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Kennedy Center names director of hip-hop culture

Simone Eccleston is coming from New York’s Harlem Stage

12:26 PMThe Kennedy Center is doing what most of America hasn’t done in pretty much forever: listening to a black woman. On Wednesday, the performing arts venue named Simone Eccleston as its first director of hip-hop culture and contemporary music.

Simone Eccleston will begin her Kennedy Center role on March 13.

Simone Eccleston will begin her Kennedy Center role on March 13.

Aurora Fiorentino Scerbo

“With the Kennedy Center serving as the preeminent home for our nation’s arts and culture, the creation of a programmatic platform for hip-hop culture is deeply significant,” Eccleston said in a statement, according to NBC4 in Washington, D.C. “It is also an important catalyst for community-building, activism and empowerment.”

You may recall that last year, the center named A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip as its first artistic director for hip-hop culture. Who knows how these two roles will overlap, but Eccleston is coming from Harlem Stage in New York, where it commissioned work such as Meshell Ndegeocello’s Can I Get a Witness? The Gospel of James Baldwin.

Over the years, the traditionally fancy center has made incredible strides in opening up its performance and creative avenues to less traditional outlets. Hip-hop acts are now a regular mainstay on the Millennium Stage, so when Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, announced that he’d been doing one of his final U.S. shows there, it wasn’t entirely surprising. Last year, it even erected a skate park outside of the building as part of the Finding A Line skateboard, music and media festival. (Warning: explicit language in video below.)

It’s not just hip-hop, either. The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, which was created by President Barack Obama and heavily promoted by first lady Michelle Obama, is still under White House purview. Earlier this year, the center brought world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma to Bunker Hill Elementary School to play with orchestra students as part of an outreach effort with a group called Turnaround Arts — which started at PCAH under and has moved to the Kennedy Center — looks to give underprivileged kids chances to excel in the arts.

KenCen stays woke.

Daily Dose: 3/1/17

President Oprah? It’s not out of the question

2:45 PMThe podcast was a fun one Tuesday, with Kelley L. Carter joining us to talk about her time in Hollywood last weekend. We also talked about the Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma beef. You can listen here.

So, President Donald Trump spoke to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. To be honest, I didn’t watch. But I did watch this morning and the man’s tone was a tad different than usual. Fair enough, but his pleas urging unity were pretty hollow, considering he spent the entirety of his campaign insulting nearly every person in that room. I can’t even imagine what the career politicians must have thought sitting in that room. Anyway, it wasn’t officially a State of the Union address, but it might as well have been. Let’s see what he got right and what wasn’t true.

Speaking of the Oval Office, let’s think about who might be considering a run. Seriously, now that Trump is there, you’ve got to presume that basically any celebrity who has a modicum of political opinion might give it a shot. So, let’s just pick a name out of a hat. Oprah Winfrey? Hmm … that’s actually not a terrible idea. And she recently did an interview with Bloomberg and didn’t exactly rule it out. I can’t even explain how much I want this to happen. Oprah vs. Trump in a presidential campaign? Sign me up.

It’s 80 degrees where I live today. Which means, it feels like summer. You know what’s open during the summer? Swimming pools. You know what kids do at the pool? They run on the deck, they toss each other in the water, they learn to socialize and, occasionally, they actually swim. You know what else they do? Relieve themselves in the pool. Like, a lot. Personally, this doesn’t bother me, because it’s not like you’re in a bathtub, but a new study says there is actually a WHOLE lot more urine in pools than you might think.

Amar’e Stoudemire needs to check himself. In a recent interview with an Israeli website, he made some completely outrageous comments about what he would do if he found out a teammate was gay. He’s been playing in Israel recently, but there was a time when I thought that he was a relatively woke dude. Making homophobic comments about potential teammates is so 1985, never mind patently offensive. Not cool, dude. Not cool at all.

Free Food

Coffee Break: You know what’s not a good idea? Taking safety out of the hands of doctors, when it comes to children playing football. But, in North Carolina, lawmakers were considering a bill that would let parents, not medical officials, decide if they could play following a concussion. Thankfully, it was killed, but what on earth?

Snack Time: Uber can’t seem to get out of its own way. Every week, there’s another scandalous headline. This time, the CEO was actually caught on tape arguing with a driver about fares. Yikes.

Dessert: Moonlight‘s got a mixtape, which means you’ll be listening to it.

Muhammad Ali Jr. and his mother detained in Florida airport over immigration issue

Family attorney says they may sue over the matter

12:30 PMOver the weekend, Muhammad Ali Jr. and his mother Khalilah Camacho-Ali were detained in a Florida airport, for reasons that have yet to be made clear by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. According to the Ali Jr.’s lawyer, the two were traveling back from a speaking engagement in Jamaica when the incident occurred. Attorney Chris Mancini says the son of the late legendary boxer and civil rights activist Muhammad Ali was asked questions like, “Are you Muslim?” and “Where did you get that name?”

While the agency doesn’t officially comment on its interrogation policies due to the Privacy Act, the fact that Camacho-Ali was reportedly released after showing a photo of her with her ex-husband is telling. Ali Jr. was kept after for extra questioning.

Mancini, a former assistant U.S. attorney, says that the family is considering suing over the matter. He directly blamed President Donald Trump’s attempt to enforce an executive order regarding banning people from entering the country. On MSNBC on Monday, Ali Jr. described the event in detail. After he was pulled aside and asked his religion, the whole process taking nearly two hours to complete, Ali Jr. says he was not informed of his mother’s whereabouts during the ordeal.

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“It was outrageous,” Camacho-Ali said. “This has never happened to me, ever. Being in the United States, I felt very uncomfortable.”

The entire discussion is an interesting look at how the simple process of returning home can be an ordeal for many because of this new administration. Many just don’t have the resources to say anything aloud.

Daily Dose: 2/28/17

Black History Month comes to an end

11:45 AMYo, last night, I saw Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele, and I’m telling you, it’s one of the most brilliant films I’ve ever seen in my life. Not to mention the fact that it was legit scary as hell. Incredible film.

Didn’t your mother tell you to keep your feet off her couch? Seriously, this is exactly why so many grandmothers had plastic on the good furniture for nearly your whole life. On Monday, a photo of Kellyanne Conway sitting in the Oval Office like a kid on a bean bag started circulating and people are super offended. Why? Because she was doing it during a meeting President Donald Trump was having with the heads of various historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Seriously, check this out. Then, speaking of that subject, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a totally bizarre statement.

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Here’s what you ain’t gonna do. You’re not going to ride around town terrorizing black people and children on their special days, then act like you hide behind the concept of free speech to stay out of jail. You know who learned that lesson this week? A couple from outside of Atlanta, whom you might recall decided they wanted to terrify a bunch of people by making armed threats all over the area at innocent bystanders. Well, guess what? They both just got 20 and 15 years, respectively, for it. And the judge’s words were actually very reassuring.

The hubris of some people is amazing. The fact that many Republicans simply can’t believe that there are people out there who genuinely disagree with their actions, people who might have even voted for them, is wild. Like, is it really that implausible that folks straight-up disagree with you, that you’ve got to assume every single person standing up for his or her rights is somehow a plant? That’s what Trump is now implying. Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio is too scared to get yelled at, while Rep. Gabby Giffords literally was shot doing her job.

It’s Major League Baseball’s turn under the microscope. Now that the administration has changed in the White House, the league that easily plays the most games in the nation during its regular season is going to have to deal with the little subject of politics. It’s as global a league as any in this country, so topics like immigration laws, for one, will certainly be a matter of importance for quite a few players. But we haven’t heard much from the league itself regarding the matter. It could be an explosive media season on the diamond.

Free Food

Coffee Break: One of the things about Moonlight that was really striking wasn’t just the storyline, or the visuals. The music was also an integral part. The score was nominated for an Oscar, and obviously the film overall won best picture. We’ve mentioned Song Exploder before and this episode about the movie’s different theme songs is great.

Snack Time: Looking back on your life is always a fun if not harrowing exercise, but rarely have I seen something that allows you to do it so in-depth from such an analytical level, simply based on when you were born. Wow.

Dessert: Be. Careful. With. Your. Selfies. People. My God, some folks are reckless.

All Day Podcast: 2/28/17

Our favorite moments of Black History Month

10:33 AM

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The gang’s back together as Jill Hudson is back in Studio D410 after a weekend of watching Netflix due to being sick. Aaron Dodson has been flexing his skills in the kitchen since we were last on, and there was a whole lot to talk about, considering it’s the end of Black History Month and we’re coming off the blackest Academy Awards ceremony in history.

To start things off, Undefeated senior entertainment reporter Kelley L. Carter discussed how odd it was to be at the Oscars when such a bizarre incident unfolded at the Dolby Theatre. She went on to discuss the importance of Hidden Figures getting recognized even if it wasn’t a huge winner and just how important Denzel Washington is to this generation of actors working now. Jill broke down exactly why the new Calvin Klein ad campaign featuring the men of Moonlight was a tremendously forward-looking effort from the fashion house.

After that, Justin Tinsley gave an impassioned speech about why Nicki Minaj of course has to answer to Remy Ma’s epic diss track “shETHER,” a seven-minute salvo that went all over the place and has the rap world buzzing. Personally, I don’t think Nicki needs to do anything that major, but as Justin put it, the only rules in rap beefs are bars.

Jimmy Kimmel was out of pocket at the Oscars

Making fun of names is so outdated, and ‘La La Land’ doesn’t need more awards

2:40 PMLong before he was playing damage control at the Dolby Theater on Sunday night, Jimmy Kimmel was doing his best to keep the crowd engaged during the 89th Academy Awards in Los Angeles. By the time the mess unfolded onstage and eventually the best picture award went to Moonlight, Kimmel had already told enough jokes to make a certain amount of people believe he might be responsible for the egregious error.

But while PricewaterhouseCoopers’ incompetence, which led to an embarrassing moment for all around, was one thing, another thing stood out from the performance: Kimmel making fun of people’s names. In a year in which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was making what appeared to be a genuinely concerted effort to highlight diversity and inclusion, there was the host, openly taking steps backward.

“Tonight is proof that art has no borders, no single language and does not belong to a single faith,” Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy, said onstage. “The power of art is that it transcends all these things.”

Well, if that’s the case, what’s so funny about the name Mahershala or Yulerie? Let’s be clear: This is Hollywood. The relationship between portrayal and power is effectively the reason for its existence. We’re talking about an industry in which people create stage names, for the exact purpose of placating themselves to the Anglo-Saxon norms that long ruled the credits of films. Names matter.

There was also the extremely awkward matter of Kimmel running an odd bit with 8-year-old actor Sunny Pawar in which he held him up in the air with the Lion King’s “Circle of Life” playing in the background, like when Rafiki did the same with Simba. Again, it’s not always about overt racism. There are plenty of things that thematically are just not culturally appropriate, such as using a young Indian boy to recreate a scene basically on a fictional African pride of lions, simply because he was in a movie of a similar title. Luckily, Pawar saved it because he’s awesome, but the point was made.

Meanwhile, Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim to win an award. A couple of movies that didn’t feature black folks as just the paid or unpaid help made it into the winners circle. As important, movies about black people were nominated as documentaries, and a film about the civil war in Syria actually took away an award.


This is all to say that by the time we got around to the end, it was an important moment. And for whatever reason, after marginalizing an Oscar winner and an unwilling prank member over what people call them, suddenly Kimmel felt bad for the entire cast and crew of La La Land, because they were apparently humiliated. And he managed to blame a black person, while he was at it.

“I think you guys should keep it anyway. Guys, this is very unfortunate what happened. Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this,” he said, referring to the December 2015 incident in which Harvey botched the winner’s announcement in a live show. “I would like to see you get an Oscar, anyway,” he said. “Why can’t we just give out a whole bunch of them?”

Uh, WHAT? Now that the oh-so-vaunted system of envelopes and reveals has embarrassed the very people who made an entire film about how awesome the industry is, suddenly, we’re going to joke about how we should make it a participation award? God forbid we kick anyone offstage to make way for an all-black cast that rocked the establishment with a movie that had a budget of less than $2 million.

Kimmel is a comedian and his bits in general provide a level of levity that the obviously stuffy Academy Awards need. Making fun of the president is one thing, but blindsiding people on national TV and/or mocking the biggest moment of their lives is just pointless. But, he learned a pretty valuable lesson Sunday, which is that it’s not as much fun when the joke’s on you.

Then again, who knows. It may have been his idea all along. Which definitely isn’t funny either.

Daily Dose: 2/27/17

All Oscars, all the time

11:21 AMThe Morning Roast was a fun one this week, even though your boy was low on energy. Here’s Sunday’s show and, remember, if you subscribe and leave a review, you’ll be in on the ground floor of awesome. Or something.

Steve Harvey wins the day. After the scene that was at the end of the Oscars on Sunday night, he’s 100 percent vindicated for whatever happened at that Miss Universe contest. But more importantly: HOW. DOES. THIS. HAPPEN!?! So many things had to go wrong. But that final part, where Warren Beatty didn’t feel compelled to speak up and Faye Dunaway just read the big words on the card? That’s how institutionalized power works. Neither one of them had the wits to do the right thing and just say: Hey, there’s a mistake. Total debacle all around, alas.

Moonlight, however, won the night. Mahershala Ali took home the award for best supporting actor and was extremely eloquent and gracious in his speech. His wife just had a baby, so he got up there and commended her on how well she’s handled everything, considering she was pregnant during awards season. Also, the pictures that came out of the red carpet and the weekend were great. The kids from the movie were having a blast the entire time, which they deserved. Ali was the first Muslim actor to win that award.

As for the rest of the night, there was a lot. Let’s run down the list. People Magazine‘s editorial director actually said “Hidden Fences” and caught insta-shade from Robin Roberts. Halle Berry broke out a new wig and it was promptly snatched by Twitter. Taraji P. Henson was slaying, too. Host Jimmy Kimmel tried to trick a bunch of people into making fools of themselves, then they stole the show. Viola Davis gave us the best acceptance speech we’ve seen since her last one. Oh, and the Oscars put up a picture of someone who is very much alive during the “In Memoriam” segment.

Ezra Edelman is now an Oscar winner. I say that with much joy, because I was lucky enough to meet him and talk with him after his documentary O.J.: Made In America aired on national television. It deservedly won the best documentary feature award and when Ezra got on stage, he made it clear why he made the film at all. I’ve said this before, but what’s wild is that O.J. Simpson still might get out of prison and live his life on the outside for some time. I wonder what this third chapter will bring.

Free Food

Coffee Break: The film that won for best documentary short is one called The White Helmets, which is about the Syria Civil Defense, a group that works to rescue people from rubble following air strikes. One sad development is that the cinematographer of the film never made it to Hollywood. The Syrian government interfered.

Snack Time: Another really awkward moment came when Jimmy Kimmel picked up Sunny Pawar from Lion in some attempt to recreate something out of The Lion King. Luckily, Pawar saved it. And his shoes were super dope.

Dessert: You know it was lit when The New York Times aired an actual TV ad during the show. Here it is.