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Pres. Obama and Trump let their guards down at White House

buzzz worthy. . . By Mona Austin President Obama and Donald Trump met for the first time on Thursday to begin talks about the official...


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Friday, July 12, 2013

Shirley Murdock Stars in Soul on Fire The Musical in New York City

buzzz worthy. . .


Musical production hits the New York City’s Off-Off-Broadway scene, starring acclaimed R&B/Gospel artist Shirley Murdock as well as playwright/ composer Tyrone Stanley


(New York, NY- July 12, 2013)--Soul on Fire will be performed as a part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival (MITF), produced by Onyx Vizion Productions, Inc. of the Bronx, New York. The performances will be held on the Main Stage at the June Havoc Theatre July 16 (6pm); July 18 (8:30pm); July 19 (8pm); July 20 (1pm); and July 21 (3pm). The theatre is located at 312 West 36th Street, 1st Floor, New York NY, 10018. Tickets are currently on sale for $18. You may purchase tickets by calling (866) 811-4111, or you can purchase tickets online at www.midtownfestival.org

Soul on Fire is an inspiring musical revolving around the eternal themes of love and sacrifice. The setting exists in a utopian society called “Golden City,” and yet the actors reveal a range of human emotions that cannot be confined within pre-set, perfected standards. The main characters, Kisha and Mozes, perform a heart-wrenching drama that consists of forbidden love, secrets, untruths, and hypocrisy. Mozes must choose between his love for Kisha and his very existence. 

Soul on Fire features Shirley Murdock, who is best known for Elektra Records Top 10 R&B hits such as, “In Your Eyes” and “As We Lay.” Tyrone Stanley, who wrote the musical, is also performing in Soul on Fire, much to the delight of audiences who saw his debut in Toni Morrison's Margaret Garner in New York City Opera. Stanley is a native of Goldsboro, North Carolina and a graduate of Eastern Wayne High School. He studied with the late, great Mr. Angelo Holman, Jr., before embarking upon successful performing arts careers. 

Local apprentices from Barrier School Theater Apprenticeship Program are given an opportunity to experience and participate in the Off-Off Broadway production of 
Tyrone Stanley’s Musical: Soul on Fire. The Barrie School Theater Apprenticeship Program, in partnership with Composer and Playwright Tyrone Stanley, offers middle and high school students, who show great promise in theatre arts, the unique opportunity to explore and experience the world of professional theatre. With behind-the-scenes access to rehearsals and performances, one-on-one interaction with professional artists and industry experts, and guidance on training and higher education programs, the apprentices receive a thorough introduction to the production process and careers in the performing arts. The apprentices are Aria Smith, Ashika Chivauldi, Helena Seabrook, Jong-Sun Mayele, Emanuel Plummer, Autumn Steele, Peter Vernalis, Sabeen Rana, Rachael Fisher, Cole Leacock, and Noah Yared. They are talented group and so excited to have this opportunity.

The 
Midtown International Theatre Festival’s 2013 Season runs from July 15 – August 4, 2013 at the June Havoc Theatre, 312 W. 36th Street, 1st floor; the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre, 312 W. 36th Street, 1st floor; the Main Stage Theater, 312 W. 36th Street, 4th floor; and the Jewel Box Theater, 312 W. 36th Street, 4th floor. 

John Chatterton created the MITF in 2000, a Midtown alternative to other theatre festivals, as a way to present the finest Off-Off Broadway talent in convenience, comfort, and safety. In 2003, the MITF moved its activities to their current location, the Theatre Building on W. 36th St., where it has been successfully ensconced since. In 2008 the Festival expanded from two theatres in that building to four, at the WorkShop Theater Company and Abingdon Theatre Company spaces. The MITF’s artistic emphasis is on the script itself, and therefore the Festival focuses on effective but minimal production values. 
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Closing arguments final, verdict underway in Zimmerman trial

buzzz worthy. . .
By Mona Austin

Arguments in the second degree murder trial of George Zimmeran concluded today. A jury of six women will decide if the former neighborhood watchman from Sanford, Florida acted in self defense or hate when he gunned down 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012 who allegedly attacked him.

Yesterday Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda started to bring the 24 day trial to a close.

"Who started this? Who followed who? Who was minding their own business? Of the two, who was the one that was armed?" de la Rionda asked the jury.

Taking over two hours to summarize the state's case, the prosecutor characterized Zimmerman as a lying, wannabe cop who took the law into his own hands --after authorities told him not to pursue Martin --and murdered  the deceased in cold blood “not because he had to but because he wanted to.” De la Rionda angrily shredded the noble citizen image of George Zimmerman pointing to a string of inconsistencies in his account of what happened on the  night of the incident. He said there would not be  a case if Zimmerman had not profiled Martin, an innocent teen, as a criminal and acted on false assumptions.

This morning at the Seminole Country Justice Center in Sanford, Defense Attorney Mark O’Mara rebutted with a lecturer’s ease, using highly demonstrative cardboard cut outs, enlarged photos and animated video to emphasize the lack of proof from the state.

Although Trayvon Martin was only carrying Skittles and a can of tea, O’Mara said he had a weapon at this disposal. Pointing to a block of cement he brought in O’Mara said  Martin was "armed" with the cement he smashed Zimmerman's head upon, which caused their client to fear for his life and led to justifiable homicide.

O’Mara, the Lead Defense Attorney, went on to answer the question his opponent posed on the previous day: Who started it ?  "The person who decided this was going to be a violent event is the person that didn't go home.. . "
In  one of the most dramatic moments of the trial, O’Mara told the court to wait idly for four whole minutes, saying Martin had four minutes of planning time to figure out what he wanted to do and he did not decide to go home.
In his final closing rebuttal Lead State Attorney John Guy was not equipped with props.  He didn’t need them he said, getting to the “heart” of the case.  Short on evidence, but confident his team had established more than a reasonable doubt, he looked directly at the jurors an appealed to their emotions and common sense by saying people say what’s in their heart.  Reminding jurors of the negative names Zimmerman called Marti,  the contradictions about the placement of the gun, the fact that Zimmerman did not call an ambulance or attempt to resuscitate the victim, he pressed the notion that Martin was an innocent kind who did not have to die.

"If ever there was ever any doubt about what really happened was it not completely removed by what the defendant said after all of the lies the defendant told. Only two people know what happened . . .one is dead and the other one lied over and over and over. Why did he have to lie if he had done nothing wrong?” Guy asked.
Outside the courtroom tensions are high as the nation is polarized in opinions largely divided by race.  Judge Debra Nelson would not allow to race to be brought up as evidence during arguments, but today the prosecutor did addressed it, saying race was a non-issue.

Guy told jurors to consider how they would respond if the roles were reversed and Trayvon shot Zimmerman. "This case is not about race. It’s about right and about wrong. If the roles were reversed and it was Zimmerman walking home in the rain . . .and Martin was driving around with hate in his heart and Trayvon shot Zimmerman. . .That's how you know. . .”

Before turning the case over to the jury, the states hallowed last words were: “To the living we owe respect, but to the dead, we owe the truth."
Jurors are expected to deliberate over the weekend and return a verdict next week.  All six members of the jury must agree unanimously on one of three options:
  1. George Zimmerman is not guilty
  2. The defendant is guilty of manslaughter
  3. The defendant is guilty of second degree murder.
There is no time limit on when they must render the verdict.  The court adjourned without a verdict after three and a half hours of deliberation. Deliberation will resume on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Choosing the Black Doll: An Open Letter to Director Bill Duke

buzzz worthy. . .

I have been attune analytically to the social impact of race and politics since 1992 when  I read the ground-breaking study on the subject of colorism entitled "The Color Complex." The book thoroughly examined how standards of beauty in various ethnic groups affect a person's outlook on life and looks at the social and political implications of both internal and external racial descrimination.  (A highly recommended revised edition of the book is now available.)

It was not until I moved to Virginia that I was reintroduced to the intra-race prejudices that attempted to slay my self-esteem as a child.

A documentary that recently aired on the OWN Network, "Dark Girls," has brought into sharp focus a regressive sideways shift in our growth as a people caused by colorism.   I;m reminded daily that many African Americans are still "color struck" in 2013.   This struggle is evident in online debates, in churches, schools, on the job, in romantic relationships and  in the highly assimilated bedroom community in which my family and I live.

Although the legacy of slavery has had immeasurable, pathological impact on the collective psyche of African Americans, there is something we can do about it: We can love like Christ loved. My hope is that the new discussions that are starting rest on solutions that buffer the explosive emotions that understandably come from a topic driven by personal experience.  and that every person, dark or light owns their part. Ultimately we are who God says we are irrespective of color.

I am offering my perspective on the recent documentary about colorism that has generated debate for some and healing for others.  Here's my take on Bill Duke's "Dark Girls":

Dear Mr. Duke:

I grew up in a Southern community where people whose skin was a deep shade of brown were referred to as “black,” those who were light brown to  tan were called “red” and the lightest among us were described as “yellow,”  “bright,” “high yellow,” or “fair.” In a logical sense, if light skin was “fair” then dark skin was considered “unfair.”  We said as much in rhymes:

If you are light everything is all right,
If you are black step back,
If you are brown stick around.

(Surely if there were a fourth line to this chant, it would say “If you are red you’ll get ahead.”)

“Dark Girls” exposes the unfair treatment dark skin women endure and I am fully vested in supporting the goal of facilitating healthy dialogue on the subject.

As a Multimedia Journalist, mother of two young daughters and a self-loving dark girl, I am writing to applaud you for addressing colorism in both its broad and narrow contexts and to share constructive critiques.

When I watched your documentary on OWN for the second time, a new set of feelings welled up inside of me as I witnessed the cathartic reaction of long-suffering deeply hued women.  My heart ached for the little girls in the film who seemed to dread being dark.  Many women on social networks wrote they cried as they saw pieces of themselves in the film.  Hopefully those tears  are the beginning of healing for the women and little girls who were taught to mask their pain with witty comebacks (you know, “the darker the berry. . .” ) or to just tough it out as they endure subjugation based on the skin tone with which they were born.  ​

I could relate to the women who talked about encountering hurdles in the workplace due to colorism.  Preference for lighter complexions and light skin privilege has played out in my real world quest for advancement as a reporter.

In a recent conversation with a veteran journalist, I was told my dark skin was a limitation to working in television news. Her words were piercing, while there is no denying the presence of color preference in the media.  But, this knowledge never deterred me. (Nor did it deter Oprah; by her example I knew I too could work in front of the camera.)  As we continued to converse,  for every chocolate coated TV news reporter I named, my fellow reporter rolled off two who looked like her – light-skinned with shoulder length hair or longer and racially neutral features.   “Talk to Gwen Ifill,” she finally advised, ending the conversation.

Another media colleague, a brown skinned television producer, once reminded me that I was not  “safe brown.”  Thereby, I was not getting hired because I was unable to pass the modern “paper bag test” intrinsically practiced in both mainstream and Black media.

I firmly believe that neither of these women intended to hurt me, nor were they trying to help me.  The pragmatic part of me  knew they were simply talking "business" and addressing the harsh reality that darker women are rejected systematically. But at the same time, the little girl on the inside of me wondered if they have dark girls'  backs in the face of workplace discrimination and if they, women who I've admired, thought they were better than me. In the same way the Black girl associated the White doll with all things good and rejected the Black doll in the experiment you reference at the start of the film, my colleagues were subconsciously rejecting their race. (Oddly, whether in childhood rhymes of the real adult conversations, dark skin people are expected to tolerate/accept the "off color" prejudicial remarks rooted in the mental color caste system.)

With these experiences fresh on my mind,  “Dark Girls” helped me confirm my suspicions about why I have faced certain obstacles in the employment process that may have little or nothing to do with the presumption that White males predominately make hiring decisions.  I recognized some of my challenges may have come from the subconscious patterns of thinking within our race that breed mentalities of inferiority/superiority while placing the darkest among us on the lowest rungs of society. 

Yes, as your film illustrates, the color complexities intrinsic to our nation’s historic past have cured oppressive attitudes and behaviors that have traumatized some Black women. However,  clouded  by a general  tone of despair and shame, the story was incomplete.   Replacing the segment where men affirmed the attractiveness of dark girls with more testimonials of proud, exuberant mahogany ladies would have had a better effect.  The absence of more positive testimonies can foster a victim mentality. Our daughters need to hear powerful voices of women who look like them more than they need men to validate their beauty, value or worth.  The prevailing message must be that healthy identity must be birthed from within. 

My solace rests in the part of the story that was under-told in “Dark Girls,”  as I am surrounded by self assured, victorious dark skin women.  Many of us have long embraced our skin tone and phenotypical features (i.e., hair, noses, lips, hips) and are fully satisfied living in the skin we are in. Deeply hued Black women have made undeniable strides in media.    Gwen Ifill is NABJ Hall of Famer, Oprah is the the undisputed “Queen of Media”  who happens to top the Forbes Magazine wealthiest list again (yes!), the gorgeous "Sparkle" actress Tika Sumpter steadily works, as a revered supermodel Naomi Campbell is still high stepping around the globe etc., etc., etc. While, the representation of dark women in mass media is still few and far between, we can celebrate our progress.

As the dialogue you have started continues in public discourse,  we must augment the discussion.   We must address the need to collectively break the color barrier in the media and general workforce.  We should also take a closer look at why we are even talking about colorism in 2013 when America has a multi-shade Black First Family in the White House. Most especially, issues around the color complex can't just be the problem of dark skin girls as if we are "tragic darkies" any more than we should feed into the idea of the "tragic mulatto."  

I don't know that there is a cure for the disease of self-loathing, but I'm cautiously optimistic that tensions stemming from color prejudice among Black women will gradually  dissipate when we show up for each other in the greater African American experience. Black women and men of all shades must  detest the mistreatment and negative attitudes toward the ebony epidermis even if they can't relate to it, so that we penetrate our current internal culture until our young  feel they belong.

More than anything else, as a mother I appreciate  that "Dark Girls" demonstrates that young girls should never let the color of their skin hold them back and offers enough positive information to compel them to choose the Black doll.

All the Best,

Mona Austin
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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Forever Jones A Family Band concludes first season on Bounce TV

buzzz worthy. . .





Forever Jones is a Grammy nominated, Stellar winning  family band based in Shreveport, LA and the subject of Bounce TV's "Forever Jones: A Family Band," the networks first original, non-scripted reality series.  "He Wants It All" a song recorded on the EMI Gospel imprint brought them into prominence with its debut.

Led by a couple of 35 years, Dewitt and Kim Jones, formed the band that consists of their five children: Dominique, D'Jeniele, Dewitt Jones IV, Mya and Judah.

The Jones family is at a critical juncture in their career collectively and individually.  Right from the series premiere the their manager, Keith Thomas delivered news that could affect the fate of the group: the  label may drop them due to poor record sales, but is considering doing solo projects with the two lead singers of the group Kim (the mom) and Dominque (the middle daughter), establishing a a tense storyline that would keep audiences wondering about the  survival of the group the entire season.  Dominique, a recent college graduate has three weeks to meditate on the ultimatum.  She  worries about being disloyal and  is hesitant to make a choice that would rip what's left of a financial security blanket off her family.

As the series progresses, Dewitt, Jr. experiments with his own original music, Judah goes away to college on a football scholarship leaving the and without a drummer, Mya, the youngest, fails a class in high school and D'Jeniele struggles as a young wife and mother.

With the family band stick together or dissipate one solo act at a time? Papa Dewitt is praying for a "Plan B."

Find out how this Walmart sponsored show ends in the season finale on July 10 at 9 PM/ EST on Bounce.




In the finale,Dewitt Jones comes up with a plan to take his family on

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