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Black History

#Black Girl M-A-G-I-C: Zaila Avant-garde 1st Black American to win the Spelling Bee

In the July 8 contest held in Orlando, Fla., Zaila won on the word “murraya” a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees. At that moment she spun around and jumped in the air as multi-colored confetti flurried around her.

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Zaila Avant-garde competes in the first round of the the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals in Orlando, Florida on July 8, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Zaila Avant-garde, 14

Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from Harvey, La., is the first African American and the first student from Louisiana to win the National Spelling Bee.  (Her father changed her surname from Heard to Avant-garde in homage to saxophonist John Coltrane.)

The first person of African descent to win the contest was Jody-Anne Maxwell a 12-year-old from Jamaica in 1998.

The National Spelling Bee began in 1925.  Now known as the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the organization acknowledged in a statement that it “has not been immune from the social issues of its times, including the long-fought battle for racial equality. . . Our hope is that Zaila’s amazing accomplishments will be seen as an inspiration to other young people and another step forward in that cause.”

In the July 8 contest held in Orlando, Fla., Zaila won on the word “murraya” a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees. At that moment she spun around and jumped in the air as multi-colored confetti flurried around her.

“It felt really good to win because I have been working on it for like two years. So to actually win the whole thing was like a dream come true,” she told CNN’s “New Day” on Friday. “I felt like in the moment I snapped out of a surreal dream.”

Zaila also holds three Guinness World Records for dribbling, bouncing and juggling basketballs. They include: the most basketballs dribbled simultaneously (six for 30 seconds); the most basketball bounces (307 in 30 seconds); and the most bounce juggles in one minute (255 with four basketballs).

She appeared in a commercial with Golden State Warrior Steph Curry in 2018.

For her win, which was televised on ESPN, she received a trophy and a $50,000 prize.  This was only Zaila’s second time competing in a spelling bee.  In her first competition she made it to the third round.

She told Good Morning America that the Bee was a “gate-opener to being interested in education.”

Zaila was in the final round with Chaitra Thummala, 12, from San Francisco.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans tweeted: “talk about #blackgirlmagic!”

The New York Times, CNN and BBC News were sources for this report.

Black History

Amenhotep III: A Peaceful Reign in Ancient Egypt

Amenhotep suffered from severe dental problems, arthritis, and possibly obesity in his later years. After ruling Egypt for 38 years, he died in 1353 BCE.

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Stone image of Egypt’s King Amenhotep III. Wikipedia.org photo.

Tuthmosis IV left his son an empire of immense size, wealth, and power: the 18th Dynasty of Egypt.

At 12 years old, Amenhotep III (c. 1386–1353 BCE) came to the throne and married Tiye in a royal ceremony. Tiye, who was among several of Amenhotep’s wives, would bear seven children. However, immediately after the marriage she became the one—the great royal wife, an honor that her own mother-in-law never held. Tiye could then outrank her in courtly matters.

Although Amenhotep and Tiye were by today’s standards still in their youth, Egypt’s wealthy and powerful often ruled at an early age. According to Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, “Amenhotep III was born into a world where Egypt reigned supreme. Its coffers were filled with gold, and its vassals bowed down before the mighty rulers of the Two Lands [Egypt].”

After his marriage to Tiye, Amenhotep continued his father’s work in implementing new building programs throughout Egypt. During his reign, he ordered the construction of more than 250 buildings, temples, and stone slabs erected as monuments. All were immense in size and boasted intricate details. Today, the statues known as the Colossi of Memnon, are all that is left of Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple. According to historians, Amenhotep envisioned an “Egypt so splendid that it would leave one in awe.”

A master of diplomacy, Amenhotep placed surrounding nations in his debt by giving them gold. Doing so encouraged loyalty and made them followers. These relationships soon grew profitable and his generosity to friendly kings became well established.

Amenhotep was known for his hunting skills which were noted in inscriptions: “the total number of lions killed by His Majesty with his own arrows, from the first to the tenth year [of his reign] was 102 wild lions.” He was also an adept military leader. Some historians say that he “probably fought, or directed his military commanders, in one campaign in Nubia and he had inscriptions made to commemorate that expedition.”

Many foreign rulers wanted Amenhotep to provide them Egyptian wives. Respecting the women of his land, he swore that “no daughter of Egypt had ever been sent to a foreign land and would not be sent under his reign.”
Amenhotep was also humble in his practice of the ancient Egyptian religion, which proved to be the foundation for his interest in the arts as well as construction. His greatest contribution to Egyptian culture was his ability to maintain peace and prosperity, which enabled him to devote his time to the arts.

Amenhotep suffered from severe dental problems, arthritis, and possibly obesity in his later years. After ruling Egypt for 38 years, he died in 1353 BCE.

Letters penned by foreign rulers expressed their grief and condolences to Queen Tiye. The letters confirmed that these monarchs hoped to continue the same good relations with Egypt under the new king as they had with Amenhotep III. With Amenhotep’s passing, his son, then called Amenhotep IV, began his reign.

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Black History

Freedom’s Journal: The First Voice of Black America

The four-column weekly publication was printed every Friday. Stories covered foreign and domestic news, editorials, births and deaths in the local black community, weddings, advertisements, and notices for retailers and companies that did not discriminate. Featured were articles on countries such as Haiti and Sierra Leone.

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Freedom’s Journal, Vol. 1 No. 1, March 16, 1827. Courtesy Library of Congress (sn83030455).

It was 1827, a time when white publishers didn’t run obituaries of African Americans. Politics, sports, money and social issues were reported from the perspectives of whites only.

That same year, John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish founded Freedom’s Journal in New York City. It was the first black-owned and -operated newspaper in the United States. The days of major papers snuffing out the voices of Black America were ending.

The four-column weekly publication was printed every Friday. Stories covered foreign and domestic news, editorials, births and deaths in the local black community, weddings, advertisements, and notices for retailers and companies that did not discriminate. Featured were articles on countries such as Haiti and Sierra Leone.

To encourage Black achievement, it printed biographies of renowned Black figures such as Paul Cuffee, Touissant L’Ouverture and Phyllis Wheatley.

Also included were editorials expressing contempt of slavery, racism and other injustices suffered by Blacks. At the same time, many white papers openly supported slavery and racially biased acts. Boston writer David Walker, an agent for the paper, penned “David Walker’s Appeal,” dubbed the most radical of all anti-slavery documents. In it, he called for slaves to rebel against their masters.

According to Nieman Reports, “Russwurm and Cornish placed great value on the need for reading and writing as keys to empowerment for the Black population and they hoped a Black newspaper would encourage literacy and intellectual development among African Americans.”

The publishers sought to broaden readers’ awareness of world events while acting as a beacon to strengthen ties among Black communities across the U.S. During the paper’s heyday, subscriptions were $3 per year and circulated in 11 states, the District of Columbia, Haiti, Europe and Canada.

In 1827, Cornish resigned from the publication, leaving Russwurm as the sole editor. Cited were differences regarding African-American colonization of Africa. According to Nieman Reports, “Russwurm had begun to promote the colonization movement led by the American Colonization Society, which wanted to free African-American slaves and offer them the opportunity of transport back to Africa.”

The newspaper’s position was unpopular with its readership. Subscriptions quickly declined. By March of 1829, the loss of circulation forced the paper to cease publication.

After the paper shut down, Russwurm emigrated to Liberia. It was the area established on Africa’s western coast to receive those recruited by the American Colonization Society. There, Russwurm became governor of Liberia’s Maryland Colony.

In 1829, Cornish re-entered the newspaper world with a goal to revive Freedom’s Journal, renaming it The Rights of All. But in less than a year, the paper failed. Freedom’s Journal had boasted a lifespan of two years. In spite of this short-lived history, its enormous impact on antebellum Black communities would live on as progress of the Black press continued.

Despite its troubles, Freedom’s Journal was instrumental in spawning other papers. Three decades later, more than 40 Black-owned newspapers were operating throughout the U.S. All 103 issues of Freedom’s Journal are available on the Wisconsin Historical Society website.

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Art

Maestro Michael Morgan Conducts San Francisco Symphony

Morgan was born and raised in Wash., D.C., and is recognized worldwide for innovative and thematically rich programs that make connections between a wide range of artists and musical cultures.

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Maestro Michael Morgan

Maestro Michael Morgan, music director and conductor of the Oakland Symphony, will conduct the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA, Friday, July 23, 2021 at 7:00 p.m.

The program will include the overture to Gioachino Rossini’s opera “La gazza ladra,” along with a playful Pas de Six from “William Tell.” Louise Farrenc’s revelatory Symphony No. 3 from 1847 takes center stage, while the program concludes with James P. Johnson’s Roaring 20s hit, “Charleston.”

“I am thrilled to be helping the San Francisco Symphony share all the wonderful things they do with a wider and more diverse audience’, said Morgan.

Morgan’s ties to the San Francisco Symphony stretch back to 1994, when he first led Concerts for Kids performances.

Morgan was born and raised in Wash., D.C., and is recognized worldwide for innovative and thematically rich programs that make connections between a wide range of artists and musical cultures.

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