Hip-Hop Pioneer Larry Smith Dies

Producer Larry Smith with the members of Run-DMC. (Photo: Google Images)

Producer Larry Smith with the members of Run-DMC (The late Jason ‘Jam Master’ J Mizell, Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels and Joseph ‘Run’ Simmons. (Photo: Google Images)

Tragedy struck in hip hop when radio personality Combat Jack posted to Twitter that iconic producer and instrumentalist Larry Smith died Thursday evening. The musical genius previously suffered a stroke in 2007, leaving him unable to speak and partially paralyzed.

In the early 1980s, Smith became one of hip hop’s first superproducers. He was instrumental in launching the careers of acts like Kurtis Blow, Run DMC and Whodini.

Born Lawrence Michael Smith in Queens, NY on Jun. 11, 1951, Smith was a self-taught bassist who became a session player for a slew of local bands spanning all musical genres. Thanks to his high school classmate, Robert Ford, Smith contributed the bass licks for Blow’s 1979 million-selling single “Christmas Rappin’.”

Almost immediately, the bassist co-wrote and played on Blow’s 1980 funky, gold-selling follow-up, “The Breaks,” which also cracked Billboard’s Top 100.

Eventually co-producing Blow’s first three full-length LPs, Smith became the bassist for Orange Krush, Blow’s back-up band. He connected with Blow’s then manager, Russell Simmons, to form Rush-Groove Productions.

Simmons’ and Smith’s partnership proved to be both lucrative and seminal to the advancement of hip hop culture. Smith was the architect behind Run DMC’s bare minimalist sound on both their self-titled 1984 debut album and 1985 sophomore effort, Kings of Rock.

Smith’s ear for raw and heavy snare loops led to the release of songs like “It’s Like That,” “Sucker MCs,” “Rock Box” and “Kings of Rock” going onto become instant classics for the trio. Smith, not Rick Rubin, was the first to integrate rock guitar into rap.

Run DMC earned gold and platinum plaques and became heavily rotated on MTV, which at the time didn’t play any hip hop videos. Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons tweeted that Smith is “the greatest hip hop producer of all-time.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 8.49.25 PMSmith was never the type that subscribed to fit in with what was being played on the radio. He produced Whodini’s 1984 platinum-certified second album, Escape, as well as their third effort, Back in Black, proving he could be just as innovative, funky and melodic.

The perfectionist producer pumped out memorable, electrofunk-based singles for the Brooklyn-born Jive Records artists like “Five Minutes of Funk,” “Freaks Come Out At Night,” “One Love” and “Friends.”

He contributed bass to the Fat Boys’ “Jail House Rap” and even produced late comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s novelty single, “Rappin’ Rodney.” He also produced for Con Funk Shun (“Electric Lady”), Millie Jackson (“It’s A Thang”) and Paul Shaffer (“Tear It On Down”).

Simmons and Rubin went on to build an incredible legacy with Def Jam, while Simmons’ relationship with Smith, who actually coined the term “Krush Groove” to denote a distinct beat from the drum machine, sadly soured.

As hip hop music became more sample-driven, Smith bowed out the game and eventually faded into obscurity. His health as a result of his debilitating stroke forced the musical visionary to be placed into a New York nursing home where he could barely afford proper care.

Despite his tragic fate, what is undeniable is what Smith was able to accomplish in the studio. He credited keeping his ear to the streets and respecting each and every individual’s lifestyle he worked with as the basic components for some of hip hop’s most important recordings.

Hip hop producers like DJ Premier credits Smith as one of his top five influences. The talented bassist’s cause of death is unknown. He was 63.

This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.

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VIDEO: Brawl Breaks Out in Parliament Over Passage of Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Law

Brawl breaks out in parliament over controversial anti-terrorism law in Kenya.  (Screen Capture of KTN)

Brawl breaks out in parliament over controversial anti-terrorism law in Kenya.
(Screen Capture of KTN)

New anti-terrorism law requires journalists to get approval from police before publishing or broadcasting stories, imposes anti-stripping sentence and says terrorist suspects can be held up to a year .

BBC News Africa is reporting that Kenya has passed a controversial anti-terrorism law that allows suspected terrorists to be held for a year and puts restrictions on the press. The author writes:

“It was passed on Thursday during a chaotic parliamentary session, with opposition MPs warning that Kenya was becoming a “police state”.

The government has said it needs more powers to fight militant Islamists threatening Kenya’s security.

Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group has stepped up attacks in Kenya.

The new anti-terror legislation gives the security and intelligence agencies the right to detain terror suspects for up to one year and requires journalists to obtain police permission before investigating or publishing stories on domestic terrorism and security issues.”

The anti-terror measures are as follows:

  • Bans publishing or broadcasting of “insulting, threatening, or inciting material”, images of dead or injured people “likely to cause fear” and information that undermines security operations (this covers social media). Punishable by a fine of $55,000, a three-year jail term or both
  • Terror suspects can be held for questioning for 360 days
  • Limits number of refugees and asylum seekers to 150,000 – those applying for refugee status not allowed to leave camps
  • Sets up National Counter-Terrorism Center to co-ordinate security agencies’ efforts
  • Public officials found guilty issuing irregular IDs or allowing irregular entry into the country liable to a minimum of 15 years in jail
  • Person in charge of a premises where weapons recovered may face up to 30 years in prison
  • Person promoting ideology based on violence to advance political, religious or social change may face up to 14 years in jail

Read more at BBC News Africa.

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Illinois Legislation Would Make Recording Police a Felony

(Photo Credit: www.huffingtonpost.com)

(Photo Credit: www.huffingtonpost.com)

The Grio is reporting that the Illinois House Senate has passed legislation that would make it a crime to record any “private” conversations, especially those involving a police officer.

Critics of the proposed law say that this law has been made in response to the recent cases of police brutality that have been caught on camera and will be used to scare citizens from doing so in the future.

The author writes:

“This law, which is awaiting outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature should he decide to make the mistake, would forbid people from recording conversations without permission when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Recording conversations with police, an attorney general or assistant attorney general, state’s attorney or assistant state’s attorney or judge would be a class 3 felony, with a sentence of two to four years in prison. Moreover, for reasons that are uncertain except that they really don’t want you to record the cops, illegally taping an ordinary citizen becomes a class 4 felony, with a punishment of one to three years behind bars.”

Sponsors of the bill suggest that the new law will protect people from clandestine and improper recording of their conversations without violating their rights to free-speech. Democratic Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a sponsor of the bill, said:

“The most important thing the bill does is to restore Illinois to a standard that requires everyone in a private conversation to consent to a recording. We satisfy the Supreme Court requirement by limiting that to conversations where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

The Illinois Supreme Court said that police officers do not have an expectation of privacy in public encounters, but have failed to define what is classified as a “public encounter.”

Those in opposition of the bill argue that the law can be used as an argument against police body cameras, since it would make recording outside of public places illegal if people have not consented to the recording in their homes and other private areas.

The bill is currently awaiting the signature of Governor Pat Quinn.

For more information visit The Grio.

This post was written by Reginald Calhoun, editorial assistant for The Burton Wire. He is a junior Mass Media Arts major at Clark Atlanta University. Follow him on Twitter @IRMarsean.

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George Stinney Jr. Exonerated: 14-Year-Old Executed for Crime is Cleared

George Stinney, Jr., 14, was executed for crimes he did not commit. (Google Images)

George Stinney, Jr., 14, was executed for crimes he did not commit. (Google Images)

NBC News is reporting that 70 years after South Carolina executed a 14-year-old boy so small he sat on a phone book in the electric chair, a circuit court judge has thrown out his murder conviction. Lisa Riordan Seville writes:

“On Wednesday morning, Judge Carmen Mullins vacated the decision against George Stinney Jr., a black teen who was convicted of beating two young white girls to death in the small town of Alcolu in 1944.

Civil rights advocates have spent years trying to get the case reopened, arguing that Stinney’s confession was coerced. At the time of his arrest, Stinney weighed just 95 pounds. Officials said Stinney had admitted beating the girls, 11 and 8 years old, with a railroad spike.”

“In a 2009 affidavit, Stinney’s sister said she had been with him on the day of the murders and he could not have committed them.

Stinney was put on trial and then executed within three months of the killings. His trial lasted three hours, and a jury of 12 white men took 10 minutes to find him guilty.

He is often cited as the youngest person executed in the U.S. in the 20th century. At the time of the crime, 14 was the legal age of criminal responsibility in the state.”

Read more at NBC News.

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US and Cuba to Start Talks to Normalize Relations

US and Cuban governments to normalize relations. (Google Images)

US and Cuban governments to normalize relations. (Google Images)

BBC News is reporting that the US and Cuba are to start talks to normalize diplomatic ties in a historic shift in relations between the two countries, US officials say.

The US is also looking to open an embassy in Havana in the coming months.

The moves are part of a deal that saw the release of American Alan Gross by Cuba and includes the release of three Cubans jailed in Florida for spying. Gross, 65, was jailed for trying to bring internet services to communities in Cuba. He was freed on humanitarian grounds.

President Barack Obama confirmed the plan to normalize diplomatic ties and ease economic restrictions on the nation, which he called the end of an “outdated approach” to U.S.-Cuban relations.

Alexandra Jaffe and Elise Labott of CNN write:

“Obama said he’s instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations, and that the U.S. will re-open an embassy in Havana. The administration will also allow some travel and trade that had been banned under a decades-long embargo instated during the Kennedy administration.

‘Neither the American nor Cuban people are well-served by a rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born,’ Obama said.

He later added: ‘I believe we can do more to support the Cuban people, and promote our values, through engagements. After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach.'”

Read more at BBC or CNN.

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Michel du Cille: Three Time Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer Dies

Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Michel du Cille dies at 58. (Photo credit: Indiana University)

Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Michel du Cille dies at 58. (Photo credit: Indiana University)

The Washington Post is reporting that celebrated photographer Michel du Cille, a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer has died. It is being reported that du Cille, born in Kingston, Jamaica, died of a heart attack while on assignment for The Washington Post in Liberia. Matt Schudel of The Washington Post writes:

“Michel du Cille, a Washington Post photojournalist who was a three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his dramatic images of human struggle and triumph, and who recently chronicled the plight of Ebola patients and the people who cared for them, died Thursday ( while on assignment for The Post in Liberia. He was 58.

He collapsed while returning on foot from a village in the Salala district of Liberia’s Bong County, where he had been working on a project. He was transported over dirt roads to a hospital two hours away but was declared dead on arrival of an apparent heart attack.

Mr. du Cille won two Pulitzer Prizes for photography with the Miami Herald in the 1980s and joined The Post in 1988. In 2008, he shared his third Pulitzer, with Post reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull, for an investigative series on the treatment of veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

‘Michel had returned to Liberia on Tuesday after a four-week break that included showing his photographs at the Addis Foto Fest in Ethi­o­pia,’ Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said in a statement to the newspaper’s staff.'”

Born in 1956 in Kingston, Jamaica, du Cille moved with his family to the state of Georgia in the 1970s, where he began his career as a photographer at the Gainesville Times. He graduated from Indiana University in 1981 and received a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio University in 1994.He is survived by his wife, Post photographer Nikki Kahn, and two children from a previous marriage. He was 58.Read more at The Washington Post.  Read du Cille’s obituary at Legacy.com.

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Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair Delivers

Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, curated at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA). (Photo: Robin Walker Marshall)

‘Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair,’ curated at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA). (Photo: Robin Walker Marshall)

Ebony Magazine is undeniably one of African American culture’s most influential and immediately recognizable brands. For seven decades, the brainchild of iconic entrepreneur, John H. Johnson, has revolved around covering black news, personalities, politics, lifestyle and trends.

Still published monthly alongside its frequently updated digital version, Ebony’s insightful articles and photo archive that exceeds four million images, not only set out to shine positive light on black America internally but to offer mainstream America intimate portraits of black life.

The magazine birthed byproducts such as a groundbreaking cosmetics line specifically for women of color and the legendary Ebony Fashion Fair. Both outlets allow African Americans to use beauty and fashion as social change agents.

“The philosophy of it is really about achievement, success and living a better life,” proclaims Linda Johnson Rice, the Chairman of Ebony‘s parent company, Johnson Publishing.

Fashion Fair was a highly anticipated, annual fundraising affair that showcased haute couture and ready-to-wear collections. Traveling throughout America from 1958 to 2009, the production spearheaded by John’s wife, Eunice Walker Johnson, always attracted masses of immaculately dressed women and men of color.

One-of-a-kind garments created by both European and black designers were worn by black models strutting their stuff down the catwalk. The same runways to introduce designers of color like Stephen Burrows, Willi Smith and Patrick Kelly also feature collections by Todd Oldham, Bob Mackie, Christian Lacroix, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin and Christian Dior.

By the end of its 50-year span, the lavish Fashion Fair raises over $55 million. Eunice Johnson donated the proceeds to multiple charities, colleges and universities and hospitals. “She was not a superficial woman,” says Johnson Rice. “To be able to touch people in that way and to change people’s lives made a significant difference to her.”

As a young lady, Johnson Rice had the privilege to travel with her highly educated mother across Europe. They visited many salons and shows together to purchase clothes. Johnson Rice, wearing a fire-orange mini-Afro, taps her fingernail on a glass table top anytime she talks about her mother’s business acumen.

Her taps yield a slight gong-like echo after each statement.

Seated with her legs crossed in an all-black business suit, the media and fashion icons delightful and extremely poised daughter says her mother perceived fashion and beauty as vehicles to empower blacks and bring various communities together.

“She saw fashion not just for the beauty of the clothes,” says Johnson Rice, “but as self-expression and self-confidence. Her feeling was she wanted to have a show that showcased the best of fashion for an audience she loved, which are African Americans.”

Eunice Johnson’s legacy is immortalized though the traveling exhibition, Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, curated at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA). It’s the second event behind its Chicago History Museum debut to exclusively feature Eunice’s exclusive collection of evening gowns, sequined suits, cocktail attire and signature pieces.

“She always went for the very best of everything,” says Johnson Rice. “She didn’t take second rate anything. She was not somebody that thought these clothes were pretty. These clothes were more than pretty; they had a purpose.”

MODA’s hallway is draped with red carpet that leads into the exhibition spaces. Each side of the carpet is aligned with listening stations, photo collages and framed invitations. Visitors can even document their Fashion Fair experiences via blog posts on portals beside vanity-styled mirrors.

The mannequins on display wear fox and mink furs, satin, wool blends, leathers, lace, West African patterns, glass beads and ostrich feathers. Acclaimed designer B. Michael, who eloquently refers to his designs as “advanced American style,” has a multi-colored silk fall gown included in Inspiring Beauty.

He was personally contacted by Eunice during his stint designing millinery for the hit 1980s primetime drama, Dynasty. Ebony Fashion Fair’s organizer wanted to feature B.Michael’s work in an editorial she was producing on hats. The gracious designer remembers Fashion Fair’s New York showroom receiving over 200 calls upon his work being featured.

“Growing up, Ebony was one of our coffee table magazines,” says B. Michael prior to the launch of the Atlanta exhibit. “I, of course, was blown away. It was extremely exciting. It may be more exciting than getting the call to do Dynasty because it was much more relevant for me.”

Since his Fashion Fair feature, B.Michael’s designs have been commissioned by a range of talent including Beyonce, Cicely Tyson, Lena Horne, Whitney Houston, Nancy Wilson and Halle Berry. Now the proprietor of his own brand, b. michael AMERICA, he draws a parallel between Eunice showcasing his talents and celebrities he considers “Hollywood royalty” enlisting him to design original pieces.

“They come to you because you’re strong, and you can be honest,” adds B.Michael. “They trust you. There has to be that understanding and that relationship at that point between the artist and the muse for that to work. It’s an honor, but it’s my charge to do what it is that I do. That’s their expectation.”

Eunice Johnson, along with the models and designers, encountered prejudice quite a bit. International designers didn’t know what to make of black models wearing their creations nor did they think Johnson could afford the clothes.

Never one to be discouraged, Johnson, an alumna of Talladega College, Loyola University, Northwestern University and the Ray-Vogue School of Design, was always ready prior to any meeting or buying trip she took.

“My mother was always very prepared,” says Johnson Rice. “She was the only African American woman there. She did her homework. If she was going to speak on a subject, she studied on it. That took vision on her part, courage, and strength.”

Audrey Smaltz, Fashion Fair’s commentator from 1970-77, concurs with Johnson Rice’s recollections of Eunice being a visionary. Smaltz remembers her announcer past as “the most exciting, most fabulous job in the world.”

On one occasion, Smaltz, whose full-service agency staffs fashion shows and photo shoots, traveled with Eunice to purchase an original piece from Pablo Picasso. Joking that Johnson showed her how to drink the best wine, Smaltz refers to the matriarch as “a brilliant businesswoman who knew art.”

According to Smaltz, Eunice introduced the American fashion community to high end brands like Fendi and Valentino. When Bill Blass attended Fashion Fair in New York sometime in the early 1970s, he’s caught off guard when he hears 2,000 African Americans in the audience scream his name call-and-response style.

“[Eunice] bought everything from the designers,” says Smaltz. “She brought designers to America who would’ve never come here. We always traveled first-class, but we didn’t always get into every show back in the early ‘70s. They didn’t invite us.”

A purveyor of high standards, Johnson typically invited young designers in to show their sketches to her. The Selma, AL born fashionista often turned the garments inside out to look at the stitching.

Johnson Rice calls her clothier mother “a stickler for presenting yourself in the best light with authority, knowledge and confidence.” Her mother, she adds, is a “much tougher negotiator than her father.”

“She knew what it meant to have something well made,” says Johnson Rice. “She was about perfection and was demanding. If she liked it off the bat and you hit it out of the ballpark, she’d take the piece right then and there.”

Adds Johnson Rice, “She always had to sell herself. When she walked in the door, before she ever said anything, what they saw was a black woman but a black woman dressed within an inch of her life.”

B.Michael, a former designer for Oscar de la Renta and Nolan Miller, admits he never officially perceived himself as a black designer. As his career progressed, thanks in part to Fashion Fair, he acknowledged his cultural identity as an essential part of his work.

“I didn’t have that as a mission,” says B. Michael. “I saw it as an opportunity to do my passion. When you work with another designer, it’s about executing their vision. I recognized the historic value of being a person of color. This exhibit is a very exciting moment for me to relive it and share it.”

Model Pat Cleveland was 15-years-old when she met Eunice Johnson in 1966. She was among the slew of black models who used Fashion Fair as a launching pad to enjoy a trailblazing modeling career for women of color.

“[Eunice’s] purpose was to bring the black American public forward,” says Cleveland as part of a panel. “She was a warrior. She was out there knocking down doors making sure people got a look at something they could never ever see.”

Another model, Ramona Saunders, offered insights on Johnson’s empathy. “She was open, and she listened to people,” she says. “She would present her case, but she would give other people the floor because she cared. She always wanted to affect people in the most positive way.”

A recurring theme in many conversations about Johnson is her selflessness. “She was a powerful woman who had a lot of money to spend,” says Cleveland, “and she didn’t spend it foolishly.”

B.Michael’s company manufactures everything in America and supports causes around education and the arts. The designer is turning his attention to helping young designers perfect their skills and providing opportunities for them to express themselves.

He attributes his philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors to Johnson.

“Eunice gave us the example of how we can take something we all love that is beautiful and luxurious,” he says, “and at the same time use it as a means of being philanthropic. That’s a lesson I can say I learned early from her.”

Sadly, the Queen of the Johnson dynasty died in 2010 at age 93 from renal failure. Johnson Rice paces from room-to-room throughout MODA admiring the collection of over 60 garments.

Walking with one arm across her chest and her index finger on her chin, the heir to the Johnson throne is proud to stand on the shoulders of such influential parents. Though Fashion Fair is a thing of the past, it still goes down in history as a transformative experience that placed blackness on a pedestal.

“Every time I see the exhibition, I’m floored by my mother’s vision and the tenacity she had to put on a production like this,” says Johnson Rice still tapping her finger on the table. “This was no easy feat. It was born out of a need for African Americans to see themselves in a positive light.”

Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair is on display at Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) from Oct. 19, 2014 to Jan. 4, 2015.

This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.

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Selma Tops 2014 African American Film Critics Association Awards

Photos: Gubu Mbatha-Raw in Belle, David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo in Selma and the cast of Dear White People. (TBW)

Photos: Gugu Mbatha-Raw in ‘Belle,’ David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo in ‘Selma’ and the cast of ‘Dear White People’. (TBW)

Los Angeles, CA (December 8, 2014) – Selma, the first Hollywood studio film with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the lead protagonist, is the top winner among the critics representing the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA). The Paramount film earned multiple awards from AAFCA for Best Director, (Ava DuVernay); Best Actor for David Oyelowo and Best Song for the theme song “Glory,” by John Legend and Common.

“Our members found the output of cinema released this year to be a truly insightful mix of titles that reflect the world we live in. The members of AAFCA were especially pleased with this range of storytelling supported by the studios that gave voice to the many sides of the experience of black people in America and around the world,” says AAFCA president Gil Robertson. “We had a lot to pick from this year from Belle, Dear White People, Top Five, Timbuktu and Selma and hope the industry will continue to provide a platform for diversity on the big screen,”  he added.

The following is a complete list of 2014 AAFCA Award winners.

Best Actor                                                David Oyelowo, Selma (Paramount)

Best Actress                                             Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle (Fox Searchlight)

Best Supporting Actress                        Octavia Spencer, Black or White (Relativity)

Best Supporting Actor                           Tyler Perry, Gone Girl (Fox) /J.K. Simmons,
Whiplash (SPC)

Best World Cinema                                Timbuktu (Les Films du Worso)

Breakout Performance                          Tessa Thompson, Dear White People (Ratt.)

Best Director                                           Ava Duvernay, Selma (Paramount)

Best Screenplay                                      Gina Prince-Bythewood, Beyond the Lights (Rela.)

Best Music                                               John Legend/Common, “Glory” (Selma soundtrack)

Best Ensemble                                        Get On Up (Universal)

Best Independent Film                         Dear White People (Roadside Attractions)

Best Animation                                      The Boxtrolls (Focus)

Best Documentary                                Life Itself (Magnolia)

 AAFCA Top Ten Films of 2014 are as follows in order of distinction:

1. Selma
2. The Imitation Game
3. Theory of Everything
4. Birdman
5. Belle
6. Top Five
7. Unbroken
8. Dear White People
9. Get On Up
10. Black or White

The AAFCA will hold its annual awards ceremony and dinner on Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood, CA.

AAFCA’s Special Achievement honors will be awarded to Universal Pictures, Chair, Donna Langley, LA Film Festival Director & Producer, Stephanie Allain and Blacklist Co-Founder, Franklin Leonard. Motion Picture & Television Producer Debra Martin-Chase will receive the organization’s Ashley Boone Award and Los Angeles Times Entertainment Reporter, Susan King will receive the group’s Roger Ebert Award.

This post was compiled by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news and aggregation site, The Burton Wire.

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Albuquerque Police Department: Is Brutality the Norm?

A federal investigation has found that the Albuquerque police department has routinely violated the constitutional rights of members of the community. (Google Images)

A federal investigation has found that the Albuquerque police department has routinely violated the constitutional rights of members of the community. (Google Images)

Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic is reporting that the Albuquerque Police Department is one of the most brutal police departments in the country, routinely violating the constitutional rights of its citizens.  A federal investigation found some damning data about this police department which is supposed to protect and serve the community.

Friedersdorf writes:

“After a 16-month investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department, the federal government reports that its officers routinely violated the Constitutional rights of residents, unjustly beating them, shocking them with tasers, and even shooting them dead. Twenty-one fatal shootings were reviewed. ‘Officers were not justified under federal law in using deadly force in the majority of those incidents,’ the report states. ‘Albuquerque police officers shot and killed civilians who did not pose an imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death to the officers or others.’

Let me underline that finding.

Albuquerque police needlessly extinguished someone’s life on at least 11 occasions. One unarmed man was shot through the chest as he lay motionless on his back. ‘No police officer has been prosecuted for unlawful killing,’ The Economist notes, ‘yet the city has had to pay out $24m in legal settlements to victims’ relatives.’

All this happened between 2009 and 2012. 

‘Officers used deadly force against people who posed a minimal threat, including individuals who posed a threat only to themselves or who were unarmed,’ the report states. ‘Officers also used deadly force in situations where the conduct of the officers heightened the danger and contributed to the need to use force.’

The police department abused its power in non-lethal situations too.”

Now the question is, what will be done about these findings?

Read more at The Atlantic.

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Brazil Uses Text Messaging to Reach Job Seekers

Some companies in Brazil use text messaging to connect with potential employees. (Google Images)

Some companies in Brazil use text messaging to connect with potential employees. (Google Images)

Ozy.com is reporting that text messaging is becoming an option for job seekers in places where expensive cell data plans and Internet cafe’s are cost prohibitive. Shannon Sims gives an example of Maria Angélica de Souza Santos, 26, who found herself without work in Taboão da Serra, Brazil. She registered with a job site, Emprego Ligado, which only required simple one word replies to text messages. Within two weeks, Santos had gotten an interview and obtained a job as a stock person for a supermarket perfume counter.

Text messaging is becoming a viable option for employers to reach workers who would otherwise not be able to communicate with them based on limited access to digital resources or restricted finances to access those resources. Sims writes:

“How does it work? You could almost text the answer. Job candidates text their skills, interests and where they live to Emprego Ligado, which then responds with a text message whenever a company wants to share job details or set up an interview. Candidates even get a text reminder so that they won’t miss their appointment. So far this year, more than 2 million job opportunities have passed through the system in the São Paulo region, according to the company. About 30 percent of job seekers have received an offer within their first week of using the program, while 60 percent secured an offer within a month, the company says. “We saw a huge demand in urban centers for people trying to find jobs,” Derek Fears, Emprego Ligado’s co-founder, tells OZY.”

 Read more at Ozy.com.

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