Ava DuVernay: Director, Producer, and Screenwriter

By: Korrien Hopkins

There’s something very important about films about black women and girls being made by black women. It’s a reflection as opposed to an interpretation.

Ava DuVernay is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor. DuVernay was born on August 24, 1972 in Long Beach, California. She was raised by her mother, Darlene, an educator, and her stepfather, Murray Maye. She grew up in Lynwood, California near Compton and graduated in 1990 from Saint Joseph High School in Lakewood. She attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and double majored in English Literature and African-American studies. During her summer vacations, she would travel to the childhood home of her stepfather, which was not far from Selma, Alabama. DuVernay said that these summers influenced the making of Selma and her successful career in film.

Prior to her filmmaking career, DuVernay worked as a publicist and marketer for 14 years. The award-winning firm she worked with provided strategy and execution for more than 120 film and television campaigns for acclaimed directors. These included directors such as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann, and Bill Condon. DuVernay is also the founder of ARRAY, a grassroots distribution and advocacy collective dedicated to strengthening films by people of color and women. DuVernay sits on the boards of both Sundance Institute and Film Independent and in 2017, DuVernay was named one of Fortune Magazine’s 50 Greatest World Leaders and TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, DuVernay won the U.S. Directing Award Dramatic for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, and was the first African-American woman to win the award. For her work in Selma in 2014, DuVernay was the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award. With Selma, she was also the first black female director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. In 2017, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for her film 13th in 2016. DuVernay’s latest film premiered March 9, 2018. The groundbreaking fantasy film A Wrinkle in Time, had a budget exceeding 100 million dollars, making her the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of that size. DuVernay was the first of many, setting the bar high and opening the door for future women of color filmmakers like myself. She continues to inspire many and displays what it is to be a phenomenal woman of history by using her power to share stories of those like us.

Fannie Lou Hamer: Civil Rights Activist

By Tatiahna Turner

You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.

The youngest of 20 children, Fannie Lou Hamer was born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi. From the age of 6 Fannie picked cotton with her family. She was allowed to attend the plantations’ one-room school house where she discovered her love for reading and poetry. However, at the age of 12 Fannie had to leave school to support her parents. She continued picking cotton and it said that at the age of 13 she could pick 200-300 pounds of cotton daily despite having a disfigured leg as a result of polio. She continued to develop her reading skills in Bible Study at her church, and in 1944, when her plantation owner found out that she was able to read and write, he selected her as the plantations’ time and record keeper. That same year, Fannie married a tractor driver on the plantation. Perry “Pap” Hamer and Fannie remained married for the next 18 years. Later, In 1961, while having surgery to remove a tumor Hamer was given a hysterectomy without consent by a white doctor. This was part of the state’s compulsory sterilization plan to reduce the number of poor blacks in the state and blacks in general. She is credited soon after for coining the phrase, “Mississippi appendectomy”.

Hamer became interested in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950’s when she heard leaders in a local movement speak at the annual Regional Council of Negro Leadership. In 1962, Hamer learned about the right to vote from volunteers at a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) meeting. After this meeting, she began taking action in the civil rights movement. On August 31, Hamer traveled to Indianola, Mississippi to attempt to register to vote. She was not successful in this endeavor and when she returned home to the plantation she was fired by the plantation owner who had warned her against trying to register. Hamer’s husband was required to stay on the plantation until the end of the harvest season. On September 10, while staying with a friend, Hamer was shot at 16 times by the Ku Klux Klan. In fear of further retaliation, Hamer and her family moved to Tallahatchie County the next day where they stayed for three months. On December 4, Hamer returned to her hometown to take the literacy test but failed and was turned away. It is said that she told the registrar, “You’ll see me every 30 days till’ I pass.” Fannie said about the event, “I guess if I’d had any sense, I’d have been a little scared — but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do was kill me, and it kinda seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember.”

After being hired as a field secretary by the SNCC in 1963, Hamer attended a citizenship conference in Charleston, South Carolina. On the way, the party stopped in Winona, Mississippi where they were refused service inside of a local café. Shortly after, a highway patrol man came into the establishment with a bat and intimidated the activists to leave. As one of the members of the group was jotting down the license plate number of the officer’s car, a police chief entered and began arresting anyone that was with the party. Hamer and her colleagues were arrested and taken to a local jail where they were beaten and brutalized. Hamer was taken to a cell where the inmates were instructed to beat her with a baton. The police made sure that she was held down during this almost fatal attack. Hamer was released on June 12, 1963. It took her more than a month to recover, and she was still left with injuries. She sustained a blood clot over her left eye and permanent damage to one of her kidneys. When Fannie returned to Mississippi she organized a voter registration drive.

Hamer died of complications of hypertension and breast cancer on March 14, 1977. She was buried in Ruleville, Mississippi. Her tombstone was engraved with one of her famous quotes, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Marsha P. Johnson: The Pioneer

By Korrien Hopkins

Marsha P. Johnson was a leader during the standoff that culminated in the infamous Stonewall Riots, a rallying cry against police surveillance and harassment of people in New York’s LGBTQ community during the 1960s. Johnson was a black transgender activist who did many things to enact change in her community. She mentored and helped provide housing for homeless LGBTQ youth, served as an activist for AIDS with the organization Act Up, and founded organizations to serve trans communities. She was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, and she co-founded the gay and transvestite advocacy organization, STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), alongside her close friend, Sylvia Rivera.

Sadly, the activist tragically died in 1992 at the age of 46. Her body was found in the Hudson River. The circumstances surrounding her death are still being examined. It was first ruled a suicide, but the case has since been reopened. Despite the loss of a pioneer in the LGBTQ community she lives on through her legacy. Today, we still fight against hate and discrimination of the LGBTQ community. We continue to push for peace and equality and we wouldn’t be nearly as far as we are without strong women like Johnson.

Why Black Panther’s 16-Year-Old Sister Shuri is So Important

By Tatiahna Turner

          The new Marvel movie, Black Panther which is set to be released in theaters February 16, 2018 has what some may call an unexpected important character. Letitia Wright will be playing the role of Black Panther’s 16-year-old half-sister, Shuri. Although Shuri has been around in the comics, Black Panther will be her cinematic debut. It couldn’t have come at a better time given our society’s current climate surrounding the equality and representation of women. In this day and age the young, bright minds of women in our community need inspirational characters like Shuri to remind them that women can be intelligent and powerful. In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Wright has only good things to say about Shuri, “She’s princess of Wakanda, but also she designs all of the new technology there. . . She’s so vibrant; a beautiful spirit, but also so focused on what she does. And that’s good for other people to see, especially young people to see, because it’s like, ‘Look, there’s a young black girl who loves technology and she’s from Africa.’ It’s something refreshing.” Nate Moore, Black Panther’s producer says that Shuri is, “the smartest person in the world, smarter than Tony Stark but she’s a sixteen year old girl which we thought was really interesting.” Moore goes on to say, “Again, black faces in positions of power or positions of technological know-how, that’s a rarity. So it’s something that’s a big part of the film.”

The underrepresentation of women in film of, and especially black women in positions of power, is something that is rarely talked about. It seems that society often forgets just how powerful film and television can be in our lives. It can be subconsciously defeating or discouraging for women to never see themselves portrayed in films or shows across the world as intelligent, strong, and beautiful. More often than not, we are made to seem weak-minded, powerless, and beneath our male counterparts. The representation of women as simply objects that can be controlled and taken advantage of is very degrading, and is why it is important that we begin to see more characters like Shuri on the big screen.  For a woman of color to be a centerpiece of a film and to be portrayed as “the smartest person in the world,” I would say is a great first step in the right direction.

Long Live the Legacy of Coretta Scott King

“What most did not understand then was that I was not only married to the man that I love, but I was also married to the movement that I loved.”

By Korrien Hopkins

Martin Luther King Jr. may be the United States’ most well-known civil rights activist of all time, but there’s no denying that his wife Coretta Scott King was a hero in her own right.

Coretta, born and raised in Marion, Alabama, graduated from high school as valedictorian in 1945. She studied singing at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston when she met Dr. King. After the two married in 1953, they moved to Montgomery, Alabama and had four children.

Coretta, a classically trained musician, gave up her dream of becoming a singer and became “The First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement.” She devoted much of her time to raising their children during King’s career as a pastor and activist, though she would often speak about civil rights at churches, colleges, and other organizations.

Two months after her husband was assassinated in 1968, Coretta founded The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. She took on leadership within the movement for racial equality and fought to make her husband’s birthday a federal holiday for nearly two decades. She oversaw the first nationally observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 20, 1986.

Coretta continued to make history throughout her life by working fearlessly to create the change her husband had worked so hard for. She became the first woman to deliver the annual class day address at Harvard University and the first woman to preach at a worship service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. During her remarkable life, she received over 60 honorary doctorates and helped found dozens of organizations dedicated to advancing human rights. She was a leader in the women’s movement and a fierce defender of LGBTQ rights.

Coretta Scott King died from ovarian cancer on January 30, 2006. She became the first woman and first African American to lie in honor in the Georgia state capitol’s rotunda. The “First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement” powerful legacy continues to live on today. Although there is no Coretta Scott King Day, it’s important that we acknowledge these sacrifices made by her and many women like Coretta. She, like many women, made sacrifices for the sake of the advancement of all, even when the cost was her own well-being. These sacrifices should be held to a high standard because without her legacy, the legacy of her husband would be far different. She showed the world that a person can only be as strong as their partner. She showed the power of women in the movement and is still a role model for many women today. I will always uplift her legacy and strive to be as powerful as she was.

“The woman power of this nation can be the power which makes us whole and heals the rotten community, now so shattered by war and poverty and racism. I have great faith in the power of women who will dedicate themselves whole-heartedly to the task of remaking our society.”  – Coretta Scott King

 

 

 

Strong woman takes back her life

By Ann Varner

Meet Destiny. People all over the U.S. and the world know her as the woman who lost her husband and 15 month old son to a drunk driver when she was only 21 years old. Her story was published all over news outlets, magazines, and trended on social media.

I’ve known her as my beautiful, amazing, and incredibly strong friend since our sophomore year of high school. On September 20, 2014, Destiny, her husband Corey and their 15 month old son, Parker, were driving to an appointment. They were struck head on by a drunk driver.

Parker died immediately and Corey fought for his life for the next 12 hours, but ultimately succumbed to his injuries on September 21st. Destiny went from being a mother and a wife to a widow and an angel mom in one day.

No one who knew Destiny would have blamed her for giving up. However, Destiny didn’t do that. I asked her what was going through her head the moment she decided that she wasn’t going to give up and that she was going to take charge of her life.

“I was driving around in the dark trying to find some sort of hope,” Destiny shared. “Tears went down my face and I thought every bad day and every bad moment is a moment and day that woman (drunk driver) is stealing from me. I refused to allow her to take anything else. From that moment on, I chose to accept my reality. Tears and anger weren’t bringing them back. It was time to carry on their legacy and try to live out the life they wanted.”

 Three years later Destiny is a businesswoman through ItWorks. She and her now husband make over six figures a year working from their phones. She does this so she doesn’t have to go into a job and take away cherished moments from her loved ones.

Destiny is also the biggest advocate I know against drunk driving. Every year for Parker and Corey’s birthdays she organizes drives for “random acts of kindness.” She told me it’s “her way of still celebrating with them and making them known to the world and spreading their love”. She uses social media and visits schools to speak against drunk driving.

Destiny is a woman who could have ended her life or drowned her sorrows. Instead her bravery and strength endured and she now travels the world, owns a home, owns her business, works from home, and has saved many lives by advocating against drunk driving, all by the age of 24. To me, she exemplifies strong womanhood.

 

British Singer NAO brings ‘Wonky Funk’ to life

by Zaquoya Rogers

Talk about #blackWOMANmagic! Nao, a black British singer raised in East London, has been all the buzz in her hometown. She started singing in high school, training the choir with their harmonies. Later, she attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to study vocal jazz. She then become a backup singer, but opportunity arose one night at a nightclub. A manager discovered her that night and she later released her first song in October 2014.

Since then, many labels have reach out to Nao to get her to sign, but this queen chose to start her own record label called Little Tokyo. Her unique sound blends with off-center pop-funk, electronic and R&B. Many say her “silvery voice glimmers like tinsel but lands like steel.” Nao calls her own sound “wonky-funk,” coining the term. Her debut album, For All We Know, was released in July 2016 and earned a Brit Nomination for Best Female Solo Artist.

Women’s History Month Trivia

 

by Devashree Naik

Who is the current Chairperson and the CEO of the second largest food and beverage business in the world known for being the architect of the sustainability business model in that company?

Answer: Indra Nooyi

At the age of 51, Indra Nooyi assumed the role of the President and

https://www.forbes.com/profile/indra-nooyi/

CEO of the PepsiCo in 2006 and was promoted to the role of Chairperson in 2007. She has since been the chief architect of Performance with Purpose, PepsiCo’s promise to do what’s right for the business by doing what’s right for people and the planet. This Mrs. Nooyi calls a “future-proof” model, the PepsiCo’s commitment to sustained growth with a focus on human, environmental, and talent sustainability and performance. In 2015, amid much controversy and shock to the investors, she pronounced that the PepsiCo is no longer a soda company. In her tenure of a Leader of largest food and beverage giant, she has been vocal about changing the image of the organization from a sugary carbonated beverage making company to a company that has a nice mix of healthy and fun products in its product line.

Indra Nooyi was born in Madras (now Chennai) in Tamil Nadu state in India. Growing up in a conservative Brahmin family, her homemaker mother instilled in her the confidence and a quality to push back against adversity, which Indra strongly believes being responsible for her success in the male-dominated industry. She holds a B.S. from Madras Christian College, an M.B.A. from the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta and a Master’s of Public and Private Management from Yale University. She has consistently ranked among the world’s 100 most powerful women.

In addition to being a member of the PepsiCo Board of Directors, Mrs. Nooyi serves as a member of the boards of U.S.-India Business Council, The Consumer Goods Forum, Catalyst, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Tsinghua University. She is also a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and was appointed to the U.S.-India CEO Forum by the Obama Administration. Apart from her professional career, she was a lead guitar player in an all-women rock band in her hometown of Madras, India and was a cricket player in college. Her former boss at PepsiCo and now dean of business schools at Wake Forest University, Steven Reinemund, fondly talks about her as “a deeply caring person” who “can relate to people from the boardroom to the front line.”

Women’s History Month Trivia

by Matiara Huff

Question 5: Who is the first African-American woman to lead an S&P 500 company and currently serves as a founding board director of ‘Change the Equation’?

Ursula Burns

By U.S. Government Printing Office [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ursula Burns was the first black women to become the CEO of a fortune 500 company. She became CEO of Xerox in July 2009 until December 2016. In 2014 Forbes rated her the 22nd most powerful women in the world. Though both of her parents were Panamanian immigrants, she was raised by her mother alone in a housing project in New York.

Her career at Xerox began as a summer internship which turned into a permanent position a year later when she finished her master’s degree at Columbia University. In January 1990, she became an executive assistant to a then senior executive. In June 1991, she became the executive assistant to then chairman and chief executive Paul Allaire. In 1999 she became vice president for global manufacturing. In May 2000, she became senior vice president of corporate strategic services where she worked closely with soon to be CEO Anne Mulcahy. They both described it as a true partnership.

Since she finished working at Xerox, Burns has become a founding Board Member of Change the Equation, which is an organization working to improve STEM-based education.

Women’s History Month Trivia

by Ann Varner

Who was the first woman stockbroker who demanded and got the right to join her male trainees on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange?

Answer: Norma Yaegar

http://normayaeger.com/press-room/

Norma Yaeger was born in 1930 in New York City. As most women did in the 1950’s, Norma married young and started a family right away. She relied on her husband to support their family. When Norma’s husband lost his job, Norma decided she wanted to work in stock exchange and enrolled in the Hornblower and Weeks Inc. stockbroker training program in 1962. Not only was Norma the first woman to graduate a stockbroker training program, Norma fought to have equal pay as well as walk on the New York Stock Exchange floor – was the first woman to do so. Norma remarried after her divorce and moved to California. In 1981, she started her own brokerage firm, Yaeger Securities. She had licenses with many different exchanges. If you are interested in knowing more about this trailblazing woman, she has written a book called “Breaking Down the Walls.