With all the star power at the BET Awards — Kanye West, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce and Samuel L. Jackson, to name a few — the most stirring moment came not from a superstar, but from the mother of one.
Whitney Houston's mother, Cissy, provided the emotional highlight of Sunday's ceremony as she sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in tribute to her late daughter, leaving audience members like Beyonce and Soulja Boy in tears.
Mariah Carey opened the tribute, and her voice wavered as she told stories about Houston. She recalled the last time she saw Houston last year, and how the two laughed and gossiped together.
"I miss my friend," Carey said. "I miss hearing her voice and laughter."
R&B singer Monica was vocally top-notch as she sang "I Love the Lord," a gospel song once sang by Houston; Brandy sang two upbeat Houston hits, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and "I'm Your Baby Tonight." Chaka Khan blazed the stage with "I'm Every Woman," which Houston remade. Gary Houston, Whitney's brother, also performed; and Houston's "Waiting to Exhale" castmates — Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon and Loretta Devine — also honored the singer.
But it was Cissy Houston's soaring performance that brought the audience to their feet, and had many dabbing their eyes. The tribute came five months after Houston's death: She died the night before the Grammy Awards of an accidental drowning complicated by heart disease and cocaine use.
As compelling as that moment was, the show was also defined by its low points: Entire segments of performances, from Nicki Minaj to Rick Ross, were muted out due to foul language and obscenities, though several vulgarities were heard on air.
It started during the opening number by West's G.O.O.D. music group, which included Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz. There were long moments of censored silence when the rappers performed "Mercy," though not all the offending words were bleeped out. Moments later, Jackson, the show's host, was joined by Spike Lee as they did a comedic version of Jay-Z and West's hit song "... In Paris," to laughs.
"Two distinguished Morehouse men," Lee joked after the performance, referencing the alma mater of the two.
The censor police also worked overtime when Rick Ross performed with his Maybach Music Group and during Minaj's performance and acceptance speech for best female hip-hop artist. Minaj's win was her third consecutive time taking the prize.
"I really, really appreciate BET for keeping this category alive, and I appreciate all the female rappers doing their thing, past, present and future," she said, before uttering an obscenity.
Best gospel winner Yolanda Adams, who also performed, gently took some of her peers to task, urging them to act mature and use their fame wisely.
"We need all of y'all," she said onstage. "I'm saying the world needs everyone in this room. Please make sure that you use your gift responsibly, 'cause we're watching. Our babies are watching, and they want to be like us."
West, the most nominated act of the night with seven, and Jay-Z won the ceremony's top prize, earning video of the year for "Otis." They also won best group.
Beyonce was the second most nominated act with six. She won video director of the year (along with Alan Ferguson) and best female R&B artist and thanked the genre and her female influences.
"I fell in love with music by listening to R&B. It's the core of who I am," she said, giving special thanks to Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige and "Whitney Houston, my angel."
When she lost video of the year to Jay-Z and West, she playfully hit her husband and laughed. The joking continued: Moments later, as West was giving his acceptance speech, Jay-Z interrupted him and said: "Excuse me Kanye, I'm gonna let you continue, but ...," and the audience erupted with laughter, recalling West's infamous interruption of Taylor Swift's MTV Video Music Awards speech a few years back.
Chris Brown was also a double winner, picking up his second consecutive win for best male R&B artist, and the "Fandemonium" award for a third time.
Brown also performed in his first televised appearance since the New York City nightclub brawl between his entourage and Drake's. Brown, his girlfriend, his bodyguard and NBA star Tony Parker were among those injured in the June 14 encounter, where bottles were thrown.
Drake didn't show, though he was named best male hip-hop artist.
The tone of night fluctuated frequently, as the show shifted from hotly anticipated performances to solemn moments to irreverence. Usher performed his groove "Climax," and Minaj sported a blond wig with pink tips as she performed the songs "Champion" and "Beez in the Trap," which featured 2 Chainz.
D'Angelo returned to the television spotlight with his first performance in years as he attempts a comeback.
The night also featured some tributes to deceased greats: Chante Moore performed a medley of Donna Summer's hits and Valerie Simpson sang a song in honor of her husband and writing partner Nick Ashford. Don Cornelius, Dick Clark and Hal Jackson were remembered. Even West offered tributes: after his performance, he name-dropped Rodney King and Whitney Houston in a verse that got cheers from the crowd, including his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian.
Presenters included Taraji P. Henson, Tyler Perry, Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx, who wore a T-shirt that had a picture of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.
Frankie Beverly featuring Maze were honored with the lifetime achievement award, and they were serenaded with performances by Tyrese, Faith Evans and Joe. The Rev. Al Sharpton received the humanitarian award, and urged the crowd to vote this November.
"This election is not just about Obama, this is about your momma," he said.
For his latest blood fest, "Django Unchained," Quentin Tarantino largely replays all of his other blood fests, specifically his last flick, "Inglourious Basterds."
In that 2009 tale of wickedly savage retribution, Allied Jewish soldiers get to rewrite World War II history by going on a killing spree of Nazis. In Tarantino's new tale of wickedly savage retribution, a Black man (Jamie Foxx) gets to rewrite Deep South history by going on a killing spree of white slave owners and overseers just before the Civil War.
Granted, there's something gleefully satisfying in watching evil people get what they have coming. But "Django Unchained" is Tarantino at his most puerile and least inventive, the premise offering little more than cold, nasty revenge and barrels of squishing, squirting blood.
The usual Tarantino genre mishmash — a dab of blaxploitation here, a dollop of spaghetti Western there — is so familiar now that it's tiresome, more so because the filmmaker continues to linger with chortling delight over every scene, letting conversations run on interminably and gunfights carry on to grotesque excess. Bodies bursting blood like exploding water balloons? Perversely fun the first five or six times, pretty dreary the 20th or 30th.
Tarantino always gets good actors who deliver, though, and it's the performances by Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson that make "Django Unchained" intermittently entertaining amid moments when the characters are either talking one another to death or just plain killing each other.
Foxx's Django starts literally in chains, part of a line of slaves on their way to the auction block. Genteel bounty hunter King Schultz (Waltz, an Academy Award winner for "Inglourious Basterds") turns up searching for Django because the slave can identify three elusive overseers with a price on their heads. Next thing you know, Django's apprenticing as a bounty hunter, forming a partnership with King that takes them deepeSouth in hopes of freeing Django's wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).
The trail leads them to a plantation owned by Calvin Candie (DiCaprio), a dandy who trains slaves for barbarous Mandingo fighting.
There are morbidly funny moments as Django and King infiltrate the plantation posing as buyers, the two sharing twisted exchanges with the flamboyantly creepy Candie and his chief house slave and Uncle Tom gone psycho, Stephen (Jackson, Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" co-star).
Tarantino mostly lets them prattle on to such lengths that whatever tension was building is defused. A scene in which a posse of Klan forerunners (led by Don Johnson) debates the difficulties of seeing out of their white hoods is hilarious for a few moments. But then they talk the gag into the ground, and keep on talking.
The humor co-exists uneasily and often clumsily alongside a story so charged with racial enmity. Tarantino's solution to everything is to put guns and dynamite into people's hands, and while that might be good escapism in a gangster story, it feels flimsy and childish here.
In the wake of the school shootings at Sandy Hook in Connecticut, Foxx talked about the need for Hollywood to accept the fact that movie violence can influence audiences. Tarantino countered that blame should fall to those who actually carry out a crime.
They're both right, and it's absurd to think that the cartoon bloodshed of "Django Unchained" might put viewers over the top and send them out on a shooting rampage.
Yet it is reasonable to ask why we find a Tarantino-style body count so entertaining that he can keep doing the same thing over and over, and we keep paying to see it.
"Django Unchained," a Weinstein Co. release, is rated R for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language and some nudity. – (AP)
The genealogies of top-grossing actor Samuel L. Jackson, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and renowned educator Ruth Simmons, the 18th President of Brown University, will be explored when WHYY presents "Finding Your Roots, with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.," airing April 29 at 8 p.m.
In the 10-part series filmed on location across the United States, Gates explores the family lineages of some of America's most prominent figures including Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker, actress Wanda Sykes, civil rights icon and U.S. Rep. John Lewis and Grammy Award-winning singer John Legend. In this Sunday's hour-long episode, Jackson, Rice and Simmons "finally find out the truth about the white men hidden in their family trees."
Rice has her roots traced to her great-grandmother, Zine Rice, who was born around 1830. When Rice discovers that she is "slightly more than half African," she said. "I've always thought that this is the kind of unhealed wound in America...that we have trouble talking about what really happened during slavery. We have trouble talking about the scars of that...that's the unspoken and the unfinished business of race in America."
At a recent screening of "Finding Your Roots," Gates told the story of how he became interested in genealogy as a nine year-old boy after the 1960 funeral of his grandfather Edward St. Lawrence Gates. He said that he was struck by how pale his light-skinned granddad appeared in the casket, and it made him curious to know more about how he got that way.
"The next day I got a composition book, and I interviewed my parents in front of the TV about their family tree," Gates said. "That night Daddy showed me a picture of our oldest ancestor, Jane Gates, who was a slave born in 1819, and she died in 1888. I have been addicted to genealogy ever since."
Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, director of the W.C.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research and Editor-in-Chief of "The Root," broke new ground in 2006 with his first genealogy series, "African-American Lives." He explored the roots of such Black celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Chris Tucker, Don Cheadle, Chris Rock, Tom Joyner, Maya Angelou, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Tina Turner.
While doing research for the show, Gates was also able to confirm through DNA analysis that his grandfather's heritage included Irish ancestry.
The Root.com and Politico.com contributed to this report.
Before Ken Carter became “Coach Carter” of Hollywood movie fame, he was a successful businessman and basketball coach of the Richmond High School Oilers in Richmond, Calif., — one of the toughest neighborhoods in the country.
Coach Carter gained notoriety when he canceled all of his undefeated basketball team’s games and practices for eight days — forfeiting two games — because 15 team members had poor academic performances. The story is the basis for the film “Coach Carter,” starring Samuel L. Jackson.
Accountability, overcoming adversity, taking charge of your life and learning to succeed when others expect you to fail are key essentials Carter taught. In his new book, “Yes Ma’am, No Sir,” Coach Carter uses his personal experiences and core beliefs to explain his methods for success, including:
• Quality of Character: Understand who you are and what you can do.
• Self-discipline: Motivate yourself regardless of outside factors.
• Flexibility: Have the ability to change course.
• Giving to Others: Few can succeed without others.
In addition to this guide for getting ahead, Carter recently started the Coach Carter Impact Academy, a nontraditional boarding school for young men, and a business school for developing entrepreneurs. The book is available where books are sold.
Company could be first to establish marketplace for African-American consumers
When it comes to determining their lineage, more people are turning to African Ancestry, Inc. for answers.
African Ancestry (AfricanAncestry.com) was formed by Black scientist Dr. Rick Kittles and African-American entrepreneur Gina Paige, who pioneering DNA-based ancestry tracing for people of African descent across the world.
The Washington, D.C.-based enterprise helps people of African descent discover where they come from in Africa through a proprietary DNA matching analysis led by Kittles.
“I never imagined that my passion for African history and the movements of its people throughout the world would have one day manifested in a much-needed consumer product among African Americans,” said Kittles, whose years of research on genetic variation in African peoples led to the founding of African Ancestry.
Launched in 2003, the company is considered the first to establish a marketplace among African-American consumers.
When consumers engage African Ancestry, they can decide whether they want to determine maternal or paternal lineage. Consumers purchase a test kit to swab their cheeks for DNA and return it to the company. Kittles and his team analyze sequences of a consumers’ DNA to determine whether his or her lineage is African, European, Middle Eastern or Native American.
“What makes us unique is that when the ancestry is African, we are the only company that can place it in a present-day country in Africa and also an ethnic group or groups in the country,” Paige pointed out.
Customers receive a comprehensive results package that includes a letter, a print out of their DNA sequence, certificate of ancestry and a guide to explain the science.
Paige noted that the company has heightened DNA literacy in the community.
“We have had to overcome the lack of knowledge about DNA in the Black community, so really what we’ve done is we’ve increased the genetic literacy of the community. So now people understand that DNA is more than something that can put you in jail or get you out of jail,” she pointed out.
African Ancestry has tested more than 30,000 people over the last nine years.
“So when you spin that out among family members there are hundreds of thousands of people who have a connection to the continent that they never had before,” she said.
“This work has had a very personal impact on people, families and communities. It’s had an impact nationally and it’s even had an impact globally.”
Finding their connection to the continent has spurred some consumers to invest in the continent of Africa and has led to the development of foundations, Paige said.
African Ancestry has helped media powerhouses deliver groundbreaking genealogy programming. Starting with African American Lives 1 and 2 nearly a decade ago, AfricanAncestry.com has gone on to play a major role on NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?; CNN’s “Black in America” series; “Faces of America” and most recently, “Finding Your Roots” with Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“Finding Your Roots” is the latest series from renowned cultural critic Henry Louis Gates Jr., and is purposed to utilize genealogy and genetics to explore the fascinating dynamics of race, family and identity in today’s America. In collaboration with leading genealogists, world-class research and historical societies, Finding Your Roots combines to satisfy the basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from by focusing on 25 celebrity guests of all races in the 10-part series. AfricanAncestry.com picks up where the show’s paper trail ends by using DNA to geographically assess the African country for guests which have included Samuel L. Jackson, Condoleezza Rice, Ruth Simmons, John Legend, Wanda Sykes, Branford Marsalis, Cory Booker, Geoffrey Canada and Rep. John Lewis.
The next show will air May 20 at 8 p.m. on PBS. For information about Finding Your Roots visit www.pbs.org/wnet/finding-your-roots.
Surviving slavery, segregation and discrimination has forged a special pride in African-Americans. Now some are saying this hard-earned pride has become prejudice in the form of blind loyalty to President Barack Obama.
Are Black people supporting Obama mainly because he's Black? If race is just one factor in Blacks' support of Obama, does that make them racist? Can Blacks' support for Obama be compared with white voters who may favor his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, because he's white?
These questions have long animated conservatives who are frustrated by claims that white people who oppose Obama's policies are racist. This week, when a Black actress who tweeted an endorsement of Romney was subjected to a stream of abuse from other African-Americans, the politics of racial accusation came full circle once again.
Stacey Dash, who also has Mexican heritage, is best known for the 1995 film "Clueless" and the recent cable-TV drama "Single Ladies." On Twitter, she was called "jigaboo," ''traitor," ''house nigger" and worse after posting, "Vote for Romney. The only choice for your future."
The theme of the insults: A Black woman would have to be stupid, subservient or both to choose a white Republican over the first Black president.
Russell Simmons, the hip-hop mogul and Obama backer, called Dash's experience "racism." Said Barbara Walters on "The View": "If she were white, this wouldn't have happened."
Twitter users are by no means representative of America, and many Black Obama supporters quickly denounced the attacks. But for people like Art Gary, an information technology professional, the reason Dash was attacked is simple: She is a Black woman supporting a white candidate over a Black one.
"It goes both ways," said Gary, who is white. "There is racial bias amongst whites, and there is racial bias amongst Blacks. But as far as the press is concerned, it only goes one way."
Antonio Luckett, a sales representative in Milwaukee who is Black, called the attacks on Dash unfair. But when people speak out against a symbol of Black progress like Obama, he said, "African-Americans tend to be internally hurt by that."
"We still have a civil rights (era) mentality, but we're not living in a civil rights-based world anymore," he said. "We want to say, 'You're Black, you need to stand behind Black people.'"
Luckett said one reason he voted for Obama in the 2008 primary against Hillary Clinton was because Obama is Black: "Yes, I will admit that."
Is that racism? Not in Luckett's mind. "It's voting for someone who would understand your side of the coin a lot better."
Such logic runs into trouble when applied to a white person voting for Romney because he understands whiteness better. Ron Christie, a Black conservative who worked for former President George W. Bush, finds both sides of that coin unacceptable.
"It's not the vision that our leaders in the civil rights movement would have envisioned and be proud of in the era of the first African-American president," Christie said.
Martin Luther King Jr. fought Jim Crow laws, which deprived Blacks of political rights after Reconstruction, upheld by Southern Democrats. But Black voters switched after Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed through the 1960s civil rights legislation and Republicans successfully pursued the votes of white people who disliked the civil rights agenda.
Since then, Democrats have persistently wooed Black voters with programs and platforms that African-Americans favor, and the party has been rewarded every four years.
Clinton got 83 percent of the Black vote in 1992 and 84 percent in 1996; the third-party candidate Ross Perot probably sliced away some of Clinton's Black support. Al Gore got 90 percent in 2000; John Kerry got 88 percent in 2004. Obama captured 95 percent in 2008, and 2 million more Black people voted than in the previous election.
Christie says he, too, shares the sense of pride in Obama smashing what for Blacks is the ultimate glass ceiling. He understands that Black pride springs from a shared history of being treated as less than human, while the history of pride in whiteness has a racist context.
But he still sees Black people voting for Obama out of a "straitjacket solidarity."
Christie sees it in his barbershop, where Black men shifted from calling candidate Obama "half-white" and "not one of us" to demanding that Christie stop opposing the first Black president.
He sees it in the comments of radio host Tom Joyner, who told his millions of listeners a year ago, "Let's not even deal with facts right now. Let's deal with our Blackness and pride — and loyalty. . I'm not afraid or ashamed to say that as Black people, we should do it because he's a Black man."
The actor Samuel L. Jackson said much the same thing: "I voted for Barack because he was Black," he told Ebony magazine. "Cuz that's why other folks vote for other people — because they look like them."
In 2011, as Black unemployment continued to rise, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus said that if Clinton was still president, "we probably would be still marching on the White House . (but) nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate the president."
And just last week, the rapper Snoop Dogg posted a list of voting reasons, written by someone else, on a social media account. No. 1 on his pro-Obama list: He's Black. Snoop's top reason to not vote for Romney: He's white.
All of this may help explain why Veronica Scott-Miller, a junior at historically Black Hampton University, directed the following tweet at Dash: "You get a lil money and you forget that you're Black and a woman. Two things Romney hates."
In an interview, Scott-Miller said the GOP fought Obama's effort to provide funding for historically Black colleges like hers. She dislikes Romney's opposition to abortion and thinks Republicans have a "negative stigma about us . they make generalizations in their speeches about our race in general, and they make up terms like welfare queens and stuff."
Told that some saw her tweet as racist, she said that's not what she meant. "I was saying that as a Black woman, Romney doesn't have that much that would make us want to vote for him," said Scott-Miller, who is Black. "Because Barack Obama lives with three Black women in his house, he knows about what they need, he knows about the issues we may be facing, he talks to Black women on the regular."
Sherrilyn Ifill, a law professor at the University of Maryland, wrote a column last week exploring why so many Black voters are rejecting Romney. She said it has less to do with the candidate than with his party's treatment of Obama, such as John Sununu calling the president "lazy" after the debate, a congressman shouting "You lie!" during the State of the Union address, claims that Obama is not a citizen and more.
In an interview, Ifill said that for Black voters, such accusations feel like white people are attacking their own dignity. "In essence," she says, "they are closing ranks around Obama."
She noted that women were justifiably moved by Hillary Rodham Clinton's candidacy and Catholics flocked to the polls to elect President John F. Kennedy. Comparing Black pride in Obama to white pride in Romney is a "false symmetry" because of the history of Black oppression, she says, and she asked for patience from America at large.
"There should not be this resistance to pride over the first Black president," Ifill says. "If we get to the fifth one, I'll be with you." -- (AP)
LOS ANGELES — However riotous the Eddie Murphy stories from Arsenio Hall, Tracy Morgan, Adam Sandler and Russell Brand, the highlight of Spike TV's tribute to Murphy was the comedian's duet with Stevie Wonder.
Murphy joined the subject of one of his most classic impressions for a rousing rendition of Wonder's 1973 hit "Higher Ground" during the taping of the Spike TV special "Eddie Murphy: One Night Only," which is set to air Nov. 14. The Roots served as the house band.
Jamie Foxx, Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock and Keenan Ivory Wayans were also among those paying tribute to Murphy Saturday at the Saban Theater.
Accompanied by a pretty blonde, Murphy beamed throughout the two-hour program, saying he was touched by the tribute.
"I am a very, very bitter man," he said with a beguiling smile. "I don't get touched easily, and I am really touched."
Morgan called Murphy "my comic hero" and came onstage wearing a replica of Murphy's red leather suit from his standup show "Delirious."
"He set the tone for the whole industry a long time ago," Morgan said before taking the stage. "He inspired me in a fearless way."
Sandler was still in high school when he first saw "Delirious," which he described as "one of the most legendary standup specials of all time."
"Everybody on the planet wanted to be Eddie," he said. "He funnier than us. He's cooler than any of us."
Samuel L. Jackson said Murphy "changed the course of American film history" by giving Jackson his first speaking role on the big screen, in 1988's "Coming to America."
"If it weren't for Eddie, we might not have all the wonderful films that I've made," Jackson quipped.
"He is a true movie star," Jackson continued, lauding Murphy's performance in "48 Hours" and "Beverly Hills Cop." ''You became an inspiration for all young African-American actors."
The program featured clips of Murphy's standup shows, his film appearances in "Shrek" and "Nutty Professor" and his work on "Saturday Night Live."
Murphy insisted before the tribute that he is retired from performing.
"I'm just a retired old song and dance man," he said, adding that he only makes rare appearances these days. "That's what you do when you're retired: You come out every now and then and talk about the old days."
The 51-year-old entertainer took the stage at the conclusion of the tribute to say he was moved by the honor.
"This is really a touching moving thing, and I really appreciate it," he said. "You know what it's like when you have something like this? You know when they sing happy birthday to you? It's like that for, like, two hours... and I am Eddied out." – (AP)