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Russell Hornsby: “Proven Innocent,” Actor is a Proven Talent

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “A dear friend of mine used to say there was a time when boats were made of wood and men were made of steel. That’s what I want our people [black people] to see on this show,” says Russell Hornsby who plays the character of Ezekiel “Easy” Boudreau in “Proven Innocent” which airs on FOX, Fridays at 9 p.m. EST.

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By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., NNPA Newswire Culture and Entertainment Editor

Russell Hornsby should be a household name by now with his impressive body of work. His latest role as a crusading attorney and family man on FOX’s Proven Innocent” may be the role to do it.

The Oakland born thespian has been bringing characters to life on stage and screen for over two decades. Hornsby believes in studying the craft of acting, which is proven by his training at Boston University followed by Oxford University’s British Academy of Drama.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – FEBRUARY 09: Russell Hornsby speaks onstage at the “Proven Innocent” Q&A during SCAD aTVfest 2019 at SCADshow on February 09, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for SCAD aTVfest 2019 )

He is probably best known to fans for his role as police officer Eddie Sutton in the critically acclaimed show “Lincoln Heights,” (ABC Family) and most recently as Maverick Carter in the hit film The Hate U Give and Buddy Marcelle in the knockout film Creed II. Hornsby has studied under theater royalty (Lloyd Richards and August Wilson) and worked opposite incredible talent including Regina Hall, Nikki Micheaux, Erica Hubbard, Amandla Stenberg, Regina King, Denzel Washington, Robert DeNiro, Sylvester Stallone, Michael B. Jordan and the list goes on.

No stranger to the small screen, Hornsby has been delighting fans with powerful performances on top shows like “Gideon’s Crossing” (NBC), “In Treatment” (HBO), “The Affair “(Showtime), “Seven Seconds:” (Netflix) and now “Proven Innocent” (Fox).

Hornsby plays the character of Ezekiel “Easy” Boudreau, a lawyer who is best known for freeing Madeline Scott (Rachelle LaFevre), a wrongly-convicted woman, after she served 10 years in prison. Teaming up with Scott, Boudreau has dedicated his life to freeing the wrongly-convicted as part of the “Injustice Defense Group.”

While promoting “Proven Innocent” at the 2019 SCAD aTVFest in Atlanta, Hornsby discussed his keen ability to move between the stage, film and television playing a range of characters that have been historically unavailable to black actors.

The Drama Desk award-winner says when choosing roles, quality is most important. “You’ve heard the saying you need to start where you finish? Well, I started at such a high-level in acting, that I have to keep it going,” he says.

Hornsby explains that his first job after graduation was working for $217 a week for the great Lloyd Richards, the first black director to direct “A Raisin in the Sun” on Broadway. Richards was also Dean of the Yale School of Drama, which is one of the reasons the show had acting greats like Courtney B. Vance, Charles S. Dutton and Angela Basset. From there, Hornsby worked under August Wilson, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and 10-time Tony award-winner, on shows like “Jitney.”

“I started at the top with quality, so that’s my norm. Now when I assess material, I assess it from that standpoint. I’m constantly traversing between film, television and theater so I’m constantly staying at a high level and I can’t go back,” says the Obie award-winner. “I’m not holier than thou or anything,” Hornsby expounds. “I’m just saying I was blessed to be able to make money as an actor early on in my career. I was smart with my money, which enabled me to be able to say no and maintain my integrity when choosing roles,” he adds.

Hornsby’s work often delves into complex issues and “Proven Innocent” is no exception. In a social and civic climate where the topic of mass incarceration, the prison industrial complex, unjust sentences, wrongly convicted prisoners and a justice system run amok are at peak level, “Proven Innocent” is tackling these complicated issues head on.

Hornsby, who is known for playing strong family men, purposely chose this role because of its important representation of a black man.

“I want people to recognize and see that real men exist,” says Hornsby. “A dear friend of mine used to say there was a time when boats were made of wood and men were made of steel. That’s what I want our people [black people] to see on this show,” he says.

Hornsby, who was raised by a single mother and was surrounded by strong men, including his father, believes this is a much-needed image in media. “I’m not saying sisters don’t deserve the credit. They do. My mother did the damned thing and I’ve got a wife who is bad as she can be — smart, talented, everything — but men exist too. Let’s not exalt one at the detriment of the other. Let’s say we can co-exist, partner in the struggle together,” he explains, which is another reason why this character spoke to him.

“Real men still exist. Men can stand up straight, look you in the eye, conduct themselves justly and appropriately and not be afraid. That’s what I want,” says the 2018 AAFCA award winner. “Men need to share and be open and more malleable. That’s what you’ll see with this character,” Hornsby reveals.

“Ezekiel is malleable. He and his wife are going to be going through trials and tribulations and issues but he’s still valuable and willing to learn. They are still partners. Those are the men I saw. That’s what empowers me to portray the kind of characters I play.”

“Proven Innocent” airs on FOX, Fridays at 9 p.m. EST. Check local listings for channel information.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is entertainment and culture editor for NNPA/BlackPressUSA. A film and media scholar, Dr. Burton is founder and editor-in-chief of the award-winning news blog The Burton Wire, which covers news of the African diaspora. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual or @TheBurton Wire.

Advice

The Perfect Time to Lock in Your Mortgage Rate, Keep Rising Housing Costs Under Control Is Now

Despite a challenging homebuying environment with high demand and historically low inventory, purchasing a home is still attainable – and you don’t have to go through the process alone. Getting connected early with a home lending advisor will better prepare you for the homebuying process, help you understand how much home you can afford and get you prequalified so you can shop with confidence.

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There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to locking in a mortgage rate and there are many factors to consider.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to locking in a mortgage rate and there are many factors to consider.

By Christina Dello Buono

Surging mortgage rates combined with double-digit price gains are putting homeowners and potential buyers in a tough spot. First-time homebuyers, in particular, are being squeezed out of the market – due to the fact they don’t have equity or an additional boost from the sale of an existing property.

Despite those challenges, buying a home may not be as out of reach as you think.

We sat down with Denise Richardson, Community Home Lending Advisor at Chase, to discuss how to navigate the mortgage process, what resources are available, and how increasing mortgage rates can impact your family’s homebuying dreams.

Q: How do increasing mortgage rates impact prospective homebuyers?

Richardson: Mortgage rates have nearly doubled in the last six months – from 3% in 2021 to more than 6% in 2022 – making it increasingly difficult for many Americans to purchase a home, especially those on a limited income. That difference is significant by any measure, but it could result in hundreds of dollars added to your monthly payment and thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Despite a challenging homebuying environment with high demand and historically low inventory, purchasing a home is still attainable – and you don’t have to go through the process alone. Getting connected early with a home lending advisor will better prepare you for the homebuying process, help you understand how much home you can afford and get you prequalified so you can shop with confidence.

Q: Is it a good idea for homebuyers to lock in a mortgage rate as soon as possible?

Richardson: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to locking in a mortgage rate and there are many factors to consider. This is where your home lending advisor can provide more individualized counsel specific to your situation and your market.

Given the volatility of interest rates right now, we recommend locking in rates as soon as possible so you can be certain what your payments will look like on your loan. Many lenders require you to have a purchase contract in-hand before locking in your rates, but that isn’t always the case. Chase offers a Homebuyer Advantage Program, which allows you to get conditionally approved while you shop for a home.

Q: What happens if mortgage rates drop after a homebuyer locks in their rate?

Richardson: There isn’t an exact science to timing the market, and while interest rates have risen in recent months, it’s always possible that interest rates could fall. Some lenders offer a mortgage rate lock float down, which allows you to lock in an interest rate with the option to reduce if market rates fall during the lock period. This option provides you with a little more security in a volatile market and allows you to take advantage of falling interest rates.

You may be able to move to a lower rate even without the float down option, but it may require additional fees. Additionally, your lender may have particular requirements, such as being at a certain stage of the loan process, for the customer to be eligible to lower their rate.

Q: Can a homebuyer potentially let the rate lock expire by pushing back their closing date? 

Richardson: It’s certainly possible, but it isn’t likely to be beneficial for the customer. Oftentimes, lenders will only allow you to move forward with the rate you originally lock in – or the rate on the day you relock, whichever is higher.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the ability to move quickly in this environment is critical. It’s important to do your research on lender-backed resources available to you, such as Chase’s Closing Guarantee. This guarantee commits to closing customers in as little as three weeks, or they receive $5,000. The program offers buyers peace of mind knowing that they can close on their new home without delay or receive compensation that can be put toward additional costs.

There are plenty of other resources available to help boost your homebuying knowledge – especially if you are a first-time homebuyer. The Beginner to Buyer podcast is a great resource for prospective homebuyers to get answers to all their homebuying questions. Every episode offers conversations with real buyers and expert guests about each step of the process, from mortgage rates and application to closing.

Christina Dello Buono is a vice president in the Dept. of Communications, JPMorgan Chase/Northern California. 

Content sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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Activism

Respect for Marriage Act Passes in U.S. House with Help from Bay Area Representatives

California District 13 Rep. Barbara Lee, who voted for the bill, also stated it was “a key step forward in House Democrats’ fight against the right-wing assault on freedom.”  Representative Eric Swalwell of District 15, which includes cities of Dublin, San Ramon, Livermore and Hayward simply tweeted, “Kevin McCarthy and the majority of @HouseGop just voted against same-sex marriage. As backwards as they are, we are not going backwards with them.”

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Tweet from U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington. Twitter photo.
Tweet from U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington. Twitter photo.

By Sarah Clemens, Oakland Post Intern

The House passed the Respect for Marriage Act on July 19, 2022. The bill, which was originally introduced in 2009, would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and recognize same-sex marriage on a federal level.

The reintroduction of this bill comes not long after Justice Clarence Thomas’ called for Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 landmark Supreme Court ruling that declared the right for same-sex marriage in every state, to be overturned. Thomas declared Obergefell v. Hodges, along with other landmark rulings, to be “demonstrably erroneous decisions.”

While all of the House Democrats voted for the bill, it also garnered some bipartisan support, with 47 Republicans voting in the affirmative as well. Notably, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, whose anti-gay marriage statements were immortalized in 2018 Best Picture nominee “Vice,” voted in favor of the bill.

Cheney also denounced her previous statements in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, stating, “freedom means freedom for everybody.” However, the Republican Party’s top two representatives, Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, voted against it.

While the House vote is a big victory for supporters of the Respect for Marriage Act, it is still not a law. Whether it will be approved by the Senate is unclear. Chuck Schumer of New York, Democrat and Senate majority leader, stated he wanted “to bring this bill to the floor, and we’re working to get the necessary Senate Republican support to ensure it would pass.” That mentioned Republican support would be a minimum of 10 affirmative Republican votes.

Democrat support remains strong, with many citing potential codifying of the bill as a counterattack in the wake of the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, whose congressional district lies within San Francisco, spoke about the recent ruling on the House floor and stood behind the bill, saying, “as radical Justices and right-wing politicians continue their assault on our basic rights, Democrats believe that the government has no place between you and the person you love.”

California District 13 Rep. Barbara Lee, who voted for the bill, also stated it was “a key step forward in House Democrats’ fight against the right-wing assault on freedom.”  Representative Eric Swalwell of District 15, which includes cities of Dublin, San Ramon, Livermore and Hayward simply tweeted, “Kevin McCarthy and the majority of @HouseGop just voted against same-sex marriage. As backwards as they are, we are not going backwards with them.”

While according to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, President Joe Biden has been urging the Senate to send the bill to him soon, the process has instead been delayed.

Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who became the first openly gay person to be elected to the Senate in 2012, told NPR that “we don’t want to bring it to the floor until we know that we can pass the legislation.”

Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, has stated that he’d “delay announcing anything on that issue until we see what the majority leader wants to put on the floor.”

As Democrats attempt to gain support from across the aisle, and Republicans make few statements on the bill publicly, the future remains unclear.

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Activism

William Wells Brown, Personifying the American Dream

William Wells Brown personified the American dream. He’d become an internationally renowned antislavery activist and writer who resided in and traveled widely across the northern United States and the British Isles. He penned a series of remarkable books including the first Black novel, the first printed Black play, the first Black travelogue, and the first Black panorama displayed in Britain.

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William Wells Brown. Wikipedia.org photo.
William Wells Brown. Wikipedia.org photo.

By Tamara Shiloh

The minstrel shows of the early 19th century are believed by some to be the roots of Black theatre. However, they were written, acted, and performed by whites for white audiences. The first known play by a Black American was James Brown’s “King Shotaway” (1823), but the first Black play published was William Wells Brown’s (ca. 1814–1884) “The Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom.”

While “Escape” was published in 1858, it was not officially produced until 1971 at Emerson College. It was one of the earliest extant pieces of African American dramatic literature.

Brown, whose mother was a slave, was born on a plantation outside Lexington, Ky. He would become a Black antislavery lecturer, a groundbreaking novelist, playwright, and historian.

According to the New Bedford Historical Society (NBHS), he is “widely considered to have been the first African American to publish works in several major literary genres, and widely acclaimed for the effectiveness of many of his writings.”

Bought and sold several times before age 20, Brown spent his childhood and much of his young adult life as a slave in St. Louis, Mo. There he was hired out to work on the Missouri River which, at that time, served as a major thoroughfare for the slave trade. This location allowed him several chances to escape. It was New Year’s Day in 1834 that he slipped away from a steamboat and finally became successful.

Brown landed in Cleveland, Ohio, where he began educating himself and reading antislavery newspapers. He later worked as a steam boatsman on Lake Erie and conductor for the Underground Railroad. On arrival at Cleveland, he’d taken shelter with Mr. and Mrs. Wells Brown, a white Quaker family and later adopted their names.

By 1843, Brown had become a regular on the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society lecturing circuit. He was also deeply committed to speaking out on women’s rights and temperance laws (laws banning the sale of spirits in less than 15-gallon quantities). It was Brown’s speaking that led many historians and scholars to provide the trajectory for his later career as a writer. By 1845, he’d published “Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave, Written by Himself.”

Brown personified the American dream. He’d become an internationally renowned antislavery activist and writer who resided in and traveled widely across the northern United States and the British Isles. He penned a series of remarkable books including the first Black novel, the first printed Black play, the first Black travelogue, and the first Black panorama displayed in Britain.

Focusing on his own historical works, Brown penned two histories of the Black race, a history on Blacks and whites in the South, and a rare military history of Blacks in the Civil War. He eventually settled in Boston, where he practiced medicine until his death from cancer in 1884.

Learn more about Brown’s compelling story through his classic American slave narrative: “The Narrative of William W. Brown a Fugitive Slave.”

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