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West Coast Hip-Hop Unites at the Welcome to the West Festival

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — The festival celebrated its illustrious artists while also highlighting the up-and-coming. Rap artist, Dom Kennedy, has been making waves on the west coast since he debuted in 2008 with the mix tape “25th Hour.” Kennedy stated by virtue of HipHopDX: “If anything, and I can only speak for myself, I think that I’m trying to do it like DJ Quik did it, or Ice Cube did it, but this is just my way of doing it therefore I guess it’s natural. But I’m not trying to do anything, you know, different or to say, ‘This is new.’… I set out to do it the way they did it, just in my own way.”

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Cobby Supreme (Left), Jroc (Middle), J-stone (Right) Pay Tribute To The Late Nipsey Hussle. All Money In! (Photo by: Bertram Keller | L.A. Sentinel)

By Bertram Keller

Saturday night, September 20, the 2nd annual Welcome to the West Festival showcased among the most outstanding west coast artists to date. The festival united established legends and new-era contemporaries; such as, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, G Perico, Joe Moses, J-Stone, Dom Kennedy, Suga Free, DJ Quik, Roddy Ricch, Ice Cube and many more.

West Coast Hip Hop patrons materialized at the grandiose Toyota Arena in Ontario, CA. The jubilant audience gathered in support of the music that represents the region’s opulent style.

The festival celebrated its illustrious artists while also highlighting the up-and-coming. Rap artist, Dom Kennedy, has been making waves on the west coast since he debuted in 2008 with the mix tape “25th Hour.” Kennedy stated by virtue of HipHopDX: “If anything, and I can only speak for myself, I think that I’m trying to do it like DJ Quik did it, or Ice Cube did it, but this is just my way of doing it therefore I guess it’s natural. But I’m not trying to do anything, you know, different or to say, ‘This is new.’… I set out to do it the way they did it, just in my own way.”

Dom Kennedy Donned All Money In Shirt In Honor Of The Late Nipsey Hussle. (Photo by: Bertram Keller | L.A. Sentinel)

Dom Kennedy Donned All Money In Shirt In Honor Of The Late Nipsey Hussle. (Photo by: Bertram Keller | L.A. Sentinel)

The difficulty of career longevity within the Hip-Hop industry is quite common; aside from Kennedy’s mentioned west coast predecessors, Ice Cube and DJ Quik, among a few others lasting success has been unprecedented. In this way, up-and-coming west coast artists have much potential to learn from the blueprint of previous generations, in which is justifiable to celebrate new-era acts along with their genres predecessors.

After the untimely death of the legendary artist Tupac Shakur, many have associated the West Coast Hip-Hop climate as incapable of uniting, in which has incited a forlorn battle that points to a history of gang violence. Last year, the 2018 Welcome to the West Festival’s headliner was the late Nipsey Hussle. Tragically, in late March 2019, the prolific artist was shot and killed in the parking lot of his store, Marathon Clothing located in South Central LA.

He was the deplorable victim of a senseless act of violence; however, Nipsey leaves a legacy as being one of the first West Coast artists to advocate against gang violence. He is commonly recognized as the first crip-gang affiliated artist to willingly produce music with rival gang affiliated artists. Allocating his personal aspirations to inspire unity throughout Los Angeles, Nipsey’s contagious entrepreneurial spirit, and his continuous incite for Black-owned businesses, continues to inspire posthumously.

Spectators and performers alike could feel the energy in the building. At the time of entrance, the building was filled with smiles and an essence of kinship; safe to say, everyone was there for the music.

Nipsey’s untimely death was certainly felt by each of the performers Saturday night. Performers were certainly mindful of the festival’s significance, in which every performer shouted out variations of “R.I.P Nipsey Hussle!” or “Let’s do it one time for Nip!” Subsequently, the crowd reciprocated the energy in the room chanting ‘Nipsey!’ to commemorate his prolific life.

Notable performers included long-time friend and Nipsey Hussle’s All Money In label-mate J-Stone, who took the stage wearing a symbolic blue bandana around his forehead; further, performing his tribute song entitled, “The Marathon Continues,” along with several other songs he wrote with Nipsey. The beginning of the song features a sound bite of Nipsey and Stone celebrating the release of Nipsey’s only studio album “Victory Lap.”

Ice Cube Rocks Raucus Crowd (Photo by: (Bertram Keller | L.A. Sentinel)

Ice Cube Rocks Raucus Crowd (Photo by: (Bertram Keller | L.A. Sentinel)

Festival Disc Jockey, DJ VIP, guided fans through the experience shouting, “Let’s honor a legend, my man Nipsey Hussle!” Followed by various visuals of Nipsey’s cycled on the arena’s giant-screen. In tribute, fans stood in the audience for the duration of the segment while DJ VIP played Nipsey’s most celebrated songs, including “Grinding All My Life,” “Checc Me Out,” and “Rap N******” as spectators recited the lyrics in unison.

Introduced as “legends in the building,” Bone Thugs-N-Harmony gave a classic performance, kicking off with “East 1999.” During their set, family and friends lined the stage as Wish Bone did most of the speaking and MC duties. The groups set close out with “Tha Crossroads,” and the group led the audience in a “Real, Hip Hop” chant, reminding attendance of the night’s purpose.

The stage was then cleared to welcome the headliner Ice Cube, who was accompanied by long-time hype man and friend, WC of the Westside Connection; both dressed in similar khakis suit attire. As the crowd simmered with anticipation, a raucous “Ice Cube” chant echoed throughout the arena. Cube rushed to the stage performing “That New Funkadelik.” And went to perform favorites like “Bop Gun (One Nation),” “You Know How We Do It,” and ultimately closing out the night with “It Was A Good Day,” before shouting-out Nipsey one final time.

The Welcome to the West Festival enabled various artists from the same region to demonstrate possible awe-inspiring moments of unity through music, in which many new milestones were commemorated for new west coast artists. Creating an incredibly intimate setting for a sold out show, which may one day be remembered as a historic moment for the West Coast.

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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IN MEMORIAM: Cheryl Hickmon: National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Dies

NNPA NEWSWIRE — THE BURTON WIRE — Hickmon, a beloved and celebrated member, served the organization for 39 years. The Connecticut native was initiated into the Alpha Xi Chapter at South Carolina State University in 1982 and was an active member of the Hartford (Conn.) Alumnae Chapter. The national office of the sorority released a statement announcing Hickmon’s  death which reads as follows, in part: “It is with great sorrow that Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. shares the passing of our beloved National President and Chair of the National Board of Directors, Cheryl A. Hickmon. President Hickmon transitioned peacefully on January 20, 2022 after a recent illness.

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Cheryl Hickmon, national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, the nation’s largest African-American sorority.

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

The nation is mourning the passing of Cheryl Hickmon, national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, the nation’s largest African-American sorority. Hickmon was elected president of the organization dedicated to sisterhood, scholarship and service  November 21, 2021 at the 55th national convention held in Atlanta, GA.

Hickmon, a beloved and celebrated member, served the organization for 39 years. The Connecticut native was initiated into the Alpha Xi Chapter at South Carolina State University in 1982 and was an active member of the Hartford (Conn.) Alumnae Chapter. The national office of the sorority released a statement announcing Hickmon’s  death which reads as follows:

“It is with great sorrow that Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. shares the passing of our beloved National President and Chair of the National Board of Directors, Cheryl A. Hickmon. President Hickmon transitioned peacefully on January 20, 2022 after a recent illness.

President Hickmon was a devoted member of Delta Sigma Theta since 1982 and served in various capacities at the chapter, region, and national level before being elected National President. She is remembered not only for her role as a leader but for being a colleague, friend, and most of all, sister.

The entire sisterhood of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated mourns the loss of President Hickmon. During this difficult time, we ask that you respect her family’s privacy and keep them in your prayers.”

In addition to serving as the national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Cheryl was employed at Montefiore’s Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Health in Hartsdale, NY where she supervised the In Vitro Fertilization Laboratories for Andrology and Endocrinology. A licensed Clinical Laboratory Technologist, Hickmon worked in the Reproductive Medical Laboratory for more than 30 years.
Members and supporters have been offering remembrances and calling for prayers in response to Hickmon’s death. Florida representative Val Demings,  who is a member of the sorority, shared her thoughts via Twitter:
Organizations including the NAACP and fellow Black Greek Letter Organizations like Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta Sigma and Alpha Kappa Alpha have issued statements about Hickmon’s passing.

Cheryl Hickmon is the daughter of the late Dr. Ned Hickmon of Hartford, CT and Bishopville, South Carolina and the late Consuella Anderson Hickmon of Hartford, CT and Cincinnati, Ohio. She is survived by her two older brothers Ned and David Hickmon.

Hickmon’s bio reads, “Cheryl lives her life by the motto … ‘Don’t measure life by the number of breaths you take but by the number of moments that take your breath away.’” She was 60.

This obituary was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Instagram or Twitter @TheBurtonWire. 

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Parents Raise the Alarm About Violence in Schools, Say Their Votes Depends on Improvement

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Parents have very legitimate concerns about violence in schools, increased bullying, and a lack of mental health resources,” Keri Rodrigues, co-founder, and President of the National Parents Union, said in a statement.

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NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Parents have very legitimate concerns about violence in schools, increased bullying, and a lack of mental health resources,” Keri Rodrigues, co-founder, and President of the National Parents Union, said in a statement.
About 52 percent said student mental health after coping with the pandemic is a significant issue, as well.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

A new poll revealed that parents continue to express “legitimate concerns” about violence in schools, increased bullying, and a lack of mental health resources.

Alarmingly, the poll released by the National Parents Union found that 59 percent of parents are very or extremely concerned about how schools are teaching race and diversity.

“Many Black parents are worried that schools are being harsher on students of color compared to white students,” researchers noted in the poll.

The National Parents Union counts as a network of parent organizations and grassroots activists committed to improving the quality of life for children and families in the United States.

Conducted from November 19 to November 23, the survey included 1,233 parents who also count as registered voters.

Researchers found that 84 percent of parents are concerned about how schools address the threat of violence, and 59 percent identified increased bullying or violence in school as a significant issue.

About 52 percent said student mental health after coping with the pandemic is a significant issue, as well.

“Parents have very legitimate concerns about violence in schools, increased bullying, and a lack of mental health resources,” Keri Rodrigues, co-founder, and President of the National Parents Union, said in a statement.

“Now, it is incumbent on schools to do something about these issues, especially given the federal funds available. It’s not rocket science. Rather than repaint a football field, first, make sure that there are enough counselors to help students cope with mental health issues,” Rodrigues asserted.

The poll also asked the parents who responded that they were concerned about the threat of violence, which worries them the most.

The top three most pressing concerns remain:

  • 44 percent: schools not having enough counselors, psychologists, or social workers to work with students
  • 42 percent: schools not having resources to keep weapons out of schools
  • 39 percent: schools not having school resource officers or police accessible on campus
  • 59 percent of parents are extremely or very concerned about how schools are teaching about race and diversity; Among Black parents, 69 percent share this sentiment, which drops slightly to 67 percent among Hispanic parents.

Of the overall number of parents who are at least somewhat concerned (79 percent):

  • 48 percent say what concerns them the most is schools are not teaching accurate information about the issue of race.
  • 42 percent are most concerned about schools pushing a progressive agenda onto students
  • 56 percent of GOP parents who are concerned say this is their top concern
  • 32 percent are most concerned that schools aren’t focused on the issue enough
  • 46 percent of Black parents who are concerned say this is their top concern
  • 78 percent of parents are concerned about how schools are handling disciplinary issues
  • Nearly half (46 percent) of Black parents who said they are concerned about how schools are handling disciplinary issues are worried that schools are harsher on students of color compared to white students
  • 38 percent of parents trust Democrats to do a better job of handling education; 31 percent trust Republicans; 14 percent trust both equally; 11 percent trust neither

Among parents who identify as Independents, 28 percent trust Republicans and 20 percent trust Democrats.

“These findings underscore the importance of the very thing we have been imploring school leaders across the country to do – listen to the parents in your community,” Rodrigues stated.

“It also reinforces the need for those running for office to take the concerns of parents very seriously or risk losing elections.”

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COMMENTARY: Telling Our Family Stories Keeps Black History Alive

We grew up hearing family stories about life in the Carolinas from our parents and grandparents. My sister, Gwen Fortune-Blakely, has written her first children’s book, Rex and the Band, inspired by one of our favorite stories our grandma used to tell about my dad, Dr. Rex Fortune, who is now a retired public school superintendent.

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Dr. Margaret Fortune, Fortune School, University of Southern California (USC), football, USC marching band, marching bands, drumline, public charter school, Rex and Margaret Fortune Early College High School, family stories, life in the Carolinas, parents, grandparents, Gwen Fortune-Blakely, children’s book, Rex and the Band, grandma, Dr. Rex Fortune, retired public school superintendent, little Rex, spirited young boy, high-energy marching band, North Carolina A&T football games, sister’s beautifully illustrated book, Telling our family stories, African Americans, history, Griots, storytellers, grandparents, ancestors, passed on, Black press, clearinghouse, many stories, Black community, Ebony Jr., elementary school student, high school, Sacramento Observer newspaper, Cocoa Kids Books, engaging, authentic, uplifting, inspiring
Dr. Margaret Fortune is the president/CEO of Fortune School, a system of nine, K-12 public charter schools with over 2,300 students focused on closing the Black achievement gap by preparing students for college.

Let’s Talk Black Education

By Dr. Margaret Fortune, President/CEO Fortune School

When we were kids, my dad would take us to football games at the University of Southern California (USC). I didn’t care much for football, but I loved it when we’d stay after the game to hear the USC marching band play. His love for marching bands is why we have a drumline at the public charter school I founded and named after my parents — Rex and Margaret Fortune Early College High School.

We grew up hearing family stories about life in the Carolinas from our parents and grandparents. My sister, Gwen Fortune-Blakely, has written her first children’s book, Rex and the Band, inspired by one of ourfavorite stories our grandma used to tell about my dad, Dr. Rex Fortune, who is now a retired public school superintendent.

As the story goes, one day back in 1947, my grandma sent little Rex to the corner store to get some eggs so she could bake a cake. My dad bought the eggs and put them in his pockets. On the walk home, he encountered a marching band high-steppin’ down the dusty road to his mother’s house. Little Rex got so excited that he followed the band, beating on his legs like drums all the way home and, yes, breaking all the eggs.

“Rex and the Band” explores a day in the life of Rex, a spirited young boy who dreams of one day playing in a high-energy marching band like the ones he enjoys watching with his father during North Carolina A&T football games.

Reading my sister’s beautifully illustrated book, I cried tears of joy. Telling our family stories is such an important way for African Americans to keep our history alive. Griots, or storytellers, are the reason why we know the truths that we do know about our family history and ancestors.

I believe all of us can think back to when our grandparents would tell us stories about our ancestors who may have passed on before we were born. It was their way of making sure our stories were not only told but preserved.

The Black press has been the clearinghouse for many stories that have impacted the Black community over time. My sister published her first poem in Ebony Jr. as an elementary school student and then in high school she interned at the Sacramento Observer newspaper.

Gwen founded Cocoa Kids Books to publish books like “Rex and the Band” that encourage Black children to dream, aspire for more, and soar because they see themselves reflected in stories that are engaging, authentic, uplifting, and inspiring. I’m so proud of my big sis! You can buy Gwen’s book at https://store.bookbaby.com/book/rex-and-the-band.

Dr. Margaret Fortune is the president/CEO of Fortune School, a system of nine, K-12 public charter schools with over 2,300 students focused on closing the Black achievement gap by preparing students for college.

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