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Widows is a Film to Both Mourn and Celebrate [MOVIE REVIEW]

They knew their husbands were involved in the unsavory and illegal activity of thievery. And when their spouses were killed pulling off a major heist, they also knew that day might come. But what they didn’t expect was to be threatened with death, if they didn’t repay money stolen by their now deceased partners. Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki play the widows who have to delve into a world they know very little about to save their own lives.

The movie, Widows, boasts an exceptional cast and compelling story but is badly tainted by a virtual smorgasbord of negative stereotypes of the African American community.

While any plot involving criminals displays seedy characters; in Widows, this seediness if mainly painted black. There’s the dishonest, self-serving black pastor; thugs parading as legitimate politicians; a ruthless, very dark-skinned enforcer/killer; and African Americans, are referred to as people who kill each other and who can’t stop making babies.

And of the black women characters, one gets made a fool of romantically, and the other is a masculine, athletic man-woman.

As is often the case with these types of troubling portrayals, this script is the product of a black man, Steve McQueen, who co-wrote and directed the film.

Viola Davis is absolutely amazing. A powerful screen presence, coupled with an uncommon ability to display a full range of emotions, each with authenticity and credibility. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of roles for 40ish African American women and they often have to take what is offered to them.

Widows gets a cast diversity rating of “A-”. Set in Chicago, it contains actors of color but not as many Hispanics and Asians as should be, for the highly diverse Windy City.

At two hours and 10 minutes, this movie goes on way too long. As I have said in the past, few films tell a story that takes more than 90 to 100 minutes to tell. It’s rated “R” for violence and language.

The verdict is: See Widows. Despite my criticisms, if this film succeeds we’ll see more of Viola on the screen. And that would be a very good thing!

Green Book Gets the Green Light! [MOVIE REVIEW]

It’s the 1960s and Don Shirley, originally from Jamaica, a renowned classical pianist, is the darling of the east coast wealthy elite. While he’s not the outspoken civil right advocate type, he believes that displaying his talents in the segregated south might help to change the rigidly racist views held in that part of the country. So Shirley (Mahershala Ali), or Dr. Shirley, as he was referred to because of his Ph.D., and his record company hired-bouncer, Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) to serve as his driver/bodyguard during the trip south. The odd couple has very little in common. Shirley is highly educated, cultured and lives alone in his Manhattan penthouse. Vallelonga is a family man, not formally educated and steeped in the customs of the Bronx Italian American community where he lives.

Green Book is everything a film should be. It’s amusing, entertaining and educational. The film’s title refers to the real publication, The Negro Motorist Green Book, which guided black travelers as to what hotels and facilities they could stay in, eat at and/or have their vehicles serviced while traveling through segregated states.

The two characters exchanged views and disagreed on about everything from food to music, to driving habits, and even on writing letters. There’s a validity to positions taken by both of them. And Dr. Shirley’s lack of familiarity with black performers such as Chubby Checker and Aretha Franklin shocks Vallelonga.

The fact that the screenplay’s co-written by Nick Vallelonga, and the director, Peter Farrelly results in Vallelonga’s character being a bit more credible and consistent. Dr. Shirley’s character is written where he knows well the rules of the Jim Crow south and seems to accept them but without any explanation tries to reject them. Like when he suddenly insists on eating in the formal dining room at a club where he played. This had not been an issue before or thereafter. So why in that scene?

However, in a very subtle and effective way, the screenwriters capture the doctor’s loneliness as a well-educated and refined single black man who would never be accepted as a part of a community of people he performed for; and did not have much in common with most black Americans at that time.

Based upon a true story set in the early 1960s, the film’s dialogue has some current day phrases like traveling while black. And the often heard rhetorical question about strange behavior: Who does that?

Part of the Green Book’s success is due to the excellent performances of the two lead characters. There has been Oscar buzz about both Ali and Mortensen. The selection of the darker Ali to play lighter hued, Dr. Shirley, raises an issue that black journalists have discussed before: why are famous black people played by actors who look nothing them, i.e. the fair skinned, light eyed, Terrence Howard playing the South African leader, Nelson Mandela. While how much a performer looks like the famed white person he or she will play, is always a factor.

The characters reflect not only the rich diversity of cultures in New York City but how very different communities reside in close proximity. Vallelonga’s folksy Bronx neighborhood was very likely no more than a mile or two from Dr. Shirley’s wealthy Manhattan enclave.

The cast of the film is diverse. However, it’s difficult to grade the diversity of the cast of a true movie. It has to be assumed that the scenes accurately reflect the races of the people at the time the events occurred.

Ultimately, Green Book is more than a movie; it’s an experience. It gets a See It! rating. It’s rated PG-13 for language, smoking, violence, and some suggestive material. Green Book is 130 minutes in length.

China's Alibaba Singles Day Sales Beats Black Friday and Prime Day by a Mile

Alibaba-created Singles Day holiday generates more than $30 billion in sales in one day for the Chinese online platform

You think Black Friday shopping in the U.S. is huge? Yes, it is, but it pales in comparison to China's largest one-day shopping day, Singles Day, a day when single people in China get to celebrate their singleness. And, this year, on November 11, 2018, Singles Day sales reached $30 billion in one day on Alibaba’s platform. Yes, you read that right $30 billion with a “b”. By comparison, in 2017, online sales on the Black Friday weekend, which now starts on Thanksgiving and rolls right into Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, were approximately $20 billion, according to Adobe Analytics. It is important to note that the Black Friday weekend sales were across many retailers and not just one as in the case of Alibaba.

Screenshot Adobe Analytics 2017 Holiday Season Retail Ecommerce Sales

Alibaba, a company based in China, is described by many in the U.S., as the “Amazon” of China. However, Amazon more than likely aspires to have sales like Alibaba, but it’s not there yet. In 2018, Amazon says it had its largest Prime Day ever with Prime members purchasing more than 100 million products.

How does that translate into dollars, you ask? We don’t know exactly, as Amazon has not given that number. In Amazon’s press release announcing its 3Q2018 earnings report the company said, "Amazon's biggest global shopping event ever, welcoming more new Prime members on July 16th than any other previous day in Amazon history."

Although Amazon did not mention “Prime Day” in its 3Q2018 press release, the company did mention various “Prime” products and services at least 25 times in its release.

But Amazon being mum on the Prime Day sales number did not stop market research firms from providing their Amazon Prime Day sales estimates. RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney told Reuters that Amazon probably made between $1.5 billion and $2 billion in revenue from this year’s Prime Day. Internet Retailer estimates sales hit $4.19 billion globally this year during the 36-hour sale July 16-17, up nearly 74% from $2.41 billion during last year’s Prime Day (a 30-hour sales event July 11-12, 2017). While, before Prime Day, the retail think tank Coresight Research predicted sales would reach $3.4 billion, about $1 billion more than last year.

When you think about the reported most popular Prime Day purchases in the United States being Instant Pots, personal water filters and the 23andMe DNA test, and total Prime Day sales being under, well let’s stretch it to $10 billion, and Black Friday Weekend in 2017 registering just under $20 billion, you can begin to see why American businesses have their eye on China.

As Amazon is an international company, its revenue on Prime Day comes from international markets as well. So what were the big categories internationally for Amazon? Well, various market research sources say the big products purchased by Amazon’s international customers on Amazon Prime Day were video games and consoles, smartphones, pans, light bulbs, and laundry detergent.

Now, this article is not meant to bash Amazon, Not in the least, it’s just an opportunity to focus on China’s consumer market and to help people to understand why U.S. businesses big and small want to get their products into China. Additionally, Amazon Prime Day is a big day for many small and mid-sized businesses. Amazon says that sales for its marketplace merchants far exceeded $1 billion, which is a big deal if you’re part of that group.

If you own a small to a mid-sized company selling your products to people and companies in China or, looking to sell into the China where $30 billion was spent with one company in one day, you probably know you can't expect to replicate Alibaba's success, as it is the hometown team. But you’re probably praying that the U.S.-China tariff negotiations are going well. No business wants to be on the outside looking in, particularly when a country has more people in the middle class than the United States has people.

Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

Congratulations to New York Association of Black Journalists (NYABJ)

NYABJ Named a Finalist for NABJ Professional Chapter of the Year

The NY Chapter of the Association of Black Journalist, representing the nation's largest media market also had a strong year of membership growth and program development.

Michael Feeney, a reporter with New York Daily News and 2010's NABJ Emerging Journalist of the Year, credits the chapter’s networking events as one of the reasons NYABJ's paid memberships has grown to more than 140 members. This includes its hugely successful Late Summer Mixer, at Neely's Barbecue Parlor in Manhattan. The mixers have become such a draw that RSVP is required.

NYABJ remained on the political forefront of the 2012 election season by teaming up with Young Professionals United for Change for a Vice Presidential debate watch party, with remarks from Roland Martin and Keli Goff. Feeney said Actress Lynn Whitfield also attended; and the chapter also hosted a Presidential Election panel, Campaigns through the Lens of the Media on the night before the elections.

NYABJ's signature annual Scholarship & Awards Banquet increased in notoriety and recognition in 2012.

"We honored the work of more than 40 journalists,” said Feeney. “The event also garnered widespread media attention because Beyoncé was among the award winners. She thanked NYABJ in a video posted online."

Beyoncé was honored for Essence article "Eat, Play, Love," about how a nine-month break changed her life.

NYABJ also kept true to its purpose of honoring pioneers in journalism and grooming the next generation.

"We also honored WNBC anchor Sue Simmons in a special awards ceremony," Feeney added.

He also praised NYABJ's FIRST TAKE, a free eight-week high school journalism workshop that meets once a week at Brooklyn's Long Island University campus. It trains some 20 students in reporting and producing stories in multimedia formats under the tutelage of NYC's top journalists.

"We know that the workshop is giving city kids something positive to do and it's helping to mold the next wave of journalists. We're so proud of this program and the kids amaze us every year," Feeney continued.

Chance to Win Two Tickets to See Jay-Z in Concert Sweepstakes!

Your Chance to Win Two Tickets to See Jay-Z in Concert from Your Friends at What's The 411 Networks!

All you need to do is, "Like" What's The 411's Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/WhatsThe411TV) and then complete the entry form.

You will be entered into the sweepstakes to win a pair of concert tickets to see Jay-Z rock the house on Monday, October 1, 2012, at 8:00 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY!

Invite your friends to enter! The more your friends register from your link, the more you increase your chances of winning, so share away!

You must be 18 years of age and over to win these tickets. This is a ticket only contest.

Good Luck!!!!

Noel Pointer Court Makes Its Debut

Noel Pointer Court is Not Your Typical Low-Moderate Housing Complex

Today was the ribbon-cutting and grand opening ceremony for Noel Pointer Court, a newly-constructed residential building with 23 affordable apartments developed by Bridge Street Development Corporation (BSDC).

As you can see from the photos, this is not your typical low-to-moderate income housing. Kudos to BSDC!

The building, named in honor of the late Brooklyn-born jazz violinist Noel Pointer, is located at 790 Lafayette Avenue between Throop and Marcus Garvey Avenues in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Low-and moderate-income tenants for the eight 1-bedroom and fifteen 2-bedroom apartments were selected via a public lottery process conducted in partnership with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

More than 4,000 applications were received.

42: The Story of Jackie Robinson Integrating Major League Baseball [MOVIE REVIEW]

42 is the saga of Jackie Robinson's breaking the color barrier and becoming the first black player in Major League Baseball. Chadwick Boseman plays Robinson.

Veteran actor, Harrison Ford stars as Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager who signed Robinson.

Nicole Beharie is featured as Robinson's biggest fan and wife, Rachel.

42 is a stimulating, historic, well-produced, and directed movie and it gets our highest rating: See It!.

While the cast is strong, Chadwick Boseman lacks the on-screen presence to succeed in the leading role. He's overshadowed by Harrison Ford in every scene they share. Boseman is even minimized by Nicole Beharie when they are on camera together. It's a combination of Boseman's weak persona and stellar performances of Ford and Beharie.

While much praise has been given to Branch Rickey for his courageous move in signing Robinson, 42 touches briefly on one of Rickey's primary motivations: economics. Urban areas where most major league teams played, had large black communities who stayed away from the segregated major leagues. Signing black players was one way to get those communities to come to games.

The movie focuses upon the racism faced by Robinson but also taught subtle lessons on bigotry. In one scene, a father and son sat excited in their anticipation of seeing the Dodgers play their home team. When Robison was introduced, the father along with other adults began calling the Dodger rookie the "N" word. The boy seemed a bit confused at first. But then soon joined in the slurring of Robinson. The kid had just learned to be a racist.

The film also references the fact that some players threatened to leave the league rather play with Robinson.

One final point, the baseball scenes are well staged, so sports fans won't be disappointed.

42 is rated PG-13 and is less than 2 hours. And again it's a See It.

10 Reasons Why Fans Were Disappointed With Hot 97 Summer Jam

Hot 97’s Summer Jam XX Recap

On Sunday, June 2, I witnessed my first HOT 97 Summer Jam and please believe me when I say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Along the 2-mile walk from where the Port Authority bus dropped me off in MetLife Stadium to the press entrance, I walked past a huge parade filled with people from all types of backgrounds.

Hip-hop heads gathered as one in the parking lot, celebrating like it was a major summer holiday--tailgating and barbecuing food; they were really getting ready for a great night.

Summer Jam was too good on paper. It gave us good music and a decent show, but it felt too much like a high school performance—safe, organized and fluent. Don't get me wrong, safety and organization are great attributes for a concert, particularly one the size of Hot 97 Summer Jam. However, we all wanted to see more than the ordinary production; i.e., last-minute surprises and performances outside the box.

It was evident that some fans left Summer Jam XX disappointed and here are 10 reasons why:

1. Joe Budden did a great job kicking off Summer Jam, but bringing out Tank was the highlight of his performance. (Not really a disappointment about Tank, I just love Tank.)

Joe Budden 1 resized 500x333

Joe Budden

2. Miguel performed a relevant performance by bringing out Mariah Carey and J. Cole, but I wanted him to do more like jumping into the crowd to make up for the 2013 Billboard Awards.

Miguel 1 resized 500x333

Miguel

J Cole 1 resized 500x333J-Cole

3. Chris Brown's performance was way too long. Although he electrified some of the women in the audience, he shifted the momentum of the crowd starting off his set with Beautiful People. That was a huge mistake! Summer Jam equals Hip Hop, not Pop. We wanted to hear Look At Me Now first. He could've preserved his opening act for the BET Awards coming up in a few weeks. Breezy's vocals were on point though, but he should've just gone before Miguel.

Chris Brown 1 resized 500x333Chris-Brown

4. There was the 'almost' highlight of the night when Fabolous brought Lil Kim onto the stage. At the end of the duo's performance, Fab appeared to have been introducing another female artist, who many rumored to be Foxy Brown, but didn't. Ebro of Hot 97 claimed that Foxy showed up late, while other bloggers said she couldn't find her earpiece. Nonetheless, Foxy should've been on that stage!!!!!

Lil Kim Fabolous 1 resized 500x333Lil-Kim and Fabolous

 

5. Now on to Nicki Minaj. 2 Chainz's performance with Nicki Minaj was way too short. First off, Nicki skipped out on Summer Jam last year, so why not SHUT the stage down this year with a song of your own? Nicki--How can you come out for 1.5 minutes, then just bounce like that?

Nikki Minaj 2 Chainz 1 resized 500x333Nikki-Minaj and 2-Chainz 

 

6. Okay, back to Foxy. All night, Hot 97's DJ's and personalities were teasing who was backstage. Rosenberg alluded to the fact that women were going to dominate Summer Jam, but that never happened. 

Nikki Minaj resized 500x333

I may have been the only one daydreaming, but I was hoping Foxy, Lil Kim and Nicki would all be on the stage at one time. I'm still dreaming....

 

7. Kendrick Lamar was by far the best performer at Summer Stage, but he should've brought out Jay-Z. When word got around that Beyonce and Jay-Z were in the building, everyone was pretty much convinced that the royal couple was going to hit the stage. Well, that didn't happen either. Seriously, this was the 20th anniversary of Summer Jam, Hov could have rapped his verse to B**** Don't Kill My Vibe?

Kendrick Lamar 1 resized 500x333Kendrick-Lamar

 

8. Everyone seemed to have been upset that Papoose took the stage, but he was actually the highlight of the night. I don't know why he felt the need to say "Free Remy Ma," because no one cared.

 

9. I respect WuTang for their contributions to hip-hop, but for the generation that I witnessed in the crowd, they seemed far less interested. I think they would've been a better closing act.

Wu Tang 1 resized 500x333Wu-Tang 1 resized 500x333

 

10. French Montana, the headliner of Summer Jam closed out the five-hour concert and was probably on stage for less than ten minutes (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but it was brief.) The highlight of his set was when fellow rap artists Rick Ross and Lil Wayne ran out and performed the hit single, Pop That. The crowd went crazy, of course. But moments later, the lights came on and Summer Jam was over, just like that. Fans exited the stadium in a somber mood, and so did I. Personally, I rode the bus home still wishing that Foxy and Jay would've graced the stage. Maybe it's just the Brooklyn sentimentality in me.

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French Montana, Lil-Wayne, and Rick-Ross

But, until next time...

 

Tom Joyner Offers Rachel Jeantel Full College Scholarship

Ebony magazine reported that radio personality Tom Joyner, also known as "The Fly Jock," has offered Rachel Jeantel, a full scholarship to any Historically Black College or University she chooses.

The website Joyner founded, BlackAmericaWeb.com, confirmed the news.

Rachel Jeantel is the friend of Trayvon Martin who spoke to him shortly before he was murdered.

Jeantel spoke to Joyner on his radio show Tuesday morning. He said to her: "If you want to graduate from high school and go to an HBCU, even if it's not in Florida but especially Florida, like Florida Memorial, Edward Waters or FAMU, if you want to do that, I want to help you do that. I will help you get tutors to get you out of high school, tutors to help you pass the SAT and I will give you a full ride scholarship to any HBCU you'd like."

Tonight, July 16, Tom Joyner heads to CNN to talk with evening talk show host Piers Morgan.

Rita Moreno Receives SAG Lifetime Achievement Award

Congratulations to actress Rita Moreno!

Hollywood legend, actress Rita Moreno can add one more notch to her impressive honors - the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) announced it is presenting the Puerto-Rican-born star with the SAG Life Achievement Award for career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment. The multi-talented 81-year-old actress is the 50th recipient of this honor. SAG-AFTRA is the actors' union.

"She is an extraordinarily versatile, talented and generous actor whose career is notable for its courageous choices and for the breadth, depth, and quality of her many demanding and commanding roles," said in a statement SAG-AFTRA Co-President Ken Howard, as reported in The Hollywood Reporter. "She is a magnificent actor, and I am honored to join all SAG-AFTRA members in recognizing the incomparable Rita Moreno."

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