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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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Business

Emergency Federal Drought Relief Available

Farmers and ranchers interested in a disaster loan can apply on the USDA website. Small, non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most private nonprofits can apply for the loans by contacting the SBA at 1 (800) 659-2955 or by email. Hearing impaired individuals may call 1 (800) 877-8339.

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The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 18, 2021, to declare a local emergency and acknowledge the imminent threat of disaster and the severe effect on dairies and ranchers in West Marin.
The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 18, 2021, to declare a local emergency and acknowledge the imminent threat of disaster and the severe effect on dairies and ranchers in West Marin.

Marin and all other California counties to be eligible for assistance

Courtesy of Marin County

As California and the West Coast enter their third year of drought, Marin County and the state’s other 57 counties have been declared primary disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The dry conditions are bad news for Marin’s farmers and ranchers, but the disaster designation status makes available emergency loans for agricultural businesses.

Additionally, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering Economic Injury Disaster Loans to non-farm small businesses that do business directly with farmers and ranchers, such as truckers and suppliers of agricultural equipment or services. Eligible businesses may apply for disaster loans through Dec. 8, 2022.

Farmers and ranchers interested in a disaster loan can apply on the USDA website. Small, non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most private nonprofits can apply for the loans by contacting the SBA at 1 (800) 659-2955 or by email. Hearing impaired individuals may call 1 (800) 877-8339.

“We want to raise awareness of the financial opportunities this drought designation provides because it may help some of these small businesses hampered by our continuing severe drought conditions,” said Marin County Agricultural Commissioner Stefan Parnay.

The federal commitment to assist businesses because of drought-related hardship extends to 23 other western states in addition to California. Small non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most private nonprofits of any size may qualify for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the drought not occurred.

In July 2021, the State of California added Marin to its list of counties falling under its state of emergency for drought and record-breaking high temperatures statewide. Governor Gavin Newsom made the drought official in 50 of the state’s 58 counties. Since then, state agencies partnered with local water suppliers to promote conservation tips through the Save Our Water campaign.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 18, 2021, to declare a local emergency and acknowledge the imminent threat of disaster and the severe effect on dairies and ranchers in West Marin. It also made the County eligible for California Disaster Assistance and other forms of state funding and resources. The local declaration cleared the way for state authorities to aid response and recovery efforts available to the County, water suppliers, farmers, impacted businesses and residents.

Marin Water, the municipal water district serving the majority of water customers in the county, and the Novato-based North Marin Water District (NMWD) are staying in contact with the County about drought conditions. Both water districts have declared water shortage emergencies and enacted mandatory conservation measures. Marin Water serves more than 191,000 customers in central and southern Marin. NWMD serves a customer base of about 64,000 in and around Novato and parts of coastal West Marin. For localized details, see the water rules webpages for Marin Water and NMWD.

Marin residents have been asked to support local agricultural producers who have been affected by the drought right on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021 numerous Marin ranchers had to import water by truck to keep their animals alive while also reducing their herds. With far less vegetation for grazing because of the ongoing drought, animals are eating imported feed shipped from other states at extremely high costs to the ranchers. Additionally, a few Marin crop producers had to import water by truck to keep crops alive and fallowed approximately 150 acres, or about 50% of the 300 crop acres in the county.

“As the region enters its third year of drought, this season is going to take a significant toll on our agricultural industry,” Parnay said.

The Board of Supervisors last year approved $150,000 in drought relief funds for the agricultural industry and another $250,000 for general drought relief needs to augment other state and federal aid.

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

California Will Be First State to Break Down Black Employee Data by Ethnic Origin

Recently, disaggregation of Black data has been a top priority for some Black lawmakers and advocates supporting reparations for Black descendants of American slavery in California. In January, Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), introduced AB 1604, the Upward Mobility Act of 2022, legislation that will require the state to breakdown the data of state employees by ethnic origin.

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Disaggregated data refers to the separation of compiled information into smaller units to clarify underlying trends and patterns.
Disaggregated data refers to the separation of compiled information into smaller units to clarify underlying trends and patterns.

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

When Gov. Gavin Newsom presented the annual May revision of his budget proposal for the next fiscal year, he announced that California will establish new demographic categories when collecting data pertaining to the ethnic origin of Black state employees.

Kamilah A. Moore, the chairperson of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, said the breakdown of data is “amazing news.”

“California will become the first state in the nation to disaggregate data for its Black population by ancestry/lineage,” Moore posted on her Twitter page on May 13. “This will assist the task force in our efforts to develop comprehensive reparations proposals for descendants.”

Disaggregated data refers to the separation of compiled information into smaller units to clarify underlying trends and patterns. Newsom’s actions are similar to a bill authored by then-Assemblyman Rob Bonta.

In September 2016, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1726 into law that required the state Department of Public Health to separate demographic data it collects by ethnicity or ancestry for Native Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific Islander groups.

Recently, disaggregation of Black data has been a top priority for some Black lawmakers and advocates supporting reparations for Black descendants of American slavery in California. In January, Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), introduced AB 1604, the Upward Mobility Act of 2022, legislation that will require the state to breakdown the data of state employees by ethnic origin.

The Assembly Committee on Appropriations is currently reviewing the bill.

AB 1604 promotes mobility for people of color in California’s civil services system and requires diversity on state boards and commissions. Newsom vetoed AB 105 last year, the legislative forerunner to AB 1604, which Holden also introduced.

Shortly after he was appointed chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations in January, Holden reintroduced the legislation as AB 1604.

Holden, a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus, said AB 1604 will give the Reparations Task Force more accurate data to utilize in its study and deliberations. The bill was passed by the Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement on March 14.

In a written statement released in October last year, Newsom said he vetoed AB 105 because “the bill conflicts with existing constitutional requirements, labor, agreements, and current data collections efforts” but found disaggregation useful for dissecting data about California’s workforce.

As stated in his 2022-2023 May revision of the state budget, under the section titled “State Workforce Demographic Data Collection,” Newsom proposed the separation of Black employee data beginning with the state’s 2.5 million-plus employees.

The Department of Human Resources (CalHR) will work with the State Controller to establish new demographic categories for the collection of data pertaining to the ancestry or ethnic origin of African American employees.

The collection of this data, the document states, “continues CalHR’s duties to maintain statistical information necessary for the evaluation of equal employment opportunity and upward mobility within state civil service.”

In March, the nine-member Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans decided with a 5-4 vote that lineage will determine who will be eligible for reparations.

The May revision also includes $1.5 million in funding for the Department of Justice to continue supporting the work of the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans

Supporters of disaggregation say it will serve as a key tool for the task force as it enters its second year of studying slavery and its lingering effects on African Americans.

The state’s reparations task force will recommend what compensation should be and how it should be paid by July 2023.

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Bay Area

SoCal Group Holds Black-Themed Commencement, Presents Scholarships for Local High School Grads

The Buffongs say 694 students signed up for the Black graduation event their company held in conjunction with the Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement (CEEM) and a myriad of other sponsors. In addition to celebrating the students’ achievements, the Buffongs say the event held at the Los Angeles County Fair Grounds in Pomona introduced members of the class of 2022 to culturally significant career, social and civic opportunities.

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More than 670 Black graduates from various high schools come to a special graduation at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona on May 13, 2022.
More than 670 Black graduates from various high schools come to a special graduation at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona on May 13, 2022.

SoCal Group Holds Black-Themed Commencement, Presents Scholarships for Local High School Grads

By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

This past weekend in the Inland Empire, a San Bernardino couple welcomed hundreds of African American high school graduates from the region for a joyous multi high school, Black-themed graduation celebration.

“Sometimes we have students doing magnificent things and nobody sees them,” said Keynasia Buffong, co-founder of Buffong Consultation Solutions, the company that organized the celebration honoring graduates from various high schools in the area.

Keynasia Buffong co-owns the firm with her husband Jonathan Buffong. The couple wants to expand the mass graduation event to all regions in the state.

“When you come into your community, we see you. We recognize you,” Kaynasia Buffong continued.

The Buffongs say 694 students signed up for the Black graduation event their company held in conjunction with the Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement (CEEM) and a myriad of other sponsors.

In addition to celebrating the students’ achievements, the Buffongs say the event held at the Los Angeles County Fair Grounds in Pomona introduced members of the class of 2022 to culturally significant career, social and civic opportunities.

Black Greek organizations attended the weekend-long event as well as the first Black valedictorian of Beaumont High School where African American students make up a little under 7% of the student population.

“We got a chance to give away $27,000 in scholarships,” said Keynasia.

Both Buffongs are educators and student advocates in California. They have been hosting the graduation event appreciating Black students for over 11 years.

But the Buffongs say celebrating success always comes with a reminder of the challenges Black students face.

According to the California Department of Education, at 72.5%, Black students had the lowest high school graduation rate among all other racial or ethnic groups at the end of the 2020 to 2021 academic year.

Jonathan said one of their goals is to help graduates transition into the next stage of their academic life, whether that be a four-year university, community college, trade school, or employment.

“Sometimes they don’t know where to go or what to do,” said Keynasia. “There’s mentorship and sponsorship and we aim to have both.”

For the scholarship awards, the Buffongs are not just looking at grades but the full context of the graduates’ lives.

“Whether it’s COVID, deaths, family or health issues, disabilities, we’re looking for things to support them on so we can get them to the next level,” said Jonathan.

Outside of academic and career success, the Buffongs spoke about the importance of Black cultural exposure through education and traditional practices such as the Black national anthem and a libation ceremony.

The libation ceremony is performed by an elder in the community as a way to honor one’s ancestors. It is significant in various African cultures as well as other cultures around the globe.

The Buffongs say their next step is to look into more internship opportunities and figure out how to help curb the high numbers of Black high school graduates who leave the state to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

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