It’s difficult to remember — or imagine — today just how influential a figure Flip Wilson was during the late 1960s and early 1970s. “Flip: The Inside Story of TV’s First Black Superstar” (Viking, $26.95) by Kevin Cook tells the rags-to-riches story of this groundbreaking and beloved entertainer.
Clerow “Flip” Wilson was a grade-school dropout from the Jersey City tenements. He rose through the “chitlin’ circuit” of segregated nightclubs to the pinnacle of pop culture. His catchphrases filled the air — “What you see is what you get” and “The d0evil made me do it!”
When” The Flip Wilson Show” debuted in 1970, race was the hottest hot-button issue, and on the still-young medium of television, Black faces were rare and Black hosts nonexistent. Then came Flip — to instant acclaim. His catchphrases filled the air — “What you see is what you get” and “The devil made me do it”— and within weeks of his debut, millions of fans, Black and white, we’re quoting his flock- fleecing Rev. Lee Roy and the sassy, modern woman Geraldine Jones, Wilson’s drag alter ego.
During its first two seasons, the show’s ratings soared. Wilson altered his club act for television to accommodate family viewing, relying on descriptive portraits of Black characters and situations, rather than ridicule. He transformed American TV, slipping Black artists into the spotlight — Pryor, Foxx, Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, B.B. King, the Jackson Five, the Pointer Sisters, Roberta Flack, Melba Moore, Leslie Uggams — by pairing them with white stars. Where else would you see Curtis “Superfly” Mayfield and Andy Griffith perform together? Or Pryor and Buddy Hackett? Raymond Burr and Stevie wonder? David Frost and the Supremes? American viewers ate it up.
The series earned Wilson a Golden Globe and two Emmy Awards. In January 1972, Time magazine featured his image on their cover and named him “TV’s first Black superstar.” He ran with the Rat Pack in Vegas, helped launch careers (Richard Pryor’s and George Carlin’s, among others) and save others (Bobby Darin’s and Redd Foxx’s).
Many people forget how big a star Flip was in his time: Apart from his TV show, he appeared on billboards, in magazines, and recorded hit comedy albums. When he wasn’t taping his show or accepting an award he was subbing for Johnny Carson or making a movie, and later headlined in Vegas. Wilson’s career lost momentum when his show was canceled in 1974. Though he received a 1970 Emmy Award for outstanding writing and a 1971 Grammy for best comedy record, Wilson’s career never rekindled. Like many celebrities, he succumbed to drugs and struggled to stay relevant. This is a perceptive biography of a great star and was written with the full and exclusive cooperation of Wilson’s family and friends. Here is the uncensored story of a remarkable self-made star, filled with sex, drugs, jokes and pop-culture history.
Dr. Hawa Abdi Diblaawe was born in 1947 in Mogadishu. Her father was a worker in the city’s port and her mother died when she was very young. As the eldest child, Hawa was forced to raise her four sisters in conditions of poverty. But she never lost sight of her dreams.
“My father was an educated man,” she recalls, “He made sure I had the chance to become a doctor.”
Today, “the Mother Teresa of Somalia” is a Noble Peace Prize nominee and is simply known as Mama Abdi by her country people. Her just-released memoir “Keeping Hope Alive: One Woman: 90,000 Lives Changed” (Grand Central Publishing, $26.99) charts her journey.
With the help of a Soviet scholarship, Abdi studied medicine in Kiev and soon became Somalia’s first female gynecologist. She then completed a Law degree at the Somali National University in Mogadishu, where she later became an assistant professor of medicine. She soon opened a clinic on her family’s ancestral land in the Afgooye Corridor, using the profits from her family land to provide free health care to all of her countrymen.
When the civil war began in 1991, Abdi started housing her employees on her land, feeding them and caring for them. Soon their friends and relatives came seeking shelter, then after the friends and relatives of their friends and relatives.
Abdi welcomed them all, providing shelter to all those who came regardless of where they came from. In 2012, Abdi’s land housed more than 90,000 refugees, most of whom are women and children.
“If there is a division among Somalis, we can improve nothing, and if Somalis continued to divide themselves like this, there will come a day when two siblings will fight each other. If we unite we will have the ability to defend our sovereignty and our coastline from illegal fishing and waste dumping.
Abdi has won numerous distinctions and awards, including the John Jay Justice Award, Vital Voices’ Women of the Year Award and a nomination for the Noble Peace Prize in 2012. U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called Abdi “a perfect example of the kind of woman who inspires me.”
In a message to Somali mothers, Abdi said: “Unite and take responsibility for your country. Fight only against your enemies and not each other.
For more information, visit the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation, visit www.dhaf.org.
The country is rapidly transitioning to a globalized economy where lack of access to information, computer and technology skills and access to internet/broadband, are impairing the community’s economic and cultural advancement. These “digital divides,” however, not only affect people, but businesses within the communications industries, particularly those businesses that have historically served minority and low-income communities. Over time, the rising costs of communications infrastructure, changing of business models to online platforms, as well as a tremendous shift of online consumer behaviors are causing these businesses to struggle to stay alive.
On Monday, this matter will be discussed with three longstanding communications and telecommunications companies in Philadelphia: Wilco Electronic Systems Inc., one of the largest African-American owned private cable operators in the Eastern United States, 900AM-WURD, the only African-American owned talk radio station in Pennsylvania, and The Philadelphia Tribune, the oldest continuously published African-American newspaper in the United States. The panel will feature a special keynote address from Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn — one of only five African American FCC commissioners.
One of the issues being addressed on Monday will be the FCC National Broadband Plan to narrow the digital divide for underserved individuals and communities. For example, according to Reuters, the recent Comcast-NBC Universal merger created “a $30 billion media behemoth that controls not just how television shows and movies are made but how they are delivered to people’s homes.”
“Having heard a perspective from a policy standpoint that is really at the forefront of talking about the digital divide and being that voice to make sure that the Comcast NBC Universal merger had stipulations incorporated specifically to address broadband access and making sure that low income and different franchise communities would be included in that merger, and part of that merger was the reason it got okayed was because they agreed to make low-cost and affordable broadband access available to low income communities, world communities, etc.,” explained Sara Lomax-Reese, president of WURD. “So, that recognition that the digital divide is a real chasm in terms of access on many, many fronts and it is racial; it is socioeconomic; it’s age — there are so many elements that kind of create that disconnect but it really does come down to racial and social economic issues.”
The panel will explore the challenges that these companies have to stay relevant in the digital age, what they are doing to change with the times and remain trusted community providers. Lomax added: “I wish that our community was a little more concerned about the way we are being spoonfed information and culture — if you even want to call it culture — through the mainstream media, and the only way that we are going to be able to counter that is if we support Black-owned media like The Philadelphia Tribune, WURD and Wilco Electronics, and that is the reason for Monday’s event: is to really bring our three Philadelphia long-standing Black-owned media entities together to talk about our past, our present and our future — and then also integrating some digital media experts into that conversation to talk about what it takes to create a real successful digital enterprise because that is the next frontier.”
“Blackout: Reinventing Black Media In The Digital Age” is a free public event on Monday, April 22, 2013 - 5:30pm to 7:30pm at the Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street. Listen live on 900amwurd.com or watch it live on phillycam.org and Comcast 66/966 or Verizon 29/30.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is estimated to affect 90,000 to 100,000 people in the United States. Often called the “forgotten disease,” Sickle Cell Disease impacts 1 out of every 500 African Americans, and approximately 80,000 individuals.
“One out of every 10-12 African Americans are carriers of the sickle cell trait, and approximately 2.5 million Americans,” said SCDAA/PDVC Executive Director Stanley Simpkins last year. “It’s not a disease that is heavily discussed; many people don’t even know what it is.”
In the Delaware Valley, sickle cell awareness has increased in the past five years as the popularity of the local fundraising event, “Dancing with the Philadelphia Stars.” This year’s Philadelphia Stars boasts a lineup of fancy-footed media folks, lifestyle and hospitality leaders, and health professionals. Burning up the floor with everything from the Argentine Tango to the Foxtrot are Fox29’s Kacie McDonnell; Carrie Denny, editor at Philadelphia Magazine; Yael Lehman, executive director of The Food Trust; Q102’s Chris ‘Maxwell’ Jones; Alison Young, vice president of external affairs at the National Constitution Center; Dr. Vera Tolbert, past president of AFRICOM and senior project leader at Independence Blue Cross; Albert Lee, community and content manager at the Independence Visitors Center; Danielle Cohn, vice president of marketing and communications at the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau and Dr. Marjorie Dejoie, noted trainer and fitness instructor, and medical consultant for SCDAA/PDVC.
“There is a real impact that this illness has,” explained Dejoie, herself a sickle cell patient — and the first to partake in the annual event. “What disturbs me is that we are losing more patients every year. Every year, three or four more patients die for reasons that they should not have died from. That’s breaking my heart because the mortality rate has gone up over the past five years. They are dying from complications, for example, if and when a sickle cell person travels and they have a crisis they are admitted into a hospital that may not be their regular hospital, therefore that hospital or ER department has not seen enough or many cases of sickle cell and the patient is undertreated or mistreated. I think a lot of times some of it is due to the infections that might spread and get really, really bad because Sickle Cell Disease can have so many complications they don’t treat it with the aggressiveness that it needs and these kids — because most of them are young kids — are dying from complications from going into a crisis and they don’t come out alive.”
According to Dejoie, events like this continue to shine the spotlight on a genetic disease that exists in staggeringly high numbers in the African-American and Hispanic communities. “This should not be the forgotten disease,” said Dejoie. “We need to get after this since it is one of the original ones that was genetically diagnosed or mapped, we need to figure out why these people aren’t dying and it needs to be more at the forefront then it is. We’re hoping that we can push it forward just a little bit more.”
The 5th Annual Dancing with the Philadelphia Stars takes place on April 21 from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. at the Crystal Tea Room, located 100 E Penn Square. Tickets are $125. For more information, visit www.dancingwiththephiladelphiastars.com/
U.S. Rep. Robert A. Brady has invited aspiring young artists attending high schools in the First Congressional District to take part in the 32nd anniversary of the Congressional Art Competition. The nationwide competition provides members of Congress with the opportunity to showcase the talents of creative young artists in their districts.
“The Congressional Art Exhibit is becoming increasingly important as school districts all across the nation are cutting art instruction,” said Brady. “The exhibition, beyond showcasing the talent of these young artists, sends a clear message that art is an important part of the fabric of America and it needs to be nurtured and celebrated.”
The exhibit is a favorite point of interest in the U.S. Capitol. The annual competition is one of the most popular events in the U.S. House of Representatives. The winning student artist from the First Congressional District will be invited to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the other winners from across the country in Washington, D.C. The winning artwork will hang in the U.S. Capitol Building for a year. Second-place winners’ pictures will be on public display in Brady’s Washington, DC office and third-place winners’ work will hang in his District office. “This is a great opportunity for student artists to be recognized and for their talents to be displayed for the thousands of people who visit the House office buildings and the U. S. Capitol,” said Brady.
Information about how to apply for the competition has been sent to public, parochial, charter and private high schools in the District. One winning entry will be selected at each school, and from these the first-place winner will be chosen – this winning piece will be taken to Washington, D.C. to hang in the U.S. Capitol. To allow participation of students in the expanded First District, charter school students, parochial school students and students outside of Philadelphia, but within the boundaries of the First Congressional District will be able to participate by uploading their submissions to Facebook.