Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!
“A Trailblazer is someone who doesn't necessarily have the same opportunity, the same leg up as another person, but they emerge as a superstar in their lives. A Trailblazer is somebody who paves that path for themselves… and someone who blazes that trail for future generations, they don't look back.” Forging ahead for the good of the community at large.
Cicely Tyson, the pioneering Black actor who gained an Oscar nomination for her role as the sharecropper’s wife in “Sounder,” won a Tony Award in 2013 at age 88 and touched TV viewers’ hearts in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” died Thursday at age 96.
Tyson’s death was announced by her family, via her manager Larry Thompson, who did not immediately provide additional details.
“With heavy heart, the family of Miss Cicely Tyson announces her peaceful transition this afternoon. At this time, please allow the family their privacy,” according to a statement issued through Thompson.
A onetime model, she began her screen career with bit parts but gained fame in the early 1970s when Black women were finally starting to get starring roles. Tyson refused to take parts simply for the paycheck, remaining choosey.
“I’m very selective as I’ve been my whole career about what I do. Unfortunately, I’m not the kind of person who works only for money. It has to have some real substance for me to do it,” she told The Associated Press in 2013.
The U.S. Postal Service issued the August Wilson Black Heritage stamp. This Forever stamp was dedicated during a virtual ceremony and is now being sold at Post Office locations nationwide and online at usps.com/wilsonstamp.
News about the stamp is being shared on social media using the hashtags #AugustWilsonForever and #BlackHeritageStamps.
Legendary playwright August Wilson is the 2021 Black Heritage Forever stamp honoree.
The August Wilson stamp is being issued as a Forever stamp in panes of 20.
"The Postal Service is honored to issue the August Wilson Forever stamp," said dedicating official Joshua Colin, vice president, Delivery Operations, U.S. Postal Service. "Wilson is hailed as a trailblazer who brought fresh perspectives and previously unheard voices to the stage."
Colin was joined for the ceremony by Constanza Romero, trustee of the August Wilson Trust and widow of August Wilson; Sakina Ansari, daughter of August Wilson; Phylicia Rashad, actor, director; and Stephen McKinley Henderson, actor and associate artistic director for the audio recordings of August Wilson's American Century Cycle. The virtual ceremony also included photos from the August Wilson Archive courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh and a video tribute featuring actor Viola Davis. The ceremony can be viewed on the Postal Service Facebook and Twitter pages.
"August Wilson was a literary master. He understood the inherent power of language," said Rashad. "I am overjoyed that the Postal Service has selected this inspired playwright as its 44th honoree in the coveted Black Heritage stamp series."
One of America's greatest playwrights, Wilson is hailed as a trailblazer for helping to bring nonmusical African American drama to the forefront of American theater.
August Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel in Pittsburgh, PA, on April 27, 1945. After dropping out of high school, he became a voracious reader at the local library, served in the Army for a year, and worked a variety of jobs. In 1965, the year he took the surname of his African American mother, he discovered the blues, which inspired a lifelong fascination with the importance of music and oral tradition in African American culture. Energized by the Black Power movement, he helped found a theater company in 1968 in Pittsburgh's Hill District, his childhood neighborhood. In the late 1970s, Wilson moved to St. Paul, MN, where he worked for a science museum, honing his scriptwriting skills by adapting Native American stories into plays for children.
Between 1982 and 2005, Wilson focused on writing his acclaimed American Century Cycle. This series of 10 plays includes nine set in Pittsburgh's Hill District, with one play for each decade of the 20th century. Loosely connected through a few characters who appear at different stages of their lives, the American Century Cycle plays have been praised for being emotionally powerful but not sentimental, and for demonstrating Wilson's ear for African American storytelling traditions. All 10 plays have been produced on Broadway, and several have returned to the Broadway stage for critically successful revivals.
The only play in the American Century Cycle not set in Pittsburgh, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" chronicles a tense 1927 recording session in Chicago that reveals truths about the exploitation of African American musicians and the tenuous nature of African American success. Noted for its statement about the blues as a way of understanding African American life, the play debuted at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 1984; Wilson typically debuted his plays with regional theater companies before honing them for the Broadway stage. "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" opened on Broadway later the same year. Several awards and nominations marked the Broadway production as a turning point for Wilson's career, including a New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best American Play and a Tony Award nomination for Best Play, and the original Broadway cast recording won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording. The film adaptation of the play was released on Netflix last month.
With lyrical language and the emotional power of the blues as staples of his work, Wilson collected innumerable accolades, including seven New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards; a Tony Award for 1987's "Fences"; and two Pulitzer Prizes for "Fences" and 1990's "The Piano Lesson."
Art director Ethel Kessler designed this stamp with art by Tim O'Brien.
The August Wilson stamp is being issued as a Forever stamp in panes of 20. This Forever stamp is always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price.
A pictorial postmark of the designated first-day-of-issue city, Pittsburgh, PA, is available at usps.com/shopstamps.
Lloyd J. Austin III is the 28th secretary of defense, sworn in on Jan. 22, 2021. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., Austin served 41 years in uniform, retiring as a four-star Army general after three years as commander of U.S. Central Command.
Austin is an American retired four-star Army general who has been the United States secretary of defense since January 22, 2021. Austin previously served as the 12th commander of United States Central Command. Austin was the first black commander of CENTCOM, and is the first black secretary of defense.
JAN. 22, 2021
I am honored to have this chance to serve again and to do so alongside you and your families. My wife, Charlene, and I know all too well the sacrifices you make to keep this country safe. That safety is job one, and I promise to work as hard as you do at it.
The way I see it, my job as Secretary of Defense is to make you more effective at doing yours. That means ensuring you have the tools, technology, weapons, and training to deter and defeat our enemies. It means establishing sound policy and strategy and assigning you clear missions. It means putting a premium on cooperation with our allies and partners. And it means living up to our core values, the same ones our fellow citizens expect of us.
Right now, of course, doing my job also means helping our country get control of the pandemic, which has killed more than 400,000 Americans. You have already come to the aid of our Nation's health care professionals. You can expect that mission to continue. But we must help the Federal Government move further and faster to eradicate the devastating effects of the coronavirus. To that end, we will also do everything we can to vaccinate and care for our workforce and to look for meaningful ways to alleviate the pressure this pandemic has exerted on you and your families.
None of us succeeds at this business alone. Defending the country requires teamwork and cooperation. It requires a certain humility, a willingness to learn, and absolute respect for one another. I know you share my devotion to these qualities.
I am proud to be back on your team.
The Day One Message to the Force memo can be found here.
Hall of Famer and one-time 'home run king' Atlanta Braves legend Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron passed away Friday morning at the age of 86.
Aaron played briefly in the Negro Leagues before making his Major League Debut with the then-Milwaukee Braves at age 20. He soon developed a reputation as “Hammerin’ Hank,” winning the MVP award in his fourth season after hitting 44 home runs and 132 RBIs.
In 1974, he cemented his legacy by breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career home runs. When Aaron retired, he held the all-time record at 755 home runs for decades until Barry Bonds passed him with 762 home runs.
Aaron won the World Series in 1957, won the Golden Glove award three times, and still remains the RBI leader and total base leader with 2,297 and 6,856, respectively. He was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1982.
Aaron played 23 seasons in the MLB, mostly with the Milwaukee / Atlanta Braves, before finishing his career with the Milwaukee Brewers. His No. 44 jersey was retired by both teams.
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali once called Aaron “the only man I idolize more than myself.”
Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1934.
Amanda Gorman, the youngest poet ever to perform at a presidential inauguration, recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” at today’s Presidential inauguration.
Transcript of The Hill We Climb:
Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans and the world, when day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice. And yet the dawn is hours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time, where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man. And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us but what stands before us. We close the divide, because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true, that even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried. That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious, not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lighten the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made, that is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare, it’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we stepped into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith, we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption. We feared at its inception. We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, “how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?”, now we assert, “how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?” We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be, a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation.
Because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. Our blunders become their burdens. But one thing is certain. If we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy, and change, our children’s birth right.
So let us leave behind a country better than one we were left with, every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. We will rise through the gold-limbed hills of the west, we will rise from the windswept northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover, in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful. When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.
This is democracy's day, a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve. Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew. And America has risen to the challenge. Today we celebrate the triumph, not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The people, the will of the people, has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded.
We've learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.
So today I stood on hallowed ground, where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol's very foundation, we come together as one nation under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries. As we look ahead in our uniquely American way, restless, bold, optimistic, and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be.
I've taken the sacred oath each of those patriots before me has taken. The oath first sworn by George Washington. But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us, on we the people, who seek a more perfect union. This is a great nation. We are good people. And over the centuries, through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we've come so far, but we still have far to go.
We'll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities. Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain. Few people in our nation's history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we're in now.
A once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country. It's taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. Millions of jobs have been lost, hundreds of thousands of businesses closed, a cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.
A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can't be any more desperate or any more clear, and now a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.
To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy. Unity.
In another January, on New Year's Day in 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper, the president said, and I quote, "if my name ever goes down into history, it'll be for this act, and my whole soul is in it."
"My whole soul is in it." Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause.
Uniting to fight the foes we face, anger, resentment and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness. With unity, we can do great things, important things.
We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus. We can reward work and rebuild the middle class and make health care secure for all. We can deliver racial justice and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.
So, with purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasked of our time, sustained by faith, driven by conviction, and devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts.
May God bless America and may God protect our troops.
Thank you, America.
President Joe Biden
Kamala D. Harris is the Vice President of the United States of America. She was elected Vice President after a lifetime of public service, having been elected District Attorney of San Francisco, California Attorney General, and United States Senator.
Vice President Harris was born in Oakland, California to parents who emigrated from India and Jamaica. She graduated from Howard University and the University of California, Hastings College of Law.
Vice President Harris and her sister, Maya Harris, were primarily raised and inspired by their mother, Shyamala Gopalan. Gopalan, a breast cancer scientist and pioneer in her own right, received her doctorate the same year Vice President Harris was born.
Her parents were activists, instilling Vice President Harris with a strong sense of justice. They brought her to civil rights demonstrations and introduced role models—ranging from Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to civil rights leader Constance Baker Motley—whose work motivated her to become a prosecutor.
Growing up, Vice President Harris was surrounded by a diverse community and extended family. In 2014, she married Doug Emhoff. They have a large blended family that includes their children, Ella and Cole.
Throughout her career, the Vice President has been guided by the words she spoke the first time she stood up in court: Kamala Harris, for the people.
In 1990, Vice President Harris joined the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office where she specialized in prosecuting child sexual assault cases. She then served as a managing attorney in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and later was chief of the Division on Children and Families for the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office.
She was elected District Attorney of San Francisco in 2003. In that role, Vice President Harris created a ground-breaking program to provide first-time drug offenders with the opportunity to earn a high school degree and find employment. The program was designated as a national model of innovation for law enforcement by the United States Department of Justice.
In 2010, Vice President Harris was elected California’s Attorney General and oversaw the largest state justice department in the United States. She established the state’s first Bureau of Children’s Justice and instituted several first-of-their-kind reforms that ensured greater transparency and accountability in the criminal justice system.
As Attorney General, Vice President Harris won a $20 billion settlement for Californians whose homes had been foreclosed on, as well as a $1.1 billion settlement for students and veterans who were taken advantage of by a for-profit education company. She defended the Affordable Care Act in court, enforced environmental law, and was a national leader in the movement for marriage equality.
In 2017, Vice President Harris was sworn into the United States Senate. In her first speech, she spoke out on behalf of immigrants and refugees who were then under attack. As a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, she fought for better protections for DREAMers and called for better oversight of substandard conditions at immigrant detention facilities.
On the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, she worked with members of both parties to keep the American people safe from foreign threats and crafted bipartisan legislation to assist in securing American elections. She visited Iraq, Jordan, and Afghanistan to meet with servicemembers and assess the situation on the ground. She also served on the Senate Judiciary Committee. During her tenure on the committee, she participated in hearings for two Supreme Court nominees.
As Senator, Vice President Harris championed legislation to reform cash bail, combat hunger, provide rent relief, improve maternal health care, and address the climate crisis as a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Her bipartisan anti-lynching bill passed the Senate in 2018. Her legislation to preserve Historically Black Colleges and Universities was signed into law, as was her effort to infuse much-needed capital into low-income communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On August 11, 2020, Vice President Harris accepted President Joe Biden’s invitation to become his running mate and help unite the nation. She is the first woman, the first Black American, and the first South Asian American to be elected Vice President, as was the case with other offices she has held. She is, however, determined not to be the last.
Source: White House
A life worth living and a man willing to share his wisdom, PUM sends our condolences and prayers to the family and friends of Josifani M. Moyo, 79, who died December 9, 2020. A mathematics professor who taught at the Bidwell Training Center on the North Side of Pittsburgh, he began as a math instructor at the career training institution in 1972, according to Post-Gazette archives. He also served as the director at the academic support center at Bidwell. A true King of all Kings...
PUM had the honor of saluting and interviewing Mr. Moyo in the past, and respectfully share his words of encouragement to our audience:
“My arrival to the U.S.A. was in August 1963. That happened to be the time of
the March in Washington. Civil rights was the topic of the day. I was invited by
Pittsburgh organizers but my college had an early start in August and I was
focused on the task at hand. I did follow all the reports on the march and Dr. M
L King’s address. The civil rights movement relates my firm conviction that all
individuals can achieve their goals if they work hard and take advantage of
educational opportunities most states provide. As one who benefitted from
scholarship education at no cost to my family, I have made it my life goal to give
back by engaging adult students to make improvements in their academic abilities
and take advantage of the vocational programs our school provides.
Nothing comes easy. All progress in life requires our best effort and although
there are no guaranties we must continue to engage those who are short sighted.
A better tomorrow requires us to do our best to prepare now for whatever might
come in the future”
Josifani Munyika Moyo, affectionately referred to as Daddy, Pop-Pop, Uncle Joe and by most simply as “Joe Moyo”, was born on October 3, 1941 in Zishavane, Zimbabwe.
Joe is the eldest son of six children born to Jairos Munyika and Shoorayi Shumba Moyo of the Shona speaking Bantu Tribe. Joe was fiercely devoted to his family, particularly to his mother, to whom he often described as “the kindest person one could ever meet”.
By 1957, at the young age of 16, Joe was one of only four students in his primary class selected to attend Fletcher High School, a prominent government sponsored all male boarding school in Gweru, Zimbabwe. Upon graduation from Fletcher High School in 1963, Joe received a full scholarship to continue his academic pursuits in the United States at Waynesburg University, Waynesburg, PA, where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics and Chemistry. After graduation, Joe attended Purdue University in West LaFayette Indiana, where in 1970 he earned a Master of Science Degree in Chemical Physics.
During this period in 1967 Joe married Janet Lee Patterson of Pittsburgh, PA. Together they spent the next fifty-four years through life together, during which time they produced two daughters, who became the center of Joe’s and Janet’s life. Erita Munyika Moyo was born in 1967 and Selina Munyika Moyo followed in 1974.
From 1972 to 2020 Joe was the Academic Program Director and Mathematics Instructor at Bidwell Cultural Training Center-Manchester Craftman’s Guild, Pittsburgh, PA., where he was noted for his very successful and unique style of teaching, known as “Moyo’s Math”.
At the sacrifice of his own desires, wants, and needs, Joe’s complete humility, devotion to his family and his personal values based on giving, and giving , and giving has left an unreplicable imprint of giving on his family, both in the United States and in Zimbabwe, and the City of Pittsburgh.
Consequently, Joe leaves a legacy, which was truly ordained by GOD himself before the beginning of this world His deep affection and lifelong passion for golf, which he developed during his youth in Zimbabwe, continued to the end of his life. In fact one year Joe’s endless enjoyment of golf rewarded him with a remarkable hole-inone. Joe’s sudden and unexpected departure has left an enormous void filled with pain for his family and all of those who loved him. This is chiefly due to the one common denominator in Joe’s life, which was simple and quite clear, as his math lessons. It was “Love”.
Josifani Munyika Moyo is survived by his beloved wife and life partner for fifty-four years, Janet Lee Moyo; Daughters Erita Munyika Moyo, Plainfield, Illinois; Selina Munyika Moyo Anderson, Son-in-Law Charles Anderson, Esquire, and adored granddaughter Leah Erita Anderson, Fort Mill, SC. Joe is also survived by two direct siblings’ eldest sister Erita Tagwi and younger brother Zivai Mbrenego Moyo of Zimbabwe. Joe is loved and cherished by scores of students in the Pittsburgh area and an army of extended family both in the United States and worldwide, and a host of friends.
Joe’s only and last request is to have his remains returned to the soil and land of which he originated.
Honoring the legacy of Josifani Munyika Moyo
Statement from Family...
It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman.
Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV.
A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.
It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.
He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side.
The family thanks you for your love and prayers, and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.
PUM Contributor Kam Williams, interviewed Chad Boseman in 2013 for PittsburghUrbanMedia.com.
Hailing from Anderson, South Carolina, Chadwick Boseman is an accomplished actor, scriptwriter and playwright who, until now, was probably best known for portraying the character Nate on the critically-acclaimed dramatic TV series Lincoln Heights. Prior to entering show business, Chad earned degrees at Howard University and the British American Dramatic Academy at Oxford.
Here, he talks about playing Jackie Robinson opposite Harrison Ford and Nicole Beharie in 42, a biopic about the late Hall of Famer’s historic breaking of Major League Baseball’s color barrier back in 1947.
Kam Williams: Hi Chad, thanks for the interview.
Chad Boseman: Nice to talk to you, Kam.
KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I appreciate the opportunity to ask you a question, especially because everything changed for Jackie Robinson in my hometown of Montreal. What did it mean to you to portray Jackie Robinson and how did you prepare for the role?
CB: It’s just a great honor to play him. In order to portray him, I basically paid attention to three different aspects of the role. First, the physical aspect of baseball, and his five-day-a-week workout regimen starting with Spring Training in the middle of January all the way to May. Secondly, I studied Hall of Fame footage of Jackie so that I could emulate his batting stance, how he took leads, how he ran bases, the arm slide he used in certain situations, and his fielding style. Thirdly, there was the question of how to attack the role. I didn’t want to just do an imitation. I wanted to interpret it while remaining faithful to the script and [director] Brian Helgeland’s vision.
The research also included reading, and talking to Jackie’s widow, Rachel, and his daughter, Sharon, in order to deliver the most authentic interpretation of him possible.
KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams asks: Was the role at all intimidating to you? Did you feel any pressure to get Jackie right, given his importance in history?
CB: Yes, because Jackie is a hero to people from so many walks of life whose reverence for him is often based on different interpretations of who he was. I also felt a certain amount of responsibility to give an accurate account of his life and the person that he was for the benefit of the youth who don’t know him. But I still felt a great responsibility to Rachel Robinson and his family. She has carried on his legacy for decades, and she’s carried the torch for this film. So, my main goal was to do right by her.
KW: Peter Brav says: You were absolutely awesome in the role. My 85 year-old mother, a concentration camp survivor, embraced the Brooklyn Dodgers when she came to this country in 1946. She saw 42 and hasn't stopped talking about how you ARE Jackie in the movie. Prior to auditioning, how much of the Jackie Robinson story did you know?
CB: I knew his story since I was a kid. My parents told me stories about him. And I learned about him, Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders at church. I didn’t know anything about Jackie’s personality, or the specifics about his family or where he came from. So, I went into the audition with very limited knowledge of the facts that you would need to play him.
KW: Kate Newell asks: In doing this film, what did you find out about Jackie Robinson that surprised you the most?
CB: I was surprised that he was considering quitting baseball just before he was signed by the Dodgers’ GM Branch Rickey [played by Harrison Ford]. He had become disenchanted with barnstorming across the country in the Negro League for several reasons: he often had to play several games a day; there were a lot of places where African-Americans couldn’t stop to eat, sleep, buy gas or even use the bathroom; and he wasn’t being paid enough at a time when the most important thing to him was taking care of his family. I was also surprised that baseball was only his fourth best sport. He had greatness in him already. He was an All-American football player, a great basketball player, and he could’ve gone to the Olympics in track and field. Jackie was a better athlete than his brother Mack who had been a silver medalist behind Jesse Owens in the 200 Meters at the ’36 Olympics in Berlin. So, Jackie was well aware of his talents but felt very frustrated by the fact that there was no place in the United States at that time where a black man could fully actualize himself. Fortunately, baseball became that place where he could reach his full potential, although he might have achieved it in other sports. But that frustration of his potentiality almost made Jackie quit.
KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: Jackie Robinson encountered extraordinary obstacles on account of the color of his skin pursuing his professional baseball career. Have you encountered similar obstacles in your acting career?
KB: Well, you don’t get the same opportunities as white actors. Every year, Hollywood is looking for that new, white leading man and new white starlet that audiences fall in love with. But they’re not looking for the next Denzel Washington, Will Smith or Sidney Poitier. Some of that is due to the fact that even in our educational process we’re taught history from a totally Eurocentric perspective. And so it’s no surprise that we grow up to value European literature. Since we don’t value our own history, African-American stories don’t get made into movies as much. Your being the protagonist or the hero is not a fundamental part of our culture. That’s what I run up against trying to get cast as an actor, and that’s what I feel needs to change. It’s very difficult to make strides to play big roles in big movies when our culture doesn’t support it and therefore the movies can’t.
KW: What did you major in at Howard, Acting or Black Studies?
CB: I majored in directing. However, I did spend some time at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, so I am somewhat well-versed in African Studies.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
CB: One wish instantly granted? Woo! I would love for my grandmother and my sister to have been able to see this movie. They both passed.
KW: My condolences Chad. Thanks again for the time, and best of luck with 42.
CB: Thank you, Kam.
(Kam Williams was a frequent contributor to PUM, as a film critic and literary writer, Kam caught up with many noted actors and celebrities. Kam, who enjoyed a nearly 22-year career as a writer, passed away May 30, 2019 from prostate cancer. He was 66 years old.)
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of their skin
but by the content of their character."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.-
When it comes to Americans making one of their most important 2020 decisions, the election of a President and Vice President, Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream has not come true for the little child referenced when Kamala Harris said to Joe Biden, “You know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bussed to school every day, and that little girl was me.” Instead of judging by the content of the 55-year-old’s meteoric career as it pertains to her becoming Vice President of the United States, naysayers and outright haters are judging Senator Harris by factors such as her race, gender, national origin, and choice of a spouse.
The worst misogynists have publicly declared Senator Harris to be a “nasty,” “mean,” “horrible,” “phony” woman. Other would be detractors disregard the following facts:
· Following Harris’ graduation from Westmount High School in Quebec, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Howard University and, subsequently, a Law Degree from Hastings Law School;
· She became Deputy District Attorney for the Alameda County District Attorney's Office;
· She served as managing Attorney of the Career Criminal Unit of the San Francisco District Attorney's Office; headed the San Francisco City Attorney's Division on Families and Children; and was elected as the San Francisco District Attorney;
· While serving as California Attorney General, she had a stellar victory by ending negotiations for a settlement from the country's five largest financial institutions for improper mortgage practices and, subsequently, obtained a $20 million settlement which was five times the original proposed figure for California; and
· After being elected to the Senate, she has served on the Senate Budget, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, and Intelligence Committees.
Sadly, as was the case with President Barack Obama, some sickened by racism folks cast aspersions regarding whether Senator Harris is “Black enough,” both in terms of skin color as well as other misguided essentialist views regarding what it takes to be “Black,” e.g. “maybe she isn’t Black enough because her parents were highly educated bourgeois folks in Berkeley California.” Added to this counterproductive narrative regarding “Blackness” is the “Misogyny Litmus Test” for a “Black” electoral official. This view, held by some Blacks as well as Whites, maintains that the “ideal Black” is one who is a function of miscegenation and immigration, i.e.,  someone whose demeanor has been supposedly enhanced by a mix of “White,” “Caribbean,” “Asian,” or “African” blood;  someone with relatively recent geographic roots outside of the United States; and, in short,  any “Exotic Black” other than a “pure” descendant of African slaves in America.
Then there are those who ignore the biblical admonition not to “tear asunder” what “God has put together.” They, along with the racists who for centuries prevented interracial marriages, just can’t take Senator Harris at her word when she stated, "Look, I love my husband, and he happened to be the one that I chose to marry, because I love him… and he loves me.”
Before engaging in any of the foregoing foolishness regarding Senator Harris, people should at least read her book, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey. Therein, for example, the reader will find Harris’ detailed analysis of how health disparities begin “in the delivery room;” the need for “every medical school in the country to require implicit bias training for their students…;” and why “… improving health outcomes across the board demands that we transform the health care system itself.”
Before offering irrelevant criticism, read carefully Harris’ analysis of how “The criminal justice system punishes people for their poverty. …Whether or not someone can get bailed out of jail shouldn’t be based on how much money he has in the bank. Or, the color of his skin.” Review her criticism of the fact that Blacks pay 35 percent higher bail than Whites for the same charge and how Latinos pay nearly 20 percent more. In response to this miscarriage of justice, Senator Harris introduced legislative actions to replace the bail bond system.
Now is not the time for petty presidential politics given that our nation is sinking into an abyss of lies, deceits, exploitation, manipulation according to race and ethnicity, misogyny, homophobia, and other deplorable acts similar to those during the time that Hitler desired to make Germany great again. With Americans dying by the second as a result of a grossly mismanaged health pandemic, now is not the time to engage in castigations regarding “birtherism.”
Now is the time to heed Senator Harris’ admonition to us, i.e., “Even as our democracy faces an assault unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes, we have to remember that our system works when people who care about the Unite States stand up and participate. My daily challenge to myself is to be part of the solution, to be a joyful warrior in the battle for the soul of the country. My challenge to you is to join that effort. Let’s not throw up our hands when it’s time to roll up our sleeves.”
Jack L. Daniel
Co-Founder, Freed Panther Society
Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media
Author, Negotiating a Historically White University While Black
August 16, 2020
Senator Kamala Harris, is the Democratic vice presidential nominee in the 2020 election.
On January 26, 2020, a helicopter carrying former pro basketball player Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others crashes in Calabasas, California, roughly 30 miles north of Los Angeles; everyone onboard dies. ... Not long after takeoff, the helicopter crashed in foggy conditions.
Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996 until 2016, winning five NBA Championships and the 2008 Most Valuable Player award while making the All-Star team in 15 of his 20 seasons. By his mid-career, Bryant had established himself as one of the greatest players in NBA history, known for his clutch shooting, capable defending, work ethic, and longevity.
Bryant and his daughter, along with the other passengers, were headed to Gianna’s basketball game at the his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California. Not long after takeoff, the helicopter crashed in foggy conditions. The accident shocked sports fans across America and around the world. Bryant had been set to host the Grammy Awards that very evening, and the ceremony became one of the first of countless tributes to him and his daughter. The Los Angeles Airport, the Empire State Building and the Burj Khalifa were all lit in purple and yellow, the Lakers’ colors, in tribute to Bryant. Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant’s longtime teammate, sometime rival, and another of the era’s greatest players, said he had “no words to express the pain” he felt at Bryant’s death, and fellow NBA legend Michael Jordan called Bryant “one of the greats of the game and a creative force.”
Oronde Sharif remembers meeting Vernell A. Lillie when he was 10. He and his brother were always in tow when his busy mother Shona, a choreographer, dancer and Pitt lecturer, was out and about at meetings and events. Lillie, a former associate professor of Africana Studies and founder of Pitt’s Kuntu Repertory Theatre, was a close friend of Shona’s.
Years later, when Sharif was an undergraduate student at Pitt, he found himself in Lillie’s office more often than his mother’s.
“I would go there just to talk,” said Sharif, who is now director of Pitt’s Shona Sharif African Drum and Dance Ensemble, part of Africana Studies. “And not about acting … we talked about student life. Dr. Lillie was like that mother, grandmother or mentor who had so much knowledge.”
Lillie, who retired from Pitt in 2006, died on May 11, her 89th birthday.
A poster from the Kuntu Repertory Theatre Records, housed at Pitt. (Kuntu Repertory Theatre Collection, c. 1970-2013, CTC.2015.01, Curtis Theatre Collection, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System)
Born in 1931 in Hempstead, Texas, Lillie arrived in Pittsburgh in 1969 to pursue a doctorate at Carnegie Mellon University. In 1973, she began teaching in what was then Pitt’s Department of Black Community, Education, and Research and, along with prolific poet and playwright Rob Penny, founded Kuntu the following year. The new theater company exposed Pittsburgh audiences to cutting edge ideas, art, culture and the Black community’s social and political concerns. For nearly four decades, it featured works by Penny, Pulitzer Prize-winning Pittsburgh native August Wilson and other Black playwrights. The Black Arts Movement was thriving in cities like Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago and Pittsburgh, and Lillie and her peers were in the forefront.
Kuntu was the first company to mount the August Wilson play “Homecoming” in 1976, which Lillie directed. Actors such as Sala Udin, Emmy-winner Esther Rolle and Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company founder Mark Southers, performed on the Kuntu stage, located at Pitt’s Stephen Foster Memorial, and later at Alumni Hall. Chadwick Boseman of “Black Panther” fame also had a play staged by Kuntu and acted in it, under Lillie’s direction.
Sharif remembers Lillie, along with people like Shona, Penny and former department chair Barbara Sizemore as providing the depth, soul and energy to that corner of campus. Students would hang out in their offices, listening to advice and absorbing like sponges.
Many of Sharif’s friends were actors and some say that studying under Lillie was the highlight of their Pitt experience. Sharif enjoyed watching the Kuntu rehearsals and always stayed late after a final performance to help strike the set, just to be of help to Lillie.
“I just gravitated to her,” he said.
Sala Udin, who acted in Kuntu plays and eventually served on Pittsburgh City Council for 10 years, said Lillie was “a serious taskmaster” of a director, compared to others. And she was all about educating her audience.
“She integrated teaching into her directing,” he said. “She was always serious about people have an intellectual curiosity and an understanding of Black theatre.”
Lillie was known for opening up Kuntu to community members and non-theater majors. Even those who lacked acting experience were welcome to audition for one of the plays, which often used music and African themes to bring stories of Black life to its audiences.
Pitt Professor of History Laurence Glasco, whose career at Pitt started around the time Lillie arrived, says he was always impressed by the quality of the Kuntu performances, including many works by Penny, whom Lillie liked to showcase.
“I found a lot of human interest in the plays, though they had a political message,” he said. “Vernell had an orientation in Black consciousness and Black Power but it didn’t overwhelm the work or make it one-dimensional at all.”
Glasco also enjoyed the “talk-back sessions” Lillie offered at the end of a performance, in which the cast would return to the stage and engage with audience members.
Lillie and actor Lamman Rucker at a National Black Theater Festival. (Courtesy of Lamman Rucker)
While he was a Duquesne University student, actor Lamman Rucker was in the cast of Penny’s play “Nefertari Rising” and Lillie made an indelible impression on him. As she did often, Lillie brought in a guest director, this time Woodie King Jr., the founding director of the New Federal Theatre in the lower east side of Manhattan. The experience inspired Rucker to move to New York to work with King.
“There’s so much excellence that you see on stage, Broadway, screen and through regional theater, it leads back to Dr. Lillie’s leadership,” he said. “So much of what I say and do has come from her, especially while training artists now.”
Rucker, who has appeared in Tyler Perry films and on the popular “Law & Order” TV series, said Lillie inspired him to establish The Black Gents of Hollywood, a Black male artist’s collective.
“Now that she’s an ancestral spirit, she’ll continue to guide me,” he said.
Lillie’s robust career at Pitt garnered her many awards, including the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1986, a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania in 1998 and the Pennsylvania Creative Community Award in 2006. A scholarship in Lillie’s name was established at Dillard University in New Orleans, her alma mater. She kept Kuntu alive even after her retirement. The company’s final performances were at the Homewood Library in 2013. But Sharif, Udin and the others feel her presence will stay with them.
Said Rucker: “She breathed life into me and so many people. Her work, vigor and love for us will continue to pour through us forever.“
A treasure trove of items and correspondence related to Kuntu Repertory Theatre’s 40-year journey at Pitt is being catalogued at the University Library System. Donated in 2015 by the family of Vernell A. Lillie and facilitated by the Kuntu staff and board of directors, the items filled 500 boxes when they arrived at the University Library System’s Ford E. and Harriet R. Curtis Theatre Collection.
Project archivist Megan Massanelli said the archives are being separated into two collections—the Dr. Vernell A Lillie Papers and the Kuntu Repertory Theatre Records. She says the boxes contained several hundred audio and video recordings, and a special grant came through last fall to help the library preserve and digitize them, including recordings from the Bob Johnson Papers.
The Lillie Papers will include syllabi for classes, personal research materials, academic records, department correspondence and personal letters, photos and school yearbooks. Materials cover the years 1950 through 2013. The Kuntu Records will contain written, audio and photographic records documenting the history and activities of Kuntu Repertory Theatre.
“Kuntu was the predominant Black performing arts group in Pittsburgh for more than 35 years,” said Massanelli. “It provided a platform for Black artists and technicians and examined the Black experience with the goal of creating personal growth and social change.”
While there is no official finding aid available yet, information on the two collections can be found in the following places:
Source: University of Pittsburgh
The Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh was also the site of the National Negro Opera Company, which flourished from 1941 to 1962. It set the stage was set for the rise of Kuntu Black Theatre to reach international influence.