Whoopi Goldberg: A Living Icon

Happy Women’s History Month!

Whoopi Goldberg – An American Living Legend

If you don’t know me, you don’t know exactly how much I love and admire Whoopi Goldberg. Not because many have compared us in looks and attitude but because I admire her independence, her ability to pave a way for women in comedy, acting and advocacy. I love her as much as I can a person who I’ve never met.

Now let me be clear, I am not a person who is enamored with celebrity or famous people. But there are a few people living and dead that if I could have lunch, coffee or just a brief meeting, it would mean the world to me. I’ve shared my admiration here for Muhammad Ali, Billie Holiday, Malcolm X. You can add Whoopi Goldberg to that list.

Caryn Elaine Johnson, known professionally as Whoopi Goldberg, is an American actress, comedian, author, and television personality. A recipient of numerous accolades, Goldberg is one of sixteen entertainers to have won an Emmy Award, a Grammy Award, an Academy Award, and a Tony Award. She is an original!

Currently Whoopi Goldberg is the lead host on “The View” and leads that group as she has so many others I suspect. She is opinionated, thoughtful, insightful, responsive, helpful, informative, insightful, legendary, beautiful, amazing, hilarious, sarcastic, groundbreaking, iconic, the list just goes on.

So as we begin Women’s History Month, we celebrate that I know and those that I wish I had meet in their lifetimes and mine. We will celebrate the Randallstown Moms who live and love in my immediate community, the civil rights icons who used their platforms to advocate for equality and human rights, the women of the Bible who set an example thousands of years ago that holds true today. We will celebrate the women who molded and raised me, the women who shaped my girls and me, and the women in our collective family who watch over us everyday as we achieve greatness, become icons like Whoopi! Happy Women’s Month to you all #themonthofwomen #whoruntheworld #knowourstory #randallstownmom

Coming 2 America

Coming 2 America

It’s been 33 years since the release of the legendary film with iconic characters created by Eddie Murphy. It was the first time that my generation saw Black Royalty on the big screen. It is etched in our hearts and minds forever! How many people still quote the original “Coming to America!” Who knows “sexual chocolate” and what is it? Is it true that the first mic drop was in the original “Coming to America”? How many people wanted to go to Zamunda before we had ever heard of Wakanda?

The Prince and Princess (Lisa McDowell)

Eddie Murphy is a living legend that I have admired and laughed with since SNL and “Delirious”. He is a comedic and storytelling genius. A native New Yorker, Brooklyn born and bred, he was my school girl crush when the rest of my peers were pining over Prince and Michael Jackson. Now don’t get me wrong I loved Prince, but Murphy was who I wanted to bring home to Momma. 😝 I can’t wait to share both movies with my family and friends. To see Shari Headley looking amazing 30 years later. Who else will return? Whose been added to the cast? It’s going to be epic!

Now, let’s check out the trailer: Coming 2 America trailer

One of the things that makes this movie so special is the new generation of actors who star in the film, including Murphy’s daughter Bella Murphy. She auditioned like every other actor and worked hard to get the part. This was not just handed to her. What an awesome opportunity to work with her Dad and some of the greatest actors of our time.

Jermaine Fowler, Kiki Layne and Teyana Taylor are also featured, and they will not disappoint. Of course many of the Black actors that we have come to know and love will return for this latest edition to Murphy’s portfolio.

No matter what, this film is getting lots of buzz. This film enthusiast is excited that Murphy has given us a look into their lives 30 years later. Eddie Murphy is Black History! I would have been remiss to not include this living legend in my Black History Month series!

#hollywoodroyalty #blackroyalty #coming2america #EddieMurphy #BellaMurphy #legends

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

Students speaking with their professor on
Fisk campus

Today, as part of our Black History Month celebration, my daughter presented and took our church on a field trip to Fisk University. She is a freshman at the acclaimed historically Black college and university (HBCU). While she taught us how Fisk was originally sustained by its students traveling to perform and sending the fees assessed back to the college, I was reminded of just how resilient our people are.

Founded in 1866, shortly after the end of the Civil War, Fisk University is a historically black university, and is the oldest institution of higher learning in Nashville, TN. Fisk is also the first HBCU to be accredited as a institution of higher learning. Fisk has a long and proud history which is evidenced in the work of its students and alumnae through today. Fisk’s outstanding faculty and students continue to enhance the university’s national reputation for academic excellence, which is validated yearly. Fisk touts a large percentage of alumni who complete graduate or professional degrees and become leaders and scholars in their fields.

Dr. Vann R. Newkirk, Sr

Under new leadership, Fisk University is led by Dr. Vann R. Newkirk, Sr. He was named Interim President in August 2020. Since 2018, Dr. Newkirk has served as Fisk’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. He has an extensive leadership record with proven evidence of effectiveness on many levels. Dr. Newkirk is a noted historian and author with extensive administrative experience. He attended North Carolina A&T State University, and holds an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Barber-Scotia College; a Master of Arts degree in History from Winthrop University; a Master of Science degree in Library Science from North Carolina Central University; and the Doctor of Philosophy in History from Howard University. Fisk will benefit from his experience and passion to promote higher education.

Like 36 other HBCUs, Fisk has partnered with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) to continue us to promote and support education in our community.

Dr. Frederick Douglas Patterson

founded the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) in 1944. Today, UNCF is the nation’s largest minority education organization, awarding more than $100 million a year in scholarships to more than 10,000 students. Patterson also served as President of what is now Tuskegee University, and was an early champion of making higher education accessible to African American students.

I encourage you to learn more about HBCUs by clicking this link to the UNCF website.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire media executive, actress, talk show host, television producer, and philanthropist and is best known for hosting her own internationally popular talk show, which was among the most popular of the genre. From there she launched her own television network, OWN. She became one of the richest and most influential women in the United States.

Oprah Winfrey graduated in 1987 from Tennessee State University where she majored in Speech Communications and Performing Arts. Yes, Oprah attended an HBCU and she is one of the many successful graduates of HBCUs. Among many of her inspirational sayings, Oprah Winfrey has famously said, “Education is the key to unlocking the world, a passport to freedom.”

When Oprah worked in Baltimore, I met her twice as a child. Once when our class went to the local television station and once at a local restaurant in East Baltimore that she used to frequent with friends. In both of those meetings, Ms. Winfrey was gracious to me as a you g Black girl. I remember her smile and her warmth. I thank God for her example.

She is a beautiful Black woman who looks like me and broke glass ceilings changing the way people see Black women and women of color. In the coming weeks, she will be the first report to interview the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Meghan and Prince Harry).

She is Black History, living history and continues to break barriers, create pathways and challenge us as women to do more and change the world.

Thank you Ms. Winfrey. I salute you!

Muhammad Ali: The Greatest

This one is so personal to me. I grew up adoring Muhammad Ali. My stepfather used to take me to the fights and to wrestling matches. I was somewhat of a Tom boy. Actually, I was a Tom boy! I loved going with him. He always took me in the back to meet the fighters and wrestlers. I just thought when you went to an event, that’s what you were supposed to do. I had no idea of my privilege at such a young age.

We lived in Maryland so I’ve met and even had dinner with Sugar Ray Leonard. I had no idea how Wayne knew all these people so personally. It was just part of my life as a child. The one person with whom I never got to meet was Muhammad Ali.

He was however the one person I always wanted to meet. Every time he took me to a fight or went without me because it was just the “grown-ups,” I always asked about Muhammad Ali. If he knew Sugar Ray and Andre the Giant, he had to know Muhammad Ali. I still think that he did, but we never had the opportunity to meet.

As we take this journey in Black History each week, I share people I know, people whose stories are so inspiring to me and people who are living history. But as we prepare for the weekend of love, I must share my love for Muhammad Ali. (I almost became a Muslim following his life and work, but I love the Lord and could not make that change!)

People know when he was born, when he died and how his life change not just Black America but American society as a whole. People know that he was mentored He is American history as all Black History is American history.

Muhammad Ali is one of the most prolific, charismatic and outspoken leaders of the 20th century. He and his friends were devoted to equality, success and family. It is what brought them together. It was one of their common denominators. It may have brought them together.

I encourage you to learn more about Muhammad Ali. I encourage you to learn about his life, his friends, and his journey. Learning more of their time, their stories and their accomplishments teaches where we’ve come but more importantly, where we plan to go.

Katherine Dunham created a dance Revolution that continues today…

Katherine Dunham was an African-American dancer, choreographer, creator of the Dunham Technique, author, educator, anthropologist, and social activist. Dunham had one of the most successful dance careers in African-American and European theater of the 20th century, and directed her own dance company for many years.

Click this link for a great video about Katherine Dunham and her dance company:

https://fb.watch/3B3Ixm4E6H/

Katherine Dunham was born on June 22, 1909 in Chicago, to an African American father and a French Canadian mother. She transitioned on May 21, 2006 in Manhattan, NY.

She sang in her local Methodist Church in Joliet; but for a financial crisis at her church, she might never have sung anything but gospel songs. At age eight, she amazed and scandalized the elders of her church by doing a performance of decidedly non-religious songs at a cabaret party, in order to raise money. We can only imagine what lessons she learned but her life’s work gives us a glimpse.

She never thought about a career in dance. Instead, she consented to her family’s wish that she become a teacher and followed her brother, Albert Dunham Jr. to the University of Chicago, where she became one of the first African American women to attend this University and earned bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees in anthropology. While attending the University of Chicago, Ms. Dunham was a student Ludmilla Speranzeva, formerly of the Moscow Theater.

Following graduation, Ms. Dunham founded the Negro Dance Group. They performed at the Chicago Beaux Arts Theater in ‘A Negro Rhapsody’, dancing with the Chicago Opera Company, and one of the performances was attended by Mrs. Alfred Rosenwald Stern, who was sufficiently impressed to arrange an invitation for Dunham to appear before the Rosenwald Foundation, which offered to finance any study contributing toward her dance career that she cared to name.

Armed with foundation money, Ms. Dunham spent most of the next two years in the Caribbean studying all aspects of dance and the motivations behind dance. Although she traveled throughout the region, including Trinidad and Jamaica, it was in Haiti that she found special personal and artistic resonances. She wrote some scholarly essays during her trip and sold lighter magazine articles about the Caribbean under the name of K. Dunn.

Katherine Dunham revolutionized American dance in the 1930’s by going to the roots of black dance and rituals transforming them into significant artistic choreography that speaks to all. She was a pioneer in the use of folk and ethnic choreography and one of the founders of the anthropological dance movement. She showed the world that African American heritage is beautiful. She completed groundbreaking work on Caribbean and Brazilian dance anthropology as a new academic discipline. She is credited for bringing these Caribbean and African influences to a European-dominated dance world.

In 1931, Miss Dunham met one of America’s most highly regarded theatrical designers, John Pratt, forming a powerful personal and creative team that lasted until his death in the 1986. They married in 1949 to adopt their daughter, Marie-Christine, an 18 month-old French child.

Dunham’s big breakthrough to popular recognition took place after she moved to New York in 1939 where, in February, she opened at the Windsor Theater in a program called ‘Tropics’ and le ‘Jazz Hot’. It was supposed to be a one-night event but demand was such that Dunham ended up doing 13 weeks. She then founded the Katherine Dunham Dance group – which later developed into the famous Katherine Dunham Company – devoted to African-American and Afro-Caribbean dance.

Katherine Dunham is credited for developing one of the most important pedagogues for teaching dance that is still used throughout the world. Called the “Matriarch of Black Dance,” her groundbreaking repertoire combined innovative interpretations of Caribbean dances, traditional ballet, African rituals and African American rhythms to create the Dunham Technique. The Dunham Company toured for two decades, stirring audiences around the globe in 57 countries, with their dynamic and highly theatrical performances.

Katherine Dunham also appeared in several films: Carnaval of Rythms (1939), including Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), Stormy Weather (1943), Casbah (1948), Botta e Risposta 1950 Italy – Musica en la Noche 1955 Mexico – Liebes Sender (1954) Germany – Mambo, (1954), Italy – Karaibishe Rythmen (1960) Vienna. She also choreographed, without appearing: Pardon my Sarong, 1942, USA- Green Mansion, 1958, USA – The Bible, 1964 (by John Houston, shot in Rome). In 1962 Katherine Dunham and her company appeared in Bamboche, the three-act revue that first introduced to America the dancers of Morocco, who appeared with the consent of King Hassan II.

Most of Katherine Dunham’s awards were for her contribution to the arts, but whenever she was engaged in conversation, she used the opportunity to teach and strategize to solve the social problems created by poverty and racism. She used her talent and insight to re-direct the energy of violent street gangs through the performing arts. We can learn a lot from Ms. Dunham’s example.

Learn more about the extra-ordinary life of Katherine Dunham on website: http://kdcah.org/ Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts and Humanities

Excerpts from the KDAH website were used to share this information.

Baltimore County – Black History Month Conversations

One of the beautiful things about living in a more vital world is that events are now available to a wider audience. Our county has scheduled a series of conversations with local leaders who have had a national or global impact. I am fortunate to have worked with three (3) of the four who are participating this month during my professional and volunteer career. I am so excited to share this chance fir you to get to know them.

Tonight, my friend and councilman Julian Jones will talk about the successes of Black people in our community and the path forward to achieving equity in today’s society. I invite you to join us for tonight’s conversation. Please see the schedule list in this post.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced a Black History Month Conversation series, engaging African-American leaders across Baltimore County in a dialogue about the successes of African-American leaders and the work ahead to promote a more equitable and inclusive County.

UMBC President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski
spoke last week. Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was named UMBC’s first Black president in 1992. A child-leader during the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Hrabowski is regularly recognized as one America’s most influential leaders, and he was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” Under his leadership, UMBC has been recognized as a model for inclusive excellence.

Baltimore County Council Chair Julian Jones: Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Time: 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Baltimore County Council Chair Julian Jones is the first person to serve twice as Baltimore County Council Chair. As a member of the County Council Jones has championed legislation to advance equity, supporting the SMART Policing Act, which enacted reforms to the Baltimore County Police Department, and the HOME Act, which banned housing discrimination by source of income. A career public servant, Jones served 36 years as a firefighter in the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, retiring as Division Chief.

Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones: Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Time: 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.

Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones is the first Black woman to serve in her leadership position. Serving in the House of Delegates since 1997, Jones was also the first Black woman to serve Speaker Pro Tem. In her 37-year civil service career, Jones was the first Executive Director of the Baltimore County Office of Fair Practices and Community Affairs. She is the Founder of the Annual Baltimore County African American Cultural Festival, now in its 21st year.

Board of Education Chair Makeda Scott: Thursday, February 25, 2021
Time: 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Makeda Scott, chair of the Baltimore County Board of Education, is the first Black woman to hold her role. A communications professional with decades of experience in government and nonprofit work, Scott has held leadership roles with the Baltimore Housing Authority, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and as Director of Communications for U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes.

Each conversation will be livestreamed on Baltimore County Government’s Facebook page and on theCounty Executive’s Twitter account.

Barrington Irving

Barrington Irving

Barrington Irving is a Jamaican-born American pilot who previously held the record for the youngest person to pilot a plane around the world solo, a feat he accomplished in 2007. He is also the first black person and first Jamaican to accomplish this feat.

Born November 11, 1983, Barrington is a you g man with so much to accomplish in this life. He has traveled to 50 countries and conducted more than 30 STEM expeditions, and successfully challenged middle school students to build a car faster than a Ferrari 430. Barrington then challenged high schoolers to build a plane which he flew on its test flight. In 2007, he set two world records—at age 23.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica and brought up in inner-city Miami, Barrington was inspired to pursue aviation at age 15, when a Jamaican airline pilot offered to mentor him.  He rejected college football scholarships to pursue a career in STEM and never looked back. 

A Magna Cum Laude graduate of Florida Memorial University, Barrington was the recipient of a Congressional Resolution acknowledging his pioneering work in aviation education. He received the Guinness World Record as the youngest person to fly solo around the world and was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2012.

Sitting in the cockpit

A little know but important fact is Trayvon Martin participated in his Build and Soar program for four (4) years. Trayvon even was a passenger in the plane with Barrington. What an amazing mentor he was and continues to be.

Black History is not just the people who lived and died. Black History is being made every day by the incredible who live, work, and mentor NOW!