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Urban One Honors 2021: “Women Leading the Change”

“These women aren’t the Real Housewives of you name the city. These women are working on improving the lives of Black folk,” media mogul and entrepreneur Cathy Hughes said in a recent interview. Please encourage your young women to watch this show. We don’t know who the next Kamala Harris will be, a Black woman who became the nation’s first woman vice president or someone who changes the voting structure like Stacey Abrams.”

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And while many might consider those individuals able to spend more than seven decades with their mother as fortunate, Hughes said such longevity also created a startling realization. “The longer God blesses you with having your mother in your life, the more difficult it is to adjust to life without her,” she said.

And while many might consider those individuals able to spend more than seven decades with their mother as fortunate, Hughes said such longevity also created a startling realization. “The longer God blesses you with having your mother in your life, the more difficult it is to adjust to life without her,” she said.

By Keith L. Alexander for the NNPA

For media mogul and entrepreneur Cathy Hughes, this year’s Mother’s Day was going to be difficult.

Last July, Hughes’s mother, Helen Jones Woods, 96, died from complications of Covid-19. For the 74-year-old Hughes, multi-millionaire and founder and chairperson of Urban One Inc., this year marks Hughes’s first Mother’s Day without her mother present.

And while many might consider those individuals able to spend more than seven decades with their mother as fortunate, Hughes said such longevity also created a startling realization. “The longer God blesses you with having your mother in your life, the more difficult it is to adjust to life without her,” she said.

It was during Hughes’s mourning, that she birthed an idea to not only celebrate her mother’s life with a national TV program, but to also celebrate and honor the lives of other African American women who -specifically during the pandemic – worked at protecting and spotlighting Black Americans.

On Sunday, May 16, 2012 at 9 p.m. (EST) Hughes’s cable TV networks, TV One and its sister network CLEO-TV, will air the network’s annual “Urban One Honors” celebration. The two-hour program this year will be a first; all honorees are African American women. The show is themed “Women Leading the Change.”

Hughes said the women honored left an indelible mark on the country last year, one of this nation’s darkest and most challenging periods in American history due to the deadly pandemic.

The show is co-hosted by Grammy-award winning singer and syndicated gospel radio show host Erica Campbell and award-wining journalist and news commentator Roland Martin. The recorded, virtual awards show will feature live performances by R&B saangers, Avery Sunshine and Jazmine Sullivan, gospel powerhouse Le’Andria Johnson and legendary rapper, Da Brat.

The program will honor six Black female leaders in business, politics, journalism and humanitarian efforts including Atlanta’s political powerhouse and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Stacey Abrams and Rosaline “Roz” Brewer, chief executive officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance and the nation’s third Fortune 500 company ever led by a Black female executive. The program will also honor the four African American, Greek sororities; Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho, Inc. and Zeta Phi Beta, Inc.

The show will also pay tribute to Hughes’s mother, who before becoming a wife and mother, was a famed trombone player who played with an all-girl, integrated swing music band called the International Sweethearts of Rhythm in the 1930s and 1940’s. Hughes called her mother’s group, “the original Freedom Fighters” who traveled by bus through the South playing for audiences and even played clubs overseas. At one point, white and Hispanic band members had to wear dark makeup to look like their Black bandmates to avoid being stopped by police for promoting integration, Hughes recalled. The segment will be introduced by a longtime fan of the group, political activist, author and college professor Angela Davis.

Hughes’s excitement about the upcoming evening is electric. An hour before “Urban One Honors” airs, TV One will broadcast an exclusive, hour-long interview with legendary rapper DMX. The interview was recorded for the network’s weekly show “Uncensored” about three weeks before DMX’s sudden death April 9 at age 50. The show’s producers said DMX spoke, at times through tears, about his life, his music and his legacy. The producers said hearing DMX’s commentary just weeks before his death, is more sobering and haunting today.

After the celebration of one of the kings of rap music with “Uncensored,” the TV network will then celebrate its queens with the “Urban One Honors.”

“I think it’s going to be the biggest night in TV One’s history,” Hughes exclaimed.

Hughes, along with a group of Urban One executives chose the honorees because they wanted viewers, especially young girls, to see Black women who were not celebrated singers, dancers or actresses, but instead who were ideological firebrands, making differences in their communities and around the nation.

“These women aren’t the Real Housewives of you name the city. These women are working on improving the lives of Black folk,” Hughes said in a recent interview. Please encourage your young women to watch this show. We don’t know who the next Kamala Harris will be, a Black woman who became the nation’s first woman vice president or someone who changes the voting structure like Stacey Abrams.”

Hughes described Abrams as “voting rights champion” who not only changed the political landscape of Atlanta, but also helped ensure all voters were recognized on behalf of two U.S. Senate Democratic candidates and helped flip Georgia from majority Republican to majority Democrat.

When Walgreen’s selected Spelman College graduate Roz Brewer as its newest CEO in January, Brewer became the nation’s second Black female executive to ever lead a Fortune 500 company. Before being tapped by Walgreen’s, Brewer served as chief operating officer for Starbucks. Prior to that, she served as CEO of Sam’s Club which is owned by Walmart. In 2009, Ursula Burns, became the nation’s first Black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company when Xerox Holdings selected her as its CEO. Burns retired in 2017. The third Black woman CEO to lead a Fortune 500 company, Thasunda Brown Duckett, was named president and CEO of the retirement and investment managing company TIAA in February, a month after Brewer.

The TV One program is also honoring Ala Stanford, a Philadelphia-based physician and surgeon who last year founded the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium and used her own funds to ensure Black residents of the city – a group that was quickly becoming Philadelphia’s hardest hit by the pandemic – were able to be tested for the coronavirus.

Urban One, is based in Silver Spring, Md. about 30 minutes from downtown Washington, D.C. Last year, Hughes and other Urban One executives watched as Kim Ford, president and chief executive of Martha’s Table, provided healthy meals and fresh produce to needy residents in the nation’s capital during the pandemic.

For more than 40 years, Martha’s Table has ensured the neediest of Washington residents had healthy meals and clothing. Martha’s Table was named after the Biblical figure Martha who offered food to Jesus when he visited the home she shared with her sister Mary.

As a youth growing up in Washington, Ford volunteered serving and handing out meals with the non-profit organization. Then in 2019, she was chosen as the company’s president and chief executive. Prior to being named Martha’s Table chief executive, Ford served as deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education where she oversaw management of more than $2 billion in career and technical education, adult education, correctional and re-entry education and community college initiatives for more than 25 million students a year. Ford previously served as a member of President Obama’s Recovery Implementation Office, which was responsible for implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Last year, Martha’s Table reported a 400 percent increase in need from users, as thousands of residents sought assistance for themselves and their families enabling the program to feed as many as 2,200 residents a day, Martha’s Table reported recently.

Another honoree, Robin Rue Simmons, is an alderman in Evanston’s fifth ward in Louisiana. A champion of Black residents in the city, Simmons was elected alderman in 2017. Simmons then led Evanston to becoming the first U.S. city to approve a reparations program. Since taking office, Simmons led the passing of the nation’s first reparations program, which will be funded by the first $10 million of Adult Use Cannabis sales tax revenue. Simmons is also the director of the city’s innovation and outreach at Sunshine Enterprises, which has supported more than 1000 neighborhood entrepreneurs – 98 percent of whom are African American and 74 percent of whom are women – in starting or growing their own business ventures.

Also being honored is New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. Hannah-Jones covered racial injustice for the Times’s magazine before convincing the paper’s top editors to create an entire investigative series tied to the U.S. slave trade. The enterprise was called the 1619 Project which was published by the magazine in 2019. Last year the project won Jones the coveted Pulitzer Prize. The series is now the subject of a documentary produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films and Lionsgate and is scheduled to air on Hulu.

“We wanted to spotlight Sisters who were getting the change accentuated and making sure the change occurs,” Hughes said.

The show will also feature several noted Black men honoring the sisters. Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson makes his debut appearance on TV One. Also providing commentary on the honorees include Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Urban One CEO and Hughes’s son Alfred C. Liggins III and former Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond.

As co-host of the evening’s program, Campell said she hoped families with young daughters and young sons watch the program together and discuss the awardees and their work.

“I can have a conversation with my daughters to show them there is more to do than just look cute and wear nice makeup,” Campbell said. “They can literally shake up the world. Far too many of our girls look up to one dimensional type of celebrities or influencers. There is so much more than what we can be or what we can do. Offer this wide range of women who are changing the world.”

That was the impotence of the show, says Hughes. “Young people are so focused on celebrities. I wanted to focus this awards’ show on actions. The entertainment industry was shut down for the year. But these individuals we are honoring continued to work during the year,” Hughes said. “During the pandemic, these women were actively engaged.”

And while this year was for the ladies, what about the men? “Who knows maybe next year it will be brothers only,” Hughes said.

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Activism

Call to Protect Geoffrey’s Inner Circle from Threatened High-Rise Development

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by reso-lution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and cul-ture of Oakland.

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By Ken Epstein

Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, a downtown Oakland Cultural Center that has featured live jazz and served music lovers and the Black community for decades, is now under threat from a proposed real estate development that could undermine the stability and future of the facility.

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by resolution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and culture of Oakland.

Now, the Oakland Planning Commission is considering a high-rise building proposed by out-of-town developers next to Geoffrey’s, which would jeopardize both the survival of the venue and the Black business district as a whole.

In addition to running a business that has been a crucial institution in the local community and the regional arts scene, Geoffrey Pete, founder, has utilized his business to offer meals for thousands of unsheltered individuals and hosted countless community events.

The following petition is being circulated in defense of Geoffrey’s and the Black Arts district (To add your name to the petition, email info@geoffreyslive.com):

“The African-American community in Oakland has been seriously damaged by developers and public offcials who are willing and sometimes eager to see African Americans disappear from the city. Black people comprised 47% of the population in 1980; now they make up only 20% of said population. In response to this crisis the 14th Street Corridor from Oak to the 880 Frontage Road was established as the Black Arts Movement and Business District by the City Council on Jan. 7, 2016, in Resolution 85958.

Tidewater, an out-of-town developer, is proposing to build a high-rise building at 1431 Franklin, which will damage the Black business district and the businesses in the area including the iconic business of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle at 410 – 14th St.

We demand that the Planning Commission and the City Council reject this predatory building proposal and proceed with plans to fund and enhance the Black Business District.”

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Bay Area

Popular Chief LeRonne Armstrong Placed on Administrative Leave During Investigation of Police Misconduct

In a press statement, Mayor Sheng Thao said that placing Armstrong on paid administrative leave was not punitive but was a standard procedure when investigating possible officer wrongdoing. “We must do what we need to do to get out of that oversight,” she said, explaining that she wants to show the public and the court monitor that there will be no favoritism. A rookie officer or the top officer will face the same investigative process.

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In his remarks, Armstrong defended OPD’s internal affairs department and fellow officers who were criticized in an independent report that found “systemic deficiencies” in the police department.

“I did nothing wrong. I violated no policies,” said Armstrong, speaking at a press conference

By Ken Epstein

Refusing to accept administrative leave during a police misconduct investigation, OPD Chief LeRonne Armstrong fired back with a press conference of his own this week, organized by a high-profile corporate public relations and communications firm.

“I should be the chief of police and remain in my position,” he said. “I did nothing wrong. I violated no policies.”

Mayor Sheng Thao placed Armstrong on administrative leave with pay while his role in an officer misconduct cover-up scandal is investigated by internal affairs. The case involves a highly paid police sergeant who was involved in a hit-and-run automobile accident in San Francisco and is accused of later discharging a gun in an OPD freight elevator and disposing of the shell casings by throwing them off the Bay Bridge.

At a press conference Monday at the office of PR consultant Sam Singer’s office in Emeryville, Armstrong did not blame Mayor Sheng Thao for placing him on leave but instead denounced federal monitor, Robert Warshaw, who oversees the police department and evaluates its reform efforts as a representative for the federal court that has overseen OPD for two decades.

In his remarks, Armstrong defended OPD’s internal affairs department and fellow officers who were criticized in an independent report that found “systemic deficiencies” in the police department.

“This to me, clearly, is a last-ditch effort to destroy the credibility of me…and to make the community believe that Oakland police is involved in some shady business,” he said.

He blasted Warshaw’s “ulterior motives,” accusing him and his team of seeking a reason to continue to be paid over $1 million a year to oversee the department, which was potentially set to exit from federal oversight at the end of May.

“It’s hard to say a mayor who’s been in the seat for just a couple of weeks would be able to push back against a monitor at this point,” Armstrong said, adding that some city officials might be “intimidated” by Warshaw’s team.

City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement that her office agreed that the recent report on OPD deficiencies “revealed failures that call into question the integrity of (OPD’s) internal investigation processes.”

Many observers and police accountability activists are saying that the present scandal and subsequent community uproar over Chief Armstrong is best resolved by removing police misconduct investigations from OPD and instead turning the cases over to an independent civilian body.

Defending the department’s internal investigation, Armstrong said the investigation that was conducted was “consistent with the findings that were presented to me.”

“To work and get to this point and have it taken away from you hurts. It doesn’t just hurt me, it hurts my community because every day I come into this job to try to make Oakland better,” he said. Prior to this incident, Armstrong has been widely praised for helping make significant reforms at OPD and paving the way for an end to federal court intervention.

Armstrong said the sergeant involved in the case, who was identified in the media as Michael Chung, was placed on leave following the shooting incident, but that the chief was unable to review the case because Warshaw had taken over the investigation.

Sergeant Chung, one of Oakland’s most highly paid employees, received total pay and benefits of $492,779.77 in 2021, including regular pay of $160,828.84 and overtime pay of $276,959.38.

Armstrong, who has deep ties in the Oakland community, was born and raised in West Oakland, California, and was a graduate of McClymond’s High School. He joined the OPD as a police officer in 1999, after spending four years with the Alameda County Probation Department. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

In a press statement, Mayor Sheng Thao said that placing Armstrong on paid administrative leave was not punitive but was a standard procedure when investigating possible officer wrongdoing.

“We must do what we need to do to get out of that oversight,” she said, explaining that she wants to show the public and the court monitor that there will be no favoritism. A rookie officer or the top officer will face the same investigative process.

“I want to make sure that everyone understands that, under our administration, that we take these findings seriously and it’s important that we look at taking the corrective action that is needed to make sure that we stay on track to make sure that we get out of the federal oversight,” she said.

“My belief is that, by holding ourselves accountable, we can be safer and a more just city,” Mayor Thao said.

At a federal court hearing Tuesday, Judge William Orrick, not addressing the criticisms of Warshaw’s role, said he was “profoundly disappointed” by the findings of the outside report conducted by attorneys hired by the City of Oakland, which revealed “significant cultural problems” that still exist after 20 years of court oversight.

The oversight began as a result of the negotiated resolution to a civil rights lawsuit in the Riders scandal in which plaintiffs alleged that four veteran officers, known as the ‘Riders,’ planted evidence and beat residents, while OPD turned a blind eye to the police misconduct.

“This is the third time since I’ve been overseeing the implementation of the (settlement) that the city has seemed to come close to full compliance,” Judge Orrick said, “only to have a serious episode arise that exposes rot within the department.”

Mayor Sheng Thao said she takes this case seriously, not a minor fender bender as some have dismissed it, and that said those involved will be “disciplined appropriately.”

“This particular misconduct is serious because it provides fertile ground for other misconduct to thrive,” she said at the hearing. “I will not tolerate toxic subcultures that try to demonize or deter officers who do the right thing.”

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Arts and Culture

IN MEMORIAM: Autris Paige

Paige performed regularly at Four Seasons’ Yachats Music Festival in Oregon from 1983-2017, with artists from around the world. Puerto Ricans Ilya and Raphael LeBron, soprano and baritone, remember him: “He leaves us with a warm memory of the simplicity that made him great: as a human being, as a friend and as a masterful artist!” Baritone Anthony Turner of New York says: “Autris was the embodiment of class and elegance. He delivered every song with a warm silken tone and economy of gestures. Autris gave of himself, his truth, his joy and love.”  Pianists Dennis Helmrich and Gerald Hecht often collaborated with Mr. Paige said: “Autris Paige was among the most intuitively refined musicians we have encountered: a pure pleasure and a cherished memory.” Pianist Jeongeun Yom, pianist, responds,”Autris will be remembered for his kindness, cheerfulness, and above all for his voice, with which he touched  the listeners’ heart.”

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AUTRIS T. PAIGE grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.
AUTRIS T. PAIGE grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.

August 17, 1938 – January 12, 2023

AUTRIS T. PAIGE was the youngest child born to Estella and Overton Paige in Sugar Land, Texas on Aug. 17, 1938.  He passed away on Jan. 12, 2023 in Oakland after a brief illness.  He was supported and comforted by his longtime companion Donna Vaughan.

Mr. Paige grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.

He served in the U.S. Air Force.

In 1971, he made his debut with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, appearing in Candide at the Los Angeles Music Center and at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. He appeared with Ray Charles and the American Ballet Theatre and performed in several musical theatre productions on Broadway including Lost in the Stars; Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope; as Walter Lee in Raisin; and in Timbuktu with Eartha Kitt.

Mr. Paige has also sung with the New York City Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Metropolitan Opera and with the San Francisco Opera. Other opera companies in which he performed include the Seattle Opera and the Glyndebourne Opera in England. He was featured in the PBS film and award-winning EMI recording of Porgy and Bess as well as the recording of the opera X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X.

When he returned to Oakland to “retire” he met Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams, Founder and Director of Today’s Artists Concerts (now Four Seasons Arts), who auditioned Paige and invited him to perform on his series. Mr. Paige began a new phase of his musical career.

He appeared many times under the auspices of Today’s Artists Concerts/Four Seasons Arts in New York’s Alice Tully Hall and in venues around the Bay Area in their Art of the Spiritual programs. He was featured in his own Spiritual Journey in 2009. His recently released solo CD, Spiritual Journey, based on this program, has received critical acclaim.

Paige performed regularly at Four Seasons’ Yachats Music Festival in Oregon from 1983-2017, with artists from around the world. Puerto Ricans Ilya and Raphael LeBron, soprano and baritone, remember him: “He leaves us with a warm memory of the simplicity that made him great: as a human being, as a friend and as a masterful artist!” Baritone Anthony Turner of New York says: “Autris was the embodiment of class and elegance. He delivered every song with a warm silken tone and economy of gestures. Autris gave of himself, his truth, his joy and love.”  Pianists Dennis Helmrich and Gerald Hecht often collaborated with Mr. Paige said: “Autris Paige was among the most intuitively refined musicians we have encountered: a pure pleasure and a cherished memory.” Pianist Jeongeun Yom, pianist, responds,”Autris will be remembered for his kindness, cheerfulness, and above all for his voice, with which he touched  the listeners’ heart.”

In 2011, Mr. Paige was featured in Four Seasons Arts’ annual W. Hazaiah Williams Memorial Concert with the Lucy Kinchen Chorale and later with soprano Alison Buchanan. In 2013, he performed his Spiritual Journey II in Berkeley with pianist Othello Jefferson. A second CD entitled Classics and Spirituals was released in September 2013. Pianist Jerry Donaldson of Oakland was a frequent collaborator with Mr. Paige, performing throughout the Bay Area.

A Celebration of Life for Autris Paige will take place Friday, Feb. 3 at 11:00 a.m. at Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, 1399 McAllister Street, San Francisco.

A repast will follow the service.

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