Rutgers University offers course on Beyoncé

beyonceclass 600The Department of Women's and Gender Studies will offer a course called "Politicizing Beyoncé," focusing on the singer's lyrics and videos.

Looks like Jay Z isn't the only the only one in the family who can brag on having a university course devoted to him, now that Rutgers University is offering "Politicizing Beyoncé."

The Department of Women's and Gender Studies will offer the course taught by doctoral student Kevin Allred, who told the university's online news site that he is using Beyoncé's career as a launch point to dive into a broader look at American race, gender and sexual politics, the Associated Press reports.


Super Bowl halftime, a Hooligan and hardwork

kwhalum 600When Bruno Mars performs live at the Super Bowl halftime before 100-plus million television viewers on Sunday, Kameron T. Whalum, a super-talented trombone player with deep Memphis roots, will be in his familiar spot amid Mar's onstage backers, aka the Hooligans.

I'll be in front of a television – super-proud of the man who grew out of the youngster that I once made the starting point guard and captain of the basketball team that I coached and mentored at New Olivet Baptist Church, where Kameron's dad, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth T. Whalum Jr., is pastor. Kameron made all the difference in the season we had that summer, as we blew some teams out by halftime. When the games were tight, rather than going off – as I sometimes have – I'd leave the locker room (after knocking over some paper cups) and allowed Kameron to motivate them.

I detected leadership in Kameron; he carried an aura of winning, an essential trait shared by many successful people. He absolutely had it as a child, not at all surprising considering the ample supply of role models in the Whalum family tree. With the big game looming, Kameron and I shared this conversation.


Alice in Walkerland!: The ‘PBS American Masters’ Interview

alicewalker 600Alice Walker made history as the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as the National Book Award in 1983 for her novel "The Color Purple." An internationally celebrated author, poet and activist, Walker's books include seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children's books, and volumes of essays and poetry.

Here, she talks about her career and about the documentary "Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth," which premieres on PBS' American Masters series on Friday, Feb. 7th at 8 p.m. CT.

Kam Williams: Hi Alice. I'm so honored to have this opportunity to interview you.
Alice Walker: Oh, I'm so glad to be talking with you, too, Kam. ...


Power List of best-selling African-American books – Winter 2014

12YearsBook 600The Power List, the quarterly compilation of best-selling books written or read by African Americans, has released its winter 2014 list.

The influence of feature films strongly impacted the Winter 2014 list, as books based on two movies released in 2013 topped the list in two separate categories. "The Butler" by Wil Haygood was No.1 among hardcover non-fiction titles and "Twelve Years A Slave" by Solomon Northrup was No. 1 among paperback non-fiction titles. The movie adaptation of "Twelve Years A Slave" has received nine Academy Award nominations.

Terry McMillan's latest novel, "Who Asked You?," was No. 1 in hardcover fiction and "Animal 2: The Omen" by urban fiction author K'Wan was No. 1 in paperback fiction. McMillan has been a bestselling author for the past two decades, since her breakthrough novel, "Waiting To Exhale," remained on the New York Times bestseller list for several months. K'wan has written several successful urban fiction novels and "Animal 2" is the sequel to "Animal," which also was a Power List bestseller in 2013, reaching the highest position of No. 7.


33 weddings, robots, a goofy hat and major snubs: Must be the Grammys

grammyharrell 600This year's 56th annual Grammy awards were filled with head-scratchers from Pharrell's hat to a mass wedding officiated by Queen Latifiah to robots winning best album and song and then being unable to deliver an acceptance speech because they are non-verbal futuristic machines. To the biggest head-scratcher of them all, a Compton-raised rapper who had arguably one of the best rap albums in the last decade being completely shut out of the awards show.

While Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons killed on stage with a mashup of their songs, "m.A.A.d. city" and "Radioactive" it was another rapper who would clean house in the rap category.

Macklemore & Lewis would sweep virtually all rap categories wining four Grammys and beating out a who's-who of top rappers. Jay Z, Drake, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West proved to be light work for the Seattle based indie-rap duo as they won best rap album ("The Heist"), best rap song ("Thrift Shop"), and best rap performance ("Thrift Shop").


E-BRIEFS: MJG at Stax, All-Star Jazz-A-F!RE Benefit Concert, Unique Steppers, & ‘RISE’

MJG 600MJG to share the real deal at Stax Fresh Trax

Record Deal or Record Steal? Super Star or Mega Scar? The wheels, deals and power appeal of the music industry are as attractive as ever, Everybody wants to be down! In an era of beats, rhymes, auto-tuned vocalists and music makin' machines...what's a "real" artist to do?

On Feb. 5th, MJG of the world-famous rap duo 8-Ball & MJG will stop by Stax Fresh Trax and spill the beans at the Stax Museum of American Soul at 926 East McLemore. Listen to MJG's journey and learn how to develop your own career path.


OPENING THIS WEEK Kam’s Kapsules: Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

kammovie 600BIG BUDGET FILMS

"I, Frankenstein" (PG-13 for intense fantasy and pervasive violence) Adaptation of Mary Shelley's monster classic re-imagined as a dystopian tale revolving around a reanimated corpse (Aaron Eckhart) caught up in a clash between demons and gargoyles. Cast includes Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto and Yvonne Strahovski.


"Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys" (Unrated) Lapland documentary chronicling a year-in-the-life of a family of reindeer herders. (In Finnish with subtitles)


The Taboo to pursue!

taboo 600Born in L.A. on July 14, 1975, Jimmy "Taboo" Gomez began dreaming about show business at an early age. The versatile fourple threat is a multilingual rapper, singer, dancer and emcee who got his big break in 1995 when approached by to form the Black Eyed Peas.

Among the popular hip-hop group's hits are the Grammy-winning "I Gotta Feeling," "Let's Get It Started," "Boom Boom Pow" and "My Humps," to name a few. Besides music, Taboo is also the designer of his own line of footwear, Taboo Deltah, and has added acting to his bag of tricks.

Here, he talks about his latest outing as Guillermo in "Jamesy Boy," a fact-based tale of redemption co-starring Ving Rhames, James Woods and Spencer Lofranco. Although he wants to make more movies in the future, he is currently focused on his own solo album releasing later in the year, as well as on an upcoming tour with the Black Eyed Peas.


Vanity Fair slammed for making Lupita Nyong’o appear lighter

LupitaNyongo 600Face it. Lupita Nyong'o is the new "it" girl, and one can only imagine how many magazines are dying to feature her.

However, those who do get the opportunity should use Vanity Fair as an example of what not to do. The magazine included Nyong'o in a tweet on Wednesday about its upcoming issue's Vanities section and is now under fire for what some people say is a case of making the star's deep-chocolate skin tone appear lighter.

Nocciola Nazgul @deluxvivens
did vanity fair seriously lighten lupita's picture? really? did this happen?


Meet Augusta Savage’s ‘Gamin’

gammin 600The Dixon Gallery and Gardens welcomes Augusta Savage's 'Gamin' on January 19 through March 23. Celebrating the Dixon's recent acquisition of the landmark sculpture, the exhibition looks at Savage and 'Gamin' and their place in the larger context of early twentieth century African-American art.

Surrounded by works from notable artists in The Horseman Collection, including Elizabeth Catlett, Aaron Douglas, and Bob Thompson, Savage's 'Gamin' reveals the emotions, history, and politics that informed Savage's work and that of her contemporaries.

The exhibition presents the work of African-American artists from the twentieth century who experimented with a range of subjects and styles in ways that express the diversity and vitality of African American art and identity. Although centered in Harlem, the spirit of the cultural movement found expression in cities and art centers across America from the 1920s onward. Figures such as Savage inspired African-American artists to find their artistic voice in ways that often celebrated the African American experience.



Breakthrough year for black-themed films get mixed reception from Oscars

oscars1 600Hollywood honored black performers that lit up the silver screen in 2013 with this morning's Academy Award nominations, although some beloved African-American themed films were largely overlooked.

"12 Years a Slave," the acclaimed drama which retells the story of Solomon Northup, an educated, Northern black man kidnapped and sold into slavery, had the strongest showing of any "black" film scoring 9 nominations including the top categories of best picture, director (Steve McQueen), actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and supporting actress (Lupita Nyong'o).

African-American writer John Ridley, who hasn't received as much publicity as he deserves for his stellar screenplay adapted from Northup's memoir, was also nominated. If he were to win on Oscar night he'd only be the second black writer to take home an award. If McQueen were to be victorious he would be the first black director to ever take home an Academy Award (outside of the documentary category).


‘Speed: Facing Our Addiction to Fast and Faster – and Overcoming Our Fear of Slowing Down’

speed 600There's a lot more to life than accelerating its pace, but you wouldn't know it judging by the everyday behavior of most folks lately. People have become so hopelessly dependent on smart phones, computer tablets and the like, that they can't go for more than a few minutes without texting, checking their messages or looking something up online, however trivial.

I first recognized this phenomenon a few years ago when I was invited to a friend's house for Passover. During the Seder, while his family and friends were taking turns reading from the holy Haggadah, he was secretly texting away under the table. Despite being contrite and embarrassed when I pointed out to everybody that our host was ignoring the sacred ritual, he was right back at it less than five minutes later.

Back then, I had no words for such behavior besides rudeness, but thanks to Dr. Stephanie Brown we now have a diagnosis of addiction to speed. In her groundbreaking book, "Speed: Facing Our Addiction to Fast and Faster – and Overcoming Our Fear of Slowing Down," she bemoans the fact that the culture has morphed into a ramped-up dystopia where machines lead and humans follow.