It would've been a no-brainer to highlight the achievements of African-American women during Black History Month, but as a believer that our accomplishments should not be limited to a less than 30-day window, I'm purposely choosing to highlight three African-American women pioneers in March instead. Luckily, March is observed as Women's History Month as well, which makes it more than the perfect time to say "thank you" to these women, whom without them, our daily interactions, sense of direction, and even vision would have been greatly impaired. I present Drs. Marian Croak, Gladys West, and the late Patricia Bath.
Dr. Marian Croak - VoIP Pioneer
Alma Mater: Princeton University; University of Southern California
Employers: AT&T, Google
Marian Croak, a native New Yorker, is credited with developing Voice over IP (VoIP), and creating most of the methods and features that improved its reliability and led to its nearly universal adoption. VoIP is a method and group of technologies for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol, such as fax, SMS, and voice-messaging. After attending Princeton University and completing doctoral studies at the University of Southern California, Croak joined AT&T at Bell Labs in 1982, where she began advocating for the switch from wired phone technology to IP. In addition to her successful advocacy, Croak holds over two hundred patents, including over one hundred in relation to VoIP. Croak also pioneered the use of phone network services for donating to crisis appeals and also for the now popular phone voting practice utilized by many television shows such as American Idol. In 2014, Croak joined Google, where she currently serves as a Vice President for Engineering, leading Google's service expansion into emerging markets. In addition, Croak led the deployment of WiFi across India's railway system, and has assumed responsibility for reliability engineering for many Google services. Croak was inducted into the Women in Technology Hall of Fame in 2013. Dr. Croak, we salute you!
Dr. Gladys West - GPS Pioneer
Alma Mater: Virginia State University; University of Oklahoma; Virginia Tech
Employer: Naval Surface Warfare Center (formerly Naval Proving Ground)
Gladys West, a native of Sutherland, Virginia, is heralded for her contributions to the mathematical modeling of the shape of the Earth, and her work on developing the satellite geodesy models that were eventually incorporated into the Global Positioning System better known as GPS. In 1956, when West was hired to work at the Naval Proving Ground, she was the second black woman ever hired and one of only four black employees. West was a programmer in the Naval Surface Warfare Center for large-scale computers and a project manager for data-processing systems used in the analysis of satellite data. In the early 1960s, she participated in an award-winning astronomical study that proved the regularity of Pluto’s motion relative to Neptune, and also began to analyze data from satellites, putting together altimeter models of the Earth's shape. She became project manager for the Seasat radar altimetry project, the first satellite that could remotely sense oceans. From the mid-1970s through the 1980s, West programmed an IBM computer to deliver increasingly precise calculations to model the shape of the Earth. Generating an extremely accurate model required her to employ complex algorithms to account for variations in gravitational, tidal, and other forces that distort Earth’s shape. West's data ultimately became the basis for GPS. West retired from Dahlgren in 1998 after 42 years, and was inducted into the United States Air Force Hall of Fame in 2018. Dr. West, we salute you!
Dr. Patricia Bath - Laserphaco Probe Inventor
Alma Mater: Hunter College; Howard University
Employer: Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA
Patricia Bath, American ophthalmologist, inventor, humanitarian, and academic, is credited with being a pioneer in laser cataract surgery. A Harlem, New York native, at the age of 16, Bath became one of only a few students to attend a cancer research workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation. After graduating from high school in only two years, Bath entered Hunter College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 1964. She then attended Howard University to pursue a medical degree. Bath graduated with honors from Howard in 1968, and accepted an internship at Harlem Hospital shortly afterward. The following year, she also began pursuing a fellowship in ophthalmology at Columbia University. Through her studies there, she discovered that African Americans were twice as likely to suffer from blindness than other patients to which she attended, and eight times more likely to develop glaucoma. Her research led to her development of a community ophthalmology system, which increased the amount of eye care given to those who were unable to afford treatment. In 1981, Bath began working on her most well-known invention: the Laserphaco Probe--a laser technology device that created a less painful and more precise treatment of cataracts. She received a patent for the device in 1988, becoming the first African American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. She also holds patents in Japan, Canada, and Europe. With her Laserphaco Probe, Bath was able to help restore the sight of individuals who had been blind for more than 30 years. Dr. Bath, we salute you! Rest in peace.
To all of the phenomenal African-American women, past and present, who continue to create visions, chart courses, and give us voice, we salute and celebrate you!
Sources: Biography.com; Wikipedia.com
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Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Thursday, February 6, 2020
Grio opinion piece highlighted this very notion stating that Kobe's death had provided black men an opportunity to do something they are often shamed and shunned from doing: letting tears flow unapologetically and without question. As Blue Telusma stated in her piece, "Since Kobe Bryant's tragic death, Black men have shown emotions that many forget they have. It's time to let them have their wake for the NBA legend and show that despite stereotypes, they are human."
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Friday, October 18, 2019
The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jenifer Lewis (Memoir - 2017)
If you don't know the name Jenifer Lewis then you probably should familiarize yourself with a few of her more than 300 appearances in film and television from Sister Act to What's Love Got to Do With It to her current starring role in ABC's "black'ish" first. Reason being, the journey Lewis takes readers on from her difficult childhood in Missouri to her years on Broadway and in Hollywood all the while navigating an undiagnosed mental illness and sex addiction as well as the many, many, highs, lows (and MEN) that came with her stardom, will not only make you laugh, holla, and weep, but will make you appreciate this Black Icon even more. Lewis' is both unapologetic and candid about a life well lived while ensuring readers she's only just getting started. As one review noted, 'Mother' is written with no-holds-barred honesty and filled with insights gained through a unique life that offers a universal message: "Love yourself so that love will not be a stranger when it comes."
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Fiction - 2018)
Shout out to my cousin who gifted me this novel in hardback form which, ironically, led to my discovery of Audible (in trying to keep up with her reading speed for our unofficial book club of two). The New York Times Bestseller, which also had the distinction of being Oprah's 2018 Bookclub Selection, tells the story of newlywed artist Celestial and young executive Roy settling into their new life together, when it is suddenly torn apart when Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime he did not commit. Struggling to navigate the unexpected circumstances, Celestial finds herself taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend and best man at her wedding, while Roy grapples with life on the inside as well as being anxious about the one on the outside that's slowly slipping from his grasp. However, when Roy's conviction is suddenly overturned after five years, he returns to Atlanta to see if what he left behind still remains or if he must begin life anew. Jones' novel will elicit a plethora of emotions as readers may struggle--and at times grow downright frustrated--at some of the decisions of both Celestial and Roy, but what the novel best achieves is forcing readers to consider what would need to be done if walking in either pair of uncomfortable shoes.
Heavy by Kiese Laymon (Memoir - 2018)
Lauded as the 2018 Audible Audiobook of the Year, "Heavy" is an eloquently written, deep dive into African-American writer, editor, and professor, Kiese Laymon's complex life growing up an obstinate black son to a complicated yet brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi to his rise as a tenured professor of creative writing at Vassar College. In between, Laymon chronicles his early experiences of sexual violence to his suspension from college to his trek to New York as a young academic, while navigating a never-ending battle with body acceptance leading to lifelong struggles with both anorexia and obesity as well as sex and gambling addiction. One review notes, "By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free." Feeling as if I were holding my breath throughout the entire memoir, it was not lost on me that "Heavy" never provided a moment to fully exhale, thus driving home Laymon's message that to comfortably breathe while being black in America is a near impossibility.
What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young (Memoir/Collection of Essays - 2019)
Before Damon Young even dropped his debut novel, I was sold on the book for both the title alone and the fact that I have been a longtime fan of his humorous essays courtesy of his website "Very Smart Brothers" shared with equally funny co-founder and friend Panama Jackson. However, I did not expect to have as many laugh-out-loud, talk-to-myself moments of the "Damon, you a whole fool for that" variety. As noted in a review of the book, "The memoir chronicles Young's efforts to survive while battling and making sense of the various neuroses his country has given him. It's a condition that's sometimes stretched to absurd limits of creating the farce where, as a teen, he wished for a white person to call him a racial slur just so he could fight him and have a great story about it; and generating the surreality of watching gentrification transform his Pittsburgh neighborhood from predominantly black to "Portlandia...but with pierogies." However, the absurdity of Young's tales does lend itself to darker moments of his life from his father's inability to hold a job thus placing the family on a long journey toward financial freedom that was never fully realized to coping with the loss of his mother far earlier than he expected. Of all of the books I read, umm, err, listened to recently, I will admit Young's is the one I recommended most to friends, in which is wasn't long before I'd get a phone call sharing my same sentiment: "This guy's a whole fool"...and yet brilliant all at the same time.
Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem by Daniel R. Day (Memoir - 2019)
If you call yourself a fashionista or style guru yet don't know the name Dapper Dan, your credibility is mad questionable. The Harlem legend, icon, and designer put down his tailoring tools and picked up a pen to write his first tell-all of his days pioneering high-end streetwear in the 1980s, remixing luxury-brand logos into his own creative designs that would find their way on the backs and feets of black America's most popular artists, entertainers, and athletes from Salt-N-Pepa, Big Daddy Kane, and Jay-Z to Mike Tyson and Naomi Campbell. However, before Dan reinvented haute couture, his journey included that of a boy with holes in his shoes, to a teen who daringly gambled drug dealers out of their money, to a young man in a prison cell who rediscovered his self in books. Fashion icon and Vogue contributing editor Andre' Leon Talley stated, "What James Baldwin is to American literature, Dapper Dan is to American fashion. He is the ultimate success saga...he is pure American style." Here's hoping that Snuggie you wrap up in while reading this poignant memoir is as bonafide and blinged out as Dan would have it be. Bonus for audiobook readers: Dan, himself, provides the narration for the introduction of the book with the remainder of the book narrated in its entirety by actor Omari Hardwick.
Happy reading and cocoa with marshmallows toasts to you!
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Monday, May 27, 2019
Ma - May 31st
Academy-award winner Octavia Spencer has made us laugh and cry, but her starring role in her first spine-tingling horror thriller will be sure to make us scream! Spencer plays the role of Ma, a lonely middle-aged woman who befriends a group of teenagers and lets them party in her basement. What begins as the time of their lives slowly turns into the teens' worst nightmare as Ma's friendship with her new "friends" morphs into a deadly obsession instead. Directed by Tate Taylor and co-starring Juliette Lewis and Luke Evans, Ma is noted as the first horror movie to feature a female, black lead. See trailer here.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 - June 7th
You won't be able to physically recognize comedian Kevin Hart as Snowball--fierce white rabbit and former flushed pet--in one of the summer's most anticipated animated sequels, but his voice and, of course, humor is undeniable. Hart and all of his furry co-stars are back in the Secret Life of Pets 2, wrecking havoc yet somehow saving the day. Terrier Max (Patton Oswalt) faces some major changes after his owner gets married and has a child creating new fears for Max's security. On a family trip to the countryside, Max meets a farm dog named Rooster, and both attempt to overcome his fears. Meanwhile, Gidget tries to rescue Max's favorite toy from a cat-packed apartment, and Snowball sets on a mission to free a white tiger named Hu from a circus. Hart again team's up with his co-star Tiffany Haddish from last summer's comedy Night School, when she stars in Pets as Daisy, a keep-it-real Shih Tzu. See trailer here.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco - June 7th
Take a heartfelt, cinematic journey through San Francisco, when the city is used as the backdrop for a passionate and painful conversation about the impact of gentrification in Joe Tablot's directorial debut. Last Black Man, which stars Tichina Arnold, Danny Glover, and Mike Epps, centers on the efforts of an African-American man, Jimmie, trying to reclaim his childhood home, a Victorian house in the Fillmore District built by his grandfather. Jimmie Fails plays himself in the film, partly based on his life, and which won the Special Jury Prize for Creative Collaboration at the Sundance Film Festival. See trailer here.
Shaft - June 14th
Shaft's Richard Roundtree is still a "bad mother shut your mouth" and he's back this summer kickin' more butt alongside his nephew John Shaft II (Samuel L. Jackson) and John "JJ" Shaft Jr. (Jessie Usher). JJ, now an FBI agent and cybersecurity expert, teams up with his dad and uncle to solve the mystery of the death of his best friend who dies under suspicious circumstances. Uncle, father, and son take to the streets of Harlem's underworld to solve the crime and shake Uptown all the way up as only they can. Directed by Tim Story, and written by Alex Barnow and Kenya Barris of "black'ish" fame, Shaft also stars Regina Hall, Method Man, and Alexandra Shipp. See trailer here.
Emanuel - June 17th and 19th
Showing for two nights only--commencing on the fourth anniversary of the tragic mass shooting with an encore showing on Juneteenth--is the documentary Emanuel. Emanuel features survivors and family members of victims recounting the events that led up to and during the June 17, 2015 Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, committed by a white supremacist who walked into the church's bible study and gunned down nine African Americans. Produced by Stephen Curry, Mariska Hargitay, Viola Davis, and Mike Wildt, Emanuel is directed by Brian Ivie and will also be available on streaming platforms in September 2019. See trailer here.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am Movie - June 21st
If documentaries more your soul, there will not be a more intriguing subject to embrace this summer than Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison. Directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, the documentary will focus on the 87 years young literary giant's career, highly acclaimed novels, and life through personal reflection and the reflections of close colleagues and friends including poet Sonia Sanchez and media mogul Oprah Winfrey. See trailer here.
Brian Banks - August 9th
This August, real life takes its riveting place on the big screen with Brian Banks. The movie tells the true story of Brian Banks, an all-American high school football star whose life unravels when he's wrongly convicted of a crime he didn't commit. Despite a lack of evidence, Banks becomes a victim of the broken justice system and is sentenced to a decade of prison and probation. However, with the legal support of Justin Brooks and the California Innocence Project, Banks fights to reclaim his life and make his dreams of playing in the NFL a reality. Directed by Tom Shadyac, the film stars Aldis Hodge and Greg Kinnear. See trailer here.
The Kitchen - August 9th
Can you ever get enough of funny girl Tiffany Haddish? If the answer is no, you're in luck. In August, Haddish tries out her dramatic acting chops when she teams up alongside Melissa McCarthy and Elisabeth Moss as three 1978 Hell’s Kitchen housewives whose mobster husbands are sent to prison by the FBI. Left without anything, the three ladies take the Irish mafia’s matters into their own hands to keep business afloat, proving surprisingly adept at everything from running rackets to bringing down the competition. Directed by Andrea Berloff, who co-wrote "Straight Outta Compton," the Kitchen also stars rapper/actor Common. See trailer here.
Hustlers - September 13th
Closing out the summer on a hot note in every sense of the word is Hustlers. Starring Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, Lizzo, and Keke Palmer, Hustlers follows a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients. Lopez plays the ringleader to the group of women who take their plans of getting what they think they deserve to the next level. Hustlers also stars Julia Stles, Lili Reinhart, and Constance Wu. See trailer here.
That's it--for now--folks. Have a Happy Memorial Day and a sensational movie-watching summer!
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Sources: Movie Insider; YouTube; Wikipedia
Thursday, April 11, 2019
|Photo Credit: Semmi W|
Rest in peace, Nip. Happy Easter, everyone.
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