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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.


Stephen Somerstein: A Photographer's Perspective of 1965 SELMA TO MONTGOMERY MARCH

Stephen Somerstein Photographs Revisit Civil Rights March at NY Historical Society; Actor-Activist Harry Belafonte Gives Opening Remarks

Black History Month, always a busy time for me, seemed even more so this year. While I certainly view every day as an opportunity to learn more about the contributions of African-Americans to the U.S. and the world, for Black History Month, I make a concerted effort to set a daily plan so that I can remember, honor, and share our history. One highlight for me this year: A photographic journey I took back in time to 1965 and a Civil Rights March in Alabama.

Watch Video Interview with Stephen Somerstein

I was at the preview of an exhibition of Stephen Somerstein's photographs, entitled, The 1965 March: Freedom's Journey from Selma to Montgomery, at the New York Historical Society. It's a photographic tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March, with dozens of iconic images that capture the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. What I found so powerful is that the photographs showcase the diversity of people who were on the front lines of the 1965 protest, as well as the people -- on the sidewalks or from their porches -- who came out to cheer the marchers on.


I was able to see, up-close and personal, images of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., addressing the crowd of 25,000 civil rights marchers in Montgomery.

There were also images of folk singer Joan Baez, standing in front of state troopers blocking the entrance to the State Capitol; and images of white hecklers yelling and making gestures at the marchers.

bigots-lined-the streets-to taunt-the-marchers-from-Selma-to-Montgomery cropped 3T4A1891 650x758

Hundreds of marchers started in Selma, and by the time they reached the state capital in Montgomery, 54 miles and five days later, their numbers had swelled to 25,000. Standing on the steps of the State Capitol Building, Dr. Martin Luther King., Jr., delivered his now-emblematic speech, "How Long, Not Long." 

MLK Facing-Crowd-from-stage cropped 3T4A1907 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressing civil rights marchers in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo by Stephen Somerstein and part of the exhibit, The 1965 March: Freedom's Journey from Selma to Montgomery at the New York Historical Society

This is where he asks and answers, "How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."


How did such a massive gathering happen? Why did so many people join the March? And, how did they find the fortitude to march after "Bloody Sunday"?

March 7, 1965 is "Bloody Sunday." That's the day when – at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge -- police tear-gassed, beat with Billy clubs, and slashed with whips those who were protesting, marching for their civil right to vote. I learned a good deal about the struggle and power of those "foot soldiers for justice," at the photographic exhibit, which showcased dozens of the 400 photographs taken by then 24-year-old Somerstein, a City College of New York (CCNY) student. But, what I learned weeks after I viewed the photographic exhibition is that Edmund Pettus was a Confederate general, a U.S. Senator from Alabama, and Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.

How ironic. Fifty years later, thousands of people, including President Obama, will gather on March 7, 2015 to commemorate "Bloody Sunday." This year, I discovered anew the exceptional courage and resistance of the protestors: Following "Bloody Sunday," Martin Luther King, Jr., led another protest march two days later to cross the Pettus Bridge, but turned back at the Bridge. He wanted federal court protection for the marchers. Finally, on March 21, 1965, the protestors made their way to Montgomery by crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Five months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


While at the pre-opening reception, held to benefit the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, I spoke with five people who were students at the time and heeded the call from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to go south to help blacks register to vote.

Students-who-went-to-Selma.Still001 700x394 People who heeded Dr. King's call to go south, when they were college students in 1965.

They told me what they experienced as young whites working, side-by-side, with blacks in the face of sometimes deadly resistance of Southern whites, in 1965. Today, they say their path to the fight for social justice began 50 years ago, when they journeyed south. I also talked with Somerstein at the reception -- which opened with remarks by actor-singer-activist Harry Belafonte. Somerstein told me that "it was time to share these historic images with the public."

"The 1965 March: Stephen Somerstein Photographs Freedom's Journey from Selma to Montgomery" exhibition will be on view at The New York Historical Society until Sunday, April 19, 2015. To learn more, visit the New York Historical Society's website

CLOSING LINES: Snippets of MLK,Jr., "How Long, Not Long"

• "I know you are asking today, "How long will it take?" (Speak, sir) Somebody's asking, "How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?" Somebody's asking, "When will wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Selma and Birmingham and communities all over the South, be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men?" Somebody's asking, "When will the radiant star of hope be plunged against the nocturnal bosom of this lonely night, (Speak, speak, speak) plucked from weary souls with chains of fear and the manacles of death? How long will justice be crucified, (Speak) and truth bear it?" (Yes, sir) I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, (Yes, sir) however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, (No sir) because "truth crushed to earth will rise again." (Yes, sir) How long? Not long, (Yes, sir) because "no lie can live forever." (Yes, sir) How long? Not long, (All right. How long) because "you shall reap what you sow." (Yes, sir)"

• "How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Harry Belafonte Gives Keynote Address at Photo Exhibition Commemorating 1965 Civil Rights March

VIDEO: Harry Belafonte opens Stephen Somerstein's 1965 Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March Photo Exhibition at New York Historical Society

In this video, singer, songwriter, actor, and social activist, Harry Belafonte, gives the keynote address at a reception for the opening of Stephen Somerstein's socially relevant photo exhibit chronicling the 1965 Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery.

The event was held at the New York Historical Society.

Dr. Brenda Greene Sponsors Commemoration of Civil Rights Event with New York Historical Society

Dr. Greene: A Curator of Black Culture through Black Literature and Art

In this video, Dr. Brenda M. Greene, Executive Director, Center for Black Literature and Chair, English Department at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, discusses the crucial need for exhibits such as Stephen Somerstein's photo exhibit chronicling the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March.

The conversation with What's the 411 Book Editor Luvon Roberson was held at the opening reception for Stephen Somerstein's photo exhibit chronicling the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March at the New York Historical Society in New York City on January 15, 2015, the actual birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Center for Black Literature was a co-sponsor of the reception.

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