Deon Taylor, professional basketball player turned filmmaker, talks new flick ‘Traffik,’ sports and family ‘I have become who I am today simply because I was told no everywhere I went. I’m the product of no.’

When filmmaker and director Deon Taylor stopped playing professional basketball to pursue film, a lot of doors were slammed in his face.

“I have become who I am today simply because I was told no everywhere I went. I’m the product of no.”

Now he boasts a 15-year independent film career and is releasing his newest film, Traffik, an intense thriller about sex trafficking starring Paula Patton and Omar Epps due to hit theaters on April 20.

Taylor grew up in Indiana and moved to Sacramento, California, where he played high school basketball. He caught the attention of San Diego State in the ’90s, receiving a full scholarship and being named the conference’s Newcomer of the Year. The former Division I basketball player balled professionally in Germany from 1998 to 2003.

“Basketball is life,” Taylor said. “A lot of people say that, but for me, basketball has been a vehicle my entire life. It has taken me all over the world on a professional level.”

He left the game to pursue his film career. Taylor moved to Los Angeles in 2003, pitching a screenplay he’d written on a tablet. The rejection hit hard.

“I was expecting people to love the screenplay …,” Taylor said. “Six years later, after being kicked out of 300 rooms, I eventually said, ‘I guess the only way you can make movies is if you make them yourself.’ And that started my journey for the last 15 years [as an independent filmmaker].”

Inspired to get his films out, the 42-year-old launched Hidden Empire Film Group in Sacramento. His longtime business partner and lead investor in all of his films is Robert F. Smith, the founder of Vista Equity Partners, whom Forbes recently described as “richer than Oprah and the nation’s wealthiest African-American conquering tech and Wall Street.”

“Still, to this day, I’ve never been hired by a studio to make a film, but I’ve had some major success independently and we’re in a place where the films that I’m making are being released in theaters,” Taylor said.

Taylor wrote, directed and produced the thriller Motivated Seller, starring Dennis Quaid, Michael Ealy and Meagan Good. Along with actor and singer Jamie Foxx, he produced the comedy feature All-Star Weekend, starring Foxx, Robert Downey Jr. and Eva Longoria. Taylor is also behind the 2014 drama Supremacy, starring Danny Glover, based on the true story of a white supremacist who kills a black police officer and takes an African-American family hostage, as well as the horror spoof Meet the Blacks, with Mike Epps and George Lopez. The sequel The House Next Door, starring Epps and Katt Williams, comes out later this year.

The Undefeated spoke with Taylor about Traffik, how basketball led him away from the streets and helped him face adversity in filmmaking, why Jesse Owens and Michael Jordan are greatest of all time and why he believes the NCAA should pay college athletes.

How is Traffik different from other thrillers?

I wanted to make a commercial thriller that would have people on the edge of their seats, but also have them learn about something horrific going on in our country: human trafficking. Many people think it’s just an international problem, but it’s happening right here in America too. As a matter of fact, 85 percent of people who are trafficked are inner-city kids, so that’s the Hispanic girl in Oakland or the African-American boy in Chicago; I can keep going. These kids are being taken, and then someone is pimping them out and later another person is taking them, and this tragic cycle continues endlessly. It’s so sad. I think what this movie does extremely well is give you the goose bumps and chills without it being a documentary.

What personal experiences motivated you to create a thriller around human trafficking?

I started getting a bunch of letters about trafficking in our area [Sacramento] and I didn’t really think too much [about] it. But then my daughter, Milan, who is 12, was up late one night playing on her video games. I asked her who she was talking to at 1 a.m. on this game. I pulled up the screen and printed out the conversation [spanning for a couple of days] and saw how this person who she thought was 11 years old had been asking her questions like ‘Where do you live?’ and ‘Do you ever go out late at night?’ To the naked eye, it seemed innocent [like to my daughter], but you could tell this was definitely a predator. It’s crazy because predators are coming from the computer and TV screens now.

How was it working with Paula Patton and Omar Epps on the film?

It was insane for a lot of great reasons. I approached it like basketball. Everyone has a part in order for us to win and be successful. Paula and Omar are our star players, and they gave 100 percent, which further drove the cast and crew. Paula also performed every single one of her stunts. When you see her being yanked from the car, it’s pretty violent. She did that herself. She wasn’t screaming, ‘Cut!’ or yelling, ‘I can’t do this.’ That kind of commitment from an actor is such a blessing.

How did you learn about filmmaking and further want to pursue it?

I never set out to be the next Tyler Perry or Ron Howard in owning my own stuff. I simply was that guy who played basketball. Growing up poor, I loved watching movies because that was my getaway. While I was playing basketball professionally in Germany, I didn’t speak the language, so I would ask my friends back in the U.S. to send me as many movies as possible. This was before Netflix and Hulu. On a lot of those DVDs, there were ‘the making of xyz’ or ‘behind the scenes’ of those films where directors, writers and filmmakers like James Cameron and Steven Spielberg would show and explain what and how they did their jobs. Watching those scenes taught me filmmaking, and I soon realized that I wanted to become a filmmaker.

Deon Taylor, number 15, during his days on the Oilers basketball team.

Courtesy of Deon Taylor

How did your basketball background help you face that adversity in the film industry?

I’ve built my filmmaking career by learning, losing and bumping my head a couple of times. There were a lot of sleepless and hurtful nights, but I feel like basketball really helped me get through those times. I tell people all of the time to have their kids play sports. The adversity you go through in sports is the closest thing to real life. It’s the only place where you can be the best player on the team and the coach won’t play you. It’s all these different things that you go through in sports that prepares you for what you’ll experience and see in life. I’ve had those moments, and I apply it to life journeys and filmmaking. It’s easy to ask yourself, ‘Why does this director get hired for a big-budget movie and not me when my stats are far greater?’ But that’s where you have to be grounded in who you are and not stay looking over the fence. You have to trust God.

Did basketball keep you from falling into stereotypes?

Playing in college, it took me out of the projects and into tournaments in different cities and seeing my name in the paper and on the news as a basketball player … not for shooting or robbing someone. That could have been my fate if I fell into streets, but I didn’t because I had that love for the [basketball] game where I would spend countless hours after school practicing on the playground, shooting, dunking and even trying the latest Michael Jordan move. And even now, the game is still teaching me.

As a former Division I, full-scholarship basketball player, do you feel the NCAA should pay college athletes?

When I was playing basketball at San Diego State, I didn’t really have an opinion because I was just thankful to have my school fully paid for and be able to eat while doing something I love. But as I got older and I now look at the business of college basketball and see how much money is generating from March Madness, these players should be getting paid. I’m not saying an 18-year-old kid should be getting $100K a year. Hell, no. But they are doing a service for the university. And think about the parents who are traveling for all of the games and taking off from work to be able to support their kids at the games. It would be nice for the athletes to get paid so they can also help their families with those expenses too.

Who is the greatest athlete of all time?

Jesse Owens and Michael Jordan. Jesse was running in a time when there were no diet supplements, dietitians, sneakers or advanced sports science to enhance your athleticism. He was just a guy who was naturally an athlete. There was nothing to enhance what he was doing at that time, but he was still running that fast and at that level based on just his natural body and the makeup of his DNA. With Michael, it was his will to win. It wasn’t just his ability; it was his stamina in the fourth quarter of games. He wasn’t a freak of nature as far as body physique like LeBron [James] or Shaq [O’Neal], but his brilliance and psychology on the court was something I admired and looked up to growing up. Kobe [Bryant] possessed a lot of that, but he’s no MJ.

What conversations do you have with your daughter to best prepare her in navigating the real world as an African-American woman?

It’s an everyday conversation that’s not just about teaching but creating a lifestyle. I try to educate my daughter, Milan, on each and every thing I see without holding my tongue. I’m teaching her three core things: trust your intuition, everyone will not be happy for you and danger is around you at all times. I didn’t understand a lot of what my mother told me when I was younger, but now as a parent, danger has tripled and it’s not just about getting home before the streetlights come on now. There are predators coming from everywhere, even in the police at times. Take, for instance, the unarmed young black man, Stephon Clark, who was shot 20 times by the cops right here in Sacramento. It’s a lot to take in and continues to evolve the conversations I have with my daughter.

Above the rim: Best fictional starting 5s in the history of film + TV A completely impossible yet intriguing list of matchups only feasible in a basketball fantasyland

Who would win in a one-on-one between Michael Jordan and LeBron James? Could these Golden State Warriors beat the 72-10 Chicago Bulls? How many more titles could Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant have won if they actually liked each other? What if injuries never robbed the careers of Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, Brandon Roy and Derrick Rose? There’s nothing quite like nostalgia. And when it comes to nostalgia in basketball, friendships are tested, battle lines are drawn and some of the hottest takes known to man fly off without a moment’s notice.

With the NBA playoffs set to take flight this weekend, we’ve decided to bring another completely impossible yet intriguing matchup only feasible in a basketball fantasy land.

The best to ever do it on television, vs. on film. We kept this to purely fictional players. NBA players in TV or film roles were not eligible, because what fun would that be? For example, no Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen) from He Got Game, no Grandmama (Larry Johnson) from Family Matters or Neon Boudeaux and Butch McRae (O’Neal and Hardaway) from Blue Chips. Don’t trip, though, because there’s a melody of skill, charisma and enough comedy to give you flashbacks to the days of MTV Rock N’ Jock. This is a mini-draft equipped with a starting five, a sixth player and head coach. We’ll then let you decide who’d win this fictional Finals. Our own Justin Tinsley has television and Aaron Dodson has movies.

Those are the rules. We good? Good. Now let’s get to it …

TELEVISION

“Will Smith” (Will Smith)

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Scouting Report: We’re always left to wonder what would’ve become of the Will character had he landed the Georgetown scholarship, completing the most feared college backcourt ensemble in history with Allen Iverson, Victor Page and Kyle Lee Watson. Smith’s a big combo guard who can score at will (pun intended). There are very few holes in The Fresh Prince’s game — except for one. Several general managers have expressed concern for his decision-making in crunch time, evident in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Courting Disaster” (season one, episode 11) and My Brother’s Keeper (season two, episode 15). Is he the cold-blooded killer you need in the game’s tightest moments? Even with that, The Prince is a franchise-caliber talent.

Steve Urkel (Jaleel White)

Family Matters

Scouting Report: In the “Grandmama” episode — season five, episode seven — Eddie Winslow dumped Urkel to play with The Spider, which allowed Urkel to call in reinforcements with Larry Johnson as “Grandmama.” To Eddie’s credit, Spider was nice. But we’re not making the same mistake, as The Nerd’s game is both technically sound and visually appealing.

Brandi (Kyla Pratt)

Smart Guy

Scouting Report: The year 1998 was a rather definitive one for Kyla Pratt, basketballwise. Not only did she play a young Monica Wright in Love & Basketball, giving young Quincy McCall the business on the court, but months later in “She Got Game” — season three, episode one of Smart Guy — she did the same thing, minus TJ (Tahj Mowry) pushing her into the bushes. “Brandi,” after some persuading, joins TJ’s squad, instantly transforming the team and supplanting TJ as the squad’s best player. Instant offense. Instant culture change. Instant winner with a chip on her shoulder.

Mark Cooper (Mark Curry)

Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper

Scouting Report: The Mr. Cooper character has two things working for him that no one else on this squad does. One, he’s a former NBA player (for his hometown Golden State Warriors). And two, he brings a certain maturity level this team is going to need if we’re hoping to make any sort of noise.

Kevin Hart

Real Husbands of Hollywood

Scouting Report: Technically, Kevin wasn’t a hooper on Real Husbands of Hollywood. But as a four-time NBA Celebrity All-Star Game MVP (and co-star of a hilarious basketball game with Chris Brown), he’s my ringer. We’re going to be running a small-ball lineup much of the time, so we’re going to need as many ball handlers, shooters and comedians as possible. Basically, call it The Annexation of Puerto Rico 2.0.

Sixth man: Martin Payne (Martin Lawrence)

Martin

Scouting Report: He’s an undersized 2-guard whose confidence is nothing short of irrational. But that’s fine. Payne is a defibrillator jolt of energy off the bench. He’s never met a shot he didn’t like. He doesn’t mind mixing it and jawing with the competition. And since he’s the classic definition of a streaky shooter, you take the good with the bad. He’s basically J.R. Smith with Gary Payton’s mentality. The only question mark to his game is where his head’s at before tipoff. If he and Gina — or worse, he and Pam — got into an argument beforehand (which is like saying “if water is wet”) he can easily shoot you out of a game as quickly as he can hit three miracle buckets in a row.

Coach: Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris)

The Wire

Scouting Report: This squad is going to need a no-nonsense general on the sidelines who can occasionally verbally decapitate a referee who misses a call — as seen in the brilliant “Game Day” episode from season one. The reports are true, though. I nearly went with Prop Joe, whose commitment to being the dope-game Pat Riley wearing a suit in Baltimore heat was only superseded by the iconic line “Look the part, be the part, m—-f—–!” But then that’d mean Joe’s nephew, “Cheese” (Method Man), would be somewhere near the team. And I can’t have Cheese near my squad. Nope. No how. No way.

FILM

Calvin Cambridge (Shad “Bow Wow” Moss)

Like Mike

Scouting Report: There’s one rule for my squad: no team sneakers. Every player has the free rein to break out whatever heat they so choose, especially the young god Calvin Cambridge. He’ll be wearing a pair of white and Carolina blue Nike Blazers, which used to belong to Michael Jordan when he was a kid, giving him the ability to ball out like the greatest of all time. The kicks even allow Calvin — at a modest 4 feet 8 inches — to dunk the ball (in Like Mike, he won the 2002 NBA Slam Dunk Contest). Who needs a point guard with fundamentals when you’ve got one with shoes that have magical powers zapped into them by lightning?

Monica Wright (Sanaa Lathan)

Love & Basketball

Scouting Report: Sorry, Quincy McCall, but you didn’t make the team. That’s because his childhood sweetheart, Monica Wright, was without a doubt a better hooper in 2000’s Love & Basketball, one of the most iconic black films of all time. Remember the movie’s timeless line? “All’s fair in love and basketball.” Well, what isn’t there to love about Monica’s game? She’s an athletic point guard who plays with a whole lotta swag. Just look at her No. 32 jersey, which she wears in honor of her favorite player, Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson. Her character also earned a starting job at USC as a freshman, won a championship overseas and became one of the WNBA’s first players. We need that pedigree in our backcourt.

Kyle Lee Watson (Duane Martin)

Above the Rim

Scouting Report: Yup, we’re employing a three-guard offense — and we’re running it through the sharpshooting Kyle Lee Watson. The at-times hotheaded baller made it out of the ’hood of Harlem, New York, and all the way to the Hilltop in Washington, D.C., at Georgetown University, where he played in the 1990s for what was once known as black America’s basketball team, under John Thompson Jr., the first African-American head coach to win an NCAA title. We just gotta hope that when he gets the rock, he spreads his fingers and puts some rotation on his jumper.

Clarence Withers, aka Coffee Black (Andre 3000)

Semi-Pro

Scouting Report: Back in 1976, during an ABA game between the San Antonio Spurs and Flint Tropics, the first alley-oop in basketball history was recorded. “A very unusual series of moves just made the ball go in,” play-by-play announcer Dick Pepperfield uttered in awe that day. On the receiving end of the pass from the top of the key by Jackie Moon? None other than Clarence Withers (aka Coffee Black, aka Downtown “Funky Stuff” Malone, aka Sugar Dunkerton, aka “Jumping” Johnny Johnson), who’s listed at only 5 feet, 10 inches but has supreme bounce to go along with his picked-out Afro. Between Coffee Black and Calvin Cambridge, we might as well refer to the movie team from here on out as the new Lob City.

Cochise (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs)

Cooley High

Scouting Report: *Cues up G.C. Cameron’s original rendition of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday”* Long before the real-life deaths of star hoopers Benji Wilson and Len Bias, the basketball world lost a great one in Richard “Cochise” Morris, from the 1975 film Cooley High. Cochise received a scholarship to play at the historically black Grambling State University but was killed before he could graduate from high school. Let’s just say that his tragic death never happened, making him a valuable addition to our roster.

Sixth Man: Antoine Tyler (Kadeem Hardison)

The Sixth Man

Scouting Report: We’ve got skill, athleticism and, most importantly, a higher being on our side. There’s no better sixth man for our squad than Antoine Tyler, who in the 1997 film The Sixth Man helped lead his younger brother Kenny Tyler (Marlon Wayans) and the Washington Huskies basketball team to an NCAA championship as a guardian angel after suffering a heart attack on the court and dying. At the end of the movie, Antoine ascended to heaven to ball for God’s team, but hopefully he’ll return to help us out.

Coach: Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson)

Coach Carter

Scouting Report: If there’s one man who wouldn’t back down to the street savant-turned-basketball coach known as Avon Barksdale, it’s Ken Carter. Inspired by a real person, and depicted by Samuel L. Jackson in the 2005 film of the same name, Coach Carter barred his entire team (which was undefeated, mind you) from playing in games because his players were failing classes. The community turned against Carter, who nearly lost his job, when what he wanted was for every player to go to college, even if basketball was a casualty. Win or lose, Coach Carter would probably have Avon doing suicides and pushups, out of principle alone.

Erica Ash spills on the laugh-out-loud-worthy bloopers on Broadway and the upcoming ‘Uncle Drew’ movie The former Broadway star speaks about her new BET show ‘In Contempt,’ and more

From Broadway and backup singing to the big screen and hit television shows, actress Erica Ash is proving that she can and will do it all. That’s why her latest role as Gwen Sullivan on BET’s new original procedural drama, In Contempt, may be one of the best ones yet.

The show, which explores crime and court proceedings from a unique, ethnically diverse perspective, also brings into account what public defenders go through when handling complicated cases. Through Gwen Sullivan, Ash portrays an opinionated, witty, no-nonsense public defender whose tactics have earned the respect of those around her. Real, relatable and a bit of a workaholic, Sullivan represents a very real narrative as a black woman struggling to find a healthy work-life balance.

“Gwen Sullivan is human, and the character in this show offers people an opportunity to get so much information about the legal system and how the justice system works, how people fall through the cracks and the loopholes, and how police officers get off when they brutalize people,” Ash said. “It lets you know exactly what the public defenders deal with in terms of being understaffed, under-resourced and underfunded, and how creative they have to be in order to be able to give their clients a fair trial. I think this show is going to be gripping, fun, start conversations and open a lot of eyes to the underbelly of the justice system, and I think this show is going to speak to a lot of people.”

Ash, 40, is best known for her roles as Bridgette Hart on the sitcom Real Husbands of Hollywood and the bold, outspoken, yet funny M-Chuck on Survivor’s Remorse, but her latest role as Sullivan has been what Ash calls a full-circle opportunity.

“It means that manifestation works because this is something that’s been on my vision board forever, to be able to lead a show,” Ash said. “To be able to lead a show like this exceeds my expectations. It’s also further validation that God is real to me.”

Catch Ash as Gwen Sullivan in In Contempt, airing Tuesday at 10 p.m. EDT on BET.

How much of yourself do you see in this character?

There are certainly some very strong points of the character that are very similar to Erica Ash. Gwen is very headstrong and very vocal. I have always been very mouthy and opinionated. I really love that about her and about me, but also the love vs. career factor. We have a lot of similarities there. I’ve always been very committed to my career and committed to being successful, and I toy with the question of whether that’s been a detriment to my personal love life. I’m still figuring out how to reconcile it.

You landed a role in Uncle Drew, the sports comedy being released this summer. What was that like?

That was an awesome experience. Just to get to spend that much time around these basketball legends was amazing. Getting to hear the locker room talk made me feel like I was doing something naughty. Like, ‘Ooh, should I be privy to this? Do they know I’m here?’ It was great. I got to hear very candid conversations about moments in basketball history.

They were all amazing to work with. They treated me like the little sister. … I still keep in touch with those guys after the movie because it was such a beautiful, pure, sibling-type relationship we established after spending that much time together. There were a lot of laughs. That was definitely top two of the most fun times I’ve had on a set.

What was one of the craziest moments you’ve had on set?

It was actually onstage. We were doing this show and I forgot my bra. It wasn’t a Broadway show because they would’ve had some bras for me, but we had to do this running scene, and the whole scene was just talking and running. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, my boobs are just all over the place.’ And I don’t even have big ones, but I don’t like for them to flap. I was trying to do the scene running but trying to hold my boobs with my forearms so they wouldn’t be bouncing around. Afterwards, my friends were laughing at me and told me I should’ve just ran because everybody saw that I was trying to hold my boobs and run.

I have another one. I was doing The Lion King and I was Nala. I was singing Shadowland, and I would put my everything into those notes. When I got to the high notes, the pinnacle of the song, I was belting it — and I peed. I trickled. It was enough of a trickle to where I had to have my costumer meet me with some panties in my dressing room.

Have you ever been starstruck?

Two weeks ago, I went to a women’s conference and I was able to meet Michelle Obama. I’ve never had this moment, but they allowed me to go back and take a picture with her and I was just so awed. When I walked up to take a picture, she grabbed me when she saw me and was like, ‘Oh, my God, I love you. Barack and I watch your show all the time. You are so good. I’m so sorry to fan out like this, but you are so good.’ Her photographer was capturing pictures of all of it. When they sent me the photos, it’s just me with my mouth agape and my eyes are as big as saucers. The look on my face is just priceless. Under any normal circumstance I wouldn’t post, but I [posted] that to social media.

Instagram Photo

If you weren’t acting, what would you be doing?

If I weren’t acting, I would probably be hanging around a set hoping to get put on. Or I would probably write for actors or produce something because I love the idea of art and I love putting that out there. It would be something around the arts for sure.

Acting is it. I absolutely love what I do.

What’s the last show you binge-watched?

The last show I binge-watched was Seven Seconds.

Which pro athlete would you never want to trade places with?

I’m going to go old school. I’d probably never want to trade places with Dennis Rodman. He just seemed very troubled. I’d never want to trade places with him because I think there was a lot of things he had to struggle with and deal with.

What is the worst purchase you ever made?

It was this sofa. Maybe a week after I purchased it, the springs in the middle of it just collapsed. And it would slide all over the floor. It was so cheap, but I wanted to hurry up and furnish my place. I bought it and I was like, ‘Oh, this is wack.’ And I’ve kept it for years because I was just too busy to get something else. Once I do something, I don’t always have time to get back to it.

And best purchase?

My home in Los Angeles. It’s a townhouse instead of a house — someone else takes care of all the gardening and the garbage and all that stuff. My townhouse feels like a home. Everything was done, renovated, and I love everything about it. It gives me so much peace and happiness when I come home.

If you could go to dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?

I would love to go to dinner with Harriet Tubman because I think she would have some really great stories. And I love someone who’s gritty. I think she would be a tough, cussin’, tell-it-like-it-is person. In my mind she’d be a scrapper, and I’d want to hear about all her stories because I know she had some run-ins that she lived through.

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

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is to find a middle ground so that no matter what’s thrown at you — whether it’s crazy, positive accolades or crazy, negative criticism — you’ll stay in this middle space where you’re untouched and you’re unfazed because what you’re meant to do is bigger than you.

Brooklyn Museum responds to controversy over its new white curator of African art Museum’s director expresses confidence in Kristen Windmuller-Luna’s ‘anticolonial’ approach

The Brooklyn Museum issued a lengthy official response on Friday to the furor over the announcement of its newest curator of African art.

The controversy began March 26 when the museum tweeted that it had hired two new curators: Drew Sawyer, who will oversee photography, and Kristen Windmuller-Luna, who will direct an overhaul of the museum’s extensive collection of African art. Both Sawyer and Windmuller-Luna are white.

In response to the hirings, a coalition of Brooklyn anti-gentrification groups called on the museum to create a “decolonization commission.”

In a lengthy letter released to the press, museum director Anne Pasternak defended Windmuller-Luna against attacks that had been levied against the new curator, mostly on social media.

“The Brooklyn Museum stands by our appointment of Dr. Kristen Windmuller-Luna as the Sills Family Consulting Curator of African Arts,” Pasternak wrote. “The Museum’s collection of African arts is among the most important and extensive in the nation. Giving the collection the prominence it deserves, in terms of both its aesthetics and cultural value, has been one of this institution’s most pressing priorities. In order to ensure the highest level of scholarly excellence in how we preserve and present our collections of historical African arts, we knew the job required a specialist with a Ph.D. in this area.”

Some critics made a connection between the museum appointment and a scene from the wildly popular Black Panther movie. In the film, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) explains to a white curator at the British Museum that the only reason the institution holds African artifacts is because British colonizers raided the continent of its cultural and natural resources.

Pasternak pushed back on those making the comparison to Windmuller-Luna and the Brooklyn museum.

“With her anticolonial approach to curating, she has devoted her professional life to celebrating the individual identities of historical African cultures, and to communicating how those vibrant societies play powerful roles in the world at large,” Pasternak said in a statement. “Her priority at the Museum is to create dynamic, multi-vocal installations that speak to all our communities, including those of African descent, both locally and nationally. All of us at the Museum are confident that with her expertise and care, we will revitalize and transform the presentation and interpretation of our collection, and amplify our capacity to illuminate connections and shared narratives with our broad and diverse audience.”

The controversy over Windmuller-Luna’s race highlighted a few points that usually don’t draw widespread attention. Curation is a disproportionately white profession, as Kimberly Drew, an art curator, creator of the Black Contemporary Art tumblr and social media manager for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, recently pointed out. And the profession requires degrees that can cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars without any guarantee of lucrative work.

“African art scholars in the US are overwhelmingly white and female, tweeted UCLA professor Steven Nelson, a professor of African and African-American art history who serves as director of the UCLA African Studies Center. “Given this situation and given that the very few POC in the field all have jobs better than this one, I find myself unable to manufacture any outrage over this.”

Windmuller-Luna has undeniable expertise. She received her doctorate and master’s degree in art and archaeology from Princeton and her bachelor’s degree in the history of art from Yale. Her work focuses on the early modern period of African art, architecture and Christian Ethiopia.

“Given that the very few POC in the field all have jobs better than this one, I find myself unable to manufacture any outrage over this.”

It’s understandable that black museumgoers want to see themselves among the ranks of those curating black art, especially at the nation’s most visible and highly regarded institutions. But not every black person who studies art history necessarily wants to specialize in art created by black artists.

Pasternak was sensitive to this too.

“The Brooklyn Museum recognizes that the longstanding and pervasive issues of structural racism profoundly affect the lives of people of color,” she wrote. “It is right to press museums and other institutions to diversify their leadership. Museums help shape the cultural imagination and contribute to society, so we have a responsibility to bring the broadest possible range of voices into our work. Cultural institutions also need to do much more to support young people of diverse backgrounds in pursuing advanced degrees in art history and succeeding in leadership positions. Please know that every day the Brooklyn Museum is working to advance these efforts and its longstanding and widely recognized commitment to equity in all its forms, including race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.”

The Buffalo Bills’ Marshall Newhouse: ‘Relative to the rest of your life, the NFL is a very, very small piece’ The entrepreneurial offensive lineman adores ‘Seinfeld’ and his Super Bowl ring  

There’s a notation on the Wikipedia page of veteran offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse that jumps off the screen. It’s not that he’s played for five franchises. Nor is it perhaps his greatest accomplishment on the football field: winning a Super Bowl as a rookie with the Green Bay Packers, after the Dallas native was selected in the fifth round of the 2010 draft out of Texas Christian University.

The line that sticks out is from the “Early Years” section: “He was also very active on campus at Lake Highlands as a member of the Horticulture Society and Japanese Club.” The two extracurricular activities are also mentioned in his old TCU bio, which you can still find online. Despite being more than a decade removed from high school, the 29-year-old Newhouse can’t seem to avoid questions about his interests in “the art and science of plant production for both beauty and utility” or Japan.

So in late March, when The Undefeated caught up with Newhouse not long after he signed a one-year deal to join the Buffalo Bills, we couldn’t help but ask him about the two clubs — among other things, of course.


We’re approaching the annual NFL draft. What do you remember most about the day you were drafted?

I was with my family and a few of my closest friends. We were still at College House in Fort Worth. … In the second round, I got called [via phone] twice … by Kansas City and by Denver. You leave the room and take the call. One of them was the O-line coach, and one was the GM [general manager]. Both of them said, ‘Yeah, we wanna take you with this next pick.’ You come back in the room, tell your family and friends, then the picks come and your name isn’t called. That was a shock. … By the third day of the draft, we got tired of sitting on the couch. I said, ‘Let’s go get some tacos.’ We went to one of my favorite places in Fort Worth called Ernesto’s. Then [Green Bay general manager] Ted Thompson’s on the line, asks me if I wanted to be a Green Bay Packer. It’s kind of crazy how it went down like that.

What do you remember most about winning a Super Bowl as a rookie?

First, it was just the confetti and that euphoric realization, like, ‘Oh, crap, this is happening.’ You try to live in the moment as much as you can. Just soak it in, ’cause winning is incredibly hard. Watching the trophy walk by on the field … my family was there, so I got to hang out with them in the stadium. That was my late grandmother’s last game she saw me play, so that was pretty special. That night, we went back to the hotel and had a party. Kid Rock played … that was pretty cool.

Do you remember any specific moments you shared with your grandmother that night?

She was just so proud and happy. She was a big part of me pursuing sports. When my parents were working and I was playing select baseball, my grandma was the one who took me to practice, or tournaments on the weekends. She was just such an important part of my sports history, so seeing her in that moment, getting to share that with her, was really special.

Where do you keep your Super Bowl ring?

It was in my bedside dresser in a jewelry box, but I’ve been moving so much … it’s at [my family’s] house in a safe right now.

You have some strong bloodlines in the game of football. What are the most important football lessons you learned from your father, John Newhouse, and your cousin Robert Newhouse?

My dad was pivotal in my football upbringing. He was my coach for a lot of years too. I don’t know if there’s one particular lesson, but he was a running back that played the veer at the University of Houston. He went through some adversity, had to persevere and fight through some crazy stuff, and injuries. Robert, who was called my uncle growing up because he’s around my dad’s age, he told me, ‘You never know what your last day is gonna be, so use that as … motivation to continue to work and make the most of the short opportunity.’ Because relative to the rest of your life, the NFL is a very, very small piece.

“Andy Dalton loves The Office maybe more than anyone I’ve met in my life.”

Fill in the blank. If not for the NFL, Marshall Newhouse would have pursued a career in … ?

Man, that’s changed so many times. At one point, I thought it would be graphic design and art design. That was early on in college, and I switched. Then I thought I was gonna be in advertising. It switched even more now to just being an entrepreneur. And that’s such a broad term, just making a business for yourself, being your own boss, kind of getting to pursue whatever you see fit.

What was your experience in the NFL’s recent Sports Business Academy — and how’d you get involved?

That was incredible. I give thanks to Kaleb Thornhill for putting that together, and all the people that were involved. Never in my career had I been around that many guys in the league who were that like-minded. And also the professionals and CEOs and founders were all just there to help us. It was such a learning opportunity, and even past that, the formation of a bond that all the guys that were there will have. It’ll be fun to see how it manifests for every guy … and we’ll stay in touch through it all. Some of us might do business together, and we’ll continue to encourage each other.

Aside from yourself, who would you say is the most business-savvy player in the NFL?

You can’t know that for sure unless they share a lot with you. Some guys are more quiet than others, which I respect. I’m more that way too. But I would say Ndamukong Suh. Talking to him, his mindset is just so on point. Where he’s at right now, the way he’s leveraging, the people he’s meeting. He’s got his hands in a lot of stuff. He’s high-profile, so a guy like that could just sit around and not do much. But he’s … in multiple fields of business and he’s getting it, for sure.

What’s the worst purchase you’ve made since entering the NFL?

I’m frugal by nature, but I think the worst purchase is … man, I bought a gaming PC like four years ago, which I used, but it being a desktop, I couldn’t travel with it. So it sat at my home for eight months out of the year and collected dust until I sold it. That was a couple thousand dollars. It was a custom PC and really nice. But it was a dumb purchase.

Who’s on your Mount Rushmore of offensive linemen?

I grew up watching Larry Allen in Dallas. … Walter Jones, I always looked up to him … and same with a guy like Jonathan Ogden … I don’t think he gets enough credit. I enjoyed watching … Damien Woody play. I kind of compare myself to him in terms of stature and size.

Who’s the most difficult player you’ve had to block during your career?

There’s been a lot … but I would say Cam Jordan. I still don’t think he gets his fair due. He’s a great player. You gotta get your mind right before you go against him.

You played at TCU with Andy Dalton, as well as in Cincinnati. What’s one thing not many people know about him?

He loves The Office maybe more than anyone I’ve met in my life. Like, he has seen every episode multiple times, can quote it. It’s crazy.

What’s your favorite TV show of all time?

I’m a Seinfeld guy. I grew up watching Seinfeld. My parents say I got some of my smartassness from watching too much of it. Most shows have characters who are redeemable or try to better themselves, but no one on that show tried to be better. They were all just terrible people, and I just thought it was hilarious.

“You try to live in the moment as much as you can. Just soak it in, ’cause winning is incredibly hard.”

What’s your favorite movie of all time?

I don’t know if I could do just one. … It’s obscure, but The Fifth Element … it comes on and I watch it. It’s one of the ones where I can quote most of the movie. I’m a big fan of Pulp Fiction. I’m a big Tarantino fan.

Which actor would you want to portray you in a movie about your life?

I’ll just say Denzel Washington because he’ll make me look more handsome than I am.

What’s one bad habit you wish you could shake?

Socially, I’m never on time. When it comes to my job, or business meetings, I’m always on time. But with friends, like going to dinner or being out, I’m habitually late. It’s something my friends give me crap about all the time, and I really wanna change that.

Were you actually in the Horticulture Society and Japanese Club?

They had a club day at the beginning of the school year where you could sign up for dinner clubs. And I’d always heard the more clubs you’re in, the better your applications to college will look. So I was literally going from table to table and signing up for whatever I could find. With football, I didn’t have time to do it at all … but I always had an interest in Japan and Japanese culture. The horticulture thing was … random. I think I attended, between the two clubs, one meeting. And then somehow that ends up in my bio in high school, college and now the NFL. And here you are asking me about it. It’s followed me everywhere I’ve gone.

South African choreographer reinterprets ‘Giselle’ as a vehicle for female rage Dada Masilo’s ballet recalls Angela Bassett’s famous torching-the-Beemer scene in ‘Waiting to Exhale’

It’s the most recognizable scene from Waiting to Exhale: Angela Bassett, playing the wronged first wife Bernadine, decides to get herself some good old-fashioned revenge.

Upon learning that her husband is leaving her for his white assistant, Bernadine, clad in a white dressing gown and black negligee, gathers her husband’s collection of expensive executive wear and stuffs it through the doors, windows and sunroof of his BMW. Once the walk-in closet is bare, Bernadine douses the Beemer with lighter fluid. She sets fire to the car and watches the flames for a beat before lighting a cigarette.

Bernadine turns to walk back into her house and casually tosses the cigarette over her shoulder into the burning car without looking back. The entire emotional thrill ride is distilled into the flick of one cigarette: He had it coming. Which is why, more than 20 years after the movie was released, the scene lives on as internet shorthand for scorched-earth female rage.

South African dancer and choreographer Dada Masilo, 33, has brought the spirit of Bernadine to the ballet, and, boy, is she cold-blooded.

On Tuesday night, Masilo’s company, the Dance Factory, opened her reimagining of the classic romance Giselle at The Joyce Theater in New York. The show runs through April 8 before continuing at the Wallis Annenberg Center in Los Angeles (April 12-14) and the Quick Center in Fairfield, Connecticut (April 18). All of the dancers are black, and Masilo has choreographed a Giselle that’s a mix of ballet, modern dance and traditional South African dance.

He had it coming.

Albrecht is assaulted by the Wilis in an earlier production of “Giselle” staged in Johannesburg.

John Hogg

For this whole Giselle-inhabits-the-spirit-of-Bernadine metaphor to make sense, you should know something about this ballet. A two-act French ballet from 1841, the work takes its name from its tragic title character. Giselle (danced by Masilo) is a peasant girl who catches the eye of a nobleman named Albrecht. Albrecht is already engaged to a noblewoman named Bathilde, but he can’t help himself. He wants Giselle, and he poses as a peasant to woo her. She falls madly in love with him. Another peasant, Hilarion, who’s also in love with Giselle, recognizes Albrecht’s deception. But she only has eyes for Albrecht.

Soon enough, Albrecht’s true identity is revealed and he runs back to his noblewoman. Giselle dies of a broken heart.

In Act 2, both Hilarion and Albrecht visit Giselle’s grave. This is a terrible idea, thanks to a group of angry undead spirit ladies, called the Wilis, all of whom have been betrayed in some way by their lovers. They’re sort of like graveyard Sirens: If you’re a man, you don’t really want to cross them, and if you do, they’ll force you to dance until you die.

Hilarion is forced to dance to death. But Albrecht enjoys a different fate. The Wilis want Albrecht too, but thanks to the grace, love and forgiveness of Giselle, he is spared. The Wilis force Albrecht to dance until sunrise, but he lives. Albrecht gets to run back to his fiancée and remain rich. Giselle’s spirit gets to rest.

*Cue record scratch*

Masilo has remixed the second act of Giselle to allow her title character to tap her inner Bernadine. This is Masilo’s thing. Before Giselle, she was famous for deconstructing another classical ballet. In her version of Swan Lake, not only are the dancers black, but she makes the prince gay and everyone wears tutus, including the male characters.

Masilo makes radical changes, yes, but she’s not an agent of cheap provocation. She reconstructs the classics and infuses them with modern bodies and modern politics. Her Giselle is set in a South African village, and she sets it off with nods to South African culture. South African composer Philip Miller adds African rhythms and sounds to Adolphe Adam’s original score. Myrtha, queen of the Wilis (Llewellyn Mnguni), wields a traditional grass broom that resembles a cat-o’-nine-tails. When Bathilde (Liyabuya Gongo) leaves her high heels behind after a harvest party, Giselle’s mother (Khaya Ndlovu), who’s a drunk, decides to take them. She can’t fit in them but figures she can sell them and get some cash to get “lit.”

Masilo imagined the Wilis as a coven of wronged individuals led by the sadistic Myrtha. And just like she did with her gender-bent Swan Lake, Masilo complicates things further with the addition of two male Wilis. The inclusion of male Wilis prompts questions: Are they men who have come to see things the way the women do? Are they nonbinary? Have they experienced similar romantic betrayal? Regardless, they are just as enthusiastic about forcing Hilarion (Tshepo Zasekhaya) and Albrecht (Xola Willie) to dance to their deaths.

Myrtha persuades the heartbroken Giselle to see things her way, like a dungeon mistress tutoring a newly converted follower. And when Giselle allows herself to be angry with Albrecht, Myrtha gives her a whip to exact her revenge.

In an earlier production in Johannesburg, Albrecht is the sole character played by a white dancer, which adds another layer of revelation. I wish they’d kept Albrecht white for the current production, but Masilo’s Giselle works perfectly well focusing on gender politics and the power of untapped feminine rage. There are plenty of dastardly men of all races.

Masilo waits until the very end before she rewards us with her Bernadine moment. The Wilis exit one by one, walking into the heavenly light that beckons from stage right, until only Giselle is left with the crumpled, lifeless Albrecht. She walks across the stage to him and steps, rather unceremoniously, over Albrecht’s corpse and into the fading light.

He had it coming.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness. But Masilo’s Giselle doesn’t need her love for Albrecht to serve as her guiding light. Choosing herself will suffice.

Bernard Lafayette Jr. was with King in Memphis just hours before he was killed The two men met at the Lorraine Motel to discuss the start of the Poor People’s Campaign

It was about 9 in the morning on April 4, 1968. Bernard Lafayette Jr. had gotten the final details of his mission from Martin Luther King Jr.

Later on that fateful day in Memphis, Tennessee, Lafayette would pack his luggage at the Lorraine Motel and head to the airport for a flight to Washington, D.C., the site of his assignment.

Eight years earlier, Lafayette had been a classmate of civil rights pioneer John Lewis at the American Baptist Theological Seminary, a predominantly black institution in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1968, he was the national program administrator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the guiding light of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

The charismatic and magnetic King was not only the president of the SCLC but also its spiritual force and moral conscience. King and Lafayette met alone in Room 306 that morning to discuss media relations for the Poor People’s Campaign, a monumental undertaking designed to bring national attention to U.S. poverty as the SCLC pivoted toward economic rights. That’s why King and the SCLC were in Memphis in the first place: to help the city’s sanitation workers, mostly black men, address their concerns regarding low pay and dangerous working conditions.

Lafayette, the national coordinator for the Poor People’s Campaign, was to conduct a news conference on April 5 at campaign headquarters in Washington. And the media-savvy King wanted the message to be clear.

“He wanted to make sure I mentioned the inclusiveness of the Poor People’s Campaign,” Lafayette told The Undefeated. “He wanted everyone to know that this was about more than black people. It also was about helping poor whites, Native Americans and Mexican-Americans.”

In this Jan. 16, 1968, file photo, Martin Luther King (left), accompanied by Rev. Bernard Lafayette, talks about a planned march on Washington, D.C., during a news conference in Atlanta.

AP Photo/Charles Kelly

At the end of the conversation, King told Lafayette, “We are going to institutionalize and internationalize nonviolence.”

By sunset, those words proved eerily ironic.

When Lafayette arrived in Washington, Walter Fauntroy, the D.C. city councilman and Washington point person for the SCLC, wasn’t there to pick him up at the airport. That’s when Lafayette had an inkling that something was awry.

He called the headquarters of the Poor People’s Campaign, at 14th and U streets in Northwest Washington. That’s when Lafayette found out King had been shot on the motel balcony in Memphis.

Later, Lafayette called The Associated Press and United Press International wire services. Two pay telephones at once — with the AP in his left ear and the UPI in his right.

“Then, the UPI reporter started crying on the phone,” Lafayette said.

That’s when he first learned King had died. Moments later, Lafayette hopped in a cab to 14th and U.

There, he called the Lorraine Motel. Andrew Young, the executive vice president of the SCLC, told Lafayette not to return to Memphis. Fly to the SCLC headquarters in Atlanta instead, he said.

Lafayette then canceled the D.C. news conference scheduled for the next day.

a funeral for which to prepare

In 1968, Lafayette, at 28 years old, was a veteran of the civil rights movement. In 1960, he had participated in the sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters in Nashville, along with Lewis, Diane Nash and James Bevel. In 1961, Lafayette was one of the original Freedom Riders, along with Lewis, Jim Zwerg and William Barbee, as they tried to desegregate public interstate travel in the South amid physical attacks from angry white mobs.

Lafayette also was one of The Children, a book written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Halberstam 20 years ago that focused on eight college students, all of whom attended historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs), in Nashville who vaulted to the forefront of the civil rights movement.

Lafayette’s alma mater of barely 100 students, the American Baptist Theological Seminary, is now called American Baptist College and was granted an HBCU designation in 2013.

In 2018, Lafayette, now a 78-year-old minister, makes the 22-mile drive from his home in Tuskegee, Alabama, to Auburn University on Monday afternoons to teach the principles of global leadership for nonviolence, employing the teachings of King and Gandhi. Lafayette’s Alternatives to Violence Project, started in 1975, engages prison populations in conflict reconciliation and is used in 60 nations.

In the 1960s, Lafayette even wrote songs and sang with the Freedom Singers and Nashville Quartet. They sang freedom songs at such venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall, including the “Dog Song,” which was about the irony of dogs from black and white families playing together in rural Southern areas while the children of those same families couldn’t mingle because of segregation. That history has been preserved in more than one Smithsonian museum.

Another singer exhibited his reverence for King and the movement. King’s funeral was scheduled for April 9, 1968; the Academy Awards were set for April 8. Entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. and other stars threatened to boycott if the ceremony wasn’t rescheduled, according to the book Inside Oscar.

Davis, during an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on April 5, declared, “I certainly think any black man should not appear. I find it morally incongruous to sing ‘Talk To The Animals’ [from the Oscar-nominated movie Doctor Dolittle] while the man who could make a better world for my children is lying in state.”

Yes, Hollywood stopped for King; the Academy Awards were rescheduled for April 10.

“Sammy and several other movie stars came to the funeral,” Lafayette said. “They viewed Dr. King as a star, just like themselves. That’s why they came.”

Some SCLC members bandied about the idea of treating King’s funeral like the royals of Buckingham Palace in England, as in the splendor of men wearing top hats and coats with tails.

“Some of them wanted to treat him like royalty,” Lafayette recalled.

But they ultimately thought better of it, instead opting for the images of King’s legacy.

As King had said, in part, in his previous “Drum Major” address from Feb. 4, 1968, “I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. I just want to leave a committed life behind …”

Martin Luther King Jr. (seated, center), Andrew Young (far left, back row) and Bernard Lafayette Jr. (far right, back row) with a group of people in 1967.

Courtesy of Bernard Lafayette Jr.

Keep it simple, the SCLC decided. Hence regular men’s attire. And a mule-drawn, wooden farmer’s wagon to carry King’s casket, symbolic signs of poverty.

The “Drum Major” sermon served as King’s eulogy, per widow Coretta Scott King’s request.

The next two months were both utterly miserable and marginally productive for the SCLC. King’s successor, the solid but less magnetic Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, was determined to launch the Poor People’s Campaign, undoubtedly one of King’s most ambitious projects, which originally was scheduled for April 22.

King’s master plan: put issues such as jobs, unemployment insurance, a reasonable minimum wage and education for the poor on the national front burner.

The day after Coretta King led a women’s march on Mother’s Day on May 12, a collection of plywood tents and shacks were constructed on Washington’s National Mall. It was called Resurrection City, with a population of about 3,000. Rev. Jesse Jackson was named its mayor.

Then came the rain. “It seemed like for 40 days and 40 nights,” Lafayette remembered. “And, man, it was muddy.”

His post-campaign analysis: “It was very challenging and difficult. It was Dr. King’s idea, but he wasn’t with us. So we had to glean from him what we thought was his interpretation of the campaign.”

Lafayette spoke of a bizarre backstory to the campaign: For many of the nation’s poor, especially in the rural South, their only mode of travel was by mule. Therefore, some of the campaign participants wound their way to the nation’s capital by mule-drawn wagons. The federal government authorized some staff members, Lafayette said, to make sure the mules were equipped with special shoes for travel on pavement and soil as well as the correct food.

What about special precautions for the impoverished human beings making the journey? “No, the people had to care for themselves,” Lafayette answered.

The campaign did result in a few lesser victories, such as the federal government allocating free surplus food for distribution in hundreds of U.S. counties in need and agreements with government agencies to hire the poor to lead programs for the poor.

Abernathy, of course, desired more impactful actions, but he had to settle for the pocket-sized ones.

A half-century after the assassination of King, the implementation of the Poor People’s Campaign and the prophetic “Drum Major” speech, a part of King’s legacy was displayed on March 24 in Washington.

His granddaughter, 9-year-old Yolanda Renee King, spoke in Washington at the March for Our Lives rally against gun violence. She told an international audience: “My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun-free world, period.”

She was part of a remarkable scene mixing the past and the present before our very eyes. And it was a gun that killed her grandfather, a horrific murder by a white man that triggered race riots and street violence in at least 100 cities nationwide.

Said Lafayette: “That’s why I have great hope for the future. These young people are making sense, and they seem very determined. You call it passing the torch.”

For Lafayette, Yolanda Renee brought back memories of his last conversation with her grandfather at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

On that fateful day, 50 years ago.

Stephon Clark’s autopsy results released a day ahead of rally created by former King Matt Barnes The Sacramento native also provided financial assistance for Clark’s funeral

The day before retired NBA veteran and Sacramento, California, native Matt Barnes was set to hold a rally in the wake of the death of Stephon Clark, the results of an independent autopsy on Clark’s body were released during a news conference on Friday morning.

The Sacramento Bee broke the news at approximately 9 a.m. PST, after Ben Crump, the attorney retained by the Clark family, spoke to the local paper. Dr. Bennet Omalu, the doctor famous for his discovery and research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy and portrayed by Will Smith in the 2015 movie Concussion, announced his findings outside of the Southside Christian Center.

Clark was shot eight times, with six bullets hitting him in the back, while another one hit him in his side.

On March 18, the 22-year-old father of two was gunned down by Sacramento police officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, who each fired 10 shots at Clark in his grandmother’s backyard.

Autopsy results by the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office have not been made public, and as a result of not trusting the coroner’s office, Clark’s family decided it wanted a private autopsy. CBS has reported that a federal civil lawsuit could be coming from the family as soon as Friday.

A funeral service was held for Clark on Thursday at Bayside Boss Church. Barnes attended the event, as did the Rev. Al Sharpton, who provided the eulogy. Barnes, a former Sacramento King and Del Campo High basketball player, provided financial assistance for the funeral. He spoke to USA Today Sports‘ Sam Amick about his efforts to persuade current Golden State Warriors and Kings players to participate in the rally, being held at noon, before their game Saturday night.

With eight games to go and the Warriors 6½ games out of first place behind the Houston Rockets and 8½ ahead of No. 3 Portland in the Western Conference, their position in the No. 2 spot is nearly set. The Kings, on the other hand, are about to miss their 12th straight postseason with their 24-51 record.

“I know the Warriors and the Kings both play that night, so I’m going to try to talk to both sides and, you know, the game at this point kind of doesn’t really matter,” Barnes, who played 74 games with the Warriors and Kings last season, told Amick after the funeral. “The [playoff] positions are already set, so I’m hoping [the Warriors] can come out and support.

“Being a father of two boys, it’s something that’s near and dear to my heart, so it’s something I had to get involved in,” Barnes said. “I think we need [change], and I’m going to make sure I show my face more and more in Sacramento to make sure it happens. [The Police Department is] so worried about the gang violence, but at the same time we’ve got to hold these people who are paid to protect and serve accountable. … The black-on-black crime is also something that’s very prevalent in these neighborhoods, and I’m here to try to help make a change.”

On Thursday, the Kings announced they were holding an event with Black Lives Matter Sacramento and the Build. Black. Coalition to uplift the black youths in their community and setting up a fund for Clark’s two young sons. Forward Vince Carter and guard Garrett Temple were announced as attending the event.

“We have a rally Saturday at noon at [Cesar] Chavez Park … to hold these people accountable, to bring the community together, and address the black-on-black crime issue in not only this neighborhood but in neighborhoods across the country,” Barnes said. “Tons of former and current players called me to ask what I was doing, so myself and my team, we jumped in the line of action, providing whatever the family needed and putting together the rally for Saturday.”

Our gaming expert unpacks ‘Ready Player One’ The female characters are tougher than the white guy in the lead, but it’s still candy for gamers

Ready Player One, the new Steven Spielberg movie based on Ernest Cline’s novel, is a love letter to gamers, geeks and game designers.

The movie, which is filled with pop culture references that will make any Gen Xer feel seen, tells the story of Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), who plays under the handle Parzival. It’s 2045 and Wade lives in a dystopian vision of America beset by extreme income inequality, where poor people live in communities called “The Stacks,” which are trailers piled on top of each other.

Wade’s hero is the creator of the virtual reality OASIS, James Halliday (Mark Rylance). OASIS isn’t just a game. It’s an entire virtual world. When Halliday dies, he leaves behind a stake in the company he built that is worth half a trillion dollars and a virtual scavenger hunt to determine who will get it.

Practically every gamer is after the loot, and they’re competing with a company called Innovative Online Industries (IOI), whose CEO, Nolan Sorrento, wants to take over Halliday’s company and make over OASIS as his own branded paradise. Sorrento and IOI hire an army of gaming mercenaries, called sixers, to try to crack the hunt. He also hires experts who’ve dedicated their lives to understanding Halliday to chase clues that could lead to the ultimate Easter egg, Halliday’s fortune.

Sorrento’s pretty awful. He conscripts individuals into playing on his behalf and holds them as indentured servants to make them play off debt they’ve amassed in the game. That’s how another gamer, Samantha (Olivia Cooke), who plays under the gamer tag Art3mis, decides that anyone but IOI should get the egg. Her father died in IOI custody playing off his debt. When Parzival wins Halliday’s first challenge, the prospect of winning the egg becomes real, and he’s helped by his friends, including Art3mis, Aech (Lena Waithe), Daito (Win Morisaki) and Sho (Philip Zhao).

I discussed the movie with Latoya Peterson, The Undefeated’s deputy editor for digital innovation. She’s been gaming since she was 6, wrote about games for years, and has given talks on games and game theory at South by Southwest and the Game Developers Conference. She’s also a judge for the World Video Game Hall of Fame. Oh, and she paneled at MAGFest.

(Meanwhile, the only game I’ve ever successfully completed is Monument Valley.)

The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity, and contains spoilers.

Latoya: I loved the movie! Waaaayyyyy better than the world of the book, and I attribute all of that to Spielberg. There are some issues, mind, but the movie is candy for gamers. And playing the OASIS before I watched made it so much more fun.

Soraya: Does it feel like the game that’s presented in the movie?

Oh, yes. When they enter the OASIS, I got so hype because they built that exact feeling into the VR [virtual reality] experience. The experience doesn’t put you in The Stacks like Wade, though. You start in a penthouse accessing the OASIS, which I guess places it toward the end of the movie? Or perhaps they felt like putting it in The Stacks was a little too real?

The geekier side of the world — gaming, fantasy, sci-fi — assumes that you will be the white boy who is going to save the world. And if you are a geek, this is what you are weaned on.

I was really stunned by the visuals. It really is this amazing feat of world creation. Especially Halliday’s journals, jeez.

Yes. I read some review that was negatively comparing the experience to “watching a video game over someone’s shoulder” and I wanted to ask if that reviewer had seen Twitch. Because this is the world now.

The journals should be the model for all future reference libraries.

We should explain! So, basically, rather than making people go and read Halliday’s journals, you go in and it’s almost like going to the Natural History Museum. Except you’re watching scenes from Halliday’s life.

That level of categorization and recall is amazing and so Silicon Valley. Halliday’s character is really interesting as well. It really valorizes that wistful boy genius trope.

One thing I kept wondering while I was watching is if it was odd that he’s making people spend all this time inside his head and analyzing his life to win his fortune? Part of me was like, isn’t this a bit narcissistic?

Yes, but also realistic. There are real-life Silicon Valley moguls who have that mentality, would set up a competition just like this.

I honestly prefer this narcissism to John Galt, so I’m good with it. There are some Silicon Valley types that worship Ayn Rand. They want to create a techno-utopia with no regulation for the rich, by the rich. I’d take Halliday any day.

I wonder if they would have been as introspective and sensitive about it as Halliday, though.

Game developers code their lives and experiences into games, so that part felt real. And people make games for all kinds of reasons: grief, regret, memorials. Last year’s Game Developers Conference was cloaked in grief because a major member of the community died, and it was interesting to watch people grapple with that through games.

Like That Dragon, Cancer.

Exactly. So an extensive cataloging of one’s life in a game isn’t odd. I mean, after all, isn’t Sinatra’s entire playlist doing the same thing?

Ha, ha! I suppose so.

And that tale of money and friendships broken and loves lost is also a very easy one. And the desire to go back before the thing you made was a business. In some ways, the movie is a love letter to artists. However, there were some things that were just ridiculous that I am still trying to wrap my head around. Like Wade’s characterization. I’ve been thinking hard about this since you asked to do this chat. This question of race and geekness and white boy narratives.

Drop that knowledge, Latoya!

You first, because it’s a lot.

So I didn’t find anything about this movie offensive. I think it’s … generous. It kind of papers over the more unsavory elements that we know exist within gaming communities.

Yes. It focuses on the community, not the exclusion. That dynamic is always at play in gaming. There is “we” and there is “you,” and those sides tend to shift.

But I think Wade/Parzival is the kind of person everyone wants to see themselves as. He’s an underdog, he wants to play the game alone. (There’s a whole thing about how he doesn’t “clan.”) He’s sort of sweet and morally/ethically pure, but also scared of girls.

I did not read him as pure so much as naive. And I feel like the way Art3mis is constructed in the film gives him a great foil, until she falls into the love interest trap. But, yes, you are supposed to identify with Wade.

You have to be naive to think you’re going to battle a tech company with an army of gaming mercenaries and think you’re going to beat them.

I believe that faster than I believe some psycho corporate thug would have his little Grinch heart moved because of Wade’s love for the game.

It was kind of refreshing to see a boy who’s so comfortable with being in his feelings. And I wonder how he got that way, because it damn sure wasn’t from his aunt or her cavalcade of roughneck gentlemen callers.

Of all the eye-roll moments in that movie, that was a big one. He’s sensitive. Maybe it’s from the dead parents.

That’s what I wonder about Wade. How did he manage to avoid being full of anger?

I don’t think he did, necessarily. It’s just channeled. He also swings hard into NiceGuy territory a few times. But since he generally gets everything he wants in the narrative, there’s no need to let that side out.

Wade is supposed to be the character you identify with the most onscreen. That is generally the construction around these kinds of offerings. The geekier side of the world — gaming, fantasy, sci-fi — assumes that you will be the white boy who is going to save the world. And if you are a geek, this is what you are weaned on. I realized in prepping for our discussion that this is what I was raised on. It’s how we know how to define the world. I still love Marty McFly and Tom Swift and Paul Muad’Dib Atreides.

The white boy who is “the one” is canon, so I was expecting that in many ways. Now, Wade Watts is no Marty McFly, even with a tricked-out DeLorean. But I see what they wanted to do.

The thing is, though, the world has expanded a lot since the ’80s. Our construction of hero is broader, so it was fascinating to me to see some of the devices employed to keep Wade the hero. I thought I was going to have the most to say about Aech/Helen, but it’s really Art3mis/Samantha that captures my attention.

She’s clearly very smart.

Throughout the game, she proves herself to be a more strategic player. Wade outthinks her on the first challenge, she outthinks him on the second. She’s also markedly a better shooter. In all of her scenes with Wade, she’s lead and nice with the guns. So how does she end up sacrificing herself so Wade could play? And why does he make the [NICEGUY] move of taking her out the game for her own good?

She and Helen get sacrificed. That was infuriating.

Also, if she’s the leader of the rebellion, how did she kneel to a lesser shooter? I will accept zombies in The Shining before I accept a player of that level of skill would roll over for her less experienced love interest.

Also, can we sidebar on their romance?

You are telling me the same kid that almost creamed his pants being touched in through a virtual suit suddenly has game with a real girl in real life on a roof? And this grizzled young leader of the rebellion who watched her father die in debtors prison, who is giving off hella riot girl vibes in her ripped stockings and shorts, is going to roll over for a dude who she has awkward conversation with because he solved a really hard puzzle?

That’s how you can tell who wrote this. But I guess this is what happens when you are the anointed — it’s your narrative, whether you earned it or not. The sacrifice of the friends is a thing — I mean they did it in Sailor Moon! But it’s interesting that the women, who were both independent and rebellious, gave up their own journeys to boost Wade’s.

I will accept zombies in The Shining before I accept a player of that level of skill would roll over for her less experienced love interest.

Wade is very much like Charlie (of the Chocolate Factory), or the Narnia kids, or Harry Potter, even the book version of A Wrinkle in Time. But it still has to make sense!

Well, to be fair, you don’t want a perfect hero.

Right. He has to be relatable.

But there’s a big gap between “perfect” and “you’ve got to be kidding me.” I mean a lot of the fun in the hero’s journey is that process of discovery, of them becoming less of a brat. (You know I’m criticizing Wade hard, but people said the same stuff about Tidus in FFX.)

Wade is more like wish fulfillment.

Yeah, you’re right. Like Wade winning the first challenge got him money and gear, but did he really level up any skills in this narrative?

Which, again, makes him candy for gamers who look like him and will identify with him and who, in their heads, think it makes perfect sense that after getting felt up through a virtual suit he’s going to get his head together and have game.

The OASIS was way better developed as a space and character than many of the villains and side characters.

Exactly. Which brings us to this: The real world in this movie is a horrible dystopian crapfest. I can totally understand how someone could just live in OASIS and abandon their real life. Which is why it seems odd that [spoiler] Wade takes the game offline on Tuesdays and Thursdays in this noble quest to make people appreciate the real world around them.

You know what would make me not want to spend all my time in OASIS? Not living in a dystopian crapfest!

Hmm. Made sense to me. The whole point of the journey was to discover that Halliday’s life was full of games because he couldn’t grok the real world. Wade keeps pledging he won’t make the same mistakes.

Thoughts on Helen?

I wish we knew why she was playing as a dude. She’s kind of a classic black best friend in a lot of ways. I mean, she’s a very clever, amusing one.

Yes. She is leaps and bounds more than I expected but is still doing an amazing job with the traditional spot. Well cast, well executed, but Aech is a shadow character. Just like Daito and Sho.

It’s funny to me that Wade/Parzival has these supersmart friends who clearly have strengths that he does not, but he doesn’t want to clan up?

The OASIS is open world. You normally clan for battle games, but not necessarily others. RPGs [role-playing games], sure. But this is more of a quest game. And even though the OASIS was never meant to be single-player, most of the designed challenges were.

Link was generally solo in Zelda — it’s like that.

Ahh, OK. But let’s close on Helen.

Do I wish Helen had more to do, more characterization? Yes. Am I happy she was there at all? Yes! Do I wish I knew more about her? Yes. It’s the eternal black friend conundrum. Hopefully the box office is high enough that there’s a Ready Player Two (Shout-out to Shira Chess!) that can build out Samantha and Helen as more than plot devices. That said, I’m impressed. It is damn hard to get a good gamer movie, and we got one! I just always want more.

I did not expect to love it as much as I did. It’s a gamer’s movie, 5 out of 5, with all the flaws. Now I just want them to drop the full VR experience.

John Boyega adores Lupita Nyong’o and is about ‘Ewoks all day. I hate porgs.’ The ‘Pacific Rim’ and ‘Star Wars’ star likes his Jay-Z and Kanye — and his grime and afropop

He burst onto the scene in 2015 as Finn, the black storm trooper-turned-hero in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, but John Boyega has proved that he won’t be defined by that life-changing role.

He’s since demonstrated his versatility in Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit and onstage as lead in an adaptation of Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck in his native London — before bringing Finn back in Star Wars: The Last Jedi last December. Now Boyega is out front in the sequel to 2013 cult classic Pacific Rim, the new Pacific Rim Uprising.

Boyega is part of a large wave of black British actors who have taken over the American box office in recent years. Daniel Kaluuya was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Get Out. David Oyelowo was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in Selma. And Letitia Wright and Kaluuya both starred in Marvel’s Black Panther, which is on pace to become the highest-grossing superhero movie of all time.

“I’m proud,” Boyega said. “We all trained very, very hard to get here, gave up our lives in the U.K. to pursue something better, and in return America gave us that shot. It feels absolutely epic to be a part of this movement right now.”

Boyega’s ambitions don’t end in front of the camera. After filming The Force Awakens, he used his earnings to start a production company called UpperRoom Entertainment Limited, which was launched in January 2016. His company co-produced Pacific Rim Uprising, giving Boyega the first producer credit of his career. It’s safe to say that the shine of the talented upstart isn’t fading anytime soon.

If your character, Jack, in Pacific Rim Uprising played a CD in his Jaeger (the large robots featured in the film), what are you playing?

I’m going to be playing Jay-Z’s and Kanye’s Watch the Throne.

Favorite song off that album?

‘No Church in the Wild.’ It’s a good song, especially for the fighting in Pacific Rim. A bit upbeat.

Your dad is a preacher. Any music that wasn’t allowed in the house growing up?

We listened to all of it. Christians are nuanced. Some people believe you shouldn’t hear any secular music — my dad didn’t believe that. We listened to Michael Jackson growing up. We couldn’t listen to hardcore rap music or anything like that, but can’t lie, we listened to that when we were in school.

Who are your favorite musical artists right now?

I love SZA. She’s fantastic. Kendrick Lamar. I’m loving what Stormzy in the U.K. is doing. I’m loving what Skepta is doing with the fashion and the music. And then homegrown talent: I love Wizkid, I love Davido, Tekno. Those are the Afrobeat stars that I listen to.

On Instagram, you posted that you put Wizkid’s “Daddy Yo” in Pacific Rim Uprising. How important is diversity within those working behind the camera?

What people get to experience are ideas that come out from very different people. We all collaborate to bring together ideas that help move the story forward. With that being said, my background is very unique. Being able to make that kind of decision is cool, and to make that kind of history is cool as well. To put those worlds together and have our lead sci-fi hero enjoying an Afrobeat Nigerian song, it’s something to be proud of.

What aspect of Nigerian culture would you like to see represented more in the U.S.?

A whole bunch of things. It’s hard to see the perspective of the world and not be too concerned with only the portal that you have, which is America … the bubble that America creates. The food is something that I think … could be accepted in the mainstream. On top of that, definitely the music, which has gotten a bit more recognition, which is definitely quite cool. I believe that as human beings, any chance we get to relate with someone different enough, we are actively changing the world in a positive way.

Advice for your 15 year-old self?

Stop eating all those sweets, man. Seriously, you need to stop that (laughs).

How does it feel to be a part of this wave of black British actors taking over American film in recent years?

Myself and Letitia Wright went to the same drama school. I met Daniel Kaluuya at a very young age while he was doing his stage thing. I’ve met various British actors where I have auditioned in the U.K. I’m very, very happy. These are good actors, high-quality actors who are nuanced and are able to do things on-screen that are intriguing, draw the audience in.

I decided my talents were best suited for being in the [soccer] audience, watching.

First concert?

A Grace Jones concert.

Favorite line from Black Panther?

Oh, man. Hmmm. The colonizer line (laughs). That made me crack up. That definitely was my favorite. I have a film club that I go to, [and] Black Panther is the talking topic for the next two weeks. A lot of Michael B. Jordan’s lines come up — so well-written. The stuff he says about enslavement and how it relates to what’s going on today. Those lines are important.

Is it true that you once wanted to be a soccer star?

I didn’t actually want to be a soccer star, I just wanted to try it out to see if my right foot could kick straight. I decided my talents were best suited for being in the [soccer] audience, watching.

Did you have a favorite soccer club growing up?

The family supported Manchester United. My sister got married and she transferred to Arsenal and literally broke the family code. When she did that there wasn’t enough motivation for my dad to stay with MU because I think at the time we had a pretty crap Premier League. And then what happened, my dad became a glory hunter. You asked him what team he’d support, he’d say whatever team wins.

What will you always be a champion of?

Online Star Wars Battlefront.

Any bad habits?

I hardly make my bed when I’m leaving.

Actor or actress you’d most like to work with in the future?

Lupita Nyong’o.

Best advice you’ve received from another actor/actress?

I wouldn’t really call this advice, but talking to Lupita in-depth about the industry, in-depth about the way which we see our roles in this whole movement. I’ve always felt I could call her and speak to her about any challenges I’ve faced. And, for me, hearing her side of the story and hearing not only the perspective but also an insight into how I could be a part of the change.

While you’ve made your name in sci-fi, you’ve also been in films rooted in African-American (Detroit) and Nigerian (Half of a Yellow Sun) history. Any upcoming roles?

Yes, but I’ve got to keep that one to myself.

Ewoks or Porgs?

Ewoks all day. I hate porgs.