, and in the halls of power. We must organize and rally and protest. And, through it all, we will celebrate living ― not dying.

I wish we could make life better for everyone, today. I wish we all had jobs, and happy, loving experiences each day of our lives. I wish we had peace of mind. And, if I could, I would give it to you.

Each day brings a new opportunity, a new possibility. I love you and will fight for you. I need you to stand with me to make this a better place. Let us get smart ― it’s time to chill!

Kirk McKoy via Getty Images
A cop uses his baton on a protester at the corner of First Street and Broadway on April 29, 1992, in Los Angeles.

Even in the aftermath of the uprising, Waters’ work continued. She settled a rowdy crowd (something LAPD failed to do) at the local Social Security office to expedite community members getting the resources they needed.

She did her fair share in advocating for her community in Washington, D.C., too. When she found out that President George H.W. Bush was to hold a meeting to discuss “urban problems” that following May, Waters invited herself.

“I’ve been out here trying to define these issues,” she told Speaker Thomas S. Foley. “I don’t intend to be excluded or dismissed. We have an awful lot to say.”

Waters’ work against police brutality during and long before the rebellion helped to get LAPD Police Chief Daryl Gates, a longtime opponent, fired in June 1992. Two out of the four cops were convicted for violating King’s civil rights nearly a year later.

Fighting for her community gained Waters national attention and it became a turning point in her career. But, according to her, one of the biggest impacts the rebellion had was on black resistance to injustice.

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Meet The NRA’s Resident Academic Racist

Bill Whittle, a newly hired commentator for the National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV, has promoted the racist notion that black people are inherently intellectually inferior to people of other races and suggested that races could be divided along the lines of “civilized man” and “barbarian.”

Whittle is a commentator for the NRA who appears on a daily basis during the NRA’s live updates, which are broadcast at the top of the hour between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. He typically appears during the 1 p.m. hour, where he discusses issues of the day with host Grant Stinchfield.

According to his website, Whittle began his gig with the NRA on January 3. “Since then, he has guest-hosted for Grant and [NRATV host] Collion (sic) Noir” and co-anchored the NRA’s afternoon coverage of the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference, the site notes. The NRATV website lists more than 80 appearances by Whittle on NRA programming this year. In addition to his employment with the NRA, Whittle is a longtime conservative commentator who is best known for his work with conservative outlet PJ Media.

Whittle will be part of NRATV’s broadcast crew during the outlet’s live coverage of the NRA’s annual meetings, which will be held this year in Atlanta, GA, from April 27 through 30.

During a 2016 appearance on libertarian-turned-“alt-right”-commentator Stefan Molyneux’s webshow, Whittle revealed his acceptance of theories commonly called “academic” or “scientific” racism that tie together IQ scores, race, and crime. He also positively cited a white nationalist to claim people in inner cities “don’t have access to cognition.”

In the February 12 broadcast, which was released with the title “Why Liberals Are Wrong About Inequality,” Molyneux premised his discussion with Whittle with claims that in terms of average IQ scores, Ashkenazi Jews “clock in at about 115” and “after the Jews come the East Asians, right, the Koreans, the Chinese, the Japanese, and so on. They clock in at 105, 106, but very good on visual-spacial skills and very, very fast reaction times, which is another way that they measure intelligence. Caucasians come in at about 100 and then below that are Hispanics, clocking in at around 90, and then American blacks, clocking in at around 85 — partly because they have 20 percent European mixture in their gene pool — and then sub-Saharan Africans, clocking in at around 70, which is obviously very tragic, but this is the reality of what’s happened. And slightly below that are the aboriginals in Australia, clocking in around 67 or whatever.”

The attempt to classify certain races as genetically inferior on the basis of IQ scores is a classic example of academic racism promoted by white nationalists like Richard Lynn, and it has served as the premise for widely denounced “research” by writers like Charles Murray in The Bell Curve and Jason Richwine in his infamous proposal on Latino immigration.

This type of sorting of the races by supposed genetic differences relating to intelligence has been widely discredited by scientists and anthropologists, even as white nationalists have increasingly attempted to revive the theories to push a racist agenda.

During his conversation with Molyneux, however, Whittle accepted and promoted ideas based on these discredited theories.


Whittle Cited A White Nationalist To Promote “Scientific” Racism

Neo-Nazi Website Feted Whittle’s Appearance

Scientists And Anthropologists Have Rejected Whittle’s Claims

Whittle Has A History Of Racism

What Is NRATV?

At the top of Whittle’s appearance, he cited The Bell Curve in indicating his acceptance of the notion there are differences in intelligence between races while offering an analogy he said Molyneux has used — that “you can’t put somebody on a basketball team to make them taller” — and linking race and intelligence to crime:

STEFAN MOLYNEUX: We, of course, have had a whole bunch of experts from both the left and the right on talking about IQ differences between ethnicities, and I think that helped to bring the issue more to the forefront of your thinking, is that fair to say?

BILL WHITTLE: Yeah, I mean obviously that’s the controversial part of The Bell Curve is the IQ difference between ethnicities, but I think the deeper issue is since IQ seems to — general IQ, g, right is the term they use — since it so closely correlates to both poverty and crime on one hand and generally success and wealth on the other, it would be useful to be thinking about what a society that was recognizing these differences looked like. You can’t — I just love your example, I’ve used it every time with attribution, although it’s hard for me because it’s such a damned good analogy, but it’s like you said, you can’t put somebody on a basketball team to make them taller.

Later in the broadcast, Whittle turned to the “enormous societal problems” we have “to solve,” and said of research claiming to show differences in intelligence among races: “It’s not a question of whether or not this is true; it’s a question of what do we do with what appears to be overwhelming information that IQ correlates to a lot of our social problems.”

Whittle then cited Linda Gottfredson, saying, “She said that when you really get down to it, it’s not that we have a — that in terms of like really rigid poverty, it’s not that we have a money problem; we have a cognitive problem. They don’t have access to cognition, I think is what she said.”

Gottfredson is a well-known white nationalist who has received funding from the Pioneer Fund. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), “Gottfredson argues that racial inequality, especially in employment, is the direct result of genetic racial differences in intelligence.” SPLC notes that the Pioneer Fund’s “original mandate was to pursue ‘race betterment’ by promoting the genetic stock of those ‘deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original thirteen states prior to the adoption of the Constitution.’” It says the organization “still funds studies of race and intelligence, as well as eugenics, the ‘science’ of breeding superior human beings that was discredited by various Nazi atrocities.”

In his appearance, Whittle also made a racist characterization of aboriginal Australians, claiming that members of that ethnicity would be unable to learn how to do a job such as Molyneux’s to make the point: “That’s the thing about intelligence is it can adapt down, but you can’t adapt beyond your ability”:

WHITTLE: Well it’s interesting when somebody would say that a bushman in Australia survives in the desert much better than you could — that’s undoubtedly true — but the part that they’re leaving out is that with several months or weeks or a year of being with the Aborigines, you could learn those techniques about as well as they could or certainly well enough to survive. The question is could they learn the techniques that you use in order to do what you do for a living and the answer apparently is not. That’s the thing about intelligence is it can adapt down, but you can’t adapt beyond your ability. 

Arguing that an IQ difference among the races “certainly seems to be real,” Whittle also offered an analogy to a Star Trek episode in suggesting his claims of IQ differences among races is like comparing a “civilized man” to a “barbarian”:

WHITTLE: If this IQ difference is real — certainly seems to be real — then it is not a two-way street. Forgive me for going back to my entire studio, which is nothing but a museum of Star Trek, right, but I mean there was a really fascinating point and I remember hearing it when I was probably 7, 8, 9 years old when I heard it. And it’s from the classic, classic episode called Mirror, Mirror where they teleport into the alternate universe and Spock has a goatee … and Kirk in the alternate universe succeeds because of his savagery and his ruthlessness, right? Here’s the whole line — they finally solve all the stuff, they beam back to their own ships and the universes go their separate ways and Spock says to Kirk, he says, “You as a civilized man had a much easier time portraying a barbarian than a barbarian ever could as a civilized man.” And I thought yeah, yeah, yeah that’s it, right?

Perhaps most disturbingly, Whittle made clear that his beliefs about intelligence differences among races should inform public policy, claiming during his appearance that “if we don’t understand, as you said, that this cognitive ability has an impact on society in the same way that a height ability has an impact on the society of the NBA, for example, we’re going to just be throwing money at problems.”

The week following Molyneux’s broadcast, Andrew Anglin, the neo-Nazi operator of The Daily Stormer, celebrated the episode with an article headlined “Stefan Molyneux has Gone Full Shitlord.” (Although “shitlord” seems like an insult, neo-Nazis have appropriated the term as a compliment.)

The Daily Stormer is a virulently racist and anti-Semitic website. For example, it recently characterized offensive claims about the Holocaust made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer by saying Spicer “confirms Hitler never gassed anyone” while joking (warning: disturbing image) that Nazis instead drowned Jewish babies “in buckets.” Anglin was recently sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for allegedly orchestrating a harassment campaign against a Jewish woman.

In his write-up of Molyneux’s broadcast, Anglin said, “Here’s a good interview with Bill Whittle,” and wrote, “As I predicted would happen, Stefan Molyneux has pretty well entirely abandoned his libertarian claptrap and family counseling nonsense and gone full shitlord. Ultimately, everyone who is honestly looking for the truth is going to come to the same conclusions that we have, and he has, for the most part, come to these conclusions.”

Claims that genetic differences make certain races inherently less intelligent, often linked to the IQ test — like those pushed by Whittle and Molyneux — have been discredited by mainstream science.

To begin, race is no longer viewed as a biological phenomenon by the majority of scientists. As explained in a 1992 article in peer-reviewed academic journal Ethnicity & Disease, “For some time, biologists and anthropologists have overwhelmingly rejected the partitioning of modern humans into biological ‘races.’ An examination of recent human evolutionary history suggests that the zoological definition of race, based on significant genetic differences, cannot be legitimately applied to contemporary humans.”

As Ta-Nehisi Coates explained at The Atlantic, claims that are premised on supposed racial differences in intelligence proceed “from a basic flaw — no coherent, fixed definition of race actually exists.” The leading view among scientists is that race is a “social construct without biological meaning.”

On race and intelligence specifically, research published in 2012 found that “heritability of IQ varies significantly by social class,” and that “almost no genetic polymorphisms have been discovered that are consistently associated with variation in IQ in the normal range.” Put another way, the findings offered strong evidence that non-genetic factors are primarily responsible for intelligence.

According to the late Robert Sussman, who worked as an anthropology professor at Washington University, “There is no indication from any scientific evidence that different populations have any specific physical or intellectual attributes, or abilities. Those characteristics relate back to one’s socialization or upbringing (or nutrition).”

Strong evidence that intelligence is a product of environmental factors rather than genetics is found in the Flynn effect, which is “the observed rise over time in standardized intelligence test scores, documented by [psychologist James] Flynn … in a study on intelligence quotient (IQ) score gains in the standardization samples of successive versions of Stanford-Binet and Wechsler intelligence tests.”

Rejecting claims that linked race and intelligence on the basis of IQ scores, science journalist John Horgan wrote in 2013 that “to my mind the single most important finding related to the debate over IQ and heredity is the dramatic rise in IQ scores over the past century. This so-called Flynn effect, which was discovered by psychologist James Flynn, undercuts claims that intelligence stems primarily from nature and not nurture.”

Whittle has offered racist commentary during appearances on Molyneux’s other broadcasts, in videos released under his own brand, and on NRATV:

  • Whittle claimed that there is a “Muslim invasion” of Europe during a November 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s show. Whittle’s comments came during a discussion of r/K selection theory. The theory posits that r-selected species emphasize having large numbers of offspring, and investing few resources in each offspring, while K-selected species have fewer offspring to which they devote more resources. Humans are a K-selected species under the theory, although Whittle and Molyneux attempted to brand Muslim immigrants as an r-selected species.
  • While discussing “black America” during a December 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s program, Whittle described African Americans who support the Democratic Party as literal slaves who prefer to remain in captivity. He said that that the party has “30 million” slaves and the “terms of their slavery are very simple — there’s a word for somebody who is fed, and clothed, and housed, and whose health care is taken care of by another person, and that word is slave.” Whittle then suggested that African Americans commit voter fraud on behalf of Democrats as a condition of their slavery, claiming, “On the voting plantation that the Democratic Party has set up in America, we demand two hours of work from you every two years. Every two years we demand that you go down to the voting places and vote, once, twice, three, four times, however [many] times as you can imagine, or manage, and that’s the work we expect for you in exchange for keeping you in bondage.”
  • During another 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s show, Whittle compared the “Islamic invasion of Europe” to “inner cities” in America “that are absolutely toxic, violent, enraged, bitter, [and] racist.” He went on to claim Black Lives Matter is “the street muscle” of the Democratic Party and that the group will make sure “everything’s gonna burn” if welfare is reduced. Again drawing a comparison between Europe and the United States, Whittle said, “We have the exact same problem here with these same kind of communities. They’re unemployable — unemployed and unemployable — they’ve been on assistance their entire lives, they’ve never had to work before,” and he said that these people should get jobs because a job “beats the laziness” out of people and “disciplines” them into “civility.”
  • Whittle called President Obama an “unqualified, unknown individual” who was elected “specifically and only because he is black” and said that electing Obama was “atoning for our slavery” during a January 2016 appearance on Molyneux’s show. Moments later he said, “I didn’t own any slaves, and therefore I’m not responsible for slavery. I’m not benefiting from slavery because I never owned any slaves,” and he said, “There’s nothing in this country that survived the Civil War that was the result of slavery.” Continuing to discuss the Civil War, Whittle said the “greatest tragedy in American history” is “not slavery, it’s not the Civil War, it’s what happened after,” before complaining about the philosophy of W.E.B. DuBois.
  • In 2013, Whittle published a video for PJ Media with the title “The Lynching” that discussed the February 2012 shooting of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Whittle suggested that George Zimmerman, who killed Martin, had an experience tantamount to a lynching. Whittle said that text messages found on Martin’s phone, which he said were “not ‘airable’ here for extreme graphic content,” showed that Martin was “violent and highly sexualized.” What was “airable” on Whittle’s video, however, was an image (warning: disturbing image) of Martin’s body after he had been shot, which Whittle left on the screen for several minutes.
  • Whittle bizarrely labeled CNN anchor Don Lemon “racist” against white people because Lemon pointed out that President Donald Trump sounds different when he is using a teleprompter, as compared to when he speaks without one, during a March NRATV appearance.

Whittle’s outlet, NRATV, was launched in October 2016 as a rebranding of the NRA’s long-running news outlet NRA News with the aim of offering more live programming created by the gun group and its advertising firm Ackerman McQueen.

While NRA News flagship program Cam & Company, which continues to air on NRATV, serves as a font of misinformation about the debate over guns in the United States, new NRATV programming, such as the live updates on which Whittle appears, are better characterized as pro-Trump propaganda with a heavy dose of xenophobic commentary, particularly on the topic of Islam.

NRATV is strident in its defense of Trump, and the overall NRA organization has said that it will serve as “Donald Trump’s strongest, most unflinching ally.” For example, shortly after launching NRATV, host Grant Stinchfield attacked the media for covering numerous reports of sexual assault against Trump, saying outlets should instead cover instances where guns were used in self-defense.

While the NRA has long claimed that the media are part of a conspiracy against everyday Americans, the group’s attacks against the press in defense of Trump have entered new territory in recent months, with the gun outlet labeling both dissent against Trump and protected-speech reporting about Trump and his administration as oppositional to the U.S. Constitution and American values.

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SOURCE WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease

Honor Recognizes Those Making Extraordinary Contributions to Advancing Women’s Heart Health in Underserved Communities

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, today announced the recipients of the 2017 Wenger Awards. Each year, the Wenger Awards honor those who have made extraordinary contributions to women’s cardiovascular health. Awardees will be honored May 1st at the 17th Annual Wenger Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The Wenger Awards are named for Nanette Kass Wenger, MD, pioneer in women’s cardiovascular medicine and research. This year’s theme is “Bridging Communities: One Heart at a Time.” Awardees were selected based on their outstanding efforts to connect with women in at-risk communities.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women. Although there is broad understandings of the higher cardiovascular risks faced by different ethnic and racial groups, advocates are also focusing on the impacts of social determinants for women in traditionally underserved communities.

“Women across the nation face unseen disparities in risk, access, care and outcomes,” said Mary McGowan, CEO of WomenHeart. “Nowhere is this more true – or the consequences more dire – than in our nation’s most vulnerable communities. This year’s honorees have dedicated their careers to extending a bridge to those communities, so that women can have longer, healthier lives, no matter where they live.”

The 2017 Wenger Award winners are:

Excellence in Public Policy — Congresswoman Joyce Beatty
Representative Beatty has represented Ohio’s Third Congressional District since 2013. A stroke survivor, Beatty serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional Heart and Stroke Coalition and with the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. In the 115th Congress, Beatty reintroduced the Return to Work Awareness Act of 2017, H.R. 1128, to improve the employability of individuals affected by heart attack, stroke or other serious health issues. Her bill has broad, bipartisan support and is supported by the American Heart Association and the National Stroke Association.

Excellence in Community Education — Chickasaw Nation Medical Center
The Chickasaw Nation Medical Center (CNMC) is a 370,000 square-foot state-of-the-art health care facility located in Ada, Oklahoma. The Medical Center and its outlying clinics provide quality healthcare services to cardholders of any federally-recognized tribe at no cost. CNMC features a 72-bed hospital, level 3 emergency department, ambulatory care facility, diabetes care center, dental clinic, diagnostic imaging center, women’s health center, administrative offices and tribal health programs, as well as a centrally located “town center” bridging the centers of patient care. WomenHeart is proud to have CNMC as a member of the WomenHeart National Hospital Alliance.

Excellence in Medical Leadership – Keith C. Ferdinand, MD, FACC, FASH, FNLA
Dr. Keith Ferdinand has dedicated his career to improving patient care and eliminating health disparities, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or gender. Dr. Ferdinand continues to focus on the well-being of the public in his home town with the Healthy Heart Community Prevention Program, and as a professor of medicine at the Tulane University School of Medicine Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans. He was Editor-in-Chief of the 2009 Educational Review Manual in Cardiovascular Disease; and co-author of Cardiovascular Disease in Racial & Ethnic Minorities; and the 2015 text, Hypertension in High-Risk African Americans. For several years he was co-chair of the American College of Cardiology’s (ACC) Women’s Health program and member of the ACC’s Cardiovascular Disease in Women Committee. He has served on the boards of the Association of Black Cardiologists, the National Forum, the American Society of Hypertension, the Orleans Division of the American Heart Association, the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners and the International Society on Hypertension in Blacks.

Excellence in Research – Ileana Piña, MD, MPH
Ileana L. Piña, MD, MPH is a Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology & Population Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY.  She also serves as advisor/consultant to the Food and Drug Administrations’ (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiological Health and their section of Epidemiology. Dr. Piña’s research interests include transition of care in heart failure patients, and the role of natriuretic peptide-guided management for patients hospitalized for heart failure, biomarkers of myocardial stress and fibrosis in chronic heart failure, and the clinical implications of chronic heart failure phenotypes. She is the author/co-author of more than 100 publications.

The 17th Annual Wenger Awards are sponsored by:
Novartis – Corporate Host
Burlington Stores
Sanofi and Regeneron
Boston Scientific, Gilead, Janssen, Mylan, United Health Foundation
Abbott Vascular, Eli Lilly and Company, The Association of Black Cardiologists, The National Forum

About WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease
WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is the nation’s only patient centered organization serving the nearly 48 million American women living with or at risk for heart disease – the leading cause of death in women. WomenHeart is solely devoted to advancing women’s heart health through advocacy, community education, and the nation’s only patient support network for women living with heart disease. WomenHeart is both a coalition and a community of thousands of members nationwide, including women heart patients and their families, physicians, and health advocates, all committed to helping women live longer, healthier lives. To receive a free on line heart health action kit or to donate, visit

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©2016 PR Newswire. All Rights Reserved.

The Ensemble Theatre Presents World Premiere of “The Front Porch Society”

HOUSTON, April 25, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Ensemble Theatre kicks off the world premiere of The Front Porch Society, by Melda Beaty, and directed by Eileen J. Morris with Opening Night and Media Reception, Thursday, May 11, 2017, 6:30 p.m.

Beaty says this story formed in her mind when human remains were found exhumed in a cemetery near her home a year after the 2008 election of President Obama.

“A story was formed in my mind that juxtaposed a historic day in United States history with a horrific event in the same cemetery where Emmett Till was buried,” says Beaty.

Beaty is an author, playwright, and English professor at Olive Harvey College. Her play, The Front Porch Society has been part of several stage readings including one at the Midtown Arts and Theatre Center Houston (M.A.T.C.H.); the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and The Robey Theatre in Los Angeles, California. The reading at The Robey Theatre included actors Loretta Devine, Marla Gibbs, and Ted Lange among the noted cast.

Morris, the Artistic Director for The Ensemble Theatre expresses her thoughts on directing the world premiere of this production.

“It is an absolute honor for The Ensemble Theatre to be in the position to provide a platform for another new theatrical work,” says Morris. “Not every theatre has the leadership or the resources to invest in the work of emerging playwrights in this way.”

It’s November 4, 2008 in Marks, Mississippi, and America is on the eve of electing its first Black president. But what does that mean to 4 elderly women in this rural town, especially Carrie Honey, the town’s “overseer,” as she grieves the anniversary of her son’s tragic death amidst the town’s excitement over Barack Obama. After years of failed attempts to seek justice, Carrie has grown bitter and no longer interested in life’s celebrations, until a scandal at the cemetery rocks this historic day, and a past secret is revealed that restores her faded faith.

“It is a front porch so comforting that the audience will pull up a chair and laugh, cry, and root for these women because the story they share will resonate with everyone,” says Beaty.

Cast members include: Michele Harrell, Gwen Harris, Tamara Siler, Rachel Hemphill Dickson, Dannette McElory-Davis, Jason Carmichael, and Kendrick ”KAYB” Brown.

Previews: May 6, 7, and 10

Show Runs: May 11 – June 4, 2017

Performance Days and Times: Thursdays: 7:30 p.m; Fridays: 8:00 p.m; Saturdays: 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m; and Sundays: 3:00 p.m.

Tickets Available Online:    For Information Call: 713-520-0055

Ticket Prices: $30 – $61

Opening Night and Media Reception, Thursday, May 11, 2017, 6:30 p.m.

The Ensemble Theatre’s 2016-2017 Season is sponsored in part by grants from The Humphreys Foundation, Texas Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance.  United Airlines is the official airline sponsor for The Ensemble Theatre.

The Ensemble Theatre was founded in 1976 by the late George Hawkins to preserve African American artistic expression and to enlighten, entertain, and enrich a diverse community. Forty years later, the theatre has evolved from a touring company operating from the trunk of Mr. Hawkins’ car to being one of Houston’s finest historical cultural institutions.

The Ensemble is one of a few professional theatres in the region dedicated to the production of works portraying the African American experience. The oldest and largest professional African American theatre in the Southwest, it holds the distinction of being one of the nation’s largest African American theatres owning and operating its facility and producing in-house. Board President Emeritus Audrey Lawson led the capital campaign for The Ensemble’s $4.5 million building renovations that concluded in 1997. The Ensemble Theatre has fulfilled and surpassed the vision of its founder and continues to expand and create innovative programs to bring African American theatre to myriad audiences.

Robert Ross 281-310-1648 Janette Cosley, 713-807-4306 Eileen J. Morris 412-726-6163 

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The Legacy Of The Jazz Epistles, South Africa’s Short-Lived But Historic Group

Jonas Gwangwa with Hugh Masekela and Kippie Moeketsi. Halim’s Photographic Service, Cape Town BAHA/Drum Social Histories / Baileys African History Archive / Africa Media Online hide caption

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Halim’s Photographic Service, Cape Town BAHA/Drum Social Histories / Baileys African History Archive / Africa Media Online

Jonas Gwangwa with Hugh Masekela and Kippie Moeketsi.

Halim’s Photographic Service, Cape Town BAHA/Drum Social Histories / Baileys African History Archive / Africa Media Online

Hugh Masekela was an up-and-coming trumpeter, all of 20, when he took an overnight train from Johannesburg to Cape Town to meet a pianist everyone was talking about in South Africa: Abdullah Ibrahim, then known as Dollar Brand.

Ibrahim, 25 at the time, was the forward-thinking figure needed to complete South Africa’s greatest bebop band of all time, The Jazz Epistles. On the morning that Masekela arrived at the Ambassadors club in Cape Town with two other formidable South African jazz players — Kippie Moeketsi on alto saxophone and Jonas Gwangwa on trombone — there were no arrangements for accommodation. Rehearsals started anyway, and for the first few nights, the three musicians slept on mattresses on the floor in the back of the club.

Abdullah Ibrahim (formerly known as Dollar Brand) before he left South Africa in 1959. Drum Social Histories/Drum Social Histories / Baileys African History Archive / Africa Media Online hide caption

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Drum Social Histories/Drum Social Histories / Baileys African History Archive / Africa Media Online

Abdullah Ibrahim (formerly known as Dollar Brand) before he left South Africa in 1959.

Drum Social Histories/Drum Social Histories / Baileys African History Archive / Africa Media Online

“There had never been a group like the Epistles in South Africa,” Masekela writes in his 2004 biography, Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela. “Our tireless energy, complex arrangements, tight ensemble play, languid slow ballads, and heart-melting, hymn-like dirges won us a following and soon we were breaking all attendance records in Cape Town. People would sit on the floor and around the edge of the bandstand at the Ambassadors when all the seats were filled.”

The story of The Jazz Epistles may be deeply engraved in South African cultural history, and perhaps even celebrated throughout the African continent, but for whatever reason this music and narrative never made it to the United States, even among the jazz intelligentsia.

“This story hasn’t been told because it’s a hidden history,” says Dr. Sazi Dlamini, an ethnomusicologist at the University of Kwazulu-Natal. “It’s waiting to be told. It can be told from so many angles. And it would take a really very focused research and attention to be able to tell it in its entirety.”

What it comes down to is this: Two of the greatest jazz legends of our time once played in a band featuring the top South African jazz musicians — all of them black — and were able to record one session together before the country’s brutally racist apartheid government forced them into exile. One recording was made, and with only 500 copies printed, it became a sort of Holy Grail. Then this remarkably fresh and modern recording from 1960 was buried, and almost lost forever.

Joining Ibrahim, Masekela, Moeketsi and Gwangwa were bassist Johnny Gertze and drummer Makaya Ntshoko. The name of the album was Jazz Epistle Verse 1. Gwen Ansell, the author of Soweto Blues: Jazz, Popular Music, and Politics in South Africa, calls it “the first all-black modern jazz album in South Africa.”

During this period, South Africa’s white nationalists in power were in the process of installing apartheid, one of the cruelest human experiments in modern history. They didn’t think too fondly of jazz. In fact, jazz was so forbidden that it spawned secret jazz listening parties, where people would travel long distances to hear, say, the latest Miles Davis recording. Jazz symbolized what the white nationalist government feared most: the social mixing of racial groups.

“At a time when apartheid itself was very backward looking,” says Ansell, “you had a collection of black musicians who were saying very defiantly: ‘We are here, we are modern-city people. There is no way you are going to exclude us from modern life.’ And that is the beautiful undertone in that music. Basically for the apartheid regime, this very kind of modern, non-tribal urban music was something they couldn’t cope with. It didn’t fit in to their perception of what Africans should be doing.”

Ibrahim, in a recent interview with Siddartha Mitter, put it this way: “The key was we had to play our own original music. And Kippie was the driving force saying that this was an affirmation of our culture and tradition. Some of the songs, he injected some of the traditional, dance music and integrated it in his composition.”

Moekesti also wasn’t afraid to acknowledge the oppressive legacy of apartheid in his music — as in “Scullery Department,” a brilliant original on Jazz Epistle Verse 1. “What Kippie Moeketsi was doing was describing the situation of musicians who were good enough to play for white patrons in a restaurant, but were only allowed to eat and sit in the scullery, in the back kitchen,” Ansell says.

Abdullah Ibrahim and Hugh Masekela managed not only to escape South Africa in exile, but also to pave two awe-inspiring career paths. They achieved their stature independently from each other, but have been cosmically linked as worldwide symbols in the Pan-African resistance movement.

After being discovered in Zurich by Duke Ellington, and then signed to Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label, Ibrahim fast achieved global recognition. He went on to create an impressive discography that mostly featured his original compositions. Some of these, like “Mannenberg,” became popular anti-apartheid anthems.

Now 82, Ibrahim cuts an almost monk-like figure, with each new recording more focused then the last. Over the years, his music with the chamber ensemble Ekaya has only become quieter and more introspective, a far whisper from what he originally sounded like with the Jazz Epistles.

When Masekela found exile in the United States, he also seemed destined for success. He formed an early friendship with the politically active folksinger Harry Belafonte, and then made two early smash hits: “Up, Up and Away” (1967) and “Grazing in the Grass,” each of which sold millions of units. (In the States, “Grazing” was a No. 1 single.)

In a marked contrast to Ibrahim’s subdued approach to music and activism, Masekela succeeded with a brash and extroverted signature. His path to stardom involved musical alliances with pop stars like Paul Simon, notably on a 70th birthday concert for Nelson Mandela at Wembley Stadium, viewed by hundreds of millions worldwide. Many of Masekela’s massively successful protest songs, like “Stimela (Coal Train)” and “Bring Him Back Home,” are still in his repertory today.

The aesthetic and personal differences between Ibrahim and Masekela could hardly be more pronounced. These differences help explain why these two have barely played together in half a century. Over the years I’ve interviewed both artists multiple times, always bringing up the prospect of a Jazz Epistles reunion. Ibrahim, Masekela and Gwangwa shared a stage last year in Johannesburg, but I wanted to bring these artists together for a concert audience in the United States.

That dream came tantalizingly close to a reality this week, with a program taking place on Thursday, April 27 — Freedom Day — at The Town Hall in New York. Presented by the Town Hall and Le Poisson Rouge in partnership with WBGO and South Africa Tourism, this was conceived and originally billed as a reunion of the Jazz Epistles — the first concert to feature both Masekela and Ibrahim in more than five decades.

But just days before his trip to New York City, which would have kicked off a statewide tour of the reunion band, Masekela experienced further complications from a recent fall in Morocco, dislocating his shoulder. He released a video expressing his regrets, along with his hope to join Ibrahim and be back on the road in a few months.

Fortunately, we were able to make some last-minute additions to the concert, notably the formidable vocalist Dorothy Masuka, who will perform with a quartet featuring bassist Bakithi Khumalo. Masuka, a dear friend of the late Mama Africa, Mariam Makeba, as well as a close associate of Masekela, was also a South African freedom fighter forced into exile.

She’s one of the first openly feminist South African singers, and claims authorship of Makeba’s most famous composition, “Pata Pata” — a song that directly calls out physical sexual harassment against women. She was also blacklisted by South Africa’s notorious government agency, The Special Branch, for her anti-apartheid songs, including “Dr. Malan,” which minced few words, and drew the attention of government censors. She will hopefully be playing both of those compositions in concert.

Meanwhile, standing in for Masekela is the young South African trumpeter Lesedi Ntsane, who says: “This concert is very special to me. The Jazz Epistles are legendary. They are the blood of the soil. We all grew up on them. They gave us life and this is historic.”

Even without the realization of a Jazz Epistles reunion, Thursday’s concert rings of the present moment. South Africa’s “Fees Must Fall” movement and our own #BlackLivesMatter protests are both engaged in a battle against social injustice and the capitalist institutions that preserve them. It’s freedom fighters like Ibrahim and Masekela who first planted these seeds, gracefully addressing racism and social injustice as a global problem, and linking them together from opposite parts of the world.

Jazz Night In America and WBGO’s The Checkout will capture this concert in audio and video, for a future program.

Simon Rentner is a journalist, radio show host, and producer in New York City, who has traveled to South Africa on several occasions.

Art of Cool Fest offers mix of free programming

— The Art of Cool Project’s fourth annual festival is poised to be its biggest yet. Taking over downtown Durham this weekend, the event will feature headliners Common, George Clinton and Revive Big Band.

You don’t necessarily need a ticket to enjoy this celebration of progressive jazz and alternative soul music. A plethora of free programming is also offered Thursday through Sunday.

Here are some of the free events you should check out:


Durham A-Z: J is for Jazz Opening Party at Museum of Durham History – J is for Jazz, the tenth installment in Durham: A-Z, explores a piece of the rich history of jazz in Durham. These local jazz studies programs at North Carolina Central University and Duke University, coupled with an enthusiastic community, provided students with performance opportunities and experience both in and out of the classroom.

The President’s Party with Empire Strikes Brass at The Blue Note Grill – The force is strong with Empire Strikes Brass. With the capability to perform as a full 10-piece stage band or 6-7 piece combo lineup, add DJ Push/Pull for an electronic set or take you to New Orleans by transforming into a true second line parade, ESB’s versatility allows them to adapt to virtually any party setting imaginable.


Black on Black Art Exhibit Reception at American Tobacco Campus’ Reed Building – “Black On Black” is an exhibition where curators of color asked artists of color to share their thoughts on identity in their own voice. Black on Black features 10 North Carolina-based artists of color and includes paintings, video and mixed media.


30 years “Paid in Full” at American Underground – A fireside chat on the impact and creative process of the classic hip hop album “Paid In Full” by Rakim and Eric B.

The Science of Cool at American Tobacco Campus – The North Carolina Science Festival will present live science shows on a stage in the Cage at ATC. Come see some amazing feats of science, try volunteering for an experiment and learn about some truly “cool” science involving liquid nitrogen. On top of watching a live show, you will have the rare opportunity to ask scientists any questions you can think up. Bee Downtown will also host a show.

Parents Just Don’t Understand at American Underground – Whether you are looking to hire a younger workforce or just trying to get your kid to take out the trash, this session is for you. Branding specialist Tru Pettigrew offers millennial insights.

F.A.M.E. at American Underground – This panel discussion will celebrate the intersection of fashion, art, music and entertainment. Domo Jones, chief strategy officer at Medium PR, and Raleigh Denim’s Sarah Yarborough are among the speakers.

Who Sampled? at American Underground – Take a journey with the lessons in jazz crew as you revisit classic records of yesteryear and their contributions to today’s hits. Kevin “The Moose” Anderson and Montez “The Whiz” Martin of Lessons in Jazz/WHOV-FM host.

Equity and Entrepreneurship at American Underground – Sherrel Dorsey, the founder of The PLUG, a daily tech newsletter, and Tia Bethea, the community impact manager at Google Fiber, are among the panelists who will be discussing the important roles organizations play in ensuring that access to opportunities are equally distributed.

Jus Once Band at The Stack at American Tobacco – The Jus Once Band was formed in 2003 through the vision and leadership of Santonio Parker. The band has become one of the hottest and most demanding in the area. Jus Once has performed with national artists such as Chrissette Michele, Mint Condition, Con funk shun, Dougie Fresh, Next, 112, Dej Loaf, Arrested Development, Zapp, Sunshine Anderson, Carl Thomas and Atlantic Starr just to name a few.

VR Vault at American Underground – This is an interactive demo of the latest 360 and virtual reality platforms in sports, music and culture. Speakers include LEVR Studios’ creative director and producer Mike Cuales and Lucid Dream CEO Johsua Setzer.


The Beats Dusk ‘Til Durham at The Durham Hotel rooftop – Now in its ninth year, The Beast is an innovative and electrifying hip hop and jazz ensemble known for pushing creative boundaries and dynamic collaborations.

Get the full schedule for Art of Cool 2017

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment