Newswire:  CBCF prepares for 48th Legislative Conference in DC

 By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Contributor

 Senator Kamala Harris of California

Two senators: Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sen. Kamala Harris of California will serve as honorary co-chairs for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Inc.’s 48th Annual Legislative Conference scheduled Sept. 12 through Sept. 16 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C. It will mark the first time that co-chairs will come from the Senate. Historically, members of the U.S. House of Representatives have served that role. The premier conference, which annually attracts nearly 10,000 people from across the world and is the only event of its kind in the United States, will have the theme, “The Dream Still Demands Courage, Resilience, Leadership and Legislation.” The five-day conference offers more than 90 forums on public policy issues affecting Black Americans. “For more than 40 years, the Annual Legislative Conference has provided an extraordinary platform for people – domestic and abroad – to come together and discuss vital issues related to social justice, leadership, economic prosperity, entrepreneurship and much more,” Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, the chair of the CBCF board of directors, said in a statement. “As we continue to grow and expand the conference, we know that we must be unwavering in our approach to have the difficult conversations, elevate debates about the state of Black America, and also define new and innovative solutions.” The impact of civil and social movements over the last 50 years has played a major role in changing the trajectory of American history, CBCF officials said. This year’s theme focuses on the influence and legacy of these moments, while uplifting present-day champions in the fight for racial equality, justice and freedom., “As we approach the 48th year of hosting the Annual Legislative Conference, we find ourselves in a critical time where, now more than ever, diverse voices are imperative to the future of this nation,” said A. Shuanise Washington, president and CEO of the CBCF. During the conference, attendees will have the opportunity to delve into important conversations with industry leaders from across the globe on public health, gender equality, social mobility, LGBTQ rights and environmental sustainability, among many other topics. The conference provides a safe haven for Black Americans to contribute their experiences, knowledge, and opinions to a larger, national dialogue, Washington said. “The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference is among the most important annual gatherings for Black Americans, and I am honored to lead its 48th convening with Senator Harris,” Booker said. “The Conference theme, ‘The Dream Still Demands,’ presents an important opportunity for our community to lead the national dialogue on so many pressing issues, from fixing our broken criminal justice system to creating economic opportunities for communities of color,” he said. “We have so many urgent challenges that must be addressed, and I’m looking forward to hearing from all of the incredible leaders who will be participating in the conference.” The Annual Legislative Conference is also a time to network and enjoy connecting with a diverse group of individuals, officials said. Networking and special events include the Exhibit Showcase with an on-site employment fair and free health screenings; the Prayer Breakfast; National Town Hall; Gospel Extravaganza; the Annual Celebration of Leadership in the Fine Arts, which honors the contributions of individuals in the performing and visual arts who have influenced our history and inspired generations; and the culminating event, the Phoenix Awards Dinner, which supports the CBCF’s mission-critical programs including education, economic development, health and research. “The Annual Legislative Conference, over nearly five decades, has brought together some of the country’s greatest leaders, innovators, and job creators to address the most pressing issues facing black America,” Harris said. “This year is no exception. The conference will provide a platform to advocate for the voiceless, the vulnerable, and all who believe in fulfilling the American promise of equality and justice for all. I look forward to confronting these issues head on and working to create solutions that will lead to lasting change.”

Newswire:  HBCU millennials energized to vote!

 By Lauren Poteat, NNPA Newswire

Washington Correspondent

 

HBCU students participate in voter rally

During the contentious 2016 presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, voter turnout still proved to be at an all-time low among students who attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). In a report released by Tufts University, 2016 voter turnout plummeted by more than 10 points at HBCUs — from 50.5 percent to 39.9 percent. Only two-years after the election of the very controversial and confrontational President Trump, Kamau Marshall, Director of African American Media and Deputy National Press Secretary ,Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), says that HBCU students are more active and energized to get their vote out and let their voices be heard than ever. Energizing this voting block will make a difference to the outcome of several very important contests this November. “With the Fall semester kicking off, there is a lot of momentum surrounding this very political climate,” Marshall said. “With November elections right around the corner, HBCU students are playing an active and important role when it comes to voting and voter registration.” Believing in hope and the possibility of change, many historically Black institutions across the nation are taking the reins when it comes to increasing voter awareness and registration among their student body. For example, Howard University, located in the heart of the nation’s capital, registered over 1,200 new voters during the month of August. “The more you get involved, the more your voice matters,” Amos Jackson III, president of the Howard Student Government Association (SGA) said. “That’s why it’s was so important for us to heavily promote voter registration. During our August Freshmen move-in day, we were able to register hundreds of new voters.” “There are a lot of issues up for debate, including higher education costs, gun reform and scholarship budgets, that directly affect millennials,” Jackson continued. “So, when people say that their vote doesn’t count, that’s definitely not true. Your vote matters.” Howard provides both new and returning students valuable information, including handouts on absentee ballots and voter choices. Howard students are also encouraged to sign up for a service known as “TurboVote,” an app that sends notifications about upcoming elections, an initiative whose success comes as no surprise to Marshall. “HBCU students are ready to support whoever has their best interest at heart,” Marshall said. “As an HBCU alum—history shows that HBCU students have always been engaged when it comes to the political process. The difference is always with likable candidates.” In states like Florida and Georgia, HBCU participation is at an all-time high, as students and other citizens eagerly await the hopeful election of productive new governors. In the state of Florida, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic, hopes to become the state’s first Black governor in his campaign against Republican Rep. Rob DeSantis. The race will be one of the most closely watched contests this November, since DeSantis has tied himself to President Donald Trump and defeated other more establishment Republicans. However, Gillum, a firm believer in Medicare for all, has the backing of progressives like Bernie Sanders and the Black community, who were largely responsible for his upset win during the state’s Democratic primary. In the state of Georgia, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News poll showed that Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is African American, and Republican Brian Kemp are deadlocked in their race at 45 percent each. Contests like those in Florida and Georgia are ammunition to Michelle Obama’s “When We All Vote,” campaign, which recently announced a series of upcoming “When We All Vote” rallies, targeting students at three HBCUs: Clark Atlanta, Morehouse and Spelman. “There is no time more important than now to be civically engaged and to exercise our right to vote,” Mary Schmidt Campbell, president of Spelman said in a statement. “Spelman students have been registering their classmates to vote since August—signing up more than one third of our first-year class as soon as they stepped on campus. We are excited about the energy and advocacy ‘When We All Vote’ will bring to the Atlanta University Center.” Though off-year elections are often seen as less important than those held during Presidential election cycles, Marshall insists that voting during this time November is just as important, particularly for Black millennials. “Voting impacts people’s everyday lives, including the cost of healthcare, investments in job-creation and community issues like gun violence prevention,” Marshall said. “It’s critical to vote now—in particular—because it’s clear that Republican-controlled Washington is not on the side of regular people, and we need a check and balance.” “It’s not just the president that can impact issues you care about, it’s also Congress,” Marshall continued. “No one can take anything for granted and we need everyone to turn out on November 6th.”

Newswire : Decades-old case revives African demand for stolen lands

Chagos protestors Sept. 3, 2018 (GIN) – When colonial powers redrew borders in Africa and picked choice lands for themselves and less desirable land for everyone else, some of those deals remained through this century. Few were undone. This week, a case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will decide if colonial deals that redrew African borders can be declared illegal and, if so, if islands taken by the United Kingdom from the nation of Mauritius can be rejoined to Mauritius as before. Mauritius says it was illegally stripped by Britain of the Chagos Islands, now home to a major U.S. air base. The British decision to separate Mauritius from the archipelago in 1965 was a bargaining chip that forced Mauritius to choose – accept the deal or never obtain independence. The deal was in breach of UN resolution 1514, passed in 1960, which specifically banned the breakup of colonies before independence, according to the Mauritian government arguing before the UN-backed court which specializes in territorial and border disputes between states. The four-day session will hear from representatives of 22 countries in a dispute over the rights of exiled islanders to return. The United States has leased the Chagos Islands’ biggest island, Diego Garcia, since 1966 and has built an air base there, while the entire population of around 1,500 people was forced to leave. Although ICJ opinions are not binding, they carry weight under international law. Arguing for Mauritius is elder statesman Anerood Jugnauth, 88, who served for nearly 30 years during four stints as prime minister or president of Mauritius from 1982-2017. “The choice we were faced with was no choice at all: it was independence with detachment (of the Chagos archipelago) or no independence with detachment anyway,” Jugnauth told the 14-judge panel. Olivier Bancoult, leader of the “Chagos Refugees Group said “What we are asking for our right to live on our island as sons of the soil.” UK solicitor general Robert Buckland accepted that the removal of the Chagossians and their treatment thereafter “was shameful and wrong and Britain deeply regrets that fact.” Still, he claims, in 1982, a treaty was signed between the countries that reached “full and final settlement” of Mauritian claims to the archipelago. That deal has since been recognized by the European court of human rights. No date has been set for a decision.

Newswire:  Criticism of Rev. Jasper Williams follow his remarks at Aretha Franklin’s funeral

By: Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA

Rev. Jasper Williams and Aretha Franklin

Saying his subject was “Aretha the Queen of Soul,” Rev. Jasper Williams of the Salem Bible Church in Atlanta gave the audience gathered for Aretha Franklin’s funeral a few unexpected memories laced with political commentary. Though he began simply, referring to the history of soul music and gospel, his talk became political as he Williams appeared towards the end of the ten-hour service. Rev. Williams was one of over three dozen speakers at Franklin’s lengthy Detroit home going ceremony. Rev. Williams referenced black-on-black crime, said single mothers are incapable of raising sons alone and proclaimed that black America has lost its soul and it’s “now time for black America to come back home.” “Where is your soul, black man?” he asked the audience at one point. “As I look in your house, there are no fathers in the home no more. Where is your soul?” “Seventy percent of our households are led by our precious, proud, fine black women. But as proud, beautiful and fine as our black women are, one thing a black woman cannot do. A black woman cannot raise a black boy to be a man. She can’t do that. She can’t do that,” Rev. Williams said. “It amazes me how it is that when the police kills one of us, we’re ready to protest march, destroy innocent property,” he said. “We’re ready to loot, steal whatever we want. …But when we kill 100 of us, nobody says anything. Nobody does anything,” he went on. “There was a time when we as a race had a thriving economy. I remember we had our own little grocery stores. We had our own little hotels. They weren’t big and fancy, but they were ours. As bad as the days as Jim Crow and segregation were … it forced us to each other instead of forcing us on each other. We quickly come to realize that as a people, all we really have is one another,” Rev. Williams said during his 40-minute eulogy to Franklin. Social media quickly blew up after Rev. Williams spoke in response. Legendary singer Stevie Wonder proclaimed the phrase “black lives do matter,” as he turned in the direction of Rev. Williams after the minister left the stage. Singer Gladys Knight’s performance was also viewed as a moment that brought the ceremony back from Williams’ political speech. “Black Mothers been raising Black boys for years!! We’re Still are raising proud, accomplished and aware Black man!! I should have known! Rest of this eulogy has been a conservative Black confusion rant!” wrote attorney Barbara Arwine from her twitter feed during the speech. “Folks, he can’t see, but Stevie Wonder can hear. And he is offering a rebuke to the eulogy. Don’t think for a second, he isn’t! And the folks in the room heard it,” wrote journalist Roland Martin, who attended the service. “Reverend Jasper Williams plantation style speech at #ArethaFranklinFuneral is a prime example why there is a total disconnect between young Black people and the older Black church crowd. All that cowardly “you’s gots to do better” talk ain’t fooling these kids,” offered anti-racism strategist Tariq Nasheed on twitter. Before Rev. Williams spoke, Smokey Robinson, Shirley Ceasar, Jennifer Hudson, Chaka Khan, Jennifer Lewis and Ron Isley performed among many others.Rev. William Barbour and Rev. Jesse Jackson also delivered remarks. “Aretha was in her very own special category,” said founder of Arista Records Clive Davis. “Her voice will be impacting others literally for centuries to come,” Davis added. A second tribute to Franklin and her music is planned at Madison Square Garden this fall. After her funeral, it was revealed by the family that Aretha Franklin had not left a will and there may be future conflicts over the handling and disposition of her estate.

Newswire :Trump’s ongoing scandals mask a radical agenda that hurts everyday people

NEWS ANALYSIS

By Rev. Jesse Jackson

 (TriceEdneyWire.com) – Trump’s serial scandals — Stormy Daniels, the Russia investigation, the Paul Manafort verdict, the Cohen guilty plea, the juvenile tweets — fill the headlines. Beneath the noise, however, Trump’s appointees and the Republican Congress are relentlessly pursuing a radical right-wing agenda that is gutting basic protections for workers, consumers and the environment. This is often characterized as Trump’s fixation on erasing everything Obama, but it goes far beyond that. Trump’s administration and Congress are not only rolling back President Obama’s policies, but weakening the advances of the Great Society, the Civil Rights Movement, and even pillars of the New Deal. Consider: Eviscerating the Voting Rights Act The Department of Justice has essentially abandoned enforcement of voting rights. The signal was sent when DOJ lawyers withdrew from the Texas voter-ID case in which the Obama Justice Department was co-counsel, arguing that the Texas act was intentionally designed to discriminate against people of color. Combined with the Supreme Court’s right-wing gang of five weakening the act in Shelby County v. Holder, there is now a virtual vacuum of voting rights enforcement. Savaging Enforcement of Civil Rights While Attorney General Jeff Sessions has dramatically weakened enforcement of basic civil rights in the Justice Department, the same is true across the government. The Labor Department disbanded its civil rights division. The Department of Education gutted the budget of its Office of Civil Rights. The Environmental Protection Agency targeted the Environmental Justice program for elimination. For immigrants, basic civil rights have been trampled — from the travel-ban orders affecting predominantly Muslim countries, upending the DACA program for the young people who were born here and know no other country, to the grotesque policy that separated children from their parents at the border. Under Sessions, the Justice Department has also essentially abandoned what was a bipartisan effort to bring about criminal justice reform, with Sessions ordering a review of the consent decrees that were addressing systematic racial discrimination and police brutality. Climate Change Denial Trump famously has announced he will pull the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, while his appointees have sought to scrub any mention of climate change from government websites. EPA Director Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, replaced the Obama administration Clean Power Plan that limited the release of greenhouse gases from power plants. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has abandoned efforts to end the 30-year ripoff of government by fossil fuel companies mining public lands. At a time when even the Pentagon recognizes climate change as real and present threat to national security, the Trump administration remains in denial. Undermining Public Education Under Betsy DeVos, the Department of Education has become the vessel of for-profit plunder. Her budgets seek to use public funds for private school vouchers. Stunningly, the DOE is pushing plans to make it harder for students to repay their college debts, ending or weakening various plans to limit the burden. Now DeVos is jettisoning rules that require for-profit colleges to provide an education that actually prepares graduates for decent jobs, opening the door for rip-offs like Trump’s own notorious university. Savaging Worker Rights In one of his first votes, Trump’s Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch provided the determining vote in the Janus decision that weakened the ability of public employees to organize and bargain collectively. Trump’s Labor Department repealed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Rule that required companies with federal contracts to disclose and correct labor and safety violations. It also announced it would not defend Obama’s order that increased the number of employees eligible for overtime pay, effectively depriving tens of thousands of workers of a raise. Tax Cuts for the Rich, Cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security for the Rest Trump’s one main legislative victory — the Republican tax cut — lavishes its benefits on the rich and the corporations. Trump and Republicans are using the deficits they created to push for deep cuts in Medicaid, Medicare and — watch for it if they survive the November election — Social Security. Trump’s budgets call for deep cuts in virtually every program for the vulnerable, including food stamps, affordable housing and more. We can’t allow ourselves to be distracted by the circus which is the Trump presidency. Under the chaos, Trump’s appointees and the Republican Congress are pursuing a radical and very destructive agenda. These measures are incredibly unpopular, or would be if Americans knew about them. They are done by executive order, by administrative rulings, by judicial decisions, by budget cuts. Their effect is masked by the good economy. But they are incredibly destructive, systematically making America more unequal, undermining equal justice under law and elevating corporate rights over worker rights. They must be exposed and stopped. The elections this fall will be the first chance to curb this misrule.

Newswire: NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson issued the following statement on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to U.S. Supreme Court

Derrick Johnson, NAACP “This Senate hearing on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U. S. Supreme Court should not go forward. The President is in personal legal jeopardy and only a fraction of Kavanaugh’s record has been produced. To proceed now threatens the legitimacy of the Senate’s constitutional review and the Supreme Court itself. What we do know of Judge Kavanaugh’s civil rights record is deeply troubling. His views on voting rights, affirmative action, equal employment, fair housing, and criminal justice could shut the courthouse door on justice for a generation. Senators need to fight this nomination with everything they have. There is simply too much at stake.” · Read findings on Kavanaugh’s Civil Rights record · Learn more about NAACP’s fight for fair judicial appointments · Watch President Johnson speak out on the importance of fair courts Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas at www.naacp.org.

Newswire:  Andrew Gillum shocks the political world and set stage for three Black U. S. governors

 By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire

 Andrew Gillum

Wildly outspent by a billionaire challenger and the daughter of a former Florida Governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, 39, shocked the political establishment to win the gubernatorial primary in Florida on August 28. Gillum defeated former Congresswoman Gwen Graham 34-31 percent to win the Democratic contamination. He will now face pro-Trump Congressman Ron DeSantis in the general election on November 6. Gillum’s victory caught many political observers by surprise. The 39-year old Mayor was polling in fourth place less than a month ago. But recent polls showed an upward movement to second place. Gillum and his supporters completed that upward movement by coming in first on election night. Gillum’s victory sets up a historic opportunity for there to be three sitting African American Governors in the U.S. for the first time in history. Former Georgia lawmaker Stacey Abrams is the Democratic nominee or Governor of Georgia after a decisive July 24 primary victory. Abrams would be the first African American woman to be a Governor from any state should she win. Former NAACP President Ben Jealous is running for Governor in Maryland against moderate incumbent Republican Larry Hogan. There are also four Black candidates for Lt. Governor running this year for the first time in history. Gillum’s progressive victory was cemented in part by a late visit by Sen. Bernie Sanders in support of his candidacy. Though he did not win, the Independent Vermont U.S. Senator who ran for President in 2016, focused on bread and butter issues many Americans identified with as he ran against Hillary Clinton. Sanders’ issue focus included income inequality, money in politics, corporate greed and raising the minimum wage. Despite the Democratic Party’s support of the moderate blue dog style of former U.S. Representative Gwen Graham, voters had other ideas and a progressive shift has likely been spurred by Donald Trump’s policies. As his campaign began, Gillum was attacked by his opponent Congressman Ron DeSantis who suggested voting for Gilliam “would monkey-up Florida’s economy with socialist ideas”. DeSantis was questioned for launching a racially motivated “dog-whistle campaign” which he denied. Racist robo-calls attributed to an alt-right group in Idaho have also appeared in the Florida election. Gillum, a graduate of Florida A&M University, is viewed as the continuation of a progressive surge and a shift away from the establishment also seen in the victory shocking victory of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez over longtime Conrgressman Joe Crowley in a primary for his New York House seat. Though her victory is not necessarily a symptom of a widespread trend, it is a signal that a political wave in the opposite direction of Donald Trump is on the horizon in less than 70 days on November 6, 2018.

ANSC to hold Fall Convention in Montgomery on September 22; increasing Black voter turnout in November is major focus

The Alabama New South Coalition will be holding its Fall Convention on Saturday, September 22, 2018 at the Maggie Street Center in Montgomery, Alabama. The theme of the convention is “Lift every vote; Make our voices sing!” “Our goal is to increase Black voter registration, education, organization and enthusiasm leading up to the November 6 General Election. We want to see a statewide turnout that exceeds the turnout in last December’s Special Election for Doug Jones to elect progressive candidates around the state,” said John Zippert, President of ANSC. “We are encouraging all Alabama residents who will turn 18 before the November election to register to vote by October 22, 2018 which is the deadline – 15 days before the election. We are especially interested in helping the thousands of Alabama residents, who previously were incarcerated for a crime, unless it involves ‘moral turpitude’ to restore their voting rights before the October deadline,” said Shelley Fearson, ANSC Staff Secretary.

Alabama passed a law in 2017, which lists 43 categories of crimes that involve moral turpitude, so it is easier to determine if a previously incarcerated person can get their voting rights restored said Fearson. “ If you need help in registering or restoring your rights contact our ANSC State Office in Montgomery, Alabama at 334-262- 0933,” stated Ferason. “We will have workshops at our Fall Convention to discuss all aspects of the voting process and encouraging more people to participate in grassroots canvasing and campaigning. Speakers include people who were elected to office and others who participated in last year’s ‘Vote-or-Die Campaign’ to gain insight into how best to increase turnout,” said Zippert. ANSC will recess its Fall Convention, to hold a candidate endorsement session by the Alabama New South Alliance (ANSA) its sister organization that endorses candidates. The ANSA will endorse candidates for statewide, Congressional and multi-district positions. Candidates for statewide office have been invited to attend this statewide screening. Statewide Democratic candidates like Walt Maddox for Governor, Will Boyd for Lieutenant Governor, Joe Siegelman for Attorney General, Heather Milam for Secretary of State, Miranda K. Joseph for State Auditor, Bob Vance Jr. for Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice and others will be present to seek endorsement for the November 6 General Election. “We must be awoke, excited and involved in this election. We need to canvass our neighborhoods and communities. We need to put the word out about this election on social media. We must talk to our relatives, friends and neighbors about the importance of turning out to vote in this critical election. Every vote counts and every vote should be cast in November,” said Faya Rose Toure, Selma activist and Vote-or-Die campaign leader.

GC Association of Volunteer Fire Fighters sponsors training at Clinton meeting

Shown above Jimmie Rice, Marstine Rice, Brenda Hardy, Scott Hardy, Richard Phillips, Hattie Phillips, Gloria Ingram, Mary E. Otieno, James l. Otieno, James Edwards, Sr. displaying Clinton’s latest fire truck.

The family of the late Pauline Hughes of the Clinton VF Department received a resolution in her honor. Shown l to r: Napoleon Hughes, Brenda Hardy, Hodges Smith, President of the AVFD, Johnny Hughes, Carl Hughes, Napoleon Hughes, Jr. and Scott Hardy.

The Greene County Association of Volunteer Fire Fighters Departments (AVFD) held its monthly meeting, Monday, August , 2018 at the Clinton Fire Station. Hodges Smith, President of the Greene County AVFD, emphasized the important of training and completing certification. This was followed by a training led by James Otieno of the Clinton VFD. The training session focused on protecting the first responder emphasizing the following: points of entering, securing the site as well as a escape route working as a team, being aware of hazardous material, time distance for the first responder and being aware of your surrounding. Jena Fire Department reported two members have completed the EMA course. Two VF Stations have new trucks including a 1995 Pierce 1750 /1000 rural Pumper Fire Truck for the Boligee Fire Department and Clinton Fire Station purchased a 1989 Simon Deluxe pumper.

E911 Director Iris Sermon reported a total of 93 incidents occurred during July – August. The family of the late Pauline Hughes of the Clinton VF Department received a resolution in her honor. The Greene County Association of Volunteer Firefighters consists of 14 departments including Boligee, Clinton, Dollarhide, Eutaw, Forkland, Jena, Knoxville, Lower Gainesville Road, Mantua /Lewiston, Springfield, Stream Plant, Tishabee, Union, and West Greene. The next meeting will be held September 18, 2018 at the Dollarhide Fire Station. The Greene County Fire Fighters encourage everyone to participate. If interested in becoming a volunteer fire fighter you can contact Hodges Smith AVFD president.

‘BlacKkKlansman’ delivers critical and powerful message

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Director Spike Lee talks with Denzell Washington, Jr. actor in film.

Even though “BlacKkKlansman” is set in the 1970s, the themes in the film are just as relevant today as they were back then, Anita Bennett, the managing editor and creator of Urban Hollywood 411, told NNPA Newswire. “We have a president who constantly attacks Black athletes, newscasters and politicians, and white nationalists marching in the streets,” she said.

“The racial climate in this country is toxic, [so] if Spike Lee can open just one person’s eyes to the systematic racism that African Americans face every day, then he accomplished what he set out to do,” Bennett said. The longtime entertainment journalist joined a chorus of other experts who noted that Lee’s latest film continues to receive positive reviews, with critics and fans alike celebrating it for sparking a much-needed conversation about the current political climate and the complex relationship between law enforcement and the Black community. Several critics and actors told NNPA Newswire that Lee has deftly used his platform to expose systemic injustice while advocating for African-Americans and other minorities. Bennett said it’s important that the Black Press continues to spotlight films like “BlacKkKlansman,” “Sorry to Bother You,” and “Blindspotting.” “The Black Press champions and helps spread the word about films from African-American directors and writers, as well as movies that focus on issues important to the black community,” Bennett said. “The Black Press – and I’m not talking about gossip websites – but industry-focused outlets like EUR Web, Blackfilm.com, and Urban Hollywood 411, write stories about these films and post interviews with the people behind him. We talk about the movies on social media and encourage Black audiences to go see them,” Bennett said. Actor, director and film producer Shiek Mahmud-Bey said the Black Press enables filmmakers like himself, Tyler Perry and Spike Lee, to remain relevant and provides a platform to tell the untold stories that are meaningful to African-Americans. “It’s a one-hand-washes-the-other thing,” said Mahmud-Bey, the CEO of 25th Frame Films. “Only the Black Press can tell our story the way it needs to be told and only Black filmmakers can put that story in perspective and deliver it to a wide audience on screen,” he said. “BlacKkKlansman” earned about $11 million during its opening weekend, making it Lee’s third best box office debut. Based on a true story, the film tells of undercover Black detective, Ron Stallworth, who manages to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. It has earned positive reviews from audiences and critics with an A-rating on CinemaScore and a 97 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “Spike Lee has always been socially consciously aware as a filmmaker, going back to ‘Do The Right Thing,’” said actress turned film critic, Carla Renata, who’s known for her website, “The Curvy Film Critic.” “As a filmmaker he uses the art of dialogue, the lens and his actor’s performances to illustrate his point of view on any given subject allowing the film to do the talking for him,” Renata said. “Given that ‘BlacKkKlansman’ is adapted from Ron Stallworth’s novel, Lee amplifies this former detective’s experience and puts his spin on it as only a Spike Lee Joint can do. ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ along with ‘Blindspotting’ and ‘Sorry To Bother You’ are the perfect films for the perfect climate that have infiltrated hate and Neo-Nazi behavior into our daily existence via our current administration,” said Renata, a graduate of the Howard University School of Communications. She added: “It’s no coincidence the film was dedicated and released on the anniversary of the Charlottesville attack and rally where Heather Hoyer was mowed down like a dog and murdered. It’s also no coincidence that the last image you see is the American flag fading to Black and White turned upside down. Perfect image analogy for where we are as a society.” Renata said also that she believes Black Hollywood has a love/hate relationship with Black Press. Most artists, actors, studios, publicists and films reach out to the Black Press at the start in order to get that word of mouth buzz happening, she said. “Once the artist, actor or film has been accepted by mainstream media, their marketing/publicity teams abandon the same Black media that helped them gain acceptance in some of those arenas,” Renata said. “We are almost treated like the ‘black sheep’ of the family that no one likes to talk about or acknowledge.  It’s sad…but true,” she said. Diarah N’Daw-Spech, the co-founder of ArtMattan Productions and the annual African Diaspora International Film Festival, said a number of Black filmmakers have used films to make social commentaries directly tied to serious issues in their communities. She cited Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene whose film, “Molade,” served to denounce the mistreatment of women in his native country, particularly the practice of sexual mutilation, N’Daw-Spech said. “Film is a powerful social media and a powerful source and tool for change. It is important for filmmakers in general and Black filmmakers in particular to realize and use their power through their film making the way Spike Lee and Ousmane Sembene do and did it,” she said. N’Daw-Spech said the Black Press has always been a “natural ally” to Black filmmakers. “Black Hollywood is one of the important platforms available to Black talent. Black Hollywood can use its influence to tell meaningful stories the way Spike Lee does it. When it does, the Black Press should support and celebrate it,” she said. While “BlacKkKlansman” isn’t perfect, it’s insightful, timely and entertaining, Bennett concluded. “The movie raises some important issues about racism, police brutality and stereotypes in classic Hollywood films like D.W. Griffith’s ‘The Birth of a Nation,’” she said. “Spike Lee touches on a lot of hot-button issues, but he smartly sprinkles the film with humor, so that it’s not too heavy-handed. Can we talk about the ending of the film? It’s powerful, heartbreaking and will make you leave the theater thinking. I’ve encouraged everyone I know to go see this important film,” Bennett said.