“Selma,” “Annie,” and “Top Five” provide great holiday options at the movies

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David Oyelowo, (center) portrays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  in his tortured, relentless fight for equal rights under the American constitution. King’s non-violent civil rights movement promoted marches, sit-ins and acts of civil disobedience, strategies that have resurfaced in today’s society to publicize the scourge of white police officers killing unarmed Black men and boys with impunity only to escape punishment from grand juries which refuse to indict them for their crimes.

By Carmen Glover

Three diverse movies offer a treat for movie patrons this Christmas season: “Selma,” “Annie” and “Top Five,” which each tackle a different subject that is ripe for debate. “Selma” opened on Christmas Day in limited release and will open nationwide on January 9, 2015.

Oprah Winfrey appears in "Selma" which she produced; David Oyelowo stars as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ava DuVernay, co- writer and director of the film, which has received four award nominations so far.

Oprah Winfrey appears in “Selma” which she produced; David Oyelowo stars as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ava DuVernay, co- writer and director of the film, which has received four award nominations so far.

The movie is directed by Ava DuVernay, who co-writes the movie with Paul Webb. “Selma is produced by Oprah Winfrey and stars David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Carmen Ejogo as his wife Coretta and features other seasoned actors such as Tim Roth and Lorraine Toussaint.

Selma cast wear "I Can't Breathe" t-shirts to the movie's premiere. Those were the words uttered 11 times by African-American father, husband and grandfather Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York on July 17 when he was choked to death by NYPD detective Daniel Panteleo, whom the grand jury failed to indict, resulting in ongoing protests for justice.

Selma cast wear “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to the movie’s premiere. Those were the words uttered 11 times by African-American father, husband and grandfather Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York on July 17 when he was choked to death by NYPD detective Daniel Pantaleo, whom the grand jury failed to indict, resulting in ongoing protests for justice.

“Selma” is the first big screen film that tells the story of the non-violent civil rights leader. “Selma” delves into the civil rights movement King spearheaded that featured marches and protests in the quest for voting rights, equality under the law and the right to live in dignity and be treated with respect. True to form, the King estate, run by his children, refused to grant use of his speeches for the film. Nevertheless, the creative forces behind the film produced a stellar, timely and riveting film, which was nominated for several industry awards so far.

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Academy-Award winner Jamie Foxx embraces an ebullient Quevenzhane Wallis, who has transformed the role of “Annie” to one that is relatable to  a broader racial group.

“Annie,” which was released in theaters a week ago, stars Quevenzhane Wallis and Jamie Foxx in a modern retelling of a musical classic that has always been a hit with families that have small children. “Annie” tells the tale of children in the foster care system, their interactions with those who are charged with their care and their quest for survival. Wallis, who burst on the movie scene in “Beast of the Southern Wild,” which earned her an Oscar nomination, shares great chemistry with Foxx and the duo combine to expand “Annie’s” scope from one which emphasized a mostly white cast to one where African-Americans take the lead roles and deliver convincingly.

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Chris Rock, seen with Rosario Dawson in a scene from “Top Five” which Rock wrote and directed. The movie is filled with appearances by comedians that span a wide spectrum.

“Top Five” tells the story of Andre Allen (Chris Rock), a comedian who is busy promoting his first serious film while simultaneously coordinating his upcoming wedding to his reality star fiancée, portrayed  by Gabrielle Union. Rosario Dawson plays a hard-nosed reporter who hangs out with Rock in an attempt to get information for a more personal, real-life article for her newspaper.

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 06:  Leslie Jones attends the premiere of "Top Five" at the Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre on September 6, 2014 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Ernesto Di Stefano Photography/WireImage)

TORONTO, ON – SEPTEMBER 06: Leslie Jones attends the premiere of “Top Five” at the Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre on September 6, 2014 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Ernesto Di Stefano Photography/WireImage)

Throughout the film, a bevy of comedians such as Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler and scene stealer Leslie Jones discuss their top five hip hop artists, with hilarious results that include insults hurled all around, episodes of poor judgment and payback that is bound to keep patrons talking and laughing for days.–OnPointPress.net. 

Phenomenal woman Dr Maya Angelou leaves a towering legacy

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De. Maya Angelou poses with Samara Brown in 2002 at the opening of the Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem, New York.

By Carmen Glover

While working as an associate editor for a Brooklyn-based newspaper in 2002, I went to Harlem, New York, to cover the opening of Hue-Man Bookstore, an African-American establishment that was the brainchild of the ex-wives of three former New York Knicks players, including Rita Ewing, the ex-wife of Patrick Ewing. I entered the store and saw rap mogul Jay-Z in a corner talking to then-Knick Charles Smith, while late actor Ossie Davis chatted to his wife Ruby Dee and actor Wesley Snipes held court with his Asian date. And then I saw her. Dr. Maya Angelou was seated regally on a stool, holding a cane, her eyes shrouded by a pair of dark glasses.

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Dr. Maya Angelou shares a light moment with her only child, son Guy Johnson

I approached her and introduced myself. Then I explained that I just left my daughter upstairs at the Magic Johnson Theatre with friends, to my chagrin. “Go and get her,” Dr. Angelou told me in her rich, firm voice. I didn’t need to be told twice and my daughter, Samara, squealed, “Really?” when I told her who was downstairs. After shaking Samara’s hand and agreeing to pose for a picture, Dr. Angelou issued instructions to my daughter: “Hold your back straight,” she said, as my daughter complied with alacrity, while the photographer who accompanied me on the assignment snapped the picture.

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Dr. Angelou and her mother, whom Angelou said told her “We’re going to have a happy baby” when the teenaged Angelou told her she was pregnant but not in love with the father.

Many people from all walks of life no doubt have personal stories of the moment when they met Dr. Angelou and how enthralled they were by her poise, wit, grace and spirit. Dr. Angelou described being a mother as a blessing and as the world mourns the passing of this literary icon it is important to remember her son and his family in our prayers. Her son, Guy B. Johnson, released a statement on Wednesday morning which read:

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“Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8 a.m., EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey last year, he said through a video that he “grew up in her light.” Angelou gave birth to her only son when she was 17. They lived in several cities including Accra in Ghana, Cairo in Egypt, New York and San Francisco.

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President Barack Obama gently kissed Dr. Angelo’s cheek after awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom .

Dr. Maya Angelou lived a life that was exceptional in its scope, vast in its reach and profound in its impact on her admirers and students of literature across the globe. The first volume of her autobiographical series “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is required reading in schools across the United States, and it details her early life, her childhood trauma and her indomitable spirit that defied challenges and abuse.

She inspired a legion of ardent fans with the lyrical texture of her poetry, the rhythmic flow of her words, the compelling prose of her novels and the sage wisdom inherent in her counsel. She spoke about the joys she experienced as a mother to her only son and the determination that propelled her to achieve professional success.

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Media maven Oprah Winfrey has described Dr. Angelou as a “mother, mentor and friend,” often citing her words of wisdom and the solace they have brought her over the years.

And along the way she inspired others to follow her path, or carve their own, never losing sight of what is important. When she delivered her rousing inaugural poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at former President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, we were riveted with wonder, admiration and pride at the beauty evoked by her voice and words.

Media maven Oprah Winfrey has spoken lovingly about Dr. Angelou and shared stories about their friendship, while inviting her to share her wisdom on various episodes of her show over the years. And so as we grieve, it is important to celebrate the life and legacy of a woman who lived fearlessly, powered on by a burning passion to achieve. In a statement about her death U.S. President said:.

American poet Maya Angelou reciting her poem 'On the Pulse of Morning' at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in Washington DC, 20th January 1993. (Photo by Consolidated News Pictures/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

American poet Maya Angelou reciting her poem ‘On the Pulse of Morning’ at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in Washington DC, 20th January 1993. (Photo by Consolidated News Pictures/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time-a brilliant writer, fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life Maya was many things-an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer, but above all, she was a storyteller and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their meaning amidst the clouds and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves.”

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Yes, Dr. Angelou caused us to aim higher, to reach for more. Born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, she went on to create literary works that resonate across the world but she was not exclusively artistic. She contributed to the civil rights movement by working for both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. She later taught at Wake Forest University and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, the National Medal of Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008. During her youth, she was a calypso singer and she claimed Caribbean heritage through her paternal grandfather, who hailed from Trinidad & Tobago.

Brutally raped at age 7, by her mother’s boyfriend, Dr. Angelou stopped speaking after the culprit was found murdered when she revealed his identity to her family. “I thought my voice killed him,” she explained about her self-imposed, five-year silence after the traumatic episode. But her spirit drove her to success and her thirst for knowledge refused to be quenched. As a result, people all over the world were blessed to see or hear her recite some of her powerful works including her spectacular poems: “Phenomenal Woman,” and “I Rise.” In her last Twitter post on Friday, May 23, 2014, she wrote: “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.” In expressing his grief at her death, former President Bill Clinton said:

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Former President Bill Clinton had a long friendship with Dr. Angelou.

“With Maya Angelou’s passing, America has lost a national treasure. The poems and stories she wrote and read to us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace. I will always be grateful for her electrifying reading of “On the Pulse of Morning” at my first inaugural and even more for the years of friendship,” He also sent his “deepest sympathies” to her son.

Winfrey, in her statement, covered the trajectory and nuanced complexity of their relationship, which spanned years and experiences that dripped with meaning.

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“I’ve been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister and friend since my 20s. The world knew her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. She won three Grammys, spoke six languages. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.”

For many of us, Dr. Angelou’s enduring legacy will be the template she left that defines resilience: the ability to get up and rebound despite struggles, obstacles and disappointment. Her attitude showed the conviction of someone who had things to do, someone whose ambitions and determination propelled continuous movement, someone who set clearly defined goals and tackled them with grit and courage.

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Dr. Angelou has been called back home to rest in the arms of her heavenly father but for us who remain, it’s important to take the time to read her works, understand her life and make an effort to emulate her ambition, drive and refusal to offer excuses instead of being completely focused on achieving our goals. Rest in peace, Maya Angelou, your life and legacy will live on through us–OnPointPress.net.

Carmen Glover is an award-wining journalist and editorial director of OnPointPress.net. Follow her and OnPointPress.net on Twitter @OnPointPress_.

50 years later, the plague of substandard lifestyle prevails

 

Dr Martin Luther King Jr whose "I Have a Dream" speech and March on Washington were honored by President Barack Obama on the 50th anniversary.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr whose “I Have a Dream” speech and March on Washington were honored by President Barack Obama on the 50th anniversary.

By Carmen Glover

As the sea of faces gazed across the Washington Mall on Saturday, August 24 and Wednesday, August 28 in the two marches held to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington, many eyes were transfixed on the myriad of speakers. Those at the podium eloquently described the urgent issues that need to be addressed in this era:more quality jobs, better educational options, equitable pay, quality housing, affordable health care, elimination of stop and frisk, gun violence, voter suppression and Stand Your Ground laws.

President Barack Obama speaks on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in celebration of Dr King's "I  Have a Dream" speech.

President Barack Obama speaks on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in celebration of Dr King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“We need jobs,” said the Revered Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network, in conjunction with Martin Luther King III, organized Saturday’s march.  “Yes we will raise the minimum wage because you cannot survive on $7.25,” said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous.

Attorney General Eric Holder addresses the crowd.

Attorney General Eric Holder addresses the crowd.

Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Myrlie Evers-Williams.

Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Myrlie Evers-Williams.

Nine-year-old Asean Johnson, who hails from President Barack Obama’s home state of Chicago, was the youngest speaker on Saturday. Johnson said he was marching for “better schools, peace and no racism in the world.” Fifty years prior, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, at 23, was the youngest speaker and today is the only person alive who spoke at the March of 1963.

Georgia Rep. John Lewis makes a point.

Georgia Rep. John Lewis makes a point.

 

Georgia Rep. John Lewis waves to the crowd.

Georgia Rep. John Lewis waves to the crowd while standing next to the historic bell, a remnant from the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

Dr King with a younger John Lewis in 1963.

Dr King with a younger John Lewis in 1963.

“I am not going to stand down and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us,” Lewis stated passionately as he invoked the painful memories that litter the nation’s history of the struggles blacks experienced in their battle to vote. Attorney General Eric Holder elicited the most applause when he said: “The struggle most go on. The quest must, and will, go on until every eligible African- American exercises his or her right to vote.” Adding her voice to the theme of voting rights, Myrlie Evers-Williams was resolute: “We must be sure that nothing is taken away from us,” she said.

Christine King Farris, Dr King's sister, addresses the crowd.

Christine King Farris, Dr King’s sister, addresses the crowd.

Yet despite the various social, economic and judicial issues that continue to plague African-Americans, there have been some significant areas of progress. Many people went to the polls in 2008 and again in 2012 to elect and re-elect President Obama, while still being uncertain that their votes would matter. Obama steadfastly rises above a Congress that has repeatedly articulated being invested wholeheartedly in diminishing his achievements.

Reverend Al Sharpton shares a moment with Martin Luther King III.

Reverend Al Sharpton shares a moment with Martin Luther King III.

Congress has held the country’s jobs bill and economic agenda hostage, prompting the African-American community and supporters of fairness to become even more energized to ensure Obama’s success. Many who marched on Washington, whether 50 years ago or this week, could never before envision a president who is half black and half white. Many at the marches could not envision the inroads that  African-Americans have made by graduating from high school in larger numbers, earning college degrees, embracing political careers and impacting society in the many areas that they have.

Anthony Billups, his sister Mylene Marlin ans his mother Darlene Marlin hold their signs at the march.

Anthony Billups, his sister Mylene Marlin and his mother, Darlene Marlin, hold their signs at the march.

But, like Attorney Holder stated, “the struggle must go on.” In the same way that the younger generation went out in droves to elect the president, so too have they re-energized the civil rights movement. The youth have marched and led protests, such as the actions being taken by the Dream Defenders in Florida as they agitate to end Stand Your Ground laws. Students from all over the county converged on Washington to make their voices heard. Howard University students, in particular, were front and center.

Anthony Billups, a graduate of Northeastern and Arizona State Universities, with undergraduate and master’s degrees in Math, marched on Saturday with his family, who reside in New York’s Staten Island community. “I attended both inaugurations of the current president and I wanted to be a part of this historic march as well,” he said.  Billups’ 12-year-old sister, Mylene Marlin, was excited to participate in the march and proudly displayed her sign which read “I am empowered,” while their mother looked on.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton both addressed the crowd.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton both addressed the crowd.

So when President Obama addressed the crowd on Wednesday, August 28, 2013, people of all colors and backgrounds listened intently. President Obama reflected on the March of 1963 by describing the “courage” that it took and the need for continued “vigilance” to keep the fight going.

“Change does not come from Washington, it comes to Washington,” Obama said, adding: “In the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.” In the same way that young people marched in 1963, President Obama called on the youth today to become active in the effort to ensure that “all people get a fair shot.” Making the connection between disenchanted youth and the damaging impact on society, President Obama said “the shadow of poverty casts a pall over our youth.” He called on the “imagination and hunger of purpose of the young,” as critical ingredients for a revitalized call to action. “We now have a choice: we can continue down the same path of we can have the courage to change,” he said.

Myrllie Evers-Williams speaks to the gathering.

Myrllie Evers-Williams speaks to the gathering.

President Obama celebrated the achievements that have been made in the country since the first March on Washington but he emphasized the areas that still need fixing. “Black unemployment remains twice as high as whites,” he said, and he cited economic equality as “our great unfinished business” from 1963, which makes “upward mobility harder.” A plethora of speakers united to make the commemoration memorable and when Dr King’s family rang the bell at 3:00 PM in honor of his memory, the act was symbolic because the bell came from the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where in 1963, shortly after the March on Washington, four black girls were killed in a bombing initiated by a white supremacist. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter added an important context to the day, especially since on the day of the 1963 March; the president chose to avoid the event.

Media icon Oprah WInfrey shares her thoughts.

Media icon Oprah Winfrey shares her thoughts.

Among the notables in attendance to hear President Obama’s speech and add their thoughts were: Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, Jamie Foxx, Caroline Kennedy, Ambassador Andrew Young, Christine King Farris who is Dr King’s 85-year-old sister, Dr King’s surviving children and grandchild and many of the speakers from Saturday’s march.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave to the crowd as they leave the event.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave to the crowd as they leave the event.

The legacy of Dr King’s lifelong activism and the brilliance of his oratorical skills will live on but like President Obama stated, change takes courage. It remains to be seen how many will heed that call and demonstrate the courage that is needed to address the substandard lifestyle that prevails in many minority communities today.  –OnPointPress.net