Iyanla Vanzant In Baltimore to “Fix IT” As More Protest Continues over a Proposed $30 Million Juvenile Jail in Baltimore City

A call for help has been made for Baltimore and Iyanla Vanzant has accepted the call.

Baltimore is the largest city in the state of Maryland; the 26th-most populous city in the country, and the largest independent city in the United States. However, what happened in Baltimore on April 12, 2015 when Freddie Carlos Gray, Jr., a 25-year-old African-American man died after being arrested by police for allegedly possessing an illegal switchblade, still remains a mystery. Splintered in pain and turmoil, the residents of Baltimore are divided over the incident of six police officers, who were involved in Gray’s arrest were indicted. Frustration increased recently when an announcement was made by newly-elected governor, Larry Hogan to cut spending in public education, and instead invest to build a $30 million juvenile jail in Baltimore City, despite campaign promises. Combined with a continuing a run of violence in the city making the month of May – Baltimore’s deadliest month since 1999.

To help stop the hemorrhaging of anger and mistrust and to start conversations of healing, Dr. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, pastor and founder of Empowerment Temple church, has enlisted the help of talk show host, Iyanla Vanzant of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) hit TV show, Iyanla: Fix My Life.

OWN’s hit TV show, Iyanla: Fix My Life, features the talk show host helping people to overcome difficult situations in their lives. Vanzant, an accomplished author, life coach, inspirational speaker, and talk show host is a living testament to the value in life’s valleys, and the power of acting on faith and empowerment. Plans are to lead residents of Baltimore in conversations of emotional healing and an empowering breakthrough.

The 3-day “Fix My City” Healing Service will be held at Empowerment Temple Church, 4217 Primrose Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21215 this week, wrapping up today, Thursday, May 28, 7:00-9:00 p.m. for the community. All of this comes as a result of Dr. Jamal-Harrison Bryant inviting Iyanla Vanzant to participate in current collaborative and strategic efforts to move the residents of Baltimore City toward open dialogue and restoration.

Dr. Bryant was heavily involved in the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray cases as the family’s advocate and spiritual adviser. He has witnessed firsthand how communities can become disillusioned without a catalyst for healing and trust. “Iyanla Vanzant is that catalyst,” says Bryant. His hope is that these 3-day sessions will stimulate encouragement, optimism and empowerment.

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Oprah Winfrey, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Forest Whitaker, Michael B. Jordan grace the cover of ESSENCE’s Hollywood Issue

Essence MagazineEssence magazine invited the biggest stars to celebrate the success of black cinema on the cover of their March 2014 collector’s issue. Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, Michael B. Jordan and Chiwetel Ejiofor are all featured on the cover of the special edition issue. It is released on the heels of Vanity Fair’s very own Hollywood issue, which included six black actors – including Jordan and Ejiofor – on its cover for the first time in 20 years.

In Essence, readers learn more about the major roles these actors played on the big screen and discover some of the challenges they faced along the way. Winfrey returned to acting for her first time in 15 years as Gloria Gaines in Lee Daniels’ The Butler – a role her acting coach told her required her to be more sexy.

“”I don’t think of myself as being sexy and I’m not even sure how one is sexy,” she admits. Her acting coach instructed her: “Every time Gloria walks, pretend that she has a tail. And when Gloria sits down, she doesn’t sit without making sure there’s room for her tail.”

As for Ejiofor, the British actor is nominated for an Academy Award for his role in 12 Years a Slave. But while his delivery onscreen was powerful and moving, he admits that taking on that role was emotionally draining. According to Essence, he said it was walking the “fine line in between sanity and insanity.” “Even though there were emotional moments to shoot, overall I think every member of the cast and crew was there for one reason: They felt it was a tale that deserved to be told,” he added.

The special edition issue also features the 75 movers and shakers in the film industry right now – including a photo shoot with new Hollywood “It” girl Lupita Nyong’o.

The March issue of Essence is on newsstands February 10.

‘Tyler Perry’s a Madea Christmas’ Teaser shows Madea as Santa Claus

Madea is back — and this time she’s dressed as Santa Claus in the upcoming film Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas. 

A short teaser of the film shows the iconic character employed at a mall as Santa where, one-by-one, kids sit on her lap and share their wish lists.

She quickly becomes irritable and fires off a series of amusing one-liners.

“Y’all been to the North Pole? So have I — I been on the pole,” she says before she stands and gyrates like a stripper.

This is the first clip from the film so far. The movie is expected to hit theaters on Dec. 13.

Movie & Television producer Tyler Perry Donates $1 Million to Bishop T.D. Jakes Ministries

(In picture: Tyler Perry lays his hand in prayer over Bishop T.D. Jakes)

Dallas, TX — Writer, director, TV and Movie producer Tyler Perry recently spend some time in Dallas, TX for Megafest. 

While attending one of the services at Bishop TD Jakes‘ Potters House in Dallas, TX the Madea creator was moved to donate $1 Million to help Jakes build a youth center.

“I’ve just been touched to give $1 million,” Tyler Perry said in the Sunday morning service. “God I don’t know what you’re doing but I heard your voice. “

In response to his huge donation, you could hear screams echoing throughout the sanctuary as congregation met his comment with approval and as he began speaking in tongues.  He then said, ” When you hear the voice of God, you move.” His impromptu sermon ended with him laying his hands on Bishop Jakes saying,” I pray the Blood of Jesus will come upon you right now.”

Oprah Winfrey and Steve Harvey were among the other big names in attendance.

The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington Remembered by Hundreds of Thousands

Washington, D.C. – Over the weekend thousands gathered at the National Mall to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Speakers including Martin Luther King III and Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who was the youngest speaker at the 1963 march, encouraged the crowd to continue fighting for social justice. Attorney General Eric Holder kicked off the celebration, acknowledging the work of civil rights leaders from the Martin Luther King, Jr. era.

“But for them, I would not be Attorney General of the United States and Barack Obama would not President of the United States of America,” Holder said

People arrive at the National Mall to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech on August 24, 2013 in Washington, DC

 

Students of Howard University march from campus to the Lincoln Memorial to participate in the Realize the Dream Rally for the 50th anniversary of the March in Washington August 24, 2013.

Students of Howard University march from campus to the Lincoln Memorial to participate in the Realize the Dream Rally for the 50th anniversary of the March in Washington August 24, 2013.

Tyler Perry’s ‘The Haves and the Have Nots’ breaks 2 million viewers

During its July 30 episode, Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots broke the 2 million viewer mark.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the scripted drama is averaging 1.7 million viewers and a 1.5. rating among women 25-54.

Late last month it was reported that with the help of Tyler Perry’s two new shows, OWN has turned a profit four months ahead of the projected timeline.
Perry’s shows, The Haves and the Have Nots and the sitcom Love Thy Neighbor, are the highest-rated programs on the network.

The “The Haves and the Have Nots” airs on Oprah’s OWN network Tuesday nights at 9 p.m.

American Black Film Festival: A first look at new films

“Just saw the BUTLER rough cut for the first time with @LennyKravitz and director Lee Daniels,” media maven Oprah Winfrey tweeted on June 1.

The CEO of OWN — who stars in the film based on the life of a man who served as butler to eight U.S. presidents — added a special note to audiences on the Instagram image accompanying the tweet: “Can’t wait for you all the see it. #theBUTLER.”

While she may be biased towards her own star vehicle, Winfrey is hardly the only person excited for Precious director Lee Daniel’s latest opus. The Butler, which features Forest Whitaker in the title role, is part of a coming crop of African-American films that movie critics are hailing as a stellar season for black filmmakers. Black films make a big comeback. With nearly a dozen African-American-related pictures slated for release in the coming months, the diverse offerings look refreshing compared to previous years filled with family-oriented romantic comedies, Tyler Perry-produced features, or worse few black films at all.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Tyler Perry. What is being celebrated by industry watchers is the scope, breadth, and variety of films in the black genre on tap, and the number that will likely be serious Oscar contenders. The large number of African-American films being released this year comes, as The New York Times points out in a recent feature, after “years of complaint about the lack of prominent movies by and about black Americans.” American Black Film Festival showcases the latest black cinema renaissance: ‘Fruitvale Station,’ and more.

“Black filmmakers say the wave of 2013 releases was built in large part on the creativity that has flourished on the independent-film circuit,” the Times continues.

Events such as the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) have long been part of this network that nourishes black filmmakers. Many of the coming films will be first viewed by the public at ABFF. In addition to the Sundance Film Festival favorite Fruitvale Station, the lineup of films screening at ABFF starting on June 19 in Miami sheds light on the wide scope of issues being tackled by modern black filmmakers. Beyond the festival, upcoming historical dramas The Butler and Mandela, and the holiday film Black Nativity also highlight the range of black films in the works.

Those behind the scenes attest to the renewed opportunities that have fueled these projects, and the hope that this trend will continue. Praising the uptick in quality African-American films. “The only way we can break down these barriers is to continue making movies, to keep pushing, to keep trying,” George Tillman, Jr., director of ABFF’s opening night movie, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, said.

Tillman’s film portrays the challenges of youths surviving in an area of Brooklyn untouched by gentrification. By contrast, the ABFF will close with Kevin Hart’s new comedy documentary, Let Me Explain, shot during his tour stop at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Fruitvale Station address institutional racism and police violence. Playin’ for Love, Robert Townsend’s basketball-themed romantic comedy; Full Circle, about a drug deal gone bad; and Home, focusing on mental illness, all demonstrate how distinct this boon of films is. ABFF Founder and CEO Jeff Friday said that the emphasis this year is less on marketing and selling movies for the festival, and more on spotlighting the ingenuity of these filmmakers.

“We really are now doing things that we can control, and focusing more on developing individuals, and finding opportunities for those individuals’ talent to be showcased,” he explained.

Given the breadth of films at ABFF, as well as those in theatrical release, Friday says it’s definitely a comeback year for black cinema, and a throwback to the “glory days” of the ’90s. “I know how we got away from it, I’m not sure why we came back,” Friday said. Friday’s office recently did a study of African-American movies over the years, discovering that black films and artists thrived in the mid-90s when directors like Townsend, Spike Lee, and John Singleton were in their heyday.

“I say this in a jest, but the black community kind of took [the ’90s] for granted,” he admitted. “What happened in 2000, studios shifted their focus away from niche movies… Now, you don’t move [you’re] stock price until you’ve had an Iron Man or a Star Trek. People think it’s attributed to race, but that’s not true. Hollywood, I don’t think they sit around and plot against us, like, ‘Let’s put out two black films a year.’ I don’t think they do it. It’s driven by money.”

As Friday’s study further found, even the most iconic black films of all time often tapped out at $35 million in box office earnings, a mere pittance by Hollywood standards, even if that might be a handsome return for an independent film. He found the exception to the rule, of course, was Tyler Perry. “If Tyler Perry was happening in the mid-90s when Love Jones came out,” Friday observed, “we wouldn’t be focusing [on him] so much. He would just be one of 15.”

Today, part of Perry’s power is that he can bring in the big numbers, something with which other filmmakers, especially unproven ones, have had to contend. Tillman’s movie stars a top-tier cast including Anthony Mackie, Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Hudson and Jordin Sparks. It was produced by singer Alicia Keys among other influencers. Despite Tillman’s reputable players, the 44-year-old director said it took three years to get this independent project off the ground. It was only possible through outside funding, bucking the Hollywood system.

“I went around to all the studios,” Tillman recalled. “They showed interest in the material, interest in the script, but it came down to [the question]: Who wants to see a film about a 13-year-old black kid surviving with an 8-year-old Asian kid?” After spinning his wheels and exhausting sources, Tillman looked outside Hollywood to find people who believed in his story, and wanted to see something different on screen. He was then able to produce the movie, and later sold it to studio distributors at the Sundance festival.