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Black news, entertainment, lifestyle and culture

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    UPTOWN_michelle_obama_let_girls_learn

    Michelle Obama is championing the education of girls worldwide through the global campaign #62MillionGirls, which is run by the First Lady’s Let Girls Learn initiative and Girl Rising in support of girls’ education. And since every cause needs an anthem, Obama tapped Oscar-nominated songwriter Diane Warren to write a women’s empowerment anthem — “This is for My Girls” — that will become a global call to action.

    “We haven’t had an anthem like this in awhile,” Warren said in an interview with Billboard. “I envisioned the record being with all these different women, never just one girl singing on it. With Kelly Rowland on it, it’s almost like an updated Destiny’s Child record. I think it can be a huge worldwide anthem.”

    Along with Rowland, Missy Elliott, Zendaya, Janelle Monae, Lea Michele, Kelly Clarkson, Jadagrace, and Beyoncé protégées Chloe & Halle lend vocals to “This Is for My Girls,” which was released on iTunes today.

    “It’s kind of like ‘We Are the World’ meets ‘Lady Marmalade,'” said Warren to Billboard.

    AOL’s women’s site MAKERS.com executive-produced the track that is meant to raise awareness about education inequality. Proceeds from sales will benefit the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund, “which helps break down barriers and stigma that prevent girls from getting the education they rightfully deserve.”

    Listen to a snippet of “This is for My Girls” below.

    RELATED: Weekday Distraction: Watch Michelle Obama Rap In College Video

    [Image: WhiteHouse.gov]


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    UPTOWN_tyler_perry_mansion1

    Tyler Perry is planning to be build his dream home on 1,000 acres of land in Atlanta, so he put his much smaller mansion that sits on 17 acres up for sale in 2015.

    Sitting in the upscale Buckhead neighborhood and boasting views of the Chattahoochee River, the French provincial mansion has been set at a price of $25 million. The palatial home is 34,688-square-feet and has seven bedrooms, 14 baths, stately formal rooms, a two-story library, infinity-edge swimming pool, formal and informal gardens, and lighted tennis court on top of a two-story parking garage. And in case the new homeowners aren’t as busy as entertainment mogul Perry, the home is fully-equipped with a gym, spa, theater, hobby house, and a ballroom underground with catering kitchen. The entire estate is also connected to a generator.

    It should come as no surprise that security is important to Perry, who was once stalked. The estate also includes a guard house, caretaker’s suite, and presidential-level security system with two gated and secured residential entrances.

    Keep clicking for a closer look at Tyler Perry’s $25 million Atlanta mansion.

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    Go Inside The Atlanta Mansion Tyler Perry Is Selling

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    RELATED: Go Inside Mike Tyson’s For Sale Las Vegas Home


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    It was just last weekend that Ne-Yo and wife Crystal Renay Smith shared their intimate pregnancy photos with the ‘Gram. But now, the parents are showing off their little bundle of joy, a son they named Shaffer Smith Jr.

    The boy was born Tuesday night via an emergency C-section. The above image of Crystal Renay holding her son against her skin began circulating soon after.

    She took to Instagram to make the announcement this morning. She posted an image of her holding her son’s hand. Ne-Yo released the news via Snapchat.

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    Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil, which performs exclusively at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, is an electrifying fusion of acrobatics, dance, and visuals that reflects the dynamic showmanship of the King of Pop, immersing the audience into the world of Michael’s music.

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    1. Michael Jackson

    Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil is the only immersive live stage production in the world where you can experience the real Michael Jackson. While there may be many tribute shows, at ONE, Jackson’s actual voice, visuals, and hit songs come alive with state-of-the-art technology, unparalleled dance, and gravity-defying Cirque du Soleil acrobatics combined with Michael’s actual recordings and footage. This is all made possible through Cirque’s partnership with Michael Jackson’s Estate, which is intimately involved with the production on a day-to-day basis. No other stage production has his Estate’s backing or seal of approval. For the audience, this means you will experience Michael in an authentic, heart-felt way—you will experience the true legacy and essence of The King of Pop.

    [Image: Matt Beard]

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    2. Immersive Visual and Sonic Experience

    Michael Jackson was known for his creativity, innovative spirit, and ingenuity, often taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary beyond what anyone could’ve imagined. Similarly, Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil employs state-of-the-art technology, creativity, and innovation throughout the show, taking you on an immersive journey through the world created by Michael’s music. In ONE, the iconic “Billie Jean” performers moonwalk in unexpected places and wear custom LED costumes that light up as they move. While in “Thriller,” Michael’s original choreography is paired with ghouls performing acrobatic feats off a trampoline wall.

    Additionally, the theater is fitted with more than 5,587 speakers to provide a true surround sound experience. This includes three speakers in each of the theater’s 1,804 seats which further enhance the one-of-a-kind sonic experience. To set the scene, 26 projectors and GPS tracking show vibrant imagery across almost every surface of the theater, including audiovisual walls and LED screens, props, and performers. Pod lifts on the stage launch artists into the air, while a pair of 96-foot overhead tracks with trolleys allows artists to soar over audiences and perform heart-warming scenes such as “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

    [Image: Matt Beard]

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    3. Something For Everyone

    Whether you’re a Michael Jackson fan, a music lover, a dance enthusiast, or a loyal Cirque du Soleil follower, you will be wowed Michael Jackson ONE. There is truly something for everyone, as it is the only production in the world that presents entertainment fans with the best of Michael Jackson, music, dance, and Cirque in one electrifying show. ONE combines Jackson’s timeless music, artistry, and iconography with vibrant choreography, driving acrobatics, and soaring aerial performances in a captivating, innovative way.

    Urban/hip hop idioms are also used as a springboard for exploration throughout ONE. Musical Director Kevin Antunes re-imagined Jackson’s hit recordings in a unique and innovative way to enhance each of the mesmerizing acts envisioned by writer/director Jamie King, who started his career as a back-up dancer for Jackson. Additionally, Jackson’s artistry and spirit are expressed through the vibrant energy of a multicultural cast of 63 dancers and performers who hail from over 17 countries.

    Michael Jackson ONE is definitely the must-see experience for all entertainment fans.

    Enter to win a Michael Jackson ONE getaway in Las Vegas here.

    [Image: Matt Beard]


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    UPTOWN_porsha_williamsExperiencing a medical emergency mid-flight is probably every traveler’s fear. Luckily for Porsha Williams there were three doctors aboard her flight when she fainted.

    Williams was flying from Atlanta to Miami when she passed out while sitting in her first class seat — and she was traveling alone.

    Williams’s sister Lauren revealed to TMZ that Williams suffers from low blood sugar and has experienced fainting spells in the past.

    Reportedly, one of the doctors on-board revived Williams with a sugar pill. Paramedics met the plane after it landed in Miami and said Williams was fine after examining her.

    Williams was definitely living it up in Miami after the incident. She reminded her followers to live, laugh, and love.

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    Add tying their shoelaces to the long list of tasks your technology-spoiled children will never learn to do — and you have Nike to thank.

    Today the sneaker brand, whose slogan is “Just Do It,” released its second self-lacing sneaker, the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0.

    And as expected, people are losing their minds over the new kicks because why do something as simple as tying your own shoelaces when you can “Just Don’t Do It”?

    [Image: Nike]


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    Rumor has it Mariah Carey and James Packer till tie the knot on the exclusive Caribbean island of Barbuda, which is the sister island of Antigua. (It’s also the island where my family hails.)

    The nuptials are expected to be an intimate affair with 50 guests attending. They will be flown to Barbuda via private jets, as the island is so exclusive it doesn’t have an international airport.

    The wedding will likely occur mid-June, after Carey has completed her residency in Las Vegas, reality show, and first European tour.

    Unlike most Caribbean islands, Barbuda has been unspoiled by tourism, but that will all change soon. Packer is opening a $250 million resort on Barbuda with Robert De Niro.


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    Aries are known for being enterprising, incisive, spontaneous, daring, active, courageous, and energetic. However, they do possess negative traits: being impatient, impetuous, vain, proud, and egoistic. Do you think your favorite celebrity Aries, like Mariah Carey, Jill Scott, and Kourtney Kardashian, are true to their sign?

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    Adrian Peterson
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    Kyrie Irving
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    Chaka Khan
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    Chris Bosh
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    Aretha Franklin
    March 25, 1942

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    Lark Voorhies
    March 25, 1974

    Sheryl Swoopes
    March 25, 1971

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    Big Sean
    March 25, 1988

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    Diana Ross
    March 26, 1944

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    Mariah Carey
    March 27, 1970

    Cheryl “Salt” James
    March 28, 1966

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    Walt Frazier
    March 29, 1945

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    Tracy Chapman
    March 30, 1964

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    MC Hammer
    March 30, 1962

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    David Oyelowo
    April 1, 1976

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    Jimmy Cliff
    April 1, 1948

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    Eddie Murphy
    April 3, 1961

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    Paris Jackson
    April 3, 1998

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    Jill Scott
    April 4, 1972

    Colin Powell

    Colin Powell
    April 5, 1937

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    Pharrell Williams
    April 5, 1974

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    Keshia Knight Pulliam
    April 9, 1979

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    Babyface
    April 10, 1959

    Al Green early 70s

    Al Green
    April 13, 1946

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    Flex Alexander
    April 15, 1970

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    Martin Lawrence
    April 16, 1965

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    Akon
    April 16, 1973

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    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
    April 16, 1947

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    Kourtney Kardashian
    April 18, 1979

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    Suge Knight
    April 19, 1965


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    “I was doing these squats one time, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is orgasmic. Maybe I was squeezing, and doing my Kegels? I don’t know what it was, but I had to go to the bathroom … And, that’s when I realized my body is bigger than me.”

    — Jessica White describes how intense a workout with personal trainer Robert Brace can get, in an interview with Bikini.com. The Sports Illustrated model, who calls herself Jypsy Angel White, was trying to achieve a sky-high booty through the squats.


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  • 03/21/16--10:13: Spring’s Top Notes
  • Crisp citrus, sexy musk and blooming floral are spring’s freshest scents for both sexes.

    By Joane Amay

    MEN
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    Frederic Malle Monsieur ($290; 3.3 oz) barneys.com
    Perfumer Bruno Jovanovic creates the ultimate masculine patchouli by mingling it with rum, tangerine, incense and musk

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    Narciso Rodriguez For Him ($90; 3.3 oz) nordstrom.com
    Clean, sharp hints of blue Atlas cedar and black ebony wood envelope your senses in this addictive musk.

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    Montblanc Legend Spirit ($85; 3.3 oz) macys.com
    White musk softens the cocktail of sandalwood, cedar and cashmere in this virile woody aroma.

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    Bottega Veneta Pour Homme Essence Aromatique ($130; 6.7 oz) saks.com
    Notes of pine, patchouli, bergamot and citrus are the soul of this masculine fragrance.

    WOMEN
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    Lanvin Éclat de Fleurs ($105; 3.3 oz) nordstrom.com
    Bursts of fresh, wild florals intermingled with boasts of colorful fruits vividly capture the essence of an Impressionist painting.

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    Elie Saab Le Parfum Rose Couture ($80; 1.7 oz) Available at fine department stores
    The designer updates his iconic floral fragrance with bold touches of rose.

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    Jimmy Choo Exotique ($92; 3.3 oz) bloomingdales.com
    Black currant sorbet and pink grapefruit heighten the exotic sensuality of passion flower and tiger orchid.

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    Chloe Love Story ($115; 2.5 oz) sephora.com
    A light, sensual reinvention of the Parisian floral.

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    Salvatore Ferragamo Emozione Dolce Fiore ($99; 3.1 oz) Available at fine department stores
    Effervescent notes of grapefruit—blended with bergamot and peach—enliven the fruity, Italian fragrance.


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    PBS presents Jackie Robinson, a film that delivers a three-dimensional look at the athlete as a powerful activist who used his talent to change America forever.

    By Herndon Holmes

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    “If I had a room jammed with trophies, awards and citations and a child of mine came into that room and asked what I had done in defense of black people and decent whites fighting for freedom, and if I had to tell that child I had kept quiet, that I had been timid, I would have to mark myself a total failure at the whole business of living,” Jamie Foxx quotes Jackie Robinson in the opening of the poignant new eponymously titled PBS documentary about the baseball legend. Directed by the trio Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon, the film presents Robinson as more than a venerable athlete, but also as an activist, who evolved from humble beginnings to breaking baseball’s color barrier.

    Oscar-winner Foxx is the voice of Robinson, reading excerpts from his newspaper columns, personal letters and autobiographies. Making history itself, the four-hour account features interviews with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Harry Belafonte and former Dodgers teammates Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine and Ralph Branca. Also painting a not often seen picture, the narrative showcases interviews from Robinson’s widow, Rachel, and their two surviving children, Sharon and David, who witnessed first hand the battle for equality their father fought, even as a colossal cultural figure.

    “Jackie Robinson is the most important figure in our nation’s most important game,” says Ken Burns. McMahon continues, “Robinson is often celebrated for stoically ‘turning the other cheek’ to the threats and insults he faced during his first season in the majors, and what’s lost is that this display of self-restraint went completely against his character. He was feisty, assertive and naturally inclined to speak out against the slights and indignities he faced on and off the field, and we wanted to create a more nuanced picture of a man who is often reduced to a two-dimensional myth.”

    Jackie Robinson airs on PBS April 11 and 12 in two parts.


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    “Obviously, I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that. I think Venus [Williams], myself, a number of players … if I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister, I couldn’t even bring up that number. So I don’t think that is a very accurate statement.

    “You know, there’s only one way to interpret that. Get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man, which is not –- we, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.”

    — Serena Williams responds to Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore‘s comments about the Women’s Tennis Association. Before Sunday’s women’s final between Williams and Victoria Azarenka at the BNP Paribas Open, he said:

    “In my next life when I come back, I want to be someone in the WTA, because they ride on the coattails of the men. They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport.

    “I think the WTA have a handful of very attractive prospects that can assume the mantle … They have a lot of very attractive players. They are physically attractive and competitively attractive.”

    Moore subsequently apologized for his remarks, calling them “extremely erroneous” and “in poor taste.”

    [Image: Instagram]

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    UPTOWN_the_jungle_book_poster

    Today, Disney released special shoot images from its The Jungle Book reboot that pairs voice actors Lupita Nyong’o, Idris Elba, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Scarlett Johansson, and Sir Ben Kingsley with their onscreen characters. Here’s your first look at the live-action film Disney’s The Jungle Book that will hit theaters on April 15th.

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    Lupita Nyong’o & Raksha
    Lupita Nyong’o voices Raksha, a mother wolf who cares deeply for all of her pups, including man-cub Mowgli, whom she adopts as one of her own when he’s abandoned in the jungle as an infant. “She is the protector, the eternal mother,” says Nyong’o. “The word Raksha actually means protection in Hindi. I felt really connected to that, wanting to protect a son that isn’t originally hers but one she’s taken for her own.”

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    Idris Elba & Shere Khan
    Voiced by Idris Elba, Shere Khan bears the scars of man, which fuel his hatred of humans. Convinced that Mowgli poses a threat, the Bengal tiger is determined to rid the jungle of the man-cub. “Shere Khan reigns with fear,” says Elba. “He terrorizes everyone he encounters because he comes from a place of fear.”

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    Giancarlo Esposito & Akela
    Akela is the strong and hardened alpha-male wolf who shoulders the responsibility of his pack. He welcomes Mowgli to the family, but worries he may one day compromise their safety. “Akela is a fierce patriarch of the wolf pack,” says Giancarlo Esposito, who voices the character. “He believes the strength of the pack lies in what each and every wolf offers. He’s a great leader, a wise teacher.”

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    Christopher Walken & King Louie
    King Louie is a formidable ape who desperately wants the secret of Man’s deadly “red flower”-– fire. He’s convinced Mowgli has the information he seeks. “King Louie is huge, 12 feet tall,” says Christopher Walken, who voices the character. “But he’s as charming as he is intimidating when he wants to be.”

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    Scarlett Johansson & Kaa
    Kaa is a massive python who uses her voice and hypnotic gaze to entrance Mowgli. The man-cub can’t resist her captivating embrace. “Kaa seduces and entraps Mowgli with her storytelling,” says Scarlett Johansson. “She’s the mirror into Mowgli’s past. The way she moves is very alluring, almost coquettish.”

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    Sir Ben Kingsley & Bagheera
    Bagheera is a sleek panther who feels it’s his duty to help the man-cub depart with dignity when it’s time for him to leave his jungle home. “Bagheera is Mowgli’s adoptive parent,” says Ben Kingsley, who lends his voice to Bagheera. “His role in Mowgli’s life is to educate, to protect, and to guide. My Bagheera was military –- he’s probably a colonel. He is instantly recognizable by the way he talks, how he acts, and what his ethical code is.”


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    “The home was a dream come true, that’s why we called it Dreamland. It’s open and light, equipped with all modern amenities,” said Alicia Keys and husband Swizz Beatz in a statement to The Arizona Republic. “It has the most beautiful views and everyone who comes is always so moved by how it feels in the house. There’s really no place in the world like it!”

    Although the couple’s “Dreamland” mansion, located at 5659 N Camelback Canyon Dr. in Phoenix, was a “dream come true,” they’re selling it for $3.85 million. Inspired by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, the home is nestled atop Camelback Mountain and features panoramic views of Mummy Mtn., Squaw Peak, and the Praying Monk. The 20-foot windows bring the desert landscape inside.

    “We bought in Phoenix because it’s a magical place,” they continued in the statement. “The way the mountains remind you of your smallness and inspire you to be great all at the same time is so powerful.”

    The 7,881-square-foot home boasts four bedrooms, 5.5 baths, a six-car garage, an infinity pool, an expansive deck, and a gourmet kitchen. There’s also a nook complete with a fireplace off the kitchen that allows for taking in the views of the valleys and mountains.

    Keys and Beatz are selling the home because they anticipate using it enough.

    Keep clicking for your tour of Alicia Keys’s $3.85 million mansion …

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    RELATED: Go Inside The Atlanta Mansion Tyler Perry Is Selling


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    Ailey II at The Ailey Citigroup Theater

    March 30, 2016 – April 10, 2016

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    Ailey II’s Nathaniel Hunt and Annellyse Munroe in Jean Emile’s In & Out. Photo by Eduardo Patino

    Ailey II’s “indefatigable, virtuosic, and relentlessly sexy” dancers (Los Angeles Times) return to The Ailey Citigroup Theater next week with two programs of premieres and returning audience favorites. Ailey II’s Samantha Barriento was recently featured on the cover of Queens Latino, and first-year dancer Lloyd A. Boyd III’s inspiring story of dancing with scoliosis was featured on BlackDoctor.org. During a 14-performance engagement held over two weeks, Ailey II’s “off-the-charts energy” (The New Yorker) will be amplified in diverse repertory by emerging and established choreographers, including:

    • Choreographer and Ailey School alumnus Jean Emile’s In & Out, a poignant work for eight dancers that gives an unflinchingly honest view of the ups and downs of contemporary life. Drawing on a mix of dance techniques, Emile brings a fresh approach, which is amplified by a varied score that includes music by Alva Noto, Alberto Iglesias, and Jun Miyake.
    • Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer Jamar Roberts’s Ailey II choreographic debut, Gêmeos (Portuguese for twins). Loosely based on the relationship of Roberts and his brother growing up as children in Miami –- one a dancer, the other an athlete -– Roberts illustrates the dynamic between contrasting personalities and how they evolve from hostility to harmony. Using music with heavy percussion, brassy horns, groovy bass guitar, and the commanding singing style of Afrobeat star Fela Kuti, Roberts perfectly captures the energy of youth in Gêmeos.
    • Ray Mercer’s Something Tangible, inspired by everyday emotions that awaken and bring color to the human spirit. Choreographer Ray Mercer leads the ensemble cast into a series of vignettes that reflect sensations of love, passion, fear, and self-doubt. The work features a wide range of musical styles that include artists Max Richter, Ólafur Arnalds, Geoff Bennett, and an original score by Bongi Duma.
    • I Am The Road, by hip-hop choreographer Kyle “JustSole” Clark, is a pulsating ensemble work and generous glimpse into his life as a dancer. Capturing the struggles and triumphs of a young ambitious artist finding his place in the world, Clark presents his personal journal in dance form. House dance music by Vikter Duplaix, Jeff Samuel, Nuyorican Soul, and Markus Enochson illuminate Clark’s depictions of taking risks, falling in love, and remaining true to one’s self.

    Order tickets online at AlvinAiley.org.


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    [Image: Tamar-kali]

    The Apollo Theater’s celebration of Women’s History Month culminates with Apollo Live Wire: Mothers of Invention, a multimedia presentation and discussion which will look at the blues and gospel origins of Rock n’ Roll and the ground breaking female icons and innovators at its heart: Ma Rainey; Bessie Smith; Memphis Minnie; Sister Rosetta Tharpe; and Big Mama Thornton. Vocalist and composer Tamar-kali (above) leads this discussion which will explore the influences in American pop culture and the history of Black female identity and cultural appropriation. Confirmed panelists include LaRonda Davis (program and communications director for Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls) and LaFrae Sci (drummer, composer, cultural ambassador, and educator).

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    Rosetta Tharpe [Image: Charles Peterson]

    The Apollo Live Wire series was created to invite deeper engagement with the Apollo’s artistic programming. The discussions are recorded and created into podcasts to extend the audience reach and for inclusion in the Theater’s archives. Live Wires are free and pre-registration is strongly suggested. RSVP at https://www.apollotheater.org/event/live-wire.

    What: Apollo Live Wire: Mothers of Invention

    When: Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 6:30 p.m.

    Where: Apollo Theater | 253 West 125th Street | New York, NY 10027 | Transportation: A, B, C or D trains to 125th St.; 2 or 3 trains to 125th St.

    Tickets: Apollo Live Wires are free and pre-registration is strongly suggested. RSVP at https://www.apollotheater.org/event/live-wire

    Public Contact: 212-531-5363


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    President Barack Obama, Vice President of Cuba’s State Council Salvador Valdes Mesa, right, and other members of the U.S. delegation stand during a ceremony at the Jose Marti Monument in Havana on March 21.

    On his final day in Havana, Cuba, President Barack Obama addressed the people of Cuba, encouraging change and a commitment to freedom. He also called for the U.S. embargo against the Caribbean nation to be lifted. Read the full transcript below:

    President Castro, the people of Cuba, thank you so much for the warm welcome that I have received, that my family have received, and that our delegation has received. It is an extraordinary honor to be here today.

    Before I begin, please indulge me. I want to comment on the terrorist attacks that have taken place in Brussels. The thoughts and the prayers of the American people are with the people of Belgium. We stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people. We will do whatever is necessary to support our friend and ally, Belgium, in bringing to justice those who are responsible. And this is yet another reminder that the world must unite, we must be together, regardless of nationality, or race, or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism. We can — and will — defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world.

    To the government and the people of Cuba, I want to thank you for the kindness that you’ve shown to me and Michelle, Malia, Sasha, my mother-in-law, Marian.

    “Cultivo una rosa blanca.” (Applause.) In his most famous poem, Jose Marti made this offering of friendship and peace to both his friend and his enemy. Today, as the President of the United States of America, I offer the Cuban people el saludo de paz. (Applause.)

    Havana is only 90 miles from Florida, but to get here we had to travel a great distance — over barriers of history and ideology; barriers of pain and separation. The blue waters beneath Air Force One once carried American battleships to this island — to liberate, but also to exert control over Cuba. Those waters also carried generations of Cuban revolutionaries to the United States, where they built support for their cause. And that short distance has been crossed by hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles — on planes and makeshift rafts — who came to America in pursuit of freedom and opportunity, sometimes leaving behind everything they owned and every person that they loved.

    Like so many people in both of our countries, my lifetime has spanned a time of isolation between us. The Cuban Revolution took place the same year that my father came to the United States from Kenya. The Bay of Pigs took place the year that I was born. The next year, the entire world held its breath, watching our two countries, as humanity came as close as we ever have to the horror of nuclear war. As the decades rolled by, our governments settled into a seemingly endless confrontation, fighting battles through proxies. In a world that remade itself time and again, one constant was the conflict between the United States and Cuba.

    I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas. (Applause.) I have come here to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. (Applause.)

    I want to be clear: The differences between our governments over these many years are real and they are important. I’m sure President Castro would say the same thing — I know, because I’ve heard him address those differences at length. But before I discuss those issues, we also need to recognize how much we share. Because in many ways, the United States and Cuba are like two brothers who’ve been estranged for many years, even as we share the same blood.

    We both live in a new world, colonized by Europeans. Cuba, like the United States, was built in part by slaves brought here from Africa. Like the United States, the Cuban people can trace their heritage to both slaves and slave-owners. We’ve welcomed both immigrants who came a great distance to start new lives in the Americas.

    Over the years, our cultures have blended together. Dr. Carlos Finlay’s work in Cuba paved the way for generations of doctors, including Walter Reed, who drew on Dr. Finlay’s work to help combat Yellow Fever. Just as Marti wrote some of his most famous words in New York, Ernest Hemingway made a home in Cuba, and found inspiration in the waters of these shores. We share a national past-time — La Pelota — and later today our players will compete on the same Havana field that Jackie Robinson played on before he made his Major League debut. (Applause.) And it’s said that our greatest boxer, Muhammad Ali, once paid tribute to a Cuban that he could never fight — saying that he would only be able to reach a draw with the great Cuban, Teofilo Stevenson. (Applause.)

    So even as our governments became adversaries, our people continued to share these common passions, particularly as so many Cubans came to America. In Miami or Havana, you can find places to dance the Cha-Cha-Cha or the Salsa, and eat ropa vieja. People in both of our countries have sung along with Celia Cruz or Gloria Estefan, and now listen to reggaeton or Pitbull. (Laughter.) Millions of our people share a common religion — a faith that I paid tribute to at the Shrine of our Lady of Charity in Miami, a peace that Cubans find in La Cachita.

    For all of our differences, the Cuban and American people share common values in their own lives. A sense of patriotism and a sense of pride — a lot of pride. A profound love of family. A passion for our children, a commitment to their education. And that’s why I believe our grandchildren will look back on this period of isolation as an aberration, as just one chapter in a longer story of family and of friendship.

    But we cannot, and should not, ignore the very real differences that we have — about how we organize our governments, our economies, and our societies. Cuba has a one-party system; the United States is a multi-party democracy. Cuba has a socialist economic model; the United States is an open market. Cuba has emphasized the role and rights of the state; the United States is founded upon the rights of the individual.

    Despite these differences, on December 17th 2014, President Castro and I announced that the United States and Cuba would begin a process to normalize relations between our countries. (Applause.) Since then, we have established diplomatic relations and opened embassies. We’ve begun initiatives to cooperate on health and agriculture, education and law enforcement. We’ve reached agreements to restore direct flights and mail service. We’ve expanded commercial ties, and increased the capacity of Americans to travel and do business in Cuba.

    And these changes have been welcomed, even though there are still opponents to these policies. But still, many people on both sides of this debate have asked: Why now? Why now?

    There is one simple answer: What the United States was doing was not working. We have to have the courage to acknowledge that truth. A policy of isolation designed for the Cold War made little sense in the 21st century. The embargo was only hurting the Cuban people instead of helping them. And I’ve always believed in what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the fierce urgency of now” — we should not fear change, we should embrace it. (Applause.)

    That leads me to a bigger and more important reason for these changes: Creo en el pueblo Cubano. I believe in the Cuban people. (Applause.) This is not just a policy of normalizing relations with the Cuban government. The United States of America is normalizing relations with the Cuban people. (Applause.)

    And today, I want to share with you my vision of what our future can be. I want the Cuban people — especially the young people — to understand why I believe that you should look to the future with hope; not the false promise which insists that things are better than they really are, or the blind optimism that says all your problems can go away tomorrow. Hope that is rooted in the future that you can choose and that you can shape, and that you can build for your country.

    I’m hopeful because I believe that the Cuban people are as innovative as any people in the world.

    In a global economy, powered by ideas and information, a country’s greatest asset is its people. In the United States, we have a clear monument to what the Cuban people can build: it’s called Miami. Here in Havana, we see that same talent in cuentapropistas, cooperatives and old cars that still run. El Cubano inventa del aire. (Applause.)

    Cuba has an extraordinary resource — a system of education which values every boy and every girl. (Applause.) And in recent years, the Cuban government has begun to open up to the world, and to open up more space for that talent to thrive. In just a few years, we’ve seen how cuentapropistas can succeed while sustaining a distinctly Cuban spirit. Being self-employed is not about becoming more like America, it’s about being yourself.

    Look at Sandra Lidice Aldama, who chose to start a small business. Cubans, she said, can “innovate and adapt without losing our identity…our secret is in not copying or imitating but simply being ourselves.”

    Look at Papito Valladeres, a barber, whose success allowed him to improve conditions in his neighborhood. “I realize I’m not going to solve all of the world’s problems,” he said. “But if I can solve problems in the little piece of the world where I live, it can ripple across Havana.”

    That’s where hope begins — with the ability to earn your own living, and to build something you can be proud of. That’s why our policies focus on supporting Cubans, instead of hurting them. That’s why we got rid of limits on remittances — so ordinary Cubans have more resources. That’s why we’re encouraging travel — which will build bridges between our people, and bring more revenue to those Cuban small businesses. That’s why we’ve opened up space for commerce and exchanges — so that Americans and Cubans can work together to find cures for diseases, and create jobs, and open the door to more opportunity for the Cuban people.

    As President of the United States, I’ve called on our Congress to lift the embargo. (Applause.) It is an outdated burden on the Cuban people. It’s a burden on the Americans who want to work and do business or invest here in Cuba. It’s time to lift the embargo. But even if we lifted the embargo tomorrow, Cubans would not realize their potential without continued change here in Cuba. (Applause.) It should be easier to open a business here in Cuba. A worker should be able to get a job directly with companies who invest here in Cuba. Two currencies shouldn’t separate the type of salaries that Cubans can earn. The Internet should be available across the island, so that Cubans can connect to the wider world — (applause) — and to one of the greatest engines of growth in human history.

    There’s no limitation from the United States on the ability of Cuba to take these steps. It’s up to you. And I can tell you as a friend that sustainable prosperity in the 21st century depends upon education, health care, and environmental protection. But it also depends on the free and open exchange of ideas. If you can’t access information online, if you cannot be exposed to different points of view, you will not reach your full potential. And over time, the youth will lose hope.

    I know these issues are sensitive, especially coming from an American President. Before 1959, some Americans saw Cuba as something to exploit, ignored poverty, enabled corruption. And since 1959, we’ve been shadow-boxers in this battle of geopolitics and personalities. I know the history, but I refuse to be trapped by it. (Applause.)

    I’ve made it clear that the United States has neither the capacity, nor the intention to impose change on Cuba. What changes come will depend upon the Cuban people. We will not impose our political or economic system on you. We recognize that every country, every people, must chart its own course and shape its own model. But having removed the shadow of history from our relationship, I must speak honestly about the things that I believe — the things that we, as Americans, believe. As Marti said, “Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy.”

    So let me tell you what I believe. I can’t force you to agree, but you should know what I think. I believe that every person should be equal under the law. (Applause.) Every child deserves the dignity that comes with education, and health care and food on the table and a roof over their heads. (Applause.) I believe citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear — (applause) — to organize, and to criticize their government, and to protest peacefully, and that the rule of law should not include arbitrary detentions of people who exercise those rights. (Applause.) I believe that every person should have the freedom to practice their faith peacefully and publicly. (Applause.) And, yes, I believe voters should be able to choose their governments in free and democratic elections. (Applause.)

    Not everybody agrees with me on this. Not everybody agrees with the American people on this. But I believe those human rights are universal. (Applause.) I believe they are the rights of the American people, the Cuban people, and people around the world.

    Now, there’s no secret that our governments disagree on many of these issues. I’ve had frank conversations with President Castro. For many years, he has pointed out the flaws in the American system — economic inequality; the death penalty; racial discrimination; wars abroad. That’s just a sample. He has a much longer list. (Laughter.) But here’s what the Cuban people need to understand: I welcome this open debate and dialogue. It’s good. It’s healthy. I’m not afraid of it.

    We do have too much money in American politics. But, in America, it’s still possible for somebody like me — a child who was raised by a single mom, a child of mixed race who did not have a lot of money — to pursue and achieve the highest office in the land. That’s what’s possible in America. (Applause.)

    We do have challenges with racial bias — in our communities, in our criminal justice system, in our society — the legacy of slavery and segregation. But the fact that we have open debates within America’s own democracy is what allows us to get better. In 1959, the year that my father moved to America, it was illegal for him to marry my mother, who was white, in many American states. When I first started school, we were still struggling to desegregate schools across the American South. But people organized; they protested; they debated these issues; they challenged government officials. And because of those protests, and because of those debates, and because of popular mobilization, I’m able to stand here today as an African-American and as President of the United States. That was because of the freedoms that were afforded in the United States that we were able to bring about change.

    I’m not saying this is easy. There’s still enormous problems in our society. But democracy is the way that we solve them. That’s how we got health care for more of our people. That’s how we made enormous gains in women’s rights and gay rights. That’s how we address the inequality that concentrates so much wealth at the top of our society. Because workers can organize and ordinary people have a voice, American democracy has given our people the opportunity to pursue their dreams and enjoy a high standard of living. (Applause.)

    Now, there are still some tough fights. It isn’t always pretty, the process of democracy. It’s often frustrating. You can see that in the election going on back home. But just stop and consider this fact about the American campaign that’s taking place right now. You had two Cuban Americans in the Republican Party, running against the legacy of a black man who is President, while arguing that they’re the best person to beat the Democratic nominee who will either be a woman or a Democratic Socialist. (Laughter and applause.) Who would have believed that back in 1959? That’s a measure of our progress as a democracy. (Applause.)

    So here’s my message to the Cuban government and the Cuban people: The ideals that are the starting point for every revolution — America’s revolution, Cuba’s revolution, the liberation movements around the world — those ideals find their truest expression, I believe, in democracy. Not because American democracy is perfect, but precisely because we’re not. And we — like every country — need the space that democracy gives us to change. It gives individuals the capacity to be catalysts to think in new ways, and to reimagine how our society should be, and to make them better.

    There’s already an evolution taking place inside of Cuba, a generational change. Many suggested that I come here and ask the people of Cuba to tear something down — but I’m appealing to the young people of Cuba who will lift something up, build something new. (Applause.) El future de Cuba tiene que estar en las manos del pueblo Cubano. (Applause.)

    And to President Castro — who I appreciate being here today — I want you to know, I believe my visit here demonstrates you do not need to fear a threat from the United States. And given your commitment to Cuba’s sovereignty and self-determination, I am also confident that you need not fear the different voices of the Cuban people — and their capacity to speak, and assemble, and vote for their leaders. In fact, I’m hopeful for the future because I trust that the Cuban people will make the right decisions.

    And as you do, I’m also confident that Cuba can continue to play an important role in the hemisphere and around the globe — and my hope is, is that you can do so as a partner with the United States.

    We’ve played very different roles in the world. But no one should deny the service that thousands of Cuban doctors have delivered for the poor and suffering. (Applause.) Last year, American health care workers — and the U.S. military — worked side-by-side with Cubans to save lives and stamp out Ebola in West Africa. I believe that we should continue that kind of cooperation in other countries.

    We’ve been on the different side of so many conflicts in the Americas. But today, Americans and Cubans are sitting together at the negotiating table, and we are helping the Colombian people resolve a civil war that’s dragged on for decades. (Applause.) That kind of cooperation is good for everybody. It gives everyone in this hemisphere hope.

    We took different journeys to our support for the people of South Africa in ending apartheid. But President Castro and I could both be there in Johannesburg to pay tribute to the legacy of the great Nelson Mandela. (Applause.) And in examining his life and his words, I’m sure we both realize we have more work to do to promote equality in our own countries — to reduce discrimination based on race in our own countries. And in Cuba, we want our engagement to help lift up the Cubans who are of African descent — (applause) — who’ve proven that there’s nothing they cannot achieve when given the chance.

    We’ve been a part of different blocs of nations in the hemisphere, and we will continue to have profound differences about how to promote peace, security, opportunity, and human rights. But as we normalize our relations, I believe it can help foster a greater sense of unity in the Americas — todos somos Americanos. (Applause.)

    From the beginning of my time in office, I’ve urged the people of the Americas to leave behind the ideological battles of the past. We are in a new era. I know that many of the issues that I’ve talked about lack the drama of the past. And I know that part of Cuba’s identity is its pride in being a small island nation that could stand up for its rights, and shake the world. But I also know that Cuba will always stand out because of the talent, hard work, and pride of the Cuban people. That’s your strength. (Applause.) Cuba doesn’t have to be defined by being against the United States, any more than the United States should be defined by being against Cuba. I’m hopeful for the future because of the reconciliation that’s taking place among the Cuban people.

    I know that for some Cubans on the island, there may be a sense that those who left somehow supported the old order in Cuba. I’m sure there’s a narrative that lingers here which suggests that Cuban exiles ignored the problems of pre-Revolutionary Cuba, and rejected the struggle to build a new future. But I can tell you today that so many Cuban exiles carry a memory of painful — and sometimes violent — separation. They love Cuba. A part of them still considers this their true home. That’s why their passion is so strong. That’s why their heartache is so great. And for the Cuban American community that I’ve come to know and respect, this is not just about politics. This is about family — the memory of a home that was lost; the desire to rebuild a broken bond; the hope for a better future the hope for return and reconciliation.

    For all of the politics, people are people, and Cubans are Cubans. And I’ve come here — I’ve traveled this distance — on a bridge that was built by Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits. I first got to know the talent and passion of the Cuban people in America. And I know how they have suffered more than the pain of exile — they also know what it’s like to be an outsider, and to struggle, and to work harder to make sure their children can reach higher in America.

    So the reconciliation of the Cuban people — the children and grandchildren of revolution, and the children and grandchildren of exile — that is fundamental to Cuba’s future. (Applause.)

    You see it in Gloria Gonzalez, who traveled here in 2013 for the first time after 61 years of separation, and was met by her sister, Llorca. “You recognized me, but I didn’t recognize you,” Gloria said after she embraced her sibling. Imagine that, after 61 years.

    You see it in Melinda Lopez, who came to her family’s old home. And as she was walking the streets, an elderly woman recognized her as her mother’s daughter, and began to cry. She took her into her home and showed her a pile of photos that included Melinda’s baby picture, which her mother had sent 50 years ago. Melinda later said, “So many of us are now getting so much back.”

    You see it in Cristian Miguel Soler, a young man who became the first of his family to travel here after 50 years. And meeting relatives for the first time, he said, “I realized that family is family no matter the distance between us.”

    Sometimes the most important changes start in small places. The tides of history can leave people in conflict and exile and poverty. It takes time for those circumstances to change. But the recognition of a common humanity, the reconciliation of people bound by blood and a belief in one another — that’s where progress begins. Understanding, and listening, and forgiveness. And if the Cuban people face the future together, it will be more likely that the young people of today will be able to live with dignity and achieve their dreams right here in Cuba.

    The history of the United States and Cuba encompass revolution and conflict; struggle and sacrifice; retribution and, now, reconciliation. It is time, now, for us to leave the past behind. It is time for us to look forward to the future together — un future de esperanza. And it won’t be easy, and there will be setbacks. It will take time. But my time here in Cuba renews my hope and my confidence in what the Cuban people will do. We can make this journey as friends, and as neighbors, and as family — together. Si Senate puede. Muchas gracias. (Applause.)

    [Image: AP]

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    The music world is mourning the lost of A Tribe Called Quest rapper Phife Dawg, who passed away Wednesday, March 23rd.

    Although an official statement hasn’t been released, it has been confirmed that Phife died at age 45. The rapper, whose real name is Malik Taylor, had a long battle with Type 1 diabetes and underwent a kidney transplant in 2008.

    “It’s really a sickness,” Taylor said in Beats, Rhymes & Life, a 2011 documentary on A Tribe Called Quest. “Like straight-up drugs. I’m just addicted to sugar.”

    Speaking with Rolling Stone in November, the Jamaica, Queens native seemed optimistic about his health that affected his solo career. “I am in a good spot, but I have my good days and I have my bad days,” he said. “But I’m more or less in a good spot, so I can’t really complain.”

    Phife had plans to release the J Dilla-produced “Nutshell,” which would have been the first single off an EP titled Give Thanks, and Muttymorphosis, which he dubbed as a sort of autobiographical LP and had plans to release this year.

    [Image: Instagram]


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    UPTOWN_phife_dawg

    Celebrities and Hip-Hop icons, including Chuck D and Redman, took to social media to express their sadness over the loss of rapper Phife Dawg. The founding member of A Tribe Called Quest passed away today at age 45.


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    These stylish headbangers will have you looking as dope as they sound.

    By Joane Amay

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