LeBron James makes plea for Americans to spread love ‘The only way for us to be able to get better as a society and us to get better as people is love’

LeBron James is one athlete who isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

As one of the most notable advocates, outside of former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick, to speak out against police brutality and social injustices plaguing the country, James has made it his responsibility to use his platform for a greater good. On Tuesday, James called for peace during his annual We Are Family Reunion hosted by the LeBron James Family Foundation in Sandusky, Ohio.

“I know there’s a lot of tragic things happening in Charlottesville,” James said while addressing the crowd of more than 7,000 people. “I just want to speak on it right now. I have this platform and I’m somebody that has a voice of command, and the only way for us to be able to get better as a society and us to get better as people is love.

“And that’s the only way we’re going to be able to conquer something at the end of the day. It’s not about the guy that’s the so-called president of the United States, or whatever the case. It’s not about a teacher that you don’t feel like cares about what’s going on with you every day. It’s not about people that you just don’t feel like want to give the best energy and effort to you. It’s about us. It’s about us looking in the mirror. Kids all the way up to the adults. It’s about all of us looking in the mirror and saying, ‘What can we do better to help change?’ And if we can all do that and give 110 percent … then that’s all you can ask for.”

James was prompted to speak against hatred and bigotry after a rally led by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend turned deadly. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and 19 others were injured when a car plowed through a group of counterprotesters. The driver, 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., has been charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death. He was denied bond at his first court appearance on Monday.

James tweeted in response to the events:

Although the tweet was met with criticism by those believing President Donald Trump should not bear the brunt of the blame, it didn’t stop James from calling out Trump once again after the president’s news conference in which he held “many sides” accountable for the violence in Charlottesville and drew criticism for failing to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis. A few days later, James tweeted again.

James’ activism has been both lauded and criticized by some people since 2014, after the Cleveland Cavaliers star wore a T-shirt that read “I Can’t Breathe” while warming up before a game against the Brooklyn Nets. The words emblazoned on the front of James’ shirt were yelled 11 times by Eric Garner, a New York man who died after a confrontation with New York police. One sergeant was charged internally two years after Garner’s death.

Last year, James, along with fellow NBA players Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade, opened the 2016 ESPYS with a powerful speech that addressed police brutality, racism and gun violence.

“We all feel helpless and frustrated by the violence,” James said. “We do. But that’s not acceptable. It’s time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what are we doing to create change. It’s not about being a role model. It’s not about our responsibility to the tradition of activism. … Let’s use this moment as a call to action for all professional athletes to educate ourselves. It’s for these issues. Speak up. Use our influence. And renounce all violence. And most importantly, go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them. We all have to do better.”

In June, James fell victim to what had been deemed a hate crime when a racial slur was spray-painted on the front of his Los Angeles home. James, shaken by the incident, used a news conference to express his sentiments about being a black man in America.

“No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough,” James said. “We have a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America. But my family is safe, and that’s what’s important.”

Although there have been detractors urging James to abandon his activism and stick to basketball, James remains steadfast on his journey to make his community a better place for future leaders. Before wrapping up the event in Ohio, James addressed the crowd again, speaking specifically to a third-grade class who will be the first students to enroll in his foundation’s I Promise campaign.

“Without you guys, there’s no me, seriously,” James said. “You guys make me get up every day, be a role model, be a father and be a husband, friend, son. You guys make me be everything I can be and try to be as perfect as I can for you kids, because I can’t let you down. I refuse to let you down. Thank you for allowing me to be your inspiration. Thank you for allowing me to be a father figure at times, your superhero at times, your brother at times, and all the above. Thank you so much.”

Black people don’t surf? This org proves that’s not true The Black Surfers Collective aims to dispel the myth by offering free surf lessons

Four years ago, Detroit native Mimi Miller had never been in the ocean. Now she’s a devoted bodyboarder, surfer and volunteer for the Black Surfers Collective — a group that, according to its mission, raises cultural awareness and promotes diversity in the sport of surfing through community activities, outreach and camaraderie.

On Aug. 12, you could find Miller standing on the shoreline of Los Angeles’ Santa Monica State Beach, clapping and cheering on newcomers who took part in the collective’s monthly free lessons to introduce black people to surfing, called Pan African Beach Days.

Being active in the L.A.-based collective, with its 799 members on Facebook, has allowed her to do something she enjoys in a supportive, vibrant atmosphere: “I love the community,” she explained in between chasing down stray boards and yelling “Good job!” to kids and adults alike.

About 111 people signed up for the Aug. 12 event, although the collective cannot safely accommodate such a large number. Still, a good 40 people, ranging from young kids to middle-aged participants, got training and coaching. Most did not have experience surfing.

Miller and the rest of the collective’s members are part of the proud if lesser-known tradition of black surfing, which some would argue goes back to native Hawaiians (descendants of Polynesians), who are credited with inventing the sport in the first place. Among the legendary surf icons are Montgomery “Buttons” Kaluhiokalani, a black Hawaiian whom Surfer magazine called “the father of modern day surfing.”

L.A. has its own lore, beginning with black surf pioneer Nick Gabaldon, who frequented the Inkwell Beach in Santa Monica in the 1940s, where black beachgoers congregated during segregation. Also, the late Dedon Kamathi, a radio host and onetime Black Panther, was a surfing devotee, as was police abuse victim Rodney King.

Founder and co-president of the Black Surfers Collective, Greg Rachal is a former skateboarder who found his way onto a longboard early on. “I’ve been in and out of the water all my life, since I was 13,” he said.

Rachal and his wife, Marie, are beach enthusiasts and a vital presence in the collective, which organizes camping and surf trips and takes a leadership role in an annual tribute to Gabaldon.

Rachal’s son, Greg Jr., 15, volunteers on the collective’s surf days because he likes giving back. He is on his school’s surf team, which sometimes comes as a surprise to his white classmates. Greg Jr. would like to see more African-Americans in surfing. Until then, he said, he enjoys defying stereotypes.

He’s not alone. Waterman Michael Brown Parlor has been surprising people with his prowess in lifeguarding, surfing and sailing since he was a college student in South Carolina in the 1970s. He’s retired from surfing and mentors female surfers in competitive events, believing girls don’t get the respect they deserve in the sport. He spent Pan African Beach Day encouraging newbie surfers and taking pictures for his Facebook page devoted to surfing.

Pan African Beach Day was launched a few years ago because too few black people in L.A. get to the beach, and they don’t always have a background in swimming to enjoy the water, Rachal explained. He credited the Surf Bus Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes ocean sports and safety in L.A., for helping make Beach Day a success by supplying the boards, instructing students and providing additional volunteers. Beach Days are open to anyone, although most participants are people of color.

Before they took to the waves Aug. 12, participants gathered on the beach for a talk about ocean safety and played some games that got them into the water. Then it was time to plop themselves on boards laid out in the sand, where they learned how to position their arms and feet and practice their “pop up,” the tricky move from prone to upright, ending in a stance with knees bent and arms extended.

After some popping up, volunteer instructors such as Rachal and other members of the collective took participants into the water, finding the right wave and giving them a push forward. Some newcomers rode the boards on their bellies, zooming into shore with their arms extended, while others proved agile enough to stand up, maintain balance and ride in — always an exhilarating moment for a student and instructor. Waves were small, and wipeouts were minor.

Participant Pierre Scott had attended a few Pan African Beach Days before and was having a good run, standing up and even angling into the barrel of the wave, not just riding into shore.

“I love it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Scott said.

“It’s a hype experience,” said Garry Maxwell, who chuckled about the language of surfing, explaining that “I’m stoked.”

Devin Waller was a beginner and felt a bit nervous. But she felt the stoke the first time she stood up on the board.

“It was awesome,” Waller said after the session ended, depositing her board on the sand. “Heck yeah, I’m going to do it again.”

 100 Black Men of Atlanta welcomes students back to school Organization has been mentoring boys at B.E.S.T. Academy for 30 years

The first day of school took on new meaning at one Atlanta school, thanks to the 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Emerging 100 of Atlanta, The Collegiate 100 and leadership from 100 Black Men of America.

Members from across the organizations surprised students of the B.E.S.T. (Business, Engineering, Science and Technology) Academy by showing up on the school’s campus and dishing out handshakes, high-fives and encouraging words as the students entered their new facility.

“100 has been mentoring kids at this school for over 30 years,” said Curley Dossman, chairman of the 100 Black Men of America. “We are delighted to be able to be here and support these young men as they kind of get themselves back together in school.”

B.E.S.T. Academy educates boys from sixth through 12th grades. The welcome was an annual tradition for the men of the organization to carry out their motto, “What They See Is Who They’ll Be.”

According to the organization’s press release, The 100 Black Men of Atlanta and Emerging 100’s year-round mentorship and leadership program at The B.E.S.T. Academy includes one-on-one conversations, large- and small-group work sessions, and panel discussions with community stakeholders.

With help from the mentorship program, suspension rates at B.E.S.T. have declined by 30 percent and in-school suspensions by 36 percent.

Derrick Rose donates $7K to man walking from Chicago to D.C. to raise awareness of gun violence The Cavs guard showed his support on Demetrius Nash’s GoFundMe page

Chicago native Derrick Rose, who recently signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, stepped up when he heard that Chicago resident Demetrius “DNash” Nash had set out Aug. 4 to walk from Chicago to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about the epidemic of gun violence in his city.

Rose donated $7,000 to help Nash and left a heartfelt message on his GoFundMe campaign page.

“We’re proud of all the great work you’re doing to save the youth of Chicago and providing a framework for at-risk youth for sustainability by providing training for a trade and mentoring via positive & successful mentors. God bless you with safe travels on your journey. From Derrick Rose & the Blackman-Reese Family.”

Nash’s goal is to get support for programs that will help youths find alternatives to street life. Nash founded Replace Guns With Hammers, which aims to provide training and mentors to those in at-risk situations. His fundraising goal for the walk is $50,000.

“It’s 672 miles from Chicago to the White House,” Nash wrote on his campaign page. “Walking will take 223 hours. Walking 10 hours a day will approximately take 22.3 days, at roughly about 10-12 hours a day.”

Nash was incarcerated for drug trafficking when he was 26.

“I’m very serious about giving back to my community and using my own life as a testimony,” Nash wrote. “I was incarcerated for eight years and recently completed four years of successful probation. Thank God! That’s right 12 years of bondage!!! I was inspired by a book written by Nelson Mandela, A Long Walk to Freedom, in which he writes about his 27 years of imprisonment.”

Rose, formerly with the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks, has paid for funerals of victims of gun violence and has donated $1 million to After School Matters, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization devoted to providing out-of-school programs for teenagers.

Including Rose’s donation, Nash has raised more than $23,000 for his efforts.

Karrueche Tran of ‘Claws’ talks independence, body image and thinking positive ‘It’s important to accept who you are’

Karrueche Tran, the 29-year-old Wilhelmina model-turned-actress, is more than just a pretty face. She has a hustler mentality that doesn’t get comfortable doing the same ol’ two-step. Tran’s early jobs, from a personal shopper at Nordstrom’s to studying graphic design in college to freelancing as a fashion assistant, illustrate the theme of her resume: “What’s next?”

Now starring alongside Niecy Nash in TNT’s comedy-drama Claws, Tran plays Virginia Loc, a stripper-turned-manicurist who is full of sass and immature attitude, which gets put in check time and time again.

But don’t let that description deter you. Yes, Virginia is unapologetic about getting that paper, but she’s a complex character with many layers that are peeled back for viewers to witness every Sunday night.

“I’m usually cast as the girl next door or girlfriend, but underneath the overly trendy Virginia, there’s an interesting backstory,” Tran said. “I saw so much potential playing Virginia. I was able to really craft her character as well as expand myself as an artist.”

Although known to many as singer Chris Brown’s ex-girlfriend, Tran has paved her own way. With any journey there are times when one can feel lost or face walls that need climbing. This has been the case for the Vietnamese/African-American actor.

“Like a rose, women are beautiful creations with strength that protects us like the thorns on a stem,” Tran wrote on Instagram to promote her most recent makeup collection, Fem Rosa, but it’s also a phrase that has meaning for how she goes about life.

At a workout session with her personal trainer Mario Guevara, the Los Angeles native talked about acting, overcoming insecurities, dealing with the pressures of Hollywood, and her favorite emoji.


How has it been working on Claws?

It’s the biggest production that I’ve been a part of, and I’m so excited that we’ve been renewed for a second season and I get to work with my girls [Nash, Jenn Lyon, Carrie Preston and Judy Reyes] again. I’ve been able to grow with my character and add what I know she would say or wouldn’t say.

How did you get into acting?

I was at a point of my life where I was like, ‘What’s next?’ My manager suggested that I try acting. I’m the kind of person who has to try it out first before making a decision to pursue it or not, so I tried it and I liked it. I felt something and continued at it. I got small roles here and there, and it finally got me to Claws.

What’s the meaning behind your favorite tattoos?

One of my favorite tattoos is [the one on my forearm that reads] ‘the past is practice.’ You can always learn from your past mistakes to help you move forward in life. But there is no explanation for my zipper tattoo [on the back of my leg]. It’s not zipping down my life or anything; I just wanted something down my leg and I thought it looked hot, ha!

Karrueche Tran attends the 2017 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on June 25.

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Have you ever played sports?

I tried out for softball once, and that was a disaster! I never was the athletic type, which made me more interested in working out. I’ve always been thin, so exercising helped me build muscle and tone up since I wasn’t able to do that from playing a sport.

How has your trainer personalized your workouts?

I want to stay fit, but I also want to gain weight. Mario helps me find that medium between trying to get thick and still staying fit. He does that by helping me build muscle in a way that keeps me lean and toned.

What are your favorite cheat foods?

I love carbs like pasta and breads. I’m a foodie, so I really love everything. I’ve been into burgers lately, and when I was in Miami, I went to Soho [Beach] House. They have the best dirty burger. It’s so good!

When I was in New Orleans shooting Claws, I had stopped eating pork and red meat. I wanted to eat a little cleaner and be healthier, but then I was getting a little too thin. I have a small frame, so I don’t want to be too skinny. I still want muscles, so I need the carbohydrates to give me energy to lift weights.

How have you dealt with the pressures of Hollywood to look a certain way?

With a lot of my followers being young women, I try to be very positive and empowering. At times, I feel people don’t know how to be nice and genuine. I’m 29, and I can only imagine how insecure I may have been if Instagram was around when I was growing up. There are so many gorgeous women posting perfect-life pictures. Some are real [moments], but some aren’t. They play into the perception of perfection that’s not always reality. It’s important to accept who you are.

What insecurities have you had to overcome?

My body. Being so small and seeing so many curvy women out there, I had to really look at my worth and realize that I’m OK with how I look and who I am. Nobody is perfect, and we all have insecurities. I reminded myself not to get too consumed and stuck within my insecurity of looking a certain way. If you allow it to take over your mind, you’ll possess those negative vibes. When you have that negativity, it weighs you down and then spills everywhere in your life. It’s not easy with social media, but we can overcome it.

What’s your advice to people who want to give up?

There were times I felt lost and wanted to give up, even with acting, but there would be something inside me pushing me to continue. So many times we want to give up because it becomes too stressful. Life is not meant to be easy [all of the time]. We’re supposed to go through these ups and downs to find that light at the end of the tunnel.

What’s the last show you’ve binge-watched?

Star on Fox.

What’s the first concert you went to?

A Beyoncé concert when I was in high school. I think it was for her Crazy in Love album.

What’s your favorite emoji?

The middle finger and the rolling eye emojis.

If we opened your refrigerator, what would we find?

Sparkling water, a carton of eggs and orange juice. That’s seriously all I have in there right now, ha!

The season finale of Claws aired Sunday on TNT.

Animated short ‘Hair Love’ to show the bond between fathers and daughters Filmmaker Matthew Cherry wants to help ‘normalize’ black fathers

Matthew Cherry’s evolution has taken him from the football field to a stint as a production assistant to music videos. Now, his résumé includes a heartwarming short film in production called Hair Love.

Cherry said the idea for the film came from watching viral videos of fathers interacting with their daughters. In particular, he focused on ones that showed fathers combing their daughters’ hair, which can be both a chore and a bonding experience.

His five-minute animated film is about the relationship between an African-American father, Stephen, his daughter, Zuri, and her hair. Although Stephen has long locks, he is used to his wife doing his daughter’s hair. When she is unavailable right before a big event, Stephen has to figure it out and concludes that Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own.

Cherry said the “story was born out of seeing a lack of representation in mainstream animated projects, and also wanting to promote hair love amongst young men and women of color. It is our hope that this project will inspire.” He took to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to fund the film. His initial goal was $75,000. To date he has raised almost $252,000, making Hair Love the best-funded short film in the history of Kickstarter.

Cherry, 35, is a former college wide receiver. In his four-year career at the University of Akron, he finished with nearly 2,000 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. After college, he played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens. In 2007, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment, landing work as a production assistant.

“I was just Matt the PA, and I was here to work,” Cherry said. “I was here to learn and work the game from the ground up, and that’s how I kind of got my foot in the door.”

He has worked on more than 40 commercials and was a director for more than 20 music videos for singers and entertainers such as Michelle Williams, Tweet, Jazmine Sullivan, Lalah Hathaway, Kindred The Family Soul, Snoop Dogg, The Foreign Exchange, Bilal, N’Dambi, Maysa Leak, Dwele, Najee, K’Jon and Take 6.

Cherry’s film The Last Fall received awards at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) for Best Screenplay and Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival (MVAAFF) for the HBO Best Feature Film Award. After a limited theatrical release, it made its television premiere on BET in December 2012 and is currently streaming on Netflix and Hulu. He recently released a short film, Forward, which premiered on Ebony.com. He also writes and directs the award-winning web series Almost 30 and Almost Home.

Cherry has one sister (visual artist Caitlin Cherry) and grew up on the northwest side of Chicago.

“Sports was a big part of both of our lives growing up,” he said. “I played baseball ever since I was 5. Football ever since I was 6. Played three sports in high school. Had a full scholarship for football in college. … My existence was very much kind of tied into sports growing up.”

Cherry spoke with The Undefeated about his transition out of football, positive representation of black fathers in the media and normalizing black families.


What was your inspiration for Hair Love?

The biggest, and I think the most important, is just we’re seeing a big lack of representation in that computer-generated, animated world.

We really haven’t seen a lot black characters in that space. Bebe’s Kids was the first animated feature film directed by a black director. That came out in 1992; 25th anniversary was a couple of days ago. Peter Ramsey was the first African-American director to direct a CGI [computer-generated imagery] animated film. That was like two or three years ago, Rise of the Guardians. I think in between that time, there’s really only been those two black directors that have done like a full-length feature film in the animated space.

So we only really have had in recent years maybe four or five examples of full-length feature films that really tell our story. But a lot of times you don’t really see the whole, full family dynamic, particularly in these computer-generated feature films. The biggest thing for me is just like really seeing that lack of a presentation. … I don’t have kids myself right now, but got a serious girlfriend, and one day we’re going to get married and be having kids, and I really wanted to make sure that when I did have kids that they had a character that they could relate to.

When you look at mainstream media, and you see all the images, black hair isn’t made out to be the norm. It’s not meant to be the standard of beauty. We have a very Eurocentric standard of beauty in America, and if you watch TV, if you pick up a magazine, if you look at different things, you’re not going to see yourself represented. … You don’t see your curly, kinky hair on these different models, on these different actors and actresses, on these different music videos, etc. It can really do damage to your self-confidence and how you perceive yourself.

That’s why my biggest thing with this project, first and foremost, was just to really hopefully have some characters that were human, that showed black families in a complex but also simple manner, and just have characters that people can relate to but then try to help increase that diversity in the animation world, because representation is everything. I think my biggest thing is if a little girl can see Zuri or see Stephen, and see themselves represented, if it makes them feel better about themselves, to me, mission accomplished.

Who did you consult with about dads, daughters and hair?

I’ve actually had this idea for a couple years. I always thought it would be cute to do a story about a dad trying to do his daughter’s hair. I’ve seen a lot of kind of online videos, and my main dad friends who have kids, they’re always posting pictures and videos online of their failed attempts of trying to do their son’s and daughter’s hair, and just always thought that that would be a really cool angle to hit, particularly because the whole black father angle. I think, again, in mainstream media, we’re really nonexistent.

We look at a lot of these movies and TV shows, they always depict black dads as deadbeats, nonexistent, abusive. These fathers, they’re getting girls pregnant, running off, that whole thing, and while obviously in every race, every group, you have that negativity, but it’s always made out in the black community like that’s just all black men are. We just are deadbeat dads. We’re not in our kids’ lives.

So for me it was just really important to normalize black fathers, normalize black families. And really I think in starring a young black father and his daughter, I think that would just do wonders to kind of help normalize those images, because it’s important.

What’s been the most difficult part of moving from football to filmmaking?

The most difficult part of my journey is feeling like you have to constantly create your own opportunities. Like, to this day, nobody’s ever hired me for anything. All my opportunities have been self-generated in some fashion. Outside the music video world, from feature films to short films, it’s all been stuff that I either created with some friends or I created on my own, and sometimes it gets frustrating because you feel like, ‘I made this. This premiered at a major festival. Help me.’

Help me get to the next level. I did the work. I followed the blueprint. I did everything that they say you’re supposed to do in order to have somebody help you get to the next level. …

You make all these sacrifices like putting your mom’s life insurance money into the making of your first movie. It comes out, hey, you get a little bit of press, but nobody hires you. Damn. OK. You go away for a couple years. You do random things to kind of stay alive. Then my second feature film, 9 Rides. We shoot it on iPhones and that’s the thing that gets you noticed and gets you an agent and then you realize that all the work you and your team put in mattered after all.

They’ve seen us doing the short films for no budget. They’ve seen us doing the music videos. They’ve seen us doing these feature films and all this other stuff, so. I think the biggest, most difficult part of the journey has just been having to continuously create your own opportunities to kind of continue to put yourself in the game, and I think that there’s a lesson in that, in that you can’t predict what’s going to be the thing that hits, or is going to be the thing that helps put you on. You’ve just got to keep working, keep grinding, and eventually something’s going to hit, or eventually someone’s going to help.

Do you miss football?

Not at all. Not in the least. No, I don’t, especially with all this news about what’s been going on with players’ heads and CTE. I’m actually glad that I didn’t play too long. People have been playing since they were 5 years old, too. You know what I mean? Between Pop Warner, high school, college, you might have your five or 10 years in the league, but if you’re 25 you might have played for 20 years.

How did you prepare for your career after sports?

I studied radio, TV, broadcast and media production in college. I interned at a lot of radio stations, and I was the music director at my college radio station at the University of Akron. I interned up at the Cleveland radio stations, KISS and then on WENZ. And so I would always be kind of dabbling in production, but more of an audio-radio side, and it was something I was really interested in. I loved cutting promos, loved working with all these other kind of post-production programs, and I kind of knew even in college that whenever I got done playing ball I’d either be working in radio or some level of entertainment on the production side of things.

I signed as an undrafted free agent. My rookie year with the Jacksonville Jaguars, I knew after training camp, I was like, “Yeah. I’ve got to get my plan B together,” because it was just so political. When you come in as an undrafted free agent it’s like being a walk-on, so all these things have to happen that are outside of your control in order for you to make it. Guys will generally have to get hurt or traded and all these other things. It’s not really about how you perform, necessarily. It’s about, ‘OK, can you justify putting this guy in over the guy we’re paying millions of dollars?’

And I knew literally in training camp like, ‘Yeah. This is kind of unfair. I’m doing my thing, but I’m still not getting rewarded for it on the field.’ I actually got cut during training camp, and then they re-signed me to the practice squad. That’s how they do it, and I learned when I first got cut by just feeling there was nothing more I could have done. I felt like I balled out. I did everything that I should have done to be able to make the regular team, and it didn’t happen for me.

What’s up next after Hair Love?

This has all been a roller-coaster ride. The biggest thing for me is just really trying to just continue to do projects that are personal to me. Things that I really love. We hope to be able to use the characters from Hair Love and turn it into a feature film

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Foundation honors Nearest Green, the slave who taught Jack Daniel to make whiskey Author Fawn Weaver is determined to keep the distiller’s legacy alive

Nathan “Nearest” Green, the slave responsible for teaching Jack Daniel the art of whiskey distilling, is being honored by a foundation that is building a memorial park and creating a college scholarship fund for his descendants.

The Nearest Green Foundation was launched by best-selling author Fawn Weaver. “Here was this incredible story of a slave who was the first African-American master distiller on record in the United States, who taught one of the world’s most recognizable men and then following slavery became the first master distiller for what is now one of the top whiskey brands in the world,” Weaver wrote on the foundation’s website. “So little of the details had been passed down beyond the first few generations that the story of Nearest Green had turned into a bit of folklore.”

She first learned about Green from a New York Times article last year. The seldom-told story piqued Weaver’s curiosity enough to tell the complete story of Green and his descendants.

The first mention of Green in the Jack Daniel’s timeline begins in 1864. As a young man, Daniel left home to live and work on a farm that belonged to Rev. Dan Call, a Lutheran minister who lived a few miles from Lynchburg, Tennessee. Green, a slave at the time, was tasked with watching and caring for Call. Daniel and Green worked closely together. Although Call was credited for teaching Daniel the tricks of whiskey distilling, it was Green who spent the time and effort to carefully walk Daniel through the process.

According to the site, Call would have to make a tough decision after the Civil War. His congregation and wife urged Call to either walk away from the whiskey business or leave his post as a minister. Call chose to sell his whiskey business to Daniel. As a thank you to Green, Daniel hired the now-free man as his first head distiller at the Jack Daniel Distillery. Green worked with Daniel until 1881, when Daniel moved the operation to the Cave Spring Hollow location. Green’s sons, George and Eli, and grandsons Ott, Jesse and Charlie all worked at the new location to keep the family tradition alive.

Since last year, Weaver has gathered more than 20 historians, archaeologists, archivists, genealogists, researchers and conservators to help bring Green’s story together in its entirety. More than 10,000 original documents and artifacts passed down through generations have been offered to Weaver, with help from the Lynchburg community.

“When I met with the descendants of George Green, the son most known for helping his father, Nearest, and Jack Daniel in the whiskey business, I asked them what they thought was the best way to honor Nearest,” Weaver told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “Their response was, ‘No one owes us anything. We know that. But putting his name on a bottle, letting people know what he did, would be great.’ ”

Ten-year-old designer Kheris Rogers on why she’s Flexin’ in My Complexion After being bullied for her dark skin, she started a clothing line to inspire others

The world took notice of 10-year-old Kheris Rogers after 15-time Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys posted a picture of her on Instagram with the caption:I love this beautiful girl @kherispoppin and I love her mission! Keep shining.”

Kheris’ mission is to empower confidence with her clothing line Flexin’ In My Complexion, which she was inspired to create after being teased for her dark complexion in school in Los Angeles.

“Beauty has nothing to do with the outside,” Kheris said. “It has to do with your inside by being nice, smart, creative. Being beautiful means confidently knowing that you’re enough just the way you are. When I look at myself in the mirror, I say nice things like, ‘I am smart. I am kind. I am confident.’ It’s empowering.”

Earlier this year, Kheris’ 22-year-old sister, Taylor Pollard, tweeted a picture of Rogers after a fashion show that has more than 31,000 retweets and 84,000 likes. Comments came in praising her skin, hair, entire look and attitude, which helped boost her self-esteem.

Just a few days shy of her 11th birthday, Kheris spoke with The Undefeated about what it means to flex in your complexion, her definition of beautiful and her favorite thing about living in L.A. (Hint: It has to do with ice cream.)


Why did you create Flexin’ In My Complexion?
I was bullied for my dark skin complexion when I was younger [where I had to transfer to another school], so I felt that I needed to help empower others to feel comfortable in their skin color. I want to help others feel confident in their skin, knowing it is beautiful no matter how dark or light they are.

You’re only 10 and you were bullied for your skin color?
When I was in the first grade, I was one of four black kids in my class. They would call me names and wouldn’t play with me. There was an instance when we had to draw ourselves, and my teacher gave me a black crayon instead of a brown one. I felt really uncomfortable.

Your maturity and confident self-image is something that many 20- and 30-year-olds don’t have. Where did that come from?
It came from my family always telling me that I’m pretty and how being beautiful on the inside is the most important thing. My grandmother would always tell us to flex in our complexion. She put that in my head, and then I kept telling myself that.

Outside of your family, who else is a role model?
Tyra Banks! I love how she walks on and off the runway with so much confidence. But what I really love about her is how she empowers other women, and that’s what I want to do.

Who inspires your style?
I’ve always liked Zendaya’s style from watching her on the Disney Channel. My style is a mix of very girly girl and hip-hop. Some kids in my school would tease me on my style too, but everyone is unique and I love being creative with my style.

What was your reaction when you saw that Alicia Keys gave you a shoutout on Instagram?
I wanted to cry because of how surprised and excited I was. I looked on my phone, screamed and double-checked to make sure it was really her. I called my mom and was like, ‘OMG, Alicia Keys just posted my picture on her page!’

What’s your favorite Alicia Keys song?
‘Fallin’,’ I love that song.

What’s your favorite part about living in Los Angeles?
The drive-thru Baskin-Robbins that they built right by my house.

 

Troy Mullins is long drive golf champion but she’s striving for the LPGA The golfer says she plays at a different level: ‘I hit the ball like a guy’

She’s a champion in a sport where strength and agility is praised, not questioned. Not that it’s a cakewalk as a woman of color at the top of her game, but she plays through it and comes out successful.

It is the women’s World Long Drive Competition, a showcase for women who can hit a golf ball out of sight. Founded in 2000, it’s a fun, trash-talking sport where women gifted with a hard-core golf swing are recognized apart from the more subdued game of the LPGA.

And she is Troy Mullins, who at 25 has mastered it. In late July, she won the 2017 World Long Drive Mile High Showdown, although she’s only been playing golf since she was 21. Her winning drive was 374 yards, and her ultimate goal is to play on the LPGA Tour. A 4 handicap, Mullins had qualified for the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur even before the long drive competition.

The 5-foot-8 golfer, known by some as the “Trojan Goddess,” placed second in her first competition, the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship in 2012 with a drive of 321 yards using a regular-length driver. In 2016, she took sixth place at the Golf Channel World Long Drive Championship. Mullins’ win included a $7,000 purse, her trophy and bragging rights.

“I’m still shocked. I can’t believe it,” Mullins said in an interview. “I kept my head down [on that last ball], and I didn’t even know if it made it in the grid. I’m really proud of myself. … I’m doing this on my own, not sponsored. I come here with my two clubs and I’m doing it. And I think this is a great way to get people into the sport. This is how I got into golf, just coming out and having fun. I hope to stay in it for a long time.”

Mullins is a Cornell University grad who majored in China-Asia Pacific studies and international relations. She visited the driving range just for fun with a family friend who got her involved in the sport.

“He would just take me to this driving range, and I would love hitting balls,” Mullins said.

After college, she stopped running track and returned home to Los Angeles with a plan to become a U.S. ambassador to China, but she wasn’t quite sure whether law school was really what she wanted her next step to be.

“I kind of was just here deciding and fell into golf,” Mullins said. “Enough people said, ‘You know what? Your swing is that good, you could make it on tour.’ ”

She started her own business homeschooling and tutoring to support her golf dreams. According to her website, Mullins was a member of the Cornell women’s track and field team as a heptathlete. She followed in the footsteps of her father, Billy Mullins, who was a world-class sprinter.

Being a woman of color in the game of golf has presented some challenges that have driven her to conquer the sport she loves.

“Especially in this sport, where it’s not very integrated yet, we’re trying,” Mullins explained. “But I’ve heard of a lot of stories of other-race women getting sponsorships, and they’re not better than me. We can get the same scores, but there’s something there. And I haven’t quite figured out what that is. It seems like as a woman of color I’m only getting recognition now because I’ve won. And it’s tough. It’s hard. And then on top of that, going to country clubs, I’m usually the only African-American woman or African-American in general. I just met another African-American golfer, and she lives in New York and I’m not sure how her experience is there. You don’t meet many of us. It makes it tough. It’s different.”

Mullins rises at 5 a.m. and starts her day with exercise, either yoga or Pilates. She also does spinning. By midmorning, she’s playing golf or at a driving range. In the afternoon, she’s tutoring and homeschooling. Right now she has about 15 students, but during the school year, her client load may double. Balance is sometimes hard, but she’s gotten into a routine that works.

“It’s hard,” Mullins said. “Basically, I don’t have a social life. I work on the weekends. I wake up early and I go to bed early, and especially now if I’m going to be playing more tournaments. It’s really tough because golfing takes about five to six hours a day, not including any practice. That’s just play. It’s tough creating a schedule, especially balancing a schedule with students. It’s not as rigid as I wish it was.”

Mullins spoke with The Undefeated about her journey in life, golf and her future.

What’s been your inspiration for everything that you do?

I’ve been supporting my own sport and doing my own thing for a while and starting my own business and tutoring people. Now, it’s kind of about inspiring others. I have young siblings. It’s great to see how my students respond to my different achievements. They’re also motivated themselves. I tutor a girl that’s also a golfer. Now she calls me and she’s excited about golf. And it’s great to see that I can inspire others to do this as well. It’s not just for me anymore.

And then also for myself. I’m inspired by so many athletes. I’m inspired by Tiger Woods. As a kid I was inspired by Marion Jones and even Serena and Venus [Williams]. Black athletes and having to be the best in their sport just to be recognized, just to be out there. There’s something about us having to be No. 1 to be put in the spotlight, that we can’t be too mediocre. I’m working really hard to do my best in this sport. It’s tough.

How was your experience as a college athlete at Cornell?

Mostly, different. I wanted to try something new. I didn’t realize when I went to visit how small the town was. But it was very small. Much smaller than I thought when I went to tour it. But it was a good experience. I got to experience a lot of snow. My major was great because we spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and then we also spent a little more than a semester in Beijing at the Peking University. I spent a lot of time away from Cornell, which was so cool. Even with the track team, we traveled every weekend to different cities and different colleges. I had a great time there.

How was your life growing up?

My mother’s side was always more academic. I went to Marlborough’s all-girls high school. It was really important that I got a great education. Growing up, I was a child actress. I actually stopped as a kid because they wanted me to quit my high school. My family was like, ‘Yeah, no, that’s not happening.’ I got out of acting. It was really important that I go to college. I was an all-around athlete. I enjoyed doing a lot of sports. I loved volleyball. I was even an OK swimmer and tennis player. But track and volleyball were my two main sports going into high school, which was really tough too. They made me choose which sport to focus on. I was always a great runner. My heart wasn’t in it as much as volleyball, but when I found out I was going to be like 5-10, it made it an easy decision. I focused on track, getting good grades and getting into a good school.

How do you handle the competition mentally and emotionally?

I think that’s the biggest struggle for me, to be honest. I think I’ve been given the talent and skill pretty easily. I didn’t really struggle in golf. Coming into the sport late has always been a little bit of trying to build my confidence because I’m competing against girls that have been, one, playing their whole life. Played in college. Played on their high school teams. Not knowing, even learning a lot of the rules and the etiquette in the beginning, I was a little bit self-conscious, so it made it hard to compete with them.

And then on top of that, because I play at a different level, meaning I hit the ball like a guy, that’s also a little interesting. You don’t make a lot of women friends when you hit it past them like 100 yards. I’ve even struggled with playing being myself, being able to be OK with being the longest girl out there. Yeah, I was even reminded of that this weekend. I feel like in golf, I’m always a little bit out of my element. Not only being African-American, but when you play tournament golf, the girls are a little bit smaller or skinnier or blonder. And it’s a different type of tournament than the long drive. The long drive, the women are bigger than me.

What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?

Probably from one of my golf buddies. I think he said that I have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I’ve grown up pretty privileged, and I’ve never really had to struggle. And the paths that I’ve chosen as an athlete, now I have to make decisions where I’m going to feel uncomfortable. Having to take on less students to be able to do more tournaments. Whereas before, I’m living pretty comfortably in L.A., which is expensive, so I’ve got to work hard. But there’s that balance. Now, I have to make the choice, do I go after the dream and be a little bit uncomfortable or stay in my lane and work, which is what I’m used to. Even in other terms, putting myself into tournaments and even playing in the long drive. There were times when I was going to pull out of the long drives because I was so nervous about not being ready, not being strong enough. But I think that was really wise to say to me, because I’m not someone that likes risk. Still learning how to put myself out there and be uncomfortable, but getting it done kind of thing.

What do you look forward to most in the future?

I like accomplishing goals. I’ve always been a list person. Checking off things on my list is great. But future goals, honestly, I just want to have a really big family. That’s kind of really what I want. I’d love to be on tour, obviously. And I’d love to set records as an African-American woman. I’d like to inspire others, other black girls, black boys, to get out there and do this sport and to get involved. And I’d like it to be more integrated and less exclusive. Less expensive too.

What do you suggest young black and brown girls and boys do from the financial aspect of it?

I’m still working on that aspect too. When I first graduated, while I was tutoring I also worked at different golf courses. That allows you at least free play, free balls, free practice. Getting involved in the golf business is definitely a way to make it less expensive. I just feel like that the issue is the more we get involved, the more color that we see on tour, maybe golf will get less expensive because more people will be playing. But I think right now, the golf industry’s dying because Tiger’s not in it. We have a lot of great tour players. Jordan Spieth is great and, of course, like Dustin Johnson. But it’s not bringing people like it did with Tiger. Until more people join, it’ll still be the expensive sport that it is.

What’s up next for you?

The tournament’s on the 5th and the 6th of September, the Volvik World Long Drive Championship — WinStar World Casino, Thackerville, Oklahoma. Hopefully I’ll win. Goalwise is doing my best, doing better. … It’s hard to do better than last time because we were at elevation, and elevation has a little bit to do with how far the balls go. I proved a lot to myself the last time I played. My No. 1 goal was to make top eight, and then I did it. So then my next goal was to make top four. This time I’m going to set out to do the same thing. I don’t put my expectations too high. That’s always been me. I like to just be reasonable. So reasonable to me is to make top eight. And if I do that, top four. If I do that, top two. And if I win, then awesome.

Seamstress Rose Ellis is a ‘wedding angel’ to panicked brides in Oklahoma After a bridal chain abruptly closed with wedding dresses still inside, Ellis rescued dresses and is performing alterations for free

What should have been one of the best parts of the wedding-planning process became a nightmare for brides across America when Alfred Angelo, one of the world’s largest bridal chains, filed bankruptcy and closed its stores.

There was no warning for brides who were expecting gowns. The only messages customers got were “Store Closed” signs on the doors and a statement on the chain’s social media pages detailing its bankruptcy.

“While we have been successful in obtaining customer records and delivering many dresses and accessories for customers all over the country, even after the bankruptcy filing date, it has now become apparent that the logistical and financial strain of fulfilling each and every open order makes continuing that course of action no longer possible,” the message read. “Thus, to the extent any order has not been fully delivered to a customer, it shall have to remain unfilled.” Before filing for bankruptcy in mid-July, the chain was more than $78 million in debt.

That’s when Rose Ellis, a seamstress who worked for Alfred Angelo’s Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, locations, stepped in. Last week, Ellis entered the Tulsa location for a routine gown pickup when she was warned that the company would be closing its 60 U.S. locations permanently the same day.

Ellis knew she wouldn’t be able to save all of the gowns, but she went to two Oklahoma stores and grabbed as many dresses as she could before the doors were locked for good. Although brides had paid Alfred Angelo upfront for alterations, Ellis, who was now out of a job herself, did the work herself for free. With alterations generally averaging $400 per gown, Ellis vowed to do around $30,000 worth of work — money she’d never see.

“I just felt that, with my integrity, I had to do what I could do and if I’m not getting paid for it, so what, you know?” Ellis told Oklahoma’s KFOR. “That’s par for the course.”

Ellis worked diligently to perform alterations on the more than 70 gowns she’d rescued before the shops closed. The last step is reuniting the brides-to-be with their wedding dresses, which Ellis is also handling. She drives an hour and 30 minutes from Tulsa to Oklahoma City weekly to return the dresses to their owners before their big day.

Brides who were spared the heartache of being without their dresses due to the chain’s sudden closure are now calling Ellis their “wedding angel.” Stephanie Huey, a bride who was helped by Ellis, paid for a hotel to save the seamstress from driving back and forth. She also created a GoFundMe page to help offset some of the costs for Ellis. More than $5,600 has been donated to the cause, surpassing its original goal of $2,500.

“Rose has done so many people such a good deed,” Huey wrote on the page. “There are worse things than losing a wedding dress, of course, but it means so much to the brides that she’s helping.”

As for Ellis, the alterations won’t stop until every gown in her possession has been returned to each bride.

“They’re going to get a gown that’s going to fit them perfectly even though they paid Alfred Angelo for the work, not the seamstress for the work,” Ellis said. “They still have a gown they can be happy with.”