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DuVernay, ‘black-ish,’ ‘Power’ win at NAACP Image Awards

The Free Press WV

A jubilant Ava DuVernay was named entertainer of the year at an NAACP Image Awards ceremony that focused on the black community’s power to create change.

DuVernay lauded other black artists from the stage as she accepted her award, naming writers and directors such as Shonda Rhimes, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Kenya Barris and “Black Panther” Ryan Coogler.

“This is our time,” DuVernay said. “We can say we were here when all this gorgeous art was happening, and that we supported it — that we lifted each other up, that we did as Dr. King said we would do: Live the dream. We’re the dream.”

Anthony Anderson hosted the ceremony at the Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California, on what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 89th birthday. While his politically tinged monologue poked fun at the presidential administration and Omarosa Manigault, others used their time onstage to encourage more civic involvement and the fight for social justice.

Producer Will Packer took a dig at President Donald Trump’s recent comments about immigration as the producer accepted an award for “Girls Trip,” which won for outstanding film.

“Sisters, especially the ones from Haiti and Africa, we love you as your brothers,” he said.

Kerry Washington, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laverne Cox, Jurnee Smollet-Bell, Lena Waithe and Angela Robinson set the tone for the evening when they emerged onstage holding hands to dramatically issue a get-out-the-vote call.

The six women declared support for the Time’s Up initiative to stop sexual harassment and gender discrimination and urged viewers to speak up at the polls as well.

“The midterms are a perfect moment for us to use our voices,” Robinson said. “If we can take back a senate seat in Alabama…”

“Then we have the ability to shift the imbalance of power,” Smollet-Bell said.

Barris’ show “black-ish” was the night’s big winner. The ABC hit was named best comedy series and took acting honors for stars Ross and Anderson.

“It’s an extraordinary thing to be able to show what a beautiful black family looks like on television,” Ross said as the cast accepted the comedy series honor.

“Power” was named best drama series, and star Omari Hardwick won for dramatic actor.

Other winners included “Gifted” actress Octavia Spencer and “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson, who were both absent, and Daniel Kaluuya, who won for his leading role in “Get Out.”

The British actor was clearly delighted at his victory.

“I don’t think you’re allowed to beat Denzel Washington in acting competitions,” said Kaluuya, who bested Washington for the prize. The 28-year-old actor thanked his mom and “Get Out” writer-director Jordan Peele.

“So many people didn’t believe in me, and you did, and you made all of us feel included,” Kaluuya said. “Thank you so much for letting us be seen.”

NAACP president Derrik Johnson asked viewers to text in their pledge to vote in 2018 before presenting the President’s Award to Danny Glover.

Glover was recognized for his professional and philanthropic contributions, particularly his work with the United Nations and his advocacy for labor unions.

Glover spoke specifically of a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, where 80 percent of employees are black, that has yet to organize.

“Civil rights and labor rights have always been one and the same,” he said.

The special awards provided some of the night’s most poignant moments.

Halle Berry talked about the significance of presenting the NAACP Image Awards on Martin Luther King Jr. day.

“We need to take heed to his eloquent words: ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter,’” she said. “Today is an affirmation that we will never ever, ever, ever be silent again.”

She presented the Music Makes a Difference award to Charlie Wilson, who talked about his road from addiction and homelessness to musical success and philanthropy.

He said he prayed and promised that if he could survive the streets, he would return to serve others. Wilson said Monday that he has been sober for 22 years and is focused on helping homeless addicts.

Labor organizer William Lucy received the Chairman’s Award for his more than 40 years of service. Beyond his union leadership, Lucy was also an activist who fought apartheid in South Africa.

He dedicated his award to the Memphis sanitation workers who went on strike in 1968, several of whom were in the audience at the Image Awards. King spoke to the striking employees the night before he was assassinated.

Another arresting moment in the show came during singer Andra Day’s chilling performance of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.” Rapper Common joined her for their song “Stand Up for Something,” and the whole audience rose to its feet.

Early winners at the 49th NAACP Image Awards

The Free Press WV

Early winners at the 49th NAACP Image Awards, as announced a pre-telecast gala dinner in Pasadena, California:


FILM

Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture: Idris Elba, “THOR: Ragnarok”

Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture: Tiffany Haddish, “Girls Trip”

Independent Motion Picture: “Detroit”

Documentary: “STEP”

Writing: Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

Directing in a Motion Picture: Jordan Peele, “Get Out”


MUSIC

New Artist: SZA

Male Artist: Bruno Mars

Female Artist: Mary J. Blige

Duo, Group or Collaboration: Kendrick Lamar feat. Rihanna

Jazz Album: “Petite Afrique,” Somi

Gospel/Christian Album: “Greenleaf Soundtrack Volume 2,” Greenleaf Soundtrack

Music Video/Visual Album: “That’s What I Like,” Bruno Mars

Song - Traditional: “That’s What I Like,” Bruno Mars

Album: “DAMN.,” Kendrick Lamar

Song - Contemporary: “HUMBLE.,” Kendrick Lamar


TELEVISION

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Jay Ellis, “Insecure”

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Marsai Martin, “’black-ish”

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Joe Morton, “Scandal”

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Naturi Naughton, “Power”

Television Movie, Limited, Series or Dramatic Special: “The New Edition Story”

Actor in a Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special: Idris Elba, “Guerrilla”

Actress in a Television Movie, Limited, Series or Dramatic Special: Queen Latifah, “Flint”

Directing in a Comedy Series: Anton Cropper, “’black-ish”

Directing in a Dramatic Series: Carl Franklin, “13 Reasons Why”

Directing in a Television Movie or Special: Allen Hughes, “The Defiant Ones”

News/information Series or Special: “Unsung”

Documentary: “The 44th President: In His Own Words”

Talk Series: “The Real”

Reality Program/Reality Competition Series: “The Manns”

Variety or Game Show Series or Special: “Lip Sync Battle”

Children’s Program: “Doc McStuffins”

Performance by a Youth (Series, Special, Television Movie or Limited Series): Caleb McLaughlin, “Stranger Things”

Host in a Talk or News/Information Series or Special: Roland Martin, “News One Now”

Host in a Reality/Reality Competition, Game Show or Variety Series or Special: LL Cool J, “Lip Sync Battle” (Spike)

Character Voice-Over Performance: Tiffany Haddish, “Legends of Chamberlain Heights”

Writing in a Comedy Series: Janine Barrois, “Claws

Writing in a Dramatic Series: Gina Prince-Bythewood, “Shots Fired”

Writing in a Television Movie or Special: Abdul Williams, “The New Edition Story”


LITERATURE

Fiction: “The Annotated African American Folktales,” Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Editor),Maria Tatar (Editor), (Liveright Publishing Corporation)

Non-Fiction: “Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies,” Dick Gregory

Debut Author: “No One Is Coming to Save Us,” Stephanie Powell Watts

Biography or Autobiography: “Becoming Ms. Burton, From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women,” Susan Burton and Cari Lynn

Instructional: “The Awakened Woman: Remembering & Reigniting our Sacred Dreams,” Dr. Tererai Trent

Poetry: “Incendiary Art: Poems,” Patricia Smith

Children: “Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History ,” Vashti Harrison

Youth and Teens: “Clayton Byrd Goes Underground,” Rita Williams-Garcia, author and Frank Morrison illustrator

Vice suspends 2 top execs after sexual misconduct report

The Free Press WV

Vice has suspended two top executives after a New York Times report on sexual misconduct at the digital media company.

Vice Media put its president, Andrew Creighton, and chief digital officer Mike Germano on leave as it investigates allegations against them, according to a company memo sent to employees Tuesday. A Vice spokesman declined to comment.

The Times had reported in late December that it found four settlements involving allegations of sexual harassment or defamation against Vice employees, including Creighton. The newspaper talked with more than two dozen women who say they experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct, including groping and forced kisses.

Vice Media co-founders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi have apologized for the “boy’s club” culture .

Vice has grown from a Canadian magazine to a dominant online video company, expanding into TV around the world.

The memo, from Vice’s chief operating officer and CFO Sarah Broderick, said that Creighton and Germano were the only two people named in the Times story with allegations against them who were still employed at Vice.

The Times reported that Vice paid a former female employee a $135,000 settlement in 2016 after she said she was fired when she rejected Creighton’s advances. The Vice memo says her claims were found to lack merit at the time after a review by law firm, but a special committee of its board is looking at the matter now. It will make a recommendation on what to do before a Jan. 11 board meeting.

As for Germano, the memo says Vice’s human-resources department and an external investigator are looking into the allegations. One woman told the Times that he had told her he didn’t want to hire her because he wanted to have sex with her. Another woman said he pulled her on to his lap at a work event at a bar.

The Associated Press was not immediately able to reach Germano and Creighton for comment.

Vice’s memo also laid out how the company is trying to change its culture. It said the company will require mandatory sexual harassment training for all employees starting later this month and that the company was “committed” to having half of employees be female “at every level across the organization” by 2020. Broderick said “pay parity” would come by the end of this year.

The reports of sexual misconduct at Vice are part of a wave of allegations of bad behavior in media, entertainment and other industries, as well as politics, that have come in the aftermath of articles detailing Harvey Weinstein’s decades of alleged rape and harassment this fall.

In Arts & Entertainment….

The Free Press WV

►  Film academy invites Leslie Jones, Dwayne Johnson, Riz Ahmed

The film academy is inviting 774 new members to join its ranks, including actors Leslie Jones, Dwayne Johnson, Riz Ahmed, Chris Pratt and Anna Faris.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed its latest invitees on Wednesday.

Other actors invited to join the group include Priyanka Chopra, Janelle Monae, Elle Fanning, Donald Glover, Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, Betty White, Terry Crews, John Cho, Zoe Kravitz and “Wonder Woman” herself, Gal Gadot. Several “Saturday Night Live” alumnae also received invites: Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph and current star Kate McKinnon.

“Moonlight” writer-director Barry Jenkins was invited to join both branches, as was “Get Out” writer-director Jordan Peele. “Hidden Figures” director Theodore Melfi and documentarian Ezra Edelman, who won an Oscar for “O.J.: Made in America,” also received invitations.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Justin Timberlake, Nick Cave, Terry Lewis, Jimmy Jam and “La La Land” composers Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and Justin Hurwitz were invited to the music branch.

The film academy reports the new class of potential members is 39 percent female and 30 percent non-white. The organization has been diversifying its ranks after two years of #OscarsSoWhite and criticism of its overwhelmingly white and male voting body.


►  White House reporter says he’s tired of being bullied

The reporter who accused White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders of inflaming the public against the media at a press briefing says he did it because he’s tired of being bullied by the administration.

Brian Karem, an editor at the Washington-area Sentinel newspapers, became an instant symbol in the tense relationship between the president and journalists when he interrupted Sanders on Tuesday. Given the nation’s wide political divide, it took little searching to find depictions of him as either a hero or crying baby on social media.

“There’s a time and a place for everything and the time has come to stand up and be counted,” Karem told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I’m tired of taking it. I want friendly relationships, but those who want respect, show respect. We have shown that man and shown the administration respect for six months, and all we’re getting in return is a lack of respect, derision and bullying.”

Karem, 56, is not a representative of the large national media organizations repeatedly described as “fake news” by the president. Besides his editing, he writes for Playboy, where his first-person account of the confrontation was posted late Tuesday. He was jailed as a Texas television reporter in 1990 for refusing to identify sources in a crime story.

The administration’s own anger with the media is close to the surface, with the president tweeting Tuesday about a CNN story on Russian connections that was retracted last week, and on Wednesday about The New York Times’ coverage of the stalled health bill. Sanders opened Tuesday’s briefing by calling on a reporter from the conservative Breitbart News, who asked about the CNN story, and she expressed frustration with media coverage.

“If we make the slightest mistake, the slightest word is off, it is just an absolute tirade from a lot of people in this room,” Sanders said. “But news outlets get to go on, day after day, and cite unnamed sources, use stories without sources.”

That’s where Karem broke in.

“Come on!” he said. “You’re inflaming everybody right here, right now with those words.” He said that Sanders is there to answer questions “and what you did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, ‘See, once again, the president’s right and everybody else out here is fake media.’ And everybody in this room is only trying to do their job.”

Sanders said that “if anything has been inflamed, it’s the dishonesty that often takes place by the news media and I think it is outrageous for you to accuse me of inflaming a story when I was simply trying to respond to his question.”

The White House has been holding fewer on-camera briefings lately, and the press has been pushing for more. With that backdrop, it felt like the chief purpose of Tuesday’s on-camera session was to browbeat the press, Karem said.

Karem, who was not at the White House on Wednesday, said he hasn’t heard from the administration about the exchange and doesn’t know if there will be repercussions. Sanders did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While Karem said he’d received expressions of support from some fellow reporters, not all sympathetic observers like to see frustration boil over. Liberal former talk show host Phil Donahue, on MSNBC Wednesday, said reporters should stay above the fray.

“I don’t think the press should get in the mosh pit,” he said. “I think they have to be big boys and girls and take the hits.

“The best way to handle this is to just keep working,” Donahue said. “Don’t be so sensitive. Don’t look like you have a glass jaw ... I think the press has to be above that.”

Karem said he always taught his children that the best way to handle bullies is to try and make friends with them and, failing that, punch back so they know you won’t take their guff. Since it’s a potent issue for Trump’s supporters, he doesn’t expect the administration’s attitude toward the media will change.

“You think it’s going to go away?” he said. “It’s not. But I’m not going gently into the good night. I’m not going to sit there and be told that I’m the enemy of the people and that I’m fake news.”


►  TV, films turning to young girls for their new action stars

From the murderous Laura in “Logan” to the mysterious Eleven in “Stranger Things” to the audacious determination of Mija in “Okja,” opening Wednesday, powerful young girls are starring in mainstream action fare like never before.

Though Nancy Drew was solving mysteries in the 1930s and Buffy slayed vampires all through high school in the late 1990s, young girls are rarely shown as heroes in programs aimed at general audiences, said Mary Celeste Kearney, director of gender studies and a professor of film, television and theater at University of Notre Dame.

“Girls have seen these figures… but when they’ve looked to mainstream stuff and what their brothers and their dads and boys are watching, those girls are never there,” Kearney said. “And now they are, and that’s huge.”

It means girls don’t have to look to grown up heroes like Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games” or Rey in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Like 10-year-old Elliot on the flying bicycle in “E.T. the Extraterrestrial,” now girls are having awesome genre adventures as powerful young kids onscreen.

The Duffer Brothers said gender was never a question when it came to creating the super-powered star character in their Netflix series “Stranger Things.” Eleven, played by 13-year-old Millie Bobby Brown, can move things with her mind and is the fascinating secret friend of a group of pre-teen boys in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana.

“Eleven was always a girl. I don’t even remember when or why we made that decision except that was always the case,” Matt Duffer said in a recent interview. “Eleven was the centerpiece of the show for us always and was always going to be this girl who escaped the lab… I think we liked the idea because it wasn’t something we had seen before.”

A second little girl is joining the cast for the show’s second season, which premieres October 31.

Writer-director Bong Joon Ho intentionally made his central human character a girl in “Okja,” an international adventure film named for the genetically engineered six-ton “super pig” at its heart.

“In cartoons or movies, young girls are often portrayed as characters that need to be protected or rescued. I wanted to do the opposite,” the filmmaker said in an email. “I liked that a young female character was the unstoppable guardian of a creature, and that she had to charge and break through all obstacles that stood in her way. I liked this feeling.”

Played by 13-year-old An Seo Hyun, Mija has grown up with Okja, and risks everything to protect the massive creature when the corporation that sponsored the super-pig program comes to claim its product.

One thing that’s missing from “Okja” and the other projects is a stereotypical little girl who needs saving.

“Logan” writer-director James Mangold can’t take credit for creating the young female mutant Laura — he mined the character from “X-Men” history. But Mangold cast an exceptional actress, 11-year-old Dafne Keen, and successfully brought a killer female character to the ultra-male world of big-screen superheroes.

He chose to make Laura a child rather than the teenager she is in the comics because of the bond it would allow with Hugh Jackman’s character and the shock it might elicit when Laura draws her claws.

Like Hit-Girl in 2010′s “Kick-###,” Laura is a character created in her father’s image. She’s Wolverine’s daughter and has just as much flesh-shredding power as her dad.

“I did think the shocking nature of Laura’s ability to kill savagely would be all the more shocking, in a really wonderful way, that it was a girl and not a boy, that that lethalness would be exhibited by this little girl,” Mangold said. “I wondered whether we could pull it off, whether the audience would truly believe this level of violence and intensity trapped inside an 11-year-old body. To me that made it even more exciting to put it on the screen.”

Mangold said he took care with Laura’s character, who’s mute for the first half of the film and speaks only Spanish in the second, to “undermine the kind of cute factor of what this young woman would be and allow her to exist as her own unique character.”

It’s notable, too, that these young heroines are not all embodied by white actresses.

Kearney says it’s more than just the “Wonder Woman” effect inspiring these empowered characters: “History has everything to do with this and the gender politics of different historical moments.”

The powerful women and girls onscreen reflect more progressive gender attitudes, she said, adding that some writers and producers may have been inspired to create such heroes out of a desire to see more real-life female leaders.

She noted the recent crop of characters all exist in “fantasy narratives,” where people can have super powers.

“It’s not in our reality; it’s in some other reality, and that’s really disheartening if you think about it in that way,” she said. “Like girls are great as action heroes, but not as president of the United States, not in real life.”

Consider that “Billy Elliott,” the charming, realistic 2000 independent film about an 11-year-old boy who learns about gender and identity through dance, became a sleeper hit that was adapted for the stage. “The Fits,” a similarly realistic, 2016 indie film about an 11-year-old girl who does the same, didn’t get the same reception.

Girl action heroes are a start, though, especially ones with mass-market appeal.

“They have a powerful, powerful cultural impact,” Kearney said, “which is girls seeing these things and boys seeing girls do these things…. A boy can’t go and see ‘Logan’ and not see a girl as powerful as Logan.”

The Duffer Brothers note that Eleven is the show’s most popular character and best-selling action figure. Mangold said that when his pre-teen sons visited the set during the making of “Logan,” they were more interested in Laura than Wolverine himself.

“They were completely mesmerized by her,” he said. “It’s really refreshing for everyone to see a kid, especially a young girl, who’s not a kewpie doll first or a dimpled smile first, you know? That what’s really going on there is someone in conflict, someone who’s searching for something, someone who’s capable — someone also, by the way, in my film who ends up offering pretty intense advice and wisdom and stability.”


►  Disney: Animatronic Trump will speak at Disney World show

Disney has confirmed that an animatronic version of Donald Trump will have a speaking role at its Hall of Presidents attraction at Walt Disney World in Florida.

The company is pushing back against reports that Trump’s figure wouldn’t have a speaking part in the show, which features figures of all U.S. presidents.

Disney Parks editorial content director Thomas Smith writes in a blog post that Disney is working closely with the White House on Trump’s words and a recording session with the president has been scheduled.

The attraction closed in January so Trump’s figure could be added. Smith says it will reopen late this year with a new show and upgraded theater.

An online petition was launched in January to push Disney to keep its animatronic Trump silent.

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