April 29, 2012
(April 24, 2012) At a time when several new channels and programs are targeting the African-American audience, a new survey reveals that the overwhelming majority of these viewers are dissatisfied with their current programming options. When asked, "Are you satisfied with the variety of Black TV programs now on the air," 97% of the African-Americans who voluntarily participated in the survey said they were not satisfied.

A coalition of consumer groups, media activists, clergy and concerned citizens were brought together by Black Heritage Network and commissioned Target Market News to conduct a national online survey. The questionnaire asked African-American households about their viewing habits and the kind of programming choices they'd like to have.

"The television industry has long been in the habit of tracking what African-Americans watched," said Ken Smikle, president of Target Market News. "This was a rare opportunity for this audience to tell the industry what it is they would prefer to watch. It should be no surprise that their answers are contrary to most of the conventional wisdom about what Black viewers preferences would be."

When asked, "What types of Black-oriented programs would you like to see more of," the majority answered more documentaries (75%), history (71%), arts (68%), independent films (65%) and news (59%) programming. There was less support for more Black-oriented talk shows (34%), cooking shows (29%) and sports-related programs (24%).

What's most significant about these responses is the opportunity that they point to. According to data from Nielsen, African-Americans have traditionally consumed more hours of television than other segments of the population. At the same time, the survey suggests that they may be only marginally enthusiastic about they're watching.

"The recent success of ABC's new political drama, "Scandal," proves that African-Americans will flock to shows where they can see themselves in positive, yet non-traditional roles," said Smikle. "Blacks are 13% of the TV households in the U.S., but they were 23% of the total audience watching the first three episodes of the series."

Nearly half of survey participants (47.8%) said they watch about equal amounts of network and cable offerings. About a third (32.8%) said they view mostly cable programs, and 19.8% claimed they spent more time watching broadcast network shows. Nearly two-thirds (73%) said they watch public television shows.

Trying to satisfy the tastes of African-American viewers may prove important to the television industry as it addresses how technology changes viewing habits. Nearly half (47%) of the respondents said they watch TV programs on their computer or iPad.

"The results clearly reflect an appetite for the kind of Black-oriented programming that has long been ignored by the industry," said Smikle. "But it also demonstrates an opportunity for broadcasters, cable and satellite, advertisers and producers. The kinds of programs that are desired by these respondents would be of interest to all segments of the viewing audience, not just African-Americans. It will be interesting to see if the new Black-targeted digital and cable channels will be able to take advantage of this strong demand."

April 29, 2012
NEW YORK — After the Tupac hologram performance at Coachella made such a huge splash, the team behind the projection system floated the possibility this week of an Elvis hologram to perform with Justin Bieber. Even '90s girl group TLC is rumored to be considering a virtual version of the late Left Eye on their upcoming tour.

With all that talk, MTV News hit Times Square to ask fans which departed artists they would most like to see perform in hologram form. While some of those interviewed wanted to see other rappers like the Notorious B.I.G. or Nate Dogg, one fan thought Whitney Houston should get the honors.
"I love her, I grew up singing her [songs], just walking around the house when I was seven or eight," Shayana of Houston said.

Brits Amy Winehouse and John Lennon of the Beatles were also popular picks, and a few rock fans mentioned Queen's flamboyant frontman. "It would have to be Freddie Mercury because Queen were one of the all-time greatest bands and he was a showman," said a fan named Rob.

Blane Mader would like to see a hologram of another great showman, Michael Jackson.

"It's a really cliché answer, but in my time I've never seen him and it would just be something awesome to watch," Mader said of the King of Pop.

Members of the Jackson 5 recently announced that they would love to have a virtual Michael on their upcoming Unity Tour. "Wouldn't that be wonderful? As a matter of fact, we had that idea two years ago for Michael's Cirque du Soleil show," Michael's brother Jackie Jackson told E! News.

Share your wish-list for future hologram performers in the comments below!

May 16, 2012
Church-Going Black Woman Forced to Choose: My Pastor or My President?
May 15, 2012 117 By Dr. Boyce Watkins

Let’s be clear: Millions of Black women are deeply in love with President Obama. They love the fact that Obama represents the powerful black man who remains dedicated to a black woman and raises beautiful black children. They fantasize about him in a way that reminds us that love is completely blind: Policy doesn’t usually matter nearly as much as Obama’s “presidential swag” and the beautiful family photos on the cover of Essence Magazine. This love affair never would have started had the first lady’s name been Misty Obama.

Black women also love their pastors. A man who doesn’t go to church can be tossed to the side as a potential marital partner if he doesn’t go to church, in part because faith and black women go together like Flavor Flav and his clock. Millions of black women show up to church religiously (pun intended), quote the bible regularly and even take notes when the pastor speaks. The relationship starts when they are little girls and made to feel guilty for not going to church and at least pretending to be decent, holy and utterly sanctified.

Before Barack Obama, the pastor didn’t have much competition. He had absolute power in the congregation, but never enough influence to get a front row seat on Air Force One. The emergence of Barack Obama out of nowhere garnered enough black female attention that Michelle needs to watch her back at every turn. Women identify with Michelle, looking for a Barack Obama substitute of their own and even using the Obamas as a case study for relationship advice. Some might even be secretly hoping that Michelle gets caught “slipping” so they can stand beside the president at the next White House formal.

For many black women, the announcement by President Obama in support of gay marriage was a tough moment of clarity. It’s not as if black women didn’t know that Obama supported gay marriage already, but there’s a huge difference between believing something and announcing it. Church women are good at overlooking huge flaws in the men they admire, sometimes to their own detriment. But when the man of her dreams draws a clear line in the sand, a woman can be forced to make a decision she would rather not have to make.

Another telling challenge for black women might be the pronouncement of President Obama as “The First Gay President.” Having their man stolen by a homosexual is probably the greatest nightmare of nearly every black woman in America, and I can’t begin to describe how many church-going black women were infuriated by a gay blogger projecting homosexuality onto the president. Homophobia in the black community is real, and since Oprah produced her show about black men on the downlow, any brother with a potted plant in his living room is suddenly suspect.

Black women have been President Obama’s most loyal constituency. Asking these women to abandon the teachings of the pastor and bible that they’ve loved for so many decades could possibly be too much to ask. At the same time, the ability to get these women to overlook the bible to protect their love for Obama would be a true testament to the strong emotional connection millions of black people have with the president. How the story ends will depend on the individual woman and how much time she’s spent fantasizing about the man in the Oval Office. Either way, it’s going to be interesting.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the forthcoming book, “The RAPP Sheet: Rising Above Psychological Poison.”

May 16, 2012
Black-owned firm commits to $2M, 30 jobs in New Orleans

14th May 2012

By Nayita Wilson
Contributing Writer

Enhancing a strong presence in local, regional and national markets, Hammerman & Gainer International, Inc. (HGI)—the largest African American owned third party administration company in the nation— has relocated its corporate headquarters to downtown New Orleans.

The move will provide approximately 30 full time jobs within the company, which currently boasts 335 employees and 12 offices in Louisiana, Texas, Georgia and Washington DC.

Larry D. Oney, sole owner and chairman of HGI, says the move is indicative of the company’s pledge to the city’s economic landscape.

“Our firm, HGI, is totally committed to the City of New Orleans and more importantly to good jobs for the people that live in the city. Many firms in the area that do what we do as high level administrators and program managers have long since moved their operations outside of the city,” he said. “Moving our corporate headquarters to New Orleans demonstrates HGI’s high commitment level to the City of New Orleans.”

In all, the relocation equates to a $2 million investment in New Orleans.

This commitment and investment was realized with help from the New Orleans Business Alliance, which helped HGI identify a downtown location. “HGI is a strong and growing company well positioned in the New Orleans market,” said Rod Miller, President & CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance. “HGI has already made an impact on the New Orleans economy thanks to its disaster recovery efforts and with HGI’s headquarter relocation; HGI will now be able to take their investments in New Orleans to the next level.”

As a third party administrator, HGI provides risk management, claims administration, program management and property in­spection services to clients nationwide. The company has been in existence for more than 80 years.

As majority owner, Oney has more than 30 years of leadership experience in the insurance claims sector having worked for private and governmental entities. He acquired HGI in 1999 and has since expanded the company’s scope to focus on healthcare and post-disaster administration services.

This article was originally published in the May 14, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

May 17, 2012
PlayDisco Queen Donna Summer Dead At Age 63
By Wendy Geller

Donna Summer, whom millions of fans revered as "the Queen of Disco," has died at the age of 63 in Florida after a battle with cancer, the Associated Press confirmed with the singer's family Thursday morning.

The news comes as a surprise to those who were not aware that she was ill. The legendary superstar was publicly active as recently as last June, when she appeared as a guest panelist on Bravo's music reality show Platinum Hit.

However, a report by TMZ, which initially broke the story, notes that those close to the singer--known for mega-hits including "Last Dance" and "Bad Girls"--revealed she had been trying to hide how sick she was. A source said that Summer did not seem to be in that bad of shape two weeks ago.
[Related: No More Tears: Remembering Donna Summer's 10 Greatest Tracks]
She is survived by her adult daughters Mimi (by her first husband, actor Helmuth Sommer), Brooklyn and Amanda (by second husband Bruce Sudano)

In addition to her status as a pioneer in the dance music genre, Summer was a five-time Grammy Award winner, the first artist ever to score three back-to-back No. 1 double albums, and was nominated--but not chosen--for induction into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. She is credited with influencing stars ranging from Madonna and Michael Jackson, to Beyonce and Rihanna. Her last album, Crayons, was released in 2008.

May 21, 2012
G8 pledges to lift 50 million Africans out of poverty

G8 leaders on Saturday pledged to lift millions of Africans out of poverty by promoting investments in sustainable agriculture.

"Today we commit to launch a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition to accelerate the flow of private capital to African agriculture, take to scale new technologies and other innovations that can increase sustainable agricultural productivity, and reduce the risk borne by vulnerable economies and communities," the Group of Eight major industrial nations said.

"This New Alliance will lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next decade."
The ambitious announcement, contained in a final communique released after a high-profile gathering on a range of topics, came a day after President Barack Obama reached out to the private sector for financial support for the cause.

The initiative also comes as pledges expire from 2009 in L'Aquila, Italy, where the G8 promised more than $20 billion over three years to improve food access to Africans and others hit by the high prices and a global slowdown.
Civil society observers appeared skeptical about the endeavor's success.

"The G8 have offered warm words on food security but have failed to make a specific pledge to simply maintain L'Aquila level financial commitments going forward," said Katie Campbell, senior policy analyst for ActionAid USA. "In failing to deliver this, they have turned their backs on the women smallholder farmers who are so vital to food security in Africa."

Oxfam claimed that input from those directly concerned had not been taken into consideration.
"Poor countries have presented the G8 country-led, sustainable, and coordinated plans for food security and agricultural development, but today the G8 gave them the cold shoulder," Lamine Ndiaye, the group's Pan Africa Head of Economic Justice, said in a statement.

According to the G8 communique, the initiative would, among other things, be guided by "a collective commitment to invest in credible, comprehensive and country-owned plans."

The Norwegian global firm Yara has said it would build Africa's first major fertilizer production facility as part of the initiative. Companies including Pepsi and Dupont have also pledged to invest in Africa's small-scale farmers.

May 21, 2012
Whitney Houston’s Final Recording ‘Celebrate’ Released
By Abena Agyeman-Fisher


The much-beloved pop icon Whitney Houston recorded a duet with fellow actress and singer Jordin Sparks just four days before her untimely demise. Now, Whitney fans can hear the diva show off her rehabilitated voice in her final song.
SEE ALSO: Billboard’s Best Music Moment

Singing alongside Sparks for a tune called “Celebrate,” Houston sounds like her old self. The song is for the upcoming movie “Sparkle,” which is a 1976 remake of the original “Sparkle” that starred Philip Michael Thomas, Irene Cara, and Lonette McKee.

“Sparkle” chronicles the lives of a girl group in the 1960s who struggle with drug abuse and fame. The remake, starring the aforementioned Houston and Sparks, will also star Cee Lo Green, Mike Epps, Carmen Ejogo, and Derek Luke, among others.

For the song, movie producer Harvey Mason Jr. gushed about Houston’s performance of the song, adding that Houston’s recording session was “really positive” and Houston herself was overjoyed by her performance:
“We ended the session dancing around the control room while she said ‘Turn it up! Turn it up!’ She was so fun-loving.”

May 31, 2012
Sierra Leone: Taylor to Spend Rest of His Life in Prison

Al Jazeera television news records the moment Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years' jail by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague on Wednesday.

Cape Town — The Special Court for Sierra Leone has sentenced former Liberian president Charles Taylor to 50 years' imprisonment for aiding and abetting war crimes in Sierra Leone.

He is expected to serve his sentence in a high security prison in the United Kingdom for his role in the 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone, which claimed about 50,000 lives.

Sentence was passed in The Hague in the Netherlands on Wednesday by a trial chamber of the court comprising Justice Richard Lussick, Justice Teresa Doherty and Justice Julia Sebutinde. Justice Sebutinde, who also serves on the International Court of Justice, is a Ugandan jurist who qualified at Makerere University. The court was set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations.

Passing sentence, Justice Lussick recalled testimonies of brutality from witnesses during the trial. In one he cited, a witness said she was forced to carry a bag filled with human heads dripping with blood.

Another witness said she was gang-raped and her mother's eyes were pulled out by rebels.

Amputees who had their limbs cut off in the war will now survive on charity, the judge said. Futhermore, child soldiers and young girls who were raped face stigmatization.

Taylor denied direct involvement in the war crimes and asked the judge to show mercy, since he is 64 years old and can no longer be a threat to society.

Justice Lussick said the court viewed Taylor's crimes with "the utmost gravity". It rejected a number of defence pleas for mitigation, among them that Taylor had played a substantial role in the peace process and had secured the release of peacekeepers and other hostages during the war. The court said that while Taylor publicly professed to work for peace, he was secretly instigating conflict, and his help with hostages was not a significant mitigating factor.

Nor was Taylor's public service a mitigating factor, the court found, and the sympathy he expressed for victims of the war did not constitute "remorse that would merit recognition for sentencing purposes." The court found as an aggravating circumstance the fact that Taylor exploited the conflict for financial gain.

However, Justice Lussick rejected the prosecution plea for an 80-year prison sentence on the grounds that Taylor was not convicted on the most serious charges he faced. When convicting Taylor, the judges did not accept the prosecution's contention that Taylor had effective command and control over the Sierra Leone rebels he supported.

Before announcing sentence, the judge said there was no precedent for sentencing Taylor. Although his conviction was limited to planning, aiding and abetting crimes, as a head of state, he was "in a class of his own," the judge said, and "the gravity of his betrayal of public trust" had weighed with the court.

The case was heard in The Hague for fear that a trial in Sierra Leone could destabilise the region.

May 31, 2012
Black mayors come to Atlanta for 38th annual convention

By Jeremiah McWilliams
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

More than 250 mayors and state and federal officials are scheduled to be in Atlanta through Sunday for the National Conference of Black Mayors' 38th annual national convention.

The gathering is billed as a forum in which rural and urban mayors can exchange ideas. The Atlanta convention is expected to deal with job creation, housing, health, sustainability, green technology, international trade, good governance and ethics and broadband.

"As leaders of large urban cities and rural areas, mayors play a vital role in ensuring the future economic growth and safety of our nation as we address challenges at home and increasing global competition from emerging economies," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement. “Crumbling transportation infrastructure, joblessness and failing public schools are issues that mayors tackle on a daily basis."

Reed will serve as official host of the meeting. He plans to welcome the officials on Thursday night with a reception at City Hall.

It's a high-profile event for the 42-year old mayor, who has received doses of national exposure on CNN and Meet the Press and in forums organized by the Aspen Institute and other groups.

Atlanta’s history as the cradle of civil rights and its evolution into an "economic and political powerhouse" led the group to select the city as its meeting place, said Robert L. Bowser, president of the NCBM and mayor of East Orange, New Jersey. The conference will be held at the Marriott hotel in Buckhead.

Founded in 1974, the National Conference of Black Mayors represents more than 650 African-American mayors across the United States.

Valerie B. Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama, is scheduled to be there. So are Rep. John Conyers and Ambassador Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta. Representatives from Senegal, Colombia, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago are also expected to attend.