Tag: African American

Remembering Ja’Net DuBois (1945-2020)

Ja’Net DuBois, an actress who left her stamp on television playing beloved neighbor Willona Woods on “Good Times” and the voice behind the theme song to “The Jeffersons,” has died, according to Kesha Fields, DuBois’ youngest daughter. She was 74.

DuBois died peacefully in her sleep Monday at her home in Glendale, California, Fields said.
Her death was unexpected as she had no underlying health issues, her daughter added.
DuBois had a career that began in the late ’60s, but she became one of classic television’s most beloved figures thanks to her role on “Good Times,” a spinoff following characters from the TV show “Maude.” The series, from Norman Lear, Eric Monte and Mike Evans, ran for six seasons from 1974-1979.
“If you got a chance to know her and lived through the words of her song or just watched her contagious laughing spirit, every time she walked through the door on the set of ‘Good Times,’ that was her. She was effortlessly portraying a character because that was her spirit,” Fields told CNN.
An accomplished theater and music performer, DuBois co-wrote and performed “Movin’ On Up,” the theme song to “The Jeffersons.”

Fields said DuBois wrote the song “as a gift to her mother for all the promises she made to her when she was younger — what she would do when she reached a certain level of stardom.”
After the conclusion of “Good Times,” DuBois’s acting career continued with guest roles on shows like “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper,” “Home Improvement,” “ER,” and “Moesha.”
She also appeared in “The Wayans Bros.” and was part of the voice talent on Eddie Murphy’s “The PJs” animated series, a role for which she won two primetime Emmy Awards.
On Instagram, Janet Jackson, who was one of DuBois’s co-stars on “Good Times,” paid tribute to the actress. “I saw first hand how she broke stereotypes and changed the landscape for Black women in entertainment,” Jackson wrote. “I’m grateful in recent years I had a chance to see her and create more lasting memories. I pray for comfort for all her family and friends. Thank you Ja’Net, I’ll miss you.”
DuBois is survived by three children Provat, Rani, and Kesha and “a host of grandchildren,” said Fields.

#SaturdayStamps: Dorothy Height

 

Who Was Dorothy Height?

Dorothy Height was a leader in addressing the rights of both women and African Americans as the president of the National Council of Negro Women. In the 1990s, she drew young people into her cause in the war against drugs, illiteracy and unemployment. The numerous honors bestowed upon her include the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1994) and the Congressional Gold Medal (2004).

Early Life

Born on March 24, 1912, in Richmond, Virginia, African American activist Dorothy Height spent her life fighting for civil rights and women’s rights. The daughter of a building contractor and a nurse, Height moved with her family to Rankin, Pennsylvania, in her youth. There, she attended racially integrated schools.

In high school, Height showed great talent as an orator. She also became socially and politically active, participating in anti-lynching campaigns. Height’s skills as a speaker took her all the way to a national oratory competition. Winning the event, she was awarded a college scholarship.

Height had applied to and been accepted to Barnard College in New York, but as the start of school neared, the college changed its mind about her admittance, telling Height that they had already met their quota for black students. Undeterred, she applied to New York University, where she would earn two degrees: a bachelor’s degree in education in 1930, and a master’s degree in psychology in 1932.

Tireless Activist

After working for a time as a social worker, Height joined the staff of the Harlem YWCA in 1937. She had a life-changing encounter not long after starting work there. Height met educator and founder of the National Council of Negro Women Mary McLeod Bethune when Bethune and U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt came to visit her facility. Height soon volunteered with the NCNW and became close to Bethune.

One of Height’s major accomplishments at the YWCA was directing the integration of all of its centers in 1946. She also established its Center for Racial Justice in 1965, which she ran until 1977. In 1957, Height became the president of the National Council of Negro Women. Through the center and the council, she became one of the leading figures of the Civil Rights Movement. Height worked with Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, John Lewis and James Farmer—sometimes called the “Big Six” of the Civil Rights Movement—on different campaigns and initiatives.

In 1963, Height was one of the organizers of the famed March on Washington. She stood close to King when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Despite her skills as a speaker and a leader, Height was not invited to talk that day.

Height later wrote that the March on Washington event had been an eye-opening experience for her. Her male counterparts “were happy to include women in the human family, but there was no question as to who headed the household,” she said, according to the Los Angeles Times. Height joined in the fight for women’s rights. In 1971, she helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus with Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Shirley Chisholm.

While she retired from the YWCA in 1977, Height continued to run the NCNW for two more decades. One of her later projects was focused on strengthening the African American family. In 1986, Height organized the first Black Family Reunion, a celebration of traditions and values which is still held annually.

LATER IN LIFE

Height received many honors for her contributions to society. In 1994, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She stepped down from the presidency of the NCNW in the late 1990s but remained the organization’s chair of the board until her death in 2010. In 2002, Height turned her 90th birthday celebration into a fundraiser for the NCNW; Oprah Winfrey and Don King were among the celebrities who contributed to the event.

n 2004, President George W. Bush gave Height the Congressional Gold Medal. She later befriended the first African American president of the United States, Barack Obama, who called her “the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement,” according to The New York Times. Height died in Washington, D.C., on April 20, 2010.

Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was among the many who mourned the passing of the famed champion for equality and justice. Clinton told the Washington Post that Height “understood that women’s rights and civil rights are indivisible. She stood up for the rights of women every chance she had.”

On February 1, 2017, the United States Postal Service kicked off Black History month with the issuance of the Dorothy Height Forever stamp honoring her civil rights legacy.

#SaturdayStamps: Jimi Hendrix

Widely recognized as one of the most creative and influential musicians of the 20th century, Hendrix displayed an innovative style that embraced the influences of rock, R&B, modern jazz and the blues, inspiring musical artists of his era and beyond.

Jimi Hendrix was born in Seattle, WA, Nov. 27, 1942. Originally named Johnny Allen Hendrix, his name was later changed by his father to James Marshall Hendrix. Entirely self-taught, he had to adjust his first right-handed guitar to his left-handed playing; he restrung it upside down and turned the instrument around to play it. The teenager soon began playing with bands in the Seattle area.

Hendrix pushed the boundaries of what a guitar could do, using a basic setup that at times included a wah-wah pedal to control the output from the amplifier to produce voice-like tones; a fuzz-box to create distortion of the sound; and a Univibe, a phaser that created regular, pulsating changes of pitch, all channeled through a set of Marshall amplifiers at top volume. He was able to manipulate the various devices to produce sounds that could be loud — the quintessential psychedelic music — or melodic and gentle. A master at the controlled use of distortion and feedback, he expanded the instrument’s vocabulary in a way that had never been heard before — or since.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the U.K. Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Rolling Stone ranked Hendrix No. 1 on its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, and No. 6 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

In 1991, Hendrix received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 1993, he was awarded a posthumous Grammy for lifetime achievement.

#FlybySaturday: James Banning

James Banning was an African American aviator.

He was born in Oklahoma, the son of Riley and Cora Banning. The family moved to Ames, Iowa, in 1919, where he studied electrical engineering at Iowa State College for a little more than a year. Dreaming from boyhood of being a pilot, James Herman Banning was repeatedly turned away from flight schools because he was Black. He eventually learned to fly from an army aviator at Raymond Fisher’s Flying Field in Des Moines He became the first Black aviator to obtain a license from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce.

Banning also operated the J.H. Banning Auto Repair Shop in Ames from 1922 to 1928. He left Iowa for Los Angeles in 1929 where he was the chief pilot for the Bessie Coleman Aero Club. There he became a demonstration pilot flying a biplane named “Miss Ames” for his days in the Midwest. In 1932, Banning and another Black pilot, Thomas C. Allen, became the first Blacks to fly coast-to-coast from Los Angeles to Long Island, NY. Using a plane pieced together from junkyard parts, they made the 3,300 mile trip in less than 42 hours in the air. The trip actually required 21 days to complete, however, because the pilots had to raise money each time they stopped.

Sadly, James Banning was killed in a plane crash during an air show in San Diego in 1933. He was a passenger in a biplane flown by a Navy pilot, which stalled and entered an unrecoverable spin in front of hundreds of horrified spectators.

#FitnessFridays: Lita Lewis

Born in Los Angeles, California, raised in Sydney, Australia, returned to the United States and made Brooklyn, NY home for 10 years before moving back to her birth city of Los Angeles.

She has traveled the world motivating people to pursue their dreams and reach their goals. From her earliest experiences, surrounded by this rich combination of cultures, lifestyles, and body types, Lewis developed a keen sense of what beauty is and what it is not. Working tirelessly to transform and break traditional molds of the “Americanized” fitness image has been the staple of her brand.

With an African American and Samoan ancestry, Lewis developed a deep love and admiration for foreign cultures, ethnicities and a genuine appreciation for diversity in people from all walks of life. Regardless of who you are and where you come from she learned that true wealth is health!

The way Lewis sees it, fitness and health isn’t about being skinny or curvy—it’s about being the best version of yourself. That means honoring your body by leading an active lifestyle, fueling yourself with whole nutritious foods and finding time to rejuvenate your mental and spiritual peace.

The motivational speaker and life coach is all about building strong minds and bodies whilst sharing her positive messaging via social media. Teaching young women to become the best version of themselves, whether skinny or curvy frames, her philosophy is all about accepting, embracing and building strong minds, being healthy for life, finding inner balance and pursuing and accomplishing personal growth- Your best you!

Lewis is also widely known for giving light to fans experiencing breakups, firings,
deaths, and many of life’s other challenges. Even as massive as Lewis’ social media platform has grown, Lewis has greater ambitions than being recognized for her beauty and popularity although she does not shy away from owning her reputation of being the poster child of strength and sensuality. She promotes her dislike for stereotypes, unhealthy fitness gimmicks and most of all, the notion that femininity and sexiness cannot also be tough, bold and durable.

In addition to her accomplishments on the stage, in the gym, and on the web, Lewis is also an incredible public speaker and motivational life coach. She can often be seen on the lecture circuit as a guest speaker. She enjoys the personal reach this platform provides, allowing her to
speak her mind and to share her insights and experiences pertaining to holistic health and benefits of daily exercise.

As vast as the Lita Lewis brand is, authenticity, organic beauty and eminent class are reflected back in all it touches. Her loving and compassionate spirit, coupled with her transformational message of maintaining inner and outer strength and positivity continue to help, inspire and eternally transform all that she touches.

#HumpDayLoveDay: Spike Lee + Tonya Lee

Spike and Tonya met at a Congressional Black Caucus dinner in 1992.  Tonya recounts the pair’s first meeting “We walked past each other. Spike circled back around and proceeded to give me the third degree. ‘Are you an actress? A model? A singer? Who are you here with? What do you do? Do you have a boyfriend?’”

Tonya was attracted to Spike’s creative career, which was a sharp contrast to her role as a corporate lawyer when they first met. These lovebirds have a love of the arts in common. Spike is a talented filmmaker of course, and Tonya is a concert-level pianist, author and TV producer.

Spike and Tonya were married in 1993. This year marks their 27th wedding anniversary.

#TuesdayTalkPolitics: Colin Powell

Colin Powell was the first African American appointed as the U.S. Secretary of State and the first, and so far the only, to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Who Was Colin Powell?

Colin Luther Powell is a United States statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005), serving under President George W. Bush. He was the first African American appointed to that position. He was the first, and so far the only, African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Early Life & Education

Born Colin Luther Powell on April 5, 1937, in Harlem, New York, Powell was the son of Jamaican immigrants Luther and Maud Powell. He was raised in the South Bronx and educated in the New York City public schools, graduating from Morris High School in 1954 without any definite plans for where he wanted to go in life. It was at City College of New York, where Powell studied geology, that he found his calling — in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). He soon became commander of his unit. This experience set him on a military career and gave him structure and direction in his life.

Graduation and Marriage

After graduation in 1958, Powell was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. While stationed at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, Colin Powell met Alma Vivian Johnson of Birmingham, Alabama, and they married in 1962. The couple has three children: son Michael, and daughters Linda and Annemarie.

Early Military Career and Accomplishments

IN 1962, he was one of 16,000 advisers sent to South Vietnam by President John F. Kennedy. In 1963, Powell was wounded by a punji-stick booby trap while patrolling the Vietnamese-Laotian border. During this first tour of duty, he was awarded a Purple Heart and, a year later, a Bronze Star.

While on his second Vietnam tour of duty from 1968 to 1969, the 31-year-old Army major was given the assignment of investigating the My Lai massacre. In this incident, more than 300 civilians were killed by U.S. Army forces. Powell’s report seemed to refute the allegations of wrongdoing and stated, “Relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.” Also during this tour in Vietnam, Powell was injured in a helicopter crash. Despite his injury, he managed to rescue his comrades from the burning helicopter, for which he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal. In all, Powell has received 11 military decorations, including the Legion of Merit.

Accomplishments Under the Reagan and Bush Administrations

Powell earned an MBA at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., and won a White House fellowship in 1972. He was assigned to the Office of Management and Budget during the Nixon administration and made a lasting impression on Caspar Weinberger and Frank Carlucci. Both men would consult Powell for advice when they served as secretary of defense and national security adviser, respectively, in the Reagan administration.

Colonel Powell served a tour of duty in Korea in 1973 as a battalion commander and after that, he obtained a staff job at the Pentagon. He attended the National War College in Washington, D.C. from 1975-1976. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1976 and commanded the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. In the Carter administration, Powell was an assistant to the deputy secretary of defense and the secretary of energy. Promoted to major general, he again assisted Frank Carlucci at the Department of Defense during the transition from the Carter to the Reagan administration. He then served as senior military aide to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, helping to coordinate the invasion of Granada and the bombing of Libya.

National Security Adviser

In 1987, Powell became national security adviser, a post he held for the duration of the Reagan administration. While there, he coordinated technical and policy advisers during Reagan’s summit meetings with Soviet President Gorbachev and his conferences to topple the pro-Communist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. It was discovered that the administration had arranged for covert and illegal shipments of U.S. weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of hostages. Proceeds from the sale of the weapons would go to support the counter-insurgency movement in Nicaragua, which was aimed at toppling the Sandinistas. Such support had been prohibited by Congress since 1982. Powell was asked to testify before Congress about the incident, but he was not implicated in any wrongdoing.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

In 1989, President George H. W. Bush appointed General Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The post is the highest military position in the Department of Defense, and Powell was the first African-American officer to receive that distinction. General Powell became a national figure during Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations in Iraq. As chief military strategist, he developed what became known as the “Powell Doctrine,” an approach to military conflicts that advocates using overwhelming force to maximize success and minimize casualties. He continued as chairman of the Joint Chiefs in the first few months of the Clinton administration. He publicly disagreed with the president on the issue of admitting gays into the military, although he eventually agreed to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” compromise.

Iraq Controversy

Powell retired from the Army in 1993. In 1994, he joined Senator Sam Nunn and former President Carter on a last-minute peacekeeping expedition to Haiti, which resulted in the end of military rule and a peaceful return to elected government in that country. In 1995, he published a best-selling autobiography, My American Journey, which chronicles his life and its influences, the ins and outs of military bureaucracy, and what he learned in his life about personal rules and character. From 1997 to 2000, he was chairman of America’s Promise, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering character and competence in young people. Powell and his wife, Alma, now co-chair the organization, which has a presence in more than 500 communities in all 50 states.

Secretary of State

In 2000, President George W. Bush appointed Powell secretary of state, and Powell was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. At that time, this was the highest rank in civilian government ever held by an African-American. During his tenure, Powell came under fire for his role in building the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Initially, Powell had serious misgivings about President Bush’s plan to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein. Powell believed the policy of containment was sufficient to control the Iraqi regime. He warned Bush that a military invasion would consume the president’s first term and that if an attack were to occur, it should use overwhelming force and have broad international support. This support would be key to the rebuilding of Iraq.

Bush decided to go to war and, in a crucial moment, Powell agreed to support the president. To advance the case for war with the international community, Powell appeared before the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 to present evidence that Iraq had concealed an ongoing weapons development program. Powell’s reputation for integrity helped convince many in Congress and the country that Iraq posed an imminent threat.

For the remainder of Bush’s first term, Powell tried to establish an international coalition to assist in the rebuilding of Iraq. In September 2004, he testified before Congress that the intelligence sources he used in his February presentation to the United Nations were “wrong” and it was unlikely that Saddam had any stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Powell advised the committee of the necessity to reform the intelligence community in order to improve its gathering and analysis. In 2004, after acknowledging it was unlikely that Iraq possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, Powell announced his resignation as secretary of state. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was his successor.

General Colin Powell