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    This was an easy weekend of fun for most celebrities, but this weekend also proved to be one of the greatest for Ne-Yo and his new wife Crystal Renay.

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    Rihanna teased a teaser for her “Work” music video, featuring Drake.

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    The Kardashian-Jenner sisters, minus Kendall Jenner, celebrated sister Sunday.

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    Danai Gurira was joined by The Walking Dead cast members, host Chris Hardwick, and super fan Yvette Nicole Brown on Talking Dead.

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    Lupita Nygon’o enjoyed a special moment with Angelique Kidjo, who came to see the Oscar winner in the Danai Gurira-written Eclipse.

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    Drake and Odell Beckham Jr. had dinner with a third dude.

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    Nia Long said hello to the world from a Bentley.

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    Oprah and Viola Davis‘s daughter Genesis Tennon enjoyed Davis and her husband’s vow renewal ceremony.

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    Ne-Yo and and Crystal Renay tied the knot on Sunday, Feb. 21st.

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    By Patrick T. Cooper


    As we embark upon Women’s History Month, I am elated to share a bright collaboration that is sure to make an impact on our community. The contributions of women cannot be ignored in our world. I am sure we all know the history and stories of women in the workforce during World War II. Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon of the United States, representing the American women who worked in factories and shipyards during Word War II, many of whom produced munitions and war supplies. Furthermore, the iconic imagery and slogan “We Can Do It,” eons before social media, is an inspirational image used to boost worker morale and was produced by J. Howard Miller in 1943 for Westinghouse Electric. The poster is generally thought to be based on a black-and-white wire service photograph taken of a Michigan factory worker named Geraldine Hoff.

    Starting today is a movement to empower a new generation of women in the workforce. We at UPTOWN are proud to shed light on the creative collaboration between O, The Oprah Magazine, Talbots, and Dress for Success. Don’t walk, run or reserve your exclusive garments and remember “WE CAN DO IT!”

    According to a press release:

    ”O Magazine’s Creative Director, Adam Glassman, teamed up with Talbots’ design team to create the exclusive O, The Oprah Magazine for Talbots Capsule Collection. This limited-edition 7-piece collection will hit Talbots stores nationwide beginning February 22 as we head into Women’s History Month and will be available through April 3, with 30 percent of the net proceeds benefiting Dress for Success.

    “On Saturday, March 5, all Talbots stores across the country will hold ‘Spring Style Shopping Parties,’ where women nationwide can shop at 25 percent off (excluding the capsule collection), enjoy refreshments, and make donations to Dress for Success. Donations of nearly new office-appropriate attire will be accepted at any Talbots location from March 3 to March 6, while monetary donations will be accepted at the register of each store through April 3.”

    Shop the O, The Oprah Magazine for Talbots Capsule Collection here.

    For more than 15 years Patrick T. Cooper has consistently influenced fashion, art, and entertainment. With an innate creative ability, Cooper curates visual imagery that sets trends. Cooper mindfully manipulates color, texture, and layering to create a lifestyle and his mantra “Live in color,” which is an exercise to be and live freely. This attitude is evident in each uniquely designed piece of the Patrick T Cooper Resort Collection. For more information go to or follow him on social media @patricktcooper.

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    As the landscape of the alcohol industry sporadically changes, there has been a constant and impressive growth of sparkling wines in the past six years. Through this phenomenon, a new player has emerged, whose mantra is, “Living in Tradition … Daring to Create a New One.” Hence, the birth of ACCA and its first expression — Sorél Demi-Seco. ACCA Sorél Demi-Seco is the first of its kind, offering the uniqueness of the hibiscus plant, thus creating an unforgettably intense red-burgundy nectar with natural exotic aromas and flavors. It’s a style and taste profile totally niche to the world of sparkling. ACCA’s creative license has coined a new segment in sparkling wine, called “Effervescent Nectar.” Stating, all “Effervescent Nectars” are sparkling wines, but not all sparkling wines are “Effervescent Nectars.” This new classification represents a nectar of unrivaled balance infused with exotic flavors. ACCA, is a movement of luxury and sophistication for individuals looking to forge a new tradition.

    “Don’t allow tradition alone to define you” — ACCA.


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    “Today is my dad’s birthday. I know there’s nothing more in the world he would have wanted than to meet his grandchildren,” writes Kim Kardashian West on her website. “So I wanted to share this pic of Saint with you all.” Kim also shared the first image of Saint West on her app.


    Doesn’t Saint look just like his dad Kanye West?

    Kim also shared an image of her father Robert Kardashian on Instagram in memory of his birthday.

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    UPTOWNsocial has teamed with Cirque du Soleil for an amazing UPTOWN Getaway for two.

    One lucky winner will receive two (2) free tickets to see Michael Jackson One and a 2-night hotel stay at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The winner will also receive a $100 food credit.

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    No one, not even cops, can shut down Beyoncé. As several law enforcement groups have vowed not to provide security for Beyoncé’s “Formation” tour, Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam has pledged the Fruit of Islam to secure the tour.

    Law enforcement groups in cities such as New York and Miami vowed not to provide security for Bey’s concerts because they say the “Formation” music video and her subsequent Super Bowl Halftime performance were anti-police.

    In a Facebook video, Farrakhan explained why he and the Fruit Islam support Beyoncé:

    “She started talking that Black stuff. And white folks, ‘We don’t know how to deal with that.’ Well, you taught us everywhere we went about the Holocaust. But we had sympathy for you. But when one of us shows some independence, look at how you treating Beyoncé now. You’re going to picket? You’re not going to offer her police protection? But the FOI will.

    “So we say to our hip-hop community: Say what you feel. Put it out there with strength. They allowed you to call your women bitches and whores. Put it out there. Say how you love your Black self and you want to see Black people free. We’ll back you up.”

    The speech has been titled, “The Cultural Revolution is On!” and offers support to Kendrick Lamar, as well as Bey.

    [Image: Facebook/Instagram]


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    By Wendy Gladney

    For many, the name “Morehouse” evokes images of strong, African-American men. Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), on the other hand, is co-ed and predominately female in its enrollment (39 percent male and 61 percent female in 2015). Albeit a co-ed institution, the school recently elected its first female president and dean in its 40-year history. As an African American woman, she is not only the school’s first female president, but also the nation’s first African-American woman to lead a freestanding medical school. So who, then, is this pioneer and trailblazer? Her name is Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice.

    Dr. Montgomery Rice (OB-GYN) attended Georgia Institute of Technology where she pursued her undergraduate degree in chemistry. She started out on the path to become a chemical engineer; however, close to the culmination of her matriculation, she realized that a vital element was missing. People. While she enjoyed math and science very much, she missed having a human interaction and wanted to make a difference everyday in the lives of people. Ultimately, she believed that medicine would be the link allowing her to pursue both her interests and her passion. Upon graduating from Georgia Tech, Dr. Montgomery Rice went on to pursue her medical degree at Harvard Medical School and completed her residency at Emory University School of Medicine.

    In her current position serving as the sixth president of Morehouse School of Medicine and with the current climate surrounding the topic of healthcare in America, Dr. Montgomery Rice acknowledges a deep responsibility not only to MSM, but also to the broader population. When asked how the healthcare industry is changing today, her response is that there is already rapid change occurring in the field, and it is going to continue changing exponentially over the next five to 10 years. This is due, largely in part, to technology, which she refers to as “disruptive” (though not necessarily in a negative way). According to Dr. Montgomery Rice, “technology has changed the game in healthcare.” The mandate of Electronic Health Records, for instance, is changing the way patient information is processed and stored. Doctor’s offices and hospitals are moving away from the old fashioned “charts” to an electronic record, which tracks a patient’s medical history generated by one or more encounters in any care delivery setting.

    There are other ways in which the healthcare industry is changing. More physicians are employed by hospitals and institutions, versus owning their own practices. Dr. Montgomery Rice believes it is critically important to have collaborations and partnerships, but acknowledges that while both necessary and good, this also has a down side. It limits entrepreneurship and limits doctors from starting and opening their own local practices. As employees of hospitals and institutions, physicians and medical practitioners are limited in how they practice medicine and healthcare because they are now being “managed” by their employers.

    The upside to these changes is that measured outcomes across multiple populations are higher and better. There is a focus on Population Health Management, which collects patient data across various resources and analyzes it into one record to improve outcomes. In other words, it seeks to improve the health outcomes of a group (i.e.: populations with chronic diseases) by monitoring and identifying individual patients within that group. Data analysis, too, has been a central focus and determines the outcome of how care is delivered. Take genomic data, for instance. Thanks to advances in technology, medical professionals have the opportunity to capture information in disease research, which allows researchers to better understand the genetic bases of drug response with particular diseases. As an advocate of human engagement, Dr. Montgomery Rice asserts that it’s not enough to know the demographics of the population you’re serving. Now, we need data analysis to determine how to deliver care.

    To that end, Dr. Montgomery Rice notes that another positive change within the industry comes from an increase in patient-centered care. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) defines patient-centered care as: “providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.” With patient-centered care, there is more of a focus on the individual and on improving the quality of the doctor-patient relationship. This improvement also means decreasing the over-usage of testing, prescriptions, hospitalizations, and referrals. Patients want a personal relationship, communication and empathy from their physicians. Patient-centered care allows for that.

    When it comes to how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) plays a role in the future of healthcare for the under-served community, we know that approximately 11 million individuals have now gained access to health care as a result. Since the Affordable Care Act guards against high healthcare costs (and helps to keep costs down), primary care visits are expected to increase upwards of 15-26 million visits annually. Whether a proponent of the ACA or not, it has tremendously decreased the uninsured population. Part of that formerly uninsured population included students and young adults no longer covered under their parents or guardians, and without health benefits from an employer. The increase in dependent coverage, which allows young people to stay on their parent’s coverage until 26 years of age, resulted in a net increase of young adults with access to healthcare. Because of the access it allows, the Affordable Care Act also helps with preventive health care. People who now have access to health care (when formerly they did not) are now able to go to the doctor sooner, increasing the likelihood of discovering illnesses and diseases, and allowing for earlier diagnoses for issues that otherwise may not have been caught in time (or at all).

    A renowned infertility specialist and researcher, Dr. Montgomery Rice believes that intervention influences individuals. She participated in a study on cervical cancer and early pre-stage diagnosis (“dysplasia”), which can be detected on a routine pap smear. The study showed higher incidences of diagnosing early-stage cervical cancer for those who didn’t originally have access before the Affordable Care Act. Now, with an expansion of access, there has been a significant increase of women with earlier diagnoses, giving them an opportunity for treatment to prevent cervical cancer altogether. The study also showed that the proportion of early stage disease detection increased from 67.9 percent in 2009 to 84.3 percent in 2011. Numbers we can, and should, all be proud of.

    While at the helm of MSM, Dr. Montgomery Rice understands both the challenges and opportunities that come with such a position. However, most importantly, she believes she can make a difference. She is passionate about upholding the school’s mission to “improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities” and desires to bring resources to help create and advance health equity, while empowering others in the process. Part of the school’s mission is also to lead in the creation and advancement of health equity, as well as increase the pipeline of opportunities for young people to go into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) with a focus on healthcare. Dr. Montgomery Rice also places an emphasis on utilizing STEAM as a workforce development catalyst. Morehouse School of Medicine is also working to increase the number of Black males that enter into the healthcare field and attend medical school. In 2013-2014, there were approximately 48,000 medical school applicants; of which, 20,000 actually attended. Of those 20,000 attendees, only 500 were Black males. In 2015, that number increased to 515, accounting for just over 1 percent of medical school applicants.

    Data shows that black males are equally as interested in medical school or science fields in high school as their female counterparts. So why are these numbers so low and how can they ever increase? It starts with early education and MSM is already proactively working towards this goal. MSM is all about community engagement and has adopted a local elementary school where each student has a MSM mentor that they engage with both monthly and quarterly to advance their interest in STEAM subjects. They are also building a STEAM lab that provides access to multiple opportunities and exposes the students to and advances their skills in, STEAM subjects through fun activities like: Legos, robotics, hands-on experiments, computer games, and 3D printers. Dr. Montgomery Rice would like to see a rise in high school graduations with more students interested in pursuing science but that exposure needs to be increased before high school. Thus, the implementation of such MSM programs and initiatives.

    For Dr. Montgomery Rice, she believes the disparity between the numbers of Black males enrolled in medical school and the number of applicants is due to a few different factors. One comes from the lack of opportunity and exposure when it comes to assisting or promoting black males going to medical school. Another comes from the lack of role models that “look like them” in these fields. And quite arguably most importantly, the media still plays a significant negative role in how Black males are portrayed. She contends that our young Black men are seeing a reflection of themselves, not as a doctor or someone with a PhD, but as someone unemployed who can’t seem to get a leg up. This is where strong role models come in to dispel these myths and erroneous representations. When these young men fall, experience stumbling blocks or get discouraged, they need mentors that can encourage them and who can also help provide resources to help them get back up. Through their mentorship program, MSM and Dr. Montgomery Rice are aiming to do just that.

    As MSM celebrates its 40th anniversary, the school has stayed true to its mission, which is to “improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities, increase the diversity of the health professional and scientific workforce, and address primary health care through programs in education, research, and service; with emphasis on people of color and the under-served urban and rural populations in Georgia, the nation, and the world.” Dr. Montgomery Rice and MSM understand that they can’t keep talking about health disparities, but they have to continue to do something about it. As president, Dr. Montgomery Rice wants to advance interventions leading to health equity and believes this can be achieved through MSM’s pipeline initiatives for under-served communities and by partnering externally to ensure that the discoveries are important to the community.

    Quite notably one of the most interesting things about Dr. Montgomery Rice is that when asked, it was never part of her master plan to be where she is today. But faith, family, and the opportunity to empower others have consistently led her along her path. Ultimately, when asked what kind of legacy she would like to leave, the two words she would want said about her is that “she cared.” Today, she wants people to know that she is using her platform as an opportunity to make a difference and to be a voice for the under-voiced. She feels that many have the capacity, but don’t have the opportunity to sit at the table and it is her desire to help level the playing field, let others know how much their gifts are truly valued and give them the chance to pull up a chair.

    Wendy Gladney is a life and leadership coach, motivational speaker, and writer. No stranger to the media world, Gladney has been a guest writer for many publications. She is a regular columnist for the Los Angeles Sentinel;and the Inland Valley News. Contributing to her diverse media background, Gladney has also hosted a local talk show called, Building Bridges with Wendy Gladney, and currently every Thursday morning, Gladney can be heard as a guest speaker on KJLH Radio 102.3 FM’s Front Page with Dominique DiPrima. Gladney’s professionalism is extended through her membership in many notable organizations including: International Coaching Federation (ICF), National Speakers Association (NSA), and the UCLA Black Alumni Board of Directors among others. A native of Southern California, Gladney received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Gladney is committed to service through community, faith, and family. She is married to Jerome Dean.


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    Rihanna has surpassed the King of Pop Michael Jackson in No. 1 hit singles on the Billboard charts.

    Until releasing “Work,” a collaboration with former beau Drake, Rihanna and Jackson had been tied with 13 No. 1 singles. But Monday’s release topped the Billboard singles chart, making RiRi the third artist in music history with the most No. 1 singles.

    The Beatles are in first place with 20 No. 1 singles; Mariah Carey is second with 18 No. 1 singles.

    It’s surprising that Rihanna has placed higher than the anointed Beyoncé.

    Rihanna took to Instagram to celebrate the distinction with her Navy of fans.

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    Lupita Nyong’o and the women of Eclipsed are taking a historic turn on Broadway. And the timing could not be more perfect.



    Broadway audiences are currently witnessing history in the making with the critically acclaimed production of Eclipsed. The brilliant and brutal masterful work of art holds the distinction of being the first play to be written by, directed by, produced by and starring black women. And according to its playwright Danai Gurira, it’s about time.

    “That for me is really the most important thing, the exposure of these voices,” she said. “Honestly, the reason why I write what I write is because it’s kind of inexplicable the silence and the lack of representation around these types of women and these stories.”

    Gurira, who is most notably known as an actress — the star of the wildly popular AMC series The Walking Dead — wrote the play fresh out of finishing her studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she earned her Master’s of Fine Arts. She’s starred on Broadway in the August Wilson play Joe Turner’s Come And Gone but is making her Great White Way debut as a playwright with Eclipsed.

    “That’s kind of the thing that excites me the most is the idea that we’re breaking that type of barrier with these types of women and hearing these particular voices on The Great White Way,” she said. “It’s really time to break through those barriers and show that there isn’t a reason for the lack of representation or the under-representation.”

    [Cover Fashion Credits: Lupita: Dress: Sue Wong; Jewelry: Ofira earrings; Shoes: Christian Louboutin: Danai: Dress: Pamella Roland; Jewelry: Ofira Bracelet & Hueb Earrings; Shoes: Obi Cymatica; Saycon: Dress: Randi Rahm; Jewelry: H. Stern Earrings and Rings; Shoes: Ivanka Trump; Pascale: Dress: Badgley Mischka; Jewelry: Hueb; Shoes: Sigerson Morrison; Akosua: Dress: Dennis Basso; Jewelry: Ofira Earrings & Elena Votsi Ring from Muse; Shoes: Christian Louboutin; Zainab: Dress: Randi Rahm; Jewelry: H. Stern Bracelet & Forevermark Earrings; Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti]


    Eclipsed, which played a sold out run at New York City’s Public Theater last fall, stars Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o joined by an ensemble of fierce theater thespians, including Pascale Armand, Akosua Busia, Zainab Jah and Saycon Sengbloh.

    Through the lens of Obie award-winning director Liesl Tommy, audiences are exposed to a remarkable story never told before: of five extraordinary women brought together by upheaval in their war-torn homeland of Liberia. They forge a close-knit bond during the devastating despair and severe brutality of the African nation’s second civil war.

    “Creating this play was an act of love and it was really something that I couldn’t let go of,” Gurira said. The actress/playwright, who is of Zimbabwean descent, journeyed to Liberia to interview the women who survived the brutal war. “I really felt like I had to tell this story and I was really scared out of my mind.”

    “I got on a plane from New York to Ghana and from Ghana to Liberia and I was broke,” she revealed. “All of those grants … you get the money after you get back. I needed it before I went … but I knew I had to do it, my heart felt really driven to tell the stories in the voice of the women. We all knew who [Liberian politico] Charles Taylor was, but no one knew who these amazing women were who survived the war and helped it end, but they know who he is. So that sort of infuriated me. So I said I’m going to try and get these women to tell me their stories. I was crazy.”

    [Fashion Credits: Lupita: Dress: Angel Sanchez; Hueb Earrings; Shoes: Christian Louboutin; Danai: Dress: Randi Rahm; Jewelry: H. Stern; Shoes: Marc Fisher; Akosua: Dennis Basso; Elena Votsi Arrow Ring from Muse; Ofira Earring; Shoes: Christian Louboutin; Zainab Dress: Randi Rahm; Jewelry: H. Stern; Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti; Saycon: Dress: Theia; Ofira Earrings; Shoes: Stuart Weitzman; Pascale: Dress: Theia; Ofira Earrings; Shoes: Christian Louboutin]


    EYES ON THE PRIZE “It’s about diversifying.” says Lupita Nyong’o, who is of Kenyan descent. “I’m very proud to be a part of a production that is changing the narrative of what is possible on Broadway.”

    Nyong’o, who won the Oscar for her breakout performance in 2013’s Best Picture 12 Years A Slave, became familiar with Gurira’s play during her undergraduate studying at the Yale School of Drama.

    “I was first cast as the understudy in the role I’m playing now so it was the very first role I under-studied and it was the very first role that I was assigned to at Yale,” she confessed. “I was just drawn. I thought it was an incredibly engaging and riveting story and I was just dumbfounded that I never experienced anything like it before — five African women telling their stories and each of the women are so distinct from the other one. And it was so funny and also heart-breaking at times. It was just a very powerful story.”

    Recently starring in the global box-office juggernaut, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Nyong’o said Eclipsed left a lasting impression. “I made a mental note that I really wanted to do it some day and so it just lingered with me over the years and so when I had theater practitioners asking what I wanted to do after the success of 12 Years A Slave, I came back to this over and over again. I just very, very strongly felt for it and believed in it.”

    The same sentiments about Gurira’s prose are shared among her co-stars, who formed a sort of sisterhood during the show’s previous run.


    BORN TO DO IT Pascale Armand, of Haitian descent, has been with Eclipsed the longest, performing in three productions before Broadway. “This is my role.”

    Armand has been with the play the longest (performing in three productions before making it to Broadway) and the feminist aspects of Eclipsed are what drew her to it initially. “There are no men … You’re seeing the story from the female perspective … being able to tell this story and not have a male voice in it is just wonderful because most of the time women’s voices are silent. And so being able to speak for ourselves and tell the story the way we want to is wonderful and it’s something we haven’t seen in a long time.”

    The New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts alum, who is of Haitian descent, briefly worked with producers of the play before, as an understudy in the Broadway production of The Trip to Bountiful, starring Cicely Tyson, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Vanessa Williams. “This is the first time that I’ve been a part of the production from beginning to end,” she stated. “This is my role.”

    [Fashion Credits: Lupita: Dress: Roland Mouret; Jewelry: Dannijo Earrings; Shoes: Christian Louboutin; Pascale: Dress: Bibhu; Hueb Earrings; Shoes: Christian Louboutin]


    REBEL YELL “I have family members, who were involved in the Liberian Civil War and I haven’t seen them since the war,” says Sierra Leone native Zainab Jah, who portrays a female rebel soldier in Eclipsed. “So this character was very real to me.”

    Jah plays the brazen female rebel soldier and hails from Liberia’s neighboring country Sierra Leone. The actress, like Nyong’o, is making her Broadway debut in Eclipsed and described the experience as “nerve wracking.”

    Though a seasoned theatrical actress (she portrayed a black female version of Hamlet in a Philadelphia production of Shakespeare’s classic last year), she recognizes she’s performing the role of a lifetime — one she also connected with as soon as she read it on the page. “I read it and I said I know exactly who she is,” she revealed. “When I first went to the audition, I asked Danai was it based on real-life women and she asked me ‘How do you know that?’ and I told her that I knew much about their stories … I have family members, one female cousin, who were involved in the war and I haven’t seen them since the war. So this character was really real to me.”

    [Fashion Credits: Dress: Pamella Roland; Jewelry: Forevermark]


    THIS WOMAN’S WORK Ghana native Akosua Busia, best known as “Nettie” from the film version of The Color Purple, has worked with refugees from the Liberian Civil War, which Eclipsed tackles. “You cannot put everything on that stage, but you do your best and bring some kind of homage to the people who went through that.”

    Eclipsed is a return to The Great White way for Busia—last seen on the boards in 1991’s short-lived Langston Hughes play Mule Bone. The veteran actress, who is most remembered for her role as Nettie in the landmark Steven Spielberg film, The Color Purple, retired from the business after giving birth to her daughter Hadar Busia-Singleton (with ex-husband filmmaker John Singleton) in 1996. The daughter of a former Ghanaian prime minister, Busia is actively involved with humanitarian causes in her native land. Her sister, a professor at Rutgers University, told her to read the script because she knew of Gurira after being dazzled by her at an event for the African Women’s Development Fund.

    “So I read it and a couple of days later I met with Liesl and Danai and when I was going back to the rail station, they asked ‘Where do you live?’ and I said, “Ghana.” When I got back to Penn Station, they said ‘You cannot go back to Ghana, you have to do this thing with us,’” she chuckled. So I did it and at the end of the run, they said this is going to Broadway. I went home and now I’m back.

    “This work resonated with me because of the work I’ve been doing with the refugee camp for Liberians. Ghana was one of the countries they fled to,” she added. “Danai’s writing is so specific and although, as an actress, you cannot put every [thing] on that stage, you have to do your best and bring some kind of homage to the people who went through that.”

    [Fashion Credit: Dress: Royal Lineage/House of Tso Tso, designed by Vanessa Harrison]


    GOLD MEMBER Saycon Sengbloh is the only one in the cast with roots in Liberia, where Eclipsed is set. “I think it’s really awesome to be a part of something like this, in terms of making history.”

    For Sengbloh, Eclipsed hits home the most. She’s the sole cast member with roots in Liberia. The singer/actress, who has appeared in Broadway productions of Motown The Musical, Holler If Ya Hear Me, Fela!, Wicked and Rent, is elated that the show is on Broadway—and making history.

    “I’m really proud. I think it’s really awesome to be a part of something like this, in terms of making history.”

    Nyong’o, who is of Kenyan descent, said having Sengbloh as part of the production was a great resource for helping with the research and even mastering the voice of the people. “YouTube was a great, great place to find samples of Liberian dialect,” she reflected. “And we were so fortunate to also have Saycon who is of Liberian descent as well.”

    [Fashion Credits: Dress: Randi Rahm; Jewelry: H. Stern; Shoes: Stuart Weitzman]


    Gurira, who has a new play, Familiar, also playing this season in New York City, said her mission with her work is to amplify these types of stories. “We want to provoke change. And that’s really why I started to write; it’s about social activism. It wasn’t just about fame or anything like that.”

    Nyong’o added: “I’m very proud to be part of a milestone of a production that is all female: directed, written and performed by. The voices are coming out and saying that an inclusion needs to occur at the point of which stories are being told and what stories get the support to reach the audience. And so it’s about diversifying that. And for me, I’m very proud to be a part of a production like none other that has been on Broadway and is also changing the narrative of what is possible on Broadway.”


    LABOR OF LOVE “Creating this play was an act of love and it was really something that I couldn’t let go of, “says writer Danai Gurira (pictured here with her play’s star, Lupita Nyong’o). “I really felt like I had to tell this story and I was scared out of my mind.”


    [Fashion Credits: Lupita: Dress: Angel Sanchez; Hueb Earrings; Shoes: Christian Louboutin; Danai: Dress: Randi Rahm; Jewelry: H. Stern; Shoes: Marc Fisher]

    [Hair & Makeup: Elena George, Daryon Haylock, Andi Yancey, Jacen Bowman, Yalewa Melvin; Manicurist: Mayumi Abuku; Editorial Assistant: Brandon M. Washington; Styling Assistants: Jessie Muldrow, Aaron Sha-Bethea, Isiah Scott, Darryl Williams, Paul Ali; Set Decor: Roche Bobois (Damion Jones, Los Angeles; Sandro Mardkha, New York City); Britto Agency Intern: Destiny Nurse]

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    A new study has found that #OscarsSoWhite is only the tip of the exclusion iceberg in Hollywood. The comprehensive study claims that Hollywood has been so “whitewashed” that there is an “epidemic of invisibility” for women, minorities and LGBT people, reports the Associated Press.

    The Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism conducted the study, issuing an “inclusivity index” for 10 leading media companies, including Disney, Amazon, and Netflix. Rolling Stone reports, most media companies failed.

    “The prequel to #OscarsSoWhite is #HollywoodSoWhite,” USC professor Stacy L. Smith, one of the report’s authors, told the AP. “We don’t have a diversity problem. We have an inclusion crisis.”

    The Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity” analyzed 414 films and TV series found that a third of speaking roles were female, 28.3 percent were minorities, and 2 percent were identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

    “The study considered over 11,000 speaking characters for gender, race, ethnicity and LGBT status; around 10,000 directors, writers and series creators, along with over 1,500 executives, were also examined,” reports Rolling Stone.

    The determination is that that “the landscape of media content is still largely whitewashed.”

    This is why it’s important for Black media outlets to exist, and for us to tell our own stories.

    “We strive to tell rich, vibrant, and culturally-nuanced stories at UPTOWN, which is why I chose to feature Eclipsed and these beautiful and talented women, all of whom are of African descent, on our cover,” says UPTOWN Editor in Chief Isoul H. Harris. “There is a gross lack of representation of people of color in all aspects of storytelling in Hollywood, as we are witnessing right now with 2016 being the second year in a row that no actors of color were nominated for an Academy Award. However, across the country on the so-called Great White Way, there is this phenomenal play, and the first written by, directed by, produced by and starring Black women. Eclipsed is a superb model of diversity that will hopefully serve as a catalyst for the needed change in Hollywood, Broadway and beyond. It was important for me to showcase this on the pages of UPTOWN.”

    RELATED: Bold & Black On The Great White Way

    [Image: turtix/]

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    Either Kanye West‘s new album The Life of Pablo really sucks and he needs to keep the publicity going and/or he really needs some sort of mental help. Today brings us another rant from West. This time he was partying with Yo Gotti, who was hosting at 1Oak in Los Angeles, and addressed the recent controversy with Taylor Swift. West also referenced his former flame Amber Rose‘s implication that he enjoys anal stimulation, saying, “That bitch ain’t never stick no fingers in my ass … I don’t play like that!” West later tweeted:

    Watch Kanye West’s latest rant below.

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    “I’ve made this decision. Not only am I having a girl, but I picked the girl from her little embryo. I picked her and was like, ‘Let’s put in the girl.’ I think I was most excited and allured by the fact that John would be the best father to a little girl. That excited me. It excited me to see … just the thought of seeing him with a little girl. I think he deserves a little girl. I think he deserves that bond. A boy will come along. We’ll get there too, so it’s not like we really have to pick. But he definitely is very lucky to have a little girl. And this girl is going to be so completely lucky to have John as her papa — it’s crazy!”

    — Chrissy Teigen speaks to People exclusively about undergoing in vitro fertilization to conceive her first child with husband John Legend. The Cravings cookbook author also spoke candidly about choosing to implant a female embryo. Teigen and Legend are expecting their little girl in spring.

    RELATED: Tyra Banks & More Celebs Who Chose Surrogacy

    [Image: Instagram]

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    One of today’s brightest new talents, Oxford, North Carolina-born singer and Yebo Music Group recording artist, Taye Johnson, masterfully blends old-school soul with new-school flare. Heavily influenced by some of the great musicians he grew up listening to — Ottis Redding, James Brown, Sam Cooke — Johnson’s soaring voice and charismatic stage presence will soon sit him comfortably among contemporary stars, Bruno Mars and Leon Bridges. Featuring a diverse mix of music and performances, Brooklyn’s BAMcafé Live, recently invited Johnson to rock the stage with brand new tracks from his experimentally bold, soon to be released, booming pop debut, produced by Alex Suarez, formerly of CobraStarship.

    Watch below for a performance clip of “Play with My Heart,” Johnson’s lead single, and uptempo, fun, modern-groove track featured in the Kelly Reichardt film, Certain Women, starring Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, and Kristen Stewart, hitting theaters in March.

    [Image: Michael Busse; Video: Teito-Sydir]

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    UPTOWN Magazine Lincoln Black Label MKX Shoot: Black LoveThere is just something magical about Black Love. UPTOWN Magazine decided to explore it and the all-new 2016 Lincoln MKX in an original series from UPTOWN Films.

    Love is a personalized experience. A personalized experience is what you will get with Lincoln Black Label. It exceeds ownership. It was created for those with impeccable taste. Your Lincoln MKX can reflect your own unique style when you custom design it as part of the Lincoln Black Label program.

    You will truly be driving a vehicle that matches your own distinct personality and style. The Lincoln Black Label unifies design and service—featuring a curated collection of interior themes and a host of exclusive membership privileges, inspired by attention to detail.

    You can learn more about the Lincoln MKX Black Label in UPTOWN’S Weddings and Travel issue which you can download free here.


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    [Image: Instagram]

    “Police brutality is the issue we chose to talk about, but the bigger issue for me is talking to your kids about what’s going on in the world. It used to be you could shelter them in your own way, but with Internet and phones and 24-hour news, you can’t avoid those conversations …

    “I intentionally didn’t mention Black Lives Matter. We try to show the family is not monolithic and has a lot of different points of view and let people take what they may from it.”

    black-ish show runner Kenya Barris discusses the “Hope” episode, which aired yesterday on ABC, with The New York Times. The episode focuses on police brutality. Dad Dre (Anthony Anderson), mom Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), and his parents (Laurence Fishburne and Jenifer Lewis), and their four children spend nearly the entire episode in their living room debating a fictional case of police brutality that occurred near their L.A. home.


    Barris explained to the Times what led to “Hope.” He said he was watching coverage of protests after a Staten Island, New York jury failed to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner. Barris said his 6-year-old son Beau asked, “Why are these people so mad?” He told the news outlet:

    “I wanted to die. But my wife and I had a conversation and realized it wasn’t necessarily fair for me to skew his experience with mine. But at the same time, I knew I had to talk to him about my experiences in a way that gave him some perspective, some kind of fuel to arm himself in life.”

    [black-ish image: Patrick Wymore/ABC]

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    On Monday, I had the pleasure of experiencing Samsung Electronics America, Inc.‘s new Samsung 837 (@837NYC) space before it opened to the public on Tuesday, Feb. 23rd. I was instantly impressed with this first-of-its kind cultural destination that will make even the biggest geek or technophobe feel like one of the cool kids.

    Samsung 837, which is located at 837 Washington St. in the Meatpacking District of New York City, offers visitors a living lab and digital playground, featuring numerous art and digital installations, a three-story digital screen, auditorium seating for performances and special events, a gallery offering curated content experiences, a broadcast studio, and much more. “The state-of-the-art building is a creative expression of Samsung’s brand and will serve as home for the marketing center of excellence, executive briefing center and a new customer care center designed to offer one-on-one service to Samsung owners,” according to the press release.

    UPTOWN_samsung837_2I was most impressed with “Social Galaxy,” experiential design studio Black Egg‘s technology-based art installation that explores social identity. All I had to do was input my Instagram name (@GlamNiki) and the installation displayed all my photos, captions, and hashtags in a glass-like tunnel. It was the perfect ‘Gram video opp.

    The 4D VR experience using Samsung’s Gear VR was also really cool. I “rode” a roller coaster from the comfort of a 4D chair. It was so lifelike that I couldn’t help putting my hands in the air.

    Below are some more experiences the Samsung 837 offers, according to the media release:

      • Customer Care: Samsung Techies offer one-on-one, concierge-like service to help Samsung owners, and Samsung Guides lead workshops for new and existing users to learn how to get the most out of Samsung products and services. In addition, Guides are on hand to support the visitor journey through the space.
      • Screen & Mainstage: Considered the world’s largest multimedia display a giant digital screen is made from 96 55-inch visual displays, standing in front of a stadium-seating theater, and will be programmed with content ranging from live streams, demos and showcases, to panels and presentations, and screenings.
      • VR Tunnel: A first of its kind immersive experience where attendees can ‘step into’ a virtual world and be transported anywhere. The experience will feature ongoing curated content around themes like travel, sports and family, or special events like festivals, sports and music, and demonstrations on Samsung’s Gear VR including a 4D VR experience.
      • Studio: The visually stunning, open radio, music and DJ studio, encased in a see-through cube, serves as an interactive hosting space for radio and podcast curators, DJ sets, live recordings, celebrity interviews and more.
      • Kitchen: Experience a next-gen culinary environment with chef demonstrations of new Samsung technology, workshops and cooking showcases.
      • Playroom: A dedicated space for family-friendly activities including classes and workshops, games, special events and activities, and a place where people can share their interests and engage with the environment. Consumers will also have the opportunity to create their own customized cases in the Playroom area.
      • Living Room: Get cozy in this stress-free zone, where consumers can experience Samsung technology and signature services in a smart home environment, as well as enjoy hosted activities, and more.
      • Café: Curated by Smorgasburg and featuring Stand Coffee, the Café features hot and cold beverages, breakfast and lunch selections, as well as a variety of sweet treats from purveyors of the popular food market.
      • B2B Experience: A state-of-the-art executive briefing center designed to deliver curated and customized experiences for the B2B community; providing the latest technologies and innovations to customers for use in solving real business problems with their own customers.


    Click here for a calendar of upcoming events at Samsung 837, including a series of Oscar movie screenings.

    While I’m not ready to give up my iPhone for a Samsung mobile device, I can see myself hanging out at Samsung 837 because it was a better experience than I’ve ever had at any Apple store. Samsung 837 should definitely be on your list of places to visit the next time you’re in NYC.

    [Images: Business Wire]

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    By Patrick T. Cooper


    [Image: Instagram]

    Designer Karissa Lindsay represents the American dream. Armed with a will to succeed and a $50 eBay purchase, Lindsay birthed A Leap of Style, which is a celebration of African textiles and tribute to the legendary style of Hollywood starlet Dorothy Dandridge. Lindsay, an avid lover of color, knows what women crave and has committed to offering well-constructed fashion in vibrant hues. Ethic prints have taken the front row with A Leap of Style.


    UPTOWN: Do you channel any iconic figures when developing  your collection?
    Karissa Lindsay: I’m in love with silhouettes that are reminiscent of Old Hollywood. Dorothy Dandridge is one of my personal fashion icons. Dandridge’s looks had the perfect mix of class and sex appeal without being overt, and those are qualities I strive for in every piece I create.

    U: Where do you find inspiration for each collection?
    Lindsay: The shape of a woman first and foremost inspires me. The female form is just so incredible — so beautiful — and I only ever strive to design pieces that will flatter us most. My collections all include some African textile, mostly Ankara. The colors and prints in those fabrics really speak to me, so I go into each collection first thinking, “What can I design that a woman will love?” and then, “How can this print complement that look?” Before I design a collection, I also try to tune into what has been trending for some time in fashion and then find the intersection of what women crave in their wardrobe and what is considered fashion du jour. For example, I launched the wide leg Chrissy Trouser last spring as a response to the over-saturation of skinny jeans and leggings in the market. Don’t get me wrong, I love a slim pant and if it were respectable to live in leggings I would, but I saw a need for a pant with movement and some room, and the response to those has been great.

    U: What brand in the market place past or present, in your opinion, represents the success you would like to achieve for your own line?
    Lindsay: Right now I’m swooning over Rosie Assoulin. Her collections are all so fresh and she’s becoming a celebrity favorite. I love the way she plays with structure and her use of what some would consider basic textiles, like cotton poplin. I think I most admire the voice in her designs as I look to continue to develop my own. I also greatly admire Tracy Reese. She’s been around for a while now and it is so good to have a sista with staying power in the industry to aspire to. And Michelle Obama frequently wears her line, so that is definitely something to aspire to!


    U: Celebrity capital has become such an impacting resource in the fashion industry. What celebrity personality would you choose to be your brand ambassador and why?
    Lindsay: If any celebrity could be my brand ambassador, of course, I would choose the one and only Michelle Obama! I kind of think everyone in the African-inspired fashion space is just hoping (and possibly scheming) for her to wear a piece. Her style embodies everything that I design for, and she’s also been known to wear designs from emerging lines, so that is encouraging. Not to mention, the fact that everything she wears sells out in minutes -– and if any brand ambassador is going to push a brand forward those are the results you want!

    U: As an African-American designer and entrepreneur what one word of advice would you give to some one following in your footsteps?
    Lindsay: I’ve got two pieces of advice for anyone who wants to design. The first is to really get to know your target customer. Know her and what she needs in her wardrobe and why she needs it from you before you ever even begin to promote your product. That will save you time and money in every aspect of your business. There are billions of women in this world; they all have to wear clothing, they all desire something from their clothing, and these days most want to know the story behind their clothing. Connect with your customer and design from that space. I’m also a huge proponent of surrounding yourself with people who are experts in areas where you may be lacking. I am mostly self-taught, so I’ve built a technical team to help me with the technical areas of design that I am still learning.

    U: What’s next for your brand? Why should we stay tuned?
    Lindsay: I’m really working to expand my presence in boutiques and other retailers. My goal is to get A Leap of Style in at least one store in every state by the end of next year, if not before. My customers tell me every woman needs some A Leap of Style in their closet, and I believe them, so we’re going to branch out to make that happen.

    A Leap of Style is available here. Follow the brand on Instagram and Twitter.

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    Black male playwrights are making waves in the theater world with provocative, untold stories. Meet the standouts who are bringing their own colorful and unique experiences to the stage.

    By Karu F. Daniels


    True theater buffs consider the late, great August Wilson to be the gold standard when it comes to black male playwrights.

    The legendary scribe holds the distinction of being the only black man to have an entire body of work produced on Broadway and beyond. As many as ten plays (from his acclaimed Pittsburgh Cycle or Century Cycle, exploring the life of African Americans in and around the Pennsylvania steel town throughout 10 decades) have become theater eminence since he first debuted in 1984 with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. His two Pulitzer Prize-winning plays Fences and The Piano Lesson, respectively, are considered American classics, and the critically-acclaimed Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars and Jitney remain audience favorites.

    Starting out as a poet, Wilson (who succumbed to liver cancer at the age of 60 in 2005) can easily be considered Black America’s answer to a modern day Shakespeare. He is the most celebrated playwright of his generation and he is widely considered as one of the best American playwrights in history.

    Fortunately, there are young brothers following in his footsteps and standing in his shadow. Throughout history, there has been a very short list of Black male writers examining the black male experience on the stage. Some notables include Charles Fuller for 1981’s A Soldier’s Play, George C. Wolfe for 1986’s The Colored Museum, Charles Randolph Wright for 2000’s Blue and Ruben Santiago Hudson for 2001’s Lackawanna Blues, respectively.

    “We must tell our stories because they are our stories,” says Wright, who directed Broadway’s box-office jukebox juggernaut Motown The Musical. “We have as many stories as there are colors. Unfortunately, we see limited representations and we see [our] experience co-opted. We must take ownership of our journeys.”

    In recent years, new works by Colman Domingo, Daniel Beaty, Harrison David Rivers, Billy Porter, Robert O’Hara and Tarell Alvin McCraney have been a welcomed reprieve for the theater community thirsting for untold stories by black male playwrights.

    UPTOWN_colman_domingoCOLMAN DOMINGO

    Though he may be one of the most dynamic theatrical performers of his generation, Colman Domingo, a two-time Tony Award nominee for his acting work in the Broadway musicals Passing Strange and The Scottsboro Boys experienced great success with his play-writing endeavors, A Boy & His Soul and Wild With Happy. The latter is a semi-biographical work of art entailing a tightly-wound gay man’s touching and zany journey of laying his newly deceased mother to rest. Happy had its world premiere at New York City’s Public Theatre in the fall of 2012 and after electrifying audiences went on to play San Francisco the next year.

    “With this work, I was exploring many composites of African American gay men and their relationships to their mothers,” Domingo, who starred in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and was recently cast in AMC’s hit show Fear of The Walking Dead and will star in the upcoming film, The Birth of a Nation, directed by fellow actor Nate Parker. “I wanted to examine religion, sexuality and the surreal that surrounds extraordinary circumstances such as death and eventual healing. It [was] an amalgamation of many stories that have been shared over coffee, [as well as] my first trip to Disney World given to me by a Disney princess: Anika Noni Rose (star of The Princess and the Frog) provided. “She actually gave me the title as we walked down Main Street in The Magic Kingdom. She casually said, ‘Look at all these people … they are just wild with happy!’ For the work, the Philadelphia native took home the prize for Best Playwright at the 41st Annual Vivian Robinson/AUDELCO Recognition Awards, which has honored excellence in black theater since 1973. “Colman is one of the most talented brothers I know,” says Wright. “He is hysterical, brilliant, generous, and surprising. I never know what to expect from him, and I always am blown away.”



    While he’s been renowned as a musical theater powerhouse for the better part of two decades, Billy Porter tested his creative writing mettle with the play While I Yet Live, which premiered Off Broadway in 2014, starring fellow Tony Award winner Lillias White and Emmy Award winner S. Epatha Merkerson. This was on the heels of him winning the long coveted Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for Kinky Boots. Like August Wilson, Porter is a Pittsburgh native and both their works depict a different side of African American life. Porter’s semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age story Live, directed by Sheryl Kaller, tackles homosexuality, religion, and dark family secrets. Porter says his incarnation as a full-fledged playwright was born out of a need to create new work opportunities for himself—and because of the absence of his likeness in Wilson’s storied pantheon of plays, which are widely regarded as the greatest exploration of African-American life in contemporary theater.

    “I love August Wilson,” Porter, a Carnegie Mellon University alum, explains. “I grew up in Pittsburgh and I saw every play there of his from the time I was a teenager and never once did I see a representation of me on the stage. That pushed me to a place of [thinking], ‘If someone else is not going to talk about it, I can’t sit around and wait for other people to tell my story.'”

    UPTOWN_daniel_beatyDANIEL BEATY

    Another award-winning performer/playwright representing the black male narrative in today’s theater is Daniel Beaty, whose critically acclaimed show Emergence-SEE (now known as Emergency) is a one-act, one-man play about the pandemonium that breaks out when a slave ship emerges at the foot of the Statue of Liberty—in the present day. First directed by Kenny Leon, who recently helmed the live reworking of The Wiz on NBC, the play has been a success in Scotland, South Africa and all across America, since premiering at The Public Theater in 2006. “I was head over heels for him,” Oskar Eustis, the Public’s artistic director, told The New York Times during the show’s previews. “I thought: ‘This is theater that exists to serve something other than itself.'”

    Beaty’s had several plays since—including the Charles Randolph Wright-directed Through The Night about six black men (ages 10 to 60) and the people who love them; and 2013’s The Tallest Tree in the Forest, a Paul Robeson biography that played at Los Angeles’s Mark Taper Forum in 2014. “In my opinion, he is one of the greatest human beings to ever walk the planet,” Beaty said of the late entertainment legend and controversial civil rights activist. “He had contradictions and challenges like all people, but his commitment to all people having the opportunity to realize their full potential was extraordinary.”

    “The black male experience is one that is often not shared with the complexity and humanity in which all people deserve to see themselves reflected,” the Dayton, Ohio native furthered. “There are so many urgent issues facing black males in particular like mass incarceration, fatherhood, and myriad others that I feel it is urgent that our stories are told with passion and compassion.”

    Over the course of the last few years, Harlem’s New Heritage Theatre Group, a nonprofit organization geared towards cultivating the works of veteran and emerging artists, has produced five of Beaty’s plays. “Daniel’s works are spell-binding, celebratory, educational, exhilarating and enjoyable,” noted Voza Rivers, a music and theater industry veteran and head of New Heritage. “I attended a Beaty showcase produced by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee years ago and in their introduction of him, they referenced his acting ability on the level of Paul Robeson,” Rivers remembers. “When Daniel performed, I witnessed one extraordinary and talented actor portraying 40 compelling and spirited characters. I was mesmerized.”

    UPTOWN_robert_oharaROBERT O’HARA

    Cincinnati native Robert O’Hara cut his teeth at The Public Theater under the tutelage of its former artistic director George C. Wolfe, where his 1996 debut Insurrection: Holding History won the George Oppenheimer/New York Newsday Award for Best New American Play.

    He credits Wolfe for bringing out the best in him. “He is one of the most brilliant individuals on earth,” O’Hara says. “I stand on his shoulders and at his feet at the same time. He taught me so much about how to be an artist in the world and in myself. He was one of the first openly gay black individuals of note who was running an artistic institution. With greatness comes difficulty. It was not always easy, but it was always rewarding.”

    His own works, most notably the Playwrights Horizon 2014 production of Booty Candy, are often called subversive—a superlative he doesn’t shy away from. “I live by the motto: ‘Everyone is welcome and no one is safe.’ That’s how I write.”

    To date, O’Hara has written screenplays for Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese and his playwright repertoire includes his plays Antebellum, Good Breeding and Etiquette of Vigilance. As a theater director, the Columbia University School of Art alum helmed the world premieres of Domingo’s Wild and McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Plays in 2009.

    “Tarell is such a wonderful and giving and caring and funny and silly individual,” he says of McCraney, who won the prestigious McArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 2013 and is considered a star in the play-writing profession. “I would see him openly dancing in the middle of the street on the way to rehearsal. He is quite a wonderful individual. We are friends. There was no sense of jealousy or I’m trying to make your work into my work. I am there in order for your work to be raised to the next level.”

    O’Hara’s 2011 screenwriting and directorial debut, The Inheritance, won top prize at the American Black Film Festival. And in 2013, O’Hara won a $185,000 playwright residency grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which funded his position at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.

    He’s quick to note that neither the accolades nor the prizes have gone to his head; he remains as grounded just as the sky is blue—and sometimes black.

    “Oh honey, there is no such thing as being on top. I am still climbing. And my foot is slipping, so I’m holding on as much as I can,” he quipped. “I believe in longevity, maintaining a respect for the art and also being happy without it. If I don’t get the grant, the production, or the publication then I’m back where I was before. If I’m happy before then I will be happy regardless.”

    [Image: Zack Dezon]

    UPTOWN_harrison_david_riversHARRISON DAVID RIVERS

    Harrison David Rivers is a young playwright also exploring the pursuit of freedom—sort of. At 34 years old, he already has become a brazen, black voice in the LGBT community. In 2010, the Columbia University grad won raves and many accolades for his seminal libretto When Last We Flew, a coming of age story about a gay black teen from the Midwest obsessed with Tony Kushner’s Angels In America play.

    His play Look Upon Our Lowliness, a spoken word elegy for a chorus of male voices, played to sold out audiences at Harlem’s School of Arts in 2012. A daring and delectable production, the smartly designed work told the story of a group of gay black men dealing with the death of their close friend—and their own relationship dynamics.

    Calling the show “a gift from beginning to end,” Rivers—the recepient of The 2015 McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting—credits his team of producers who supported the vision from ideation to completion. But he’s most grateful to the audience: “What’s the saying? If you build it, they will come? Well, we built it. They came and laughed, cried and talked back to the characters on stage. They stayed after the show to talk to the actors, to the producers and to each other. Connections were made. New relationships were forged. It was an exercise in community building.”

    UPTOWN_tarell_mccraneyTARELL MCCRANEY

    The works of Tarell Alvin McCraney, a native of the rough and tumble Liberty City section of Miami, have included The Brothers Size, In the Red and Brown Water, Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet, Wig Out!, a reworking of Antony & Cleopatra and the acclaimed Choir Boy, which centered on a gay teen grappling with acceptance and bigotry at a historically black prep school for boys.

    “I wanted to write a piece about different avenues for African American boys becoming men,” McCraney said of the compelling play, which starred Tony Award winner Chuck Cooper alongside Jeremy Pope, Wallace Smith, Grantham Coleman, Nicholas L. Ashe, and Kyle Beltran. “It was an important inner-story for me.”

    With more than 10 plays under his belt, a wealth of prizes and grants (some cash totaling upwards to $1 million) have been bestowed upon the DePaul University and Yale School of Drama alumnae, who received an honorary doctorate from the University of Warwick in England last year.

    Though McCraney, 35, is one of the most decorated and awarded playwrights of his generation—black or white—he shies away from the fanfare and instead focuses on the work. “I think in the normal way in which I’ve [always] operated,” says McCraney. “I always try to create the best work possible. The awards have been such a blessing. But, contrary to popular belief, nobody treats you that differently.”

    Once an assistant to August Wilson—during the production of the elder playwright’s final production Radio Golf at Yale—the once-aspiring actor learned the craft of dramaturgy from the master.

    “Personally, his generosity to people and to the people who were immediately around him, I will always cherish,” McCraney reflects. “He was always so open, so generous. If you were there with him, he would talk to you for hours, sometimes to the chagrin of stage managers. I think his ability to be open-handed and his ability to be generous and share and really allow you into that intimate process, [made him] a great collaborator. He sort of raised a village of people, who fortunately for me, helped launch my work into existence.”

    His newest work, Head Of Passes, starring Phylicia Rashad, will have its New York premiere at The Public Theater. McCraney—who grew weary of attending auditions with the same group of black men spanning 40 years in age for the same roles offered—said he became a playwright to create new opportunities.

    “I only hope that artists are surrounded in conversation with my work in the way I am inspired by August’s,” says McCraney. I want to make sure that the community is having as inclusive a conversation as possible.”

    RELATED: Bold & Black On The Great White Way

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    By Isoul Harris


    On a cold, but sunny, winter morning in New York City, the editorial staff of UPTOWN, the cast of Broadway’s Eclipsed, along with the writer, director and producers of the highly-anticipated play, and glam squads, publicists, assistants, videographers and stylists all converged on Tribeca’s Dune Studios to shoot a historic cover.


    Editor-in-Chief Isoul H. Harris and Lupita Nyong’o, star of Eclipsed, grab a picture after the shoot wraps.


    Contributing Creative Director Darryl L. Brown helps Eclipsed co-star Zainab Jah make it back to the dressing area.


    Peeking at Lupita while she takes her portrait photo.


    One of our favorite dresses on the racks: Christian Siriano.


    Even serious actresses love silly selfies.


    This chair, from Roche Bobois Paris, covered in swan feathers, was a big hit with everyone on set. Lupita walked on set and said, “Wow!”


    Editorial Assistant Brandon M. Washington assists Lupita with her Louboutin on set.


    Photographer Marc Baptiste and Eclipsed producer Marvet Britto.

    Read the full cover story, “Bold & Black On The Great White Way,” here.

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    The new series Underground speaks to more than the famous metaphorical railroad: it’s a fresh look at the story of the ancestors’ struggle, determination and hunger for freedom.

    By Satchel B. Jester

    UPTOWN_underground1 It’s been nearly four decades since the television adaptation of Alex Haley’s epic tale Roots came into the homes of approximately 130 million Americans—transforming television and minds forever. Viewers experienced a sweeping historical ride with violence, heartbreak, love and survival. The country experienced an emotional roller coaster during the eight-episode mini-series and Haley’s tome became one of the most important books of the twentieth century. Now, with a revolutionary new twist on the same old institution, WGN America presents Underground, a series telling the story of slaves turned advocates of exemption who use their beauty, brains and brawn to escape the inhumane institution of slavery, despite the dire consequences that lie on the other side. Provocative and high-powered, the drama series features an ensemble cast including Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Aldis Hodge, Alano Miller and Amirah Vann as captives who piece together a daring plan of escape spanning hundreds of miles. Empire star and Bell’s brother Jussie Smollett also guest stars, marking the first time in 20 years the siblings have co-starred together. Rounding out the star quotient is multi-platinum singer/songwriter John Legend—an executive producer who oversees the score, soundtrack and all musical aspects of the series. UPTOWN_underground2 Filmed on location at a former slave plantation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the reality of the fictional story was a bit too vivid for many of the actors and crew. “Being there felt heavy,” admits Bell, a responsible house slave in the buzzed about the series. “I felt what the ancestors felt. I heard their cries. I realized why they were determined to be free. It was exciting to be a part of something that speaks to their rebellion, their passion and their need to live freely—by any means necessary.” Underground premieres Wednesday, March 9th at 10/9c.

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