December 05, 2019 

By Andrew Dalton 

Associated Press 

 

Gabrielle Union and NBC both said Wednesday that they have had a “productive” first conversation on her firing from “America’s Got Talent” and her allegations that she was removed over her complaints about racism and other troubling on-set behavior.

 

“We had a lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday,” Union said on Twitter. “I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change.”

 

NBC said in a statement that the “initial conversation was candid and productive. While there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts, we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution.”

 

Union’s attorney Bryan Freedman said Tuesday’s meeting, which included representatives from Fremantle, the show’s production company, was a good start.

 

“We’re waiting to see the next steps on whether NBC is going to make sure that there are real changes made to protect both the contestants and the talent,” Freedman said.

 

Union, an actress best known for her roles in films including “Bring It On” and “Bad Boys II,” was a judge on the talent showcase but she and fellow judge Julianne Hough were not asked to return after their first season.

 

Variety subsequently reported that Union, who is black, believed she was fired because she had asked NBC and the show’s producers to address an environment that tolerated racist jokes and remarks, including what she said were multiple notes from producers saying she was wearing her hair “too black” for the “America’s Got Talent” audience.

 

Union had also complained of other behavior, such as judge-producer Simon Cowell’s smoking on the indoor set, Variety reported.

 

The Screen Actors Guild-Ameri­can Federation of Television and Radio Artists, of which Union is a member, said Monday that it was also working with her to investigate her complaints.

 

Without directly referring to NBC or the two companies that produce the show, Fremantle and Syco, Union has tweeted about her situation several times, acknowledging the support she’s gotten and retweeting instructions on how to give a proper apology.

 

Other prominent names on social media, including Union’s husband, former NBA player Dwyane Wade, have called for answers on why she was fired.

Category: Arts & Culture

December 05, 2019 

By Stacy M. Brown 

NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent 

 

Mann Up, a prison program that’s helping to change the lives of African American men with long sentences, has received a significant boost with the presence of Bill Cosby.

 

The program, which empowers and encourages black males to be better fathers, husbands, and community members, is thriving inside the walls of SCI-Phoenix, the maximum-security prison where Cosby is serving a three-to-ten-year prison sentence.

 

In addition to Cosby, who is not officially associated with the program, four members of Mann Up spoke exclusively to NNPA Newswire. “The majority of the men in Mann Up are in for long prison terms, including life without the possibility of parole,” said Tyree Wallace, co-founder and president of the Mann Up Association.

 

Wallace has served almost 22 years of a life sentence that he hopes will be overturned. He said the Pennsylvania Innocence Project has taken his case, and attorneys believe he’ll ultimately be exonerated.

 

But, exoneration of its members is not the goal of Mann Up, Wallace stated.

 

“We founded Mann Up because [Anthony “Bennie-Do” Sutton], my vice president and I came together after we were both aggravated overseeing all these reports of gun violence in Philadelphia,” Wallace said.

 

“What was equally upsetting was that there were very few men responding, it was just women out there on the frontlines. So, we came together in our limited capacity to think about what we can do to make the situation better, to put together a program to help us men be our best selves,” he stated.

 

A national study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, revealed that nearly 83 percent of prisoners in 30 states were re-arrested within nine years of their release. For African American men, the rate stands at 87 percent – the highest of any racial or ethnic group.

 

In Pennsylvania, where SCI-Phoenix houses members of Mann Up, six out of every 10 inmates are re-arrested or incarcerated within three years of their release, according to the Department of Justice.

 

Also, research from several sources has found that prison programs that help increase inmate education initiatives, contribute to lower recidivism rates, which saves taxpayer dollars.

 

The RAND Corporation conducted a study in 2018 that found that for every dollar spent on education, between four and five dollars are saved because of lower re-incarceration rates.

 

Education is a primary focus of Mann Up.

 

When Cosby arrived at SCI-Phoenix following his 2018 conviction on charges of aggravated indecent assault, the men couldn’t fathom what that would mean, not only for the prison but for the Mann Up program.

 

“Mr. Cosby has been phenomenal. A person with his background and the cache he has could easily suffocate [sic] all of the air in a room if he chooses to,” Wallace stated.

 

“But he has intentionally sat back and allowed us to utilize him as we need him. We know the type of voice that he has and what he brings, but he just plays the role of the grandfather in the room.”

 

Cosby has been tremendous to the program, said Sutton. Adding that Mann Up provides an opportunity for those who’ve gone astray to “get it right” and have a positive impact on their families and communities.

 

“Mr. Cosby has made it a point to drill into us that men and women who are sentenced to prison shouldn’t be thrown to the wayside. They should be provided resources and the opportunity to start their lives over,” stated Sutton, 56, who has spent most of his adult life in prison for murder and other offenses.

 

Sutton said he was just six years old when he first smoked marijuana, and nine when he first sold drugs. By 12, he was selling heroin, and by 15, he purchased a Cadillac.

 

Between the ages of 5 and 11, Sutton said his sister and her girlfriends sexually assaulted him. At age 9, a trusted priest forced him to perform a sex act on him inside a church.

 

“I grew to hate bullies, and this guy smacked me in the face, and I told him he’d never hit me again,” Sutton stated. “I stabbed him in his heart.”

 

Sutton also has a son at SCI-Phoenix doing time for a series of offenses, he said.

 

However, he credits Cosby with helping him to see a path forward.

 

“Mr. Cosby got us together and told us that a man is judged by how he treats his mother and how he treats his wife and family. He has instilled in us that a man cannot be considered a man if he doesn’t provide,” Sutton stated.

 

“He comes in here, and he doesn’t act like he’s better than anyone. He keeps it simple. Look, he’s a political prisoner, he said he’s in here not for a crime, but adultery. But he doesn’t look for favors, and with all of his money and resources, he has nothing more than what we have, no extras when he could easily have extras,” Sutton said.

 

Cosby told NNPA Newswire that he’s merely happy to assist the program.

 

“I’m looking at a state [Pennsylvania] that has a huge number of prisons, and the one I’m in thankfully has the largest population of African Americans,” Cosby stated.

 

“These are guys who are also from Philadelphia, where I grew up. Many of them are from the neighborhood. Michael Eric Dyson said ‘Bill Cosby is rich’ and forgot where he came from.

 

“That’s not true. I’m not calling him a liar; I’m saying that’s not true. What I’m saying is that it’s not the same neighborhood as it was when I was coming up.

 

“The influx of drugs and what they’ve done with their own history. If they would pay attention to these things and put education first and respect for others first…it’s almost insane to hear someone say they don’t know how to be a father.

 

“As I said earlier, the revolution is in the home, and we’ve got to put it there.”

 

Michael Butler has served 16 years of a 17-to-40-year prison sentence. He said he’s up for parole in August 2020, and he expects the lessons learned at Mann Up and from Cosby will help him.

 

“I’m a re-entry specialist for Mann Up, and I help guys with things like finding a job and health care. So, when I get out, I expect to do that same job,” stated Butler, who gave Cosby his first prison haircut.

 

“I will remember the influence of Mr. Cosby. He came in here, and it was amazing because you watch him on television, and you hated to see him in this position,” Butler stated. “But he has shared so much that we all can benefit from.”

 

Ironically, before his imprisonment, Butler attended Temple University, where Cosby was a trustee and frequently gave speeches.

 

“I never took time to go hear him speak,” Butler stated. “Then, he comes here, and to be able to sit and listen to the wisdom that he imparts is amazing. He has so much history, and he urges us not to let opportunities go to waste and to be productive citizens and take care of our families. He’s instilled in me a great sense of pride and confidence, and he’s helped me to appreciate that I can accomplish anything that I set my mind on.”

 

For Robert Groves, who is in the 23rd year of a life sentence after a drug deal turned to murder, Mann Up and its association with Cosby has made his time more tolerable.

 

“I’ve always been a person who is educated, but I had a lot of questions about who I really was because I got locked up at such a young age,” Groves stated.

 

“Mann Up’s goal is to help prevent the loss of life in our community, and Mr. Cosby has said we should work to become pillars of the community. He has really helped me to reconsider my prior way of thinking. This legend has pulled me to the side, taking an interest in me when he could be like every other celebrity, you know stand-offish, and doing whatever he wants. But, that’s not him. He’s interested in helping people, and he always has been.”

Category: Arts & Culture

December 05, 2019 

By City News Service 

 

Singer Chris Brown reached a deal with Los Angeles city prosecutors today that is expected to spare him jail time for possessing a capuchin monkey without a permit.

 

Brown, 30, was charged last year with a pair of misdemeanor counts of possessing the monkey between Oct. 31, 2017, and Jan. 3, 2018, without a permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

 

In court Wednesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Com­missioner H. Elizabeth Harris ordered Brown to enter a six-month formal diversion program, under which the charges will be dismissed if the singer does not violate the agreement by possessing any other non-permitted animals.

 

If he does commit any violations, he could face jail time and fines.

 

Brown was ordered to pay $35,000 to cover the cost of caring for the capuchin monkey, which has been placed in a specialized retreat for primates by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Brown's attorney, Blair Berk, said Brown has already paid the $35,000.

 

Harris scheduled another court hearing for June 6, when the case is expected to be dismissed barring any further violations by Brown.

 

Authorities had obtained a search warrant for Brown's home after several people reported he had the monkey -- likely after he posted a picture of his young daughter, Royalty, holding the baby capuchin monkey on social media. But Brown voluntarily agreed to surrender the monkey he named Fiji, avoiding a raid.

Category: Arts & Culture

December 05, 2019 

LAWT News Service 

 

A judge today approved the sale of a Canoga Park condominium owned by the late actor Kristoff St. John for $290,000.

 

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Deborah Christian directed that after escrow closes, the funds should be held in a trust account of David Esquibias, the attorney of St. John's 27-year-old daughter, Paris, until the heirs are determined and the funds money can be disbursed.

 

The actor's mother lived in the condominium. St. John resided in a separate rental property.

 

The judge also extended the authority of St. John's father, Christopher, and Paris to continue acting as temporary special co- administrators of the actor's estate through May 29. A permanent administrator will be selected later.

 

Neither Christopher St. John nor Paris St. John -- who was born while the actor was married to boxer Mia St. John from 1991-95 -- attended the hearing.

 

However, the actor's second wife, Allana Nadal, the mother of the actor's 16-year-old daughter, Lola, was present. Through her attorney, David Shapiro, Nadal asked for a monthly family allowance of $8,160 in estate funds to support her daughter's tuition, food and housing expenses. Nadal, who was married to St. John from 2001-07, also is seeking thousands of dollars in attorneys' fees.

 

The judge did not rule on the petition, deciding instead to appoint a lawyer on behalf of the teen to review her financial needs and provide a report to the court.

 

Shapiro urged the judge to take action today, saying the girl's needs were immediate. The judge set another hearing for Jan. 28 on various issues in the case, but said Shapiro could file an emergency petition for an earlier court session on the girl's financial issues if necessary.

 

In his court papers, Esquibias says Nadal has a duty as Lola's mother to support her daughter. He also said that paying the amounts requested would deplete the estate of its funds to the detriment of Paris St. John.

 

Esquibias furher states in his court papers that Christopher and Paris St. John are working together to try and mediate a dispute over a will the elder St. John alleges was handwritten by the actor before he died. The will states that the actor wanted his personal savings and money to be shared between Paris and Lola St. John at a split of 25%  and 75%, respectively.

 

Dated Aug. 12, 2017, the will requests that the actor's father be made executor of the estate.

 

In  June, Paris St. John filed a petition challenging the validity of the will. She has also maintained a neutral third party should administer the estate.

 

The judge has not decided on the will's validity.

 

St. John, who played Neil Winters on “The Young and the Restless” for almost 30 years, died at age 52 of hypertrophic heart failure on Feb. 3, 2018, at his Woodland Hills home.

Category: Arts & Culture

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