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‘Hair Love’ is Now in Theaters

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — “Hair Love,” a new animated short showing the love between a Black father and daughter, is now in theaters. Premiering right before “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” the animation short gives insight and relatability of Black fatherhood to a broad audience. Matthew A. Cherry was inspired to write “Hair Love” about two years ago after seeing viral videos of Black fathers doing their daughter’s hair. It was a representation that hadn’t been shown before and he thought that it would be great to make an animation film about it. After writing the script, Cherry sent it to his friend Peter Ramsey, an advocate for diversity in animation and Oscar award-winning director of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

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Matthew A. Cherry with a Hair Love fan at one of the Hair Love events. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation)

By Shannen Hill

“Hair Love,” a new animated short showing the love between a Black father and daughter, is now in theaters. Premiering right before “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” the animation short gives insight and relatability of Black fatherhood to a broad audience.

Matthew A. Cherry was inspired to write “Hair Love” about two years ago after seeing viral videos of Black fathers doing their daughter’s hair. It was a representation that hadn’t been shown before and he thought that it would be great to make an animation film about it. After writing the script, Cherry sent it to his friend Peter Ramsey, an advocate for diversity in animation and Oscar award-winning director of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

Matthew A. Cherry (left) and Peter Ramsey (right) bring Hair Love to theaters. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of blackfilm.com)

Matthew A. Cherry (left) and Peter Ramsey (right) bring Hair Love to theaters.
(Photo Credit: Courtesy of blackfilm.com)

“When I did the script and was ready to make it into a real thing, Peter was one of the first people that I sent it to for feedback. I always had animation in mind because it is a more universal medium that people relate to,” said Cherry. “You rarely see a Black family in animation, so it was really important to me to have that representation.”

Ramsey liked the script so much that instead of just giving feedback, he came on board as executive producer. Getting support from other Hollywood stars came naturally as well. Cherry created a Kickstarter campaign for “Hair Love” and reached his goal of $75,000 within the first five days. Some of the donators included Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade, Yara Shahidi, and Jordan Peele. Issa Rae also came on board to be the sole voice in the animated short.

“The way ‘Hair Love’ came about was so fresh and straight from the heart. Matt had a vision and he just pursued it. He didn’t wait for anyone to give him permission, and he wasn’t an animation insider. It was pure passion and drive on his part that made it happen,” said Ramsey. “I believed in the project and wanted it to become a reality because it’s an intimate look at something that is very normal and happens every day in the real world, but hardly ever seen in movies, especially animated ones.”

“Hair Love” centers around a Black father, Stephen, and his daughter, Zuri. Stephen has long locks and Zuri has an afro which his wife usually styles. However, when mom is not available, Stephen has to figure out what to do. The five-minute film is mostly silent with the exception of Issa Rae, who plays an online natural hair blogger. Cherry had been a fan of Rae since her YouTube days and thought that she’d be a great fit because of her influence in the natural hair community and her distinct voice. The decision to have the father and daughter be silent was also very intentional. Cherry was inspired by films like “WALL-E” and “Up” that convey emotion through their silence. He wanted audiences to visually pay attention to the actions and expressions of the characters.

Since the release of “The Angry Birds Movie 2” on August 14, audiences have given great feedback to Cherry. What has surprised him most is the relatability of the film to audiences of different races. While the film is written, directed and produced by Black people; men, women, and children of all different backgrounds have shared how they go through the same thing in their families.

“Sometimes as a filmmaker you think that you have to be so broad to appeal to everybody, but there’s a universal appeal in being specific,” said Cherry. “Little girls have told me how they see themselves in Zuri and boys have told me how they want to be a father like Stephen. It’s been amazing seeing how everyone relates to this story.”

Along with the short film, Cherry’s Kickstarter campaign resulted in a book deal. “Hair Love,” the book, is a New York Times bestseller and available at Target, Walmart, Barnes & Noble, and on Kindle. The short film can be seen in theaters before “The Angry Birds Movie 2.” For more information on Cherry and Hair Love, visit matthewacherry.com.

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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