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Harry Belafonte and Social Relevant Photographer Stephen Somerstein Top What's The 411TV's 25 Most Interesting People of 2015

The Top 10 include Serena Williams, who leads all athletes; Mathew Knowles; Valentino Carlotti and Gilda Squire; James Patterson; Glenn Anton "Doc" Rivers; Lionel Hollins; Stephen Curry; Ta-Nehisi Coates; and Dr. Yvonne Thompson

BROOKLYN, NY; December 31, 2015 - What's The 411TV, a Brooklyn-based media company, today released its list of 25 Most Interesting People of 2015, and singer, songwriter, actor, and social activist Harry Belafonte; and social relevant photographer Stephen Somerstein, who documented the 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Alabama Civil Rights March are tied for first place on the list. In their own way, each has made an incredible impact on the civil rights movement.

What's The 411TV's 25 Most Interesting People of 2015 is an eclectic list of people interviewed by What's The 411TV reporters primarily as exclusives, but this year, we included a couple of group press conferences attended by our reporters. The list consists of people who have spurred a movement; those who have made an impact in their respective fields globally; iconic figures; athletes including Serena Williams (she leads all athletes); coaches (Doc Rivers and Lionel Hollins, who makes the list for a second time); entrepreneurs; and those making it happen behind the scenes. Domestic Violence dominated headlines in 2015, and two people, Katrina Walker and Melissa Holmes, survivors of domestic abuse, are on the list for telling their compelling stories and helping others. Ms. Walker, a mother of four children, left her abusive husband, found a job and then created 24-hour daycare centers in two states.

"We are grateful for another incredible year of capturing many great stories," said Ruth J. Morrison, CEO and Executive Producer, What's The 411TV. "I especially enjoy listening to the backstories of how people and things evolve such as Tonya Rapley moving from being debt-ridden to becoming "The Millennial Money Coach;" how Goldman Sachs Partner and head of the Institutional Clients Group's Securities Division, Valentino Carlotti and Gilda Squire of Squire Media and Management, partnered to bring Misty Copeland, the American Ballet Theater's first African-American principal dancer into the American consciousness; and international entrepreneur Dr. Yvonne Thompson, CBE brought to life the challenges faced by executive women in her book, 7 Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards."

Below is a list of What's The 411TV's 25 Most Interesting People of 2015; which can be found online with links to each interview.

1. Harry Belafonte and Steven Somerstein: Even at 88 years-old, Mr. Belafonte is still fighting for human rights and social inclusiveness. Steven Somerstein: through his photography, Mr. Somerstein brought the plight of civil rights into America's consciousness by documenting the 1965 Selma To Montgomery Civil Rights Marchin a way few other could have done - Interviewed by: Luvon Roberson

2. The 21-time tennis grand slam winner, Serena Williams: because the legendary professional tennis player took tennis lovers and aficionados on an incredible ride, and we're still rooting for her

3. Beyonce's father Mathew Knowles: The creator and manager of Destiny's Child, Beyonce, and Solange; describesThe DNA of Achievers in his book of the same name- Interviewed by: Courtney Rashon

4. Valentino Carlotti and Gilda Squire: The team behind-the-scenes making things happen for Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theater's first African-American principal dancer –Interviewed by Glenn Gilliam

5. Award-winning author James Patterson: For his initiative to help independent bookstores and because he's a great storyteller - Interviewed by: Luvon Roberson

6. Los Angeles Clippers Head Coach Glenn Anton "Doc" Rivers: Because he's a sage and he helped to keep the NBA intact- captured by Keisha Wilson

7. Brooklyn Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins: This is the second time he is on this list and we have learned a lot more about Lionel Hollins in the past year. He's a straight-shooter, instructive, and he manages the New York media

8. Golden State Warriors Guard and NBA MVP Stephen Curry: He understands his limitations and has developed strategies to overcome them; a lesson for us all

9. Award-winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates: for speaking and writing about the elephant in the room- Interviewed by: Luvon Roberson

10. Dr. Yvonne Thompson, CBE: for shining a light on the challenges of executive women in the boardroom- Interviewed by: Luvon Roberson

11. Dr. Brenda Greene, Executive Director, Center for Black Literature and English Department Chair; Medgar Evers College, CUNY: for being a curator of African-American culture through literature and art - Interviewed by: Luvon Roberson

12. Freedom Williams of C+C Music Factory: for keeping us entertained while diversifying his portfolio, and for providing insight into the "new" music industry - Interviewed by: Courtney Rashon

13. Metta World Peace: a fierce competitor and when he's in your presence, there's never a dull moment

14. New York Liberty forward Swintayla Marie "Swin" Cash: She parlayed her prolific scoring and rebounding skills into a studio analyst gig for select New York Knicks games

15. Sherrie Young, National Book Foundation Director of Marketing and Special Projects: standing at the crossroads of literacy and literature and keeping up the good fight- Interviewed by: Luvon Roberson

16. Katrina Walker: an abused wife and mother of four children who turned her adversity into entrepreneurship and philanthropy; she is the owner of 24-hour daycare facilities in two states - The What's The 411TV Team of: Courtney Rashon, Kizzy Cox, and Onika McLean16.

17. Kelly L. Jackson: an entertainment entrepreneur who uses her national radio platform on Sirius/XM Radio to blend entertainment and wellness - Interviewed by: Courtney Rashon

18. Financial Educator, Tonya Rapley: for teaching millennials (and others) how to manage their personal finances; that's why she is The Millennial Money Coach - Interviewed by: Kizzy Cox

19. Performance Artist, Olutayo Bosede (professionally known as Olutayo): for working hard at his craft and thoroughly entertaining us with his voice and dance moves as the Lead Crow on the NBC production of The Wiz Live! - Interviewed by: The What's The 411TV Team of: Essence Semaj, Onika McLean, and Courtney Rashon

20. Andrea Lewis: an actress that is not twiddling her thumbs waiting for the callback, she is creating great webisodes and distributing them through digital media – Interviewed by Glenn Gilliam

21. Stephen Witt, a journalist turned entrepreneur that created a much-needed digital media company, Kings County Politics, focused on the politics of what else, Kings County aka Brooklyn – Interviewed by: The What's The 411TV Team of: Kizzy Cox, Onika McLean, and Courtney Rashon

22. Award-winning self-published author Selma Jackson: she brought to life a people's struggle for human rights through the eyes of a child in her children's book, Granny's Helper – Interviewed by Luvon Roberson

23. Nikkia McClain, CEO, Tene Nicole Marketing and Public Relations, a celebrity marketing, and public relations company: she does whatever it takes for the benefit of her clients, including washing dishes

24. Melissa Holmes: an abused wife and mother who is using digital media and other platforms to help other women abused by their husbands and partners – Interviewed by: Kizzy Cox

25. Chrissy Monroe: an entrepreneur who turned her appearance on reality television into an opportunity for scripted television and other ventures, including the ambassador for Pretty Girl Gang Cosmetics – Interviewed by: Courtney Rashon

Honorable Mentions:

Mychal Thompson, former NBA player and father of NBA All-Star Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors: because he still has no problem giving his son fatherly advice. 

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: a rookie NBA player with the Brooklyn Nets who is currently sidelined with a broken ankle; is a selfless millennial who, along with his brother, bought his mother a house as soon as he signed his NBA contract.

Past Honorees:

Previous personalities on What's The 411TV's list of 25 Most Interesting People include: the late Maya Angelou; NFL Hall of Famer Michael Strahan; breast cancer survivor and founder of Beating Cancer in Heels CEO, Marlena Ortiz; Motown Founder, Berry Gordy; Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov; New York Knicks great and Basketball Hall of Famer Willis Reed; Basketball Hall of Famer and entrepreneur Earvin "Magic" Johnson; Brooklyn Nets head coach Lionel Hollins; NBA player Jeremy Lin; NFL player Richard Sherman; former heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson; former WNBC-TV news anchor Sue Simmons; and more.


Nothing happens in a vacuum, therefore I offer special thanks to Angelo Ellerbee, Gary Sussman, Aaron Harris, Eli Pearlstein, Jeanmarie Daily, D.A. Abrams, Vincent Novicki, Clarence V. Reynolds, Nikkia McClain, Brenda Greene, Patricia Green, Gilda Squire, Sherri Young, Simone Smalls, Pauline Barfield, and of course the What's The 411TV team: Gregory Alcala; Kizzy Cox; Donna Leslie; Onika McLean; Courtney Rashon; Luvon Roberson; Essence Semaj; and Keisha Wilson.

About What's The 411TV

Based in Brooklyn, New York, What's The 411TV is a division of What's The 411 Networks, a media/news, marketing, and events company. What's The 411TV connects sophisticated multi-cultural audiences with its content through its distribution platforms of television, online, mobile, and social media.

What's The 411TV produces two weekly television shows, What's The 411, an award-winning entertainment and lifestyle television show and What's The 411Sports, a sports news and commentary television show. The company covers the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, New York Giants, US OPEN, and other sports events.

What's The 411TV's celebrity portfolio consists of interviews with Magic Johnson, Beyonce, Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover, Harrison Ford, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Hudson, and many, many more.

About Ruth J. Morrison

Ruth J. Morrison is the CEO and Founder of What's The 411 Networks, an integrated media, marketing, and events company, which produces the award-winning weekly news and information television show, What's The 411; What's The 411Sports, and the soon-to-be, What's The 411Business.

A video streaming pioneer, Ms. Morrison developed and launched from conception the City of New York's multi-channel cable television network and served as a Communications Director and Legislative Advisor to a New York member of the U.S. Congress. She is the first African-American independent television producer to have a weekly television show on WNYC-TV and for three years, she worked in Brasil as an entertainment and television licensing consultant for an American company.

Ms. Morrison earned a master's degree in Interactive Telecommunications from the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and she was a Communications Fellow at the Annenberg Washington Program of Northwestern University. She taught courses in telecommunications at Fordham University and she completed her coursework towards a Ph.D. in Political Science at Columbia University.


Author Sightings: Harlem Book Fair's 2015 Phillis Wheatley Book Awards


For book lovers, the Harlem Book Fair offers that rarest of treats: A full range of diverse entry points into the world of books and their creators. In the past, I've attended workshops and author panels at the Schomburg Center, Countee Cullen Library, Harlem YMCA, Thurgood Marshall Academy, and Columbia University Law School. I've always made certain to stroll along 135th Street, between Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevards, with the crowd of 30,000 other bibliophiles, sampling some of the thousands of books on display and talking with many of their authors. I usually end up at the Main Stage, directly across from the Schomburg, where the live, on-stage literary, musical, spoken word performances electrify hundreds, turning that area of the Harlem Book Fair (HBF) into a huge block party, with people moving to the beat or shouting "Tell it! Preach!"

This year, I chose a more intimate experience with books and authors: I attended the Phillis Wheatley Book Awards, which kicked off the HBF and was held at Columbia University's Miller Theatre. And, on Sunday morning, instead of my usual church appearance, I opted to head to the Hotel Beacon for the Invitational Author Brunch, which concluded this year's HBF. These two events might be seen as framing or perhaps serving as bookends for my HBF experience this year. More than ever before, social media – especially Facebook and Twitter --were also keys to how I chose to participate in and share about #HBF 2015.

Another highlight: Long before I knew they were even nominees, I interviewed two of the seven winners of this year's Phillis Wheatley Awards for What's The 411TV. First-time author Selma Jackson's GRANNY'S HELPER won in the Young Readers category; and Tiphanie Yanique's LAND OF FEAR AND DROWNING (Penguin/Riverhead, 2014) won for Fiction.

Jackson, who self-published her first book, tackles racial discrimination, physical disability, gender privilege, family tragedies, and more, with such gentle, sure-handed confidence that children from ages 8 to 11 will fall in love with the title characters -- Young Selma and her blind granny.

Harlem-Book-Fair Phillis-Wheatley-Awards Luvon-Roberson-with-author-Selma-Jackson-and-illustrator-Ansel-Pitcairn-in-lobby-of-Miller-Theatre-at-Columbia-University 600x611What's The 411's Book Editor Luvon Roberson; Selma Jackson, author of Granny's Helper; and Ansel Pitcairn, Illustrator, Granny's Helper; Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

Yanique's compelling novel, which took her 11 years to complete, is a powerful homage to what it means to be "African American," as viewed through the three-way lens of her three narrators. Her powerful storytelling opens a way for me to recognize Virgin Islanders as "African-Americans" as my enslaved forebears on the US Mainland and to re-envision spaces and places we each call "home."

Harlem-Book-Fair Phillis-Wheatley-Awards Luvon-Roberson-with-author-Tiphanie-Yanique-in-lobby-of-Miller-Theatre-at-Columbia-University 600x698What's The 411 Book Editor Luvon Roberson and award-winning author, Tiphanie Yanique. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

 Read about how I first learned of Yanique's work in 2014, at the Harlem Book Fair

Harlem Book Fair founder Max Rodriquez offered a moving introduction to the Awards event and Columbia University's Associate Dean, Office of Community Outreach, School of the Arts Marcia Sells opened with a warm welcome to the 200+ people filling the theatre. Hosted by WBGO host Sheila E. Anderson, the Wheatley Book Awards also honored acclaimed poet-activist Nikki Giovanni and renowned illustrator Jerry Pinkney with Legacy Awards. Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney delivered a memorable tribute to Jerry Pinkney – in the form of a children's story about "Daddy Lion."

Ancestral music performed by Atiba Wilson and the Befo' Quotet, vocalist Imani Uzuri's call and response selection, and the moving choreopoem enacted by Sherri Pullman, Chantal Maurice, and Vesta Walker made for the evening's festive, entertaining flow. Behind-the-scenes, writer and media director Pittershawn Palmer was in constant motion, helping to ensure the success of this must-attend annual literary event.

Harlem-Book-Fair Phillis-Wheatley-Awards Choreopoem-Performers Chantal-Maurice Sherri-Pullum-and-Vesta-Walker-in-the-lobby-of-Miller-Theatre-at-Columbia-University 600x689Choreopoem (L to R) Chantal Maurice; Sherri Pullum; and Vesta Walker. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

 CLOSING LINES... 2015 Phillis Wheatley Awards

"I love being touched by a book." – Max Rodriquez, founder, QBR Harlem Book Fair

Harlem-Book-Fair Phillis-Wheatley-Awards Max-Rodrguez-and-Marcia-Sells-on-stage 600x619Max Rodriguez, Founder, QBR, the producer of the Wheatley Book Awards and the Harlem Book Fair on stage with Marcia Sells; Associate Vice President, Office of Community Outreach, Columbia University School of the Arts. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

The Phillis Wheatley Book Awards, named for the first published African-American female writer, is given for literary work and literary advocacy that transcends culture, boundary, and perception.

2015 Phillis Wheatley Awards 21 Finalists & 7 Winners

First Fiction
Adinkrahene: Fear of a Black Planet by Jeffery A. Faulkerson
Born at Dawn by Nigeria Lockley -- Winner
Shifting Allegiances: A Nigerian's Story of Nigeria, America & Culture by Amaka Lily

Every Day Is for the Thief by Teju Cole
Glorious Sunset by Ava Bleu
Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique -- Winner

First Fiction
Daffodil: A Mother's Journey by Demetria Hayes
No Doubt: The Murder(s) of Oscar Grant by Thandisizwe Chimurenga
Regina Anderson, Harlem Renaissance Librarian by Ethelene Whitmire -- Winner

A Light Shines in Harlem: New York's First Charter School and the Movement It Led by Mary C. Bounds -- Winner
Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine by Dr. Louis W. Sullivan
Businessman First: Remembering Henry G. Parks, Jr., 1916-1989 Capturing the Life of A Businessman Who Was African American by Maurice W. Dorsey

Brief Evidence of Heaven: Poems from the Life of Anna Murray Douglass by M. Nzadi Keita
City of Eternal Spring by Afaa Michael Weaver-- Winner
Tears For My Ancestors by Malik Canty

Young Readers
Granny's Helper by Selma Jackson -- Winner
Midnight and the Man Who Had No Tears by Tiffany Golden
Tate and His Historic Dream by Bernard C. Turner

Young Adult Readers
Dear Diary, The Bullying Won't Stop by Delicia B. Davis
The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis -- Winner
Willow by Tonya Cherie Hegamin

Legacy Award Winners
Nikki Giovanni
Jerry Pinkney

To learn more about Harlem Book Fair, visit

Author Selma Jackson Wins Phillis Wheatley Book Award

A First-Time and Self-Published Author, Selma Jackson, Wins Phillis Wheatley Book Award in Young Readers Category


Each year, the Harlem Book Fair launches with its signature event, the Phillis Wheatley Book Awards. This year brings special validation to self-published authors, and should give many would-be authors inspiration because Selma Jackson, a first-time and self-published author took home the Phillis Wheatley Book Award for her beautifully written book, Granny's Helper. At What's The 411, we are especially proud of the recognition of Ms. Jackson's work because weeks before the Wheatley Book Awards, I had the opportunity to sit down with Selma Jackson for an exclusive interview.

In Granny's Helper, a book written for ages 7-11-year-olds, little Selma is unaware of the barriers her parents face because of discrimination against African-Americans, the precautions they are forced to take, and the creative strategies they devise to subvert the discrimination against themselves and their children. These bittersweet memories, of course, are held by the author, who recalls them as such only now, as she looks back through adult eyes at her childhood.

Granny's Helper tells Jackson's story of growing up in the 1950s by focusing on her grandmother's visits from the South every summer to stay with her family in New York City. This, of course, is the reverse of most summer visits in African-American families. It is during these visits that Little Selma learns many life lessons from her blind grandmother about helping others; how to read, write, and ask questions; and overcoming adversity.

What's The 411 Episode 58: Future Throwing Shade at Ciara and Russell Wilson

Camille Cosby Opens Up; Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson Get Emmy Noms for Lead Actresses in Drama Series and more

In What's The 411 Episode 58, the panel of What's The 411 hosts Glenn Gilliam and Kizzy Cox and correspondents Onika McLean and Essence Semaj are discussing the Eric Garner case, Bill Cosby, BB King; rapper/producer Timbaland; Bobbi Kristina; rapper Hussein Fatal, NASA scientist Claudia Alexander; the Emmy nominations; rapper Future's feud with singer Ciara over her new beau, NFL Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson's involvement with their son; Amazon's selection of Spike Lee's film, Chiraq; President Obama's work ethic; the Harlem Book Fair's Wheatley Awards and author Selma Jackson's win of a Wheatley Award; Kizzy Cox calls Texas police On the Carpet for the death of Sandra Bland; and a Reality TV Recap focused on VH1's Twinning and Bishop TD Jakes' scolding of the Braxton sisters on the Braxton Family Values.

What's The 411TV Episode 58 Rundown

What's The 411 Quick Takes

A settlement was reached in the Eric Garner case. Garner was the Staten Island man who died after being placed in a chokehold by police in 2014. The Garner Family settled with the City of New York for $5.9 million dollars.

WBLS.COM and the New York Post are reporting the Camille Cosby believes that her husband's accusers 'consented' drugs and sex. More than 40 women have come forward accusing the disgraced actor and comedian, Bill Cosby, of rape. In the meantime, President Obama, when asked about the alleged allegations at a press conference, said: "if you give a woman -- or a man, for that matter -- without his or her knowledge a drug and then have sex with that person without consent, that's rape." recently, The New York Times has obtained a 10-year-old deposition in which Cosby spoke more of how he used fame, drugs, and fortune for sex. Comedian and talk show host, Whoopi Goldberg, after originally defending Cosby on the View, has now backtracked her support.

We have an update on the late blues man B.B. King. King's daughters said he was poisoned which led to his death. Now, according to a recent autopsy report, he died of Alzheimer's Disease and other complications.

THE GRIO.COM is reporting that NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt is number one newscast for three consecutive weeks.

And it doesn't get any better for rapper-producer Timbaland. His wife, Monique Mosley, has filed for divorce for the second time; Nick Gordon has been served with a $10 million dollar lawsuit on behalf of Bobby Kristina Brown. The documents state that Gordon misrepresented himself as Brown's husband to control and limit Brown's spending and interactions with others; and rapper DMX was sentenced to 6 months for not paying child support.

Speaking of Bobbi Kristina, movie mogul Tyler Perry recently visited her at the hospice in Atlanta. Perry later pleaded to the media: "It's heartbreaking to think that even in a time like this, this child is still not allowed any peace. I assure you, the family will issue an official statement if something changes. Until then, can we just pray for Krissi, and the Houston and Brown families?"

In an "Only in New York" story, singer and actress Brandy boarded a New York City subway train, in complete disguise, and sang on board a packed train. No one paid her any attention.



What's Poppin'


2015 Emmy Nominations

The 2015 Emmy nominations are in. Among the nominees are actresses Taraji P. Henson and Viola Davis, who are up for outstanding lead actress in a drama for their respective shows EMPIRE and How To Get Away With Murder; Uzo Aduba for outstanding supporting actress in a drama for Orange Is The New Black; Don Cheadle and Anthony Anderson for outstanding actor in a comedy for their shows House Of Lies and Black-Ish respectively; Queen Latifah and David Oyelowo are nominated for outstanding actress and actor in a TV movie for Bessie and Nightingale respectively; Khandi Alexander and Cicely Tyson are up for outstanding guest actress for Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder respectively; and Regina King, Angela Bassett, and Mo'nique are up for outstanding actress in a limited series or movie for their work in American Crime (King), American Horror Story: Freak Show (Bassett), and Bessie (Mo'nique). Congratulations!

Future-Ciara-Russell Wilson

It seems like rapper Future is having a little trouble with Ciara moving on with her life. When Future was asked about photos showing Ciara's new man, Russell Wilson pushing around in a stroller little Future, his son with Ciara, the rapper voiced his disapproval.

"You don't even bring a man around your son," he shared on the Breakfast Club. "You know this dude for a few months and you're bringing him around your kid? Who does that? Nobody does that."

Is Future right? Is it too soon for Ciara to expose her son to a new man in her life?

Amazon Selects Spike Lee

Amazon Studios says it has acquired Spike Lee's new film as its first amazon original movie. The film, with the working title Chi-raq, features a cast including Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, and Teyonah Parris, as well as D.B. Sweeney, Harry Lennix, Steve Harris and Angela Bassett, plus John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson.

Amazon studios' Ted Hope said, "It would be impossible to find a better filmmaker" than Lee to launch the studio with.

Under The Radar

The hardest working man in government is ... you guessed it, is President Obama. According to Americans Against the Tea Party, President Obama would need to take the rest of his candidacy on vacation to add up to the time former President George Bush took on vacation. If you recall, Roger Ailes, President and CEO of Fox, about two years ago:

"Obama's the one who's never worked a day in his life. He never earned a penny that wasn't public money. How many fundraisers does he attend every week? How often does he play basketball and golf? I wish I had that kind of time. He's lazy, but the media won't report that."

411 Book Party

Luvon Roberson, What's The 411's Book Editor, tells us about the Harlem Book Fair's Wheatley Awards and a recap of her interview with author Selma Jackson, one of the winners of The Wheatley Awards.

On The Carpet: Texas Police

Every week there's at least one person that gets called on the carpet. And this week we are calling on the carpet the Hempstead Police Department in Texas.

Stories like this are on rewind! Twenty-seven-year-old Sandra Bland was on her way to her new job when she was pulled over by state trooper Brian Encinia in Prairie View, Texas for failing to signal when changing lanes. The police then claimed that she was combative with the officer, which required him to slam her to the ground and another officer to hold her down as well. But there was a witness who recorded the incident and Bland doesn't appear combative but is heard yelling that they slammed her head into the ground so hard she couldn't hear! What's worse is that they threw her in jail and two days later she was dead. The county sheriff claims she died of suicide by asphyxiation...but this is the same sheriff who was fired from his post as Chief of Police in Hempstead, Texas in 2007 for racism and abuse against black people! Why was he allowed back into law enforcement at all?

This just keeps happening, the excessive force, the death of black people at the hands of law enforcement. It has to stop, just like white lives, Black lives matter.

Reality TV Recap


VH1's Twinning

According to, Vh1 is ready to dip its feet back into the reality TV pool with the launch of its new show, Twinning on July 22nd. This show will feature twins in a survivor-like competition for a grand prize of $222,222.22. For 10 weeks, a dozen sets of twins will live apart from one another and compete in challenges to see which pair really has the closest bond.

Braxton Family Values

Bishop T.D. Jakes gave the bickering Braxton Sisters the scolding of their lives on Braxton Family Values. In short he said:

"You're spoiled. You're flat-out spoiled."

"To see you in these fancy shoes and these nice clothes, and act like this??? "How can we teach our children to respect black women, if black women don't respect black women? This has got to stop."

What's The 411TV host Glenn Gilliam, put a wrinkle in the commentary. Glenn suggested that Bishop Jakes needs to use his pulpit to comment on larger issues affecting the Black community.


If you would like to call someone on the carpet, hit us up on Facebook or Twitter @whatsThe411TV with who you want called on the carpet and why. If we choose your story, we'll include it on the show.

A Conversation With Children’s Book Author Selma Jackson about Granny’s Helper

Selma Jackson, a 2015 Wheatley Book Awards Finalist, takes us on a much-needed journey


Do you have fond memories of heading South with your family as soon as the New York City school year ended every year? Memories of being surrounded by grandparents, cousins, extended family members? Of days filled with sunlight that seemed never to end? How about plump red tomatoes bursting with juice and seeds that you added a pinch of salt to, squeezed, and ate like apples? And, nights of catching June bugs, placing them in Mason jars, and watching them light up and dim, again and again, while huddling under your bed covers?

These are among the sweet childhood memories that Selma Jackson evokes in Granny's Helper, her debut book for children ages 8 to 11. But the book is filled with bittersweet memories, as well. Several unexpected twists and the harsh realities of racial discrimination are central to Granny's Helper.

Little Selma is unaware of the barriers her parents face because of discrimination against African-Americans, the precautions they are forced to take, and the creative strategies they devise to subvert the discrimination against themselves and their children. These bittersweet memories, of course, are held by the author, who recalls them as such only now, as she looks back through adult eyes at her childhood.

Granny's Helper tells Jackson's story of growing up in the 1950s by focusing on her grandmother's visits from the South every summer to stay with her family in New York City. This, of course, is the reverse of most summer visits in African-American families. It is during these visits that Little Selma learns many life lessons from her blind grandmother about helping others; how to read, write, and ask questions; and overcoming adversity.

Granny also helps Selma learn that although "Only boys who are named after their fathers are juniors....My father named me and your father named you." Selma discovers that -- like the boys in her family -- she, too, can share a special bond with her father through naming. Then, there are the visits the family would take every spring.

"We drove south to my parents' birthplaces of Georgia and Virginia every year between 1953 and 1958."

Little Selma would visit Granny in Hickory, Virginia; and here is how she in counterpoint to Adult Selma, the author of her story, experienced those trips South:

"My parents did not tell us that we could not use the rest stops, eat in the restaurants, or stay in hotels once we were south of Washington, DC, because of racial discrimination. Instead, we were made to feel that we were having a roadside picnic on our trip. If we had to use the bathroom we went in the woods, and we even spent the night at the home of a family in North Carolina on our way to Georgia!"

Granny's Helper offers middle-school readers the story of Little Selma through whom they can see and appreciate the important role that older members of their own families play in their lives as well as to recognize the challenging and unjust realities of the world around them. Ansel Pitcairn's illustrations have the look and feel of watercolor paintings, which enhance the easy, fluid flow of Little Selma's evolving understanding of her grandmother's unhurried yet powerful effect on shaping her into the adult she was to become. The book includes a Questions/Comments section that beginning readers of the 22-page book will find helpful.

Granny's Helper, published by the author, is a 2015 finalist in children's fiction for the Wheatley Book Awards, which opens the Harlem Book Fair in July.

Such affirming recognition of Jackson's book comes at a time when the publishing industry is being challenged to offer writers of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to tell their stories and to open pathways for editors, staff, publishers, and others to enter the industry.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks is a vital call which authors like Jackson not only issue but also heed. Yet, even in the face of exclusion, in an industry which is overwhelmingly white and male, Jackson and many other writers continue to tell stories about children of color -- for all children to read. Our children can only grow more fully and become more informed citizens when diversity in storytelling is valued and becomes a reality. For a list of diverse books for the children in your life, visit

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