Jun04

Cedric The Entertainer’s “The Soul Man” Returns For Second Season

Despite being cancelled at the end of the first season, “The Soul Man” starring king of comedy, Cedric The Entertainer, is back for a second season.

Set to premiere June 19, season two will further explore Cedric’s character Rev. Boyce “The Voice” Ballentine and his relationships—including how his high maintenance but doting wife Lolli, played by Niecy Nash of “Reno 911” fame, is coping with Boyce’s transition from R&B superstar to minister.

Featuring special guests Jamie Kennedy and Kim Wayans, “The second season is a lot more exciting. A lot more funny in the sense that I’m gonna be a little more Cedric,” said the comedian.

Also starring Wesley Jonathan best known for “What I Like About You” and “Roll Bounce,” “The Soul Man” premiered last June as TV Land’s second highest rated series debut behind “Hot In Cleveland.” Still, the show was cancelled due to financial disagreements and was only picked up after Cedric led a campaign and petition to bring back the show, which he is a executive producer.

“I’m expensive. It costs a lot for me to be here,” he laughed. “It took a lot of hard work but I’m really committed because none of the big three networks are even trying African American or minority based shows. I commend this Network for going down a path they’re not really sure what the outcome will be, but I believe they are going to be happy with their success at the end. This show is great, people love it.”

The second season of “The Soul Man” premieres on TV Land Wednesday, June 19 at 11 p.m.

Jun04

Upcoming “BET Experience" At L.A. Live To Rival Essence Fest

Last year, with a lineup including  Usher, Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown and Mariah Carey—the BET Awards drew in five times more viewers than Sunday Night Baseball.

This year, it’s set to take place at LA Live’s Nokia Theatre on June 30th, and BET is stepping up its game.

Fans of the annual celebration of African American artists, athletes, and actors will have an entire weekend dedicated to its community and fans in an eclectic three-day festival: the BET Experience.

“There’s something for everybody there,” says Gwen Priestly, a publicity consultant for the BET Experience at AEG. “It will truly be an experience for anyone who comes around.”

Associate produced by Martin Ludlow’s consulting firm Bridge Street, the BET Experience is set to feature a interactive exhibits with the Grammy Museum, seminars on entertainment, money, and love, drive in movies, health classes, even a celebrity sport court.

A close rival of the Essence Festival, Priestly says the Experience offers enough unique, free, and celebrity-studded content to set it apart from the others.

“We have the BET awards—and it’s a televised show. Essence doesn’t have that. We have a dialogue, we have the awards, we have the atmosphere.”

With tickets to Beyonce’s concert selling for a thousand dollars, fans who might be tightening their purse strings will be relieved to find that the FanFest—featuring drive-in movies, gourmet food, beauty and relaxation lounges, basketball games and meet and greets with BET hosts—is free.

“There’s seminars, free food, lots of free events.” Priestly says.

BET even prepared a substitute for church-goers with BET’s Sunday Best, hosted by Kirk Franklin, a concert and worship hybrid with such gospel legends as Kirk Franklin and Donnie McClurkin. Donnie is set to give a sermon, and gospel singers Karen Clark-Sheard and Kiera Sheard of BET’s “The Sheards” will perform.

Another important event to cushion the Experience’s exciting itinerary is The Taste of Soul festival, featuring master chefs and scores of vendors.

"We wanted to be able to showcase African American foods during the BET Experience," said Tom Reynolds, BET's Vice President of Business Development & Strategy. “This is not only a treat for those locally, but also for those who are coming in from all over the country who want to try regional twists on dishes.”

Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., Founder of the Taste of Soul and President and CEO of Bakewell Media, thinks it will be good for black businesses in particular.

"I believe that as African American businesses we need to collaborate as often as possible with each other. The partnership of Taste of Soul and the Taste Of Soul Nation alongside BET and its worldwide fan base is a win-win for everyone.”

He insists the Experience itself is a landmark for black companies.

“This will probably be one of the largest gatherings of Black businesses and economic empowerment for Black businesses in Los Angeles. This will certainly be the largest gathering of Black businesses in downtown Los Angeles in the history of this city.”

BET is furthering its positive effects by offering educational seminars particularly directed at young people looking to pursue a career in the music industry. Their Youth Program offers classes and seminars from music industry pros. Forty teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18 will be chosen to participate, and will then be given a guided tour of the Grammy Museum.

“It’s a very community friendly environment. It’s music, it’s television, it’s the awards, it’s food, it’s dancing, it’s the philanthropic side. It’s a family environment,” Priestly says.

Guests of the event will also find themselves milling amongst BET’s finest, with confirmed attendance of Mike Epps, Cedric the Performer, R Kelly, The Jacksons, Snoop Dog, Erykah Badu, and Beyonce’s anticipated concert-tour kickoff at the Staples Center.

"Who wouldn’t want a chance to hobnob with the stars while sipping champagne on the red carpet in sunny Los Angeles?” says Sean Dee, AEG’s President, Global Branding AEG Live. “It just doesn’t get any better than this.”

“There’s something for everybody at the BET experience,” Priestly says.

The festivities begin on June 28th and culminate with the BET Awards on Sunday, June 30th.

Jun04

RLJ Entertainment Finds New Outlet with Youtube

Robert L. Johnson, founder of BET and the RLJ Companies, is adding YouTube viewers to his target audience.

RLJ Entertainment has put out two subscription-based channels that anyone with a YouTube or Google account can pay to watch from their computers, phones, and tablets.

The first channel, AcornTv, has already been established as a digital channel at AcornOnline. Now, loyal fans can watch with new viewers as it’s Youtube channel continues to cater to enthusiasts of British television, offering shows such as Midsummer Murders and Jack Taylor.

OnCue Network, RLJ’s newest channel, will provide urban-oriented programming focused towards the African American audience, with a collection of stand-up comedy routines, romantic comedies, music, documentaries, and more.

Subscriptions to both channels start with a free trial for the first two weeks. Afterwards subscription fees are $1.99 a month for OnCue, and $4.99 for AcornTV.

Microsoft Launches Internship Program For Women and Minorities

The Explore Microsoft Internship Program is back for its annual 12-week summer internship designed for college freshmen and sophomores and offers the experience of working at Microsoft.

This program is designed to expose students to the field of software development and encourage students to pursue degrees in computer science, computer engineering, or related disciplines through hands-on training and group project experience.

Candidates must be a freshman or sophomore enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program with an interest in majoring in computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, or related technical major. Students must have completed an Introduction to Computer Science course (or equivalent class) as well as one semester of calculus by the start of the program.

All candidates who meet the above criteria may apply, but they especially encourage applications from groups currently underrepresented in the field of computer science - women, minorities (African American, American Indian, Hispanic), and individuals with disabilities.

For more details and/or to apply, visit:
Careers.microsoft.com/careers/en/us/internships-explore-microsoft.aspx

May06

Award Winning “Joe Turner’s Come And Gone” Returns to L.A.

Written by two-time Pulitzer Prize Winner August Wilson, “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” is on stage now at the Mark Taper Forum at the Los Angeles Music Center through June 9th.

Set in a Pittsburgh boarding house in 1911, “Turner” chronicles a time period in which many African Americans were moving northward to find better financial opportunities and misplaced family. The ensemble features a continually changing cast as different characters move in and out of the boarding house.

Since the play’s initial debut in 1984, “Joe Turner” has won a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, A Drama Desk Award, and a Tony Award, for Best Play.

“Turner” stars Keith David, best known for his roles in films Requiem for a Dream and Crash, and Tony Award winning actress Lillias White, known for her stage and film performances in The Life, Pieces of April, and Hercules. It also features Skye Barett, a ten-year-old actress who’s already appeared on TV series “ER” and “House M.D”.

Perhaps the most familiar face is the director of the play, Phylicia Rashad, beloved mother on “The Cosby Show,” and the first African American actress to win a Tony Award.

“What Wilson did with that subject matter was extraordinary. And the relevance that they hold today,” Rashad said. “The crafting of the play. The subtleties. The poetic text that is so simple and readily discernable. The part with which he has written the unending unraveling that just happens everyday in deeper meaning and understanding.­”

It has been heralded by the New York Times as “a drama of indisputable greatness. It is magically larger than life and exactly, precisely life size.”

May06

Hollywood Buzz: Meagan Good and DeVon Franklin, Will Smith

Meagan Good and DeVon Franklin Discuss Celibacy Before Marriage
Married last June in a bayou-themed Malibu wedding, Meagan Good and Minister DeVon Franklin have often talked about waiting for their nuptials to get intimate. Recently the two delved even further into what it took to remain celibate during a discussion about faith and marriage.

Franklin, a Hollywood producer and Seventh-day Adventist preacher who had been celibate ten years, said “I had made a commitment of celibacy a long time before her… and what motivated the commitment was this: if for some reason my disobedience were to disqualify me from God’s purpose on my life, would the activity that I was engaging in be worth it?

“I want my purpose so badly that I didn't want anything preventing me from getting there,” said the 33-year-old.

Meagan then chimed in telling the crowd she got saved at 19 but still justified engaging in premarital sex by having the mentality that if it just happens then it happens.

“You know it’s going to happen because you allow it. For me it was making the decision that this isn’t what the Lord has for me, and say ‘whatever happens it’s off the table.’”

Some time after making the commitment, she says, she met Franklin.

“The crazy thing is that God blessed me with somebody who was already celibate way before I got there,” said the 31-year-old “Deception” star.

Will Smith Reveals ‘No Punishment’ Parenting Method
Crazy rumors are always circulating about Will Smith’s family but now we can at least get one more thing straight: the Smiths do not punish their kids.

While promoting new film “After Earth” starring Will Smith and son Jaden Smith, Will confirmed to Metro New York that he and wife Jada refrain from punishing their brood.

“We don’t do punishment. The way that we deal with our kids is, they are responsible for their lives. Our concept is, as young as possible, give them as much control over their lives and the concept of punishment, our experience has been — it has a little too much of a negative quality,” Smith revealed.

“So when they do things — and you know, Jaden, he’s done things — you can do anything you want as long as you can explain to me why that was the right thing to do for your life.

... Briefly, family of late actor Michael Duncan Clarke have hired a lawyer to investigate change to the actor’s will making fiancée Omarosa the main beneficiary… Chris Rock has replaced Robin Thicke on BET’s ‘Real Husbands of Hollywood’ produced by Kevin Hart … Rihanna set a new record with 10th No. 1 single...Snoop Lion has has joined a new campaign to end gun violence.

Apr08

Film Sheds New Light On Jackie Robinson Legacy

Sixty-six years after breaking color lines and changing the face of American sports, Jackie Robinson is poised to inspire a whole new generation. With this month’s release of “42,” the film based on Robinson’s life, trials and accomplishments, it isn’t just baseball fans eagerly awaiting opening day.

Producer Thomas Tull (“300,” “The Dark Knight” Trilogy, “The Hangover”) called the biopic the most important film he will ever make, pointing out that not enough young people today know who Robinson is or what he did.

"I don't think any of us can truly imagine, besides [his wife] Rachel, who was truly his partner, what he went through and what it was like,” said Tull.

The biopic stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as the scripture-quoting team executive Branch Rickey. Written and directed by Brian Helgleland, who won an Oscar for his “L.A. Confidential” screenplay, “42” centers around Robinson’s historic rookie year with the Brooklyn Dodgers which began April 15, 1947 and ended segregation in professional baseball.

“Because as big a hero and as brave as I thought he was, the more you got into this project, the more detail you got, the more you cannot believe that a man had this type of courage, conviction, and I think all of us as Americans owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

The Georgian-born Angeleno endured racial taunts and slurs, opposing teams threatening to strike if he played, and rough physical play on the field, all while his hitting ability and speed ushered in a new era of baseball.

In the face of bigotry and outright racism, he maintained his cool and, following the urging of his friend and mentor Rickey, exhibited a civility all too often not afforded him.

“Some people would view Jackie Robinson as a very safe African American, a docile figure who had a tendency to try to get along with everyone," lead actor Boseman told The L.A. Times.     "And when you look at his history, you learn that he has this fire that allows him to take this punishment but also figure out savvy ways of giving it back."

It was a strategy that paid off.

A poll conducted in 1947 found the  second most popular man in the country, second only to Bing Crosby. That season Robinson earned the distinction of MLB Rookie of the Year. Two years later he would go on to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award.

Outside the diamond, Robinson continued to break new ground,  becoming the first black television analyst in MLB and the first black VP of a major American corporation. In the 60’s, he worked toward establishing an African-American owned bank in Harlem. In 1968, he participated in Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic March on Washington.

Posthumously, Robinson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Reagan and the Congressional Gold Medal by President Bush.

“Jack spent a lifetime (advocating) for the rights of others,” said Rachel Robinson, accepting the medal on her late husband’s behalf, “and I trust this extraordinary recognition of his life and legacy will serve to inspire the courageous and visionary leadership that he exhibited."

His legacy is one kept alive in part due to his dedicated widow who campaigned for more than ten years to get “42” to the big screen and closely examined the vision of the film before giving it her stamp of approval.

“I'm very, very excited about the movie '42,' very pleased with it,” Rachel told MLB.com. It's authentic, it's powerful and it's very inspiring."

Born in Georgia but raised in Pasadena from the age of one, Robinson met his future wife at UCLA, where they were both students. They were married nearly 30 years.

After his 1972 death, Rachel founded the Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF), a non-profit organization that has provided $55 million in scholarship assistance and direct program support to minority students while running educational and leadership development programs and preserving Jackie Robinson’s legacy.

Not only has JRF awarded over 1,400 scholarships to minority students, the organization has maintained a nearly 100% graduation rate, more than twice the national average for Black and Latino students.

“He certainly would be proud of the students and of the organization,” Rachel said of her late husband. “He would probably feel that it's extended his influence into future generations, because he felt that if he can inspire future generations, then we're really doing something."

Robinson retired in 1957, after ten seasons with the Dodgers and six World Series. The Baseball Hall of Famer’s uniform number “42” was retired in 1997, but just seven years later his number made a return as Major League Baseball adopted a new annual tradition: Jackie Robinson Day, celebrated annually on April 15— a day on which every player on every team dons the number 42.

First Ladies High Tea
November will mark the 20th Anniversary of our Annual First Ladies High Tea, honoring the contributions of female leaders and women of faith to the Los Angeles community. For more information, visit www.firstladieshightea.com
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