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Director Spike Lee Wins First Oscar at 91st Annual Academy Awards

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Wearing a purple suit and hat and seated in the front row at the Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, Lee was nominated for two Oscars: Best Adaptive Screenplay for “Blackkklansman,” and for Best Director of the same film.

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By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Director Spike Lee, who was famously passed over for Best Film and Best Director for his 1992 film “Malcolm X,” won his first Oscar at the 91st Annual Academy Awards.

Wearing a purple suit and hat and seated in the front row at the Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, Lee was nominated for two Oscars: Best Adaptive Screenplay for “Blackkklansman,” and for Best Director of the same film.

Though Lee did not win for Best Director for “Blackkklansman,” the evening featured a great deal of diversity as the Director of the film “Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón, was awarded for Best Director.

Lee’s production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since 1983. Lee, 61, has created several memorable films including, “She’s Gotta Have It” (1986), “School Daze” (1988), “Do the Right Thing” (1989), “Mo’ Better Blues” (1990), “Jungle Fever” (1991) and “Malcolm X” (1992).

When Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington, who starred in “Malcolm X,” lost to Al Pacino for his performance in “Scent of A Woman” it was considered one the biggest snubs in Oscars history. Overall, “Malcolm X” won no major awards.

“It was so funny and so horrifying because it was based on the truth and truth is so precious these days,” said legendary singer and film director, Barbra Streisand, as she introduced Lee’s film “Blackkklansman,” at the Academy Awards.

Though Lee was born in Atlanta, he was raised on New York and has made Brooklyn, NY his hometown.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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Activism

16th Annual MLK Day of Service on the Richmond Greenway

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

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“…Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

The event was hosted by Urban Tilth and the City of Richmond. Event partners were Groundwork Richmond, Rich City Rides, Moving Forward, Hope Worldwide, The Watershed Project, Contra Costa Resource Conservation District, Building Blocks for Kids, City of Richmond, Cal Cameron Institute, Friends of the Richmond Greenway; and Pogo Park.

The celebration made possible with the support of the Hellman Family Foundation, City of Richmond, and hundreds of individual donors.

The day’s schedule included volunteer projects along the Richmond Greenway and a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial and community celebration at Unity Park.

Among the community service projects were opportunities to take part in projects to transform and beautify the Richmond Greenway Trail, like tending to the Greenway Gardens, trash pickup, and planting native plant and trees.

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Activism

Sheng Thao Sworn in as New Mayor of Oakland, Pledges New Direction for the City

Mayor Thao provided a few minutes on the program to introduce to the community Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, the newly appointed deputy mayor, who has served as vice president of external affairs and dean of the school of education at Holy Names University, a leader of the Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and a member of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.

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Mayor Sheng Thao, sworn in as the 51st Mayor of Oakland, is flanked by her son Ben Ventura and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Jan. 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.
Mayor Sheng Thao, sworn in as the 51st Mayor of Oakland, is flanked by her son Ben Ventura and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Jan. 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Mayor Thao appoints HNU’s Dr. Kimberly Mayfield as deputy mayor

By Ken Epstein

Sheng Thao, a daughter of Hmong refugees who overcame homelessness and domestic abuse to attend university and build a life for herself and her family in Oakland, received the official oath of office Monday afternoon as the new mayor of the City of Oakland.

Sworn in at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, she stood on stage surrounded by friends, family, and staff members. She was flanked by her son Ben Ventura, who performed a musical piece on the cello, and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao.

The mayor called on Oaklanders to join with her to create a more humane, inclusive, and just city. She spoke about her commitment as a progressive to significantly improve the quality of life for residents, making the city safer and cleaner, building 30,000 units of truly affordable housing, fostering jobs, promoting economic development, supporting small businesses and providing solutions to homelessness that recognize the dignity of the unsheltered.

“I know what we can do together, Oakland,” she said. “Our city’s’ best days are still to come. The Oakland that we all know is possible and within our reach.”

Newly appointed Deputy Mayor Kimberly Mayfield (left) with Mayor Sheng Thao. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Newly appointed Deputy Mayor Kimberly Mayfield (left) with Mayor Sheng Thao. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Mayor Thao provided a few minutes on the program to introduce to the community Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, the newly appointed deputy mayor, who has served as vice president of external affairs and dean of the school of education at Holy Names University, a leader of the Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and a member of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.

In her remarks, the mayor focused on the city’s long fight to become more inclusive and equitable.

“We believe everyone deserves a seat at the table, not just a few, not just the wealthy, not just the well-connected,” she said.

“Sometimes, we take our shared progressive values for granted, our advances toward justice and equality,” said Mayor Thao.

She reminded people that “a…century ago, our city was dominated by members of the Ku Klux Klan (where) Klan members burned crosses in our hills and marched through our streets. As recently as the1970s, freeways were made possible by tearing down thriving Black, Latino, and Asian communities,” she continued.

“We recognize what we have overcome together to remember what is worth fighting for every day…(and) to take stock of how far we still have to go.”

Promising a “comprehensive” approach to public safety to make all neighborhoods in the city safer, she said she would bolster anti-crime programs like Ceasefire and “we will fill (police) vacancies with home-grown police officers who know our community, who look like us.”

At the same time, she said, the city must increase opportunities for young people, reinvigorating the summer jobs program (for youth) and enhance the school-to-work pipeline so young people can gain experience and job skills.

She said she would beef up the many city departments that are currently operating on skeleton staffing, promising to fill the staffing vacancies that “plague our city.”

Mayor Thao said she herself is a renter, and that she “will fiercely protect Oakland renters. If you are a renter in Oakland, you’ve got a mayor who’s got your back.”

Speaking about the Oakland A’s proposed waterfront real estate development promoted by former Mayor Libby Schaaf, Mayor Thao said the city will continue negotiations to keep the team “rooted in Oakland.”

“Working closely with the A’s, I’m hopeful we can reach a good deal, (based) on our Oakland values,” she said.

The former mayor’s plan for building the proposed waterfront real estate development at the Port of Oakland was dealt a major setback this week when Oakland failed to secure more than $180 million in federal funds to help pay for infrastructure development for the project.

Speaking of the importance of the appointment of Mayfield as deputy mayor, the Mayor’s Office explained her role in the new administration:

“Mayor Thao was thrilled Kimberly Mayfield agreed to join her team because of her tremendous and longstanding leadership in Oakland. In recognition of her vast experience, it was decided that the best role for her would be as deputy mayor where she will be an instrumental part of the leadership of both the Office and Oakland.”

In her introduction at the Paramount Theatre, Mayfield said, “Today is not about political agendas…It’s about the power of the people…it’s a recognition of the rejection of the status quo. This new chapter begins with a mayor that understands how to build a culture that works for everyone. Thank you, Mayor Thao for the opportunity to serve.”

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

Shirley Weber Sworn in as California’s First Elected Black Secretary of State

The Secretary of State is the chief elections officer of the state, responsible for overseeing and certifying elections, as well as testing and certifying voting equipment for use in California. Weber’s duties also include overseeing the state’s archives division and registry of businesses.

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As her grandchildren Kadir and Jalil Gakunga looked on California Secretary of State Shirley Weber was sworn in to her first term in the position by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego). CBM photo.
As her grandchildren Kadir and Jalil Gakunga looked on California Secretary of State Shirley Weber was sworn in to her first term in the position by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego). CBM photo.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

On Jan. 9, with the sound of African drumming in the background, Shirley Weber was sworn in as the first elected Black Secretary of State (SOS) of California and the 32nd person to hold the position.

The ceremony was conducted at the SOS’ auditorium in downtown Sacramento, one block south of the State Capitol.

Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) administered the oath of office in front of Weber’s grandsons Kadir and Jalil Gakunga.

“I want to thank all of those who work so hard to make this position, the Secretary of State — and all of those wonderful things that come with it — possible, and for being in my life,” Weber said. “I have been blessed beyond imagination with all of the good things California has to give.”

The daughter of a sharecropper from Hope, Arkansas, Weber said she is “not supposed to be here” as the state’s chief clerk, overseeing a department of 500-plus employees.

Weber grew up in a two-room, “clapboard house” in Arkansas with her parents and five other siblings before the family relocated to Los Angeles where they lived in Pueblo Del Rio, a housing project known as the “pueblos.”

Weber said the “data” projected that she would not have a bright future. Still, she went on to graduate from UCLA with a PhD, serve on the San Diego Board of Education, teach African American studies at San Diego State University, and successfully run for California State Assembly in November 2012.

“My father came from Hope, Arkansas, because there was no hope in Hope,” Weber said. “He came to California because he wanted his children to have a better chance and a better life.”

When Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Alex Padilla the state’s junior U.S. Senator in January 2021, he nominated Weber as SOS. Padilla filled in for Sen. Kamala Harris, who had been elected U.S Vice President. Weber was officially installed as SOS in April 2021.

Weber’s plan after serving in the Legislature was to move to Ghana, Africa, and “build a house up in the hills.” But that all changed when Newsom called.

“It was hard for me to think about becoming Secretary of State because I was so content in the Assembly,” Weber said. “When I was asked to be Secretary of State, I thought hard and long about it. I realized that everything about the Secretary of State was central to my life. I thought to myself that I am always the one taking the hard challenges. I said who better than a kid of sharecropper, who never had a chance to vote, who could fight for the rights of voters.”

The Secretary of State is the chief elections officer of the state, responsible for overseeing and certifying elections, as well as testing and certifying voting equipment for use in California. Weber’s duties also include overseeing the state’s archives division and registry of businesses.

In her remarks, Atkins praised Weber’s “leadership” and “morality” and called her “a tireless champion of democracy,” adding that those characteristics are integral to performing the duties of Secretary of State.

Atkins told guests that she first met Weber when she was 24 years old and that Weber helped her run for state Assembly.

For the first time in its history, California has three Black constitutional officers. The others are Controller Malia M. Cohen and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

“You know, our constitutional officers are unique, and I give credit to our Governor (Gavin Newsom) and the people of California.”

“There is no other list of constitutional officers like this? Where do you have a list of constitutional officers where it only has one white male in it? That is unheard of. The diversity (and) the fact that women are constitutional officers in California is historic.”

Weber’s daughter, Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) was the ceremony’s emcee while Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) provided the invocation. David Bauman’s African drumming and musical selections by Dr. Tecoy Porter, pastor of Genesis Church Sacramento and president of the National Action Network Sacramento Chapter and his Genesis Church choir provided the entertainment. Weber’s son Akil Weber provided the closing statements.

“Words cannot express how truly proud I am of what my mother has done, what she will continue to do, the door she has opened, the legacy she is creating,” Assemblymember Akilah Weber said of her mother.

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