June 27, 2013

By Shonasse Shaver

Sentinel Intern

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The Long overdue documentary, ‘Dark Girls’ will force America to take a look at the harsh discrimination that faces dark-skin African American woman, their plight, complexities and unshakeable scars.

Legendary filmmaker Bill Duke’s ‘Dark Girls’ explores deep into the lives of dark-skin African American women and what it means to be a dark-skinned. Many of these woman encounter prejudices before of their skin and are victims of such prejudice within and outside her own race. 

Duke also depicts the struggles, the taunting and the abuse they encounter women face and how they loathe themselves for it. 

 “Young black girls need a voice,” explained Duke.

“From the ages of 7, 8, 9 and 10 [they] are being called monkeys.  Babies are not exempt.”

As Bill Duke depicts in his documentary, colorism is real.  A Black woman in America is born at a disadvantage economically, socially and financially to her white counterpart.  However, a dark skinned Black woman, encounters a double disadvantage to her white counterpart, and to a light-skinned Black woman.  Dark-skinned Black women are frequently passed over in relationships because of their complexion. 

 “Two teenage girls 16 to 17-years old wept after a Q& A session. I asked why they were crying so deeply and they said that they were not invited to the prom.  Up to three years ago, a Black woman in her late 30s had never ridden in the passenger seat of a man’s car,” disclosed Duke.  “I have gone to my boyfriend’s house and he makes me ride in the passenger as his assistant,” she confessed to Duke.  As unbelievable as this may sound, this is the reality for many women because of the tone of their skin.

The women suffer from low self esteem, depression and ridicule. Television and society defines beautiful women as those blond hair with blue eyes.  Subsequently, even African American women aspire to such promotions and men gravitate to it.

Duke is tackling a most difficult issue head on and he uses his platform built from a successful acting career to ignite conversation about the matter.  “At the Apollo Theatre, a woman shouted out to me, ‘why are you airing our dirt stinking up the house,’ said Duke. 

“We cannot keep pretending that colorism does not exist. Many of us are too ashamed and pained to talk about it. We cannot continue to deflect the huge elephant in the room.

“It is the year of 2013, right? We’re passed the colonial times and American slavery.  Why are we continuing this process.”  No argument there, we have definitely reached a moment in time where such ignorance should not be tolerated.  Comparable to racism, colorism is as current that has chopped at the heels of the first Black President Barack Obama.

It’s shocking to discover, Blacks bleaching their skin like Michael Jackson to become acceptable in a society that shuns them.

“Skin bleaching is a billion dollar business.  Dark-skin African Americans are bleaching their skin. How unfortunate that this is a universal problem.  Men in India are bleaching their skin to appeal to women.” Duke explains, “The field worker has dark skin and the office worker has light skin.” This is a bit nostalgic to American slavery, where there was the field slave versus the house slave.  This is deep. Can we actually believe that this type of logic still exists?

The irony with this problem is that while dark-skinned Black women are lighting their skin and wearing weaves, “white women are getting butt implants and crinkling their hair to look like us,” added Duke. Can we say this behavior is learned from the media? We rarely see positive and beautiful images of dark-skin African American women; therefore we don’t recognize  the beauty of ourselves. When asked how he felt about the controversy surrounding actress Zoe Saldana playing iconic jazz singer Nina Simone in a biopic, Duke responded, “Hollywood is a contradiction.  They tend to go with what is safe.” 

There was a bit of controversy with the casting of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone.  Zoe Saldana, a proud Afro-Latina actress had to be darkened and wear a prosthetic nose to achieve the physical appearance of Nina Simone.  “She was friend of mine.  She wore her hair natural on her album cover.  She talked about loving Black women and men.  She was a hero,” said Duke. This is not to say Zoe Saldana would not be able to connect to Nina Simone because her ethnicity difference. However, there are many dark-skin Black actresses such as Viola Davis, Angela Bassett, Gabrielle Union, Jennifer Hudson, Tika Sumpter, Nia Long and Regina King who could have been cast to play Nina Simone. Yet, Hollywood went with what was familiar to them, a Black actress who has European –like features to play a black woman on screen.

It can be hard for dark-skin African American actresses to get work in films or on television, but when a film calls for a Black actress, she is frequently replace by someone close to white.

 Zoe Saldana is A-list star in box office films.  “We have to keep in mind films and castings are done from a global perspective.  These are business tactics.  In their (casting directors) mind, they do not feel that they are doing anything wrong,” said Duke. 

Sending the wrong message is not new in Hollywood and dark-skinned girls and women are not deemed acceptable to portray certain roles.

It is a reflection of our time says Lanita Jacobs, an anthropology professor at the University of Southern California who often lectures on the portrayal of African-Americans in film and on television, and says Saldana's casting and subsequent transformation into Simone is offensive to women who have struggled with self-image.

Hollywood cannot be solely at fault for this harmful issue that lies within the lack community.  Bill Duke’s ‘Dark Girls’ will not change the negative experiences dark-skin Black women experience. “The documentary gives the voiceless and a voice,” said Duke.  Finally, Black women who are experiencing colorism are talking back to their bullies, naysayers, and critics.

The documentary is not used to expel the notions that all dark-skin Black women are bad, undesirable, unintelligent, or lower class. But to use Bill Duke’s documentary as a medium where we can ask ourselves what are we going to do about the situation? Are we going to continue to indulge in self- hatred, calling dark-skin Black girls monkeys and degrading them for their darker skin tone?

 “It has to start in the home. It needs to be a school program implemented to encourage students to love one another and embrace the color of all races and skin complexions,” stated Duke. 

“We should not look to ‘Dark Girls’ to broaden the perspective of the ideal beauty. However, create a space where dark-skin African American women leading isolated lives can feel a part of the mass culture like never before. 

“We need to be a movement to uplift our dark skin sistas,” said Duke. We need to show the world that dark-skin sistas are no different from their light-skin sistas.

“Oprah fought for broadcasting for ‘Dark Girls.’ She showed commitment to this issue,” said Duke. Dr. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke’s Documentary will aired on OWN network last week. On Oprah’s Next Chapter, she with an intimate person-to-person conversation with actresses Viola Davis, Alfre Woodard, Gabrielle Union and Phylicia Rashad on how successful black women are still being plagued by the color of their skin.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

June 27 , 2013


 Before you spend your money check the quality of the goods. This
rule applies to intangible goods as well. Make the first move with
your honey this week. Be sweetly aggressive. Soul Affirmation: The enjoyment of good food is high on my agenda this week.
Lucky Numbers: 11, 45, 51


Let your creative juices flow. Advice from a child has a reward in
it. On the job, coworkers will help you expand your sense of
accomplishment. Only you can stand in your way. Soul Affirmation: I enjoy learning new things about myself this week.
Lucky Numbers: 40, 53, 54


 Opportunity knocks this week, be ready and waiting. An old love
resurfaces. This week is good for you financially. Look for a special
opportunity at work. Families matters, spend time with yours. Soul Affirmation: I let myself experience my true ambitions this week.
Lucky Numbers: 23, 28, 43


Creativity comes from a deep source. Take the chance to pursue
creative goals. Others will understand later. You and a child can
come to an unmatched understanding. Soul Affirmation: I do not allow demands to be placed on me this week.
Lucky Numbers: 27, 31,52


This week is a week to let your diplomatic side work for you. Forcing
will get you nowhere. No man or woman is an island, focus on
togetherness even if you are annoyed with people. Soul Affirmation: Charm is my middle name this week.
Lucky Numbers: 1, 2, 8


 Take advantage of a burst of energy. Body and mind are in sync.
Don’t take things too personally this week, you might get your feelings
hurt. If you do, tonight is a great time to make-up. Make the call. Soul Affirmation: My hunches are right often this week.
Lucky Numbers: 6, 16, 36


 You have wonderful ideas about interior decorating. Be ready to
accept a great opportunity at work. Money doesn’t matter tonight,
don’t make finances more important than they need to be. Soul Affirmation: I appear to others what I know myself to be.
Lucky Numbers: 20, 29, 30


 The influence of someone close can make all the difference in the 
world. Don’t go alone. Your achievements are closely tied to someone
who might not have agreed with you in the past. Soul Affirmation: The grandeur of my presence reflects the sunshine of my soul.
Lucky Numbers: 22, 45, 51


You and your honey have so much to talk about, listen! He or she is
trying to come out of a whole new bag. Accept! Change is a good
thing this week. Expect to travel soon. Savor the thought. Soul Affirmation: What I’ve been waiting for has been here all along.
Lucky Numbers: 16, 24, 35


If nothing much is happening on the job, remember that chilling is
good sometimes. Use this week to return phone calls and answer letters.
Be low key. Wonderful things flow from what you don’t do. Soul Affirmation: All things work together for good.
Lucky Numbers: 3, 6, 27


You can turn that obstacle into an opportunity at work. Check out
the players carefully. Watch your back and hold your tongue around
workplace rivals. Aggressively seek agreement. Soul Affirmation: The slowness of my week gives me time to refresh my energy.
Lucky Numbers: 9, 17, 38


 Don’t let your outer space infringe on your inner peace. Control
situations that might affect your ability to get that important job
done. Remember people are only human. Soul Affirmation: I find many things about myself that I really love.
Lucky Numbers: 5, 9, 16

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

June 27, 2013


Managing Editor


The Jacksons are to music what the Beatles are — Royalty! Although the group has lost its iconic brother their brand still resonates with millions of fans that have followed them for more than a quarter of a century.

Therefore it is no surprise that The Jacksons will be among the big hits this weekend June 29-30 at the inaugural BET Experience.

The group’s elder statesman Jackie Jackson provided an exclusive interview with Sentinel Managing Editor Brandon Brooks.

The Jacksons have been traveling and performing on their Unity Tour for more than a year. They’ve “just came back from Russia” according to Jackie and it is no surprise these international superstars still have staying power.

As many new artists come and go, it’s amazing to see The Jacksons still standing tall after all these years, with voices that are just as golden when Motown introduced them to the world.

“Our fans want to hear our great songs.  We sing all of our great hits when we are on tour” Jackie said.

There can be so many highs and lows while on tour, and The Jacksons have experienced it all.  Before there was Bieber Fever, there was The Jackson 5 Fever.   I’m sure these former teen idols have many stories to tell.

Jackie said that touring “can be tedious and grueling.”

But he is not overtaken by the grind. “Once you get on that stage its nothing like it. You can hear from backstage the audience roaring.  They can’t wait to see us.”

“It’s the biggest high you can ever have.  My brothers and I enjoy it.  It’s a great feeling. It gives you that energy that you feel great on stage.”

And he says he and his brothers can never get enough of it.

“No not all.  Because sometimes they come out and fly out and see certain shows they want to see.  Whether it’s in Europe or here in the states, the brothers and I love it.”

Balancing the job of performing and maintaining a family life is tough, but The Jacksons have always been about their business when it comes to performing.

“We want to give our best performance. It is a tour to us; the audience gives us that tour. Want to give our fans a great performance,” Jackie told the Sentinel.

“It is about bringing people together around the world.  I mean there still is a lot of hatred going on around the world, but we will see it’s getting better.  If we can change one person and that person changes the other that is good. We love doing music.”

With so many hits under their belts like “Show You the Way to Go” it’s easy to see how Jackie could forget their songs.  “My mind may go blank (he laughs) I’ll stick the mike out to the audience and have them sing it for me.”

The Jacksons will be joining R. Kelly and New Edition in concert following the BET Awards Sunday June 30. 

“That is going to be real exciting doing that with BET. R. Kelly and New Edition are going to be on the show.   We’re very excited to play with those guys. They have been friends of ours for a very long time. Just to be on the same stage with them it’s going to be wonderful.  Right here at the Staples Center. We are looking forward to the show, all the brothers are too.  We marked it down on our calendar; we already did (he laughs).”

Hailing from Gary, Indiana where they began their humble careers, their big hit came with their song “I Want You Back” which introduced them to the world. 

Los Angeles has been their home since those early years, but they also call Indiana home.

“Home is Indiana. Home is Los Angeles.  We have been out here for such a longtime in LA.  We have two homes.”

The Jacksons will also be performing at the LA County fair this summer. “You know we got the call.  We were like of course we will do it. You know its home.”

The Jacksons have a new album on the way.

“We’ve been recording at the same time and touring at the same time.  So when we are not touring we are in the studio recording.  Trying to schedule everything and figure out the album.  Going to be a great record, we do not have a title right now.  Recording some songs working with some top producers, but I cannot name any right now.  But it’s going to be wonderful and great record.  We’re very excited about it,” said Jackson.

“The man upstairs has blessed us; we have something to do here. We travel around the world and make people happy.  That is what we try to do through our music and performances on stage.  That is what we love doing.” 

Shonassee Shaver contributed to this story.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

June 27, 2013

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Jackson's eldest son testified Wednesday that his father was excited about going back on tour before his death but wasn't happy about the pressure that came with the ill-fated shows.

Michael Joseph "Prince" Jackson Jr. told jurors his father wanted more time to rehearse and had several tense phone conversations with promoters of his "This Is It" shows that sometimes ended with his father in tears.

The 16-year-old said his father remarked after one of the conversations, "They're going to kill me." He did not elaborate.

The testimony came in a lawsuit claiming AEG negligently hired Conrad Murray, the doctor who was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson an overdose of the anesthetic propofol.

AEG denies it hired the physician or bears any responsibility for the entertainer's death.

Wearing a black suit with a dark grey tie and his long brown hair tucked behind his ears, Prince testified that he saw AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips at the family's rented mansion in a heated conversation with Murray in the days before his father died. The teenager said Phillips grabbed Murray's elbow.

Phillips "looked aggressive to me," Prince testified.

Michael Jackson wasn't at home at the time and was probably rehearsing, Prince said.

Murray's attorney Valerie Wass and AEG defense attorney Marvin S. Putnam later denied outside court that the meeting Prince described ever happened.

Putnam said Prince would be recalled to the witness stand during the defense case later in the trial.

"I think as the testimony will show when he is called in our defense that's not what happened," Putnam said. "He was a 12-year-old boy who has had to endure this great tragedy."

For the first time, the teenager publicly provided details about the day his father died. Prince testified that he saw Murray performing CPR on his father, who was hanging halfway off a bed. It appeared his dad's eyes were rolled up in the back of his head, Prince told jurors.

Prince's eyes appeared red as he recalled being told by Murray at a hospital that his father was dead.

Prince said he never saw Murray's treatments of his father.

"I was 12. To my understanding he was supposed to make sure my dad stayed healthy," Prince testified.

Prince said none of the household staff was allowed upstairs at the mansion, and the singer kept his bedroom locked while receiving treatments from Murray.

During cross-examination, Putnam played a clip from a deposition of Prince in which the teen said he discovered the bedroom was locked when he and his siblings were playing hide-and-seek and couldn't get inside.

Prince also said his father gave him and his sister Paris a stack of $100 bills on a few occasions to give to Murray. The teen said his father told him that Murray wouldn't take the money from him, and the doctor wouldn't take the full amount from the children.

The teenager said his understanding was that the money was meant to tide Murray over until he got paid by AEG Live.

Prince's grandmother, Katherine Jackson, sat in the front row of the courtroom during his testimony. She held a tissue and removed her glasses several times.

The testimony began with the teenager showing jurors roughly 15 minutes of private family photos and home videos.

He described growing up on Neverland Ranch and showed the panel videos of the property's petting zoos, amusement park and other amenities. After his father's acquittal of child molestation charges, Prince described living in the Middle East, Ireland and Las Vegas.

He told the jury that his father was always working, but the children had no idea he was a global superstar.

"We always listened to his music, but we never knew how famous he was," Prince said.

He said he and his sister Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson watched a video of one of their father's performances and got a sense of his fame when overwhelmed fans were carried from his shows on stretchers.

Prince is the first Jackson family member to testify during the trial, now in its ninth week. Attorneys have said TJ Jackson, who serves a co-guardian to Prince and his siblings, and Taj Jackson, are also expected to take the witness stand. They are the sons of Tito Jackson.

Prince Jackson, his sister Paris and brother Prince Michael "Blanket" Jackson are plaintiffs in the case against AEG, which their grandmother and primary caretaker filed in August 2010.

Prince spoke softly as he began testifying, and the first exhibit shown to jurors was a photo taken with his grandmother on his and Paris' first day of school.

He described his school life, including taking a summer course in U.S. history, participating on the school robotics team and volunteer work.

Another image showed Michael Jackson playing piano with his son while Prince was still a toddler.

Plaintiffs' attorney Brian Panish asked Prince whether he was interested in pursuing a career in music.

"I can never play an instrument and I definitely cannot sing," Prince said to laughter from the jury.

He said he wanted to study film or business when he goes to college.

The trial is expected to last several more weeks.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

June 27, 2013

By Shonassee Shaver

Sentinel Intern


MC Lyte is a hip-hop legend.  Nicki Minaj, take note!  Not only is MC Lyte a successful artist, rapper, and entrepreneur, but also she is also highly respected in the music game. From the golden age of hip-hop, she was the first solo female rapper to release a full album, Lyte as a Rock (1988).  It is astonishing.  Interestingly, MC Lyte does not see it that way. “There are so many that came before me.  I came at a time where independent labels and major music labels were in transition. I came at the beginning when major record labels were making deals happen,” said MC Lyte. Although MC Lyte does not classify herself as one of hip-hop’s pioneer feminists, she certainly has met all the prerequisites for being one.

This fresh-to-death MC is back on the scene for the BET Experience Concert June 29th at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, California. She will be performing among the likes of fellow rapper Eve and hip hop/neo soul band the Roots.  Sounds like a good time. “Absolutely, I love working with the Roots.  I would travel back and forth with them over the years.  I am excited for the Roots, to hear them play. It’ll be a good time for good music.”

Don’t get it twisted! MC Lyte has her own agenda that is just not about the music.  She is making her presence well known behind the music scene. The hip-hop legend has an entertainment management and production firm called Sunni Gyrl Global. “The SGG Company has many facets.  I signed with BET’s production company to establish the Hip Hop Sister Foundation. With this foundation, I am developing new artists and am able to support creative singers and artists. Continuing to do work for Hip Hop Sisters Foundation, “I have given out two $200,000 dollar scholarships sponsored by the Soul Train Awards. I want to be able to send a nice young person to school,” said MC Lyte.  The MC Lyte/UW-Madison $100,000 First Wave Scholarship helps children in the community to further their education. “I want to help kids advance their creative awareness. There are many students who want to do poetry, theatre and acting.  Then there are the kids who want to do law and medicine,” said MC Lyte. 

MC Lyte believes that education is the key to succeeding.  She helps young people to be creative and successful.  From the beginning, this rap star has always been about the community. Her lyrics exemplify this and more.

“I started my foundations to understand and to give knowledge to the artistic side of the music industry. People can succeed on the industry side of hip hop, but not have the business aspect of it together,” she said. MC Lyte is concerned with the ‘whole artist.’  “Having the knowledge of the business counterparts the talent. The business aspect needs to go together,” said MC Lyte. She has lent her name to many foundations that have influenced her to establish her own organizations so that she can be creative and flourish with her own plans for the community.

MC Lyte is all about redefining sisterhood. “We need sisterhood. We need to consistently support one another. Our goals should become each others’ goals,” she said.

Being an advocate for sisterhood, it is no surprise to us.  She was a part of Black Girls Rock, a non-profit youth empowerment and mentoring organization.  She was presented in the iRock Testimony.  MC Lyte exemplifies the reason that Black girls rock because she empowers black girls.  “I was the first artist many years ago (2005) to be honored.  It was in Brooklyn at the Dumbo Art Gallery in New York.  I was happy for CEO of Black Girls Rock Beverly Bond to have started with a dream, vision and get hooked up with the right people,” MC Lyte said.

MC Lyte is a close friend to rapper Lil’Mama. “I mentor many MCs’ as well as Lil’ Mama. I was told by a music executive that she had a mind like me.  She is from Brooklyn, NY.  She raps about drugs and gun violence.  In my mind, I already knew who she was. The community needs to support Lil’Mama,” said MC Lyte.

MC Lyte is also a humanitarian.  She respects the capacity of giving back. “From the corporation to the community, I want to be used,” she said on her stance of being a philanthropist.

The humble rapper continues to give back.  She recently visited Johannesburg in South Africa to help launch iLEAD youth program.  “Thurgood Marshall College Fund is an innovative creation in South Africa to uplift the youth. Young people from ages 18 to 20 have a devastating employment percentage. They need to be empowered.  They need to know what it means to be successful,” said MC Lyte. She enjoyed herself along with artists Kenny Lattimore and Lil’Mama.

Rapper MC Lyte wears many hats in the music industry.  She is an emcee, a songwriter, a speaker, a narrator, a voice-over, a DJ, an actress and an entrepreneur. She has a diverse career where she can balance all of these gigs. “I am not afraid.  I educate myself therefore I am able to get it done. I rest then pick up the next thing. This is who I am,” she said. 

Speaking of being a “jade of all trades,” she is an author of the book, Unstoppable.  It’s about having courage and faith.  Never giving up and achieving one’s greatest potential. “I have longevity. It has allowed me to go outside of being a rapper. I believed it has helped me stay motivated and creative.”

When asked about her opinion on rap music today she responded, “it lacks balance and means. The majority of it is promoted mainstream.  Good hip hop with a positive perspective is not on top.”

She did not deny that she loves house music. In South Africa, she listened to house music.  “Beat House African music has evolved.”

As a lyrist, she feels that rap lyrics about men and women are disheartening.  “If we stop buying this kind of music, they’ll stop producing.  It is bullying on record. Women are being objectified.”

As far as female rappers Nicki Minaj, Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea, they fit into the scope of rap music today.  “Visually and music wise, they fit in for what is called for, what is prevalent.” Music artist resemble that hard edge lifestyle.  Is it even the real thing? That gangster life is often fabricated.  Many female rap artists see themselves as “Bad.”  “Rock stars have defined that hard life of drugs, sex and rock and roll. I followed that image. The lines of cocaine and not sleeping are a part of the music lifestyle. I don’t consider this a hard life,” she adds.  “Being financially strapped, struggling to make it, is a hard life.”

Don’t count this MC out. With a career that has spanned 20 years; she stays current with the music industry and its style. “I’m a DJ.  I’m constantly getting new music. I am able to understand hip-hop and how it affects the masses.  I am able to keep up.”

There is no doubt that MC Lyte can keep up with today’s music and culture. “I’m not into high fashion.  I don’t enjoy being cold and I love layers.  I need to be comfortable.” Well this can explain why she remains a fresh-faced beauty to date.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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