Soccer pro Amobi Okugo remains dedicated to helping pro athletes manage money Okugo turned his frugal tendencies into the website A Frugal Life — a treasure trove of tips on how to play sports and not go broke

As a 15-year-old rising soccer star, Amobi Okugo had all the tools necessary to impress any coach. The midfielder’s speed, quickness and tenacity made an immediate impression on John Hackworth, who at the time oversaw America’s pool of under-17 national players, all with dreams of representing the red, white and blue.

Something else about Okugo caught the young coach’s eye.

“He was a young man at that time — full of ambition,” Hackworth recalled with a laugh. “But I will tell you right off the bat that he was as frugal then as he is now, if not more so. He would get a pretty good teasing from his teammates for how he spent his money and how he didn’t. I’ve teased him for a long time for being flat-out cheap. But he had no problem with it, whether the teasing was from me, his best friends or his teammates. He would never apologize for it; that’s just who Amobi is.”

And still is.

Now 26 and having played eight professional seasons in Major League Soccer, Okugo has grown from teenager to a seasoned veteran whose sights and ambitions are about life beyond professional sports.

“I’ve always been pretty frugal growing up,” said Okugo, a product of Nigerian parents. “I’m not sure if it’s my Nigerian blood or what. I remember getting free Nike gear from youth national team camps and returning them to get cash or telling my mom to pack me extra chicken wings and selling them at lunch at school.”

fru•gal: sparing or economical with regard to money or food.

Synonyms: thrifty, economical, careful, cautious, prudent, unwasteful,
sparing, scrimping, meager, scanty, scant, paltry …

Frugal and creative.

While Okugo had penny-pinching ways from his youth, the midfielder-turned-defender had a complete mindset shift after watching the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Broke, which told tales of former millionaire athletes losing and squandering their earnings in spectacular fashion, oftentimes ending up broke.

Broke was a big eye-opener for me because it really went into detail about how easy it is for athletes to go broke,” said Okugo of the 2012 film, which featured the likes of Curt Schilling, Bernie Kosar, Andre Rison and Cliff Floyd speaking openly about the challenges of managing their money. “It wasn’t until I saw the documentary and saw the accounts of players I personally watched on TV detailing their experiences when it hit me. What caught my eye the most was how avoidable it was for athletes to not go broke but because of perception and lack of preparation, some athletes felt it necessary to spend.”

The film prompted Okugo to take account of his own financial life, and in August 2016 he launched A Frugal Athlete, a website that publishes news and shares advice and viewpoints that he hopes will help athletes take control of their finances. Co-founded with his younger brother, Akachi, and his best friend Kyle Odister, both former college basketball players, the site combines financial tidbits, media analysis and useful consumer-friendly news.

“When I originally launched A Frugal Athlete, my goal was to highlight different athletes who are prudent financially — not superstars like the LeBron James and Tom Bradys of the world who will never have to worry about money in comparison,” said Okugo, who played soccer his freshman year at Jesuit High School in Sacramento, California, before joining the U-17 residency national team program as a sophomore. “I also wanted to increase financial literacy for athletes as a whole, because that is a major issue as well.”

Still a relatively new league, MLS has only 28 players with salaries at or over the $1 million mark. League contracts, according to the players’ union, are more typically in the five and six digits, starting just above $50,000 and topping out around $7 million. Okugo’s 2017 compensation with his last MLS team, Portland, was just over $190,000 in salary and incentives, according to Okugo.

When he was drafted by the Philadelphia Union in 2010 — coincidentally at the urging of Hackworth — who was then an assistant, he hardly thought about money, but thanks to good parents, he knew sports was a window to financial security but likely a small one.

“Amobi was 19 when he moved to Philly,” remembered Hackworth, who eventually became the Union’s head coach in 2012 and played a key early role in Okugo’s development through 2014. “He moved in with Danny Mwanga, who was our No. 1 draft pick, and they both talked about making decent money for being young kids, but they had to figure out a way to manage it. Mwanga had that mindset too. But right away, [Okugo] was like, ‘Coach — I’m getting my degree. I don’t care how I do it, I’m going to get it.’ ”

Okugo had completed only one year of college at UCLA before being drafted; his parents, he said, were adamant about him completing his degree, and he still had aspirations of a career in sports management. After years of offseason studies, Okugo scored his best goal to date — earning his undergraduate degree in organizational leadership from the University of Louisville last December.

Okugo’s frugal ways, and his platform, have caught on in the league, and among other pros. Bilal Duckett, a former MLS player who now plays for the Charlotte Independence of the United Soccer League, a prominent Division II league, understands all too well the importance of thinking beyond your playing days. At 29, Duckett is one of the Independence’s more senior players. And, even though he served as captain the past two seasons — and he just re-signed for one more campaign — Duckett knows his post-soccer life is likely just around the bend.

“I’ve seen players trying to live like basketball and football players — we don’t make that kind of money,” said Duckett, a 2011 Notre Dame grad who earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration. “My background is in IT, and my web consultation company, Duck Digital, is a really important part of my ‘next step’ process,” continued Duckett, who builds and maintains websites when he’s not man-marking speedy forwards and has also championed a project called Tackling Consent, an initiative developed by soccer players to end sexual violence before it starts. “I think Amobi’s platform is brilliant. In my experience, there are far more conversations in the locker room about flippant spending than financial responsibility and frugality.”

Having made the rounds in MLS — playing for Philadelphia, Orlando, Sporting Kansas City and most recently Portland — Okugo is actively staying in shape and shopping his services for a team, domestic or international. But if that call doesn’t come, it’ll hardly be the end of the world.

“I would probably apply to graduate school and continue to grow A Frugal Athlete where it could generate revenue,” he said. “Depending on best fit, I would like to go for a dual MBA-JD degree.”

Hackworth chuckled when he recalled Okugo’s frugal ways from their time together in Philadelphia, particularly on road trips. “When we would travel, the team would book group tickets and the athletes don’t usually get credit for their miles. It was a ritual: Every time Amobi went to the airport, he would insist on getting his miles. He would spend 20 minutes at the counter, and come hell or high water, he was gonna get his miles. Somehow he found a way to get them.”

That’s why they call him the frugal athlete.

Figure Skating in Detroit is aiming to change the color of the sport This girls-only program uses figure skating to build self-esteem and academic achievement

Asked recently which event she was more excited about — the 2018 Winter Olympics or the recently released Tonya Harding biopic I, Tonya — 13-year-old figure skater Kendyll Martin quickly said the Olympics. After all, she hadn’t even been born when Nancy Kerrigan was assaulted at Cobo Arena and wasn’t familiar with arguably the most dramatic moment in figure skating history.

Her dad, Carl Martin, chuckled. He remembered it, but he and his family are focused on how figure skating can be more widely available in communities of color.

Kendyll was introduced to the sport in kindergarten through a program at her private school. But she is more the exception than the rule. Many black girls, in Detroit and elsewhere, have not been exposed to the sport or its benefits.

Figure Skating in Detroit (FSD) is aiming to change this. The girls-only program is an offshoot of New York’s Figure Skating in Harlem, which uses figure skating to develop leadership skills, self-esteem and academic achievement.

Kendyll’s mother, Robin Martin, learned of FSD on the news and took Kendyll to a free workshop. Kendyll, who had stopped skating because her school’s program had been dismantled, was excited to have an opportunity to get back on the ice. Her parents were pleased with the program’s focus on skating, education and leadership.

Applicants are required to be Detroit residents and undergo an interview. Geneva Williams, director of Figure Skating in Detroit, uses the interview to determine the quality most important to her and the program: commitment.

In exchange for the time commitment — roughly two hours per day, four days a week — and maintaining at least a B average in school, the girls receive ice skates, uniforms, mentoring and on-ice instruction. Parents are asked to participate as well. Williams doesn’t just want them to provide transportation and fees, she wants them to attend some of the workshops.

The cost to the family is about $250, which covers instructor’s fees, costumes and equipment, and skates. Anyone who can’t swing that amount is asked to pay what they can. The Michigan Women’s Foundation, individual donors and other local foundations subsidize most of the program’s expenses. Williams’ goal is to get 300 girls to join by the end of 2018.

“I was impressed and excited that they offered skates,” said Robin Martin, although Kendyll hasn’t taken advantage of this yet. She still uses skates that were purchased before she joined FSD. Robin added that the cost to join the yearlong program is equivalent to what she would have paid for one or two private lessons.

She’s right. The cost of figure skating can be can be stifling, and it is likely part of the reason there aren’t more black figure skaters. A new pair of figure skates can start at $500. Add coaching costs, ice time and outfits and the tab can jump to $10,000 just for a low-level skater. This is steep for most families, let alone those living in Detroit, where the median household income is just above $26,000.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, 52 girls travel to Jack Adams Arena in northwest Detroit to skate. They range in age from 6 to 15, and Williams suspects most have never practiced the sport before.

“They are learning wiggles and basic skills,” reported Kendyll. More advanced skaters, like herself, work on spins and jumps. Her favorite is the loop jump and the scratch spin.

The girls are divided into four groups based on skill level. Besides on-ice instruction, they receive off-ice training in ballet, jazz, choreography and expression.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, the girls are separated by age and participate in a program called I Can Excel (ICE).

“I take classes like financial literacy, life skills, STEM and dance,” said Kendyll. Nutrition and tutoring are also offered on these days.

Barb Reichert, spokeswoman for the U.S. Figure Skating Association, likes all of it. “I admire how Figure Skating in Detroit puts a laser focus on education and then provides the support to be successful in the classroom and beyond,” she said by email.

Gary Miron, a professor in the College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University, is also excited about the program.

“Kids engaged in extracurricular activities tend to perform better than kids who don’t,” he said. Students who compete in gymnastics, cross-country and track tend to have high GPAs, he said, and figure skating would probably fit into this group of sports tied to high academic performance.

Williams added that understanding the physics of figure skating can help girls understand physics generally. It is these connections between sports and science that fortify her belief in the program.

Another benefit for the participants is the backing of Olympian Meryl Davis. The 2014 ice dancing Olympic champion is not competing in Pyeongchang, but she has been promoting both programs in Harlem and Detroit. She visits and gives skating tips to the girls from time to time.

Kendyll has met Davis a few times, and the encounters leave her somewhere between dazzled and intrigued. Still, she’s not interested in pursuing ice dance. Instead, Kendyll hopes to learn more complex jumps and spins so she can compete. FSD does not train girls for competition, so she’d have to join or partner with a figure skating club to do so.

Williams is not opposed to helping the girls compete, but right now she’s trying to secure funding and participants to ensure the longevity of the program. And Figure Skating in Detroit may be just as helpful to its lead organizer as it is to the girls who enroll. Williams was caring for her sick husband when she first heard about the program. When he died, Williams needed to grieve and find something she was passionate about professionally and emotionally. Though she is not a figure skater, FSD has helped spark the next iteration of her career.

The Detroit area attracts some of the most elite skaters and coaches in the world. This has been true since the 1960s, a long time before Little Caesars Arena was scheduled to host the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships in 2019.

But while black folks make up most of the Motor City’s population, only a small fraction appear to be members of the figure skating clubs around the region. The United States Figure Skating Association, the national governing body for the sport, does not track the race of competitors. Pictures from ice shows and competitions are the best evidence that black skaters exist.

All of this — the population, the number of skating rinks in the city, the figure skating talent, the need — is why Figure Skating in Harlem chose Detroit as an expansion city for the program last November.

Many minorities still don’t participate in clinical trials, but changing the narrative can save lives Researchers and patients can join forces to change the perception and the numbers

ESPN’s 2017 V Week runs through Dec. 8. During the fundraiser for cancer research, The Undefeated is telling stories about early detection, clinical trial studies and research in minority communities. ESPN hopes to raise funds and awareness about the important cause championed by our friend, coach Jim Valvano. One hundred percent of all cash donations go directly to cancer research. Donate here today.


Fact: According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, African-Americans make up about 5 percent of clinical trial participants and Latino Americans constitute 1 percent. As a result, treatments become biased toward whites’ reaction to drugs.

African-Americans are diagnosed with more advanced cancer, and death rates are higher. One way to help combat the issue is to have more people of color participate in clinical trials. But overcoming historical stigma is a big deal for minority populations and is likely one of the most common factors driving the low participation numbers.

For the black community, the clinical trials are reminders of the often negative intersection of ethics, race and medicine that has led to distrust. It is rooted in a history of exploitation of, and experimentation on, African-Americans that ranges from the Tuskegee Syphilis Study to a 19th-century doctor experimenting with gynecological treatments on enslaved women without anesthetics.

No one wants to feel like a big experiment, especially when they’re already sick and trying to fight a disease such as cancer, even if the medical research can lead to better outcomes.

Now more than ever, with the high death rates among black men and women, it’s time to change the narrative. Here are some ways to get the ball rolling:

First, clinicians can go into minority communities and contact community leaders, especially those who may have knowledge of clinical trials. They do exist. Many are even cancer survivors. They can also partner with churches and other agencies in the community, whose opinions are valued.

Next, clinicians can work on a plan to help minority communities gain trust in the health care system. Meanwhile, patients can search for a physician who can be trusted, one who is willing to explain the health care system to them. Another way is to garner the expertise of a health coach, an occupation that’s on the rise in many communities. Health coaches are trained to act as hands-on liaisons between patients and their plan of care. They are found to be more engaged with patients and can often build the trust and compassion between patients and doctors.

Finally, clinicians can lean on public relations professionals to increase communications between them and the community. Clinical trial enrollment barriers include the lack of proper access to health information services, socioeconomic patterns, social perceptions, time spent on travel to office visits and clinics, health literacy and drug side effects (there are many clinical trials that do not involve drug treatments at all). Clinicians and researchers could use help from trained professionals with disseminating studies into cancer communities, especially in communities of color. Cancer research terminology is often not translated for the lay public’s consumption, which is an immediate turnoff for even the most educated. Communication efforts to the public seem distant. Many patients have even expressed that researchers and clinicians should consider eliminating the term “clinical trials” altogether and use wording that is more patient-friendly and not pegged to a history of traumatic events.

In a 2014 article, Janet Stemwedel, associate professor of philosophy at San Jose State University, who studies ethics and scientific processes, was asked what steps have been taken by clinicians to dispel concerns of minority populations and she replied, “I can’t think of any positive trust-earning step that was taken, off the top of my head.”

Despite the low efforts, or those that haven’t properly traveled from the peer base to the community base, dollars from places such as the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund, formed by The V Foundation and family members representing Stuart Scott, have pitched in to help. This fund is dedicated to help minority researchers fight cancer in minority communities. It continues to advance Scott’s fight against cancer and assist some of the most vulnerable and disproportionately affected communities battling the disease.

Scott himself participated in a clinical trial study. He believed attitudes, beliefs and perceptions can change the thought pattern.

“Our father got seven years after he was diagnosed with cancer, and that is seven years we may not have had,” his oldest daughter, Taelor Scott, told The Undefeated.

Dr. Edward Kim, a lung cancer expert clinician, chairman of Solid Tumor Oncology and Investigational Therapeutics at Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a recipient of the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund, conducts a clinical trial on blood markers dealing with lung cancer.

“I think it’s still something that health care professionals, different support groups and education need to occur so that folks can understand what the opportunities are, and what’s the benefit for them,” he said. “I’m not saying that everybody should be on clinical trials, and every clinical trial can be a little different, but it is a way where we make progress. We can’t get a new drug unless we have a clinical trial. That’s what leads us to the next study, and the next study. I’m a strong advocate for people to be on clinical trials. I feel like we need more clinical trials out there. You find the right biomarker and identify the patient that’s going to benefit, that drug works really well.”

There are organizations that host clinical trial outreach campaigns and programs such as the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, which can be a great resource for patients.

Ariel Community Academy students are investing on Wall Street by fourth grade For 20 years, the school’s graduates have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and investment bankers

There is a school in Chicago where students are introduced to stocks in kindergarten and trade stocks by the fourth grade.

Ariel Community Academy is a public school on Chicago’s South Side — the vision of John Rogers, founder, chairman and CEO of Ariel Investments, and Arne Duncan, former U.S. secretary of education.

Rogers founded the school more than 20 years ago. Among the graduates are doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and, of course, investment bankers.

“I tell people all the time that the best way to learn about investing is the way my father taught me,” said Rogers. “He gave me real money to invest in real stocks. That’s the heart of what makes our program work. It’s not a game.”

Here’s how Ariel Community Academy works, according to principal Lennette A. Coleman and former students.

The school goes from kindergarten through eighth grade, each with two classes of approximately 25 students. Three instructors are dedicated to teaching financial literacy: one at the primary level, one at the intermediate and one for middle school. The rest of the curriculum is similar to any other grade school, with classes in math, science, fine arts, music and technology. And they have a “dynamite baseball team,” Coleman said.

Financial education starts in kindergarten and the first grade, where they learn the very basics about economics and personal finance. “They learn about saving money and spending money,” said Coleman. “The instructors use a curriculum that is age-appropriate.

“They are taught about wants and needs, and the difference between those things,” she said. “We may look at the fact that the cost of a bike is $200 and the average person makes $400.

“It is very simple, basic concepts about what money is and the value of money related to different subjects,” she said. “They get an understanding that money comes from somewhere. You can earn it through talent or effort. Some people think and some people work with their hands.”

By the third grade, the students begin to learn about stocks, bonds and curriculum.

“In the fourth grade, they begin to learn about portfolios, picking and managing stocks, as well as entrepreneurship and creating business plans,” Coleman said.

Students start in kindergarten with the $20,000 originally contributed by Ariel ($10,000 for each of the two classes in the grade). In the early years, the portfolio is managed by Ariel and Nuveen Investments. By the later grades, the students are actively involved in making the investment decisions. A Junior Board of Directors (composed of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students) decides how to invest the money until they graduate.

By eighth-grade graduation, that portfolio has grown. The original $20,000 goes to the following year’s kindergarten class to start the process all over again. The surplus, or profit, is divided. Half is donated back to the school. The other half goes to the students in the graduating class.

The average profit is $12,000 to $13,000, although it has been as high as $32,000, Coleman said. If the student uses his or her cut of the profits to open a college savings account, Ariel will match it with $500.

“Ninety percent of the students opt for the savings account and get the match from Ariel,” she said.

Ariel Financial Literacy Event 031215

One of those students was Victoria Bills, who started at the school in the sixth grade. By the eighth grade, she was head of the investment committee.

“The moment I set foot in Ariel and saw that I could be a portfolio manager, that’s immediately where I wanted to go in life,” she said. “I wanted to be in money management.”

She went on to the University of Chicago Laboratory High School on a John Rogers scholarship, and later Babson College in Boston. Today, she works at Ariel in institutional sales.

Mario Gage is another graduate. His mom enrolled him in the school in the second grade because she loved the concept of financial literacy.

“She made us follow the three-jar system,” said Gage, now 25 and also an employee of Ariel. “When we got money, we had to split that money into three different jars. Ten percent went into the charity jar, 30 percent went into the savings jar and 60 percent went into the spending jar.”

She enrolled Gage and later his brother Miles, who is two years younger.

“It was cool, and an eye-opening experience,” Gage said of his experience at Ariel. “It’s something youth, especially minority youth, don’t get exposed to.”

Ariel Community Academy students in the classroom with Ariel Investments chairman and CEO John W. Rogers Jr. (left, in blue shirt and tie), city of Chicago treasurer Kurt Summers (center) and Arne Duncan (right), managing partner of Emerson Collective.

Ariel Community Academy

His class’s profit was $14,000, which left $7,000 to be divided among the graduating eighth-graders.

Among the highlights of Gage’s time at Ariel, he said, were field trips to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Ariel Investments and the McDonald’s annual meeting. He also joined a youth investment club outside the school, one exclusively for African-American youths ages 12 to 18.

“Not only did it affect me, but it affected my family,” he said. “My mom started getting into stocks and started her own portfolio.”

Gage’s mom, Michelle, a human resources director, said she has always talked finances with her sons. “When they grew older, they started teaching me.

“All children learn how to read in elementary school,” she said. “Some love to read and some don’t like to read, but, hey, all learn how to read. I’ve always taken the approach that I want my kids to not only learn how to manage money but to love it.”

When Gage graduated from Ariel Community Academy, he also received the John Rogers Scholarship to attend the University of Chicago Laboratory High School. He graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in economics and went to work for Ariel Investments. He now travels and lectures on financial literacy and assists Ariel with its financial literacy initiatives.

Rogers said the concept for the school started 20 years ago when Duncan worked at Ariel coordinating community affairs. His first project was the I Have a Dream Class, which he borrowed from a program at New York City, in which a class was adopted with the promise of making college affordable for the students.

The idea to focus on financial literacy came after Rogers attended a conference with personal finance journalist Jane Bryant Quinn and former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt. They talked about the need for more financial literacy in schools, especially public schools. He immediately called Duncan, and Ariel Community Academy was born.

“Sometimes financial literacy is all about keeping credit card debt low and how to manage a mortgage,” he said. “All that is important. But in this day and age, you have to be a financial expert to prepare yourself for retirement. Pensions plans have been replaced by defined contribution plans (401(k) or 403(b)). Stock market knowledge is more important in this country than ever before. We need to keep up.”

Rapper Dupre ‘Doitall’ Kelly now wants to do politics and join the Newark, New Jersey, City Council Member of ’90s group Lords of the Underground says arts and culture can create jobs

It was the early ’90s. 1993 to be exact. Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” was top of the charts. “Whoomp There It Is” by Tag Team was rocking clubs. “That’s The Way Love Goes” by Janet Jackson was the swoon fest of probably the decade. And this was all according to Billboard‘s top charts. Meanwhile, BET crowned Lords of the Underground, a hip-hop trio from Newark, New Jersey, as the best rap group for hits from their album released March 6 of that same year, Here Come the Lords.

Twenty-four years later, group member Dupre “Doitall” Kelly has traveled the world, achieved fame, and is now bringing his talent back to his hometown. He is running for another title — an at-large council seat in Newark. If elected next year, he will be the first platinum-selling hip-hop artist to be elected to public office in a major U.S. city.

Newark is no stranger to being led by men within the arts community, as poet Ras Baraka, son of the late Amiri Baraka, serves as mayor. Kelly is a native of Newark’s West Ward, where he attended public school and honed his craft as a rapper. He attended Shaw University, a historically black university in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he became a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. With his group he earned platinum and gold success, and as an actor he appeared in hit shows such as The Sopranos, Oz and Law & Order.

He currently serves as co-founder and executive director of 211 Community Impact, a nonprofit that promotes literacy, good health and giving. Alongside a host of other organizations in early 2017, Kelly helped raise funds to purchase a lift bus for children at John F. Kennedy School in Newark.

After a meeting with his campaign staff, Kelly spoke with The Undefeated about his run for City Council.


How did you decide to engage in politics?

My decision was made because of my journey through living the hip-hop culture and seeing how it has grown into a culture that influences and inspires the world. I decided, why not use it to help my community on an elected-official level?

Why is it important for hip-hop to have representation in government?

It is super important to have someone at the table of politics that understands and speaks the language of the community. For the last 20 years, hip-hop culture has been the most popular on this planet and is indeed a movement by definition. Hip, meaning in the now, and hop being a form of movement. If looked at that way, you can see that hip-hop is the now movement.

How do you feel about Jay-Z’s latest album?

I feel like it’s part of the evolution of hip-hop. The points and subjects Jay chose to address with a feel of honesty were topics that a 25-year-old Jay-Z would have never talked about. The experiences that he has encountered on his journey, using hip-hop as the vehicle allowed him to articulate to the rest of the hip-hop community and beyond in such a way that in my mind displayed his genius.

Do you hope more people within the hip-hop culture engage in local government?

Yes, I pray so. I hope to be the spark that ignites the flame of any and everyone who has a platform that can galvanize citizens in every city. If that happens, we can really effectively make changes in our communities.

What plans do you have for the city of Newark?

I plan on making a greater investment into our youth by bringing new innovative ideas that will generate revenue through arts and culture that can be used to spur job creation. Keep our young people engaged and residents invested into making the quality of life better for everyone in every ward of the great city of Newark, New Jersey.

What did people say when you decided to run?

It depends on which person you or I ask. When asking seasoned political figures, they would say, ‘Maybe you should wait until the next election to be ready.’ If you asked a person from 35 to 55 years old, they would say, ‘You have my vote and I’m with you.’ If you asked a 25- to 34-year-old, they would say, ‘You are going to win this by a landslide,’ but clearly don’t know what it takes to enter into a political race, let alone win one. If you ask an 18- to 24-year-old, they want to know more about me and once they find out, by searching the internet and doing their research of what I have done in the community, they also say that they are with me. The 60-year-olds-and-over residents want to know who I am, but more importantly where I stand on certain issues and policies.

Interesting theory based upon age ranges. How old are you?

Well, if you have heard the classic Lords of the Underground single ‘Funky Child,’ the intro begins with ‘The year is 1971.’ … I will let you math experts figure out what age that makes me. [Laughs.]

Who are you mirroring this campaign off?

I am mirroring chess players like grandmaster and Hall of Famer Maurice Ashley and Garry Kasparov.

What is your mission statement for your campaign?

My mission is [to] add on to the great things that are happening in the city of Newark, New Jersey, and help create bigger and better opportunities for the residents, entrepreneurs and local businesses. I also will talk to the people of the community in every ward to work on a solution to get residents to come from out of their individual silos, making every neighborhood in the entire city inclusive. When people love their city, they can change it.

As someone passionate about our home teams, will the New Jersey Devils win the Stanley Cup this year?

Absolutely. (Laughs)

Meet Angel Rich, the entrepreneur whose app tackles financial literacy for youth She’s being called the black Steve Jobs despite the challenges of being a woman in the tech biz

Financial literacy among youth is a necessity in today’s global world. To meet that need, entrepreneur and Washington, D.C., native Angel Rich has turned her passion into an app, and she’s getting recognized for it.

Rich, a Hampton University graduate, developed Credit Stacker, an app that teaches students about personal finance, credit management and entrepreneurship through games and simulation exercises. She’s won business competitions and has been featured in Forbes and mentioned by former first lady Michelle Obama’s organization, and her notoriety is continuing to rise despite challenges.

In 2015 in an interview with the business website 1776, Rich said she knew she wanted to start a company geared toward financial literacy to help youths when she was 6 years old. She launched The Wealth Factory Inc. in 2013, along with co-founder Courtney Keen, and created her brainchild, Credit Stacker, which she’d been working on since 2009.

“Our mission is to provide equal access to quality financial education all across the world,” Rich said in the interview. “We feel as though that anyone who has a dime in their pockets should also have financial literacy to go along with it.”

The D.C.-based firm has a financial literacy model that uses online gaming to develop skills that will help youths understand the financial gap between America’s haves and have-nots. She wrote the book The History of the Black Dollar, published in April, in which she explains this phenomenon.

One way Credit Stacker helps youths is by opening their minds to understanding credit reports and the scoring system using gaming and simulation. It has been enhanced to help teachers in classrooms customize students’ experiences.

The app is set up to receive funds from advertisers and contracts with organizations such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.

In May, Forbes posed the question “Could The Next Steve Jobs Be A Black Woman?” in a story that featured Rich. At that time the app had been downloaded 24,000 times. Now with more than 200,000 downloads, Credit Stacker is growing, and it’s poised to become one of the best products in the country dealing with financial literacy.

Rich won Prudential’s annual National Case competition for her technology-based marketing plan. She worked with the company as a global market research analyst, where she conducted more than 70 financial behavior modification studies. Rich parted ways with Prudential in 2012. According to Forbes, she’d raised $6 billion for the company and received a $30,000 bonus and an opportunity to have her education paid for to obtain a master’s degree in business administration from Wharton. She declined and went full throttle to run her own company and make her app a reality.

While she is succeeding, she’s said her major challenge has been playing on a level field as a black woman in business and technology. She told Forbes her “competitor raised $75 million. I won best of financial product and best learning game. My company raised only $200,000.”

Less than 20 percent of venture capital money goes to women-owned companies, and the numbers are slimmer for black women. According to a report by #ProjectDiane, black women represent only 4 percent of all women-led tech startups in the United States.

But this is not stopping Rich from reaching the company’s goals. According to the website Business Women, Credit Stacker was named the “best financial literacy product in the country” by the Office of Michelle Obama, the “best learning game in the country” by the Department of Education and the “best solution in the world for reducing poverty” by JPMorgan Chase. It has won first place in several business competitions, including the Industrial Bank Small Business Regional Competition and the Black Enterprise Elevator Pitch Competition.

Credit Stacker is free and available in 40 countries. It has also been translated into four languages. Despite the odds, Rich is continuing to press forward, and she has the support of people and organizations across the board.

More about Rich:

  • In 2010, Prudential’s CEO asked Rich to lead President Barack Obama’s Veterans Initiative Research Study, and her recommendations were announced in the State of the Union address.
  • In 2011, Rich conceived the first African American Financial Experience Study, which now serves as the benchmark across the financial services industry for marketing to blacks.
  • In 2012, Rich was recognized with a Presidential Achievement Award for Exceptional Research and Innovation for helping Prudential save $6 billion, rising from No. 16 to No. 4 in service in one year.

‘Saturday Night Live’s’ Colin Jost and Michael Che aren’t mascots for the resistance ‘The Weekend Update’ hosts discuss real and fake news — and giving LaVar Ball a wedgie

Thanks to a never-ending presidential campaign and an even wackier Election Day aftermath, Saturday Night Live once again became the can’t-miss nexus of weekly political comedy that it hadn’t been since Sarah Palin was a candidate for vice president.

The show was rewarded with 22 Emmy nominations (tying HBO’s Westworld for most nods in 2017) and record ratings. It’s doing so well that NBC has spun off its Weekend Update segment into a stand-alone show, Weekend Update: Summer Edition, which premiered Aug. 10 and will continue airing Thursdays at 9 p.m. EST. SNL’s cast, including Update hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost, have become mascots for the Resistance. And while Kate McKinnon, Alec Baldwin, and Melissa McCarthy have embraced that role, it’s made Che and Jost uncomfortable. Neither of them got into comedy to change the world. That may seem odd, given that Che is a former Daily Show correspondent and Jost is a former journalist, both jobs that required a greater-than-average literacy about news and politics.

And yet, Che and Jost insist we’re taking them way more seriously than they take themselves. “If you had a joke they liked … now people are like, ‘Thank you, on a political level,’ or something, which is weird as a comedian,” Jost said. “That’s not really the point of what we’re doing. We’re not really doing political activism, we’re just trying to figure out what’s funny if we can.”

“It’s taken on different kind of importance that I don’t know that we’re emotionally capable of accepting,” Che said. “We want to piss off liberals too. I want to disappoint everybody, not just conservatives.”

What do you guys see your role as in democracy?

Colin: Class clown, probably.

Michael: Yeah, I think it’s just funny. It’s weird to get with so much news and so much coverage of politics and TV, that they’re still looking at comedians as the truth-tellers.

It’s all Jon Stewart’s fault.

Michael: It’s strange. You know what, you’re not wrong about that, either. It’s weird. It’s not really why I do comedy, you know. We always want to be funny. We want to be able to hit you from any angle and make fun of anybody. I feel like when people define your role, it’s easier to disappoint them, because they’re like, ‘Well, that’s, you’re not really on the right side,’ because you have to fit the consistency that they have already set for you, or the standards that they’ve already set for you, and I feel like with comedy, that should never be the case. You should never know where the ball is, to use a sports phrase. You should always be able to hide the ball.

Colin: Wow, you are a big sports fan.

Do you feel like there is anybody who is successfully managing to circumvent that without having to either face backlash or outrage from either side?

Michael: I think we do. I think we get written about for certain things that we’ve said, like making jokes about Hillary [Clinton]. I remember one time, we said in an interview, ‘Trump was smart.’ Before he won, it was like, ‘Well, you know he’s a smart guy,’ and people trashed us.

Colin: It was a whole headline, like, ‘They Think He’s Smart.’ How dare they?

Michael: They were so mad at us.

Colin: And first of all, we were saying both he and Hillary are clearly smart people, and the headline was, ‘Trump is Smart.’ He went to UPenn for college and is a billionaire. How many billionaires are idiots, you know? It’s tough.

Michael: I don’t know, maybe Floyd Mayweather? No, that’s a joke. Yeah, well I didn’t say [Trump] was the smartest, I just said he was — he’s smarter than me, that’s for sure.

If you got one gimme, one consequence-free opportunity to punch somebody out, who would it be?

Michael: That’s weird that she says it while LaVar Ball’s on TV. He’s just yelling at a lady.

Colin: Yelling at a lady for being out of shape, did you see that? Oh, my God.

Michael: I don’t know. Punching never gets you anywhere. I wouldn’t want to punch anybody like that, even LaVar Ball. Wedgie, yes. I would love to give him a wedgie. But he strikes me as the kind of guy that doesn’t wear any underwear.

Colin: You reach in, you’re like, ‘What?’ He looks back, like, ‘Yeah. Gotcha.’

Michael: Does that answer your question? LaVar Ball is pretty unlikable, but he’s getting the coverage, and people are entertained by him. I think people just need those outlets. You can yell at your TV at LaVar. It’s all entertainment. You kind of got to remember that and not take it too seriously.

Colin: Yeah, and if you’re a basketball player, you’re probably like, ‘What the hell is wrong with this? Why is he doing this?’ But then, if it helps basketball, and then you ultimately get paid more as a basketball player you’re probably going to —

Michael: Yeah, I mean when his son develops a rivalry with another player, and that adds a fold to the story and it makes people watch the game and it makes people excited. These kinds of characters is what makes rivalries important. That’s why I was telling people with sports teams, I think fans get that, because you see players and personalities that clash with … so like how mean were Boston fans to Derek Jeter, but when Derek Jeter left, everyone —

Colin: ‘He’s a good man.’ Welling up with tears.

Michael: Because he makes so many memories. You hated him, but you appreciate how fun he made the game, and how much fun it was to boo that guy. I think that’s also important too.

Colin: I was going to say I feel bad for his kids, but I don’t. I think they’re doing fine.

Michael: They’re great athletes, and you know what, even if they don’t make it, they’ve lived a great life. They’ve gotten a lot further than a lot of people, mostly because they look like they’re having fun. They seem to be enjoying it, and that’s cool, because at the end of the day, it is sports, and they could be digging ditches and tarring roofs.

Colin: That’s great, they enjoy it every time they’re on the court because there’s buffer from their dad.

Michael: You know they’re not going to get any fouls.

Colin: Think about that. That’s why they’re smiling on the court, they’re like, ‘We can’t hear him right now.’ That’s why they’re trying to get the crowd louder. They’re like, ‘Pump it up so that we can’t hear our dad yelling from the stands.’

Oh, no, you make them sound like the Jacksons.

Michael: Oh, I mean, yeah. I think Joe Jackson wears underwear though.

Colin: That’s the one difference.

A lot of comedians who predated social media complain about YouTube ruining the culture of stand-up.

Colin: I’m amazed people will write reviews of a show and quote every joke in it. I’m like, ‘Well, you just gave away all their material.’ You have to realize probably not so many are going to read that, but you just feel self-conscious as a comedian. If they quote your jokes, you’re like, ‘Oh, now I feel weird telling those jokes, because they’re already out there.’

Michael: Yeah, it kind of hurts the integrity of what you’re trying to do.

You guys grew up with the internet more than, say, someone like Chris Rock or Louis C.K.

Colin: Yeah, but when it’s on phones — you could record stuff when we were younger, or when we were starting out, but not everyone had a phone with a camera on it, so every single person in an audience has the ability to record your entire set.

Michael: There’s a company called Yondr. Do you ever use them?

Colin: Is that — they shut down phones?

Michael: They put a phone in a pouch, and they lock up your phone pretty much. [Dave] Chappelle does it. [Chris] Rock does it. Hannibal [Buress] does it. … I did it at Denver Comedy Works, and it’s amazing because your attention span, your sense of focus as an audience, is completely different. When the show starts, you’re looking at the stage. You’re not texting. You’re not trying to get a picture. You’re not trying to take a selfie. You’re not scrolling through Instagram one last time. The only thing going on is the stage, and the focus and the crowds are so much better and so much more attentive. It’s different. It’s night and day.

Did you work on your high school paper?

Colin: I did. I was the editor in chief of my high school newspaper, The Owl, no big deal. But then I worked at . . .

Michael: You’re right, that is no big deal.

Colin: . . . I worked at the Staten Island Advance, which is a newspaper on Staten Island. That was my first job.

How did you go from serious journalism to fake news?

Colin: I wrote, it’s so dumb, a humor column for my high school paper. You’ve got to start somewhere. And then for the real paper I worked at, I would just write things in my spare time, you know, Onion-style things at the time. I always wanted to do comedy. I just took a job because there was a job open, you know, like a journalism job. I’m shocked now, having … like it was a really good newspaper, even though it’s a small Staten Island newspaper. They have a really good staff and everything there, and I learned a lot about journalism while I was there, and when I see things now, like there’s so many factual errors in articles, and I’m like, ‘Where is any sense of integrity to it?’ That’s the strange thing to me. Certain things I get when people complain, like when politicians complain about the media and stuff, I see elements of it, because I’m like, yeah, when they get something wrong, or you just said something and then you’re misquoted or it’s changed or facts are wrong in the story and no one checked them. You’re like, you’re leaving yourself open to being criticized, you know?

The Daily Show built its brand on media criticism, and you guys have both spoken up about pointing out what we get wrong sometimes. Do you ever feel like that’s something you want to incorporate more into Weekend Update?

Michael: That’s sort of more of a Daily Show thing. We’re always kind of wary about doing what seems familiar, because as comedy fans, it’s a thing that we’ve seen.

And even at the show, we’re doing the job that Tina Fey did, and Amy Poehler, and Norm MacDonald, and Seth Meyers and all these people. They did it so well and at such a high level, and they’re so talented. We have to find a way to do that same thing and make it your own, you kind of don’t want to do the same thing as — it’s so easy to do what’s familiar because you’ve seen it done so well. You kind of just want to make it your own. So we started to make it a little bit more opinionated, a little bit more longer runs, a little bit more of the way that actual cable news is, as opposed to the way local news is, like how it started, where it was literally reading headlines. Now it’s a little bit more of a narrative.

Colin: It’s sometimes harder to get into some of the media stuff, because we don’t have so much time. Sometimes you have to get a little more in depth to explain, OK, this was the angle from that media source, and here’s why that’s wrong.

Michael: That’s why we’re really excited about doing these half-hour Updates, because we’ll have a little bit more time to kind of unravel that onion.

With ‘The Rich and The Ruthless,’ Victoria Rowell flips the soap opera script Rowell’s Rules: When you’re at the wheel, you can cast the net wide and hire black

Drucilla Winters. A fictional character on CBS’s The Young and The Restless portrayed by one of daytime TV’s hottest black women on the tube, Victoria Rowell. Drucilla was spicy. She came in with a fiery personality that kept faithful viewers watching. So when Drucilla fell off a cliff on April 4, 2007, with no body to be found, fans were left waiting and wondering whether she would ever make her return to the daytime soap world.

Rowell has moved on and has created her own lane. Her new vision, a six-part scripted comedy series titled The Rich and The Ruthless, will premiere on the Urban Movie Channel on July 28.

“As you know, I’ve had more than 14 years of daytime drama experience beyond The Young and the Restless, but that is the most iconic role that I played in daytime, as Drucilla Winters,” Rowell said. “I very quickly saw the disparity for African-Americans not only in front but behind the camera and was very active in diversity in the genre of daytime drama television.”

Rowell, the creator and director of the dramedy, is also one of the show’s stars. She first launched a Kickstarter campaign for the pilot episode four years ago. Featured in UMC’s summer lineup, The Rich and The Ruthless is a fictional story of the first black-run daytime drama in the soap opera industry and is loosely based off her novels The Young and the Ruthless and Secrets of a Soap Opera Diva.

“The premise of the show is a black-owned soap opera that’s been on the air on a fictitious network in Hollywood for 20 years and the network is trying to get rid of them,” Rowell said. “This is a dramedy. It’s wonderful. It’s a behind-the-scenes from the black perspective looking out on the perspectives of fans, the perspective of the actors and the balancing act for a black actor or actress in Hollywood taking care of their family back in Mississippi.”

Rowell said she decided to choose Mississippi because of a relationship with Myrna Colley-Lee, the founder of SonEdna, a foundation that celebrates and promotes the literary arts and writers of all genres and backgrounds.

“I was introduced to her literacy organization many years ago and was invited to Mississippi,” Rowell said. “I had the great honor of collaborating. I was invited to the local high school, and I spoke and I was taken to the SonEdna art center. I’m also involved in literacy. The high incidence of illiteracy in the South and teen pregnancy, I absolutely wanted to make Mississippi a part of the story. Besides that, the historical civil rights aspects of Mississippi.

“To me, it all matters. It all collides. It all has to matter. In my opinion, to live a full, bountiful, abundant and give-back life, you have to know the history. You’ve got to look back to move forward.”

In The Rich and the Ruthless, all the drama begins when greedy studio executives inform self-made businessman and showrunner Augustus Barringer (Richard Brooks) that his show is getting booted off stage for another talk show after two decades on the air. Augustus is ready to fight back by any means necessary to stay on the air — even if that means filming out of his sleek Hollywood mansion or moving the company to Jamaica. Meanwhile, his unpredictable wife, Kitty Barringer (Rowell), is not happy about any of it. After recently returning home from her latest stint in rehab, she decides it’s time to claw her way back up the cliff and make her soap diva comeback to her role on the show as Blue Sylla, much to her husband’s chagrin.

“I won’t give it away, but it’s a family-owned business, so think Game of Thrones meets The Office meets Empire, sort of the political mores, dealing with the tug of war with the network, dealing with the family dynamics and power struggle,” Rowell said.

Rowell’s journey includes being raised in foster care as a child. But she overcame everything and became a successful model, dancer, actress, mother and activist. She is particularly passionate about fairness for black actors, so much so that she decided to take the lead as a creator and director so she could create positions and cast talented actors in nontraditional roles.

“I grew up in foster care for 18 years,” Rowell said. “I understand disparity. I understand racism. I understand all of that. I understand what poverty looks like. I do my job. No one works between two companies for 22 years not doing their job. I was able to learn and glean a lot from that experience, but at the same time, I thought, I have to do more than collect a check. I have to do my level best too … and if it means creating my own show, all the better. I don’t find it to be a hindrance at all. It has only empowered me and made me stronger. I manifested The Rich and the Ruthless so that I could be at the wheel and cast the net wide and have a black casting director and wardrobe, costume designer, and have black producers and be the executive producer, have black writers, cast the net wide for black catering, and so on.

“So you see, when you’re at the wheel, you can cast the net and hire black. We’re there. That’s a myth, that we don’t exist. Not only do we exist, but we have our union cards as well in some cases, many cases.”

Rowell, who wrote the New York Times best-seller The Woman Who Raised Me, portrays the series as a soap within a soap. Rowell stars alongside Brooks (Being Mary Jane, Law & Order), Dawnn Lewis (A Different World, Major Crimes), Robert Ri’chard (Coach Carter, Chocolate City), Chrystale Wilson (The Players Club), Caryn Ward Ross (The Game), Michael Colyar (The Princess and the Frog), Alesha Reneé and more.

Rowell has earned three Daytime Emmy nominations and 12 NAACP Image Awards. She had an eight-season stint on Diagnosis Murder as a medical examiner and a handful of feature-film roles.

“Being Emmy-nominated is hugely a part of my story and my imprint as an actress,” Rowell said. “I’ve worked in Hollywood over 25 years with the likes of Sam Jackson to Eddie Murphy to Will Smith. I’ve worked with Mario Van Peebles. I’ve worked with Forest Whitaker, Dick Van Dyke, Jim Carrey, lots of incredible actors, black and white. Roc Dutton, Robert Townsend and, of course, Shemar Moore. Today, my highest achievement is being owner, creator, executive producer, director and co-writer and actor of … and in The Rich and the Ruthless.”

Jimmy Butler receives NBA Cares Community Assist Award for April The Chicago Bulls star is also in the running for the season-long award

As Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler and his team look to force a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs, fans are congratulating him for receiving April’s NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente. Kaiser Permanente and the NBA will donate $10,000 on Butler’s behalf to Youth Guidance.

Fans can cast their vote for Butler or nine other players for the season-long award through May 5 via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #NBACommunityAssist and #PlayerFirstNameLastName (e.g., #JimmyButler). An NBA committee of judges will join fans in selecting the winner.

The 10 nominees include monthly winners Butler, Tobias Harris, Jrue Holiday, C.J. McCollum, Elfrid Payton, Zach Randolph and Isaiah Thomas, and three additional players nominated for their exceptional community work: DeMarre Carroll, Mike Conley and Dwyane Wade. The season-long winner will be announced at the inaugural NBA Awards, which will be televised live by TNT on June 26 in New York. The NBA and Kaiser Permanente will donate $25,000 to the winner’s charity of choice.

The NBA Cares Community Assist Award honors the standard set by NBA legend David Robinson. The award recognizes an NBA player each month who best reflects the passion that the league and its players share for giving back to their communities. The April award that Butler received was the final regular Community Assist Award of the 2016-17 season. Butler was recognized for his efforts to empower and uplift at-risk youth throughout Chicago.

According to a release, “Kaiser Permanente and the NBA are honoring Butler for making the one-on-one support and mentorship of Chicago’s youth a top priority. Working with one of the Bulls’ longtime community partners, Youth Guidance (local mentoring organization), Butler recently participated in its Becoming a Man (BAM) conversation circle at Kelvyn Park High School, where he discussed ways to improve the city with students. During two Bulls basketball tournaments with Youth Guidance and the Chicago Police Department, where officers and students played side-by-side, Butler and his teammates led conversation circles about trust, integrity and issues facing their community. Expanding his community outreach this year, Butler also provides regular dinners to homeless men and women at Pacific Garden Mission, doing so almost every month of the 2016-17 season.”

“Spending time with these kids is as impactful for me as it is for them,” Butler said. “Hearing their stories and learning about what they go through motivates me to do even more for Chicago. Their desire to change the world is inspiring, and I’m proud to help them achieve any way I can.”

Youth Guidance serves more than 8,000 students in Chicago’s schools. Pacific Garden Mission meets physical, emotional and spiritual needs of homeless and hurting men, women and children through transformational counseling programs, food and clothing from donations, shelter and prayer. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. It is recognized as one of America’s leading providers of health care and not-for-profit health plans.

  • More information about the nominees:
  • Wade – for his many efforts to create peace in Chicago through his Spotlight On initiative.
  • Butler – for making the one-on-one support and mentorship of Chicago’s youth a top priority with the help of community partners in Chicago such as Youth Guidance.
  • Thomas – for his numerous efforts to give back to youths living in cities he calls home, including service to our military members and by participating in the MENTOR In Real Life campaign.
  • Harris – for his widespread efforts to positively affect the lives and health of youth through active mentorship, and to strengthen bonds between law enforcement and communities.
  • McCollum – for his work to encourage youth in their education and career development, with a particular focus on improving literacy.
  • Randolph – for his generosity and commitment to aiding kids and families in need throughout Memphis, particularly around MLK Day and the holiday season.

In ‘Handmaid’s Tale,’ a postracial, patriarchal hellscape What happens to white supremacy in a totalitarian theocracy? It depends on whom you ask

This article discusses details of The Handmaid’s Tale, both the book and the 2017 television adaptation.

Recently, Elisabeth Moss, the star of Hulu’s new adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, the 1985 dystopian Margaret Atwood novel, was a guest on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Colbert invited Moss to explain the show’s premise to those who might be unfamiliar with it. “It’s about, in America, a right-wing totalitarian fundamentalist regime …,” Moss said, smiling coyly.

She paused for effect, and the audience laughed.

“… takes over the country. Women are enslaved and made to be breeding hosts. All reproductive rights are stripped, and the Constitution is blown to smithereens. So I don’t know if you can imagine (pause, more laughter) such a world. Try to go there.”

Such is much of the conversation surrounding The Handmaid’s Tale: that it’s an unsettling, beautifully executed work that also happens to be frighteningly timely.

For all the talk of The Handmaid’s Tale’s equal parts exquisite and disturbing look into the future, there’s one area in which the television adaptation departs from an otherwise fairly close reading of Atwood’s original text: race. It’s also the area that suffers from a lack of deep interrogation of how to make such a change realistic in a series that has been commended for, and that prides itself on, a vision of the world that feels all too possible.

Adapted for television by Atwood, Bruce Miller (The 100, ER) and Ilene Chaiken (The L Word, Empire), The Handmaid’s Tale reveals what happens to women when the United States is taken over by religious fundamentalists who change its name to Gilead. It’s a world in which widespread pollution has dropped the fertility rate to species-threatening lows and fertile women of childbearing age are conscripted into serving as “handmaids” for the Gileadean aristocracy: men known as Commanders, and their barren Wives. The rules and realities of living in Gilead are revealed through the eyes of a handmaid named Offred (Moss). All the handmaids are stripped of the names they had in their former lives once they’re assigned to a Commander and Wife. Offred is assigned to a Commander named Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), and the handmaid who accompanies her on daily errands, Ofglen (Alexis Bledel), is assigned to a man named Glen. Lower-income men who cannot afford a handmaid and a wife are assigned women, known as Econowives, who are expected to perform the duties of several women.

Hulu is releasing the first three installments of the 10-episode limited series Wednesday, April 26, and releasing a new episode each week thereafter. Strategically, staggering the release of episodes in the way regular television does (Hulu also does this with its new original period drama Harlots) just makes sense. It’s eight weeks of recaps and writing and discussion about a vision of the future that feels less and less like an impossibility. And its stunning, all-too realistic execution is precisely why I wouldn’t recommend spending 10 straight hours in Gilead — that is, unless you just enjoy having nightmares.

A scene from Episode 1 of Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale

Take Five/Hulu

Gilead’s borders are heavily policed to prevent people from fleeing. People guilty or suspected of crimes against the state are executed and their bodies hung in public at a place called The Wall, serving as decomposing, fly-infested warnings to other potential dissidents. Placed throughout Gilead are secret informants known as Eyes, charged with enforcing loyalty to the totalitarian regime by spying and snitching on citizens, sowing distrust and preventing any sort of open, widespread oppositional solidarity.

The environment of The Handmaid’s Tale is culled from historical events: American slavery, the Holocaust and World War II, postwar East Germany, totalitarian Stalinist Russia.

Women are not allowed to read. Everyone has a specific uniform that corresponds with their societal duties. The handmaids are dressed in red full-length dresses and cloaks, with stiff white bonnets, called “wings,” that cover the sides of their faces.

Only a warped form of Protestant evangelicalism is allowed. Catholics are forced to convert or are banished to an area known as the Colonies, where they’re forced to clean up toxic waste until they die. Gay people — labeled as “unwomen,” “unmen” and “gender traitors” — are largely banished to the Colonies as well.

“We’ve seen this so many times in history, so what are you going to do? These people are violating your rights and killing your relatives,” Atwood said of totalitarianism. “What are your choices? You shut up and try to get through it and not get killed yourself. And those have been the kinds of choices for subserviented, for oppressed, for people with very little power, throughout history.”

There’s a reason that Atwood’s novel has felt so eerily prophetic in the 30-some years since it was first published. The environment of The Handmaid’s Tale is one culled from historical events, among them American slavery, the Holocaust and World War II, postwar East Germany, totalitarian Stalinist Russia. When it comes to the horrors human beings can inflict on one another, Atwood, 77, didn’t have to use her imagination; she merely had to look back in history.


“It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o’clock on Sunday morning.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

In the book, black people are banished and sent “back” to Africa, while Jews are sent to Israel. The few black people who remain are postmenopausal women, known as Marthas, who perform domestic duties as maids and cooks. Everyone in the world of the Commanders, Wives and handmaids is white and Protestant. When childbearing women are kidnapped, they’re brought to a place called the Red Center, where women known as “Aunts” train them in their duties as handmaids. They’re white, too.

Moira (Samira Wiley), shown in the first episode.

Take Five/Hulu

But Hulu’s adaptation features actress Samira Wiley, best known for playing Poussey on Orange is the New Black, as Moira, Offred’s best friend. Moira gets kidnapped too, and she finds herself being trained for life as a handmaid at the Red Center at the same time as Offred.

In a hierarchical society propelled by religious fundamentalism, just about everything in this history of this country suggests that racial divisions would become far more deeply entrenched.

Miller, Chaiken and Atwood took care to preserve the exacting rituals and ceremonies that characterize life in Gilead and bring them to life on screen. There’s the awkward, uncomfortable, perfunctory sex that happens when a handmaid is ovulating. The mandated positioning stipulates that the handmaid lay supine between the legs of a Wife, with their arms intertwined, so that the standing Commander may look into the eyes of his Wife as he’s having sex with the handmaid.

When a pregnancy results in a birth, there’s a special chair devised for Wives and handmaids once a handmaid goes into labor, one that positions the handmaid (rather uncomfortably) below the wife and between her legs. Wives are encouraged to experience birth days as if it is they who are going through labor to deliver a child.

All of this serves to reinforce the idea that the handmaids are merely ambulatory wombs. They serve one purpose, which is to pop out babies, then give them up as soon as they’re weaned. And so introducing the idea of nonwhite handmaids prompts a question: What happens when a black woman gives birth to an interracial baby who serves as a daily reminder to a Wife that she’s not the child’s biological mother when so many rules and ceremonies have been created to obscure that very reality?

“Let’s assume that fertility, which is already going down — male fertility is being affected by plastics in the water even as we speak — let’s suppose that the ability to have a child, any child, is higher in rank than racial feelings,” Atwood answered.

“Fertility trumps everything,” Miller chimed in. “And if you posit a world where the fertility rate was falling well before this, that change would have happened before Gilead came.”

Offred (Elizabeth Moss) and her fellow Handmaids assist with the delivery of Janine’s baby.

George Kraychyk/Hulu

So Gilead is postracial because the human race is facing extinction, and that prompted Americans to get over several hundred years’ worth of racist education and social conditioning that depicted black people as inferior and less than human? Because Jesus? Recent findings from researchers at Villanova and Texas A&M universities suggest that’s highly unlikely. Glenn E. Bracey II and Wendy Leo Moore found that white evangelical Protestant churches subjected black parishioners to “race tests” and would push them out if they were found wanting.

Women are not allowed to read. Everyone has a specific uniform that corresponds with their societal duties.

“When people of color were unwanted and/or potentially threatened the boundaries of white institutional space (through their presence or their racial perspectives), white insiders in the churches employed exclusionary race tests to identify and repel people of color whose racial status, non-white customs, and/or racial politics disrupt the norms of white space,” Bracey and Moore wrote.

“My understanding was that there were slight differences in the evangelical movement, at least in America, that have gotten a little more diverse in the 35 years since the book came out,” Miller said. “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t have a kid in school where there isn’t a kid in school that’s a different race than their parents, because that kind of adoption, international adoption, has really happened.”

But the world of Gilead is not a world of adoption, not really. It’s something else entirely. And even if it were, that argument neglects to consider that nonwhite babies available for adoption are more difficult to place than their white counterparts and are usually accompanied by less expensive adoption fees.

This is where the series departs from its characterization by so many as prophetic: It ignores historical evidence that when white people feel existentially threatened, some double down on their prejudices, and it ignores how religious fundamentalism has been used to justify such prejudices and their incorporation into American institutions.

What happens to women when the United States is taken over by religious fundamentalists who change its name to Gilead.

The insecurity that drives the Wives of Gilead to create seemingly irrational rules governing the lives of handmaids are not so different from the tignon laws of New Orleans. Handmaids are forbidden from owning or using lotion because the wives want them as unattractive as possible, lest they tempt the wandering eye of a Commander, just as black and multiracial women in New Orleans were once required to cover their hair as a way of reinforcing their diminished social standing. In the Hulu series, the Aunts punish an insubordinate handmaid at the Red Center by gouging out one of her eyes, because handmaids don’t require eyes to reproduce.

It’s nearly impossible for me to see how a black handmaid would not find herself subjected to similar cruelties faced by Harriet Jacobs and countless other enslaved black women, whose mulatto children bearing their slave-owning father’s features served as constant reminders of infidelity and lechery. In a hierarchical society propelled by religious fundamentalism, just about everything in the history of this country suggests that racial divisions would become far more deeply entrenched, not less.


I’m not arguing that Wiley shouldn’t have been cast — far from it. Especially in flashbacks to modern-day city life, Wiley performs beautifully with Moss, creating exactly the sort of intimacy, normalcy and day-to-day happiness that becomes a distant memory once Gilead’s totalitarian regime is firmly ensconced in power. And for those familiar with Moira’s ultimate fate, serving up the sort of celebratory, “dirty,” illicit sex that’s been all but outlawed in Gilead, her blackness actually works quite well. Of course a black woman would be prized as exotic at an underground bordello that’s known as Jezebel’s.

Furthermore, in our current climate of heightened media literacy, I doubt that Hulu would have been able to get away with airing such a high-profile series with no women of color in consequential roles. So it’s up to writers to do a better job of addressing the complications that race presents, especially in a work that’s being sold as a glimpse of a possible future.

Imagining a dystopia in which misogyny takes center stage makes total sense because an America in which abortion is outlawed and women are forced to give birth seems frighteningly realistic. But one in which racism is no longer an issue is about as real as the unicorn tears and fairy powder being used to make Starbucks’ latest Frappuccino. If dystopic art is to serve as a commentary on what’s currently taking place in the world, its stewards would do well to remember that.

A scene from Episode 1 of Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale

Take Five/Hulu

The oversight from Miller, Chaiken and Atwood doesn’t necessarily make The Handmaid’s Tale a bad series, but it does make it an incomplete one. Just as America’s origins as a nation founded by Puritans and Calvinists still inform our modern-day politics, so too does America’s original sin of slavery. Those two ills fit hand in glove, with religious fundamentalism often serving as the velvet cudgel justifying white supremacist dogma. In a fictionalized world, maybe it’s possible to separate them for the sake of convenience, but in the America of the past, present and near future, religious fundamentalism doesn’t usurp the power of racism. It helps to reinforce it.