Friday, October 26, 2018

Movie Review: The Hate You Give (2018)


This is a masterfully told story by director George Tillman, Jr. who presents us with several perspectives on the issues and fallout surrounding police shootings of unarmed black men happening in urban cities across this nation. Based on the acronym and music of Tupac Shakur, THUGLife, The Hate U Give explores how complicated life can be for black families who live at the intersection of race, culture, economic disparities, policing in black and brown communities and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Starr Carter, played Amandla Stenberg, is a high school student that lives in two distinctly different worlds where code switching is her teleport between the two. Her family is a stable two parent and 2.5 children African American home. They continue to reside in the urban neighborhood where her parents were raised although they could afford better. Her mother Lisa (Regina Hall) and father Maverick (Russell Hornsby) are married and raising their children, Starr and her brothers Seven (Lamar Johnson) and Sekani (TJ Wright) in a loving home. 


The kids go to a private school across town in a mostly white upper class neighborhood. The mother is a nurse while the father is an entrepreneur and owns a grocery store in their neighborhood. And yet, as the parents work everyday to achieve a better life for their family and keep their kids out of trouble, their lives are affected and impacted by the shooting of one of Starr's close childhood friends, an unarmed young black teenager who was shot by a white police officer during a traffic stop.

The movie does an excellent job of raising complicated issues and arguments on both sides of the debate concerning police shootings of unarmed African Americans. Common, a trusted voice in the Black community known for his art and activism, was a superb choice for his law enforcement role in the movie. Regina Hall represented well the plight of black mothers who are the encouragers, advisors, peacemakers, and fire when necessary. Russell Hornsby embodied a black father who is both a protector and provider, but also the voice of "the movement".

You'll also get a chance to hear from white "allies" who don't always understand why their voices are met with ambivalence by members of the Black Community. I will say this, Starr's boyfriend Chris (KJ Apa) "gets it" and responds appropriately when communicsting and reaching out to Starr during her crisis. 


The ensemble cast was incredible and Amandla did a tremendous job of humanizing the cool Starr and the "nerd" Starr without over the top antics. And it was also good to see Issa Rae on the big screen.

Bottomline, George Tillman has crafted another story that is both relevant, encompassing and entertaining. You should see this movie and discuss it with your friends, children and other family members. #THUG



Thursday, October 25, 2018

Movie Review: Widows (2018)




When I first saw the trailer a few months ago for the movie "Widows" (20th Century Fox), I wasn't feeling it. Although I absolutely love Viola Davis, the movie's lead character, as previewed in the trailer, the film didn't really move me. So when I decided to give it a chance and go see an advanced screening at the inaugural Smithsonian African American Film Fest presented by the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. on 10/24, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Surrounding Davis in this thriller is a diverse cast of strong female characters including Michelle Rodriguez (Fast & Furious), singer/actress Cynthia Erivo (Color Purple on Broadway and OITNB), and Australian newcomer Elizabeth Debicki. The supporting characters from the Oscar nominated actor Liam Neeson to Emmy award winner Robert Duval to Golden Globe winner Colin Farrell and Oscar nominated Daniel Kaluuya, who was most recently seen in Get Out and the blockbuster Black Panther, all gave strong performances.

Two-time Oscar winner Davis carries the film which had so many plot twists that you were kept on the edge of your seat waiting to see what would happen next. She is subtly brilliant and was really the rue for this incredible gumbo of a cast. Kaluuya showed us a side of his acting we've never seen before. And Erivo showed great athleticism in her role; Rodriguez and Dibecki depicted women in different stages of coming into their own; and veteran actor Duval displayed his usual magnificence in his portrayal of an overbearing father.

Academy award winning director Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave) was the head chef tending to the rue and he delivered a great gumbo that moviegoers will enjoy consuming. Set in modern-day Chicago, the movie had everything you could ask for in an urban thriller except maybe shady cops. The story was smooth to the taste and delightfully fulfilling. Widows opens on November 16 and I encourage you to go see it. It's definitely worth the price of admission.

Also, the African American Film Fest runs through this Saturday, October 27. Most of the films they are screening are $10 and they even have some free events. Go to http://aafilmfest.si.edu for more info and tickets.


--Nona Ogunsula for womenatliberty.com 

Monday, July 9, 2018

U.S. Supreme Court Nominee: Judge Brett Kavanaugh

***UPDATE:
President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. Republican Senate leaders have promised a vote on the Kavanaugh nomination by late Fall 2018.

Watch here:

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Will you watch tonight (9 pm EST) as the President announces his choice for the U.S. Supreme Court nominee? Do you care or feel the nominee has the potential to affect you and/or your family's life?

Here are some important facts about the potential nominees. Who would you choose:

Thomas Hardiman, 53
·3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia (11 years)
·Notre Dame (undergrad), Georgetown Law
·First person in immediate family to graduate from college
·Father of three

Raymond Kethledge, 51
·US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, Cincinnati, Ohio (10 years)
·University of Michigan (undergrad and Law School)
·Author, w/Army veteran Mike Erwin, "Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude" recognizes leaders including Dwight Eisenhower, Jane Goodall, Winston Churchill, and Martin L. King, Jr.
·Former law clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy
·Father of daughter and son

Amy Coney Barrett, 46
·United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Chicago, Illinois (8 months)
·Rhodes College (undergrad), Notre Dame Law
·Former law professor at Notre Dame Law School and George Washington University Law Schools
·Mother of seven including two adopted children from Haiti

Brett Kavanaugh, 53
·U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (12 years)
·Yale (undergrad and Law School)
·Former law clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy
·Senior Associate Counsel and Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush
·Father of two daughters


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

NAMIC Revitalizes its Mid-Atlantic Chapter with New Leadership and Events

by Nona Ogunsula


Daryl Jackson, Chapter Ops Mgr, NAMIC National; 
Sangeetha Subramanian, President and Sonarak Ieng, Vice-President, NAMIC Mid-Atlantic

Realizing that the time is now to ensure that minorities and women are visible and given opportunities to succeed, the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) and its new leaders for the Mid-Atlantic chapter, based in the Washington, D.C. area, are energetic and excited about the year of upcoming events. “The mission of NAMIC is to empower, educate, and advocate for multi-ethnic diversity in media and entertainment. So this is truly important for every market, but specifically [Washington, D.C.] with all that’s going on here,” stated Darryl Jackson who is the Manager for Mentoring Relations and Chapter Operations for NAMIC which headquartered in New York City. He went on to say that, “to be diverse both in front of the camera and behind the camera is of utmost importance. So, visibility is key”.

NAMIC Mid-Atlantic has a new slate of officers who are injecting new energy in the chapter with events and activities designed to help make real change through community and professional development. “In my experience, advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion can be an uphill battle. NAMIC has helped me reduce that sense of isolation and I hope to bring that same sense of like-minded community to all of our members” said Sangeetha Subramanian, new President of the Mid-Atlantic chapter.

On Thursday, 2/8/2018, NAMIC held its Kick-Off Mixer and first event of 2018 at SiriusXM’s location in northwest Washington, D.C. Walter B. Sanderson, III, Vice President, HR

Walter B. Sanderson, Vice President
and Diversity Officer, SiriusXM
Business Partner and Diversity Officer for SiriusXM, hosted the event and expressed, “It’s a real pleasure to have NAMIC Mid-Atlantic back in our facility again. We’re happy to host the organization. We want to make sure everybody takes a moment to look at employment opportunities here. We are kind of a stealth employer in that everybody knows our brand, but they don’t always think of us as a place to work. So we use this as an opportunity to introduce people to work here at SiriusXM.” The company with more than 32 million subscribers creates programming and offers commercial-free music, premier sports and live events, news and comedy, exclusive talk and entertainment, and a wide variety of Latin commercial-free programming. It also offers online streaming of its programming so its services are not tied to just your car. You can access the services via computer in your office or home, and via your smartphone. They employ individuals in a variety of roles that include On-Air Talent, Producer, marketing, creative, finance and technical positions.

A variety of individuals ranging from employers to creatives and technical professionals, freelancers, educators, and even actors attended the event which included a reception and ample time for networking. According to a 2017 Payscale article, “At least 70 percent of job openings aren’t even listed. The vast [majority] of hiring is friends and acquaintances hiring other trusted friends and acquaintances.”[i] The Mid-Atlantic chapter promotes networking and provides an environment where professionals in the communications and media/entertainment industries can have fun while getting to know each other.

In addition to traditional calendar events, NAMIC Mid-Atlantic also has a pop-up series to stay relevant with recent social trends. Their first pop-up event was a fun and cozy social in November 2017 at the Cloak and Dagger Bar in Northwest Washington, D.C. The next pop-up just announced is a screening of Black Panther at the historic Uptown Theater in Cleveland Park.

Chapter leaders, Sangeetha Subramanian and Sonarak Ieng, have a lot planned for 2018 and encourage everyone to get involved. There will also be unique opportunities to get to know people through volunteering. And most importantly there will be educational and career development opportunities, panels, and other diversity-related programming. So, stay tuned for upcoming events and stay connected to NAMIC Mid-Atlantic via social media. You can follow the local chapter at @NAMICMidA on Twitter, https://www.linkedin.com/company/namic-mid-atlantic on LinkedIn and NAMIC.MidAtlantic on Facebook. Follow the national organization at @NAMICNational on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


To see more pictures from the Kick-Off event, click here.
______________________________
Nona Ogunsula is a seasoned marketing professional with over 25 years of experience in marketing, creating and executing digital/social media campaigns, developing health promotion programs and managing projects and programs in the private and public sector. Over 10 of those years were spent in sales and marketing positions at AT&T. As the Principal Creative Officer of Liberty Ink Productions, she provides marketing, consulting, social/digital media and production services to businesses and non-profit organizations. Since 2011, she has been providing a leadership and empowerment platform specifically for women at womenatliberty.com

References: 
[i] Belli, Gina, “How Many Jobs Are Found Through Networking, Really?”, Payscale.com, April 2017

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Business of Making Black Films: A Talk by Ava Duvernay and David Oyelowo


On November 29, 2017, Oscar nominated and Emmy award-winning director Ava Duvernay and acclaimed actor David Oyelowo joined Dr. Rhea I. Combs, Curator of Film and Photography, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAC) in Washington, D.C. to discuss the business and creativity involved in making black films. The event was part of the Smithsonian’s 6th Annual Ingenuity Festival and Awards. Ms. Duvernay was one of eight award recipients that included notables like recording artist John Legend, astrophysicist Natalie Batalha and Apple technologist Jony Ive.* She attended the talk via Skype because her team had to pull an all-nighter to meet a post-production deadline for her upcoming 2018 release, A Wrinkle In Time. Duvernay is making history as the first black woman director to lead a film with a $100M budget. Mr. Oyelowo attended the session in person in the museum’s Oprah Winfrey Theater.

Making black films in Hollywood is a tough business. It’s not that there is a shortage of talent among the cadre of actors, directors and producers of color although this would not be known from the lack of recognition that they have received over the years from highly visible industry award shows. It’s that there has historically been a lack of opportunity and support commonly given to other mainstream films. Director Spike Lee recently posted a Thank You on Instagram to investors Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Janet Jackson, Tracey Chapmen, Bill Cosby, Peggy Cooper-Cafritz and Oprah Winfrey who helped him finish the “under budgeted” highly-praised biopic Malcolm X when he ran out of financial support from the Hollywood studio.


Ava Duvernay talks about making the film, 
"August 28", for the Smithsonian.**

Black and women filmmakers alike are oftentimes hampered by road blocks like financing, distribution, and biases/prejudices of what type of films actually sell. Ava Duvernay addressed this by saying that she created ARRAY, which was first known as the African-American Film Releasing Movement (AFFRM), as a ‘defense mechanism’ or ‘survival technique’ to get creative works by people of color to their audience. I remember responding to her on Twitter when she was seeking theaters in the Washington, D.C. area to show her first film, I Will Follow (2010). Although she financed that film with her own money and cleared that hurdle, she still faced the next hurdle of getting the film to her audience. Social media was just beginning to have a significant impact and provide a path for directly communicating with fans and moviegoers. Her experience as a publicist working in the entertainment industry enabled her to get the film in front of some key critics like the well-respected Roger Ebert who gave her a glowing review and helped to create a buzz about the film.

African American moviegoers represent a sizable audience for films. According to a report by the Motion Picture Arts Association of America, African American moviegoers contributed $1.6B or 14% of the total $11.4B U.S./Canada box office in 2016. The key for filmmakers is getting a platform to reach this audience. If it’s a good film and black audiences know about it, box office hits like Fences, the $200M grossing Hidden Figures, and $100M grossing Girls Trip prove black films and films with diverse images can be widely successful.

By the way, Hispanics and Asian moviegoers account for 21% and 14% respectively of the total U.S./Canada box office receipts. Together minority moviegoers contributed 49% of all tickets sold in the U.S. and Canada. Understanding those numbers brings clarity to why The Oscars' (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) responded so quickly to the #OscarsSoWhite Twitter campaign and accelerated their efforts to diversify their membership.

To make blockbuster films, filmmakers have to convince large corporations that their stories are worthy of the risk and investment of financing and distribution. For women and minorities, this task becomes even more arduous because they have to fight stereotypical images of what some studio executives believe minority and women audiences want to see on the large screen. When talking about getting Oscar and Golden Globe nominated Selma made, Oyelowo who was attached to the movie five years before Duvernay said that “they” felt that black people did not want to see “black pain” and white people did not want to feel “white guilt”. He personally lobbied to bring Duvernay on as director and Oprah Winfrey as an actor and co-producer.

Referencing Oprah Winfrey, Oyelowo said with her clout, influence and network, she has been able to provide a soft landing for black stories and creative works. “Without those soft landings, we will not be able to fully display who we are.” He went on to say that this is what black people in America have been lacking, a soft landing or a platform where our stories can be embraced and we can be “truly ourselves”. So it leaves us to wonder how this week’s announcement of Winfrey’s sale of 25% of her Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) to Discovery Communications, giving them almost 75% ownership, will change and affect the “platform” she has built and branded since 2011. Only time will tell. Duvernay currently has a top-rated television series on OWN, Queen Sugar.

New platforms and distribution channels are emerging like Macro led by former WME Partner Charles King, and joining minority-owned networks like TV One led by Cathy Hughes; Aspire led by Magic Johnson; Bounce led by Andrew Young, Jr. and Martin King III and Sean Comb’s Revolt channel to provide a bridge and conduit for stories by people of color and women. We are assured though that the ingenuity of mavericks like Ava Duvernay will enable black stories and diverse films to find a way to their audience and black people will find a way to support and value those stories.

The Ingenuity Festival and events will run through December 30, 2017. There are special events for children. For more information, go to: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/calendar/2017-smithsonian-ingenuity-festival


To listen to the full discussion between Ava Duvernay, David Oyelowo and Dr. Combs at NMAAHC, go to:
https://www.facebook.com/NMAAHC/videos/10154930846676990

by Nona O., Liberty Ink Productions

*See the full list of Ingenuity Award Recipients here:
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/ingenuity/ceremonies/2017-winners 


**The short film, "August 28", written and directed by Ava Duvernay is currently showing at the NMAAHC. Those without reserved tickets for the museum may be able to gain entrance into the museum by standing in line at 1:00 pm, Monday -- Friday. Visitors are admitted as space allows.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Are You A Witness? Where Is The Savior?...Happy Resurrection Day!



They came to the tomb where Jesus had been buried after his crucifixion looking for him. Interestingly enough women were the first to arrive at the place where Jesus' body had been last seen. (See Luke 24, The Bible)

Met by angels, they were told that that Christ was alive and had risen from the dead. These women became the first witnesses and reporters of Christ's resurrection.

Today, the only witness of the risen Savior some people will ever see is the one reflected in our lifestyle. If you are one of the 70% of Christians in the U.S. or 30% of Christians around the world, are you a good representation of who Christ was and is? Something to think about...

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Happy Palm Sunday!

Happy Palm Sunday! As Christians all around the world celebrate the beginning of Holy Week, we are reminded of lessons from Jesus' life during a most critical period. Popular opinion and polls change and people are fickle. One minute they are celebrating you and nominating you for President or the Secretary of Defense when they think you can save their hides from oppressive dictators and their armies. The next minute they will desert you when they discover your mission does not line up with their expectations. Some will even turn in you for the right price.

Here's another lesson: some of the people in the crowd that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem shouting "Hail" and "You down with G-O-D", were inevitably in the crowd a few days later when the masses yelled, "Crucify Him!" Also, there were definitely individuals in those crowds that served the same God as Jesus. You do know that the people who paid for Jesus' betrayal and arrest were religious leaders. Everyone praying with you ain't praying for your success.

Jesus knew his mission and that steadied him during his toughest trials even when his closest friends deserted him and his mother could not help him.

Just like Jesus, at some point during our lives we will face injustice. If we know our purpose, we will be able to stand up to the bullies, liars, and demonic forces, and speak the truth.