All Posts By Kesha B

Tarana Burke Announces #MeToo HBCU Tour For Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and Tarana Burke is looking to continue the #MeToo conversation by going on a tour to several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) across the country. Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, made the announcement on Instagram.

 

“I’m so excited to finally announce this!! This has been a vision of mine for many, many years,” Burke’s caption reads. “Every year during April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) college campuses around the country turn their focus towards dealing with sexual violence but very little activity happens on HBCU campuses during SAAM even though we know it’s happening.”

 

Burke says that in 2018 she spoke at more than 70 schools and surprisingly only two of them were HBCUs. She’s looking to change that by teaming up with Yaba Blay to “bring this right to the yard and provide a space for HBCU students to talk, vent, strategize and heal.” Dr. Blay is the creator and producer of a number of online campaigns including #PrettyPeriod – a visual celebration of dark-skinned Black beauty – and #ProfessionalBlackGirl – a web series and digital community dedicated to celebrating everyday, ‘around-the-way’ #BlackGirlMagic.

 

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“While we are working in service to survivors of sexual violence from all walks of life,  it’s always been about Black people, particularly Black women and girls. This tour is important because we know that Black women make up the majority of the student population at HBCUs,” Burke tells Blavity. “The college tour is an extension of our work to center marginalized communities in the movement to end sexual violence wherever it exists.”

 

According to the MeTooMvmt.org, each stop on the tour will include strategic convenings with campus leaders, a workshop for men and male-identifying individuals, and a fireside chat featuring special guests. The tour will be sponsored by The Root and Lifetime with free admission for the public.

Kobe Bryant & The WNBA Team Up To Host ‘Her Time To Play’ Event At Mamba Sports Academy

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In celebration of Women’s History Month, which lasted the entire month of March, Kobe Bryant hosted more than 150 local Los Angeles girls for a basketball clinic and life skills development session at his new Mamba Sports Academy on Thursday (March 28) as part of the NBA and WNBA’s ‘Her Time To Play’ program.

‘Her Time To Play’ was launched in October 2018 and is described as a national grassroots initiative created by the WNBA and NBA to inspire the next generation of girls, ages 7-14, to play basketball in a positive and healthy way. Through sports, girls learn important life skills such as teamwork, leadership, and self-confidence.

 

According to Urban Spotlite, the event started with 40 minutes of on-court developmental drills including dribbling, passing, shooting and defense skills led by Bryant and Los Angeles Sparks clinicians. It also included a panel discussion moderated by ESPN’s Michelle Beadle featuring Kobe Bryant, Cappie Pondexter (two-time WNBA champion), Danita Johnson (L.A. Sparks Team President & COO), and Keisha Nix (Executive Director of Los Angeles Lakers Youth Foundation).

‘Her Time To Play’ aims to increase opportunities for women in coaching and athletic leadership across the youth sports landscape. To learn more about this initiative, click here.

 

First Black-Owned Beauty Supply Store In Nashville Generates $50k In Sales Its First Day

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Nashville, Tennessee saw the grand opening of its first black-owned beauty supply store earlier this month. According to NewsChannel 5, customers stood outside in bad weather to support Roots Hair & Beauty, owned by Sam Tisdale.

“We are proud to be the first, and hopefully we won’t be the last,” says Tisdale.

The company’s goal is to provide customers with the best quality at the lowest price with outstanding customer service. Roots specialize in all categories in beauty supply such as 100% human hair bundles, quick weaves, branded hair weaves, crochet braiding, natural hair products, and much more.

The company has two successful locations in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They opened up their first location in 2016 followed by the second in 2017. Its third location in Nashville generated approximately $50,000 in sales in just one day.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYai6wK3A8Q]

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Aoki Lee Simmons Gets Accepted Into Harvard University

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Following an Instagram Live video earlier this month where she admitted to being bullied at school, Aoki Lee Simmons has not let that interfere with her studies as the 16-year-old has been accepted into Harvard University.

Aoki, the daughter of Kimora and Russell Simmons, shared a tearful video that documented the moment she found out she was accepted into the Ivy League school with the caption that reads, “I’m only 16 and I’m going to Harvard baby! Insert emotional crying face.”

Aoki also quoted her mother Kimora Lee Simmons saying, “thank god you got in on your own honey cause you can’t row,” which is in reference to the recent USC scandal involving Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. The women are among 50 people being charged for their involvement in a bribery and cheating scheme to get unqualified children into top colleges. According to NBC News, court papers revealed that Loughlin allegedly told a cooperating witness that she would arrange for one of her daughters to be photographed on a rowing machine to bolster the false claim on the college application that her daughter was on a crew team.

“Thank you so much to every single person who helped me along the way. I am excited and honored and so so grateful,” Aoki writes.

Congratulations to Aoki!

 

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Tiffany Haddish Lands ‘They Ready’ Stand-Up Comedy Series With Netflix

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Tiffany Haddish has landed a series of curated stand-up specials with Netflix. They Ready will be a six-part series with each episode lasting a half-hour. It will be hosted by Haddish and will feature six of her favorite comedians who she feels also deserves a chance to shine.

“I am introducing six of my favorite comedians – in my eyes, they are superstars. The epitome of They Ready,” says the Girls Trip actress.

The comedians, who Tiffany shares a history with after working together on either stand-up or in television, include Chaunté Wayans (50 Shades of Black), April Macie (Snoop Dogg’s Bad Girls of Comedy), Tracey Ashley (The Last O.G.), Aida Rodriguez (Last Comic Standing), Flame Monroe (Def Comedy Jam), and Marlo Williams (Comicview).

Tiffany Haddish will serve as executive producer through She Ready Productions, alongside Wanda Sykes and Page Hurwitz through their Push It Productions banner.

A premiere date for the series has not been announced.

Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ On Track To Become The Most Successful Memoir In History

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Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, has sold nearly 10 million copies in four months and is on the fast-track to becoming the most successful memoir in history. Becoming, which was published through Penguin Random House, was released in November 2018 and sold over 725,000 copies on its release day.

“I’m not aware, in my personal experience with Penguin Random House, that we ever sold 10 million units of a memoir,” said Penguin Random House’s Chief Executive Markus Dohle, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Becoming tells the story of Michelle Obama’s life from growing up on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive, balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the White House.

“We believe this could be the most successful memoir in history,” added Thomas Rabe, the CEO of German media corporation Bertelsmann SE.

Bertelsmann SE owns a 75% stake in Penguin Random House. The former First Lady’s release helped the company bring in $20 billion last year, according to the Los Angeles Times. Michelle Obama is currently on a book tour, An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama (see the list of dates below).

“I’ve been so humbled by the response to the tour thus far and the overwhelming interest we’ve received from so many communities we weren’t able to visit this year,” Obama told People magazine. “That’s why I’m thrilled that we’re able to expand our conversations to these new settings and wider audiences. I can’t wait to continue the discussions that have been so meaningful for me and, I hope, for so many others.”

Sony Pictures Animation Picks Up Matthew A. Cherry’s Short Film ‘Hair Love’

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After raising nearly $300,000 to fund his first animated project, retired NFL player Matthew Cherry’s short film titled Hair Love has been picked up by Sony Pictures. Through his Kickstarter campaign, Cherry set a fundraising goal of $75,000 and completely surpassed that amount, raising a total of $284,058.

Hair Love is a touching animated short film about an African American father, Stephen, learning to do his daughter Zuri’s hair for the first time when her mother becomes unavailable right before a big event. According to MatthewACherry.com, this story was born out of seeing a lack of representation in mainstream animated projects and also wanting to promote hair love amongst young men and women of color.

 

“In the past year, it has been very clear that audiences have been yearning to see fresh stories that are universal and culturally authentic,” says President of Sony Pictures Animation Kristine Belson. “‘Hair Love’ is a wonderful father-daughter story and we are proud to nurture talented young filmmakers like Matthew who are breaking new ground.”

Matthew Cherry expressed his gratitude for the support from Sony Pictures, a company in which he says championed the project since its early stages.

“It was important to get this story out there and we are so grateful to Sony Pictures Animation for their generous support in helping us make that happen. They have championed it from its early stages and we cannot wait to share the project with the world,” he says.

Hair Love is expected to be released later this year and will be accompanied by a children’s book that will be released on May 14th — click here to pre-order.

Photo: Emily Stein

Shaquille O’Neal Joins Papa John’s Board of Directors In Effort To Help Repair Company’s Image

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Papa John’s is the latest company to perform damage control following racially insensitive remarks by the company’s founder and namesake, John Schnatter. It all started when Schnatter criticized the NFL’s leadership and blamed protests by football players for falling pizza sales. It was also revealed that he used a racial slur during a media training session. Like most, Schnatter issued an apology, but the damage was already done. The company removed his face from its logo and pizza boxes. However, he is the company’s biggest shareholder, according to ESPN.

In an effort to repair the company’s image and sales, Papa John’s has called on NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal as the new face of their brand. He will also join the company’s board of directors and invest in nine of its restaurants in the Atlanta area.

“If you want to enjoy great pizza and feel loved by the people that serve the pizza, you can come back home now,” O’Neal said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The Daddy is here.”

Stating that he’s the first African-American to join Papa John’s board, O’Neal described Schnatter’s comments as unacceptable and told the company’s executives that it needed more diversity in its leadership. Papa John’s International Inc. said it will pay O’Neal more than $8 million in cash and company stock for the three-year endorsement deal.

“We want to create a culture to let everybody know that they’re loved, accepted and wanted,” O’Neal said.

Gayle King To Sign Multi-Million Dollar Deal To Stay At CBS News

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Following the success of her highly anticipated interview with R. Kelly amid his sexual abuse allegations, it has been announced that Gayle King is expected to sign a new multi-million dollar deal to stay at CBS News.

King, who reportedly already has a $5.5 million-a-year deal with the network, joined CBS News in 2011. She has conducted revealing and news-making interviews with world leaders, political figures, and celebrities for the broadcast, including Michelle Obama, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Jack and Suzy Welch, Taylor Swift, Cicely Tyson, and more recently R. Kelly. King has also handled a number of high-profile assignments and co-anchored CBS News’ special coverage of several breaking news stories, including the Paris terrorist attacks, the San Bernardino shootings, and the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

According to Page Six, all other staff-related negotiations surrounding CBS News have been placed on hold until King has signed her deal. There has been speculation that her co-host Norah O’Donnell will replace Jeff Glor on CBS Evening News. O’Donnell also wants to move the show to Washington, DC. However, Page Six has been told that everything has pretty much been kept under wraps.

“Everything has gone very quiet. Nothing will be done until Gayle has signed her contract. It looks likely that she’s staying — but we don’t know what the holdup is,” a source tells Page Six. “Everyone is stressed — they want to know what’s happening.”

When asked if she will be staying, King told The Associated Press recently:

“Ooh, that’s a good question. All I can say is I really love my job. And I think it’s kind of foolish to predict the future.”

Serena Williams Partners With Bumble Fund To Invest In Female Founders of Color

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Serena Williams is a force to be reckoned with on and off the court. The 37-year-old tennis superstar was appointed to join Poshmark’s board of directors last month. Now, Williams wants to zero in on investing in female founders of color as she has joined Austin-based startup company, Bumble Fund.

According to Black Enterprise, Bumble Fund was launched by CEO of Bumble Whitney Wolfe Herd to invest in early-stage ventures focused primarily on businesses founded and led by women of color and those from underrepresented groups. Wolfe Herd says working with Williams has been a dream of hers since the company’s launch.

 

“Partnering with Serena Williams has been a dream of mine since we launched Bumble as she is one of the most inspiring women in history and a shining example of someone making the first move in all facets of her life,” she said in a statement. “She is the epitome of strength, integrity, kindness, empowerment, and everything Bumble stands for.”

While Bumble Fund will not be able to fund every business, they want to ensure that all ideas are supported and provided with the necessary tools for growth and success, so they’ve invested in and partnered with Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered platform Alice to provide entrepreneurs with a community, access to experts, how-to guides, and more.

Click here to sign up for the Bumble Fund Community on Alice to learn more and apply. You’ll be able to collaborate with other members, check out relevant resources, and stay up to date with the latest Bumble Fund news.

According to a press release, Serena Williams will also serve as a global adviser to Bumble. She says their partnership will help create a place for women of color to grow personally and professionally.

 

“I’ve learned how impactful one woman’s voice can be when given a platform to speak and be heard. I am passionate about building on this progress and opening doors for women of all backgrounds, especially women of color, to share their message and trust in their potential to accomplish great things,” Serena Williams said in a statement. “By joining forces with the Bumble Fund, we will continue amplifying female entrepreneurs and creating a place for them to personally and professionally champion their growth.”

Gucci Launches Changemakers Program To Promote Diversity & Inclusion

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Gucci is the latest fashion powerhouse to announce that they will be taking the proper steps necessary to ensure inclusivity and promote diversity. This comes after Gucci released a turtleneck sweater that notably resembled blackface, which sparked an outrage across social media causing several people, including celebrities, to boycott the high fashion luxury brand.

According to Complex, after issuing an apology for the racially insensitive imagery, Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri pledged to institute long-term initiatives that would embed cultural awareness within the company. The Gucci Changemakers Program, spearheaded by Dapper Dan, will include a scholarship fund, community and global exchange programs, and onboarding directors tasked with promoting diversity.

Dapper Dan took to social media on Sunday (March 17) to announce that he met with Bizzarri and has “seen real action towards the solutions” and wanted to share them with us.

“After meeting with some of the industry’s leading Black minds and others in fashion, business, and culture, we’ve helped Gucci come up with programs that will positively impact the Black community and fashion as a whole,” he said. “Black designers and fashion professionals will be given new opportunities through these new initiatives. It’s imperative that we have opportunities to learn on a world-class level, and also have a seat at the table to say how we should be represented.”

The first component is the Gucci Changemakers Fund, which is a $5 million fund that will invest in community-based programs, particularly those helping communities of color, in cities across the U.S. The programs will be selected by the Changemakers Council, a board of advisors including Dapper Dan, Bethann Hardison, Cleo Wade, Will.i.am, and more.

The second component is a scholarship program helping a more diverse talent pool of students pursue careers in fashion. Each student selected will receive a $20,000 grant toward their education over the course of four years.

The third component is a volunteer initiative that will allow Gucci’s 18,000 employees across the globe to take up to four paid days off to participate in volunteer work that addresses issues including equality, support for refugees and the homeless, protection of the environment and education.

Dominique Brown Talks The Start of Coin Convos, Importance of Social Networking Events For Young Black Professionals, Lessons of Entrepreneurship, & More With Live Civil

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International Women’s Day may be over, but we’re still celebrating Women’s History Month all month long by bringing to you a series of interviews with several successful and influential women that we thought you would love to hear from.

Dominique Brown is an Event Producer and the creator of Coin Convos, an event series that provides a collaborative networking environment for young Black professionals. We had the opportunity to speak with Dominique about how she got her start in event production to which she admits happened by accident.

“The crazy part about my role now as an Event Producer, was that it all happened on accident,” she says. “I had no clue that an Event Producer was a real thing. When I decided to leave my job as a Publicist, I took an odd job working for an Interior Designer just to make ends meet. I instantly fell in love. I loved watching a space come together and how people would react to the color choices, fabrics, and our ability to create a timeless space. At that moment in my life, I knew God had given me something special.”

 

Dominique also shared how Coin Convos came about, why it’s important for cities with large pools of Black talent to have social networking events, valuable lessons learned in entrepreneurship, and so much more!

 

At what point did you realize you wanted a career in event production — and what was the first step you took towards making that happen?

 

The crazy part about my role now as an Event Producer, was that it all happened on accident. I’ve always been super visual and creative, and I worked at a PR Agency that typically had small budgets, so I had to be crafty when it was time to be impactful. I became the DIY girl for my team. I had no clue that an Event Producer was a real thing. When I decided to leave my job as a Publicist, I took an odd job working for an Interior Designer just to make ends meet. I instantly fell in love. I loved watching a space come together and how people would react to the color choices, fabrics, and our ability to create a timeless space. At that moment in my life, I knew God had given me something special — I had the ability to create unique environments. I was so new to the industry and understood the importance of being prepared for opportunities, so I proactively enrolled in Otis College of Art and Design to ensure that I had the skill set to be competitive in the market. I never had the chance to finish the program because as soon as my friends and past colleagues discovered I was interested in designing spaces, opportunities began to prevent themselves. One relationship led me to the next, and a year later I went to work for one of the leading entertainment companies in the world, The Walt Disney Company, producing events. I’ve since moved on to a new opportunity with YouTube Marketing.

 

What sparked the idea behind your Coin Convos event series — and how has it grown since you first started?

 

Coin Convos came out of a desire to find a sense of Black community in Los Angeles. I went to college in Atlanta — and one of the things that is really special about Atlanta is that there is a constant presence of Black culture. I felt like L.A. was missing that vibe. In Atlanta, you can go to a coffee shop, bar, or a restaurant and find young, Black professionals at every table. In L.A., there’s no such thing. I yearned for that moment here and since I couldn’t find it, I created it.

It’s interesting because Coin Convos started as a mixer/ game night kind of environment. There were no hosts or panelists during its first iteration. It was a unique sort of happy hour. I sent out a bunch of texts along with a few other young women, who were on board to launch the series at the time, and people actually came. Then I decided to add a couple of hosts to the next installment and more people came. Then someone asked if the hosts were going to be answering questions. So at the next event, we added a small speaking portion and more people came! There was no real formula. The programming evolved on its own and as we began to meet the needs of our guests, we have continued to grow. There aren’t any real rules which is one of the things that makes Coin Convos so unique.

At this point, we are into our third year of hosting events and the longer I go without an event, the more I get texts, DMs, or stopped by random people asking for the event. We’ve had two events in NYC and planning to hit a few other markets soon. Coin Convos has partnered with some great organizations and sponsors such as the 100 Black Men of LA, Champion, AquaHydrate, Martini & Rossi, and host of many others.

 

 

I’m from a city where there’s an abundance of talented black millennials and entrepreneurs — specializing in everything from hair, makeup, and blogging to music, photography, and event planning. However, we don’t have any Coin Convos style events in our city. How important do you think it is for cities with such a great amount of black talent to have these social networking events?

 

I think it is very important for concentrated areas that have large pools of Black talent to host social networking events. We are nothing without collaboration. We would still be slaves if it were not for collaboration. I hate to sound frank, but imagine how much further we would be as a culture if we worked together. What is unique to Coin Convos outside of most networking events is that there have been tons of businesses built, jobs secured, and romantic relationships formed through our events. I make it my business to ensure that we host our events in immaculate, high-end venues because the stigma that “black people don’t do nice things” is some b*llshit. I make it my business to curate an esteemed panel of people who have actually put real points on the board and avoid the social media famous “experts.” I especially take pride in creating an environment that is free from ego and pretentiousness. Everyone who walks through the door is welcome and equally important. Events like Coin Convos are needed to create and sustain the eco-system of entrepreneurism, recycle black dollars, and to continue to build successful Black communities.

 

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about entrepreneurship thus far?

 

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned through entrepreneurship is the importance of doing your research and maintaining strong relationships. Doing research will save you a ton of time and a ton of money. You become self-sufficient and make fewer mistakes when you make informed decisions concerning your business.

Great relationships will save you from yourself. Relationships help garner income and revenue streams. Most people will help you, introduce you, support your business, or even hire you, simply because they know you. When you are an entrepreneur, your business will have a level of dependency on others and how they show up for you will be the difference between sink or swim.

 

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceForBetter, which is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the government, boardroom, media, and sports coverage, in wealth, etc.. How important is a gender-balanced world to you?

 

Gender balance is a huge deal because as women we bare the heaviest load in society but we don’t catch the toughest breaks. We are naturally burdened with bearing children and leading our households, and then we are expected to work twice as hard alongside men only to receive a fraction of the benefits.

 

 

If you could celebrate someone in particular for International Women’s Day who has inspired you, who would it be?

 

The first person that comes to mind at this point in my life is Tracee Ellis Ross. I love how she is unapologetic about everything that she stands for and completely confident in who she is. She embraces her flaws and the things that make her unique, she pushes the limit with her fashion, she shares her raw personality, and she is organically herself 100% of the time. To me, that is the true essence of a woman.

 

What advice would you offer someone looking to start a career in event production?

 

ALWAYS BE WILLING TO WORK THE DOOR! Working the door at events gives you person to find out who is in the room, their affiliation, and unique ways to connect with them. When you’re at the door you are the gatekeeper and if you are strategic you will know more about a person than they know about you. It also increases your visibility. Make sure you look your best, be pleasant, and always be willing to help troubleshoot a situation at check-in. You are the guest’s first point of contact so you can make or break their experience.

I would also recommend anyone looking to get into event production to volunteer, intern, or PA for multiple event agencies or producers. It’s important to understand how a successful event is run. At the end of the day, we are onsite problem solvers and the best way to hone in on that skill is to actually do it. You’ll also develop relationships and learn different styles. The great thing about events is that a good event will always need staffing so there is always opportunity. Be relentless and genuine, it always goes a long way.

 

What is a quote that you live by?

 

I keep it simple and frank, “business before bullshit.” I try to take care of all of the business first so that I can party hard later. I can really relax and enjoy my time away from work if I am confident that the business is handled. Get the important stuff out the way so that you can make the best of your free time.