Posts Tagged ‘Oprah’

Where My Girls At? Images of Black Girls and Girls of Color in Media

So, I shared before how I’d had the distinct honor to attend the Oprah Winfrey Network Doc Club screening of MissRepresentationand its subsequent taped discussion on the Rosie Show. The reviews have been phenomenal and garnered lots of calls for action. I absolutely loved the doc. It served the purpose media, especially documentaries, have to not only call attention to an issue, but empower as well.

MissRepresentation’s overall premise is familiar to most, yet the critical component is the campaign to strategically use information as teachable moments. This will definitively build a movement to change the portrayal of women by/in the media. What’s more amazing is that the film is a catalyst for funding organizations such as the Women’s Media Center to continue the discourse, advocacy, media literacy and research. Simply powerful.

While watching, I was hard pressed to keep track of all the fascinating and inspiring quotes.

Pat Mitchell, President and CEO for Media Former President & CEO of PBS shared this insight, “The media is the message and the messenger, and increasingly a powerful one.”

“You can’t be what you can’t see,”  was a quote from Marie Wilson, founding President White House Project

And though I sought us out, I must say the lack of diversity and representation of Black women and girls beyond the narrow lens of reality TV, albeit the mainstream go –tos like Miss Winfrey and Soledad O’Brien, was obvious.

It was only when I heard the reference to symbolic annihilation that the documentary fully resonated with me and connected to what is my life’s work; empowering girls like me in urban America to use critical analysis to navigate beyond media and cultural messages. Girls Like me who are portrayed as “bad girls”, violent, angry, poor, uneducated, low-class and “ghetto.” Black women who are “successful” or who meet the standards of beauty are held up as seemingly novelties, with no connection to urban America.

So as soon as Rosie invited questions from the audience, I jumped to speak to that point. In the midst of a studio full of white women, I could feel the discomfort in the room as soon as the words came from my mouth. But it is a necessary conversation, and if we are to truly tackle media’s exploitation and misrepresentation of women, there must be intentional inclusion of perspective from all women, pointedly those who have the least voice in shaping their own stories in the mainstream.

Carol Jenkins, journalist, producer, and founding President of the Women’s Media Center gave such a poignant response that penetrates to the very essence of why this matters so much. Watch our exchange in this video:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/AU_rJWQJP6E&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Still, a few days prior to the MissRepresentation screening one of the oldest and most prominent girl-focused organizations hosted a Twitter chat on media images and girls. I noticed there and in  other arenas exploring the topic, somehow race and culture are skirted around. This troubles me.

What about you… do you agree race and culture belong in this conversation? What are the media images that you most connect/resist? Are they tied to you as a woman or to your experience as a fill in the blank woman

It apparently troubled others like Bessie Akuba Winn-Afeku, founder of She is Me Program. Now we have both linked arms to collaborate and host a Twitter chat dedicated to examining the images of girls of color in media and to offer best practices that resist stereotypes, empowering girls to create their own messages.

That is the goal of #girlsmediachat which will take place on Twitter Thursdays, 8p CST, beginning Nov. 3.  We hope you will join us, share your perspective, recommend guests/topics, and invite others.

Follow us on Twitter

Girls Like Me

She is Me Program   

Please share and follow the hashtag #Girlsmediachat

Also, MissRepresentation is now a movement. Take a moment to take the pledge to join the fight!

Advertisements

Closing Catherine Ferguson Academy: Robbing the Cradle of Hope & Promise Part II

It seems like this story has been written for us since we were forced upon the shores of these United States of America. A grotesque picture book with chapter and verse depicting African men, who before being sold away or savagely beaten to death, granted only the freedom to breed Black children with the African women that would be left alone. The story, ripe with illustrations of these women held hostage by the sweet pain of mothering past loneliness-struggling to survive the harshest realities, the umbra of birthing babies void of hope.

Seems like the story was a grand mastermind of intentional design…and today the story lives on, yet told in epic portrayal.

So I instantaneously connected to that story when I began seriously contemplating the fate of Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, a school for teen mothers and their children. To catch up on the struggle of CFA, read my previous post. But as I was saying, CFA is a school for teen mothers and their small children. We know from any evening news broadcast, the whereabouts of the fathers are highly likely behind prison walls and in detention centers, the new American plantation.We know this because our tragically failing education system disproportionately cripples our children, driving our boys into the prison pipeline and our girls into teen pregnancy and welfare dependency.

A hopeless cycle that has repeated itself unto our community so many times it has become the norm for too many across the African Diaspora. And so it is in Detroit. Yet, when vested and progressive educators got back to the basics, enhancing core curriculum by teaching economic development, agriculture and farming; honing affirmative parenting skills; encouraging breastfeeding (as we know the nutritional and research-based cognitive and sociological benefits this provides both mother and child); the results have stagnated the cycle of destitution and dependency. Now that the village of Catherine Ferguson Academy has found a way to slowly reverse a generational legacy of teenage pregnancy and dropout rates that buoy functional illiteracy, the system that created the “grand mastermind of intentional design” is interrupting progress and success.

Threatening the school with closure.

Now, granted not all Black girls are experience teen pregnancy or consider dropping out of high school. Many flourish, from being recognized as the brightest in their class to being accepted into distinguished universities to receiving Gates Scholarships. And so it may be very easy to separate the girls in our family on our block from those attending CFA. Maybe…

CFA girls and others like them may live a harsh life that when glanced at seem perpetuated by bad choices. However, we know inherently these are our little sisters…and we know their children are our children and future. What they become has strong implications on our community. We also know what plays out at CFA, is but a microcosm of the greater plan (call me a conspiracy theorist) to destruct the moral fabric and cultural fortitude that are implicit in our contributions to this country, and moreover the world. So much is invested in exacerbating vicious cycle of poverty and culpability to government. Many pockets are lined from the devastation of the poor. Jailhouses are built with the poor in mind, grants are written to big foundations, checks cut to lobby for the vices of the poor (tobacco, alcohol, gambling,). Poor people are preyed upon for the almighty green dollar. No question.

WHERE IS THE LOVE?

But here is where I become angry and a sinister dread hangs in my spirit. It is because of the obvious silence, or dare I say total disregard, in relation to the struggle of poor black girls by other Blacks.

Now, the Black community turned Jena Louisiana into a Mecca for the quest of justice when Back boys were damned into the bowels of a racist judicial system deep in the heart of Dixie. I was right there, so I know how we chartered buses, posse’d up our motorcycle clubs, and stepped into the fight with our sorority sisters and frat brothers. We braved KKK deep back roads to free our boys. Let us not forget the countless public voices that gave their platform to rally the community and urge us to keep up the fight. No proof or discernment was necessary. We fought the good fight.

Add to countless times we have swooped in to rally around Black boys in trouble. The Tookie’s and Genarlow’s and Troy’s.

I can even point out the cries of anguish as black boy after black boy is gunned down in our inner city streets. We cry hard when we’ve lost our fearless warriors. Oscar, Sean, Derrion, Amadou.

When we are threatened to lose our Black boys, we lose our collective minds. And this is as it should be.

Yet, on the other side of that, why is it, that the squalid life prospects we are losing our sisters to only renders us silent.

Where is the outrage? Yes, we hold a few conferences and have intellectual intercourse over subjects from films like Precious and Colored Girls. We wax poetic when a verbal injustice is done to our revered celebrity sisters. And we seem to come alive in all our fiery colorfulness if we discuss domestic violence of a high profile sister.

So why can’t we muster a single sentence or tweet or Facebook status or magazine spread for the sisters among us who struggle with some very real shit every single day of their young lives? How cheap do we play ourselves, and these sisters, who if not by the grace of God we could be sitting in their shoes. The little sisters at Catherine Ferguson Academy and ghettos across the country, Black girls like me and you, are living straight out of the Good Times theme song. Keeping their heads above water. Water that in their lives is a cesspool of abuse, broken hearts, hopelessness, neglect, welfare, toxic and temptation of cigarettes and alcohol, debris from failed education systems, and all the dank funk of poverty.

I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that CFA being a village of promise, where young mothers are given the tools to become self-sufficient with a vision of the future, is set to close yet I’ve not read or seen a single mention across my social networks dedicated to this issue. Is it because no one cares? Or have we too lost hope for our girls. But how can we? We’ve seen this story before… we know Maya Angelou, poor teen mother without a father for her child, high school drop out. We know Oprah, molested as a teen and left pregnant. What hope did they have…who pulled them along?

Our living legends give us a dazzling example as proof that the future can be bright for these girls, who among their alumna has produced doctors and PhD students. Let us not dim it by ignoring the present fight that we must engage. It is the responsibility of us all to put on the full armor. Put some gloss and add real shine to our lip service. Save Catherine Ferguson Academy. Save our community!

So I know the reason is not that there is no love for poor Black girls. It has to lie in that I am just not connected to the right folks in my virtual network. It’s simply because I have not reached you, but now that this has made its way to you…please take it personal. Catherine Ferguson Academy needs you to see the connection it has to you.

We need action! Many are gathering for a protest rally at the school today. Still, others around the country can support from afar. Sign the petition. Spread the word. Write letters to congressman and legislator, Detroit city officials and Detroit Public School administrators.

Beyond this travesty, let us please make meaningful connections to our little sisters in the struggle, before they ever believe they can walk a college campus. Join the National Cares Mentoring Movement in your city. Volunteer at a public school in your area. Invite a group from a girls’ home to lunch with you and your colleagues at work. We have more work to do. Need to add some shine to our lip service. For real!

Pride and disappointment: Oprah Behind the Scenes

When I was a kid, I watched TV with my mother a lot. All the dramas of that time, both prime time dramas and daytime soap operas. But I loved watching Phil Donaghue’s talk show. He had these really intriguing people from a myriad of backgrounds. I loved the format; a host asking the most revealing questions, leading an audience yet also allowing them to ask questions. It was the audience that caught my attention mostly though, because it always had faces that resembled those of my neighbors and mine. And the show fed my young, curious and analytical mind. I was born a journalist at heart so Phil Donaghue’s show was a provision that fed that in me.

Oprah Winfrey back in the day

Yet, the game changed when along came this Black woman doing the same thing Phil was doing. Now it was no longer just the audience, voyeurs but the host, OprahWinfrey who I could identify with. I remember seeing her and thinking how much she looked like my kindergarten teacher, Miss Akebe, whom I loved.

Oprah from there to here

Instantly I loved Oprah, too. And I wanted to be just like her, in charge and telling stories, finding answers.

She's got her OWN thang!

Fast-forward to my big girl dreams, and Oprah is still the measure of possibility. Simply the best to ever do what she is doing, on her terms. In fact, this next chapter in her life is so ambitious and next level, it churns inspiration and faith into some kind of ‘dream big concoction” and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one sipping it on New Year’s day when she launched the Oprah Winfrey Network.

The 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards - Show

We celebrate Oprah and her intrepid living. We embrace her accomplishments as our own. We own a pride manifested simply because of her being, after all she epitomizes the very best of our people for the world to see.

And maybe that all equates to illusions of ownership. Maybe we believe we can claim Oprah…that she somehow belongs to us.

That would explain why I always feel a stinging pang of disappointment when I faithfully tune in. And though the inference is there in her selection of guests and topics for her show, the Oprah Season 25: Behind the Scenes gave us all clarity. As O herself coined for us, she gave us our very own “Aha moment.”

This program was to honor the 464 staff employed by arguably the most influential woman. (I would be remiss not to note how monumental that feat is for a Black woman). Oprah opened the program by saying, “Over the past 24 years you’ve seen me as the face of the Oprah show. But, I do not do this alone. Now meet the team behind the scenes, they are the best in the business.”

And then we got our “big reveal.” From all appearances, it looks as if only 5% of her staff looks like her, shares her roots. Still, more telling than that is the fact that her senior staff is void of ANY color. Hmmm.

I can’t help but feel some kinda way. Does this mean that in her estimation, the best creative minds, the most astute producers in the business do not look like her. On behalf of all the intelligent, talented, creative, tenacious, ambitious, capable and trained producers like me; I have to wonder almost like a child whose parent won’t claim them “why am I not good enough for her.”

Too deep huh? Maybe. Maybe not.

I can definitively tell you that producers often have just as much power (if not more) over the messaging and tone of productions than the hosts. Which is why I feel caught up in this quagmire of feelings back and forth between pride and disappointment when I look behind Oprah and see no Black women, no Latino representation nor heterosexual men in senior level production positions.

My feelings are further validated when one of her senior producers, a white gay male, adamantly fought against a segment he thought would give a platform to anti-gay rhetoric. This was his rationale…

“As a gay man, I have a strong opinion. We have 130 slots left to change the world; make our mark, I don’t understand why this would be one of them. We don’t just portray the reality on our show. We pick and choose what we want based upon criteria of how we want to produce the show.”

See, producers bring their perspective and experiences to their jobs just as much as anyone else. Is it wrong to feel Oprah owes it to her community, to ensure our perspective adequately represented? What does she owe the many little Black girls and boys who grow up training and aspiring to be like her if not empowering job opportunities? If Black women are not up to her standards, why not adopt a school of journalism at an HBCU?

Her philanthropy cannot be challenged. O gives unequivocally. But what of the missionary who does not see the value in those she shares gifts with? The exchange is only valuable when the philanthropist realizes there are gifts to receive from the recipient as well. No greater fulfillment comes from reciprocity that you can repay to your charitable giver.

Miss O summed up her next level living with her vision for OWN. She says it is “a network that empowers you the viewer to turn your dreams into reality.”

I wonder if I, as a viewer, will see myself enough to feel empowered.

Then again, maybe Oprah doesn’t owe me a thing…

Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls

2009: Looking back on the year of the Black woman

Whether it was all the single ladies, housewives gone wild, girl scouts, lady detectives and nurses, princesses or a first lady, 2009 was definitely the year of the black woman in a myriad of ways that broke profound barriers. In 2009, Black women were setting trends that made headlines like never before. No doubt from beginning to end, we took center stage.

Ladies First

The cries of independent woman gave way to what is arguably a Sankofa moment as we watched Michelle Obama on January 20th take us back to Coretta Scott King and beyond our wildest imagination with her simple measures of dignity and grace. A day of historic significance gave way to a night of elegant mystique while the world witnessed Michelle stand beside her husband, President Barack Obama, as he took the oath that sealed his family’s fate and lead them into their new home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to become the first family of the United States of America. Her style, evident honor of family and health, has painted a new face and role for Black women to aspire to. The kind that is supportive and tender, ambitious and focused. It truly is a moment from 2009 that will live in the history of wo/man kind!

Do the Ladies Run This?

First Lady Michelle Obama is not the only haute stepper in the White House. Adding to the history books was the appointment of several sisters to key positions in the Obama Administration. As noted by the Washington Post, “they are the largest contingent of high-ranking black women to work for a president.” Essence Magazine did a fabulous job detailing their roles. http://photos.essence.com/galleries/white_house_power_list#284021

Certainly the formulation of a White House Council on Women and Diversity, headed by Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett, further asserts President Obama’s diligent respect for women’s perspective and contribution to society.  

Camera, Lights, Action

2009 Academy Awards presented another defining moment for black women when screen gems Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson were nominated for best supporting actress. Neither won, still the nomination nod raised the curtain on some very deserving and talented sisters finally getting substantial roles in critically-acclaimed mainstream films.

A Thin Line…

We barely crossed the threshold into the New Year and were less than 15 days in the afterglow of our nation’s refined First Lady, when before our eyes we witnessed the morning after images of pop-princess Rhianna following a night of domestic violence between she and boyfriend, R&B sensation, Chris Brown.

Rhianna became the new poster child for domestic violence. Yet, there seemed to be more to the story than what made it to mainstream news. Intuition, albeit circumstantial evidence, hints there was a deep-seeded pattern of teen dating violence during the course of this tumultuous relationship. According to National Youth Violence Prevention http://www.safeyouth.org/scripts/faq/dateviolfacts.asp

“Both male and female adolescents report being victims of physical violence in relationships.[7] ,[8] Many relationships involve mutual abuse, with both partners using violence against the other. However, it is clear that male and female adolescents use physical force for different reasons and with different results.[9] Researchers have found that female teens suffer more from relationship violence, emotionally and physically.[10] They are much more likely than males to have serious injuries and to report being terrified. In contrast, male victims seldom seem to fear violence by their dates or girlfriends, often saying that the attacks did not hurt and that they found the violence amusing.[11]

It appears the actions of that night pushed past the amusing button and left both young sensations scarred beyond measure. Still, thankfully it did open the lines of dialogue for young girls to share their pain and find a way out. Wonder if women can play our role to free teen males from this sad cycle as well.

Love and Politics

India Arie may have channeled psychic powers as her 2009 offering released came on the heels of historic political landscape and a few days after the infamous Chris Brown/Rhianna situation. Debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard R&B charts, it was her first release since moving from Motown to Universal. Ironically titled, Testimony Volume 2-Love and Politics, the album served as part healing balm and fodder for political discourse. For me it was the perfect soundtrack for 2009.

Fly above…

For the first time ever, an all-female, all black crew navigated and serviced a flight from Atlanta to Nashville, making not only Black but women’s herstory! And what better month than February to reach for sky. http://www.11alive.com/life/story.aspx?storyid=127470&catid=37

Don’t be tardy…

Not to be outdone, Real Housewives of Atlanta got it in with high-flying dramatic antics and became the addictive guilty pleasure for many ‘progressive’ ladies, including yours truly. Even modest men didn’t want to miss out and be tardy for the party. Everything passed for real life drama, divorce; cat-fights; escapades of a mistress; extravagant transgender adoration; and so much more catapulted many of the shows “players” into auto-tune and synthesized entertainment careers. Needless to say, some of the reality was too fabricated and word is the show will return with a little less bust action and hair.

 

No. 1 Ladies and Nurses…

Cable television took a step to do what network TV has apparently been scared to do (UPN and CW don’t even count). HBO kept it real progressive when they tapped Jill Scott to lead on-screen adaptation of Alex Mccall Smith’s novel series, No. 1 Ladies Detective. The beautiful part of it all is it was filmed in Botswana during the first pregnancy of the leading actress. It proved to be a diamond for HBO and Jill…nominated for NAACP Image Award and season two premiers Feb 1, 2010!

Miss Jada didn’t fail in her leading role either as HNIC (head nurse in charge) on TNT’s HawthoRNe. Though Jada Pinkett Smith executive produced and directed the series, it lacked a strong supporting cast and smart writing. Still, the message was clear that we have surpassed witty sidekick and can lead the way. In august the series secured an extension for 2nd season.

Girl Power

The only time most people pay attention to Girl Scouts is when its time to buy some of those scrumptious cookies. (My favorite, by the way, are the Samoas and Lemonades). So now they’ve demanded our full attention after tapping Connie Lindsey, a sister, to be president of Girl Scout’s National Board of Directors. The role is ranked as “the highest volunteer position in Girl Scouting.” They further hiked their relevancy when in October First Lady Michelle Obama became their Honorary National President http://www.girlscouts.org/news/news _releases/2009/michelle_obama.asp

Don’t call it a comeback

So many had written her off as a washed up diva who didn’t believe her own words when she declared for the world, “crack is whack,” but when Miss Whitney Houston belted out the title track to her comeback album, I Look to You, her fans looked to find fabulously stunning, foretaste of the diva who graced us with soundtracks to Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale. The voice and the spirit have been through the storm, but her redemption was obvious on songs such as Like I Never Left, I Didn’t Know my Own Strength, Nothin’ but Love and Salute. Salute indeed.

O Girl!

Who can remember a year when Oprah did not have major influence? Whether getting Mike Tyson to cry and admit he wanted to “sock” Robyn Givens during infamous Barbara Walters interview, supporting philanthropic causes like education and universal women’s issues, or giving the “green” light to back major films that empower and portray Blacks in multi-dimensional roles that have been virtually non-existent in traditional Hollywood, there is no denying the O-power.

And yet she just may have earned a new title of shock jock with her announcement of her plans to end her show.  But come on…did MJ retire the first 3 times?

Besides, nobody is quite ready for Oprah to exit stage left and leave the mantel to Monique or Wendy Williams… let’s face it, an induction into the Radio Hall of Fame does not necessarily qualify one to take the reigns as a television talk show host. But, let’s give props to Wendy on her accomplishments anyway. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-MMInos4yE that is sorta big deal!

Point taken…

After literally changing the game of tennis, Venus and Serena Williams stormed the courts in 2009, especially Wimbledon.  But it was the U.S. Open when Serena exploded on a line judge for a bogus call in favor of her opponent. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/13/serena-williams-unsportsm_n_284813.html Her behavior may very well have been pent-up aggression after years of subliminal ridicule from media, judges and other players. Let’s face it, the Williams’ sisters have been referred to as animals and shunned in locker rooms for years. Too bad Serena had to take it there. And they finished 2009 ranked as WTA top ten female players (Serena #1/Venus #6).

Dirty Laundry

In 2009 two films were accused of airing the Black community’s dirty laundry. Good Hair was Chris Rock’s simple approach to a complex issue that possibly dates back to the Atlantic slave trade. Sprinkled with celebrity anecdotes and a dose of around the way beauty shop banter, this film even had Tyra pull her weave out.

And then there was Precious. A movie that was everything but. If there was ever a need to quantify the Moynihan Report, it came for all the world to see in the plot of this film complete with dysfunctional family, failing education system and white social workers. The story itself was indeed powerful, albeit familiar, perhaps the director’s choice of quick camera cuts and bright lights were somewhat disjointed and abrupt not quite in synch with the tone of the film. A theatrical release backed by Oprah and Tyler Perry should have pushed this film beyond mediocrity. But Precious fell short leaving Monique’s stunning performance to anchor and carry it.

When it comes to first, the new Disney 2D animation, Princess and a Frog, featured the first ever Black princess. Unfortunately, Disney steered clear of highlighting this distinctive quality and although it opened as a blockbuster earning $24.2 million, overall the Princess hasn’t leapt to the numbers of its predecessors. Furthermore, critics have pointed out a few minor royal flaws to the plot of this Disney magic moment. For one, Tiana never quite got crowned an official “princess.’ And her “prince” couldn’t share in the glory of being the first Black to wed the little princess named Tiana. All in all, with a majestic cast including Oprah, Terence Howard, and Anika Noni Rose in the lead role, this will be a major addition to the Disney vault and every little girl’s collection.

No more Drama…

Late last year Mary J. Blige opened the Center for Women in her hometown Yonkers NY. It was received as a saving grace for all those women who have suffered from abuse akin to the personal experiences Mary shares through her music and in interviews. http://edition.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/10/29/mary.j.blige/ So it is a sad reflection that we ended the year with a drama scene reminiscent of an earlier  2009 episode. Mary J. Blige, Miss No Drama herself, surely brought much drama to her release party when she struck her husband and added provocatively, “what you going to do, Chris Brown me?”  Check out the video and share your thoughts. http://www.nypost.com/p/pagesix/blige_fracas_caught_on_tape_C6diAYK0vWqMdYPJHA6kVK Hmmm…I call it a teaching moment and a reminder that we indeed have a true issue with domestic violence in our community, where we tend to see only one aggressor. Yet it was so evident during Oprah’s interview with Mike Tyson when after he admitted to hitting Robyn Givens on more than one occasion and that he’d been on the opposite end of the punches, then a facetious Oprah replies, “come on, look at you…” implying a woman can’t hurt a man. Can we all agree that no one, man or woman, should ever put their hands on anyone and that everyone in a relationship should be treated with dignity and respect? Or is dignity and respect reserved for platinum-selling songstresses and female entertainers?

Now it’s time to say goodbye to 2009…

So that was the full ensemble cast of Black ladies who graced our attentive celebrity screens for 2009. But the list wouldn’t be complete without adding some everyday sisters who are making things happen and impacting lives on the ground.

Of course there are so many women you should know moving into 2010, can’t list them all, but here are a few:

The New New…

There’s a new web-series that has garnered nominations from several awards programs and screened at the prestigious New York Television Festival, where it also competed in the Independent Pilot Competition . If you are not up on The New 20’s you are missing out on sizzling hot must-see web TV written, produced, directed and starring Tracy Taylor. Some in the know may recall Ms. Taylor as writer/director/star of the BET Award-winning film Walking on Sunshine, which was also nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 2005. Not seen Tracy’s work? That’s okay ‘cause it’s just as good in 2010. http://thenew20stv.com

Hip Hop sisters in Oakland and the Bay Area represented in light of the tragic aftermath of the January 1, 2009 murder of Oscar Grant by BART police officers. Dereca Blackman and Christina Gomez  (Coalition Against Police Exection) organized a movement to hold officers accountable. The rallies and messages reached the masses from Oakland to Chicago to NY to Atlanta resulting in a public outcry which garnered mainstream media attention and eventually brought criminal charges against the officer who discharged his weapon on the handcuffed Grant. http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/01/13/18562532.php

Sister Dereca and Christina continued their organizing efforts following the case all the way to LA, the jurisdiction the case will be tried.

Jessica Norwood- Founder of Emerge Change, an advocacy and leadership institute. Ms. Norwood is making the connection between issues and leaders. http://www.emergechange.org/Founder.html

Pamela Avery- in 2009 Ms. Avery celebrated 25 years as Founder and Director of Studio One Dance Theatre which trains and nurtures Chicago youth in dance. A hidden gem on the south side of Chicago, Studio One deserves your attention.   http://studioonedancetheatre.com/index.php/sodt_pages/

Nichole Pinkard- creating the path for urban students to be multi-literate and gain access to the world through digital media, Ms. Pinkard is truly someone you should know. http://iremix.org/team_members/2-nichole-pinkard

Hope you enjoyed the look back on 2009. Here’s to looking forward into 2010.