Black Is Remembers Michael Clarke Duncan

LOS ANGELES — Michael Clarke Duncan’s fiancee says the Oscar nominee for “The Green Mile” has died while being hospitalized following a July heart attack.

Publicist Joy Fehily released a statement from Clarke’s fiancée, the Rev. Omarosa Manigault, saying the 54-year-old actor died Monday morning in a Los Angeles hospital after nearly two months of treatment following the July 13 heart attack.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Duncan appeared in dozens of films, including such box office hits as “Armageddon,” “Planet of the Apes” and “Kung Fu Panda,”

Duncan had a handful of minor roles before “The Green Mile” brought him an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor. The 1999 film, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, starred Tom Hanks as a corrections officer at a penitentiary in the 1930s. Duncan played John Coffey, a convicted murderer.

Source: Huffington Post

RIP Al Freeman Jr.

Actor Al Freeman Jr., perhaps best known for his portrayal of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad in Spike Lee’s 1992 film “Malcolm X,” has died, Howard University said on Friday.

“It is with tremendous sadness that the passing of our beloved Professor Al Freeman, Jr. is confirmed,” Kim James Bey, chair of the university’s theater department said in a statement. Freeman was a faculty member at the university.

She gave no details about the death of Freeman, who was 78 and taught acting at the Washington-based university, but said a statement would be issued later.

Freeman’s long career in film, television and theater included an enduring role playing police Captain Ed Hall on the TV soap opera “One Life to Live” from 1972 through 1987.

He was credited with being the first African American to win a Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding lead actor for his work on the soap opera, a prize he was awarded in 1979.

Freeman’s theater credits included a starring role on Broadway in James Baldwin’s “Blues for Mister Charlie” in 1964.

Source: Reuters

Black Is Remembers Sherman Hemsley

For us 70’s babies, Sherman Hemsley was as large of a superstar as one can get. His iconic character of George Jefferson was imprinted in our brains as kids as the first Black millionaire showcased on primetime television. Although his walk, his wife Weezy’s voice, and his famous arguments with their maid Florence were synonymous with the show’s fame, the image of a Black man who owned a chain of dry-cleaning businesses and therefore was able to “move on up” had an impact on all of us. During the era of sitcoms like Different Strokes, What’s Happening, and Good Times, The Jeffersons gave us a peek into the experience of being Black and wealthy.

Beyond The Jeffersons, Hemsley’s work ethic was something to admire. He moved on to the hit series Amen, playing the role of Deacon Ernest Frye. Beyond that he remained in our view, often pairing up with his former co-star, Isabel Sanford, in commercials for brands such as Denny’s and Old Navy, until her passing in 2004. Every few years after that, Hemsley would appear in guests spots in both film and television, culminating with voiceover work for the hit animated series, Family Guy

We lost an icon in our community yesterday at the age of 74 and of natural causes. I can say that having lost so many within this last decade to drug addiction and other unsavory circumstances, I admire Hemsley even more for maintaining his health to the best of his ability, and leaving behind the legacy of a stellar and consistent acting career. I don’t recall ever hearing his name tied to any scandals or smeared with bad press, and perhaps this is why he continued to work steadily in an industry that takes its toll on so many.

Thank you, Sherman Hemsley, for sharing so much of your time here on Earth with us. You will be greatly missed.

Lacy J. Banks: First Black Sportswriter (1942 – 2012)

~Roman Modrowski

Lacy J. Banks, the first African-American sportswriter at the Chicago Sun-Times, died Wednesday at the age of 68 after a long battle with heart disease.

Banks joined the Sun-Times in 1972 and began covering the Chicago Bulls in the mid-1980s. He covered Michael Jordan’s entire NBA career, including all six of the Bulls’ championships, and he covered the Bulls into the postseason last year.

Banks also was a long-time Baptist preacher and weaved that background into his columns and his interaction with players.

“He was a great friend, and we spent a lot of time calling my mom on Sundays and praying with her and just doing some great deeds for her and my family,” Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen told the Sun-Times. “He’s one of those reporters who I had a lot of respect for. We definitely had a great relationship throughout my career and to this day.”

The nature of being a beat writer means feathers can be ruffled at times, but even those who occasionally disagreed with Banks were able to see his passion in his work.

“He was more than a reporter on the sidelines,” Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf told the Sun-Times. “He cared deeply about the teams he covered and the profession that he represented. While we didn’t always agree with his position — as is natural — we never questioned his enthusiasm for the Bulls or the city of Chicago.”

The Bulls will have a moment of silence in Banks’ honor before Saturday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, according to Bulls vice president of business operations Steve Schanwald.

In recent years, Banks overcame a brain tumor and prostate cancer. He chronicled his health issues in a blog for the Sun-Times.

Banks is survived by his wife, Joyce, three daughters and five grandchildren.

Source: ESPN

Concluding 2011

Its the second week in December and I MUST finish 2011 before I can put the pressure of performing well in 2012. I’m not the typical underachiever that just going to wait for the new year to attempt to obtain my goals or resolutions. I actually look forward to the end of the year because so much happens within the last 2 weeks of December. For me it begins with the Anniversary of my Mothers death on the 14th, Christmas on the 25th, Kwanza from the 26 to the 1st, my moms birthday on the 27th, my 25th birthday on the 30th, then New Years Eve on the 31st. So as you can see concluding 2011 is an eventful but emotional time for me. Since my mothers death in 2008 I personally don’t care for December because of how much I miss her during this time of year.
During this particular time of year I am looking forward to a job I was hired for back in August but due to the NBA lockout I had to wait until now. I am thankful my position with the Atlanta Hawks was secure and I can not wait until orientation on the 19th. I will be working in Promotions. Last year this time I was living in Chicago. Now that I am in Atlanta I’m hoping to become more established and stable. I’ve moved 3 times since I walked across the stage in 2010. Now that I work for an NBA team, live in a major minority city, and I’m able to network and do what I want to do. I plan on being here for awhile. I have a lot to look forward to in 2012 and I demand so much from myself. Turning a quarter century makes me aware of what I have to accomplish and how important it is for me to stay focused. I am thankful for everything I’ve experience in life. I personally believe the sacrifices and hardships mentally prepare you for the next level and stages in life.

I’m not getting ready for 2012; 2012 needs to get ready for me.

Aubrey Grier resides in Atlanta, GA and is the voice behind The Authentic MANual. Aubrey comes to us with over 10 years of writing experience and worked previously for Clear Channel Radio. Check him out on Black Is for life tips and relationship advice for Black men.

Nothing But Love For You Heavy (VIDEO TRIBUTE)

The death of Dwight “Heavy D” Myers rendered me speechless.

I’m a late 70’s baby and the music of the 80’s and 90’s left a great impression on my young mind and shaped my eardrums. Heavy D and the Boyz were a brick in my music foundation, my love of hip-hop, dance and overall good music.

What impressed me about Heavy D was his confidence and fearlessness in confronting the pink elephant in the room – the fact that he was a big man. From his name to the coined moniker “the overweight lover” he eradicated any potential critique about his size by claiming it from jump. Sure, hip-hop music specifically is full of artists whose rap names begin with “Big” but there was something about Heavy D and his style that made that obvious characteristic minute in comparison to the man himself.

Heavy  could dance better than most people period, and his actions gave me the freedom to dance my heart out. Nobody would question the man’s ability to get on stage and groove, and he established new rules of a big man performer. Rarely was Heavy just standing on stage. If there was a new dance, he’d master it and also set dance trends with his choreography both on stage and in his music videos. One could take the choreography from a Heavy D and the Boyz video and bust out a battle at the next school dance.

And then there’s the music. Heavy D gave us countless hits – and I can’t recall one where the words “nigga” or “bitch” were ever used. I called my mother when I received the news of his passing. She, too, was devasted which speaks volumes about the impact Heavy had. As a hip-hop artist at an important time in the genre’s development, Heavy D’s appeal was cross-generational – not many artists within hip-hop can make that claim. He was positive and cool without being corny, and could rock the party minus any violence or negativity coming through the speakers.

As a tribute to Heavy D, here is a compilation of my favorite Heavy D-laced tracks:

Nuttin’ But Love


We Got Our Own Thang


Now That We Found Love


Somebody For Me


Girls They Love Me


Is It Good To You


Blue Funk


You Can’t See What I Can See


Don’t Curse


MJ featuring Heavy D – Jam


Rest in paradise Dwight. You will be missed.

Remembering Joe Frazier

On Monday night, boxing great Smokin’ Joe Frazier passed away at the age of 67, after a long fight with liver cancer. He was best known for his notorious rivalry with Muhammad Ali. The two faced off in three epic fights: Twice at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, in 1971 and 1974, and once in the Philippines, in 1975 — the famed “Thrilla in Manila.” Frazier won the first fight, handing Ali his first defeat, but Ali prevailed in the latter two bouts. Here, a sampling of how the late, great, former heavyweight champ Frazier is being remembered:

He was so much more than Ali’s foil: Yes, Frazier was best known for his rivalry with Ali, and their “famous trilogy” of fights, says Dan Rafael at But Frazier “was a great fighter in his own right, a former heavyweight champion of the world, a 1964 Olympic gold medalist, and a worthy member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.” While Ali was the fighter who emerged victorious in their “storied rivalry,” it was Frazier who won the first match with a decisive left hook in the 15th round. And remember, Frazier lost to only two men in his entire career: Ali and George Foreman.
“Frazier was far more than just Ali foil”

Frazier was actually better than Ali: “For all the deserved accolades for Muhammad Ali,” the truth is, Frazier “was the better fighter,” says Dave Anderson at The New York Times. Yes, Ali won the decisivie “Thrilla in Manila,” but only because Frazier, his eye swollen shut, was prevented by his trainer from going in for the 15th round. And out of the ring, Frazier was “the better man.” He was always a class act, whether he was buying land for his mother or making peace with Ali. The same cannot be said for Ali, who routinely insulted Frazier over the years, calling him a “gorilla” and “stupid.”
“A champion who won inside the ring and out”

Frazier was the people’s pugilist: The champion boxer was born a sharecropper’s son, says Stan Hochman at the Philadelphia Daily News. He grew up in South Carolina, “picking okra for pennies on the pound.” Ali was hailed “as a civil-rights advocate,” but it was Frazier who was the “working man’s champion” — a “hard worker with a generous heart,” and above all, a “fighter, pure and simple.”


Source: The Week

Civil Rights Icon Fred Shuttlesworth Dies

The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, the civil rights icon hailed in his native Alabama as a “black Moses,” died Wednesday. He was 89.

Described in a 1961 CBS documentary as “the man most feared by Southern racists,” Shuttlesworth survived bombings, beatings, repeated jailings and other attacks — physical and financial — in his unyielding determination to heal the country’s most enduring, divisive and volatile chasm.

“They were trying to blow me into heaven,” Shuttlesworth, who spent most of his adult life in Cincinnati, said of those who violently opposed him in Birmingham and throughout the South. “But God wanted me on Earth.”

“Daddy lived an incredible life and now he’s at peace,” said Patricia Shuttlesworth Massengill, his eldest daughter. Massengill, along with her sister Ruby Bester and their brother Fred Shuttlesworth Jr., traveled to Birmingham from Cincinnati on Tuesday and spent about three hours “praying and talking to” their father, whose once thundering voice was silenced several years ago by a stroke. Their other sibling, Carolyn Shuttlesworth, visited their father in a Birmingham hospice last week.

“He couldn’t talk to us, but I hope he heard us,” Massengill said. “I know he did.”

Shuttlesworth’s death removes a civil rights giant who remained a potent advocate for the downtrodden and needy of all colors for decades after he helped blacks secure, if not absolutely equal rights, at least more balanced treatment in a country that grudgingly granted those advances.

Before Rosa Parks refused to give up a bus seat in Montgomery, before four little girls were killed by a bomb at their church in Birmingham, before “Bloody Sunday” in Selma and even before the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became a household name, there was Shuttlesworth.

Although not as well known as King and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy— his compatriots in the civil rights movement’s “Big Three” — Shuttlesworth brought the struggle into the living rooms of white America through a series of combustible showdowns with the Ku Klux Klan, Southern segregationists and Birmingham’s infamous commissioner of public safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor.

“A guest at Bull’s house” — more commonly known as the Birmingham jail — on more than two dozen occasions, Shuttlesworth was viewed by King himself as the person who, because of his confrontational boldness and willingness to put himself in harm’s way, was likely to become the movement’s first major martyr.

“We’re determined to either kill segregation or be killed by it,” Shuttlesworth said in the 1961 CBS program. To achieve the goal, he nearly suffered the consequence, coming close to proving King’s premonition true through numerous narrow escapes from death during the civil rights movement’s most volatile and dangerous years.

He survived two bombings, one on Christmas Day 1956 when dynamite tossed from a passing car destroyed his parsonage beside Bethel Baptist Church, a small, narrow red-brick structure where he helped ignite “a fire you can’t put out” that forever changed life not just in Birmingham and Alabama, but America.

Nine months later, he was savagely beaten by a white mob armed with bicycle chains and baseball bats in September 1957 when he tried to enroll his daughters at segregated Phillips High School. His wife also was stabbed and his daughter Ruby had her ankle crushed in their car door in that horrific attack.

When a bloodied Shuttlesworth was rushed to the hospital, doctors marveled that no bones had been broken and that he had not even sustained a concussion. “The Lord knew I live in a hard town, so he gave me a hard head,” he said at the time.

His fiery personality and utter fearlessness were not diminished when Shuttlesworth moved to Cincinnati in 1961, lured by better pay and improved educational opportunities for his children. For much of the next half century, he essentially maintained dual residency, frequently returning to Alabama to help direct the epochal events unfolding there that were reshaping race relations nationwide.

Shuttlesworth was born Freddie Lee Robinson to Alberta Robinson, a 22-year-old unmarried woman in Mugler, Ala., on March 18, 1922. His father’s name was Vetter Greene. The couple had a second child — a girl named Cleola, Shuttlesworth’s only full-blooded sibling.

While growing up in a strictly segregated community, Shuttlesworth did not have many opportunities to interact with whites and had shown no interest in civil rights activism. But while working at Brookley, one of his black co-workers was threatened with a pay cut. Shuttlesworth protested, marking the beginning of his advocacy for equal treatment. Later, his quest for civil rights would become intertwined with his Gospel ministry.

By the early 1950s, Shuttlesworth was back in Birmingham, serving as pastor of Bethel Baptist and playing a more visible role in the burgeoning civil rights movement. Emboldened by desegregation of buses in Baton Rouge, La., in 1953 and the U.S. Supreme Court‘s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, he pressed his congregants register to vote, pushed the Birmingham City Council to hire more black police officers and traveled to Montgomery to support King’s year-long bus boycott.

But while King was becoming the movement’s national point man, historians and civil rights leaders agree that without Shuttlesworth, the movement’s history might have been far different.

When Alabama’s attorney general teamed up with a judge nicknamed “Injunctionitis Jones” to outlaw the NAACP in the state in 1956, Shuttlesworth founded the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights — an organization that, by directing the civil rights campaign in Alabama, significantly shaped the movement’s national agenda over the next eight years.

Shuttlesworth, King, Abernathy and Bayard Rustin formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta in 1957 to assist local organizations to work for equality for African-Americans. Shuttlesworth helped coin its non-violent motto: “Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed.”

In 1960, the Rev. L. Venchael Booth, pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Cincinnati, invited Shuttlesworth to preach at the church. Booth later recommended Shuttlesworth to Revelation Baptist Church in Avondale, which needed a pastor. The congregation promptly elected him to the position, but he initially declined, prompting the congregation to step up its courtship.

With his wife, Ruby, also pressuring him to take the job because of the higher salary and better schools for their children, Shuttlesworth finally accepted the position on the condition that he could maintain his activism and involvement in Birmingham.

In both states, Shuttlesworth worked tirelessly to remove barriers that once made white workers’ employment floor blacks’ ceiling. During Shuttlesworth’s 80th birthday celebration in Birmingham, then-Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Small stressed that “no elected official of color in this city, this nation, would be where they are today” if not for him.

“Fred Shuttlesworth, this great Moses, taught us not to bow,” said the Rev. Abraham Lincoln Woods of Birmingham, who was with him during the vicious 1957 attack at Phillips High.

He was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at its 46th annual convention held in Jacksonville, Fla., in 2001 but he was replaced a year later.

Shuttlesworth’s final years were marked by declining health and intra-family squabbles that produced headlines in Cincinnati and Birmingham, where he returned to and has lived since 2008.

He and his first wife, Ruby, divorced in 1970 and she died of a heart attack the following year. In 2006, one year after having a brain tumor removed, he married, at age 84, a longtime friend, Sephira Bailey, then 49.

Since then, Shuttlesworth’s four children have occasionally clashed with their stepmother over her handling of his affairs.

When she moved Shuttlesworth back to Birmingham in 2008 for rehabilitation following a stroke that left him largely unable to speak, his children complained that they had been led to believe the move would be only a temporary one. There also were rifts over Sephira Shuttlesworth’s solicitation of public contributions for her husband’s medical care and burial spot, requests that the children felt damaged his image by inaccurately implying that he was destitute.

Those issues, however, will not undermine a brightly burning legacy beyond reproach. As Shuttlesworth himself said after surviving the Christmas 1956 bombing: “If God could save me from this, I’m here for the duration.”

And he was.

Source: USA Today


Black Is Remembers Nick Ashford (Video Tribute)

I was stunned when my mother called me Monday night to announce that Nick Ashford of the legendary duo, Ashford & Simpson had passed at the age of 70 of throat cancer. I grew up listening to Ashford & Simpson music, most notably the classic hit, Solid, that my mother played out after its release in 1984. Over the years I learned that my life was littered with Ashford & Simpson music – I just didn’t know it. Arguably one of the most successful writing duos in all of R&B music, husband and wife team Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson coined some of music’s most popular hit records in a career that spanned five decades. Beyond that, they manage to maintain an image of black love for 38 years in an industry that has seen its fair share of relationship hits and misses.

Here is just a sample of the art they bestowed on the world:

The 5th Dimension – California Soul (1968)


Aretha Franklin – Cry Like A Baby (1964)


Ray Charles – Let’s Go Get Stoned


Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – You’re All I Need To Get By


Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough


Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Your Precious Love


Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing


Diana Ross – Reach Out And Touch Somebody’s Hand


Diana Ross – Remember Me


Diana Ross – The Boss


Gladys Knight & The Pips – Didn’t You Know You’d Have to Cry Sometime


Gladys Knight & The Pips – Bourgie, Bourgie


Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – Who’s Gonna Take the Blame


Marvelettes – Destination: Anywhere


The Supremes – Some Things You Never Get Used To


Teddy Pendergrass – Is It Still Good To You


The Brothers Johnson – Ride – O – Rocket


Chaka Khan – I’m Every Woman


Chaka Khan – Clouds


Ashford & Simpson – Solid


Nick you will be missed, but this legacy lives on!









Black Is: On This Day…

On this day, June 10th:


1794 Richard Allen ~ founded the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia


1799 Joseph Boulogne Saint-Georges ~ (composer, violinist and champion fencer) born



1898  Hattie McDaniel ~ first Black person to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Gone With The Wind, 1940, was born


1875 James Augustine Healey ~ becomes first Black Catholic Bishop in the United States


1946 Jack Johnson ~ first Black heavyweight champion/ died