The popular character who was originally played by Billy Dee Williams and now resurrected by Donald Glover was the topic of a Town Hall conversation with the movie’s cast on Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) airing on May 24th, Entertainment Weekly reports.
Calrissian’s sexual preference came into question and it was no shock to Glover to learn that the smooth-talking character’s sexual preferences are regarded as fluid.
“How can you not be pansexual in space?” said Glover when asked if he knew about Calrissian’s pansexuality while making the film.
“There are so many things to have sex with. I didn’t think that was that weird. Yeah, he’s coming on to everybody. I mean, yeah, whatever. It just didn’t seem that weird to me ‘cause I feel like if you’re in space it’s kind of like, the door is open! It’s like, no, only guys or girls. No, it’s anything. This thing is literally a blob. Are you a man or a woman? Like, who cares? Have good time out here.”
It will take more than a question about pansexuality to shock Glover who has been dominating the culture scene dropping the acclaimed This is America video, while working overtime as an artist (Childish Gambino) and an actor in a coveted role.
But who else could personify Lando Calrissian’s smug nature as a gambler, smuggler and overall purveyor of ill-gotten gains? Who else has Lando’s slim figure, his million-dollar smile and can go toe-to-toe with Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich), himself a ball of charisma?
Glover said he got a chance to pick the brain of Billy Dee and he laid out a blueprint on how to exude Calrissian’s sexuality.
“One thing that Billy did say was, be charming.” reveals Glover.
“He’s eclectic. He likes different things. He’s somebody who goes around and tries everything, and I just didn’t think about it that much. But I was like, he’s a charming person so I feel like he doesn’t have hard and fast boundaries about everything. But having somebody tell me that, I’m like, okay, cool, makes sense to me. Is it weird that I didn’t think about it that much?”
Check out the entire Town Hall conversation with the cast of Solo: A Star Wars Story on Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET.
President Barack Obama and Former First Lady Michelle Obama will continue to make magic happen as the dynamic duo they are and to our delight they have secured a deal to produce movies and series for Netflix, reports Variety.
The Obamas secured a multi-year deal and together, the high-profile couple will create docu-series, documentary films, and features.
It’s a joint venture the 44th president is looking forward to.
“One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience,” said President Obama.
“That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix – we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.”
The former First Lady is also excited about partnering with her Presidential bae.
“Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others,” she said. “Netflix’s unparalleled service is a natural fit for the kinds of stories we want to share, and we look forward to starting this exciting new partnership.”
The Obamas might be happy with the deal, but Netflix knows it scored a serious catch with the influential couple.
“Barack and Michelle Obama are among the world’s most respected and highly-recognized public figures and are uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos.
“We are incredibly proud they have chosen to make Netflix the home for their formidable storytelling abilities.”
While it’s unknown just how much the Obama’s will secure in their purse for the deal. But if their book deal is any indication, it will be quite a bit. Penguin Random House signed the Obamas to a a joint book deal back in March that will reportedly pay them $65 million for their memoirs.
As a mother of three who has lived in Memphis’ Whitehaven neighborhood for almost 25 years, Regina Mosley sees the area high school as an anchor in the midst of a rapidly changing education landscape.
The high-performing Whitehaven High school is also the anchor of the Empowerment Zone, one of Shelby County Schools’ newest intervention programs. It will more than double in size by adding six schools this fall.
The Empowerment Zone, which will enter its third year in August, is a neighborhood-centric approach to improve schools as the district seeks to include a larger group of people who are committed to seeing the school do well.
Mosley hopes the school improvement model will make the 107-year-old school shine even more.
“There’s no other foundation I’ve seen that stands the test of time because of the unity of the people: alumni, teachers, students, parents, everybody is involved,” said Mosley, who is also a parent leader for area schools.
Over the last eight years, Tennessee has worked to improve performance at its struggling schools, and state test scores have improved as a result — especially in Memphis, where most students are from low-income families. The results of the Empowerment Zone have been promising, but some are worried about the next phase, when more elementary schools will be added in the coming school year. All but one school in the zone saw academic growth this school year.
Created in 2016, the Empowerment Zone was meant to shield a cluster of low-performing schools in Whitehaven from takeover by the state. Superintendent Dorsey Hopson leaned on Vincent Hunter, who has been principal of Whitehaven High for 14 years, to collaborate across schools on lesson plans so teachers could learn from each other. Hunter also brought in college-student tutors to reduce the teacher-to-student ratio through a partnership with Peer Power and the University of Memphis.
Teachers are offered signing bonuses and have an extra set of academic coaches who specialize in their grade levels. Before entering the Empowerment Zone, Hunter invites principals into team planning across the zone so they can understand how it works.
The schools are all governed by the Whitehaven Empowerment Zone Leadership Council, which is composed of about 30 parents, teachers, students, and community members who meet monthly to go over reports about student enrollment and test scores, and to strategize.
“That creates a sense of unity for us. We want to always be viewed as family. Plus it’s personal to me,” said Hunter, a Whitehaven high graduate who started teaching at his alma mater in 1994. About 45 staff members across the zone are also graduates of the neighborhood high school, he said.
Whitehaven Empowerment Zone schools by year
The community involvement appears to be paying off. Havenview Middle School, the first to enter the Empowerment Zone, improved about five percentage points beyond the bottom 3 percent of the state’s low-performing schools in one year. A. Maceo Walker Middle School, which made its first appearance on the state’s priority list in 2014, is almost out of the bottom 10 percent of schools in the state.
Parents are noticing, and so is the state. Enrollment is up as much as 21 percent at Havenview Middle since last school year. The Tennessee Department of Education approved the district’s proposal to fold Geeter Middle into the zone when it released its plans for the city’s lowest-performing schools.
“We know that strategy works, there’s no question about that,” said Hopson, who is also a Whitehaven high graduate.
But some teachers and administrators are worried about the next phase of the project. Holmes Road Elementary, the first elementary to join the zone, performed poorly on an exam given earlier this year. Yet the Empowerment Zone is set to add five elementary schools this fall, two of which are already performing well on state tests.
Hopson attributed Holmes Road’s first-year challenges to staffing vacancies when it was “fresh-started.” When a principal is hired, that person can bring on all new teachers and staff. If their evaluation scores are low, or the former employees aren’t offered jobs, they can be assigned to other schools. Some classrooms were covered by temporary teachers who have been reassigned from other schools.
Hunter, the executive principal over the Empowerment Zone, said the public shouldn’t put too much stock in the early progress reports.
“TNReady is the true measuring stick,” he said of the state’s standardized test. Results from this year’s test are expected in the fall.
Eddie Jones, the president of the zone’s leadership council, said it was too soon to tell if the troubles at Holmes Road were growing pains, or were a flaw in the model.
“They just got there. You haven’t had an opportunity to see if it’s working or it’s not,” Jones said.
Three of the schools being added to the zone next year — Geeter K-8, Robert R. Church Elementary, and Oakshire Elementary — have been fresh started. That strategy has worked well for the Innovation Zone, the flagship program run by the district that has outpaced state schools in boosting test scores — but only if the number of teachers leaving isn’t too high.
Some teachers thought it was too early to discuss a fresh start because they said they were promised extra support.
“The promise wasn’t kept,” said Annette Harris, a teacher who opted to retire instead of re-apply for her job. “What the new people are going to receive is what we were promised,” she said about the coaching.
Hopson said additional teacher coaching at those schools was planned, but after looking closely at testing data, the leadership council and district leaders moved up the timeline for a fresh start.
“Knowing where the data was last year, the community felt like we didn’t have time to figure out if we needed to go all in on the treatment,” he said. “The data suggested that we needed to be more aggressive.”
But Hunter said the only advice promised before schools entered his program was to principals. Additional teacher coaching, he said, is reserved for after the staffing changes. The intent is not a full turnover, he said, but only 35 of 125 teachers have been retained so far at the three schools that have been fresh started for the fall.
“We want the children in those particular settings to have a familiar face they’re used to seeing so they feel comfortable,” he said.
The Empowerment Zone’s scope is expanding next year beyond schools in the high school’s feeder pattern. Some of the schools being added send students on to Fairley High, a state-run charter school. One of those is Geeter Middle, which will become a K-8 school when Manor Lake Elementary students are added to it next year.
Hunter was open about his intentions to keep students out of the state-run district during a meeting in March with parents and teachers at Manor Lake.
“If we sit back and do nothing and are not aggressive in our treatment, then now we become victims or potential victims of the Achievement School District,” he said.
“All they know is the child did not perform well on a test. They don’t understand that the child might not have eaten last night,” he said. “None of those things show up in a number, and it’s totally not fair.”
The post As Memphis expands its efforts to improve schools, one model is about to double in size appeared first on Chalkbeat.
Facing serious concerns like drugs, gangs, and crime, communities often call for more youth programming to keep kids safe and productive. In Uptown, a handful of organizations are already working to build thriving kids and a thriving community, but they can’t do it alone.
There’s a concern in Uptown. It’s a concern familiar to many neighborhoods with a history of disinvestment. It was voiced in the Community Redevelopment Agency’s recent Uptown community listening sessions. Neighbors also echoed the sentiment to the High Ground News team in an April editorial advisory.
Uptown’s youth need healthy alternatives to unsavory street activities.
“This is important because we’ve got so many gangs and things kids can get into these days. They need things like this to keep them away from that. If they didn’t have places like MAM [Memphis Athletic Ministries] to come in, they’d be out in the streets,” said Ernie Prude, area director for Memphis Athletic Ministries.
While there is always a need for more constructive activities for youth, Uptown already has a host of organizations and individuals wrapping around its kids to see them successfully to adulthood. They’re doing it not just with strong programming but deep, interpersonal relationships that turn neighbors into family. And the real opportunity, they say, is raising awareness and community support for the efforts already underway.
Girls Inc. is the oldest youth organization in the area, dating back to 1946. Its Lucille Devore Tucker Center is located at 686 North Seventh Street and is described by president and CEO Lisa Moore as its “number one anchor.”
A group of MAM students plays half court basketball inside the gymnasium of the Greenlaw Community Center. (Brandon Dahlberg)
The center serves girls six to eighteen-years-old with after-school and weekend programs and camps during school breaks. It is open to all girls across the region, but Uptown’s 38107 ZIP code is one of its primary service areas and Moore agrees that programs are especially important in the Uptown community.
“When you look at the reality of our neighborhoods, where you have over 50 percent of the households headed by single women and another forty by married couples, that’s over ninety percent of the neighborhood informed directly by a woman’s earning power,” said Moore.
“So it is essential that we equip our girls to have post-secondary plans for their education and career attainment, for them to be prepared for well-paying jobs after school. That we equip them to see what’s possible and help ignite what’s inherently in them.”
BRIDGES is another organization located in Uptown that serves youth from across the region. Their Jim Boyd BRIDGES Center opened at 477 North Fifth Street in 2004 and offers workshops, camps, a yearly end-of-summer festival, and an indoor climbing wall open to the public two to three nights a week.
Teens participate in a team building exercise during a BRIDGES youth training event. Director Mario Hendrix said BRIDGES’ 60-zip code services area provides a unique advantage for Uptown’s youth.
”BRIDGES is all about giving youth opportunities to meet and interact with other students who are different from them and different from peers they’d meet in their own neighborhoods,” he said. “Through these conversations, they can explore areas outside their community and also showcase their own.”
Memphis Athletic Ministries is comparatively new but is having a major impact. Since 2010, their Greenlaw center at 190 Mills Avenue has served up to 120 kids a day. From 2:30 p.m. until 7 p.m., students participate in sports, literacy programs, life skills classes, field trips, and bible study.
Oasis of Hope formed out of Cordova’s Hope Presbyterian Church in 2001. They began by volunteering with other organizations then purchased a few small buildings for office and community space. They eventually started their own after school and literacy programs, a girl’s choir, and sports and bike repair programs.
“Year after year there’s something new that, from our faith-based perspective, God provides the opportunity and resources to make happen,” said executive director Terry Hoff.
Today, Oasis serves around 90 kids daily at their youth center located in the back of the Bickford Community Center at 233 Henry Avenue.
While organizations and their programs are critically important, their staffs say it’s the efforts they make towards individual relationships that have the biggest impacts.
For example, each MAM staffer has a group of kids they directly mentor.
Decorations inside the Greenlaw Community Center provide encouraging messages for MAM students. (Brandon Dahlberg)
April Golden’s current group of girls are planning a mani-pedi night at her house, complete with takeout and movies. And after eight years, she now has kids home from college for the summer who will visit for all the typical things — food, love, laundry.
“I’ve developed some really deep relationship with a lot of kids over the years. So much so that I’m like a momma to a lot of them,” said Golden, assistant neighborhood director and a founder of the Greenlaw center.
Prude echoed her sentiment.
“It’s like another part of your family. It’s more stressful because it’s more kids outside of the other kids you already have in your house,” he said.
“You have to go to school stuff, when something goes wrong at home, they call you. Every day, every hour of the day. But it’s good that they trust you that much, they know that you’re going to come alongside them whatever it is.”
Oasis has similar relationships with many of its youth that now span generations. There’s more than one example of someone growing up in Oasis programs and their children now attending similar programs.
The nonprofit also has employees who have been with Oasis since childhood.
Several elementray school students work on homework after school at Oasis of Hope. (Brandon Dahlberg)
Jasmine Martin is Oasis’ middle and high school girls developer. She first connected with Oasis in 7th grade. She hung out with her friends and helped found a girl’s bible study. In high school, she helped launch the Angel Street Choir. Throughout college she volunteered for the middle and high school programs. After graduating with a degree in supply chain management, she returned to work for Oasis in November of 2014.
“Over the years, we’ve been really intentional about relationship building and transforming lives through our networks. Providing this community with a network of support to get from one place in life to another place, to be better for the entire family,” she said of Oasis and her experience.
Kevin Miller is the newest member of the Oasis team and a former Oasis youth.
“I started in elementary school with the Read to Succeed program. I started learning how to read, I met a lot of people, I met Terry [Hoff],” he said. “It’s like family. I’ve been around them going on 12 years now.”
While MAM and Oasis work through a blend of formal programming and informal relationships, Grace Church is almost entirely relationship-based.
“The most encouraging work going on is not a program,” said Nathan Sawyer, one of a council of pastors and elders who govern Grace.
Grace began 11 years ago with a few families feeling called to move to the neighborhood and begin a service-based ministry. Today they have around 100 congregants and hold services in MAM’s Greenlaw center gym. While they do now have some formal youth programs, it’s not their focus.
Church member Dan Reisman is an example of their core mission of deep, one-on-one relationships and support. Reisman is originally from New York and moved to the neighborhood in 2008.
He began volunteering at MAM, joined Grace Church, and soon opened his home to neighborhood youth. On any given night you’ll find at least half a dozen teenagers playing video games, discussing life and faith, or doing what teens do best — eating. His home features an extra deep freeze and pantry just for the kids’ snacks.
Dan Reisman and DeVonte Barnes outside of the Greenlaw Community Center, where Grace Church Memphis meets every Sunday. (Brandon Dahlberg)
For Reisman, it’s about showing them the possibilities within themselves and their neighborhood.
“When I ride these guys around the neighborhood, there’ll be a piece of land, and I’ll be like, “There’s your business. It’s waiting on you,” he said. “I don’t want to be the face of the neighborhood, I want them to be that face. I want to be the person who created the leader for the neighborhood, not the leader.”
Reisman has a special relationship with one boy in particular. Reisman met DeVonte Barner in 2014 and they formed a fast friendship. In 2016 Barner was in danger of entering the foster care system and being displaced from the neighborhood. He asked Reisman if he would petition for legal guardianship.
Reisman describes Barner as quiet and introverted. He plays basketball, is musically gifted, and a good student. Barner is now a graduating senior at Kipp Memphis Collegiate High School with plans to attend Webster University in St. Louis this fall. For his part, Barner says moving in with Reisman was a chance to deepen their relationship and his relationship to Grace Church.
“When I first started going [to Grace], it was awkward. I was young. It was a lot of white people. But they really showed up. At first I didn’t know how to take it, but now I just embrace it. I know them, it’s like family. They’re very loving. I think they practice what they preach. They’re true Christians,” said Barner.
These organizations and others like them have definitely seen positive change in the neighborhood.
“I’ve seen a huge change in the kids and in the community. It used to be really heavily infested with gangs,” said Golden.
“There were a lot of fights and shootings. But over the last three years especially, I’ve seen a drastic turnaround. I think it’s just because of the culture we’ve developed here … They know what we’re about. When [gang members] do come, they come and fall in just like all the rest of the kids. They play ball and hang out.”
Members of the church sing worship songs to begin their morning service at Grace Church Memphis. (Brandon Dahlberg)
That said, there is a major barrier to expanding their efforts and impact. Despite years in the neighborhood, there are still youth who are unaware of these organizations and their offerings, and there are still community members who don’t know the need for volunteers or how to get involved.
It’s simple investments — teaching a job skills class, helping with administrative work, reading with students, shooting a game of hoops, or simply being a listening ear — that add up to big change.
“We need more people in the community to understand that we can’t do this alone,” said Golden. “A lot of these kids just want that attention and love, but we can’t be that for everyone.”
Similarly, Oasis uses volunteers to supplement its staff and needs community members to help spread the word. Nathan Sawyer with Grace Church said they’d like to see a nonprofit pharmacy, pre-natal clinic, and counseling center, but those too need volunteers to be successful.
For Girls Inc. and BRIDGES, the need is more for awareness among youth. While a regional service area means exposure to new people and ideas for Uptown’s youth, it also means less ability to target recruitment to the neighborhood.
“We do have a few local students who participate, but I would say involvement isn’t particularly strong. We definitely want Uptown youth to know about all the opportunities going on at BRIDGES on a weekly basis,” said Kat Netzler, director of communications at BRIDGES.
In all cases, it will take a group effort of community members and organizations to ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn and play in a safe and nurturing space, surrounded by people who are fiercely committed to their success.
As Prude said and others echoed, “We have them for a few hours of the day. They have to go back out to the community. So if we can get the community on our side, to do the same things we’re doing inside out there … it takes a village. That’s real.”
Moments before Janet Jackson took the stage at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday night, my heart was already pounding. The montage that played after Bruno Mars ran down the long list of accomplishments that make her a bonafide icon reminded me of just how phenomenal her career has been and the anticipation of her triumphant return to television had me way more excited that I expected.
Once she came out in a super short, long-sleeved sweater and gold knee-high sneakers, I knew she came to show out, and she did.
Janet Jackson delivered a medley of hits including her 1986 chart-topper, “Nasty,” and her 1993 single, “Throb” before accepting the coveted ICON Award, an honor whose past recipients include Stevie Wonder, Cher, Prince, and Jennifer Lopez.
Check out a clip of her performance:
— Award Show Videos (@awardshowvids) May 21, 2018
After her performance earned a standing ovation from the star-studded crowd, she accepted the ICON Award and gave a powerful speech that referenced the #MeToo movement and encouraged fans to seek God during this turbulent time.
“I’m deeply humbled and grateful for this award. I believe that, for all of our challenges, we live at a glorious moment in history. It’s a moment that, at long last, women have made it clear that we will no longer be controlled, manipulated, or abused. I stand with those women and with those men equally outraged by discrimination, who support us in heart and mind,” she said.
“This is also a moment when our public discourse is loud and harsh. My prayer is that, weary of such noise, we will turn back to the source of all calmness, that source is God. Everything we lack, God has in abundance: compassion, sensitivity, patience and boundless love. Again I want to thank all of you for this honor and I thank God for giving me the precious energy that lets me live my life as an artist who every day seeks to expend my capacity to love.”