Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Number 94 Runs the Game: Mike Carey

Michael “Mike” Carey has been a football official in the National Football League (NFL) since the 1990 NFL season. He began officiating football in 1972 working Pop Warner football games in the San Diego, California area. Later in 1985, he joined the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). Carey was hired by the NFL in 1990 as a side judge before being promoted to referee for the start of the 1995 NFL season. He was the second Black official to become a referee after Johnny Grier in 1988. Mike served as an alternate referee for Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. Of all the active referees in the NFL, Carey has ejected the most players. On the field, he wears the uniform number 94.

On October 3, 2005, Mike and his brother, Don, an NFL official as well (back judge), became the first brothers to officiate an NFL game together when they were assigned on the same officiating crew for the game between the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers.

Carey was the referee during the January 7, 2006 NFC wild card playoff game between the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Late in the game, he ejected Redskin defensive back Sean Taylor for spitting at Bucs running back Michael Pittman.

Mike Carey was designated as referee of Super Bowl XLII in 2008 between the New England Patriots and New York Giants, becoming the first Black referee to receive the prestigious assignment. The National Football League selects its Super Bowl officials through an evaluation system. The highest-rated officials at each position, if they have five years NFL experience and previous playoff assignments, earn the chance to work the Super Bowl. He has worked 14 playoff games, including two conference championships in his 18 year career.

On working the NFL's championship game, Carey said it was a "personal honor" and understood the historical significance of being the first Black Super Bowl referee. On the significance of the event, he said it was a "great sign of the evolution of our society that all barriers are eroding". During the fourth quarter, Carey's judgement was a factor in one of the important plays of the game. On third down, with just over a minute left in regulation, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning received the snap in a shotgun formation and looked to pass the ball. New England Patriots defenders Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green, and Adalius Thomas grabbed and attempted to tackle Manning. Manning escaped the defenders and threw a 32-yard pass to wide receiver David Tyree. Under NFL rules, officials are required to stop play when a player is "in the grasp and control" of the defense. Carey determined that "grasp and control" was never achieved since Manning's forward momentum did not stop. Speaking about the play, Carey said, "I anticipated a sack. I didn't assume that was going to happen, but rarely do you see a quarterback escape when he's got that much weight on his back and being dragged by two or three guys who had a hold of him. I could see [Manning's] head was just straight ahead. He was trying to break free with desperation. Then all of a sudden he spun out and then he started to come right back at me." Carey was in perfect position and let the players play football thereby allowing one of the legendary plays in NFL history.

Carey was a college football running back for Santa Clara University for four years until an ankle injury ended his playing career. The injury continues to impact Carey today as it limits his running ability. He only allows himself to run on days he is scheduled to officiate games. Carey is respected in the NFL for his thorough pre-game preparation, professional demeanor, and fair play. In a poll conducted by ESPN in 2008, Carey tied with referee Ed Hochuli for most "best referee" votes among NFL head coaches. Carey's 2008 crew consists of Dan Ferrell, Dana McKenzie, Tom Barnes, Buddy Horton, Don Carlsen, and his brother Don Carey. Carey graduated from Santa Clara in 1971 with a bachelor's degree in biology.

Outside of football, Carey is a co-owner of Seirus Innovation, a privately held company that manufactures ski and snowboarding gloves, face protection, and other cold-weather accessories. He is an inventor who owns or shares eight ski apparel patents, including “Cat Tracks,” a protective device which he created at age 30 to slip over the sole of a ski boot, preventing damage away from the ski run. In September 2007, Mike Carey was named Chairman of the Board for SnowSports Industries America. As chair, his goal is to "get the suppliers, retailers, reps, media and resorts to come together as one community and work together, then we can create synergy to help strengthen the snow sports industry as a whole." Mike’s wife, Wendy, is the Chief Financial Officer of Seirus. Mike and Wendy have two daughters, Drisana and Danica, and currently reside in San Diego, California.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Greensboro Four

Nearly fifty years ago, four well-mannered, well-dressed, and courteous Black college kids launched a lunch counter revolution in the United States. After the successful Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott of 1955 and 1956 and the integration of Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas in 1957, the civil rights movement had come to a standstill. But on February 1, 1960, four 17-year-old freshmen at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro decided to reignite the movement. In an act of unusual courage, the students, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond took seats at the segregated lunch counter of F. W. Woolworth's in Greensboro, N.C. This lunch counter only had chairs/stools for Whites, while Blacks had to stand and eat. They were refused service and sat peacefully until the store closed. They returned the next day, along with about 25 other students, and their requests were again denied. The Greensboro Four inspired similar sit-ins across the state and by the end of February, such protests were taking place across the South. Finally in July, Woolworth's integrated all of its stores. This protest sparked sit-ins and economic boycotts that became a hallmark of the American civil rights movement. The four have become icons of the civil rights movement.

In just two months the sit-in movement spread to 15 cities in 9 states. The media picked up this issue and covered it nationwide. The Greensboro sit-ins played a large role in spreading the civil rights movement to a larger audience and dramatizing segregation at a time when many, especially in the North, were not fully aware of its scope. The Greensboro sit-ins inspired civil rights groups to take up this tactic and use it to publicize segregation - beginning with lunch counters and spreading to other forms of public accommodation, including transport facilities, art galleries, beaches, parks, swimming pools, libraries, and even museums around the South. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandated desegregation in public accommodations.

The Timeline:

February 1: The four students enter Woolworth’s and make small purchases, saving their receipts to prove they are customers. The take seats at the Whites-only lunch counter. Denied service, they remain seated. Police arrive, but are unable to take action against the four students due to lack of provocation. Woolworth’s closes early to end the incident, but the Greensboro Four vow to return the next day.

February 2: The Greensboro Four returns to Woolworth’s and sit at the lunch counter. Reporters and local TV news crews gather at the store. The intense television coverage helps spread the protest to High Point, NC by the next day.

February 3: By opening time, students are scrambling to get seats at Woolworth’s, but there is also a growing opposition of Whites who taunt the demonstrators. National news begins to carry the story and the protests spread to Winston-Salem, NC.

February 4: Female students from Bennett College as well as three white students from Greensboro Women’s College join the sit-in. The protests effectively paralyze Woolworth’s and other nearby businesses.

February 5: About 300 students are now protesting at Woolworth’s. The sit-in movement spreads to almost 40 other cities across the country.

February 6: An estimated 1,000 protesters and observers fill Woolworth’s. The sit-in spreads to the nearby Kress department store, bringing downtown Greensboro to a virtual standstill. Both Woolworth’s and Kress close early after receiving a bomb threat.

February 7: A&T students vote to suspend demonstrations to give city and store officials a chance to comply. Negotiations fail, and students resume the sit-in.

February 26: Woolworth’s integrates its lunch counter.

Meet the members of the Greensboro Four.
Joseph McNeil: A Wilmington, North Carolina native, McNeil moved with his family to New York after graduating high school. He soon returned the Carolinas to attend North Carolina A&T State University on a full scholarship, but found it difficult to live in the segregated South. McNeil’s frustration came to a head after returning to North Carolina from New York after Christmas vacation, and was refused service at the bus terminal in Greensboro. This event led him and his friends to stage the sit-in at Woolworth’s. McNeil earned a degree in engineering physics from A&T in 1963. Thirty minutes after graduating, he was commissioned by the U.S. Air Force and spent six years as an officer and attained the rank of captain. During his tenure in the Air Force, he started a series of diversity programs and also worked in computer sales for IBM, as a commercial banker for Bankers Trust in New York City and as a stock broker for E.F. Hutton in Fayetteville, NC. He recently retired from Air Force Reserves, having achieved the rank of Major General, and now resides in Hempstead, NY with his wife Ina, with whom he has five children.

Jibreel Khazan (formerly Ezell Blair, Jr.): Born Ezell Blair, Jr., in Greensboro, NC, Khazan received a B.S. in sociology from North Carolina A&T State University in 1963. While a student at A&T, he was president of the junior class, the student government association, the campus NAACP and the Greensboro Congress for Racial Equality. He attended law school at Howard University and found it difficult to get a job in Greensboro because of his reputation as being one of the Greensboro Four. In 1965, Khazan moved to New Bedford, MA. Three years later, he became a member of the New England Islamic Center and took on his present name. Khazan now works with developmentally disabled people in New Bedford, and has also worked with the AFL/CIO Trade Council in Boston and at the Opportunities Industrialization Center and at the Rodman Job Corps Center. He and his wife Lorraine have three children, one of whom graduated from A&T.

Franklin McCain: McCain was raised in Washington, D.C. and received a B.S. in chemistry and biology from North Carolina A&T State University in 1964. While he was an A&T student, he roomed with David Richmond, around the corner from Ezell Blair Jr. and Joseph McNeil. After graduating from college, he stayed in Greensboro for graduate school and married Bettye Davis, with whom he had three sons. In 1965, McCain joined the Celanese Corporation in Charlotte, NC as a chemist, and is now retired. As a resident of Charlotte, he has served on many boards and worked towards changes in local educational, civic, spiritual and political life.

David Richmond: Richmond was born in Greensboro and graduated from Dudley High School, where he set the state high jump record on the track team. At North Carolina A&T State University, he majored in business administration and accounting. After leaving A&T, he became a counselor-coordinator for the CETA program in Greensboro. Forced to leave Greensboro because his life was threatened, he lived in the mountain community of Franklin for nine years, returning to Greensboro to take care of his elderly parents. Fighting against the stigma of being one of the Greensboro Four—and therefore labeled as a “troublemaker,” Richmond found it extremely difficult to get employment in Greensboro, finally finding work as a janitor for the Greensboro Health Care Center. In 1980, the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce awarded him the Levi Coffin Award for leadership in human rights. Richmond was married and divorced twice and had three children, but battled many demons, including alcoholism and a sadness that he could not do more to improve the world he in which he lived. He died in Greensboro on December 7, 1990, at the age of 49, and A&T awarded him a posthumous honorary doctorate degree.

This was not the first sit-in to challenge racial segregation. As far back as 1942, the Congress of Racial Equality sponsored sit-ins in Chicago, St. Louis in 1949 and Baltimore in 1952. On August 19, 1958, the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council began a six-year long campaign of sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, restaurants, and cafes in Oklahoma City. The Greensboro, North Carolina sit-in, however, was the most influential.

In 1993, an 8-foot section of the counter, four stools, a soda fountain, pie case and other articles from the Woolworth's store in Greensboro where donated and is now on display in the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

Cheetah Girls Writer Deborah Gregory's Story

Writer, performer and designer Deborah Gregory is the award-winning author of "The Cheetah Girls" novel series. The 22-book series (16 books written by Deborah Gregory plus 6 movie tie-in books) is about five talented teens that form a singing group and make their dreams come true. The Disney Channel original movie produced in conjunction with Whitney Houston, "The Cheetah Girls" --based on the book series stars Raven Symone, Adrienne and Kiely from 3LW as well as Lynn Whitfield. Deborah Gregory served as a co-producer on the film project.

Gregory is also a National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) award-winning contributing writer for ESSENCE magazine since 1992. Her work has also appeared in VIBE, MORE, Heart & Soul, Entertainment Weekly, and US magazines. Her pop culture column, THE DIVA DIARIES, appears in GRACE magazine, the national fashion and lifestyle "reality" publication targeted at multi-cultural women. She recently released her new book, written as an adult novel, “Catwalk”, a tale about budding fashionistas who vie for the prize and are destined to rip the runway by any means necessary. She also has developed a one-woman show "LEOPARD LIVES" --a coming of age story about a child growing up in the New York City foster care system of which Ms. Gregory is also a survivor.

Ms. Gregory has also contributed to several books including, "Men of Color: Fashion, Mission, Fundamentals"; "Body and Soul, SoulStyle: Black Women Redefining the Color Fashion," "Essence Total Makeover Book," and "50 Most Influential People." She also contributed to photographer Marc Baptiste's book of nudes, "Beautiful". The pictures include a host of celebrities who posed nude including Stacey Dash, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Williams, Beverly Johnson, and LisaRaye.

Deborah Gregory also launched her company, CHEETAHRAMA, offering her original designs including hand-crafted decoupage art cases and hair accessories which are sold at stores nationwide.

Ms. Gregory received her A.A.S. from Fashion Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Science from Empire State University in 1986. She currently lives in New York City with her pooch Cappuccino who poses as the Cheetah Girls mascot Toto.

That’s all good news. The bad news is that Deborah Gregory says that she has not been paid one cent. “It’s called ‘net profit participation,’ says Ms. Gregory. And she isn’t the only author to find out the hard way about Hollywood accounting, which reduces the reported profit of a movie through the calculation of overhead expenses, employee salaries and advertising costs. Other book authors reportedly not receiving money for their books turned movies include Olivia Goldsmith who wrote The First Wives Club, Alice Walker who wrote The Color Purple, and Stan Lee who wrote Spider Man. Lee filed a lawsuit against Marvel for his unpaid share of profits based on the character and reportedly won more than $10 million.

Net Profit is defined as an amount of money earned after all expenses have been deducted from the total revenue. There is a saying in Hollywood that “a percentage of the net is a percentage of nothing.” Ms. Gregory claims that she has received only $125.000 from the Disney Channel for the two and a half year option, producer fees and purchase price for two movies. The Cheetah Girls was made into a Disney Channel TV movie, capturing 6.5 million viewers. The sequel topped the first, becoming the most-watched original movie in the Disney Channel’s history. The Cheetah Girls have become a brand with massive merchandising, including soundtracks, DVDs, video games and sold-out concerts.

Authors don’t have a real union like screenwriters do. They have the Authors Guild, which does not operate like a real union. So studios are not accountable to the authors, although 40 percent of all movies and TV projects have the source material from books.

If you ever write a book which turns into a movie, Deborah Gregory provides these suggestions on how authors can protect themselves from “net profit participation.” (1) Get as much money as you can up front for your movie rights. (2) Consider writing the screenplay or TV teleplay so that you can get into the Writer’s Guild. That will provide you DVD residuals. (3) Have bonus clauses included. As merchandise is made, for example, that will ensure that a bonus kicks in.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Soul in Opera: Leontyne Price

Acclaimed opera diva Leontyne Price was born Mary Violet Leontyne Price on February 10, 1927 in Laurel, Mississippi. She rose from the segregated South to international fame and became the first Black "superstar" at the once-segregated Metropolitan Opera. For almost 40 years, she was one of America's most beloved and widely recorded sopranos. She called her singing "soul in opera."

Leontyne Price’s father worked in a lumber mill and her mother was a midwife with a rich singing voice. They had waited 13 years for a child, and Leontyne became their focus of intense pride and love. Her parents gave her a toy piano at age 3 and she began piano lessons right away with a local teacher. When she was in kindergarten, her parents traded in the family phonograph as the down payment on an upright piano. At 10, she was taken on a school trip to Jackson, Mississippi to hear Marian Anderson sing. She often visited the home of Alexander and Elizabeth Chisholm, an affluent White family for whom Leontyne's aunt worked as a maid. Mrs. Chisholm encouraged her early piano playing, and later noticed her extraordinary singing voice.

Originally aiming for a teaching career, Ms. Price enrolled in the music education program at Wilberforce College in Wilberforce, Ohio. (This institution split in her junior year and she graduated from the publicly funded half, Central State College.) Her success in the glee club led to solo assignments, and she completed her studies in voice. With the help of the Chisholms and the famous Paul Robeson, who put on a benefit concert for her, she enrolled as a scholarship student at The Juilliard School in New York City.

Her first important stage performance was in a 1952 student production in Verdi's Falstaff. Shortly thereafter she performed in the revival of the all-Black opera, Four Saints in Three Acts. After a two-week Broadway run, Saints went to Paris. Meanwhile, she had been cast as Bess in the revival of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, and returned for the opening of the national tour in Dallas, on June 9, 1952. The tour visited Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C, and then went on a tour of Europe. After stops in Vienna, Berlin, London, and Paris, the company returned to New York when Broadway's Ziegfield Theater became available for a "surprise" run.

Meanwhile, on the eve of the European tour, Price had married the man who had sung Porgy, the noted bass-baritone William Warfield, at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, with many in the cast in attendance. In his memoir, My Music and My Life, Warfield describes how their careers forced them apart.

At first, Price had aimed for a recital career, in the footsteps of Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes, Warfield, and other great Black singers to whom American opera houses were closed. She was granted leaves from "Porgy" to sing concerts, where she championed new works by American composers.

Opera proved a stronger calling. She had been drawn to the big stage since hearing Ljuba Welitsch sing Salome at the Met while she was a student at Juilliard, and as Bess she had proved she had the instincts and the voice for opera. The Met confirmed this when she was invited to sing "Summertime" at a "Met Jamboree" fund-raiser on April 6, 1953 at the Ritz Theater on Broadway.

In November 1955, Price made her recital debut at New York's Town Hall. In February, she sang the title role of Puccini's "Tosca" for NBC-TV Opera. She was the first Black to appear in televised opera. Southern NBC affiliates canceled the broadcast. In 1956 and 1957, Price made recital tours across the country and traveled abroad to India and Australia, sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

Her opera house debut was in San Francisco on September 20, 1957. A few weeks later, when the Italian soprano Antonietta Stella fell ill with appendicitis, she stepped in and sang her first staged Aida. She was invited to make her European debut as Aida on May 24, 1958. Over the next decade Price starred in some of her greatest performances, in the opera house, in the concert hall, and in the recording studio.

On January 27, 1961, Price arrived at the Met, in a double-debut with the Italian tenor Franco Corelli, that ended in a 42-minute ovation, one of the longest ever recorded in the Met's history. Price's third Act aria won 15 minutes of applause. The next day, New York Times critic Harold Schonberg wrote that Price's "voice, warm and luscious, has enough volume to fill the house with ease, and she has a good technique to back up the voice itself. She even took the trills as written, and nothing in the part as Verdi wrote it gave her the least bit of trouble. She moves well and is a competent actress. But no soprano makes a career of acting. Voice is what counts, and voice is what Miss Price has." Corelli, infuriated by Price's acclaim, said afterwards he would never sing with her again. (He did.)

Over 24 years, Price sang in 201 Met performances, in 16 roles, at the house and on tour, including galas. Her timing had been careful. After receiving an invitation to sing a single Aida at the Met, after her Covent Garden success in 1958, Peter Herman Adler, director of NBC Opera, had advised her to turn it down, warning about being stereotyped as the Ethiopian princess. Adler said, according to Warfield, "Leontyne is to be a great artist. When she makes her debut at the Met, she must do it as a lady, not a slave."

When Price arrived at the Met three years later, she had a strong European reputation and her first recordings out on RCA, and could bargain for several roles. She sang five in her first three months. Her impact landed her on the cover of Time magazine and she was named "Musician of the Year" by Musical America. In subsequent years, encouraged by her success, other Black singers went on to make world careers, including Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, and Kathleen Battle.

In her later years, Price's voice became darker and heavier, but the upper register held up remarkably well, and the conviction and joy in her singing spilled over the footlights to sold-out houses. On November 19, 1997, when she was a few months shy of 71, she gave a recital in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that turned out to be her last. After her retirement from the opera stage in 1985, she gave recitals for another dozen years. Price continued to teach master classes at Juilliard and other schools. In 1997, she wrote a children's book version of Aida, which became the basis for a hit Broadway musical by Elton John and Tim Rice in 2000. In October 2001, at age 74, Price was asked out of retirement to sing in a memorial concert in Carnegie Hall for victims of the September 11 attacks. With James Levine at the piano, she sang a favorite spiritual, "This Little Light of Mine," followed by an unaccompanied "God Bless America," capping it with a bright, well placed high B-flat.

Among her many honors are the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts, numerous honorary degrees, and nineteen Grammy Awards, including a special Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989, more than any other classical singer. In 2005 talk show host Oprah Winfrey honored Price and 24 other influential Black women at a Legends Ball.

Leontyne Price once summed up her philosophy thus: "If you are going to think Black, think positive about it. Don't think down on it, or think it is something in your way. And this way, when you really do want to stretch out, and express how beautiful Black is, everybody will hear you."

In March 2007, on BBC Music magazine's list of the "20 All-time Best Sopranos" based on a poll of British music critics and BBC presenters, Leontyne Price placed fourth, after, in order, Maria Callas, Dame Joan Sutherland, and Victoria de los Angeles.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hollywood and Bollywood Make Room for Nollywood

Nigerian movies have found a place next to those from Hollywood and Bombay, India's equivalent, Bollywood, in English-speaking Africa. The Surulere district of Lagos, Nigeria, is a center for filmmaking in West Africa’s new moviemaking capital.

Since the late 1990's, Nigerian movies have found a place next to offerings from Hollywood and Bollywood in the cities, towns and villages across English-speaking Africa. Though made on the cheap, with budgets of about only $15,000, the Nigerian movies have become huge hits, with stories, themes and faces familiar to other Africans. It is now, according to conservative estimates, a $45 million a year industry.

Serious movies about Africa that win awards in the United States and Europe are usually made by African filmmakers based in Paris or London, and attract little attention among most Africans. But Nigeria's pulp movies have had a wide influence on African popular culture — so much so that they have suddenly made acting an attractive profession in Nigeria and have transformed the Surulere district from a dull neighborhood of two-story businesses and houses into a mecca of dreams and desires.

"This is Hollywood in Nigeria," said Emeka Ani, an actor whose two-room office in Surulere serves as the center for the Actors Guild of Nigeria. In Mr. Ani's inner office he keeps a file of Nigeria's famous actors and a list of guild members, which has grown to 5,000 from 500 since its creation in 1996. In the other room, he sells videocassettes of hundreds of movies, which are known here as home videos. Christian songs flow through the office. By midmorning, the music changes to the dance rhythms of Nigerian night life and the young would-be actresses working in his office dance to popular Nigerian music.

Outside, on Folawiyo Bankole Street, a steady stream of eager young men and women pause before the audition notices on two boards. They hang around on the street, exchanging gossip and tips, causing traffic jams on the narrow two-lane street. When a star comes by, a crowd gathers. The crowd gradually moves to Winis, a hotel and restaurant a couple of buildings away from Mr. Ani's that is the hangout for actors, directors and producers. They sit in the bar and make deals over Gulder beer and hot pepper soup.

With such low budgets, the movies are typically filmed over several days, with just one digital camera. The stories are perhaps no different from those found in Hollywood movies, though many have Africa-specific themes. By all accounts, the first big hit was the 1992 movie "Living in Bondage." It gave birth to the film industry, which is dominated by the Ibo tribe, said Remy Ohajianya, an actor who is chairman of the actor’s guild. But the explosive growth occurred after 1998, when Nigerian movies began to be exported all over Africa, especially in the English-speaking countries. So many films were being made that, early this year, producers spat out 54 titles in a single week. After a four-month voluntary recess, the industry has agreed to limit the releases to eight a week.

A week or two after shooting ends, the movies flood the Nigerian market. They are sold for $2.15 a cassette and shown to the public for a few pennies in restaurants, video centers or private homes operating as movie houses. An average movie will sell about 50,000 copies and a blockbuster four times that. The Nigerian movie industry now produces more than 400 movies a year. At that rate, the producers bring in an estimated $45 million a year; but other people, at movie centers, and bootleggers, also capitalize from the movies.

Top actors like Kate Henshaw-Nattall, who is well recognized throughout Africa, now earn about $4,000 a movie, a sum that was inconceivable only a few years ago and one that remains out of reach for most working Nigerians. Charles Awurum, another popular actor, began his acting career in sleepy Imo State in 1982. He appeared on a weekly soap opera called "Dusk of the Gods" and made less than $7 an episode. After his first movie in 1994, he left Imo State for "greener pastures" in Surulere. He had a breakthrough with "Ekulu," a love story about an African slave and a White woman who frees him. When they come to Africa, she is rejected by his society, and they flee into the jungle.

Nigerian intellectuals dismiss these movies as exploitation. But their growing popularity, coupled with the big salaries, has changed the traditional perception of acting and actors in Nigerian society. "Before, if you were an actor, people would just wave you away," Mr. Awurum said. "Before, you would kill your daughter if she told you she wanted to become an actress. Actresses were regarded as no better than prostitutes, kissing on the screen. "Now, everywhere I go, people embrace me. Everybody wants to be my friend."

Genevieve Nnaji, maybe the hottest actress on the Nollywood scene, is also a singer and producer has starred in over 60 movies. Her beauty has been praised as incredible, and she has been compared to Gabrielle Union and Nia Long. Her smoldering good looks and her intelligence are hard to ignore and her presence on screen is always memorable. Her foray into acting started in 1998 and helped launch her modeling career when she was chosen to be the face of Lux soap in 2004. In March 2008, she launched a new clothing line called St. Genevieve, adding fashion designer to her list of titles. The line has gained in popularity and was chosen as a feature for the magazine, Today’s Woman. Her business savvy has guided her career and helped her build a niche for herself both in and out of Nollywood.

Senator Obama Wins First Debate

Toward the end of last night's debate Senator John McCain laid out his rationale in this election in a few words: he said, Senator Obama lacks the "knowledge and experience to be President." The presidency will turn on whether the American people agree with McCain on that. But on this night, Senator Barack Obama emerged as a candidate who was at least as knowledgeable, judicious and unflappable as McCain on foreign policy ... and more knowledgeable, and better suited to deal with the economic crisis and domestic problems the country faces.

There was nothing in this debate that was a knockout blow and nothing that should change the current course of the campaign. I don't think many votes, or opinions, were changed. But Senator Obama seemed plenty presidential; McCain seemed more careful as if he had to think about every word in case he utter another foolish line like his "the fundamentals of the economy are good."

McCain tried to pick fights with Obama on the details of foreign policy, while Obama was concerned with strategy, and an overall vision for the country. He brought up the damage done to America's standing in the world, and also the one who insisted on putting the war in Iraq in a broader strategic context: it had hurt America's overall position in the Middle East by empowering Iran and allowing Al Qaeda to regain strength in Afghanistan.

McCain was clearly the aggressor and rarely acknowledged Obama. But, the problem with McCain's aggressiveness was that it almost always involved misstating (lying) Obama's positions—on offshore drilling, nuclear power, talking to our enemies, raising taxes on the middle class, attacking Pakistan ... the same list of untruths McCain has stuck with throughout the campaign. When Obama chose to criticize McCain it was on big things—supporting the war in Iraq, opposing alternative energy, standing by the Republican philosophy of taxation (or should I say lack of it for the rich.)

McCain was also confused about what "preconditions" means in diplomacy. The Bush Administration had, until recently, set a precondition for talks with Iran: that the Iranians had to stop processing nuclear fuel. Obama says that he would talk to the Iranians—as former Secretary’s of State Henry Kissinger and James Baker would—without setting that condition. (It all double talk anyway as precondition is redundant, all conditions for starting a negotiation are pre-.) One missed opportunity by Obama: he could have noted that the Iraqi government has agreed to his idea of a timetable and asked McCain, Do you want to stay longer than the Iraqis want us there?

Obama spoke in a stronger, firmer voice. He was clear, and straightforward. He looked directly into the camera; McCain rarely, if ever, did. As a matter of fact he never even looked at Obama during the debate, as if he would lose it if he looked at Obama. Isn’t that what you teach your sons – shake hands with a good grip and look the person you are talking to in the eye. In this debate with the topic of foreign policy and national security, Obama did everything he had to do. And since McCain patterns himself as a foreign policy and national security expert, I thought McCain did less so. The early polling seems to agree with me.

A pair of one-night polls gave Senator Barack Obama a clear edge over Senator John McCain in their first presidential debate. Fifty-one percent said Obama did a better job in the faceoff while 38 percent preferred McCain, according to a CNN-Opinion Research Corp. survey of adults.

Obama was widely considered more intelligent, likable and in touch with peoples' problems, and by modest margins was seen as the stronger leader and more sincere. Most said it was McCain who spent more time attacking his opponent.

In a CBS News poll of people not committed to a candidate, 39 percent said Obama won the debate, 24 percent said McCain and 37 percent called it a tie. Twice as many said Obama understands their needs than said so about McCain.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Carl T. Rowan

Journalist and author Carl Thomas Rowan was one of the most prominent Black journalist of the 20th century. He was a nationally-syndicated op-ed columnist for the Washington Post and the Chicago Sun-Times newspapers. He also wrote several books. He was born August 11, 1925 in Ravenscroft, Tennessee. He was one of five children born to Thomas and Johnnie B. Rowan and was raised in McMinnville, Tennessee.

As a youth Rowan worked hoeing bulb grass for 10 cents an hour, later performing hard manual labor for 25 cents an hour when there was work available. Like many other Black youths of this era, Rowan's childhood was deeply affected by the "Jim Crow" attitudes so prevalent in the South. While the economic and social situation was miserable, Rowan was determined to get a good education. He excelled in high school, graduating from Bernard High School in 1942 as class president and valedictorian.

Rowan left McMinnville for Nashville with 77 cents in his pocket and the dream of a college education. In order to earn his tuition for college, he moved in with his grandparents and got a job in a tuberculosis hospital the summer before enrolling in the Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College (Tennessee State University) in the fall of 1942. He also attended Washburn University. He trained at the Naval Midshipmen School at Fort Schuyler, The Bronx and became one of the first Black Americans to serve as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy. Following his service with the Navy during World War II Rowan returned to complete his studies and graduate from Oberlin College. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1947 majoring in mathematics. He received his master's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota, supporting himself by writing for two weekly newspapers, the Minneapolis Spokesman and the St. Paul Recorder. In 1950 Rowan married Vivien Louise Murphy, a public health nurse; they had three children Barbara, Carl Jr., and Geoffrey.

He began his career in journalism as copywriter for The Minneapolis Tribune. He became a staff writer in 1950, reporting extensively on the Civil Rights Movement. Among his early pieces was a series entitled How Far from Slavery" which he wrote after returning to the South to study racial issues. The articles earned several local accolades and contributed to Rowan being the first Black person to become recipient of the Minneapolis "Outstanding Young Man" award. The articles also served as the basis for South of Freedom, his first book.

In 1961, Rowan was appointed Deputy Secretary of State by President John F. Kennedy. He was involved in the area of news coverage of increasing US military involvement in Vietnam and was also part of the negotiating team that secured the exchange of Francis Gary Powers, who was shot down over the Soviet Union. The following year, he served as a delegate to the United Nations during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Rowan became the U.S. Ambassador to Finland in 1963. In 1964, Rowan was appointed director of the United States Information Agency by President Lyndon B. Johnson. As director of the USIA he was the first Black American to sit on the National Security Council.

He accompanied then Vice President Johnson on a tour through Southeast Asia, India and Europe. Rowan became the center of controversy with the rejection of his application for membership in the prestigious Cosmos Club--whose membership qualifications included meritorious work in science, literature, the learned professions, and public service--on racial grounds. The Cosmos Club then passed a rule prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, but Rowan's nomination was never resurrected. The controversy resulted in the withdrawal of President Kennedy's application to the club when Kennedy's sponsor resigned in protest.

He then spent a year in India, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia writing columns during 1954. These led to a second well-received book: The Pitiful and the Proud, which was based upon his observations while in the Asia. A third book, Go South to Sorrow, was published in 1957. While his books received favorable acclaim, Rowan's writing skills were most commonly acknowledged for his journalism. He was the only journalist to receive the coveted "Sigma Delta Chi" award for newspaper reporting in three consecutive years: for general reporting in 1954; for best foreign correspondence in 1955; and for his coverage of the political unrest in Southeast Asia in 1956. From 1966 to 1998, Rowan wrote a syndicated column for the Chicago Sun-Times and, from 1967 to 1996, was a panelist on Inside Washington. Rowan was a 1995 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his commentaries. In 1968 Rowan received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award as well as an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Colby College.

Rowan received the George Foster Peabody Award for his television special "Race War in Rhodesia" and was awarded an Emmy for his documentary "Drug Abuse: America's 64 Billion Dollar Curse." His newspaper column was syndicated by the Chicago Sun-Times and reached nearly half of homes receiving newspapers in the United States. He was on numerous public affairs television programs. He also aired "The Rowan Report," a daily series of commentaries on radio stations heard across the nation. He served as a roving reporter for the Reader's Digest and regularly published articles in that magazine. He was one of the most sought-after lecturers in the United States, speaking on college campuses and at conventions of teachers, business people, civil rights leaders, and community groups.

As a national columnist and commentator, Rowan developed a reputation for being independent and often controversial. He publicly made statements, such as urging Dr. King to lessen his anti-war stance, because it was hurting the thrust of the Civil Rights movement and calling for the resignation of J. Edgar Hoover, the powerful FBI Director, citing abuses of power and corruption. While Rowan has always been a spokesperson for civil and economic rights for Black people, he has also been critical of those he feels should more aggressively address those issues affecting themselves.

Thurgood Marshall's only interview while serving on the Supreme Court of the United States was for Carl Rowan's 1988 documentary. The National Press Club gave Rowan its 1999 Fourth Estate Award for lifetime achievement. Rowan died at age 75 on September 23, 2000, in Washington, D.C. On January 9, 2001, United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright dedicated the press briefing room at the State Department as the Carl T. Rowan Briefing room.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Soul on Ice: Willie O'Ree

The National Hockey League was about 10 years late when it came to integration. All the other professional sports, including tennis, bowling, and golf were racially integrated by 1950. Hockey was the holdout. It was the whitest sport. There were no Black players, coaches, team owners, or sportswriters.

That changed in 1958, for a short time at least, when Willie O'Ree made his debut in the NHL. He was with the Boston Bruins for two games. In 1961, after two more years in the minors, O'Ree had a longer stay with the Bruins -- 41 games. O'Ree never played another game in the NHL. It took the league 50 years before it received its first Black player and there wouldn’t be another Black in the NHL for 25 years.

Willie O'Ree was born October 15, 1935, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, a small city in coal mining region just northeast of Maine with only two or three Black families residing there.

He started skating when he was three years old and began playing in a league at age five. "That was the thing to do in the winter," he says. "Everything freezes over, the ponds, rivers, creeks. Every chance I had, I was on the ice. I even skated to school. My Dad squirted the garden hose on the back yard, and we had an instant rink."

Willie played in local hockey leagues before joining a junior team while in high school. The juniors in Canada roughly equate to college hockey teams in the U.S. Willie was also a very good baseball player. In 1956, he was invited to the Milwaukee Braves minor league facility in Waycross, Georgia. He told them that he planned to make hockey a career and had no interest in becoming a professional baseball player. He told them that he played baseball in the summer just to keep my legs in shape and to keep my reflexes sharp. They talked him into going anyway. He had a good camp, but he left after three weeks. It was his first time in the south and he did not like the White-only or colored-only culture. He had to sit in the back of the bus until he got further north.

During the 1955/1956 hockey season, Willie played for the Kitchener-Waterloo Canucks, a junior league team. During a game he was struck with a puck in the right eye. The injury was so serious that he permanently lost 95% of the vision in that eye. A doctor advised him to stop playing, but that was inconceivable to Willie. In eight weeks he was back on the ice. He had only one problem. Being a left wing, his right eye was closest to the puck. When I came back, he would loose sight of the puck, so he switched to the right side.

Willie turned pro the next season when he signed with the Quebec Aces, a minor league team affiliated with the Boston Bruins. He signed for $3,500 with a $500 signing bonus. That year the Quebec Aces won their league championship. Willie spent a few weeks at the Bruins training camp before starting the next season in the minors.

That winter the Bruins roster was depleted by injury, and the team found itself especially short at winger. Willie got the call. On January 18, 1958, in Montreal, Willie took the ice with the Boston Bruins, becoming the first Black player to make it to the NHL. The reaction to Willie's achievement was decidedly underwhelming. The press handled it like it was just another piece of everyday news. He didn't care that much about publicity for himself, but he thought it could have been important for other Blacks with ambitions in hockey.

He played another game in Boston before returning to the Quebec team. Willie toiled in the minors the next two years and continued to improve, despite being legally blind in one eye. He was called up again by the Bruins in 1961, and he finished the year with the team, playing in 43 games and scoring a modest 4 goals and 10 assists.

Life in the NHL wasn't easy for a Black player. "Guys would take cheap shots at me, just to see if I would retaliate," he says. "They thought I didn't belong there. When I got the chance, I'd run right back at them. I wasn't a great slugger, but I did my share of fighting. I was determined that I wasn't going to be run out of the rink." The intimidation erupted into full-scale donnybrook one night in Chicago. "I was behind the Chicago net, and I passed the puck out front. Eric Nesterenko came around on my blind side and butt-ended me in the face with his stick. He knocked out two of my teeth and broke my nose. Blood was squirting out all over. I knew he did it on purpose, so I hit him over the head with my stick. Nailed him above the right eye. Back then the players didn't wear helmets. Both benches cleared. They had to put 15 stitches in his head."

"Racist remarks from fans were much worse in the U.S. cities than in Toronto and Montreal. I particularly remember a few incidents in Chicago. The fans would yell, 'Go back to the south' and 'How come you're not picking cotton.' Things like that. It didn't bother me. Hell, I'd been called names most of my life. I just wanted to be a hockey player, and if they couldn't accept that fact, that was their problem, not mine."

Willie was known mostly for his speed. He was one of the fastest skaters in the NHL. His happiest moment in the NHL came in 1961 in a game at the Boston Garden on New Year's night. "We were playing the Montreal Canadians. It was late in the third period. I received a pass and was sweeping around the Montreal defense. I took a low shot, keeping the puck along the ice, and it slid into the corner. It turned out to be the winning goal. The fans gave me a two-minute standing ovation."

Willie O’Ree went home to Fredericton. His future looked bright. His friends and relatives were excited for him. But six weeks later he got a call from a sportswriter asking him what he thought of the trade. Willie's contract had been sold to the Montreal Canadians, and the Bruins hadn't bothered to inform him. Willie was stunned. “Considering the talent Montreal had, I knew I had no chance of making their squad. So I wasn't surprised when I was assigned to their Hull-Ottawa minor league affiliate.

Within two months, Willie was again traded to the Los Angeles Blades of the Western Hockey League. Willie played the next six seasons for Los Angeles and won the league goal scoring title in 1964 with 38 goals. When the NHL expanded to twelve teams in 1968, Los Angeles got one of the franchises and the Los Angeles Blades folded. Willie's contract was purchased by the San Diego Gulls. The Gulls management told Willie they were glad to have him on the team instead of scoring goals against them, as he had with the LA team.

Willie won the WHL goal scoring title again in 1969 at the age of 34 with 39 goals. The Western Hockey League folded in 1974, and Willie retired. The Gulls retired his number and it is now hanging from the rafters at the San Diego Sports Arena. In 1978 another team was put together in San Diego as part of the new Pacific Hockey League. The San Diego Hawks invited Willie to join the team. Willie had been keeping himself in good shape, so at age 43 he laced up the skates one more time. Incredibly, Willie missed only a half-dozen games of the 70-game season and scored 50 points. It was his last hurrah.

O’Ree is not sure if the NHL was discriminatory, but he has cause for suspicion. "There were Blacks in the minor leagues and good ones too. The Quebec Aces had a history of having Black players. Before my time, they had an all-black line with the Carnegie bothers, Herbie and Ossie, and Manny McIntyre. You talk about three players who were good, stick handling, passing, shooting--you name it, they could do it. But they never got a chance. Not one of them was ever called up."

Incredibly, it took 25 years for another Black to make it to the NHL, when Mike Marson was drafted in 1974. There are 17 Black players currently in the NHL, the most prominent being Jarome Iginla, Anson Carter and Mike Grier. Art Dorrington was the first Black player to sign an NHL contract, in 1950 with the New York Rangers organization but Dorrington never played beyond the minor league level. NHL players are now required to enroll in a diversity training seminar before each season, and racially based verbal abuse is punished through suspensions and fines. Minority players are still rare in the NHL. Part of the reason is that blacks and other minorities don't make up a significant portion of the Canadian population, and few Black athletes take up the sport in the U.S.

The most fitting tribute to Willie's career came when the NHL created an all-star game for young minority hockey players and named it in Willie's honor. The Willie O'Ree All-Star Game is held every year at the World Junior Championships. He is now the director of youth development for the NHL’s diversity task force. The NHL/USA Hockey Diversity Task Force is a non-profit program for minority youth that encourages them to learn and play hockey. On January 19, 2008, the Boston Bruins and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly honored O'Ree at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston to mark the 50th anniversary of his NHL debut. On February 5, 2008, ESPN did a special on him in honor of Black History Month.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Soul of Essence: Susan L. Taylor

In an industry where corporate loyalty has gone the way of the dodo bird, Susan L. Taylor has been synonymous with the Essence brand since the magazine's launch in 1970. After working nearly four decades at Essence magazine, editor and author Susan L. Taylor has ventured out to devote more time to her mentoring campaign. Ms. Taylor is now focusing much of her time to building the National Cares Mentoring Movement, which she founded as Essence Cares. Her goal for the mentoring movement is to have “every able Black adult” mentor an at-risk youth.

Her success is all the more remarkable considering that she was once a single mother of daughter, Shana-Nequai and they were barely scraping by. When she was 24, she found herself separated, with rent due, car broken, and three dollars to her name. One Sunday morning in November of 1970, Taylor was snowed under by pain in her chest and experiencing trouble breathing. The New York City emergency room doctor who admitted her diagnosed her with acute anxiety and prescribed a heavy dose of relaxation. Leaving the hospital feeling fearful and hopeless, Taylor stumbled on inspiration on her way home.

Walking up Broadway, she came to a church and went in. She had not attended church in years, but sitting in a back pew in her jeans and leather jacket, she heard a sermon that changed her life. "The preacher said that our minds could change our world. That no matter what our troubles, if we could put them aside for a moment, focus on possible solutions and imagine a joyous future, we would find a peace within, and positive experiences would begin to unfold," she recalled in “In the Spirit.” She decided to try it and gathered up some of the small pamphlets in the church vestibule. Little did she know she was taking the first step toward replacing her fears with faith. “It was the beginning of my realization that our thoughts create our reality,” said Taylor. She held on, and eventually her part-time job at the new magazine “Essence” became full-time, providing direction for her career.

Born in the Harlem section of New York City to West Indian parents on January 23, 1946, Taylor was raised in a strict yet loving environment. She was taught about the determination of her forebears to make a better life. She heard stories of her maternal grandmother's bravery--leaving a broken marriage and six children in Trinidad in 1916, settling in Harlem, working and saving and bringing her children and mother to the United States by 1925, and doing battle with anyone and anything that stood in the way of her family's forward movement, including racist police, school principals, and even the federal government. "Like the women of her time, my grandmother didn't wait for change; she initiated it," Taylor noted in her column in Essence.

Taylor's father, Lawrence, arrived in Harlem from St. Kitts, West Indies, in the early 1920s and opened a clothing store with Taylor's mother, Violet. But by the early 1960s, the street on which the store was situated had become a "war zone" of drug-related crime and after 30 years, the business closed. Noting the "disturbing sadness" of many Black male youths in the 1990s, Taylor remembered seeing similar “deep, quiet kind of sadness” in her father’s eyes when his clothing store, the family's main means of support, closed.

In her Essence columns, Taylor also recognized a central trait she had inherited from her mother. "My mother always said that one of her greatest frustrations with me was my mouth," Taylor wrote. "But I come by my strong opinions naturally: In that respect I am my mother's child." In fact, Taylor celebrates her power to speak out. "It is not for nothing that Black women have acquired a reputation for speaking out. Historically, our words have been our only weapons, and our voices often our only defense.... But let us not forget the power of our collective voice when it is united--in prayer or in protest or in demand."

In her early 20s Susan Taylor trained in acting with the Negro Ensemble Company. She also founded her own company, Nequai Cosmetics, obtaining a license as a cosmetologist and developing beauty products for Black women. Taylor's experience with Nequai attracted the editors of Essence, which led to her first free-lance articles there.

After divorcing her first husband, William Bowles, Taylor struggled as a single parent in personal and financial crisis. She credits her daughter with helping her remain focused through these hard times. "After the breakup of my first marriage, I realized it was my sole responsibility to feed, clothe and educate my daughter," she was quoted as saying in Memphis, Tennessee's Tri-State Defender. "This empowered me and compelled me to live my life with purpose. My daughter has been my anchor," said Taylor. Her daughter accompanied her everywhere while she pursued her career. In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Taylor recollected her early days at Essence, explaining, "I just decided that rather than limit myself because I was a mother, I'd take her everywhere and expose her to everything. She was hanging around these offices when she was two."

Taylor's rise to the top at Essence took ten years. While friends moved from one magazine to another, Taylor stayed on at Essence. "There were some moments of self-doubt, but the bottom line was that I was still challenging myself. And the waiting paid off." Taylor moved from the part-time position of free-lance beauty editor, to the full-time staff position of fashion and beauty editor, and eventually became editor-in-chief, in 1981.

By the late 1980s Essence had a paid circulation of 800,000 and an estimated "pass-along" circulation of some 4 million, of whom about one-fourth were male. When asked what she hoped to communicate with the magazine, Taylor told Cosmopolitan, "We're saying, 'You're beautiful and you're intelligent and you can do [it].' We try to deliver the strategic information and the inspiration to help Black women make a triumph of their lives." Taylor asserted to the Los Angeles Times that Essence was one of the first magazines to consider in print the difficult subjects of incest, drug use, and rape. The publication's coverage has ranged widely, from interviews with figures like Winnie Mandela, a leader in South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, to features on romantic meals for two, male-female relationships, hair-styling tips, and spa and vacations.

In addition to her success editing Essence, Taylor has also excelled as a business executive and in television. During the 1980s, she became vice-president of the magazine's publisher, Essence Communications, and the host/executive producer of the television show Essence, the Television Program, a 30-minute interview series produced in New York and syndicated to 55 network affiliates and independent stations. The show ran for four seasons in more than 60 countries. During this period Taylor also returned to school to finish her degree at Fordham University. She later received an honorary doctorate from Lincoln University.

During much of her tenure at Essence, Taylor has maintained a column titled "In the Spirit." In addition to autobiographical reflections, she has addressed such diverse topics as sexuality, domestic violence, male-female relations in the Black community, the Gulf War, the beating of Rodney King, the meaning of Africa for Black Americans, and Black history. Offering her insights in the form of general advice, Taylor frequently stresses the need for positive and empowering thought--for spirit and faith--among Black women and throughout Black America in the ongoing personal and collective struggle against racism.

In 1993 Taylor collected a number of these essays and new ones for her book, In the Spirit: The Inspirational Writings of Susan L. Taylor. "In the Spirit is a deeply personal book," Taylor wrote in the preface. "It's about my healing and yours. It contains the seeds I want to plant in our hearts and within our universal garden so that we can uplift our people and ease the suffering in our world." Publishers Weekly commended the book, particularly the author's style, warmth, and generosity in revealing herself. Library Journal highly recommended it, noting that it was written "first of all for Black women," yet still "appeals to common humanity while encouraging transcendence." In the Spirit became a national best-seller. She has also written and co-authored several books including Confirmation: The Spiritual Wisdom That Has Shaped Our Lives.

Taylor travels widely to address conferences for Black women and to speak on the state of Black America. The African Women on Tour conference, which was held in various cities in the U.S., featured workshops, motivational speakers, and entertainment. In her address as keynote speaker, Taylor urged "quiet time" for focus and critical thought. "We need to know what our needs are and not let others tell us what are needs are," she proclaimed, as reported by Malaika Brown of the Los Angeles Sentinel. "It's just time for us to do the work and we know what the work is. What we have to become are critical thinkers."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hampton University

Hampton University is a historical Black college and university (HBCU) located in Hampton, Virginia. The campus overlooking the northern edge of the harbor of Hampton Roads was founded on the grounds of "Little Scotland", a former plantation in Elizabeth City County not far from Fort Monroe and the Grand Contraband Camp, each tangible symbols of freedom for former slaves shortly after the end of the Civil War.

Among the school's famous alumni is educator Dr. Booker T. Washington. Under what is now called the Emancipation Oak tree, Mary Smith Peake taught the first classes on September 17, 1861, in defiance of a Virginia law against teaching slaves, free blacks and mulattos to read or write, a law which had cut her own education short years earlier. Several years later, the Emancipation Proclamation was read to local freedmen under the same historic tree.

During the Civil War, the Union-held Fort Monroe in southeastern Virginia at the mouth of Hampton Roads became a gathering point and safe haven of sorts for fugitive slaves. These individuals were labeled "contraband of War by the Union commander, and thereby safe from return to slave owners. As large numbers of individuals sought status as contrabands, they built the Grand Contraband Camp nearby from materials reclaimed from the ruins of Hampton, which had been burned by retreating Confederates.

Hampton University can trace its roots to the work of Mary S. Peake of Norfolk which began in 1861 with outdoor classes taught under the landmark Emancipation Oak in the nearby area of Elizabeth City County adjacent to the old sea port of Hampton. The newly-issued Emancipation Proclamation was first read to a gathering under the historic tree in 1863. The tree is still located on the campus today, and also serves as a symbol for the modern City of Hampton. The Emancipation Oak was cited by the National Geographic Society as one of the 10 great trees in the world.

After the War, a normal school ("normal" meaning to establish standards or norms while educating teachers) was formalized in 1868, with former Union Brigadier General Samuel C. Armstrong as its first principal. The new school was established on the grounds of a former plantation named "Little Scotland" which had a view of the great harbor of Hampton Roads. It was legally chartered in 1870 as a land grant school, and was first known as "Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute."

At the close of its first decade, the school reported a total admission in the ten years of 927 students, with 277 graduates, all but 17 of whom had become teachers. Many of them had bought land and established themselves in homes; many were farming as well as teaching; some had gone into business. By another 10 years, there had been over 600 graduates. In 1888, of the 537 of them alive, three-fourths were teaching, and about half as many undergraduates were also currently teaching. It was estimated that 15,000 children in community schools were being taught by Hampton's students and alumni that year.

Among Hampton's earliest students was Booker T. Washington, who arrived from West Virginia in 1872 at the age of 16. He worked his way through Hampton, and then went on to attend Wayland Seminary in Washington D.C. After graduation there, he returned to Hampton and became a teacher. In 1881, Washington was sent to Alabama at age 25 to head another new normal school. This new Institution eventually became Tuskegee University. He built Tuskegee into a substantial school and became nationally famous as an educator, orator, and fund-raiser as well. He started work which ultimately caused over 5,000 small community schools to be built for the betterment of Black education in the South.

In 1878, Hampton established a formal education program for Native Americans, beginning the Institute's lasting commitment to serving a multicultural population. Recent initiatives have proven unsuccessful in renewing the interest of indigenous people in Hampton. (Virginia has two reservations and a growing number of recognized Native American tribes). There are a number of grave markers in the university cemetery that display the diversity of tribes that attended the school.

Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute became simply Hampton Institute in 1930 and became Hampton University in 1984. Originally located in Elizabeth City County, it was long-located in the town of Phoebus, which was incorporated in 1900. Phoebus and Elizabeth City County were consolidated with the neighboring City of Hampton to form a much larger independent city in 1952. The City of Hampton uses the Emancipation Oak on its official seal. From 1960 to 1970, noted diplomat and educator Jerome H. Holland was president of the Hampton Institute.

The school is informally called simply "Hampton" or "HU" by many students, faculty and supporters. Students informally refer to the school as "HIU", or Hampton Institute and University. The "Institute" refers to the undergraduate program, while the "University" is the graduate program. Hampton and Howard University constantly claim the title, "The Real HU".

A 15 acre portion of the campus along the Hampton River, including many of the older buildings, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark District. Buildings included are:
• Mansion House, original plantation residence of Little Scotland
• Virginia Hall built in 1873
• Academic Hall
• Wigwam
• Marquand Memorial Chapel, a Romanesque Revival red brick chapel with a 150 foot tower

The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, and was further declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974.

Hampton's colors are blue and white, and their nickname is the "The Pirates". Hampton sports teams participate in NCAA Division I (I-AA for football) in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) in which they joined in 1995 after leaving the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Since joining, Hampton has won MEAC titles in many sports, including football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's track, and men's and women's tennis. In March 2001, the men's basketball team made NCAA Tournament history, becoming only the fourth 15th-seeded team to defeat a 2nd-seeded team. Hampton defeated Iowa State, 58–57 on March 15, but lost to Georgetown two days later. The win still makes SportsCenter's Top 10 NCAA tournament upsets.

Notable alumni include:
Charles Phillips President, Oracle Corp.
Kimberly Oliver 2006 National Teacher of the Year
Spencer Christian former weatherman for Good Morning America
Wanda Sykes Comedian
Douglas Palmer Mayor of Trenton, New Jersey
Angela Burt-Murray Editor-in-Chief of Essence Magazine
Booker T. Washington Educator
Alberta Williams King Mother of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rick Mahorn former NBA Player Detroit Pistons

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

US-World Relations Need Obama

Europeans have high hopes for a potential President Obama administration, according to a Transatlantic Trends poll of 12 European countries. Forty-seven percent of Europeans believe a victory by Senator Barack Obama in November would lead to a better relationship between the United States and Europe, versus just 5 percent who think Obama would weaken the trans-Atlantic relationship.

By comparison, only 11 percent think Senator John McCain would strengthen European-American relations if he were elected president. More than half of respondents said a McCain administration would keep relations between the United States and Europe in roughly the condition they are now.

The poll queried at least a thousand respondents in each of a dozen countries, including Germany, France, Poland, Slovakia and Turkey. The survey’s release Wednesday follows the news of a BBC poll published Tuesday, showing that in 17 of 22 nations tested, respondents across the globe expected an Obama win would improve American relations with the rest of the world.

It also comes on the heels of a report Tuesday that Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain intends to publish a column praising Senator Obama’s response to the troubled real estate market. In an untraditional step for a foreign leader, Brown is expected to maintain that: “In the electrifying U.S. Presidential campaign, it is the Democrats who are generating the ideas to help people through more difficult times.” Brown’s upbeat assessment of the Democratic presidential nominee is shared by the majority of his country: 75 percent of British citizens said they had a favorable or very favorable opinion of Senator Obama. Senator McCain’s favorability ratings are considerably lower, with just 26 percent of Europeans giving him the thumbs up.

It is hardly shocking that Senator Obama would be better liked in Europe than his opponent, given that Senator McCain is a member of the same political party as President Bu$h. The president has consistently received miserable poll ratings at home and abroad, and in 2004 a survey showed Europeans favored the election of Senator John Kerry by similarly wide margins — 74 percent to 7 percent in Norway, 74 percent to 10 percent in Germany and 64 percent to 5 percent in France.

In late July, Senator Obama toured several European nations as part of a weeklong trip abroad, giving a speech in Berlin that attracted an audience in the hundreds of thousands.
Yet the U.S. media says that the polls in the U.S. have the opponents even. The United States was once well respected throughout the world and Bu$h has turned the country into a joke. The media and other critics have said that Senator Obama is lacking in foreign knowledge, but the attention that he received on his tour this summer revealed how receptive the rest of the world is looking for a U.S. leader that is able to communicate instead of telling them how to run their own affairs.

While Americans see themselves in a very positive light and having close enough values as the European Union to make diplomatic cooperation possible, almost half the Europeans see the U.S. as too aggressive and uncooperative. They feel that a President McCain would be a continuation of the “shoot first and ask questions later” attitude and a President Obama would ease tensions around the world.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Rice Meets With Libyan Leader

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Friday with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, marking the first trip to that country by a U.S. secretary of state in more than 50 years. The first thing he asked was for the latest news on the hurricanes plaguing U.S. coasts in recent weeks.

Upon her arrival, Rice met with the Libyan foreign minister and then toured the new U.S. Embassy. Afterward she said, "We are working on a trade and investment agreement, a framework, which will allow the improvement of the climate for investment, which I know very many American firms wish to do. She called the meeting a "good start" toward establishing a "positive relationship" with Libya.

Rice and Gadhafi met in a reception room at the Libyan Leader’s compound. Gadhafi was wearing a white robe and a black fez but not his trademark dark sunglasses. He shook the hands of the male members of Rice's staff but not Rice, instead offering the traditional greeting of his hand over his heart for her. Muslim men are prohibited from shaking hands with women to whom they are not related.

After their meeting, Rice joined Gadhafi, who once called her "Leeza ... my darling Black African woman," in a traditional Muslim evening meal breaking the fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Last year in an interview with Al-Jazeera, Gadhafi suggested Rice ran the Arab world with which he has sometimes had harsh differences. "I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders," he said. "I love her very much ... because she's a Black woman of African origin." The two are expected to meet in the leader's Bedouin tent he favors for high-profile meetings.

Rice's visit marks a 180-degree turn in relations between Washington and Tripoli, which for more than three decades have been marked by personal animosity and insults, Libyan terror attacks and U.S. airstrikes. Libya's transformation from being dubbed a "state sponsor of terrorism" to a member of the U.N. Security Council represents a rare foreign policy success for the Bush administration in its last months in office.

Rice acknowledged that Libya is a place that is changing. The United States restored relations with Tripoli in 2005, after Gadhafi's decision to abandon his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, renounce terrorism and compensate victims of the 1986 La Belle disco bombing in Berlin and the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. It also dropped Libya from its State Sponsors of Terrorism list, the only country except for Iraq to have been removed. Since then, several U.S. officials have visited Tripoli and Rice has met several times with her Libyan counterpart. The United States opened its embassy in Tripoli in 2006.

The U.S. has praised Libya's cooperation in fighting terrorism in North Africa, where al Qaeda has been gaining a foothold. U.S. officials also say Gadhafi has prevented Libyan and other foreign fighters from traveling to Iraq to join insurgent movements. At the United Nations, Libya has also voted with the U.S, to crack down on Iran's nuclear program and has sought to play a helpful role in the crisis in Darfur.
Yet relations between the two countries face strains over Libya's poor human rights record and final settlement of claims from the La Belle and Lockerbie bombings.

The Bush administration has expressed their wishes to move forward with a new relationship with Libya. The deal paves the way for greater access by American companies to Libya's booming economy, in particular its vast oil reserves, the ninth largest in the world. European companies have had much greater access to Libya's energy sector, but Libyan officials say the improved relations with the United States will result in more deals with American oil companies, including exploring vast areas of the country that remain untapped. The country's growing banking, infrastructure and telecommunications sectors also offer enormous opportunities for American investors.

Secretary of State Rice will travel throughout North Africa after leaving Tripoli, stopping in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. But it is the visit to Libya that the State Department recognizes will be the most talked about.

And NOW McBu$h Wants Change Also

Senator John McBu$h promised the delegates who had just chosen him to lead the fight to keep the White House in the hands of their party that he was going to “change”. "We're going to recover the people's trust by standing up again for the values Americans admire. The party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan is going to get back to basics." He and his newly-minted running-mate both are trying to distance themselves from Bu$h administration and I’m wondering how do you do that while accepting the nomination of their party. Why don’t they declare themselves independents?

Of course, McBu$h had to say this. Dubya Bu$h is a very unpopular president, with an approval rating as low as that of Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon in the midst of the Watergate scandal. And the Republican party has become so riddled with corruption that, at their convention that has been graced with the presence of Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay and others party leaders who have been forced from office under clouds of scandal, McCain felt required to announce that, "I've fought corruption, and it didn't matter if the culprits were Democrats or Republicans." He HAD to "admit mistakes were made" with Dubya and the Republican Congress...or look foolish and put no distance between himself and them. He HAD to SOUND more moderate, after the pandering to the base to get the nomination. And he HAD to throw out some lines that appeal to independents, even Democrats, and know that well, I gave the Hard Righties Palin...that should keep them happy and quiet. And he knows that Rush Limbaugh and Fox News will lavish high praise upon his speech.

The whole anti-Republican Republican hoax might have succeeded, were it not for the fact that McCain's speech was at odds not merely with his own voting record – 90 percent with Bu$h – and his own Bu$h-on-steroids agenda. Even as he was pledging to "change the way government does almost everything," McBu$h announced his commitment to much, much more of the same.

He pledged to maintain endless occupations of distant lands that empty the U.S. Treasury of precious resources that might pay for infrastructure renewal, housing and job creations initiatives for hurting Americans.

He outlined trade and tax policies that would extend, rather than alter a failed economic status quo.

He reintroduced flawed proposals for health care, education and entitlement reforms that Americans have wisely rejected.

And he threatened to achieve "energy independence" by declaring: "We will drill…", "We'll drill…", "More drilling…" Even well known oil people like T. Boone Pickens is declaring that we can not dig our way out of the mess that we are in.

McBu$h’s rhetoric was that of a liberated man declaring his independence from his party's failed president and corrupt Congresses. But his platform was that of Republican candidate who, for all of his talk of reform, offers the crudest continuity to a country that is crying out for change.

Notice McBu$h only mentioned his experience in Congress only a few times while dwelling on his experience as a POW more than 40 times. We appreciate his time as a POW, but that does not qualify you to be president of the U.S.

Maybe John McBu$h WAS considered a 'Maverick'. And at one point maybe he was? But, what in the last eight years (and especially the last nine months) proves to us that he is a maverick? (90% voting record with George Dubya Bu$h?) No! Sponsoring a somewhat practical immigration bill only to declare that he will vote against it after becoming the nominee? No! Being forcefully opposed to any form of torture and then bowing to pressure and allowing Bu$h to 'tweak' the Military Commissions Act so that Bu$h himself defines torture? No!!

I say that John McCain was NEVER a maverick! He is a typical corrupt politician who was bought by Charles Keating and Cindy McCain's father early in his political career. After getting caught up in the Keating 5 thing, he sought out Feingold to save his political career with the McCain-Feingold legislation, which FAILED to get the money out of politics. It failed because McCain fought to establish new loopholes with the 527s, and shift the soft money to political parties. McBu$h's current love affair with lobbyists shows his true Keating 5 colors, and proves he really is more of the same corrupt politics-as-usual rather than the change he wished he could be. (Another “hero” was named in the Keating 5 also – Senator John Glenn). They both were cleared of having acted improperly but were reprimanded by Congress for exercising “poor judgment”.

McCain bucks his party, he is a "maverik!" That's the story line he has ben peddling all year. Then he picks a right-wing extremist to round out his ticket, after his first picks, Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge, were squashed by the party he supposedly stands up to. Man, you cons are a joke!! And...it turns out that when the chips start to fall, you turn to...God and guns!
After you got your critercized comments that the Senator Barack Obama made about you doing just that.

That change thing is working so good for Senator Obama that Senator McBu$h has decided to jump on it too. But, painting black spots on a pig does NOT make it a dalmatian... even if you can teach it to bark.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Very Few Minorities on Republican Podium

A Native American color guard, a Black preacher and video footage of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks was all that the Republican Party could muster up as a picture of diversity at their convention. What it hasn’t offered is many minorities speaking from the podium in prime time, or sitting among the delegates. Where are Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice? They are leaders in the Republican Party and they are nowhere to be seen.

The convention has a decidedly White look to it, coming on the heels of a Democratic convention where minorities were prominent on the podium and in the crowds.

Republicans have not been deliberately denying exposure to prominent party members from minority groups — there just aren't that many. They had hoped to showcase Louisiana's Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, the country's first elected Indian-American governor. But he stayed home to help coordinate the state's response to Hurricane Gustav. The Republicans have no Black governors or members of Congress to put on stage.

It's a problem for the Republicans that goes deeper than the challenge of coming up with a diverse speaker's lineup. Even one of the few Black faces at the podium can not find anything positive in the situation. Michael Steele, Maryland’s former lieutenant governor and the first Black elected to statewide office there said, "You can't sugarcoat this stuff."

Steele, who chairs GOPAC, the Republican political action committee (PAC), which recruits and trains Republican candidates for elected office, (read they have no natural leaders just trained puppets who are trained to say the right thing versus do the right thing), got 10 minutes. Earlier in the evening, when the cameras were not on, a number of Blacks and Hispanics had a chance to address the convention, although briefly. Among them: a nurse from Pennsylvania, a California state senator, the head of a Hispanic medical organization.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, who is Black, also spoke. He alluded to the historic significance of Senator Barack Obama's breakthrough as the first black presidential nominee for a major political party. (There in lies my grievance with the Republican Party and its relationship with Blacks -- their fascination with Black and athletes and those in powerful positions and not give a care for the everyday Black citizen).

The predominance of White faces on the podium in St. Paul, Minnesota was reflected in the faces staring back from the audience in. This from the group which calls itself the party of diversity. The Republicans say they “look forward to continuing (?) and expanding relationships with minorities and nominating Senator McCain, who values the diverse backgrounds of all Americans and will lead on issues important to them” – yea right.

Just a few years ago McCain led the charge against the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in his home state of Arizona and only relented when forced by monetary losses. We bought that stale bread before, now we want fresh out of the oven bread.

The Republicans say about 13% of their party are minorities, which is double of what they had in 1996 (whoopee). They love to leave out some of the “minor” details; minority representation in the Republican Party is down from 2004, when about 17 percent of delegates and alternates were minorities. Joseph Wood, a Black delegate from Arkansas and treasurer of the state Republican Party, said there are more important things to consider than how many minorities are standing on the podium (I for one like to see people who look like me once in a while, “brother”). Fellow Arkansan Robert E. Smith Jr., another Black delegate, labeled it "a short-term problem." (This Negro has been drinking too much kool-aid).

Attacks, Praise Stretch Truth at Republican Convention: By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press Writer

Governor Sarah Palin and her Republican supporters held back little Wednesday as they issued flippant attacks on Senator Barack Obama and flattering praise on her credentials to be vice president. In many cases, the reproach and the praise stretched the truth.

Some examples:

PALIN: "I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending ... and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress 'thanks but no thanks' for that Bridge to Nowhere."

THE FACTS: As mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Palin hired a lobbyist and traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the town totaling $27 million. In her two years as governor, Alaska has requested nearly $750 million in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation. While Palin notes she rejected plans to build a $398 million bridge from Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents and an airport, that opposition came only after the plan was ridiculed nationally as a "bridge to nowhere."

PALIN: "There is much to like and admire about our opponent. But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform — not even in the state senate."

THE FACTS: Compared to McCain and his two decades in the Senate, Obama does have a more meager record. But he has worked with Republicans to pass legislation that expanded efforts to intercept illegal shipments of weapons of mass destruction and to help destroy conventional weapons stockpiles. The legislation became law last year. To demean that accomplishment would be to also demean the work of Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, a respected foreign policy voice in the Senate. In Illinois, he was the leader on two big, contentious measures in Illinois: studying racial profiling by police and requiring recordings of interrogations in potential death penalty cases. He also successfully co-sponsored major ethics reform legislation. (Oh, maybe the governor doesn’t know anything about racial profiling in Alaska since she is not accustomed to seeing many Black folk in Alaska.)

PALIN: "The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes, raise payroll taxes, raise investment income taxes, raise the death tax, raise business taxes, and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars."

THE FACTS: The Tax Policy Center, a think tank run jointly by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, concluded that Obama's plan would increase after-tax income for middle-income taxpayers by about 5 percent by 2012, or nearly $2,200 annually. McCain's plan, which cuts taxes across all income levels, would raise after tax-income for middle-income taxpayers by 3 percent, the center concluded.

Obama would provide $80 billion in tax breaks, mainly for poor workers and the elderly, including tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit for minimum-wage workers and higher credits for larger families.

He also would raise income taxes, capital gains and dividend taxes on the wealthiest. He would raise payroll taxes on taxpayers with incomes above $250,000, and he would raise corporate taxes. Small businesses that make more than $250,000 a year would see taxes rise.

MCCAIN: "She's been governor of our largest state; in charge of 20 percent of America's energy supply ... She's responsible for 20 percent of the nation's energy supply. I'm entertained by the comparison and I hope we can keep making that comparison that running a political campaign is somehow comparable to being the executive of the largest state in America," he said in an interview with ABC News' Charles Gibson.

THE FACTS: McCain's phrasing exaggerates both claims. Palin is governor of a state that ranks second nationally in crude oil production, but she's no more "responsible" for that resource than President Bush was when he was governor of Texas, another oil-producing state. In fact, her primary power is the ability to tax oil, which she did in concert with the Alaska Legislature. And where Alaska is the largest state in size in America, it is the 47th in population.

MCCAIN: "She's the commander of the Alaska National Guard. ... She has been in charge, and she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities," he said on ABC.

THE FACTS: While governors are in charge of their state guard units, that authority ends whenever those units are called to actual military service. When guard units are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, for example, they assume those duties under "federal status," which means they report to the Defense Department, not their governors. Alaska's National Guard units have a total of about 4,200 personnel, among the smallest of state guard organizations.

FORMER ARKANSAS GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE: Palin "got more votes running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska than Joe Biden got running for president of the United States."

THE FACTS: A whopper. Palin got 616 votes in the 1996 mayor's election, and got 909 in her 1999 re-election race, for a total of 1,525. Biden dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucuses, but he still got 76,165 votes in 23 states and the District of Columbia where he was on the ballot during the 2008 presidential primaries.

FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOV. MITT ROMNEY: "We need change, all right — change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington! We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington — throw out the big-government liberals, and elect John McCain and Sarah Palin."

THE FACTS: A Back-to-the-Future moment. George W. Bush, a conservative Republican, has been president for nearly eight years. And until last year, Republicans controlled Congress. Only since January 2007 has Democrats have been in charge of the House and Senate.

Now we truly know that you can put a dress or pant suit on it but a leopard does not change its spots. The Republicans only know one frame of politics -- ATTACK! As bad as the economy is we didn’t hear anything about what they plan to do to help people in dire straights. What is the McCain/Palin agenda for the country? Senator McCain thinks everything is just fine, let his friends, the lobbyist continue to fill his pockets. He wants to follow in the footsteps of Bu$h and give the rich $4 billion in tax cuts.

I for one do not trust a person who has been in office for less than two years and already has an ethics investigation going on to be a heartbeat away from becoming the president.

The Republican Party has always been the party that judges everyone else on moral values, and now has nominated a man who cheated on his wife while she was laid up after an accident. Sarah Palin can not have it both ways – leave my children out of this – while trotting an unwed mother-to-be out under the umbrella of the perfect family, even bringing the 18 year-old father-to-be along. Now does anyone thing 17-18 year-old teenagers are ready for marriage? (Where was the shotgun?) The media is critercizing Palin because her family situation is totally outside her political stand.

McCain’s campaign manager actually said that this election is not about the issues – they plan to make it about class, cultural differences and their same old fear mongering. McCain’s choice is a trick to take the heat off him. He is betting that the American voters are as stupid as they were when they reelected Dubya four years ago. And it is an insult to women that they would vote for her just because she is a woman.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

John Singleton

Director, Producer, Screenwriter, Executive Producer, and Actor John Daniel Singleton was born on January 6, 1968 in South Central Los Angeles. He is the son of a mortgage broker father and a company sales executive mother who raised him jointly while divorced. While studying film at USC, he won three writing awards from the university that led to a deal with the Creative Artists Agency during his sophomore year. At the age of 23, he wrote and directed Boyz 'N the Hood, a coming-of-age drama that centered on a 17-year-old's (Cuba Gooding Jr.) efforts to make it out of his neighborhood alive. Featuring a strong cast that included Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, and Laurence Fishburne, and skillful direction that humanized the violence of South Central L.A. rather than sensationalized it, the film was a major critical and commercial triumph. One of the highest-grossing films in history to have been directed by a Black American, Boyz 'N the Hood also made history with its twin Best Screenplay and Best Director Oscar nominations for its young writer/director. John Singleton became the first Black American and the youngest person to be nominated for Best Director. In addition to those nominations, Singleton was also honored with the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best First-Time Director.

Singleton followed Boyz 'N the Hood with Poetic Justice in 1993. Starring Janet Jackson as its heroine, a South Central L.A. hairdresser coping with the shooting death of her boyfriend, the film boasted magnetic performances from its entire cast, which also included rapper Tupac Shakur as Jackson's love interest. Between the releases of Boyz and Justice, Singleton directed the Michael Jackson music video "Remember the Time" in 1992. His next project, Higher Learning (1995), a drama about racial, gender, and political conflict on a college campus, it benefited from the performances of its ensemble cast, which included Omar Epps, Laurence Fishburne, and Ice Cube.

Ironically, it was Singleton's most critically appreciated effort since Boyz 'N the Hood that was virtually ignored by audiences. The 1997 Rosewood, a powerful drama based on the real-life 1923 massacre and destruction of a Black town in Florida by Whites from a neighboring community, was widely considered Singleton's strongest film since his directorial debut. A dark and multi-character epic fueled by the presence of such talented actors as Ving Rhames, John Voight, and Don Cheadle, the film did not attempt to make a happy ending out of its harsh material, which may have accounted for its inability to win a large audience.

In 2000, Singleton returned with his biggest project to date, a glossy, expensive remake of Shaft, starring Samuel L. Jackson as its hero, the nephew of the original Shaft, Richard Roundtree (who had a cameo in the new film).

Singleton returned to South Central LA ten years after Boyz with 2001's Baby Boy, starring Tyrese Gibson and Omar Gooding. He followed that drama with a far different project in 2 Fast 2 Furious, starring Paul Walker and Tyrese, the film was released in 2003 and went on to become a worldwide box office blockbuster. His next project, the 2005 crime drama Four Brothers, starred Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, André Benjamin, and Garrett Hedlund.

In addition to his own directorial projects, Singleton has developed other projects through his production company, New Deal Entertainment. He served as executive producer on the Daisy V.S. Mayer-directed comedy Woo (1998), starring Jada Pinkett Smith and Tommy Davidson. New Deal's first independent producing effort, Hustle & Flow, written and directed by Craig Brewer, premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards. He maintained his working relationship with Brewer by producing his Hustle & Flow follow-up Black Snake Moan.

Singleton has also appeared in front of the camera, appearing briefly as a mailman in Boyz, a prison guard in Shaft, a bootleg video vendor in Baby Boy, a fireman in John Landis' Beverly Hills Cop III, and radio DJ "Detroit J" in Mario Van Peebles's Gettin' the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass (Baadasssss!).

Singleton received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre on August 26, 2003.