Spelman College Champions Sustainability Through Partnerships

Spelman College Alumnae and GM's WRN founder & director Celeste Briggs '81(l) with Spelman president Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum (c) and students Marcea Lewis and Ruth Wangia (r).  (Photo Credit: Spelman College)

Spelman College Alumnae and GM’s WRN founder & director Celeste Briggs ’81(l) with Spelman president Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum (c) and students Marcea Lewis and Ruth Wangia (r).
(Photo Credit: Spelman College)

In a climate where media headlines and public opinion often revolve around how HBCUs are constantly enduring enrollment, economic and leadership crises, Spelman College is setting an example for how to avoid succumbing to this statistic.

Part of the reason why the all-female college is successful is because the school makes constant efforts to proactively foster a culture and dialogue between the student body and alumni that promote excellence and sustainability.

President Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum developed a Climate Action Plan last year. She made a goal to reduce gas emissions by 50 percent in 2031, the same year as Spelman’s 150th anniversary.

So far, Spelman has already reached that 50 percent mark. The campus’ eco-design and conservation manifesto has resulted in the accumulation of an outstanding amount of carbon credits. A renovated residence hall earned the trailblazing institution LEEDS Gold certification in 2012.

The 39-acre, award-winning green campus now uses retrofits to light its facilities and poles. Cardboard recycle bins are also placed across Spelman’s grounds and inside the majority of its buildings.

The campus which is home to the Wellness Revolution advocating for healthy living and lifestyle, acts as a steward for campus- and community-wide sustainability outreach: conducting surveys, facilitating training workshops and managing social media portals. Dr. Tatum takes pride in Spelman’s credibility as one of the nation’s leading academic institutions to embrace environmental consciousness.

Although the poised leader exceeded a groundbreaking fundraising campaign and increased alumni giving, the innovative president set to retire next year after 12 years of leadership, attributes the mobility of Spelman’s sustainability success to students taking initiative towards becoming conservative, eco-friendly citizens.

“This generation of students is very interested in sustainability,” says Dr. Tatum. “They get very excited. At the end of the day, it’s their planet they’re going to have to live on, so they want to be a part of the solution.”

Another reason Spelman is a leader of the higher education pack involves filtering their agendas with the appropriate community partners and organizations.

The same day Spelman celebrates Campus Sustainability Day, Dr. Tatum announces a new partnership with General Motors (GM) via Chevrolet’s Campus Clean Energy Campaign. The college will earn $100,000 from selling its carbon credits to the car brand, which Chevrolet will then retire.

Spelman is one of 12 American institutions approached by GM. The school is the only all-female school, HBCU and school in the state of Georgia selected to participate in the Campus Clean Energy Campaign. Dr. Tatum is reinvesting those funds towards energy efficient resources such as campus-wide LED lighting.

Seated beside Dr. Tatum, interchangeably referring to Spelman’s and Chevrolet’s alliance as both “a natural connection and partnership,” to talk about the collaboration is GM’s Director of Women’s Retail Network (WRN), Celeste Briggs.

The Detroit native and Spelman alumnae (C’81) is elated to return to her alma mater so she can support an environmentally friendly platform. Briggs is proud that WRN, a 13-year-old program she co-founded, works to increase a female presence throughout the automobile industry.

Her presence and loyalty to Spelman, Briggs believes, allows issues such as sustainability to get supported by various communities. “I’m glad to see that my college is leading in this way,” says a proud Briggs.

“Spelman sets a very high standard for other colleges to measure up to. I wouldn’t expect anything less honestly.”

At the announcement, Chevrolet presented a white demo of the 2014 Chevrolet Volt. The arching Bob Boniface-designed hybrid is a compact plug-in electronic vehicle. The Volt’s OnStar-powered capabilities keep a count on the miles it gets from a full charge and on fuel.

Briggs goes on to say that GM’s efforts and energy efficient products like the Volt are a direct result of being customer-focused. It compliments and reflects Spelman’s green-friendly creed and excellence mantra.

“Consumers are not just interested in us as manufacturers,” she says. “[GM] is a global leader in sustainability. It doesn’t matter if our plants are here or in China, we don’t lower our standards anywhere we go.”

Dr. Tatum refers to both Briggs and Sam’s Club CEO (and Spelman alumnae-turned-Board Chair) Rosalind Brewer as “shining examples.” The GM executive works primarily to extend opportunities to women and promote planet-friendly agendas as necessities for corporate responsibility.

It’s extremely important to a result-oriented Briggs that women business owners get support and more visibility in a male-dominated industry. This year, WRN’s “Dream to Succeed” program awarded nine scholarships to women seeking careers in the automobile industry. It also marks the first time Canada was included. Both contributions and the amount of scholarships awarded increased.

It’s equally important to both Briggs and Dr. Tatum that their efforts create a ripple effect for Spelman because it stabilizes the school’s alumni relationships with both students and administration.

“GM puts the customer in the center of everything they do,” says Briggs, who sold medical supplies prior to her tenure at GM. “We have to be conscious, and we have to be responsible for our behavior.”

Briggs, an English major, points out that having both effective communication skills and an innovative approach to the job market laid the foundation for her successful career and her ability to support important causes.

She credits Spelman for instilling in her invaluable life skills that result in her ability to serve in various roles at GM. “It made me uniquely qualified to perform my job,” says Briggs. “Spelman shaped me and made me courageous. You can try things that are nonconventional.”

Spelman and GM, according to Dr. Tatum, understand that sustainability is an essential component to move forward in both education and business. This particular collaboration reinforces how fostering a strong liberal arts education program can structure more cohesive alumni relationships and socially aware communities of business executives.

“We’re proud that one of our graduates is championing the cause of women,” says Dr. Tatum.

“If you can be an effective problem solver, a strong communicator, understand people of all backgrounds and able to engage effectively across lives of difference, you’re going to be successful no matter what you major in.”

This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, music and pop cultural 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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Zambia: President Michael Sata Dies

Zambian president Michael Sata dies. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Zambian president Michael Sata dies. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

The BBC is reporting that Zambian president Michael Sata has died, after receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness. The author writes:

“President Sata, who was being treated in the UK, died in London’s King Edward VII hospital on Tuesday night.

Media said that he died after ‘a sudden onset [of] heightened heart rate’.

It is not immediately clear who will succeed the president. The issue may be decided by the Zambian cabinet which meets on Wednesday morning.

‘It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing on of our beloved president,’ cabinet secretary Roland Msiska said on national TV.

He said that Mr Sata’s wife and son were at his bedside.

‘I urge all of you to remain calm, united and peaceful during this very difficult period,’ Mr. Msiska added.”

Zambia recently celebrated 50 years of independence from British rule on October 24. This year’s anniversary marked the first time in 50 years of independence that Zambia’s sitting head of state was absent at the festivities. Sata was known as “King Cobra” because of his willingness to tell it like it is.

Penny Dale, the BBC’s former Zambia correspondent had this to say about President Sata:

“Gravelly-voiced as a result of years of chain-smoking, Michael Sata rose to political prominence in the 1980s. He quickly earned a reputation as the hardest-working governor while in charge of Lusaka and as a populist man of action. But he was also known for his authoritarian tendencies, an abrasive manner and a sharp tongue – and his critics say his nickname of ‘King Cobra’ was well-deserved.

A devout Catholic, Mr. Sata had worked as a police officer, railway man and trade unionist during colonial rule. After independence, he also spent time in London, working as a railway porter, and, back in Zambia, with a taxidermist company.

On the fourth attempt, Mr. Sata won presidential elections in 2011. At first he looked as if he would keep promises to tackle corruption and create jobs and prosperity. But his term in office was marred by a crackdown on political opposition and a decline in the economy.”

President Sata was 72.

Read more at BBC News.

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HBO Documentary ‘Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown’ Debuts

Legendary performer James Brown. (Photo Credit: Emilio Grossi/HBO)

Legendary performer James Brown. (Photo Credit: Emilio Grossi/HBO)

James Brown is undoubtedly one of the most influential entertainers in the history of American music and culture. Known as “The Godfather of Soul,” he is revered for his musical genius, social consciousness and promotion of black pride and economic empowerment.

Brown’s complex identity is examined in the two-hour plus HBO documentary, Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown. Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney and produced by rock music legend Mick Jagger, Mr. Dynamite is heavily sequenced with vintage photos, captions detailing the singer’s early years, concert footage, television appearances, Brown’s audio narration, news archives, tear sheets and studio recordings.

The film’s opening sequence is an energetic live performance featuring the then Afro-wearing performer covered in sweat. The segment sets the tone for an immersive music-filled eulogy that fully captures the essence of Soul Brother Number One’s flawless work ethic and uncompromising tyrannical governance.

The consummate entertainer conducts his band, inner circle and numerous enterprises with a zero tolerance authoritative style. He didn’t determine his repertoire until he got to the venue. He handed out fines for bad notes by simply using his hands mid-performance.

Whenever the late funk, R&B, pop and soul music pioneer steps on-stage, “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” mesmerizes audiences with his incredible footwork, vocal vamps, precise musical arrangements and commanding body language.

At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Brown’s meteoric rise and business savvy prompted him to become among the first entertainers of color to leverage his superstardom with showmanship into a platform for entrepreneurship and social consciousness.

Mr. Dynamite avoids focusing on Brown’s jail time, family life, marriages and untimely death in 2006 by design. Pivotal episodes in the musical icon’s life like his visits to Africa and Vietnam are also not included in the final version because of time constraints.

“We only have two hours, so it’s hard to get all of that in there,” says Mr. Dynamite producer Blair Foster following a showing at BronzeLens Film Festival in Atlanta. “We had to sacrifice some things to let people enjoy the music as much as they could.”

The Emmy-winning producer worked closely with Gibney and Jagger to make Brown’s profound iconograph come to life. Admitting she feels weird about referring to the Rolling Stones lead singer by first name, Foster, who became exposed to Brown thorough his cameo in the 1980 film, The Blues Brothers, recalls Jagger pointing out political figures and cultural events while previewing a rough cut of the film.

Never one to deny his admiration of Brown, Jagger even gyrates his legs in one performance scene similar to Brown’s routine on The T.A.M.I. Show. “He’s not just a fan; he’s a student of James Brown,” says Foster. “He’s very open about how James is a big influence on him. It was a joy to fulfill his vision.”

It’s especially important to both Gibney and Jagger that Mr. Dynamite pays tribute to the musical and political elements that molded Brown into an icon. “We decided very early that we were not gonna focus on his entire life,” says Foster. “We wanted to remind people of his influence as a musician and a performer.”

Along with Jagger’s appreciation of Brown are commentaries from bassist Christian McBride, writer Greg Tate and drummer Questlove. Each appearance discusses Brown’s influences on mass culture.

The bulk of Mr. Dynamite’s interviews belong to Brown’s band members and close confidants like Rev. Al Sharpton, hype man Bobby Byrd, tour manager Alan Leeds, drummers Clyde Stubblefield, Melvin Parker and John “Jabo” Starks, saxophonists Maceo Parker and Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis, trombonist Fred Wesley and bassist Bootsy Collins.

Each snapshot captures Brown’s off-stage persona: revealing his me-against-the-world attitude, tendency to tell corny jokes, implementing a strict dress code and his ability to articulate his sound and handing out penalties through his body language.

Danny Ray, Brown’s raspy-voiced announcer and cape man for 46 years, is an essential component to Brown’s live set. He’s definitely familiar with the meticulous performer not calling the set list until show time.

Laughing after each comment, Ray vividly remembers Brown’s strict instructions for his musicians.

“He used to say ‘Keep your eyes on me, and you won’t miss,’” remembers Ray well-dressed in a three-piece pinstripe suit and tilted fedora. “’It’s hard to get the public. If you stop, you gotta start all over again. Why stop? Keep going. That’s what you’re here for.’”

Ray shines light on how important it was for Brown to impress his audience: referring to stepping on-stage as “Star Time.”

“To [James], the big show was every night,” he says. “A lot of people say show business, but [James] said it was show and business. You wanna keep that thing while you got it going.”

It was common after a show for Brown and his band to head directly to the recording studio. “He didn’t want to miss nothing,” says Ray. “We were steady creating all the time.”

Brown’s daughter, Dr. Yamma Brown, calls Mr. Dynamite “a lesson or James Brown School” immediately before the screening. Her sister, Deanna Brown Thomas, is seated next to her.

At the time of the Atlanta premiere, the Brown siblings only saw bits and pieces of the full-length film. Thomas, formerly staffed at her father’s radio station, office and even his hair stylist at one point, jokes that when she thought she was on vacations with Brown, she would end up traveling with her him to different radio and television stations to promote.

She says that his prolific output is a reflection of his professionalism.

“This film is not as commercial as Universal,” says Thomas, also President of the James Brown Family Foundation. “He was more about his business off-stage than he was on-stage. To him, it was never too much downtime; he hardly wanted to take any time off.”

It didn’t occur to Brown’s daughters until later in both their lives that their beloved dad inspired talents such as Michael Jackson and Prince, who are both briefly shown in Mr. Dynamite mimicking their father’s dance routines.

“The amount of love everyone has shown us since dad passed has been tremendous,” says Dr. Brown. “It’s tough to lose a father but then to lose such an iconic man in music and history is a blow to the African American community, American people and worldwide. It’s a privilege for me to walk in his shadow.”

At BronzeLens, the audience at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Rich Theatre sings along, cheers, laughs and claps throughout the entire film. Each of the performances fuel euphoria. Foster, calling Mr. Dynamite her “dream project,” felt the success of the film when she heard the audience sing along.

“We succeeded, and I am happy to be a part of that,” says Foster.

The Brown sisters totally approve of Gibney’s depiction of their father’s legacy. Thomas clarifies that she wants millennials and younger generations to be educated on James Brown and his contributions to culture and society.

Dr. Brown is especially proud to see her father’s humanitarian side. “You see him singing and dancing, but what really spoke to him was seeing his people and kids prosper,” she says.

“Dad was a big giver. He really felt for where he came from. That’s a light you don’t really get a chance to see all the time.”

Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown premieres on Mon., Oct. 27 at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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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FAMU Hazing Trial Starts Today

Drum major Robert Champion, 26, died after participating in a 'hazing' ritual known as 'Crossing Bus-C".  (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Drum major Robert Champion, 26, died after participating in a ‘hazing’ ritual known as ‘Crossing Bus-C”.
(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Mike Schneider of the Associated Press is reporting that the trial of four members of Florida A&M’s marching band charged with felony hazing and manslaughter in the death of drum major Robert Champion has begun. In 2011, Champion died from hemorrhagic shock. His autopsy showed extensive internal bleeding from participating in a hazing ritual called, “crossing Bus C,” which has been popular in sports and politics. Fifteen students were charged in Champion’s death and all but four have had their cases settled. Some will testify for prosecutors.

Schneider writes:

“Darryl Cearnel, Aaron Golson, Benjamin McNamee and Dante Martin have pleaded not guilty. But a late challenge by the attorneys for Cearnel, Golson and McNamee about the inclusion of an additional hazing charge could delay trials for those defendants. Once it begins, the trial could last two weeks.

State Attorney Jeff Ashton said he wants jurors to learn about the history of hazing in FAMU’s marching band so they understand that what happened on the bus was a ‘consistent pattern.’

Besides ‘crossing Bus C,’ jurors likely will learn about other hazing rituals by band members. Those include ‘the hot seat,’ when band members sit in bus seats with heads between legs as other band members beat them, as well as ‘prepping’ when a shirtless band member is slapped on the back and chest.”

Prosecutors insist that the students knew they were breaking the law while defense attorneys contend that the state’s hazing laws are so vague that “Crossing Bus-C” doesn’t fit the legal definition.

Read more at ABC News.

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Dominican Republic: MLB Rising Star Oscar Taveras Dies

Oscar Taveras at spring training in Miami.  (Photo Credit: MLB)

Oscar Taveras at spring training in Miami.
(Photo Credit: MLB)

Mike Axisa of CBS Sports is reporting that St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend were killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic on Sunday, the team and his agent Brian Mejia have confirmed.

The author highlighted the responses of Cardinals and MLB officials:

“We are all stunned and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of the youngest members of the Cardinals family,” said team chariman Bill DeWitt Jr. in a statement. “Oscar was an amazing talent with a bright future who was taken from us well before his time. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends tonight.”

Twitter is mourning the loss of Oscar Tavares.

Twitter is mourning the loss of Oscar Taveras.

“We are very saddened to learn of the news that a car accident has claimed the life of Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend in the Dominican Republic,” MLB Players Association chief Tony Clark said in a statement. “Oscar had a very promising future, on and off the field, and this news is heartbreaking on many levels. It’s never easy to lose a member of our fraternity, and to lose one so young is devastating news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of both, as well as the St. Louis Cardinals organization and Oscar’s many fans in the United States and the Dominican Republic.”

“With heavy hearts, tonight we play Game Five of the 2014 World Series in the memory of these two young people,” added Selig. “On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to the families and friends of both individuals, as well as to Oscar’s teammates and the entire Cardinals organization.”

Taveras was 22.

This story is developing.

Read more at CBS Sports.

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Brazil: President Dilma Rousseff Re-Elected

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has been re-elected. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has been re-elected. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

The BBC is reporting that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has been re-elected after securing more than 51% of votes in the closest election race in many years. An official count showed her rival, centrist candidate Aecio Neves, taking just over 48% of the vote. Her re-election for a second term extends the rule of her Workers Party (PT), which came to power in 2002 with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

In her victory speech, Ms Rousseff said she wanted to be “a much better president than I have been until now.”

The author writes:

“But the vote split Latin America’s biggest country almost evenly in two, along lines of social class and geography. Ms. Rousseff called on all Brazilians ‘to unite in favour of Brazil’s future’ and said she would seek political reform. ‘This president is open to dialogue. This is the top priority of my second mandate,’ she told a cheering crowd in the capital, Brasilia.”

Rousseff has faced protests over the World Cup and political corruption. In August, presidential contender Eduardo Campos died tragically in a plane crash. The charismatic and wildly popular politician was quite possibly the candidate most likely to unseat Rousseff. Rousseff declared three days of mourning after his passing.

Read more at BBC.

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Phillip Terrill: The Man Behind the Burks & Bailey Brand

Phillip Terrill and John Bailey of Burks & Bailey.

Phillip Terrill and John Bailey of Burks & Bailey.

With your youth still ahead of you, best friend at your side, and access to many of the fashion industry’s elite, many would see it as a fine time to turn up. However, Phillip Terrill would say that it was time to turn in and get ready for the next day.

Terrill, co-founder and managing partner of men’s neckwear line Burks & Bailey, is literally the man behind the brand.

Well-spoken, well-dressed, and above all humble, Phillip is not too proud to step out of the spotlight. Instead, Phillip prefers being the man that does the work behind the scenes, which works well for he and his best friend/business partner John Bailey.

Realizing that partnerships, like friendships, take knowing each other’s strengths and talents has allowed Phillip to run Burks & Bailey as smoothly as possible. Terrill says:

“I’m involved in both the fashion side and the business side, but I would break it down into a 70 to 30 relationship. I would say I would be the 30 to the creative side because a true partner lets the strengths of the other partner come out. John’s strengths are the fashion, and the creativity, and the design aspect.” Terrill believes that business is in his blood. He adds, “To run a business and to make sure that the nuts and bolts are there, that’s my job. And that’s what I enjoy doing.”

In naming the brand, the two didn’t squabble over whose name would come first. In fact, Terrill opted out of including his name at all because he wanted to go with something more marketable and tied to another company he ran, The Burks, which had strong brand recognition. Terrill has ensured that the company and its products represent John and him, capturing their midwestern roots and southern influences. At a time when attitudes about race, class, gender and sexuality are in flux, one thing remains the same for Terrill – how you look, dress, and speak still plays a large role in how you are received.

“As far as being socially accepted, our brands whole basis was to live bolder, look a little bit different, and to really say why ‘knot,” says Terrill who is often the only African American in a room or event. “I’ve never felt like I’m not socially accepted. If I’m not, hey, that’s fine. I don’t mind going against the grain. At the end of the day business is business and the only color that I see is green,” the Tuskegee graduate states.

Burks & Bailey Knot: The Suzanne (Burks&Bailey.com)

Burks & Bailey Knot: The Suzanne (Burks&Bailey.com)

Although Terrill is motivated by the color green in terms of business, he believes that we are all fundamentally the same. As a role model for young children of all races, Terrill wants to model his social beliefs as well as his business practices. He says, “We are not here to break any racial stereotypes. Our perspective is that everybody is the same. Everybody has goals and aspirations and we walk amongst each other every day. So, that boy or that girl should have the same mentality.”

Even though Terrill wants children to understand each other’s full humanity, he values social and cultural experiences that enhance one’s personal and professional life. His time at Tuskegee University was essential to his growth and development personally and professionally.

Terrill offers, “Attending a black college allows you to be with people that are like you, but it has also equipped me to work in nontraditional jobs, to go and work for Miller, to go out and speak to people who weren’t like me.”

With all that he has accomplished thus far and will accomplish in the future, Terrill wants his legacy to be like that of his parents legacy for him – to build something generational and sustainable.

“I don’t work all day and all night putting into Burks & Bailey just for me and John. I do it for the people that don’t exist — our children, their children. I hope that people will say I left a good mark, was nice to people and a humanitarian that built a brand with a best friend.”

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

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Cuba Leads Fight Against Ebola

Cuban doctors arrive in Sierra Leone to aid in the fight against Ebola. (Photo Credit: Digital Journal)

Cuban doctors arrive in Sierra Leone to aid in the fight against Ebola. (Photo Credit: Digital Journal)

Monica Mark of The Guardian UK is reporting that out of all nations, Cuba has sent the largest medical force to West Africa in order to fight Ebola. The United Nations (UN) has issued a call for more countries to contribute to the humanitarian effort in the fight against the infectious disease, plaguing West Africa where reportedly more than 4,500 people have died. Mark writes:

“But big hitters such as China or Brazil, or former colonial powers such France and the UK, have not been stepping up to the plate. Instead, the single biggest medical force on the Ebola frontline has been a small island: Cuba.

That a nation of 11 million people, with a GDP of $6,051 per capita, is leading the effort says much of the international response. A brigade of 165 Cuban health workers arrived in Sierra Leone last week, the first batch of a total of 461. In sharp contrast, western governments have appeared more focused on stopping the epidemic at their borders than actually stemming it in west Africa. The international effort now struggling to keep ahead of the burgeoning cases might have nipped the outbreak in the bud had it come earlier.”

The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 4,500 people since it was detected in March, most of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Read more at The Guardian (UK).

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Georgia Teen Montré  Merritt Files $12.5M Lawsuit for Police Brutality

Georgia teen Montré  Merritt has filed a $12.5M lawsuit against Waycross, GA police. (Google Images)

Georgia teen Montré  Merritt has filed a $12.5M lawsuit against Waycross, GA police. (Google Images)

News One is reporting that Georgia teen Montré Merritt has filed a $12.5 million lawsuit alleging police brutality and excessive force over a seatbelt violation. The author writes:

“Georgia teenager Montré  Merritt has filed a $12.5 million lawsuit against the city of Waycross alleging that he was wrongfully arrested and brutalized at the hands of Waycross police officer Cory Gay. According to Merritt, earlier this year after pulling into his family’s driveway he was approached by Gay. At some point in the encounter Merritt ended up facedown on the ground with a gun to his head. When his mother came outside to see what was happening, she was told her son was being arrested for a seatbelt violation.”

D.L. Chandler of HipHopWired writes:

“On Jan. 18, Merritt was pulling into his home driveway when Waycross Officer Cory Gay stopped him for the violation. Gay drew his service weapon on Merritt and forced him to the ground despite protests by his mother. Although Gay was found guilty of using excessive force, suspended five days without pay and forced to take a course on Use Of Force, the family felt that it wasn’t a strong enough punishment.”

At the time of the incident, Meritt was an honor athlete with a 3.5 gpa. Merritt’s lawyer, Reginald Greene, has filed the lawsuit based on accusations that Gay racially profiled his client, used excessive force and negligent supervision among other reasons.

Read more at NewsOne or HipHopWired.

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Oscar de la Renta: Iconic Fashion Designer Dies

Iconic fashion designer Oscar de la Renta dies at 82. (Google Images)

Iconic fashion designer Oscar de la Renta dies at 82. (Google Images)

CNN is reporting that legendary Dominican American fashion designer Oscar de la Renta has died. Known as the “Sultan of Suave,” de la Rent passed away October 20 in his home in Kent, Connecticut due to complications caused by cancer. He was 82.

De la Renta was reported to have been diagnosed with cancer in 2006, but had announced at the Council of Fashion Designers of America last year that he was “totally clean” of cancer. The iconic fashion designer commented on his health at the same event saying:

“The only realities in life are that you are born, and that you die. We always think we are going to live forever. The dying aspect we will never accept. The one thing about having this kind of warning is how you appreciate every single day of life.”

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue, was a long time friend of de la Renta. Hearing of his passing, Wintour paid tribute to her old friend in a piece on Vogue.com. Wintour writes:

“There is much being said that his passing yesterday marks the end of an era. Not true. He was the most democratic man I knew and he would have lived happily and defined any era. He was happy dining with the rich and famous, for sure, but equally happy playing dominoes with his devoted staff. His designs reflected his extraordinary personality: optimistic, fun, sunny, romantic.

He told me he felt he had had the most amazing life and he was not afraid. This strength must have been with him in the hospital last week when he made the decision to turn off treatment; it was not the quality of life he wanted.”

Longtime friends Oscar de la Renta and American Vogue editor Anna Wintour. (Google Images)

Longtime friends Oscar de la Renta and American Vogue editor Anna Wintour. (Google Images)

Born Óscar Arístides Renta Fiallo, de la Renta was born July 22, 1932, in the Dominican Republic. Leaving his home at 18, de la Renta was carried by his talent and passion, working his way through the ranks of fashion designers. He was educated at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernand. De la Renta became the first Dominican to design for a French couture house when he designed the haute couture collection for the house of Balmain.

De la Renta has designed gowns for the U.S. Presidential First Ladies including Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Michelle Obama who wore a de la Renta design as recently as two weeks ago at a cocktail party for the Fashion Education Workshop she hosted at the White House.

First lady Michelle Obama wears an Oscar de la Renta cocktail dress at the Fashion Education Workshop she hosted at the White House. (Google Images)

First lady Michelle Obama wears an Oscar de la Renta cocktail dress at the Fashion Education Workshop she hosted at the White House. (Google Images)

He has also styled many celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence and Oprah Winfrey.

Oscar de la Renta and Oprah Winfrey at The Costume Institute Gala Benefit celebrating American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 3, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo Credit: Google Images.)

Oscar de la Renta and Oprah Winfrey at The Costume Institute Gala Benefit celebrating American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 3, 2010 in New York City. (Photo Credit: Google Images.)

De la Renta’s first wife, Francoise de Langlade, a former editor of French Vogue, died of bone cancer in 1983. They were married for 16 years. He is survived by his second wife Annette Engelhard Reed and a son, Moises de la Renta. R.I.P. Mr. de la Renta.

Read more at CNN.

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