Monday, December 9, 2013

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

Few people in the history of the world have a profound effect on all mankind. Fewer still are deemed worthy of near sainthood, their death eliciting a cause for global mourning. Nelson Mandela will be counted among those few.

I saw Mandela in Oakland. June 1990. It was the last stop on an 8 city tour of the U.S. 4 months after being freed from a South African jail. He had been a political prisoner for 27 years. At the age of 71 he was a free man.

“Mandela is coming, Mandela is coming” everybody was talking about it. I did not know who “Mandela” was. The event was at the Oakland Coliseum. The way folks carried on I thought he was a (new) rock star. Somebody at work had an extra ticket. Looking back, I now recognize I saw and heard speak one of the greatest human beings of all time.

I went expecting a concert when what actually took place was an old school love/peace fest/, black power movement/protest, Bay Area style, attended by 58,000 people. In a sea of people banners that read “Oregon” and “Seattle”, they had come from all over the West Coast. The hippies from Berkeley/San Francisco and the Black Panthers from Oakland were both well represented. Within an expanse of multicultural faces, yellow, black and green (the South African flag) were the colors of the blistering hot day.

Oakland, CA , the birthplace of the Black Panther/Black Power movement was a fitting stop for the tour. Fresh out of jail Mandela had come to America to press even harder for sanctions against corporations that did business with South Africa under the conditions of apartheid. The ovation that greeted the little old man as he walked on stage was long and thunderous. He gave his speech and people cried. When he spoke of equality and (in)justice and freedom for his people in South Africa it renewed what would became a global response to his plea. (See Internet videos). Four years later he was elected president of South Africa.

Having to carry a “pass”, segregation, not being allowed to vote or own property were the law during apartheid. “We were placed in a position to accept inferiority or defy the government. We choose to defy the government”. said Mandela. Nelson Mandela’s story is one of perseverance, dignity and honor. His is the story of not backing down, of not giving up. He fought the good fight and we all won!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Queen Latifah Show

Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah, 43, has always been a multitalented phenomenon and a trailblazer.  Her resume is impressive. Grammy Award winning Hip-Hop artist, Golden Globe Award winning actress, BET Image Award winner, and Oscar Award nominee highlight some of her accomplishments.  A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Not bad for a girl from New Jersey. 

Throughout it all she has carried herself with a certain air of poise and confidence that has eluded many women in the entertainment industry. Female self-empowerment and self-respect have always been a running theme throughout her projects. She has now placed herself in the position of “talk show host” with the unveiling of her new daytime television effort “The Queen Latifah Show.”

With Latifah at the helm, “The Queen Latifah Show” is produced, written directed by a powerhouse of Hollywood A-listers including Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith along with her longtime Flavor Unit associate Hakim Compere.  To which she says, “I am working with all my old friends, who happen to be huge.” She has known Will, Jada and Hakim since they were all in their teens. “We have all become great businesspeople and have grown throughout our careers to get to this point. We know where we came from and we know who we are.”

This is not a project that she is taking lightly. “I want to make this show a big hit, I really do. I feel if we can make this show a big hit we have the power to change people’s lives. That means a lot to me” she says. “I want my show be must see TV, that’s my goal”

“We are looking to do a fun hour.  A-list celebrities, DJ’s, interesting topics. We are going into the field. Doing really interesting stories on people who are making a difference every day. We are thinking outside the box. Not just the plain old talk show format. We are going to stretch it (The Queen Latifah Show) a little further, make it funnier, elevate it, take it to the next level.”

At this point in her career (and her life) Queen Latifah seems grounded and happy to be surrounded by whole lot of love. She maintains a sense of optimism that places her in position for even greater success. “I want to have fun on my show, I want to sing and do sketches. I (also) want to walk away with something, I want to learn something and I want to share that. I could retire doing this.” she says.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Zimmerman NOT Guilty

On February 26, 2012 George Zimmerman (then 28) shot and killed 17 year-old Trayvon Martin an unarmed African-American teenager who was minding his business walking home from the store. On July 13, 2013 Zimmerman was found not guilty by a jury of his peers, six white women.

The reality is Zimmerman was long preparing for a showdown. He had been Mixed Martial Arts training for 18 months; he was enrolled in criminal justice classes. His best buds in law enforcement advised him. He was carrying a concealed weapon.

George Zimmerman is the best example of a person who should never have a gun permit. A person who sees bad guys at every turn. A person who places himself in a position of pseudo authority, in his case the Neighborhood Watch captain, which he thought gave him the right to lord over others. A person who goes to Target to get groceries on a Sunday evening strapped with a Kel Tec 9mm handgun. He had to carry a gun, as he never knew when he would run into those “fucking punks”.

In what common sense would see as an open and shut case of guilt on Zimmerman’s part, in the world of criminal justice it is not quite that simple.  The world of criminal justice relies heavily in interpretation. The interpretation of laws, the interpretation of words, the interpretation of evidence. It relies on stacking the jury with people who lawyers think they can convince to see things their way. It relies on money, in having enough to buy expert witnesses to come in and testify to your version of events. It also relies heavily on its ace on the hole “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

These types of trials are often not about justice, forget who wins or loses. They are not about the little people, those being the victims and/or the defendants. Once they reach the world stage they become career boosters for the attorneys involved, the judges, the TV news anchors and the so-called experts who are the guests on their shows. They are about the forthcoming movie and books deals (Zimmerman’s friend Mark Osterman penned his book early), celebrity appearances and making money.

Trayvon Martin’s parents have been a model on how one might carry themselves publically through unspeakable tragedy. They are not “street people” you know, the seemingly ignorant ones that everyone can comfortably say “they had it coming”. Trayvon’s mother Sabrina Fulton has been employed 24 years with Miami Dade-County. She is a college graduate, married to Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s dad at the time of his birth.  Tracy Martin is a truck driver. They were a tight family unit. Both mother and father actually lived near each other in Miami. Martin Sr. was visiting his fiancée in Sanford and Trayvon was with him because he was suspended from school.  I can only imagine the little road trip was to give Trayvon some father/son “get your act together kid” time.  

As of now there was no way of knowing if any further remedy will be sought regarding justice for Trayvon Martin or punishment for George Zimmerman. Today we know that Zimmerman was found not guilty and is a free man. Today he is free to roam the streets again, free to carry his concealed weapon.

In reality Zimmerman will never be a free man again. Soon enough the financial support will stop, his wife will divorce him. He will spend the rest of his life a pariah, an embarrassment to his people, to his judge father, to those same peers that once had his back. They will soon find association with “Georgie” uncomfortable once the blinding lights of the media are turned off and reality sets in. After all, who wants a dinner guest with blood on his hands from killing an innocent kid?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Q&A with actress Kendra C. Johnson

Actress Kendra C. Johnson
Kendra C. Johnson, 37, is a Hartford, CT native. She is part of an all-star cast in the new Tyler Perry show “Love Thy Neighbor” featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Johnson recently took some time with Inquiring News to speak directly to her Connecticut fans, friends and family.

Inquiring News: How did you make the leap from Hartford to Hollywood?
Kendra C. Johnson: I have had a couple of detours from Hartford to Hollywood. I’ve lived in Atlanta, North Carolina and Los Angeles. As much as I’ve traveled I feel like the foundation I was brought up with and who I am is rooted in CT. I’m happy and proud my life began where and when it did. Hartford birthed my love for the performing arts. I am a product of the Artists Collective. They have a lot to do with where I am today.

IN: Tell Inquiring News a bit about your new show Love Thy Neighbor?
KCJ: It’s a sitcom. Hattie Mae/Patrice Lovely plays my mother. Palmer Williams plays my uncle. They came together and run a diner. Love Thy Neighbor is about the every day trials and tribulations of life.  The happy times and the sad times. I also have a son on the show.

Cast of Tyler Perry's Love Thy Neighbor
IN: I have to ask, what was it like meeting and working with both Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry?
KCJ: I was comforted by Mr. Perry while on set. He made me feel very comfortable and very valuable on set.

IN: Did you get to meet Oprah Winfrey?
KCJ: I did! (Laughs) I’m still waiting to tell Oprah about the time I met Gayle King in Hartford. I think it was at AME Zion many years ago when I was a little girl.

IN: So many great credits in television and motion pictures. (Kendra’s acting credits include appearances on The Game, The Shield, Bones, and Phat Girlz among others) What do you see as the key to longevity for working in the business?
KCJ: First and foremost you have to make a decision. One of my network mates said it best, “Do you want to be famous or a working actor?” Fame is fleeting it can come and go; you’re hot today and not tomorrow. We’ve seen that over and over. If your desire is to be a working actor then you have to plan for and prepare for some longevity in this business. If that is your desire there are so many aspects of the art you can work in.

IN: Are you satisfied with the roles you have been given/chosen?
KCJ: Actually, you know, I am. Every time I think about a role that I’ve played there has been an interesting story there. The character that I play in Love thy Neighbor this is probably one of the characters I’ve been proudest to portray.

IN: If you were not acting what would you be doing?
KCJ: Well prior to moving to Los Angeles, I worked in Human Resources. So I can always go back to that. I also have a passion for working with children.

IN: What‘s next Kendra?
KCJ: Hopefully we have lots and lots of seasons of Love Thy Neighbor on OWN. We have been told over and over “this is just the beginning”. I excited, I’m grateful, I’m humbled. I feel extremely blessed to have been chosen for this journey.

In addition to film, television and theatre credits Ms. Johnson is the empowerment editor for Plus Model Magazine. Love Thy Neighbor premiers on Wednesday May 29th, on the OWN network at 9pm with a new episode following at 9:30pm.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Inauguration of a President – What You Don’t See on TV


By now you’ve seen many images of the second inauguration of President Barack Obama in many forms. Television, videos, photographs, magazine and newspaper accounts all neatly packaged and nicely presented. Ready for primetime. The promotion of democracy at it’s very best.

What you don’t see is the journey of the people whose flag waving images fill the National Mall and presidential parade route. Over one million individuals traveled to the nation’s capital for an outdoor event in January that lasted just about six hours.

What you don’t see are those people walking for miles along with hundreds of thousands of others to witness history. There is no other way to get to the Mall other than walk. Many of those taking that journey, were in wheelchairs being pushed along by friends or family members, some hobbling along on crutches and canes, some whose breathing is aided by oxygen tanks.

What you don’t see is the hospitality of the people of the Washington D.C. who host the festivities every four years. Shop owners who allow people come in to use restrooms, to get out of the cold and/or to sit for a minute. Scores of volunteers who are up as early as 5:00 in the morning in frigid weather acting as cheerleaders congratulating the people as they (finally) reach the Mall.  The hundreds of vendors from all over the country selling their souvenirs. The museums that remained open so people can stop by and take a tour.

What you don’t see is the heavy security. The snipers atop buildings, the police and their dogs, the military presence. All there to make sure there are no problems. So much order amid so many people is amazing. There has never been an incident.

What you don’t see is the effect of the realization that the on the very same ground you are walking upon stood soldiers fighting the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It is where Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. One can overhear parents telling the stories to the youngsters.

People came to Washington D.C. from all over the world to be a part of the historic event. Old, young, black, white, brown and tan. The people who did not wait for a formal invitation because they knew none was needed.

What you did not see was everyday people doing an extraordinary thing.  Why, because we know we may never see this day again so we went to Washington (and took the kids) to be able to tell the story to future generations.