R&B Singer Akon Moves Ahead with “Akon’ City in Senegal
In September, American R&B singer, Akon announced that construction will begin, in 2021, on the $6 billion project ‘Akon City’ in Senegal despite global tourism’s uncertain future. In development since 2018, Akon has described it as a “real-life Wakanda,“ comparing it to the technologically advanced fictional African place portrayed in the blockbuster film “Black Panther.” His goal is to provide jobs and opportunities for Senegalese and also serve as a “home back home” for Black Americans and others facing racial injustices. Plans eventually call for Akon City to have its own hospital, police station, and even its own cryptocurrency already named AKoin. Akon rose to R&B fame after his 2004 debut album but has increasingly focused on development projects in Africa in recent years.
Tiffany Haddish and Legendary Black Comedians Receive Awards at City Hall
In February, African American comedians were awarded for their contributions in the entertainment industry by city leaders focusing on Black stand-up comedians. These comedians channeled their inner Black power to thrive and accomplish goals they never dreamed of coming to fruition. This exhibit showed a glimpse of the comedian’s impact on American culture. The honorees included Michael Williams, Luenell Campbell, Joe Torry, Eddie Griffin, Kym Whitley, and superstar Tiffany Haddish. In her acceptance speech, Haddish added this “I would love to get a business with the City of Los Angeles and put some more foster homes for the youth. We’re going to save some of these kids because I feel like kids are the future. Comedy has helped me navigate through the ups and downs on my journey.”
DJ D-Nice Unites During the Pandemic
DJ D-Nice decided to start playing music live on Instagram amid countless closures due the worldwide pandemic, he did it in part to ease his loneliness and boredom given his own gigs had dried up. But then word spread, and it grew to a few thousand, then tens of thousands. Celebrities started showing up like Janet Jackson and Jimmy Fallon. Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey popped in on what would become known as #ClubQuarantine as the audience exploded. Another surreal moment was when Stevie Wonder tried use the “join” feature to be on screen with D-Nice and interact with him. Even politicians’ handles popped up, like Joe Biden’s. He also said #ClubQuarantine has proven the healing power of music.
Rapper-Actor-Producer Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson Receives Walk of Fame Star
A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was unveiled honoring rapper-actor-producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, 10 days before the finale of the Starz crime drama he produces and appears in, “Power.” Rappers Dr. Dre and Eminem were among the notables who joined Jackson at the event in front of The W Hollywood Hotel and Hollywood Hamburger at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. The star is the 2,686th since the completion of the Walk of Fame in 1961 with the first 1,558 stars.
BLACK AMERICAN MUSIC ASSOCIATION (BAM) FOUNDERS MICHAEL MAULDIN AND DEMMETTE GUIDRY NAMED AMONG BILLBOARD’S 2020 R&B/HIP-HOP POWERS PLAYERS
In November, Billboard revealed their 2020 R&B /Hip-Hop Power Players list. Included among the list of prestigious music executives are Black American Music Association (BAM) founders Michael Mauldin and Demmette Guidry. Every year the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Power Players list highlights the year’s most influential music executives and leaders in the industry. Before founding BAM in 2017, both Mauldin and Guidry have served decades in many notable senior leadership roles in the music business, launching entrepreneurial ventures, and developing and orchestrating many award-winning music careers.
Together they have helped shape the careers of many artists including, Jermaine Dupri, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Public Enemy, Wyclef Jean, NAS, Fugees, Anthony Hamilton, Alicia Keys, Destiny’s Child, Bow Wow, 50 Cent, Kenny Lattimore, Anita Baker, and Luther Vandros to name a few. About being recognized on this year’s list, Mauldin says, “It’s an honor to be included in such a prestigious article. Events and activities that surround us during this time in history are some of the most critical times of our lives, and I’m excited and proud that Black American Music and the Black community are at the forefront of our global culture.”
Niecy Nash surprises with wedding to singer Jessica Betts
In September, actor, and comedian Niecy Nash surprised fans with a weekend wedding to
singer Jessica Betts and officially came out as a proud member of the LGBTQ community. Their Twitter and Instagram posts of their outdoor marriage ceremony in a lush garden setting were captioned by Carol (Nash’s legal first name) “Mrs. Carol Denise Betts,“ adding a rainbow emoji and the hashtag #LoveWins.“ Nash (50) whose divorce from husband Jayson Tucker was finalized in March, is known for her roles on the television series “Reno 911,” “Never Have I Ever” and “Claws.”
‘Just Mercy’ Starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx Explores the Deep-Seated Inequalities in America’s Criminal Justice System
In January, the Sentinel attended the screening of “Just Mercy,” the critically acclaimed film detailing the raw truths and stark biases found in America’s criminal justice system. Starring Black Panther’s Michael B. Jordan and Oscar award-winning actor Jamie Foxx, “Just Mercy” trails the journey of Bryan Stevenson (Jordan), a young Black lawyer and Harvard graduate who makes it his life’s mission to vindicate the wrongfully accused and underrepresented and Walter McMillan (Foxx), a Black man from Alabama, who in 1987, was wrongfully convicted for the notorious murder of an 18-year old girl. Jordan, also known for starring in “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed,” says the film fits a trajectory that forces communities of color to take ownership of their narrative and use it to embrace change and says that “through solidarity, through the community, demanding answers from broken systems and identifying leaders like Bryan Stevenson, people of color are in a better position to overcome cyclical trauma. There’s a lot of things that need to happen in order to overcome hundreds and hundreds of years of systemic oppression. We’re in the infancy stages of that, so we’ll see what happens.” Bryan Stevenson also agrees with this sentiment, declaring that justice must be met with a higher level of reckoning and accountability in communities of color. “We’re going to have to do something about access to justice,” Stevenson said. “We have a system that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent and that has to change,”
Just Mercy hit theatres nationwide on January 10, 2020.
11th Annual AAFCA Awards Raises the Bar for Representation in Hollywood
In January, The African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) recently held its 11th annual awards ceremony hosted by comedian Lil Rel Howery. The top awards for the evening went to Jamie Foxx for Best Supporting Actor in “Just Mercy,” while Eddie Murphy won Best Actor for his role as Rudy Ray Moore in “Dolemite is My Name.” Murphy’s counterpart Da’Vine Randolph won for Supporting Actress in the film. Actor Kelvin Harrison Jr. snagged Breakout Actor for his thrilling role in “Waves,” while NFL player turned filmmaker Matthew Cherry won Breakthrough Director of the year for his film “Hair Love.” The melanated horror film “Us” attained triple honors, winning for Best Film, Best Director, Jordan Peele, and Best Actress, Lupita Nyong’o.