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First Black Starting NFL QB Reflects on Changes in the Game and Society

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Marlin Briscoe

Marlin Briscoe didn’t want to be pigeonholed simply because of stereotypes against black men. He was a star quarterback in college and he believed he had the talent, intelligence and leadership skills to be one in the pros.

Fifty years ago, during an era of massive social upheaval in the United States, just getting a chance to prove it took a risky ultimatum.

Briscoe refused to switch positions after being drafted as a cornerback by the Denver Broncos, telling his team that he’d return home to become a teacher if he couldn’t get a tryout at quarterback. Denver agreed to an audition, and that season the 5-foot-10 dynamo nicknamed “The Magician” became the first black quarterback to start a game in the American Football League.

“It’s just so many different historic things that happened in the year 1968, it was unfathomable,” Briscoe said. “It just seemed poetic justice, so to speak, that the color barrier be broken that year at that position. For some reason, I was ordained to be the litmus test for that. I think I did a good job.”

Briscoe’s groundbreaking accomplishments were somewhat lost in the shuffle during one of the most transformative years in U.S. history. Civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated in 1968. Civil rights riots broke out across the country and there were numerous protests of the Vietnam War. And less than two weeks after Briscoe’s first start, U.S. track and field stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised black-gloved fists on the medal stand at the Olympics to protest America’s social injustices.

But Briscoe’s legacy resonates among his contemporaries 50 years later, hitting on race as well as the pressures athletes face in pro sports. The Pro Football Hall of Fame calls Briscoe the first African-American starting quarterback in modern pro football history. Carolina’s Cam Newton and Seattle’s Russell Wilson have both considered Briscoe’s past as they contend for championships.

Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, counts Briscoe as one of his most important inspirations.

“I know the little bit that I had to go through, so I can imagine what he had to go through,” said Williams, who won the 1988 Super Bowl with Washington. “People were a little more accepted when I came through than when he came through.”

Wilson and Newton can relate to Briscoe’s resistance to switch from quarterback. Both dealt with being steered toward other positions.

“I had a couple opportunities —well I wouldn’t say opportunities, I think quarterback’s the opportunity I wanted — but more so, people wanted to change me to play defensive back,” Wilson said. “Even my freshman year in college. But I had other plans, and I guess God had other plans.”

Though he’s happy more black athletes are playing quarterback at the professional level, Briscoe sees parallels with his experiences even five decades years later. Last week, a white Texas school superintendent resigned after posting on Facebook that “You can’t count on a black quarterback,” while talking about Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson.

“It’s unfortunate because in sports is the one realm in which race, you forget about it for the good of the outcome of a game or whatever you have from a sports standpoint,” Briscoe said. “To have that broken with attitudes like that from an executive — it’s mind boggling. It hurts. It really does.”

 

GETTING ON THE FIELD

Briscoe said the pedestal for quarterbacks in the hierarchy of sports made his quest about much more than football.

“People of color were only expected to reach certain heights in life,” Briscoe, now 73, told The Associated Press. “In my particular instance, it was the packing house. They (white people) thought that was our end-all, be-all. It came back to my wanting to play that position.”

Though Briscoe starred at Omaha University and eventually landed in the College Football Hall of Fame, the odds were stacked against him in Denver. He was drafted as a cornerback in the 14th round, and during his three-day tryout, Briscoe started last among the eight quarterbacks during drills.

“When it got to me, all of a sudden, the reps got shorter. Instead of 10 reps, I got five,” he said. “So I made sure that all of my passes were completions with zip on the ball. When it came to the long bomb, I’d wait till the receiver would get damn near out of sight. They couldn’t believe a kid this small could throw the ball that far.”

Though the AFL was considered more progressive than the rival National Football League, a black man didn’t play quarterback in a regular-season game until its ninth season.

Briscoe broke through helped by injuries and erratic play. He eventually stepped in for the Broncos as a reserve on Sept. 29, 1968, nearly leading a comeback against the Boston Patriots. He earned the next start against the Cincinnati Bengals, making him the first black quarterback to start in the AFL.

Briscoe started five games that season and was runner-up for AFL rookie of the year, attracting strong crowds to games and energizing a franchise that had yet to establish a winning tradition.

But when the games ended, reminders of racism came quickly.

“Here you are just playing a professional football game and endeared by the public as an athlete, then you go to a restaurant and you can’t get something to eat,” Briscoe said. “Those were the times that we lived in.”

Despite his electrifying season — he passed for 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns and ran for 308 yards and three scores — Denver didn’t give him a chance to compete for the quarterback job in 1969. He said he was never given a reason why, so he asked to be released.

“The more I’ve known him and been around him and talked to him, you’ve got to give him respect for what he did during that time and what happened to him after that time,” Williams said. “That’s the part that gets me. But that’s the time he was in.”

Briscoe headed briefly to British Columbia but decided Canadian football wasn’t for him. He returned to the United States and was picked up by Buffalo. He became a Pro Bowl receiver with the Bills and won two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins.

Briscoe played on the 1972 Dolphins team that had a perfect season. But he never started at quarterback after 1968.

 

MENTORING HARRIS

As a senior at Grambling, James Harris kept up with Briscoe’s 1968 season by going to the library to look up his statistics.

As fate would have it, Buffalo drafted Harris as a quarterback in 1969, putting him on the same team as Briscoe. It was Harris who became the AFL’s first black quarterback to open the season as a starter, and he said his roommate Briscoe was a critical mentor.

“We used to talk a lot about the dos and don’ts and things that he had been through. He was telling me the things I needed to be prepared for,” Harris said. “I felt that Marlin was the only person on the team that understood what I was going through.”

That included death threats, Briscoe said. “We had the race card on our careers because we were the first,” he said.

Harris refused to show the Bills the full range of his athletic ability because Tennessee State’s Eldridge Dickey and Michigan State’s Jimmy Raye, two quarterbacks he considered capable, were drafted in 1968 and forced to switch positions.

Grambling coach Eddie Robinson noticed the trend and told Harris not to run the 40-yard dash for scouts. The Bills still wanted him to practice at receiver while learning to play quarterback, and Harris responded by running less than full speed in drills.

“I knew they were looking for the opportunity to switch me, and I didn’t want to face that,” he said. “So when we’re out there just working out, if anybody was around, I didn’t want anybody to think about my speed.”

Harris blossomed at quarterback. In 1974, he played for the Los Angeles Rams and became the first black quarterback to win an NFL playoff game. He also was Pro Bowl MVP that year.

 

GROWTH OF BLACK QUARTERBACKS

The list of prominent black quarterbacks eventually grew.

Warren Moon is in the Hall of Fame. Steve McNair was the first black quarterback to be named NFL MVP. Michael Vick is the NFL’s all-time rushing leader for quarterbacks. Randall Cunningham, one of the most electrifying players in NFL history, was a first-team All-Pro twice. Wilson became the second black quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

Newton said the strategy of the position itself has shifted dramatically along with racial dynamics.

“It doesn’t even have to be African-American,” said Newton, who met with Briscoe at a quarterback camp about 10 years ago. “The quarterback position is kind of molding and changing over the years. You see the Carson Wentzes taking a more athletic approach to that position and making it more dynamic for teams to prepare for.”

Briscoe said more work needs to be done both in the league and society. He has noticed that Colin Kaepernick has not been given a contract since his decision to kneel during “The Star Spangled Banner” to protest racial and social inequality. He believes President Donald Trump, who has been an outspoken critic of Kaepernick and other black NFL players who have protested to draw attention to issues like incarceration and the shootings of unarmed black men by police, also bears some responsibility for the Watson quip and others like it.

Trump’s rhetoric toward people of color, Briscoe says, has made some people feel safe expressing overt racism. After all these years, Briscoe still sees shades of his old struggles.

“I grew up in the ’50s and the ’60s, when all that stuff was rampant, but you knew where you stood,” Briscoe said. “Today, you thought that all those attitudes were nonexistent or filtered away to some degree, but with the Trump-isms, his philosophy has brought out of the woodwork that old-time thought process. That’s scary — it really is.”

Originally published by Cliff Brunt on ABCnews.go.com

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Entrepreneurship-Based Show ‘Hustle’ is Coming to Viceland

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hustle on viceland

Viceland is taking a dip into the startup space with its newest show, Hustle. Just wrapping up production in New York City, the series stars John Henry, a Dominican-American business owner and investor who by 26 has already sold his first company and launched a venture capital fund named Harlem Capital.

The premise of the show is surrounding the new entrepreneur and what it takes to successfully launch a company and get it off the ground. Henry seeks out other New Yorkers, like himself, and helps them turn their business into startups with true potential, pinpointing the exact issues holding them back. He gives them guidance, direction, and resources but, not without putting them to the test. His goal is to set them up with opportunities for their businesses that could potentially catapult them, but it really is up to them whether they sink or rise to the challenges.

So why did Henry take on the challenge of mentoring entrepreneurs in a docu-series format? “When Beth Greenwald originally came to me with the essence of this idea, I knew I wanted to be involved,” says Henry, “We were both passionate to produce and deliver an authentic look at the entrepreneurial journey. Silicon Valley’s narrative has been well documented. But what about the entrepreneurial journey of the rest of the country? And particularly, diverse business owners and entrepreneurs whose perspective has often been overlooked. Thus, Hustle was born.

Hustle puts Henry’s mission of empowering diverse young entrepreneurs on its feet and as he states, “gives the world a new perspective.”  That mission has attracted two celebrity entrepreneurs and bona fide New York success stories as executive producers: 15-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, musician, producer, actress, best-selling author, and activist Alicia Keys and multiple award-winning chef and restaurateur, TV personality, best-selling author and philanthropist Marcus Samuelsson. The show premieres Feb. 10.

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Disney Celebrates Black History Month: Gives $1.5 Million to United Negro College Fund and Free ‘Black Panther’ Tickets

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Black Panther Image

The Walt Disney Co. announced it is helping to celebrate Black History Month. The legendary studio is giving a $1.5 million grant to the United Negro College Fund. Additionally, the company will offer free screenings of its mega-hit movie Black Panther from Feb. 1–7, at 250 AMC theaters around the country.

“We know that providing aspiring young minority talent with scholarships and professional development opportunities is vital to making their dreams a reality,” said UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael Lomax via a press release. “UNCF is grateful for Walt Disney Company’s enduring commitment to expanding these types of opportunities, and we’re excited to continue to do so through our Walt Disney Company/UNCF Corporate Scholars Program. I recall the excitement we all had when Black Panther was first released and it’s fantastic that Disney is bringing the record-breaking movie back to the big screen so that we can relive that excitement. Wakanda Forever!”

Black Panther went on to become the 7th highest-grossing movie of all time in the country and the 14th highest globally.

The movie has captured several Oscar nominations, including awards for Best Picture, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Original Music Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing.

Black Panther is groundbreaking for many reasons, including the rich diversity of voices behind its success,” said Bob Iger, chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Co., also through a press release. “The story also showcases the power of knowledge to change the world for the better, and the importance of ensuring everyone has access to it. We’re proud to provide thousands of free screenings of Black Panther in hopes it will continue to inspire audiences and to support UNCF with a $1.5 million grant to make the dream of higher education a reality for more students.”

The Black Panther movie has inspired a new wave of Afrocentrism. For instance, the blockbuster sent demand for African fabrics and clothing, skyrocketing. The movie also inspired hip-hop star, Akon, to create a real-life Wakanda, using the latest technologies of blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Disney has made other donations in the wake of Black Panther’s success. Last year, it donated $1 million to expand STEM programs in Oakland, along with 11 other areas, including Harlem, Chicago, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and others. The company also gave $1 million to the Girls and Boys Club of America.

CEO Iger also hinted last year that a Black Panther-inspired theme park is in the works.

To see where you can catch the free Black Panther showings, check out the list of the participating AMC theaters.

 

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“Black Panther,” “Black KkKlansman,” Regina King, Spike Lee and More Nominated for 2019 Academy Awards

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African American Movies

The nominees for the 91st Academy Awards were announced early this morning by Black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross and The Big Sick star Kumail Nanjiani, and among them were for the first time a superhero movie nominated for Best Picture, Black Panther, and the prolific Spike Lee‘s first nomination in the Best Director category for Black KkKlansman, which also was nominated for Best Picture.

Ever since the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of 2016, the demand for more diversity in movies and television has gained and retained attention. Although there are no African-Americans among the Best Actor or Best Actress nominees, Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio was recognized for her work in Roma, and among the nominees in the Best Supporting Actress category are Golden Globe winner Regina King for her turn in If Beale Street Could Talk, and Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali, who garnered his third Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Green Book.

Other notable African-American Oscar nominees this year are Kendrick Lamar and SZA in the Original Song category for “All The Stars” from Black Panther, and Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson, who might win for what she first became known for as she is also nominated (with Diane Warren) in the Original Song category for “I’ll Fight” from RBG.

“Black Panther” nominees Hannah Beachler and Ruth E. Carter; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse” co-director Peter Ramsey

Peter Ramsey, who is co-director on Best Animated Feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Barry Jenkins in the Adapted Screenplay category for If Beale Street Could Talk. Spike Lee earned a second nod in the Adapted Screenplay category as one of the writers of Black KkKlansman.

Another first this year is Hannah Beachler‘s nomination for Production Design for Black Panther, the only African American woman to receive one in this category. Ruth E. Carter earned her third nomination for Costume Design (the first two were forMalcolm X and Amistad) for Black Panther and  composer Terence Blanchard, who has scored more than forty films and all of Spike Lee’s, finally earned an Original Score nomination this year for his work on Black KkKlansman.

The Oscars will be broadcast live by ABC on Feb. 24 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET. Below is a complete list of all the nominees:

Best Picture:

“Black Panther”
“BlacKkKlansman”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“The Favourite”
“Green Book”
“Roma”
“A Star Is Born”
“Vice”

Lead Actor:

Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

Lead Actress:

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Supporting Actor:

Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell, “Vice”

Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

Director:

Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”

Animated Feature:

“Incredibles 2,” Brad Bird
“Isle of Dogs,” Wes Anderson
“Mirai,” Mamoru Hosoda
“Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

Animated Short:

“Animal Behaviour,” Alison Snowden, David Fine
“Bao,” Domee Shi
“Late Afternoon,” Louise Bagnall
“One Small Step,” Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas
“Weekends,” Trevor Jimenez

Adapted Screenplay:

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
“BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins
“A Star Is Born,” Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters

Original Screenplay:

“The Favourite,” Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
“First Reformed,” Paul Schrader
“Green Book,” Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice,” Adam McKay

Cinematography:

“Cold War,” Lukasz Zal
“The Favourite,” Robbie Ryan
“Never Look Away,” Caleb Deschanel
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“A Star Is Born,” Matthew Libatique

Best Documentary Feature:

“Free Solo,” Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” RaMell Ross
“Minding the Gap,” Bing Liu
“Of Fathers and Sons,” Talal Derki
“RBG,” Betsy West, Julie Cohen

Best Documentary Short Subject:

“Black Sheep,” Ed Perkins
“End Game,” Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
“Lifeboat,” Skye Fitzgerald
“A Night at the Garden,” Marshall Curry
“Period. End of Sentence.,” Rayka Zehtabchi

Best Live Action Short Film: 
“Detainment,” Vincent Lambe
“Fauve,” Jeremy Comte
“Marguerite,” Marianne Farley
“Mother,” Rodrigo Sorogoyen
“Skin,” Guy Nattiv

Best Foreign Language Film:

“Capernaum” (Lebanon)
“Cold War” (Poland)
“Never Look Away” (Germany)
“Roma” (Mexico)
“Shoplifters” (Japan)

Film Editing:

“BlacKkKlansman,” Barry Alexander Brown
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Ottman
“Green Book,” Patrick J. Don Vito
“The Favourite,” Yorgos Mavropsaridis
“Vice,” Hank Corwin

Sound Editing:

“Black Panther,” Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boeddeker
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Warhurst
“First Man,” Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan
“A Quiet Place,” Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl
“Roma,” Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay

Sound Mixing:

“Black Panther”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“First Man”
“Roma”
“A Star Is Born”

Production Design:

“Black Panther,” Hannah Beachler
“First Man,” Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
“The Favourite,” Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton
“Mary Poppins Returns,” John Myhre, Gordon Sim
“Roma,” Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez

Original Score:

“BlacKkKlansman,” Terence Blanchard
“Black Panther,” Ludwig Goransson
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Nicholas Britell
“Isle of Dogs,” Alexandre Desplat
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman

Original Song:

“All The Stars” from “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
“I’ll Fight” from “RBG” by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

Makeup and Hair:

“Border”
“Mary Queen of Scots”
“Vice”

Costume Design:

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Mary Zophres
“Black Panther,” Ruth E. Carter
“The Favourite,” Sandy Powell
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Sandy Powell
“Mary Queen of Scots,” Alexandra Byrne

Visual Effects:

“Avengers: Infinity War”
“Christopher Robin”
“First Man”
“Ready Player One”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”

 

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Jimi Hendrix Honored in Hometown of Seattle with Post Office Renamed in his Honor

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Jimi Hendrix

Washington state officials passed a bill to rename a post office near Jimi Hendrix‘s hometown of Seattle to honor the guitar god.

Both of Washington’s U.S. senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, supported Rep. Adam Smith’s bill to rechristen Renton Highlands Post Office as the James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix Post Office. The bill was signed into law last week after it passed unanimously.

The post office, located in the Seattle suburb of Renton, is less than a mile from the Jimi Hendrix Memorial in the Greenwood Memorial Park cemetery, where the rock legend is buried, the Seattle Times reports.

“I am honored to join in paying tribute to rock and roll icon and Seattle native Jimi Hendrix with the renaming of the Renton Highlands Post Office as the James Marshall ‘Jimi’ Hendrix Post Office Building,” Rep. Smith said in a statement.

“This designation will further celebrate Hendrix’s deep connection to the Puget Sound region and help ensure that his creative legacy will be remembered by our community and inspire future generations.”

The renamed post office is the Seattle area’s latest tribute to Hendrix, who was born and grew up in the city and attended the city’s Garfield High School. In June 2017, the 2.5-acre Jimi Hendrix Park opened in Seattle’s Central District – near his childhood home – after a decade of delays.

“Seattle will always be Jimi’s home,” Janie Hendrix, the guitarist’s sister and president and CEO of Experience Hendrix, said at the time. “This very area is where Jimi grew up, where his dreams were cultivated and his creative energy awakened, in many ways. So to see this amazing place of beauty, dedicated to Jimi and his artistry, blossom into reality is indescribably fulfilling.

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TURNING MICHELLE OBAMA’S ‘BECOMING’ INTO A CLASS CURRICULUM FOR BLACK GIRLS

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Obama Curriculum

Lauren Christine Mims is a former assistant director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans and a Ph.D. candidate in Educational Psychology at the University of Virginia. She’s also one of the many women inspired by Michelle Obama’s Becominga New York Times best-selling book that sold more than 1.4 million copies within the first seven days of its release. Now, Mims is turning Obama’s book into a curriculum for black girls to further their learning and development.

“Reading Becoming was like sitting on the couch with your best friend and having one of those soulful conversations about life,” said Mims.

“Reading about how Michelle Obama felt unchallenged in elementary school, teased for the way she spoke, and noticed a difference in how she was perceived during adolescence was affirming.”

Mims hopes the Becoming curriculum will make space for black girls to thrive in a world that often seems to try and deny their humanity. As part of her doctoral research at the University of Virginia, Mims explores what it means to be a young, gifted, black girl in school.

“I disrupt the traditional practice of talking about black girls in pejorative ways and center them and their unique experiences to study how we can support them. For example, my research highlights what ‘Black Girl Magic’ means to black girls; the role teachers play in supporting or stopping the success of black girls; and more about what they are learning and how it makes them feel.”

“If you follow Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Norris, and Willow Smith, think about my interviews as Red Table Talks where black girls are supported in discussing challenges and designing solutions.”

Lauren-Christine-Mims

As part of the curriculum, students read Becoming, and watch films featuring black girls in leading roles. Additionally, “we will have important conversations, like about what it means to feel like your presence is a threat or that you do not belong. We will discuss Maddie Whitsett and McKenzie Nicole Adams; two 9-year-old black girls who died by suicide after being subjected to bullying. At the end of the course, students will apply their knowledge to draft new research proposals, policies, and practices,” says Mims.

Beyond the walls of the classroom, Mims says there are four things we can all do to support black girls:

  • Create supportive, affirming, and loving environments by listening to their needs and centering their unique experiences of Becoming;
  • Advocate for, adopt, and enforce school policies and accountability practices that recognize the brilliance of black girls and ensure they are not being pushed out of school.
  • Address the bullying, harassment, and discrimination of black girls and ensure that all students have access to mental healthcare;
  • Care for your own mental health and well-being.

Ultimately, Mims wants girls to know that they are enough. As Michelle Obama writes, “Becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim,” yet there is so much pressure in college to define your identity and pick a career path. It can take a toll on you. Know that you are brilliant and never “underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”

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A Day In The Life of Black Model and Entrepreneur Afiya Bennett

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Afiya Bennett

It’s not every day you hear about someone getting the opportunity to be mentored by iconic supermodel Naomi Campbell. But in 2014, black model Afiya Bennett appeared on Campbell’s TV series The Face, and the coaching she received on the show laid the foundation for a successful modeling career. Beyond modeling for Maybelline, Fenty Beauty, Nine West, Mac Cosmetics, Nike, and Levi campaigns, Bennett also landed features in editorials for Vogue Italia, L’officiel India, Glamour South Africa, Marie Claire U.S./Indonesia, Instyle Magazine, Essence, and Self. With no plans of slowing down, the Brooklyn native also snagged a role as a Global Brand Ambassador for Fiji Water. Now, with the launch of The Afiya Collection, a luxury hat line offering a vegan-friendly range of materials including leather, patent leather, and wool—she adds entrepreneur to her long list of boss moves.

Fueled by the discouragement she received from people about her ambitious nature, she chose luxury military/biker styled caps not only to represent fashion and style, but to send women a message of strength, versatility, and ability to turn fear into greatness. Below, the Wilhelmina model takes us through a day in her life of casting calls, photo shoots, and running her own business.

black model

My daily schedule varies from day-to-day depending on what brand I am shooting for and if they’re based in New York. Typically, I wake up at 7:30 a.m. for a 9 a.m. call time. When I wake up, the first thing I do is pray and thank God for waking me up another day. I normally eat breakfast at 9 a.m. I am a huge coffee lover, and most times breakfast consists of a cappuccino and eggs, nothing too fancy. After that the hustle begins.

black model

My client list ranges from shooting campaigns for Nike and Nine West to editorials for Grazia and Vogue. Between running to castings, catching flights to shoot in the States or out of the country, working out, attending red carpet events, staying on top of your social media and building a brand, and maintaining a smile on your face, being a model is far from being all glamorous. 

The three biggest misconceptions about models are one, models don’t eat, two, models lives are all glamorous, and three, models are uneducated.

All are false. I can certainly tell you I love food and being a model is way more than being pretty. Lastly, I have a degree in media communications and business. People would be most surprised to know that models have some of the lowest self-esteem. Although we live a life that may seem picture perfect on the outside, we are in an industry where we are constantly being critiqued and compared to our counterparts. No woman should ever be made to feel small.

I created the Afiya brand because it embodies standing together in solidarity.  It’s for ladies who do not want to take ‘No’ for an answer. The Afiya Collection is here to inspire young girls to keep their heads up by following their dreams and not backing down. This collection is for women around the world to be reminded that strength is always in numbers, and it is time to make those numbers count.

 

black model

Lunch always varies based on what is being served on set, but I never try and eat anything too bad, where if I got the booking of my dreams tomorrow I couldn’t bounce back

By the end of the day, I am often running home or running to an event. When it comes to meetups, I like to surround myself with other successful models, business owners, financial advisers, and personalities—all areas in my life that I am striving to be better in. A good friend once asked me if I had one more hour in the day what would I do with it and I responded I would invest it into myself and my business.

black model

Once I walk through my door at home, I begin checking orders, shipping hats, and updating my marketing plan. It’s safe to say, I have long days. Dinner usually consists of chicken with sweet potato fries or brown rice and salad. The last thing I do before I go to bed is to pray the same as when I wake up. We live in such a crazy and unpredictable world. I love to acknowledge God in every aspect of my life both big and small; and when I do that I am just grateful to make it through another day.

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