Oscar Pistorius Sentenced to Five Years for Steenkamp Homicide

Paralympian Oscar Pistorius sentenced to five years in jail. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Paralympian Oscar Pistorius sentenced to five years in jail. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

The BBC is reporting that Judge Thokozile Masipa has sentenced legendary paralympian Oscar Pistorius to serve five years in jail for the homicide of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Judge Thokozile Masipa also gave him an additional three-year suspended sentence on a firearms charge.

The author writes:

“The parents of Reeva Steenkamp told the BBC they were happy with the sentence and relieved the case was over. The defense said it expected Pistorius to serve about 10 months in prison. Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide but cleared of murder.

Prosecutors had called for a minimum 10-year term, and the defense had argued for community service and house arrest. Pistorius showed little reaction to the sentence other than to wipe his eyes before being led away.”

Steenkamp’s family says that justice has been served while others believe the sentence was too light relative to the crime.

Read more at the BBC.

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Ike Jones: Pioneering African-American Filmmaker Dies

Movie poster for Ike Jones' 'A Man Called Adam'. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Movie poster for Ike Jones’ ‘A Man Called Adam’. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

David Colker of the Los Angeles Times is reporting that pioneering African-American filmmaker Ike Jones has died. Jones passed away October 11 in an assisted-living facility, where he lived after having suffered a stroke and congestive heart failure. Prior to his stroke, he was living in a rented room.

A Los Angeles native, Jones played high school football for Santa Monica High School and then UCLA. Colker’s piece didn’t mention the fact that in 1952, Jones became the first African-American graduate of UCLA’s prestigious film school. He was determined to be the first Negro to succeed on the production and executive side of the industry. Colker writes:

“He went to work for production companies that oversaw projects for Harry Belafonte and Burt Lancaster, and he headed Nat King Cole’s Kell-Cole Productions that produced the singer’s highly successful live shows. For the rest of his life, Jones kept a photo of himself and Cole at the White House with President Johnson.

In 1966 Jones was one of the producers of the film ‘A Man Called Adam.’ Sammy Davis Jr. headed a cast that included Louis Armstrong. Jones said on several occasions that the movie marked the first time a black person produced an A-list picture.”

Colker’s piece left out that ‘A Man Called Adam’ also starred Ossie Davis and Cicely Tyson, who would go on to star in Jones’ major achievement, the 1978 NBC four-hour mini-series ‘A Woman Called Moses’ starring Cicely Tyson as Harriet Tubman.

Jones’ life was filled with some controversy, particularly his marriage to actress Inger Stevens, a popular white actress whom he married in secret. Jones’ was also financially devastated after a series of bad investments. Sergio of Shadow and Act writes:

“Except for a few close friends, they both kept the marriage a secret from the public, studio and TV execs, and casting people because they feared that if it was known that Stevens had been married to a black man it would have ruined her career.

Unfortunately the last years of Jones’ life were a sad ones. He found himself bankrupt after a series of bad investments and suffered from bad heath for years…”

Ike Jones was 84.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times or Shadow and Act.

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Caribbean Conference on Reparations Held in Antigua

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles chairs the 15-country task force seeking reparations. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles chairs the 15-country task force seeking reparations. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Caribbean 360 is reporting that a two-day conference was held in St. Johns, Antigua to discuss “reparatory justice.” The author writes:

“Chairperson of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparations Commission, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, said the movement has been energized and the Commission is working towards mounting a region-wide rally.

We are going to organize, with the support of all of these national commissions, a regional rally in which we will move the reparations banner from the northern Caribbean, through to the center, to the south, all the way through to Brazil,’ Sir Hilary told reporters at the close of the Second Regional Conference on Reparations late Tuesday.

Beckles, the renowned historian and Principal of the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), said such an event would engage the talents of artists, musicians and youth, while bringing regional and global attention to the matter.

The conference also discussed strategies on getting more youth involved in the movement, and working across the diaspora to gain reparations. The two day event was hosted by the Antiguan and Barbuda government and the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission. Other goals include reconciliation between victims and beneficiaries.

The author adds:

“It also seeks to achieve the Caribbean Reparatory Justice Programme 10-Point Action Plan that tackles various social, educational and economic issues including debt cancelation, public health, illiteracy eradication and psychological rehabilitation.”

Read more at Caribbean 360.

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Viola Davis Response to NYT Shade is “Classically Beautiful”

Viola Davis in W Magazine. (Photo Credit: Google Images.)

Viola Davis in W Magazine. (Photo Credit: Google Images.)

The Root is reporting that Viola Davis responded to being called “less classically beautiful”, by Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times, during an appearance on The View. The comment was made in the very same article that labeled Shonda Rhimes an “angry black woman.” The article read:

“The actress doesn’t look at all like the typical star of a network drama… Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Kerry Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry…

The article by Stanley was commenting on Davis’s lead role as Professor Annalise Keating  in the new hit show How To Get Away With Murder, which is produced by Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal‘s Shonda Rhimes.

Davis responded to the article on The View saying:

“I think that beauty is subjective. I’ve heard that statement [less classically beautiful] my entire life. Being a dark-skinned black woman, you heard it from the womb. And “classically not beautiful” is a fancy term for saying ugly. And denouncing you. And erasing you. Now … it worked when I was younger. It no longer works for me now. It’s about teaching a culture how to treat you. Because at the end of the day, you define you.”

Viola Davis. (Photo Credit: Google Images.)

Viola Davis. (Photo Credit: Google Images.)

Davis also took to Twitter, quoting Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise:

“You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise!!!”

The article received an enormous amount of backlash via the internet. Many African American women have begun adding the hashtag #LessClassicallyBeautiful to their tweets and posting pictures showcasing themselves as “Less Classically Beautiful.”

Though upsetting, the comment made by Stanley and the debate surrounding it is nothing new to African American communities. The 1940’s “Landmark Doll Test” examined the psychological effects of segregation on black children. The test was used to determine racial perception and preference in children. It was found that when giving a choice between two dolls, one white and the other black, the majority of the children selected the white doll and associated positive attributes with it.

Color discrimination has existed in the black community for many generations. Authors Kathy Russell, Midge Wilson, and Ronald E. Hall discuss the issue of  light and dark skinned people, how they relate to one another, and how they are influenced by the legacy of racism in their bookThe Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color Among African Americans.

The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color Among African Americans.”

The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color Among African Americans.”

Following the backlash from the public, the New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan issued a statement promising to have Stanley explain her intended meaning, but also added that the articles true intent was not to offend. Sullivan said:

 “Intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way that was – at best – astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch.”

Read more at TheRoot.com.

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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Elizabeth Peña: Celebrated Cuban American Actress Dies

Celebrated actress Elizabeth Peña dies at 55. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Celebrated actress Elizabeth Peña dies at 55. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Writing for the Latino Review, Mario-Francisco Robles is reporting that celebrated actress Elizabeth Peña has died. Peña is best remembered for her critically acclaimed performance in John Sayles’ Lone Star (1996), also starring Chris Cooper, Matthew McConaughey, Miriam Colón, Jesse Borego, Joe Morton, Ron Canada, Tony Plana and Kris Kristofferson. Peña won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role as Pilar in Lone Star at the 1997 Independent Spirit Awards. Robles, who is also Peña’s nephew, writes:

“Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey and raised by her Cuban immigrant parents, Peña was destined for a career in the arts. Her father, Mario, was a playwright, director, actor, and designer in their native Cuba, who opened up the Latin American Theatre Ensemble after establishing a life for he and his family in New York. As a teen, Peña began making a name for herself as a formidable young actress in the New York theatre scene. She attended, and graduated from, the High School of Performing Arts and began her professional film career in 1978 with León Ichaso’s El Super. A few years later, the ambitious Cubana would set off to try her fortunes over on the west coast.”

Peña starred in the ABC prime time series, I Married Dora (1987), which co-starred actress Juliette Lewis. She appeared on numerous television shows including CSI: Miami, The Ghost Whisperer, Without a Trace, L.A. Law, Resurrection Blvd., Boston Public and Modern Family. Peña starred in many films including La Bamba (1987), Blue Steel (1989), Drug Wars: The Camarena Story (1990), Rush Hour (1998), Tortilla Soup (2001) and Transamerica (2005). She also was the voice of Mirage in The Incredibles (2004) and performed voice over work on American Dad and Maya & Miguel.

In 2001 Elizabeth Peña won an ALMA award for outstanding actress in a new series for Resurrection Blvd.  In 2002, she won the outstanding actress award in film for Tortilla Soup.

She had recently wrapped work on the first season of the El Rey Network’s action series, Matador, where she played the title character’s mother Maritza.

Peña is survived by her husband, two teenage children, her mother and her sister. She died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. No cause of death has been officially released. She was 55.

Read Robles’ obituary in its entirety at The Latino Review.

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‘Nas: Time is Illmatic’ Documentary Explores Tragedy and Triumph

Nasir 'Nas' Jones  (Photo Credit: Tribeca Film Institute)

Nasir ‘Nas’ Jones
(Photo Credit: Tribeca Film Institute)

Nas: Time is Illmatic is a feature documentary that chronicles the preconditions and circumstances leading up to the making of the rapper’s seminal 1994 debut album, Illmatic. Unlike most music-centered documentaries, which would usually take viewers through the album’s 10-track sequence, lyrical content and creative process, Time is Illmatic abandons this approach to music documentaries.

Instead, visual artist One9 and hip hop journalist Erik Parker use their 74-minute directorial debut to extract issues and themes from Nas’ classic album that are still prevalent among black male youth today.

Time is Illmatic, narrated predominantly by the optimistic, raspy-voiced Queensbridge emcee, interrogates topics like the lack of arts programs in public education, divorce, love, poverty, death, the inner city, the crack epidemic, mass incarceration, youth violence, hopelessness and despair.

“It’s something that has a lot of feeling and emotional depth to it,” says Parker via phone. “[Nas] is talking about these issues from a first-hand perspective of living it without preaching.”

Parker, formerly Vibe Magazine’s music editor, was revising a story commemorating Illmatic’s 10th anniversary in 2004. He thought the article lacked depth, so he decided to collaborate with One9 to create something more meaningful.

“It’s easy to get seduced by the poetry of Illmatic and stop there without trying to make an understanding of the messages,” says Parker.

“There’s a lot of tragedy and cases where institutions fail young boys coming-of-age on their way to becoming men. We’ll never really get an understanding of them or their story if we don’t tell it from the inside out.”

Illmatic, with its vivid social commentary, riveting introspection and incredible production, left quite an impact on both recording artists and intellectuals. Erykah Badu and Kendrick Lamar are heard giving audio testimonials in one of Time is Illmatic’s segments. Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, Pharrell, Cornel West and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. offer additional commentary throughout the film.

Parker, on the other hand, directly correlates his own life to Nas’ detail-oriented scenarios and cautionary tales about growing up young and black in America.

“[Nas] let us know that his worldview was our worldview, but I wasn’t able to express it that way,” says the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism alumnus. “Art has a way of validating your existence. While we celebrate the great poet, it’s important for all audiences to understand the people for whom he was speaking.”

Shot using Super 8 visual aesthetics, Time is Illmatic is captured in still photographs, live concert footage, virtual tours throughout Queensbridge, candid interviews and archive news footage.

One9, commissioned to create artist iconographs for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, completed the film on-and-off with Parker over a 10-year span. The pair recently donated over 30 hours of footage to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

One9 and Parker built solid relationships with an extremely accommodating Nas and his father, jazz musician Olu Dara. All of Illmatic’s producers gave comments. More importantly, Nas’ enigmatic younger brother, Jabari aka “Jungle,” came on board to provide his insights.

One9 says he came away from making Time is Illmatic with the inspiration to look at all of his relationships more closely. “We learned a lot about our relationships with our communities,” says One9.

“I learned how to tell a story by listening to people’s backgrounds. I wanted to know more about my family history and how I came to be. We’re hoping this film inspires a new generation to look at their roots, culture and identity.”

Parker, referring to his creative partner as a “visual storyteller,” amplified One9’s comments on their approach to the film.

“[One9] knows how to look at things in a different way,” he says. “I focus on trying to get the most out of a story and make sure there is a certain amount of the subject that we need.”

Time is Illmatic, according to One9, was a “trial-and-error process.” The recipients of the Ford Foundation/JustFilms production grant completed a workshop in 2013 courtesy of the Tribeca All Access Program.

The workshop provided the first time filmmakers with opportunities to network with other film industry professionals and flesh out their ideas.

“There are so many deep layers that go into the art of what we really do,” says One9. “We wanted to convey that, but we were learning a lot about how to do it. We had some great people around us that helped up refine our story.”

Time is Illmatic premiered as the Tribeca Film Festival’s opening film this past April. The filmmakers are also extremely proud of Time is Illmatic’s three-track education and community outreach platform.

Forty-eight New York City schools will allow 20,000 students to screen the film and discuss its subject matter. An undergraduate course on research and documentary filmmaking will be offered at NYU and available via live stream. Parker and One9 will be available for a live Q&A.

The filmmaking pair will also tour and screen Time is Illmatic over a year in high schools, prisons, museums, colleges and community centers. Associate producer Martha Diaz chimes in via phone to elaborate more on the community platform.

Diaz, also the founding director of the Hip Hop Education Center, recently joined One9 for a screening of Time is Illmatic before a packed house at A3C Hip Hop Festival, which celebrated its 10th anniversary.

“We can’t do this without community engagement,” says Diaz. “We really wanna unpack these issues and have an intergenerational conversation. It reveals another trajectory around black male achievement.”

Parker and One9 are still in disbelief that they’re traveling extensively to show Time is Illmatic worldwide. Two decades ago, the two never would’ve imagined that they would be making a monumental film about one of hip hop’s most seminal works.

The two agree that Time is Illmatic is more than just a hip hop film. One9 hopes the film will serve as the firestarter for emerging filmmakers to create more films of this type.

“We have to tell our own stories,” says One9. “Our culture gets diluted when other people do it. You never know what will inspire the next thing. It’s not just a hip hop story; it’s an American story.”

Making direct references to films made by Ken Burns, Parker agrees with One9 that Time is Illmatic is an American story. He hopes their film will go on to warrant a similar level of respect that Burns’ films have earned.

“We wanted to do something that’s a great American story from our generation that we think everybody should know,” says Parker.

“These stories get a treatment and a stamp that lets everybody know they’re important. The hip hop generation is a great generation, so let’s talk about our time in this world because we have a lot more to offer.”

Christopher A. Daniel is a 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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Pistorius Sentencing Hearing Begins: Asks for Community Service

Fallen Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius' sentencing hearing started today. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Fallen Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius’ sentencing hearing started today. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

The sentencing hearing for Paralympian runner Oscar Pistorius, who was convicted of culpable homicide last month, in the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, has officially begun. According to Rebecca Davis of The Guardian, day one of the hearing involved

  • Pistorius’s defense team has called three out of four witnesses to testify in mitigation of sentencing: a psychologist, a Correctional Services social worker, and the athlete’s manager.
  • Social worker Joel Maringa told the court that he recommended Pistorius undergo house arrest for three years, with 16 hours of community service per month.
  • The state’s Gerrie Nel, who will be pushing for the most punitive possible jail term, called this suggestion “shockingly inappropriate”.
  • Pistorius’s psychologist and manager, respectively, have painted the picture of a broken man who is nonetheless humble and charitable, and who poses no danger to society.

Tomorrow, state prosecutor Gerrie Nel will have the opportunity to cross-examine Pistorius’ manager Pete Van Zyl.

The trial is not expected to last more than a week.

Read more at The Guardian. For a timeline of the events from the murder of Reeva Steenkamp to Pistorius’ sentencing, visit The Mail & Guardian (South Africa).

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Bye Felicia: ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’ Replacing ‘Columbus Day’?


Indigenous Peoples Day is replacing or supplementing Columbus Day celebrations across the United States. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Emanuella Grinberg of CNN is reporting that many cities in the United States are replacing ‘Columbus Day’ with ‘Indigenous People Day’. Grinberg reports:

“For the first time this year, Seattle and Minneapolis will recognize the second Monday in October as ‘Indigenous People’s Day.’ The cities join a growing list of jurisdictions choosing to shift the holiday’s focus from Christopher Columbus to the people he encountered in the New World and their modern-day descendants.

The Seattle City Council voted last week to reinvent the holiday to celebrate ‘the thriving cultures and values of Indigenous Peoples in our region.’ The Minneapolis City Council approved a similar measure in April ‘to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people on this land, and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that Dakota, Ojibwa and other indigenous nations add to our city.’

The Seattle School Board followed suit along with Portland Public Schools, where officials say Indigenous People’s Day will not replace Columbus Day but supplement it. Schools across the country have been working for years to clarify Columbus’ role in history.”

Based on the largely erroneous metanarrative that has developed around Christopher Columbus, who actually died in the West Indies and never made it to what we now call North America, many people are “pushing back” against the “holiday” or identifying other Italians to celebrate since the “holiday.” Columbus Day is considered by many to be a celebration of Italian-American culture and history that is greater than one explorer.

What are your thoughts? Share in the comments section below or @TheBurtonWire.

Read more at CNN.

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Ebola: Trinidad May Postpone 2015 Carnival Over Fears

Photo Credit: PhotoShelter.com

Photo Credit: PhotoShelter.com

Caribbean 360 is reporting that the National Carnival Commission (NCC) may postpone Carnival celebrations in 2015 due to fears associated with the Ebola virus that has claimed the lives of thousands of people mainly in West Africa.

NCC chairman Alison Demas said the threat of an Ebola outbreak is becoming more real, daily, and that Carnival, scheduled for February 16-17, may be postponed over concerns about the Ebola virus.

Carnival attracts thousands of international visitors which is stoking the fears. The author reports:

“We are reminded of what happened years ago with the polio epidemic when Carnival had to be postponed. It is a bit premature to say but clearly this is something that maybe necessary because of course we would not want Carnival to be an avenue for our population and our visitors being affected by the deadly Ebola epidemic,” says Demas.

Trinidad without Carnival?

Read more at Caribbean 360.

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HBCUs Fight for Student Enrollment


Photo Credit: http://www.urbansocialnetwerk.com

HBCU Digest is reporting that financial hurdles for low-income first generation college students,  increases in admissions standards, and outdated recruitment practices are causing student enrollment to drop at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Declining student enrollment at HBCUs, which are primarily tuition-dependent universities, can potentially make it difficult to ensure a quality education and success for all students.

The article reports that the changing admissions practices of many HBCUs are contributing to decreased student enrollment. The author writes:

“There is nothing wrong with HBCUs seeking to attract the best and brightest students, but there is a structural problem with HBCUs when they deny admissions to the students they now, and historically, have served. There are not enough top-tier students to fill HBCU campuses, and in forsaking the market of students they currently serve and replacing them with “better students,” they will continue to experience enrollment declines from which they will be unable to recover.”

To ensure their continued longevity, the article states that HBCUs must make student enrollment their number one priority, while also increasing alumni contributions, institutional endowments, and other revenue sources.

Without deliberate and decisive action, many HBCUs may be left fighting for survival.

Read more at HBCUDigest.com.

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

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