‘Marshall’ turns Thurgood into the contemporary hero Americans want, but ignores the one he was Not enough of the real NAACP lawyer shows up in Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal

Marshall, the new film from director Reginald Hudlin about the late Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, comes from a production company called Super Hero Films.

It’s an appropriate moniker, given that the star of Marshall is Chadwick Boseman — or, as he’s sure to be known after February, Black Panther. But it’s also appropriate given the way Marshall presents the man once known as “Mr. Civil Rights” as a swashbuckling, arrogant, almost devil-may-care superhero attorney barnstorming the country in pursuit of justice and equality.

Written by Connecticut attorney Michael Koskoff and his son, Joseph, Marshall is not the story of the first black Supreme Court justice’s entire life. The movie takes place decades before Marshall was ever nominated to the court. Instead, Marshall provides a snapshot of young Thurgood through the course of the Connecticut trial of Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), a black chauffeur who was arrested in 1940 for the rape, kidnapping and attempted murder of his white boss, Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson).

Marshall, at the time an attorney in the NAACP’s civil rights division and seven years out of Howard University School of Law, travels to Connecticut to defend Spell. When the white judge presiding over the case refuses to let Marshall be the lead lawyer on the case, Marshall enlists a local Jewish attorney, Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), as the puppet for his legal ventriloquism. Marshall feeds Friedman his strategy, arguments and ideas and sits on his hands as he watches Friedman clumsily make his way through them.

Hudlin ends the film with an image of Marshall after he’s pulled into a train station in the Deep South. A mischievous smile creeping across his face, he grabs a paper cup to get a drink of water from a whites-only water fountain. Marshall tips his hat to an older black gentleman who’s watching, clearly astonished, and continues on his way.

The scene exposes how Marshall is more of an exercise in reflecting contemporary black attitudes about race and rebellion than it is connected to the way Marshall enacted that rebellion in his life as an NAACP lawyer, solicitor general under Lyndon Johnson, and then as a member of the Supremes. It’s certainly ahistorical. The real Marshall was a skilled politician, which made him an effective courtroom lawyer. He was charmingly persuasive, according to those who knew him, able to persuade white Southerners to do his bidding even against the wishes of fire-breathing racist sheriffs.

“He wasn’t an activist or a protester. He was a lawyer,” Marshall’s NAACP colleague, attorney Jack Greenberg, said in a 1999 documentary that asserts Marshall always followed the rules of the segregated South during his many trips there.

In any fictive portrait based on true life, a certain amount of interpretation is expected. But Marshall fundamentally changes our understanding of Marshall as a person and a real-life superhero. Thanks to accounts from family, colleagues and biographers such as Juan Williams, we know Marshall was smart, strategic and conscious of preserving his life and safety so that he could live to fight another day.

Hudlin superimposes modern conceptions of black heroism onto a period courtroom drama. He’s not the first to do so, of course. Both the 2016 adaptation of Roots and the now-canceled WGN series Underground told historical stories calibrated for a modern audience that wants and deserves to see black characters exhibit agency over their fates. Combined with the decision to cast the dark-skinned Boseman and Keesha Sharp as Marshall and his wife, Buster, Hudlin’s choices feel reactive to the colorism and racism in modern Hollywood. That choice ends up flattening an aspect of Marshall that certainly had an effect on his life: his privilege as a light-skinned, wavy-haired lawyer who grew up as the middle-class son of a Baltimore woman with a graduate degree from Columbia and a father who worked as a railway porter.

If ever there was a couple who fit the profile of the black bourgeoisie, it was Thurgood and Buster Marshall. Casting Boseman and Sharp may be a way to thumb one’s nose at the screwed-up obsession with skin tone that pervaded the black elite in the early 20th century and continues to block opportunities in modern-day Hollywood, but it also erases part of our understanding of how Marshall moved through the world.

Marshall possessed a terrific legal mind and used it to hold the country accountable to its founding ideals. He was a pioneer for daring to think that equality could be achieved by challenging the country’s institutions, but he also expressed a deep reverence for and faith in them. He would have been seen by whites in the South as a Northern agitator, and he knew it — the real Thurgood slept with his clothes on in case a lynch mob decided to confront him in the middle of the night. Altering Marshall so much in a movie meant to celebrate him ends up cheapening the gesture. It’s like making a biopic about Barack Obama and turning him into Jesse Jackson. He just wasn’t that type of dude.

It wouldn’t matter so much that Boseman’s Marshall strays so far from the real man if it wasn’t for the fact that Marshall tends to exist now mostly as a Black History Month factoid (even though multiple biographies have been written about his life and work).

Thurgood, a 2011 HBO movie starring Laurence Fishburne, goes too far in the opposite direction. Clips of Fishburne show a stiff and overly reverential character better suited for a museum video re-enactment or a Saturday Night Live sketch.

I sound like the story of Thurgood Marshall is a Goldilocks conundrum. Fishburne-as-Marshall was too stiff. Boseman-as-Marshall was too loose. Maybe a third attempt will get it just right.

Every time I see a film by a black director or that stars black people and I love it unreservedly, I experience a mélange of awe, reverence and respect that comes from witnessing an amazing work of art. And then comes the wave of relief.

Because the stakes are so high — every so-called “black film” must succeed to secure another! — you feel some kind of way about having to type all the reasons a film doesn’t work, knowing that those words have consequences but still need to be expressed. In short, it’s the feeling of “I don’t know if I like this, but I need it to win.”

I hate this feeling. If ever there was a selfish reason for wishing the film industry would hurry up and achieve racial and gender parity, this is it.

Hudlin’s directorial oeuvre is squarely commercial. His gaze is unfussy, with few stylistic flourishes, likely influenced by his past 15 years directing episodic television. His last movie was Wifey, a TV movie starring Tami Roman. His last feature was the 2002 romantic comedy Serving Sara, starring Matthew Perry and Elizabeth Hurley, but he’s probably best known for Boomerang, House Party and The Ladies Man. Thus it’s no surprise that Hudlin directs Marshall as a crowd-pleaser, but the nuances of Marshall’s life get lost.

What’s disappointing about the way Marshall is translated for the big screen is that real-life heroes come in a variety of forms. They’re complicated. They’re not saintly, nor are they all hot-headed crusaders. And that’s OK.

One of the most admirable aspects of Loving was that it was a historical drama with the patience to tell the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, portrayed by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, as the quiet, country people they were. They seem as unlikely a pair to make civil rights history in the film as they were when they lived. But Loving came from the Focus Features division of NBCUniversal, a production house known for unconventional work. Marshall is not an art house film, and I don’t think it needed to be to tell Marshall’s story. Hidden Figures was another historical drama meant for wide consumption. It’s not perfect, but Hidden Figures was so full of charm that it overcame the white saviorism added to Kevin Costner’s character, which didn’t exist in Margot Lee Shetterly’s book.

The shortcomings that separate Marshall from Hidden Figures and Loving are the same ones that give it the feeling of a TV movie. Aside from focusing on one specific area of Marshall’s life rather than the whole of it, Marshall does little to escape or subvert some of the most irritating biopic tropes.

For instance, the screenwriters jam Boseman’s mouth full of exposition about his accomplishments rather than demonstrating them. He rattles them off to Friedman in the form of a verbal resume.

The movie includes a nightclub scene that functions as little more than a non sequitur to shout, “HEY, THURGOOD MARSHALL WAS FRIENDS WITH ZORA NEALE HURSTON AND LANGSTON HUGHES. DID YOU KNOW ZORA AND LANGSTON HAD AN ICY RELATIONSHIP? BECAUSE WE DID!”

The three aren’t around long enough to discuss anything substantive. Their interaction doesn’t serve as foreshadowing for some other part of the movie. They’re just there because they all lived in Harlem. It’s little more than fat to be trimmed in a nearly two-hour movie.

But the most obvious weak point may lie in the flashbacks to the interactions between Strubing and Spell, which are filled with so much melodrama that they’d be perfectly at home on Lifetime. It’s not that those tropes don’t have their place. It’s just not on a screen that’s 30 feet high.

Boseman, as watchable as ever, makes Marshall a winking, confident wisecracker with a disarming smile. He’s full of smarts and bravado, communicating the real off-hours aspects of Marshall’s ribald sense of humor.

In the future, though, I hope screenwriters and filmmakers have more faith in the capacity of audiences to appreciate all kinds of heroes. As tempting as it is to superimpose modern politics onto historical figures, it can be more edifying to simply let them breathe so that we can appreciate their efforts within the context of their own times. Such context allows us to more fully understand the cost of their struggles and celebrate them all the more for winning.

Drake really wants Vince Carter to come home Day 4 at the Toronto International Film Festival

TORONTO — At this point, the most magical words Drake could hear come out of Vince Carter’s mouth might be, “Hold on, we’re going home.”

In July, Carter, 40, signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Sacramento Kings. But at a Q-and-A after the premiere of The Carter Effect at the Toronto International Film Festival, Drake made his feelings plain: He wants the man who launched Vinsanity to come back to this city.

“It would be amazing, hopefully, for Vince to give us one last chance to not just give him a standing ovation for one night or two nights out of the year,” Drake said.

Saturday’s Carter lovefest (with the star basketball player nowhere in sight) was something to behold. The premiere was studded with sports and music notables: LeBron James, Cory Joseph, Akon, Director X (the guy who caused a sensation with the James Turrell-inspired visuals of “Hotline Bling”), sprinter Andre De Grasse, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, and former Raptors Chris Bosh and Patrick Patterson were among those in attendance. And since it was a bright, sunny afternoon, Drake fans were lined up everywhere for a glimpse of their hometown rapper.

Instagram Photo

Drake was an executive producer of The Carter Effect, along with James and his longtime business partner Maverick Carter.

“Me being from Ohio, when Vince signed with Nike, he actually made me believe that putting on those damn shoes would make me jump to the rim,” James joked after the screening.

Director X appears in the film and likened himself to John the Baptist and Drake to Jesus when it comes to Toronto and hip-hop. I asked him where Carter fits into that metaphor.

“He’s Moses,” X answered.

I also had a chance to talk to Mona Halem, a party host who had a front-row seat to the transformation Carter brought with him to Toronto, a city so unacquainted with basketball that its fans didn’t know they were supposed to be quiet when Raptors players were shooting free throws.

Halem, who also appears in the film, is a cross between an NBA doyenne, unofficial Toronto ambassador and social scene producer. She puts interesting people together with liquor and good music and has made it her personal art form here.

“Because basketball and entertainment around basketball was more popular in the U.S., [Carter] shone a light on Toronto,” Halem said. “It was like, ‘Oh, what’s this place Toronto?’ Everyone thinks we live in igloos and it’s so cold.”

Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart

Courtesy of TIFF

Director Tracy Heather Strain’s documentary on playwright Lorraine Hansberry, in a way, has been her life’s work.

Strain, who is a professor at Northeastern University (she canceled last week’s class to attend TIFF), has been working on Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart for 14 years. Most of that time has been spent raising more than $1.5 million to make the film. The rights for film clips, music and other properties cost about $300,000.

I spoke to Strain on Sunday morning before she departed for Boston so her students wouldn’t miss a second week of class. Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart will air in the future on PBS, and it’s a deep dive into the jam-packed 34 years of Hansberry’s life and the world that created the fictional Younger family of A Raisin in the Sun. Strain said she became taken with Hansberry when she was a 17-year-old in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Her grandmother took her to see a community theater production of the autobiographical To Be Young, Gifted, and Black.

“You know how you know something in your gut?” Strain asked. “[That’s] how I felt when I was exposed to Lorraine Hansberry’s words.”

In Sighted Eyes, Strain makes it clear that Hansberry is so much more than the one-paragraph biography schoolchildren get during Black History Month before they watch the film adaptation of her celebrated play. In fact, early in the movie, one of Hansberry’s contemporaries insists on making it clear that Hansberry was not a liberal but a “radical leftist.”

I was astonished to learn Hansberry began her career as a journalist before venturing into playwriting, and even more astonished to learn that she’d basically mapped out her life, and told her would-be husband what it was going to be like, when she was just 23 years old. This woman did not waste time. Strain fell in love with Hansberry’s sense of humor: It’s hard not to crack up upon learning Hansberry bought a house on 2 acres in New York and named the place “Chitterling Heights.” She sounds like someone I’d desperately want to be friends with if she were still alive.

Sighted Eyes also works as a bit of mythbusting. My eyes grew large when Strain informed me that I, like so many others, had been fooled by this photo, supposedly of Hansberry dancing with writer James Baldwin. It’s not her but rather a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) worker from Louisiana. There are no photos, at least none that Strain could find, of Baldwin and Hansberry together despite their close friendship.

‘Black Panther’ teaser trailer is serving looks Marvel blessed us during the NBA Finals, and it’s visually stunning

We were sitting around a table, casually discussing whatever we had to catch up as a group of friends. We weren’t all facing the television, so one person said, “Shut up, the Black Panther teaser is on.” Another friend continued, not realizing that this wasn’t just the first time he’d seen it, but the first time anyone had. “Look, I’ll address that after this ends,” he was told again. We all stared.

I don’t really remember if it was between the first two quarters of the game or somewhere in the second, because it felt like time stopped. At the point where Chadwick Boseman is executing whatever midair flip in slow motion he was doing, my body naturally stood up from the table and gravitated toward the television that was hanging on a wall in the bar. By the time it was done I turned around to look at the squad, and we all had the same looks on our faces.

“Holy s—, that was incredible.”

Black Panther was real and happening, and it looked amazing. The game instantly became a secondary conversation to what we’d just witnessed from the Marvel Universe. What I enjoyed so much about it was that it appealed to everyone, off the break. Of course, there are serious megafans of the comics who will have various things to deconstruct and dislike, but coming out of the gate, the clear distinctions were great.

For one, Wakanda is clearly not some Third World wasteland. Its technological advancements are clearly on par with most things in that universe, which is dope. This is the capital city, and vibranium, the mineral that the nation has major reserves of, allows it to stay on the cusp of what’s modern. Also, look. At. That. Ship. The last thing we wanted was a bunch of souped-up tribesmen to further create disastrous stereotypes in the superhero world.

Here are some of our favorite still shots.

Wait till y’all see me at the function next spring rocking this joint until Future’s “Mask Off” comes on. Then I’m turning all the way up.

This is a look goal if I’ve ever seen one. Lupita Nyong’o, no stranger to action movies, is not here for your nonsense.

When you’re trying to address the congregation but someone’s phone keeps going off.

Oh, that’s my phone? Do something. That’s what I thought.

When you waited all weekend to get fly for your little friend at school and they were home sick that day.

Meanwhile, the shade being thrown is predictable and, in many cases, very funny. What folks act like when this movie comes out is going to be serious. Nobody in America is ready for the squad cosplay that the film could bring to the theaters and premieres. It’ll be the blackest big-budget superhero movie. Not to mention it’s actually about a fictional African place. Believe that folks will be deep at the box office. And it comes out during Black History Month? Sheeeeeeee … just kidding. That doesn’t matter at all.

In all seriousness, that moment Friday night was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. My phone was blowing up with texts, and my whole TL was taken over by Wakanda jokes and the like. We don’t need that Coming to America remake. Black Panther, from the looks of it, will do just fine. This is dope, though.

This is a full shot-by-shot breakdown of the teaser trailer with story analysis. It’s with director Ryan Coogler and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige.

Protests at Bethune-Cookman graduation prove today’s students know their history Education Secretary Betsy DeVos needed a lesson in American history

Anyone watching graduates of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida, turn their backs on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos as she tried to get through her commencement address might judge their behavior rude and disrespectful, especially after some threw boos her way. But reviewing how the scene played out becomes much more complicated when history — that of the university, DeVos and America — is considered.

America is a new nation, and a forgetful one. Part of accepting the myth of the American dream, that hard work is all it takes to achieve anything and everything, requires erasing the country’s faults and how it falls short of the promised liberty, equality and justice for all.

This episode at Bethune-Cookman has relevance for all graduates of historically black colleges and universities this year. Their protests resonated across HBCU campuses because they know #BlackLivesMatter.

A group of students stand and turn their backs during a commencement exercise speech by United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at Bethune-Cookman University, Wednesday, May 10, 2017, in Daytona Beach, Fla.

AP Photo/John Raoux

The Bethune-Cookman students who were attacked in some quarters for interfering with DeVos’ freedom of speech rights were exercising their own, to express frustration that on their day of celebration — the culmination of years of study, discipline and diligence — the honored speaker was someone so clueless about the mission of historically black colleges and universities. DeVos had called HBCUs “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” In February, she said in a statement, “They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. They saw that the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution.”

Her “school choice” metaphor reveals what DeVos forgot or never knew about the history of African-Americans fighting for the right to an education. She instead substituted an Alice-looking-through-the-looking-glass version that conveniently sidestepped the racism, the segregation by law and custom, the exclusion that made always-inclusive HBCUs so necessary.

If DeVos traveled to Bethune-Cookman for a forum to learn about the achievements of the school as well as the challenges still faced by the institution and its students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college, I suspect her reception would have been chilly but cordial. Instead, she was invited with, it has been reported, little or no input from students to receive an honorary degree and share in the school’s glory without doing the work.

DeVos came to the university hoping, perhaps, that some of the stature of its pioneering founder, Mary McLeod Bethune, might rub off. But Bethune earned her honored status with a lifetime of civil rights activism.

To the predominantly African-American student body, prepared to be resilient when tiresomely tagged with the charge of unearned “affirmative action,” it must have been ironic to see and hear someone who rode her wealth and devotion to conservative causes to her current job, particularly when her solutions to education challenges in her home state of Michigan have mostly been given a failing grade.

DeVos is certainly not alone in casting aside inconvenient historical truths.

In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s effort to move Confederate memorials from places of honor to more appropriate venues of contemplation and scholarship is being met with armed resistance and threats. It hardly matters that the first one removed, an obelisk commemorating a murderous uprising by whites resisting racial integration during Reconstruction, was built in 1891, years after the 1874 event, to enshrine the philosophy of “white supremacy in the South,” as a plaque added in 1932 makes clear.

Bethune-Cookman University president Edison Jackson, right, appeals to protestors disrupting United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ speech during commencement exercises, Wednesday, May 10, 2017, in Daytona Beach, Fla.

AP Photo/John Raoux

Being clear-eyed to that reality would interfere with the “Lost Cause” myth of Confederate chivalry and righteousness that has long tried to downplay the cruel and inhuman institution of slavery as the cause of the Civil War and absolve the sins of a century of Jim Crow terrorism that followed.

There is a continuing nostalgia for an America that never was from those who remain obstinately ignorant of and stand to benefit from its messy history. Polls show that too many Americans believe whites face more discrimination than blacks and that progress is zero-sum — videotaped contradictions notwithstanding. Every February, someone chimes in to ask why America needs a Black History Month, when events reveal the country needs it more than ever.

As author Gore Vidal once said, “We are the United States of Amnesia; we learn nothing because we remember nothing.” The wit of that quote becomes tragic when it suits the person in charge of the department whose mission is “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” The students of Bethune-Cookman University, with their actions, were telling the education secretary she needs to go back to school.

How Savannah State became the first HBCU to win a national cheerleading title Things were looking grim before the CheerSport competition, but a come-to-Jesus talk helped flip the script

Call it a series of unfortunate events or maybe even Murphy’s Law — everything that can go wrong will go wrong — but days before Savannah State was to return to the CheerSport Nationals last month after a four-year hiatus, it seemed as if the team had been bitten by the most poisonous of snakes.

Coach Timothy Grant scheduled an exhibition tune-up before the team took off for the tournament to build some momentum. But the cheerleaders didn’t perform as well as they wanted, which hurt their confidence. There were breakdowns as the team went through its partner stunts and other aspects of its routine.

Then one of Savannah State’s key athletes went down with an ankle injury, taking her out of the tournament.

With 10 minutes left in the team’s final practice before the tournament, Grant was watching his team bicker and decided to give one of his famous speeches.

“At this point, I have equipped you with everything I know, for y’all to be successful. Only thing left is for y’all to get on stage and make up in your minds and have the determination to get out there and do this to the level you’re capable of doing it.”

It was a come-to-Jesus moment. The athletes started to form a prayer circle, asking for guidance through those recent trials and to carry them to victory in the upcoming two-day tournament in Atlanta.

But first, the squad wanted to successfully execute a full-speed, all-out version of their competition routine without any hiccups.

They hadn’t managed a flawless routine yet during that practice. But after collecting themselves, they were able to run through the entire CheerSport Nationals choreography without any issue. And that was the moment Grant described as the turning point.

“I feel like that was the breakthrough, that was the moment when they were like ‘Wow, we can really do this,’ ” the second-year coach said. “It was heartwarming, especially because I feel like a lot of the things I say fall on deaf ears. Sometimes I don’t think they understand the things I’m trying to tell them, so for them to do that, it let me know, hey, they are listening, they do understand what I’m saying, and they are applying what I’m saying.”

On Feb. 19, Savannah State became the first historically black university to win a CheerSport Nationals title, when it defeated Australia’s ZSA, 87.62-86.13. The last time the Tigers participated in the three-day event, they took home eighth place in 2013 under coach Kellie Fletcher.

for the love of the jackets

Part of the motivation, sophomore Mallori Santiful explained, was the championship jackets.

“It’s our equivalent to a ring — it’s something to show off,” Santiful said. “You can’t always have the trophy around. You won’t always have the banner around. But you can wear your jacket every day and everyone on campus congratulates you.

“We wanted everyone to know the day after CheerSport, and it was 80 degrees outside. Everyone was like jackets and shorts? Jackets and sandals? Yeah, we wanted to wear our jackets.”

When the team arrived at the Georgia World Congress Center on Feb. 17, the group made its way to the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch and proceeded to practice. On the first day of the competition, the Tigers went through conditioning exercises, stretching, a quick stunt run-through and a warm-up.

Because there are as many as 1,000 people in the warm-up room, Grant was worried about the team losing focus. But Santiful said quite the opposite occurred.

“We saw our competition warming up beside us, and we were like, ‘We got it,’ ” she recalled. “Cheerleading is like any other sport, you want to win. You get pumped up, you get excited, you get hype.”

Teammates combed over the routine, offering encouragement and pointers. After an hour of going through stunts, tumbling and partner stunts stations, team went behind stage for 20 minutes, waiting to perform.

The first day counts for 25 percent of a team’s score, with the second day’s performance worth 75 percent.

For senior captain Morgan Moore, who was with the team the first time the Tigers attended CheerSport in 2013, the victory was an overwhelming, indescribable moment. Teammates were crying, hugging, screaming and bouncing up and down with joy.

“I held [the jacket,] I couldn’t do anything but stare at it,” said Moore, 21.

It only got better the next day when the team found out that actress Gabrielle Union, the lead in the movie Bring It On, saw the news of the team’s accomplishment and tweeted about it.

Moore, who had a deactivated Twitter account at the time, said she quickly reactivated it when she heard Union had given the team recognition.

“Gabrielle Union is a great figure for the African-American community, and for women especially,” said Moore, a business management major. “Of course with her being in Bring It On and connected to that movie, and it was just … an amazing feeling because she’s just a great role model for women and girls.”

Savannah State honored the women the following Monday by bringing them to midcourt during the halftime of the men’s basketball game against Coppin State.

To cap off Black History Month, Savannah State was also featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Feb. 26.

sAvannah stATE cheer wasn’t built in a day

Grant, a 41-year-old Washington, D.C. native, came to the program after coaching competitive cheerleading in Atlanta. When Grant became the director of the Savannah Shark All-Stars, he called his mentor, F. Carl Walton, Savannah State’s vice president of student affairs, to let him know he was in the area.

A week later, Walton called Grant to let him know that the coaching job for the cheerleading team was going to open up and he should apply. Grant did and took on the job besides coaching his four other cheer squads.

Coming into the program, Grant decided he needed more advanced tumblers, more experienced fliers and realized he was going to have to hit the recruiting trail hard.

“There was minimum talent as far as advanced tumbling, and as far as partner stunting skills,” Grant said. “I knew if we were going to be doing competitive cheerleading, I knew we’d need more talent than what already existed.”

Besides getting evaluated on how challenging their routines are and how well they are executed, cheerleading teams also get scored on the number of athletes on the team performing certain skills. Grant brought in four girls he had coached in the past, meaning he had worked previously with half of the 13 athletes on the team.

Next was getting the team into a rigorous training schedule: Twice a week from 5:50 a.m. to 7 a.m., the Tigers do strength and conditioning work. From 7 to 8 a.m., they practice stunts. Three days a week, Grant has the team meet him at his Sharks All-Star gym for regular practice from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Savannah State’s cheerleading team can be found on the sideline of football games, which transitions into men’s and women’s basketball season, and both basketball seasons bleed into preparation for CheerSport Nationals. The team concludes its year in early April with the NCA College Nationals in Daytona, Florida.

“They’re still trying to balance being a college student and being a part of an extracurricular activity that’s demanding as far as your time and physical energy. I have no time to myself and my spouse hates me at times,” said Grant.

Grant, Santiful and Moore said they didn’t envision this type of result happening so soon. The belief was that the team was still a few years from taking home first-place awards and championship trophies.

But the key, Moore explained, was being open to the changes Grant was bringing to the organization. The athletes not only had the “Stomp-N-Shake” down pat, but with Grant’s arrival, the team also was immersed in the technical aspects of cheer.

Santiful described the feeling as similar to her favorite part in Bring It On when Union stood in the middle of the gym and everyone paid attention. All eyes are on the Savannah State Tigers cheerleading team, and these Tigers have their eyes set on the NCA College Nationals.

“Hey, we won something, but is this really enough?” Santiful asked. “We’re a performing team and the best thing that we do is perform, so once we hit the mat, everything snaps into place.

“I definitely think we’re capable of winning everything. … If we can win CheerSport, we can definitely win Daytona National.”

Artist Shanequa Gay brings inspiring black experiences to canvas in new exhibition ‘Fair Is Foul and Foul Ain’t Fair’ opens at Wofford College in honor of Women’s History Month

The plight of black women and black men in society has again been captured on canvas in a new, slick and inspiring way. Inspired by tragedy but translated into color art form, Atlanta-based artist Shanequa Gay’s latest work, Fair Is Foul and Foul Ain’t Fair, is on display at Wofford College in celebration of Women’s History Month and Black History Month.

It was the death of Trayvon Martin and other black men and the violence in Chicago lit a flame in Gay. Her work sparks conversation about healing from issues affecting communities of color including police brutality, gang and prison culture, lack of educational opportunity, and feelings of self-hatred that have arisen in the black community.

According to a news release, the exhibition speaks to the contemporary social and racial climate. It was inspired by a novel by Bill Harris as well as Greek and African mythologies.

“I wanted to dig deep into the feelings of despair and despondency that some within the black community have concerning their plight of poverty and ethnicity,” Gay said.

According to Gay’s website, she “has drawn praise and critical acclaim for her depictions of southern life and black women.” Her work was featured in the 2014 Lions Gate film Addicted, the television series Being Mary Jane, the BET series Zoe and the OWN series Greenleaf. She was chosen by The Congressional Club to be the illustrator for the 2013 First Lady’s Luncheon hostess gift. First lady Michelle Obama and more than 1,800 attendees received the gift.

Gay’s exhibit will be on display through April 7 in the Martha Cloud Chapman Gallery in the Campus Life Building on Wofford College’s campus. Viewing is free and open to the public.

“The work is pulled from news clippings, media and developed from my own macrocosms,” Gay said, according to Wofford College, which is located in South Carolina. “My focus as of late has been to tell street mythologies in order to speak of the issues happening in the black community as if it were a tale of folklore.”

Gay’s pieces are clean and meant to be similar to sales advertisements. She uses “wood panels, acrylic, Flashe vinyl paints and oil paints,” to create the crisp look. She said her goal is to show “the plight of the black community and issues that often are ignored by the rest of society.”

“I am speaking to a global public, as these systemic issues do not just plague America. It is an epidemic around the world wherever low-income people reside,” Gay said. “I want to draw in the viewer with the familiar, to shock and cause them to come to a moral agreement that these issues affect us all.”

Gay is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design and currently is a graduate student at Georgia State University. Her current work, The Fair Game Project, is art as advocacy that challenges the unyielding violence and injustices committed in America and across the globe against the black body.

The first Black Enterprise BE Smart HBCU Summit’s major themes were tough love, preparation and optimism ‘If you don’t know your history, you don’t know your possibilities’

The old saying goes: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But according to Ronald C. Parker, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council, the opposite is true in the private sector. If something ain’t broke, managers, leaders and bosses are going out of their way to not only break it, but also to turn it on its head, if need be.

While that may seem counterintuitive, Parker explained that if you and your company are not reinventing itself every so often to meet changes in the needs of consumers, then your company will be left behind and leave openings for your competitors.

Parker expressed these sentiments as one of three panelists speaking on the Partners in Driving Student Success panel to open up the inaugural Black Enterprise BE Smart HBCU Summit. His hope is that if he and the other panelists tell the students and audience what really goes on in business, they will know what to expect.

He was joined by Danette Howard, chief strategy officer and senior vice president of the Lumina Foundation, and Jesse J. Tyson, president and CEO of the National Black MBA Association, who doubled down by describing some of the inner workings of the field so they’d have an inside track.

“What are you willing to do to challenge an existing model and have the courage to change and transport it?” Parker asked. “There’s nothing wrong with having so-and-so’s father of so-and-so’s father on your board, but can they bring you financial stability? Can they bring you research dollars? Can they bring you access to corporations that will invest if they see a very sustainable business model? Oh, by the way, since 2008, they are asking for models. If these HBCUs do not have a strategic plan … there are major corporations that are redirecting their funds to other sources, because they don’t see a construct or a disciplined process or even the courage to disrupt this.”

The summit, hosted by Morgan State’s Earl G. Graves School of Business & Management with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, dedicated its first day to speaking broadly, and at times concisely, about historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), business, how to improve the diversity in the private sectors, and more.

Twenty-five percent of African-Americans who graduate from college earn their degrees at an HBCU. Yet there still remains this idea that the work that students at HBCUs are doing isn’t as rigorous, challenging or equal to those students outside of HBCUs.

That perception only changes by speaking to people in positions of power, working with them and bringing them to the schools to see firsthand how good the students are.

Morgan State president David Wilson discussed this before the first session Tuesday, saying his university is the No. 1 school in the nation and state in producing African-American electrical, industrial and civil engineers, and the No. 4 school in the nation in producing African-American engineers overall. North Carolina A&T State University is recognized as the school that produces the most engineers.

Wilson was at the White House on Monday afternoon, along with several other HBCU presidents, as they spoke with President Donald Trump about the future of HBCUs, before Trump issued his executive order on Tuesday afternoon. Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., who kicked things off both days with opening remarks, said it was not a coincidence that the summit closed out Black History Month and coincided with the executive order.

Tyson, who worked as a sharecropper in his youth, began his career after attending Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, and emphasized the need for folks to use the teachers, leaders and mentors around them to find and take advantage of opportunities. He used an analogy, saying an opportunity doesn’t have to come from the biggest company, either.

He put it this way: “Being the manager at Pepsi Co. means that every decision you make has to be signed off on by the higher-ups before it can be executed … the company is too big. … But if you’re the general manager of Funyuns, then you’re the one making those decisions and gaining that managerial experience.”

Currently, four Fortune 500 CEOs are black. At their peak, 15 African-Americans led Fortune 500 companies. The question became: How do students even get to the point where they’re in positions for those managerial jobs and on track to be a CEO?

Howard discussed how it all starts in school. Having worked as the secretary of higher education under former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, she was a part of the team that analyzed the average number of credits students in Maryland colleges and universities had when graduating with bachelor’s degrees.

Across the board, the number was close to 125, but at Morgan State the average student had 138 credits. What does this mean? Howard asked. Well, it meant that students were taking classes they didn’t necessarily need or held in classes for too long, prolonging their time in school and the amount of money they spent.

On one hand, the students were taking too many credits overall, but on the other hand students were taking an average of 12 credits a semester, which exacerbated the issue, because at the end of four years students were coming up almost 30 credits short of what they possibly needed.

This was something Howard has worked with Morgan State to amend over the years. Another change she wanted to see is HBCUs reaching out and taking the initiative. She described how schools are constantly asking her organization to come to their university and work with their students, but she has had to reach out on several occasions to HBCUs to gauge their interest.

“We have to be careful what we ask for,” Howard said. “With the greater attention I believe will come a great expectation of increased accountability. … In order to move forward, to remain competitive, to remain relevant, we have to do things in a more integrated way.

“Something that surprised me my first year at the institution was that I heard from a lot of institutions who wanted to understand how they could get support from the Lumina Foundation. I did not hear from a single HBCU. I have to proactively go out to HBCUs and say, ‘Are you interested in having conversations about how Lumina might be able to partner?’ We often hear from all sorts of institutions that are thinking about collaboratives and collective innovative ways to meet the talent needs of the nation, so I would invite HBCUs to think about that.”

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, a two-time Morgan State graduate, attended the opening remarks of the event before she had to leave for Annapolis. Pugh, the 50th mayor of the city, who was elected to the post almost a year ago, spoke glowingly about how attending an HBCU prepared her for her mayoral run.


Historically black colleges and universities, she said, ask a lot of their students and push them to their limits, and when a task presented to an HBCU appears daunting, there are no students better suited to tackle these hurdles.

“What college does, what universities do, is prepare you,” Pugh said. “It’s very apropos that this particular seminar is being held not just here but in Black History Month. I always remind young people, especially today, that we must understand our history and that we must share it with others, because if you don’t know your history, you don’t know your possibilities. I remind us that many of us are descendants from Africa and that we come from queens and kings.

“They didn’t want us in their schools, so we built our own colleges and universities, and so we must uphold the tradition of black colleges and universities in terms of what they meant in our history.”

The event concluded Tuesday with events such as Harvesting Talent for Corporate America’s Future; The HBCU Experience: Millennial Minds Matter; Presidentially Speaking: Strategies for Sustaining Your Institution; Financing Your Education: What HBCU Families Need to Know; and One-on-One: A Conversation with John B. King Jr.

On this day in black history: Michael Jackson takes home 8 Grammys, ‘Porgy and Bess’ opens on Broadway and more Black History Month: The Undefeated edition Feb. 28

1704 — Elias Neau, a Frenchman, opens school for black students
Elias Neau, a Frenchman who worked as a cabin boy and a sailor in his early life, was always willing to lend a helping hand. But Neau was especially inspired to help enslaved communities after being captured by a French privateer near Jamaica in 1692 while out to sea. After being transferred to Marseille, France, for not renouncing his faith — where he wrote letters to his wife, prayers, poems and hymns to pass time — Neau landed himself in solitary confinement, where he remained for six months. He was released from prison six years later.

Learning from his experiences, Neau returned to New York and immediately noticed that slaves had no real direction or instruction in religion. Neau began dedicating his time to teaching slaves, and by 1704, he successfully began homeschooling students several times a week. Shortly afterward, Neau’s school expanded, becoming the first school for slaves in New York City.

1879 — Blacks flee political and economic exploitation in the South
Kansas became the land of promise for African-Americans, both free and enslaved, who sought educational, political and economic opportunities in the 1860s and 1870s. Although slavery still existed in surrounding areas, Kansas seemed to be a much better option than the tumultuous climate for African-Americans in the South.

Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, a runaway slave from Tennessee who sheltered escaped slaves once he was free, noted the conditions African-Americans were subjected to in the South and eyed Kansas. Singleton enlisted the help of Columbus Johnson, who helped Singleton circulate posters across the South that explained their plans. The withdrawal of federal troops from the South in 1877 — the end of the Reconstruction Era – caused the “Great Exodus” to peak in 1879. By then, at least 50,000 blacks, known as Exodusters, sought freedom in Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Illinois with the help of Singleton, who became known as the father of the Black Exodus.

1932 — Automatic gear shift, directional signals invented
Richard Spikes, an auto enthusiast and industry innovator, received a patent for the automatic gear shift for cars, as well as directional signals. In 1962, while losing his vision, Spikes continued to work on creating the automatic safety brake for cars. All of Spikes’ creations are still essential parts used in cars today.

1943 — Porgy and Bess opens on Broadway with Anne Brown
Porgy and Bess opened on Broadway with Anne Brown and Todd Duncan in starring roles.

1948 — First martyrs in Ghanaian independence
Sgt. Cornelius Frederick Adjetey, a member of the 81st and 82nd divisions of the West African Frontier Force, became the first martyr for national independence of Ghana while on a peaceful march.

Adjetey, along with unarmed ex-servicemen, began their journey from Accra, Ghana’s capital, to meet with the governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Gerald Creasy, to air their grievances and present a petition in regard to ending service entitlements that had not been received. Creasy dismissed the men, ordering them to leave. After the ex-servicemen refused to leave without a resolution, Creasy ordered police to open fire, instantly killing Adjetey and his cohorts. The killings were investigated, but not before causing general disorder and disturbances in Accra.

1984 — Michael Jackson wins eight Grammys
It was a night to remember for musician and entertainer Michael Jackson after taking home eight Grammy Awards for his best selling-album, Thriller. The album, which produced seven top 10 singles after its 1982 release, swept several categories, including best male R&B vocal performance for Billie Jean, best R&B song for Billie Jean, best male rock vocal performance for Beat It, best male pop vocal performance for Thriller, best video album for Thriller, best recording for children (Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson) for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, record of the year for Beat It and album of the year for Thriller. The album broke all sales records to date, and remains one of the top-grossing albums of all time.

1990 — Philip Emeagwali wins the Nobel Prize of computing
Philip Emeagwali, known as the “Bill Gates of Africa,” was awarded the Gordon Bell Prize, which his considered the Nobel Prize of computing, for solving one of the 20 most difficult problems in the computing field.

If it were not for Emeagwali’s determination, his success may not have been guaranteed. Forced to drop out of school at age 14 because his father could no longer afford tuition, Emeagwali continued his education at home, doing his best to keep up with what his peers were learning. As part of his mental exercise routine, Emeagwali would run through 100 math problems, solving them all within one hour. At 17 years old, Emeagwali received a full scholarship to Oregon State University, where he studied mathematics before earning three other degrees from the University of Michigan and George Washington University.

In 1989, Emeagwali captured the attention of the most renowned professionals after using 65,000 processors to invent a computer that performed computations at 3.1 billion calculations per second, the world’s fastest computer at the time.

On this day in black history: The Dominican Republic is free; happy birthday, Marian Anderson and James Worthy; and the first black woman to become a lawyer Black History Month: The Undefeated edition Feb. 27

1844 Independence day for Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic gains its independence from the border nation of Haiti. The countries share the island of Hispaniola and both had been under Haitian rule for a more than a couple of decades, first by the Spanish and then by the French.

1872 Charlotte Ray becomes the first African-American female lawyer in the U.S.
Charlotte Ray graduated from Howard University School of Law and became the first black female lawyer in the U.S. She was also the first woman admitted to the District of Columbia bar, and the first woman admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. Sadly but predictably, her practice could not withstand discrimination and prejudice, so she packed up and moved to New York, where she became a teacher and became involved in the women’s suffrage movement.

1902 Happy birthday, Marian Anderson (1897-1993)
Marian Anderson became a world-renowned opera singer and the first African-American soloist to perform at the White House. Born in Philadelphia, Anderson performed at major music venues.

1961 Happy birthday, James Worthy
Born in Gastonia, North Carolina, James Worthy played 12 seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers and was a seven-time NBA All-Star, a three-time NBA champion and the 1988 NBA Finals MVP.

On this day in black history: Earl Lloyd dies, Fats Domino and Marshall Faulk are born and more Black History Month: The Undefeated edition Feb. 26

1926 — Theodore Flowers becomes middleweight boxing champ
Theodore “Georgia Deacon” Flowers was the first black boxer to be middleweight champion of the world, defeating titleholder Harry Greb in Madison Square Garden. Flowers, who started boxing at 18, was the first black boxer after Jack Johnson to fight for a world title. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.

1928 – Happy birthday, “Fats” Domino
New Orleans native Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr. is a singer and songwriter known for hits such as “The Fat Man” and “Blueberry Hill.” Five of his records sold over a million copies.

1976 — Happy birthday, Marshall Faulk
Marshall Faulk, the second overall pick in the 1994 NFL draft, Super Bowl winner and Hall of Famer, was born. Faulk is one of only three NFL players — Marcus Allen and Tiki Barber are the others — to amass at least 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards and he stands alone for finishing his career with 12,000 yards rushing and 6,000 yards receiving. In 2000, he won the Super Bowl as a member of the “The Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams and 11 years later, Faulk was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

1985 — Grammy Awards
At the Grammy Awards ceremony in 1985, Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down won best album of 1984. Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It” took the best record slot and earned her the title best female pop vocalist. The Pointer Sisters won best pop group for “Jump.”

2015 — The first African-American to play in the NBA dies
Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in an NBA game, died in Tennessee. On Oct. 31, 1950, when Lloyd stepped on the hardwood for his Washington Capitols game against the Rochester Royals, which the Capitols lost 78-70, he broke the color barrier for the league. He played nine seasons in the league for the Capitols, Syracuse Nationals and Detroit Pistons before his retirement. He started at power forward for the Syracuse Nationals during its NBA championship run.