It was my first time at Sneaker Pawn in Harlem, an exclusive spot that’s more than just a sneaker store. I climbed the steps to the brownstone and met rapper Trip Lee upstairs where we took a seat on a bench surrounded by sneakers and sports gear. What a great setting to just kick it! We chopped it up discussing his new album Rise, the journey that led him to choosing his passion of music and much more!


Growing up in Sacramento, Victoria Monét started writing her own songs at a very young age. She comes from a musical family, so one might say that she was born to be a singer. Monét admits that it was a natural fit for her and she’s been singing and dancing for as long as she can remember; getting her start in the church.  She's come along way, now signed to Atlantic Records.  October was a big month for her as she was featured on two tracks on T.I.'s latest album, Paperwork.  She also made her iTunes debut with her own release, Nightmares & Lullabies Act I.  She is more than just another female singer that will be here today and gone tomorrow, Victoria Monét has all the makings of the real deal.  We caught up with her for the full story, before the breakthrough.


Joe Budden was never supposed to make it this far. Whether it was from the drugs or the streets, he probably should've been down and out somewhere. Once the music industry took hold of him that was only supposed to be one more powerful force that would eat away at him and leave for dead. And Def Jam surely tried. Looking back at where he started, it’s a wonder that he's still here. Had it been today's industry, he probably would've succumbed to the politics, but thankfully he's been in it since 2003. Hip-Hop aficionados are grateful for his time in the spotlight and for his Mood Music lyrical diary entries as well as his “emo” rap forays.


Lil’ Mo
emerged on the music scene in the late 90’s lending her voice to hits like, “Hot Boyz” by Missy Elliott, “Put It On Me” and “I Cry” both by Ja Rule. Still it was her breakout single, the 2001 “Superwoman pt. II” that helped solidify her name is music circles. The Fabolous assisted song led to the release of her debut album, Based On A True Story, garnering her tons of fans. With her success came the drama however, including an incident in San Francisco where she was attacked with a bottle of champagne and required 20 stitches. There also came industry beefs with some of the same people she found early success with, most notably Ja Rule.


If you know football, you know Deion Sanders. Primetime! Mr. “Must Be The Money.” Neon Deion. The Hall-of-Famer and two-time Super Bowl champion hasn’t really needed an introduction since his meteoric rise in the NFL spotlight, but these days it’s his moves off the field that require conversation. The second season of his reality show, Deion’s Family Playbook premieres on OWN Network on Saturday, November 1st at 9p.m. EST. For those that aren’t familiar, the show features Deion in a light that many might not be familiar with—Deion as a family man raising 10 children. That’s not all however, as Deion also helps run a charter school in Dallas Texas, Prime Prep Academy for grades K-12, and a nonprofit organization, Prime Time Association (aka TRUTH), which teaches young adults through sports and education.


Jagged Edge's eight album, JE Heartbreak II finds the quartet reunited with producer Jermaine Dupri, label So So Def and their original management Mauldin Brand Agency. The theme here is all about bringing back true R&B, so the guys shy away from Rap features or features of any kind, as well as Hip-Hop infused beats. Slow jams are plentiful in this 12 song album and with Bryan Michael Cox assisting the Casey twins on songwriting and production, its very much reminiscent to the sound of early Jagged Edge albums.



 
 

 

 

Black History is World History

As the month of February comes to a close, it must not slam the door on the appreciation of Black History.  For throughout the year, we must always reflect on the contributions and impact that African Americans continue to have on the United States and ultimately to the world.  Each year, we all should strive to expand and refresh our knowledge of Black history and the storied impact of Black culture.  From Jesse Owens to Jackie Robinson; Rosa Parks, Malcolm X; Martin Luther King, Michael Jackson and yes, President Barack Obama, each has shaped this country and the world in their own personal and public way. Consequently, Black American History is truly American History.  Since America leads the free world and Blacks helped to build this country, then Black history is also World History.  It's a proud and beautiful legacy.  It's also about time that we give it the credit it deserves.

Read more: Black History Shaped the World

Today instead of highlighting the accomplishments of just one individual, let us consider Black History itself, its progress. Throughout our history African Americans have made many contributions, and some very significant ones at that. Yet, somehow I feel that that there was more productivity, in terms of contributions made, when the liberties we now take for granted were the goal. Somehow we have become distracted with all the addictive technologies that we slave to acquire. We have so much untapped talent that needs to be exposed. Yet with the tremendous potential we harbor we procrastinate instead of being proactive. Many want to be millionaire as a life dream but when that becomes a reality, it’s like now what? Well, become a billionaire of course. It seems as though our life long dream was to have an African American president. That dream has become a reality and is already a part of our history.  I ask you, now what?
There is a time to work and there is a time to rest. We must not only look back on our history this month but we must also look forward at our future.  Black history month therefore is not only to be proud of what we have done but to also plan what we will do with the inspiration we have derived. We are sitting on a gold mine when gold is in demand and fetches a nice price. “To whom much is given much is required.”- The Creator. Let us publish our books, produce our screenplays, launch our small businesses, revolutionize our industries, increase the effectiveness our operations and get back on track with the quality or our contributions. Those individuals whom we will celebrate throughout this month have set a high standard for us to uphold, and dare I say raise. Those worthy of mention have merely opened the door for us as a people, but we as a people need to go through the door and grasp all the opportunities that there abound.  Let us stop eating the lotus flower. I encourage and thank all of you who are sacrificing your own pleasure and entertainment to consistently contemplate your responsibilities, concentrate on your goals and cultivate your skill set in order to deliver a superior product.

Today instead of highlighting the accomplishments of just one individual, let us consider Black History itself, its progress. Throughout our history, African-Americans have made many contributions, and some very significant ones at that. Yet, somehow I feel that that there was more productivity, in terms of contributions made, when the liberties we now take for granted were the goal. Somehow we have become distracted with all the addictive technologies that we slave to acquire. We have so much untapped talent that needs to be exposed. Yet with the tremendous potential we harbor we procrastinate instead of being proactive. Many want to be millionaires as a life dream but when that becomes a reality, it’s like now what? Well, become a billionaire of course. It seems as though our life long dream was to have an African-American president. That dream has become a reality and is already a part of our history.  I ask you, now what?

Read more: The Future of Black History

Neil deGrasse Tyson – The Prodigy Astronomer
 
Imagine having one of the world's most famous scientists ask you to attend one of the most prestigious universities in the country.  Wait, there's more.  You're 15 years old, he's Carl Sagan, a world-renown astronomer, and the school is Cornell University.  Well, that is exactly what happened to Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium.
 
Dr. Tyson was born and raised in the Bronx, New York City on October 5, 1958.  His parents were Cyril and Sunchita Tyson.  Cyril was a sociologist and human resource commissioner for a New York City Mayor, and Sunchita was a gerontologist.  Neil attended the Bronx High School of Science and passionately studied astronomy.  He made a name for himself in the astronomy community by giving lectures at the age of 15.
 
Even though Carl Sagan, a faculty member at Cornell at the time, contacted Dr. Tyson to make a pitch for his attendance at Cornell, Neil chose Harvard University instead.  There, he majored in Physics, was a member of the crew team as a Freshman and lettered in wrestling in his Senior year.  After receiving his B.A., Dr. Tyson went on to attend the University of Texas at Austin were he won a gold medal along with the dance team, in the International Latin Ballroom style.  He began a doctoral program but transferred to Columbia University where he earned a PhD in Astrophysics.
 
As director of the Hayden Planetarium, Dr. Tyson has removed Pluto from its place as the ninth planet in our solar system.  He made the controversial decision to change Pluto's classification to “dwarf planet.”  Hate mail ensued but his assessment was upheld by the I.A.U.  The reasoning is that terrestrial objects should be grouped together; gas giants together and Pluto with other like objects.
 
The author of several popular astronomy books, Tyson has also written for Natural History magazine, a column titled “Universe.”  He has also held a Presidential appointment on the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry and on the Presidential Commission on Implementation of US Exploration Policy (also known as the Moon Mars and Beyond Commission).  He also received the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal.
 
Dr. Tyson's ability to communicate his passion for astronomy is not confined to writing.  He has also hosted the PBS miniseries Nova and has appeared regularly on the series The Universe, which can be seen on the History Channel.  There have also been numerous media appearances on The Colbert Report, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, NPR and CNN.
 
Dr. Tyson lives in New York City with his wife and two children.
 
So, the next time you look up at the stars, think of Neil deGrasse Tyson and know that no dream is out of reach no matter how far away it may seem.
 


Imagine having one of the world's most famous scientists ask you to attend one of the most prestigious universities in the country.  Wait, there's more.  You're 15 years old, he's Carl Sagan, a world-renown astronomer, and the school is Cornell University.  Well, that is exactly what happened to Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium.

Read more: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson – The Prodigy Astronomer

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was established on February 12, 1909. The organization's mission is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.
 
It was originally called the National Negro Committee. The NAACP played a very important role in the civil rights movement. The NAACP was such a powerful organization that in 1946 they won the Morgan vs. Virginia case where the Supreme Court banned states from having segregated sections on busses and trains that crossed through out the states and borders. Then in 1950, head of the NAACP legal department, Thurgood Marshall won his case in the Supreme Court when he asked for all state universities to provide equal facilities for students of all nationalities.
 
The NAACP has had quite a few members who are very well known today in history. One of the many is Rosa Parks, a black woman who refused to give up her seat in 1955 to a white man on a segregated bus in Montgomery Alabama. Her decision to not give up her seat began the Montgomery bus boycott which had 17,000 followers. This bus boycott was organized by Martin Luther King.
 
Today the NAACP is still one of thee largest supported organization groups ever since 1909.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was established on February 12, 1909. The organization's mission is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.

Read more: Introducing The NAACP

Taking time to honor historical African-American figures throughout history is not only a privilege but a necessity as we should all understand the current things we as people experience would not have been possible without individuals in our past who contributed in the building of life as we know it now.  One individual in particular is Frederick Douglass.
Frederick Douglass was born in the United States of America during the slavery period.  In his autobiography “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” he states not even knowing when exactly he was born.  Imagine not really knowing where the starting point of your life is?  During his childhood, Douglass also dealt with being separated from his mother, being raised by his grandmother until she passed away, and working as a slave.
During his early teen years he was taught the alphabet, which ultimately led to his desire to learn to read.  Even though an educated slave was looked at as unacceptable and even punishable, this would not stop Mr. Douglass’ thirst for knowledge.  Slaves weren’t allowed to go to school and learn how to read and write in a traditional manner at the time, so Mr. Douglass would find other methods to pick up the information.  Mr. Douglass would read books whenever possible, and he would learn from the neighborhood white kids as well.  Once Frederick Douglass was capable of reading and writing he would hold Sunday school sessions with other slaves teaching them how to read and write as well.
Frederick Douglass would ultimately escape from slavery where his passion to see slaves freed would grow tremendously.  Frederick Douglas would go on to become a great speaker for slavery to be abolished altogether.  Not only speaking in the United States but also travelling to other countries gaining supporters who would support the cause of freedom for everyone as well.  They would provide financial resources, which Mr. Douglass used to own and operate newspapers used to speak out against slavery.
Frederick Douglass would spend his remaining years lecturing, writing, and serving in political positions, all with the goal of freedom for everyone.

Taking time to honor historical African-American figures throughout history is not only a privilege but a necessity as we should all understand the current things we as people experience would not have been possible without individuals in our past who contributed in the building of life as we know it now.  One individual in particular is Frederick Douglass.

Read more: Frederick Douglass - A Slave's Will To Be Better

Few people today realize that the United States had Black troops fighting in World War I. Granted nearly everyone who was alive in that era has since passed away but the real tragedy lies in the fact that an important part of our history has gone unnoticed, so here’s a quick history lesson.
World War I is considered the first “modern” war and unfortunately it was fought using archaic strategy, i.e. trench warfare. The result was a “lost generation” with over a million casualties in Great Britain and France alone. The Americans suffered substantial losses as well but not as great as their European counterparts mainly because as is our style, we joined the fighting after everyone else.
Now to the Black soldiers of whom there were roughly 28,000 in France from 1917-1918 and segregated into the 92nd division. Although all of their field officers and above were white, the infantry company officers i.e. Captains, Lieutenants were of color. Organized in October of 1918 the 92nd was initially trained in the U.S. before being re-trained in France by Gen. John Joseph Pershing.
In the attack of Pershing’s Second Army, the 92nd managed to capture the Bois Frehaut, which turned out to be the best performance of any division of the Second Army. Of all the Americans called into the epic battles of WWI, the only division to actually take German land was the 92nd.
For as long as the deeds performed by these men go unacknowledged, they will have fought and died for nothing so please, remember them. They fought to maintain freedoms they were denied as Americans, don’t let their struggles be in vain.
If you would like to learn more about the black troops in World War I check out the following books:
§ The Unknown Soldiers: African American Troops in World War I
Arthur E. Barbeau & Florette Henri
§ Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era Chad L. Williams
§ Unjustly Dishonored: An African American Division in World War I
Robert H. Ferrell

Few people today realize that the United States had Black troops fighting in World War I. Granted nearly everyone who was alive in that era has since passed away but the real tragedy lies in the fact that an important part of our history has gone unnoticed, so here’s a quick history lesson.

Read more: Before There Were Pilots in Tuskegee, the 92nd fought in France

2011 marks the 86th year that this great country has annually acknowledged in the month of February the achievements of its African American population. Blacks and Black History Month has come along way in that short span of time. What started out as “Negro History Week” back in 1926, fifty years later became what we now know as “Black History Month”. In my research I was unable to uncover the reason for the extension but one can only speculate that it became obvious that our multitudinous contributions could not be covered in just one week.  And, now we are able to add to that long list of inventions, records broken, etcetera; the boastful fact of an African American President of these United States.
Negro History Week was the second week of February between the Birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.  The week long celebration was started by Dr. Carter G Woodson who was the son of former slaves. But, even with his humble beginnings Woodson went on to earn a PhD from Harvard University. (The first African American to earn a PhD from Harvard University was Dr. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, who founded the NAACP on the 12th of this month 1909, and whose birthday is on the 23rd). Dr.Woodson began the Negro History Week after becoming dissatisfied with the lack of presence that African Americans had in the history books. The week was designed to bring to the attention and magnify the accomplishments of African Americans. It has achieved that and more especially after evolving into a month long celebration.
Thankfully we now know what may have otherwise been hidden or merely passed down like a bad game of telephone with inaccurate information. Now young African Americans can review the accomplishments of other individuals that had the same “limitations” in terms of skin color, and yet still made significant contributions. With this insight we should be empowered realizing that the real limitations are now limited to each individual and we have more access and opportunities than ever before even to the doors of the White House. We should never play the race card considering this rich history of ours even if it is abundantly clear that a situation is racially motivated. I am sure that if President Obama had lost the election we would have said that it was because he was black. But he didn’t lose and that takes the excuse out of our mouths. We can tell our children that they can be anything they want to be if they set their mind to it and this includes areas we have not yet touched. We can be the first in many more areas as we have been the first in so many already.
As we celebrate our history of accomplishments throughout the balance of this month let us teach our children and each other. Let us review the impact African Americans have made to daily life. When you comb your hair, tie your shoes, pass through a stop light or even use a remote remember and appreciate those who made it possible.

2013 marks the 88th year that this great country has annually acknowledged in the month of February the achievements of its African American population. Blacks and Black History Month have come along way in that short span of time. What started out as “Negro History Week” back in 1926, fifty years later became what we now know as “Black History Month”. In my research I was unable to uncover the reason for the extension but one can only speculate that it became obvious that our multitudinous contributions could not be covered in just one week.  And, now we are able to add to that long list of inventions, records broken, etcetera; the boastful fact of an African-American President of these United States.

Read more: The Story Behind Black History Month

With a voice that bellowed from rafters, Marion Anderson proved that there’s so much more to the Black experience than the Blues and the sore spots felt in Negro spirituals.
Born 27 February 1897, Marian Anderson was the oldest of three daughters in Philadelphia, PA.  She had intended to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a teacher (as a means of financial security in a time when Black women were only considered useful as school teachers or mammies).  However, music got a hold of her and she just couldn’t let it go.  She transferred from William Penn High School to South Philadelphia High School to focus on her new desire to be a singer.
Through poverty and racial rejection, Anderson taught herself how to sing, garnering the nickname “The Baby Contralto” because of her thick lower register.  At the age of 15, she was privileged to meet one of the most sought after vocal teachers of the time, Guiseppe Boghetti, moving him to tears.  Through years of performance and travel across Europe, Anderson brought her rich mezzo-soprano to the forefront, toppling racism and self-doubt.
In 1955 at the age of 58, Marian Anderson became the first Black person to sing at the New York Metropolitan Opera as a regular member of the world renowned company.  She would later become a Goodwill Ambassador through the U.S. State Department and the American National Theatre and Academy, travelling through several parts of Asia.
Soft natured and non-confrontational, Marian Anderson conquered the critics and the second class citizenship she endured in the U.S. to become a pillar of Black strength, class, and sophistication.

With a voice that bellowed from rafters, Marion Anderson proved that there’s so much more to the Black experience than the Blues and the sore spots felt in Negro spirituals.

Read more: Marion Anderson - The Baby Contralto

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