(HuffPost Style) Tim Gunn: The Obama Girls Are The ‘Antidote’ To The Kardashians

James Cave | Lifestyle Staff Writer, The Huffington Post

Has your newsfeed OD’d on the Kardashians? Tim Gunn has your medicine.

When asked in a recent sit-down interview at HuffPost Live about who he considers the “antidote” to the Kardashians, he replied without hesitation: Sasha and Malia Obama.


“I believe that they dress for their age, they dress in a way that for me is fashionable and sophisticated, and they’re not trying to look older than they are, and they’re not trying to look younger,” Gunn said. “And of course they have the best fashion mentor in the world right there with them — their mother.”

Watch the full video here.

(Ghana Web) Future Ghanaian Scientist Invited to White House

Simon Peter Frimpong Photo from Ghana Web

Meet Simon-Peter Frimpong, a 13-year old Ghanaian American from Aurora, Colorado. The 8th-grader is one of about 100 top science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students from across the USA who have been invited to the 2016 White House Science Fair, scheduled for this Wednesday, April 13th.

The fair, which is President Obama’s sixth and last, is a hands-on showcase of student innovation – robots, prototypes, tools to help us fight cancer and climate change – all researched, designed and built by the next generation of America’s scientists.

Simon-Peter and two of his schoolmates from Horizon Middle School, Maya Max-Villard, 13, and Grayson Fast, 14, were inspired by a veteran at nearby Buckley Air Force Base who needed a more comfortable and functional prosthetic limb. The three young scientists designed and built a new artificial leg using computer design, and 3-D printing of prototypes, as well as interviews with the veteran and others for feedback. The team built a prosthetic leg that will allow the amputee to hike, manage uneven terrain, and even skateboard!

The part designed by Simon-Peter is what makes the prosthesis unique. As their STEM teacher, Ms. Mel Possehl put it, “…with the design [Simon Frimpong] made, the bottom comes off. So you have a walking part, then you have a part that hooks onto a longboard or a snowboard, then you have a part that hooks onto skis, and then a part that can do multiple things. It’s a multiple-use prototype.” The project was so innovative that it was selected as a finalist in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow national competition, and then to participate in the 2016 White House Science Fair.

Simon-Peter is the son of Mr. Tony Frimpong, and Mrs. Yaa Frimpong (popularly known as Obaa Yaa), who is the secretary of NPP Colorado Chapter, and 2nd Vice Chairperson of NPP-USA Branch.
[Partly culled from the White House blog https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/04/08/science-fair-2016-meet-next-generation-americas-innovators]

The article was published on Ghana Web.

(HuffPost Black Voices) These Are The Best Colleges In America For Black Students

Lilly Workneh

Black Voices Senior Editor, The Huffington Post

Picking a college can be a daunting task for anyone, but finding the best fit can be a particularly challenging feat for African American students.

Calls to end racism on campus have become more widespread in the last year asstudents across the country spoke out about both everyday and systemic racism at their schools. In addition, minority students also face other common factors college students must consider like high costs of tuition and concerns over student loan debt.

To get a sense for which colleges provide the best outcomes for black students, the editors of ESSENCE and Money created their first-ever comprehensive list of the “50 Best Colleges for African-American Students.”

The list was released Tuesday and includes historically black colleges and universities, ivy league schools and large public institutions. The list uses collected data to rank the nation’s top schools for black students based on four factors: black graduation rates, the average cost of tuition and the average student loan debt for all students as well as campus diversity, for these purposes determined by the percentage of students who are black.

Check out an exclusive partial preview of the schools that made it to the top 10 below, along with helpful data compiled by ESSENCE and Money:

10. University of Maryland, College Park

The University of Maryland is a public university that ranks high on the list. 

Percentage of students who are African-American: 11 percent

African-American graduation rate: 77 percent

Estimated average net price of a degree: $96,300

Estimated average student debt load at graduation: $19,500

9. North Carolina A&T State University

First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at North Carolina A&T University.

Percentage of students who are African-American: 80 percent

African-American graduation rate: 49 percent

Estimated average net price of a degree: $77,800

Estimated average student loan debt upon graduation: $23,000

8. Yale University

Yale University is ranked high on the list of schools for black students. 

Percentage of students who are African-American: 5 percent

African-American graduation rate: 92 percent

Estimated average net cost of a degree: $196,500

Estimated average student debt load upon graduation: $12,000

7. University of Pennsylvania

This Ivy League school is celebrated for its prestigious business program.

Percentage of students who are African American: 6%

African-American graduation rate: 94%

Estimated average net price of a degree: $207,000

Estimated average student debt load at graduation: $21,500

6. Spelman College

Spelman college is an elite women’s HBCU located in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Percentage of students who are African American: 87%
African-American graduation rate: 75%
Estimated average net price of a degree: $172,800
Estimated average student debt load at graduation: $27,000

To view the full list of schools, head over to Money.com. 

(Al Jazeera) Somalia executes al-Shabab journalist

| Politics, Africa

Hanafi said he confessed to the killing of journalists following torture by authorities in Mogadishu [AP]

Hanafi said he confessed to the killing of journalists following torture by authorities in Mogadishu [AP]

Somalia has executed a journalist accused of helping members of al-Shabab kill at least five journalists in the capital.

Hassan Hanafi, who was captured in neighbouring Kenya in 2014, was executed on Monday morning by a firing squad in Mogadishu after his appeal at a military court failed.

Hanafi was accused of helping fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked group identify possible targets in the journalism community between 2007 and 2011.

From 2009 to 2011 he worked for Radio Andalus, al-Shabab’s official mouthpiece.

In an interview aired on Somalia state TV in February, Hanafi admitted ordering the murder of several journalists.

But in an audio recording of a phone call leaked last month Hanafi appeared to claim he made the confessions after being tortured.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists more than 25 journalists have been killed in the Horn of Africa country since 2007.

Al-Shabab, which is seeking to overthrow the country’s Western-backed government, was pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011 by government troops backed by an African Union force.

It continues to carry out suicide attacks and targeted assassinations in south and central parts of the country, and it has also conducted major attacks in Kenya, Djibouti and Uganda, which all contribute troops to the African Union effort.

The article was published in Al Jazeera.

(TimesLedger) Friends of Phife Dawg remember late musician at public memorial

By Madina Toure

St. Albans residents who grew up with the late Phife Dawg, a member of renowned hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, braved the rain to show their respect for him at a public memorial hosted by the group at St. Albans Memorial Park Monday morning.

Despite the rainy weather, nearly 200 fans trekked to St. Albans from all over the borough and the city, with some fans even coming from out of state.

Malik Taylor, known by his stage name Phife Dawg, died March 22 in California at the age of 45 due to complications from diabetes. He was raised in St. Albans.

St. Albans resident Carleene Cannon, 48, had known Phife Dawg since he was around 9 years old. She also knew honorary group member Jarobi White.

She has fond memories of Phife, recalling that he had a big crush on her cousin.

“As we got older and as A Tribe Called Quest became more of an entity, with everybody just grooving to the music, he would come off the road and I would go visit him at his grandmother’s house…He gave me my copy of ‘Low End Theory’ (the group’s second album) and leaked it,” Cannon said. “And my son’s name is Jaden Malik Lake.”

A group of Phife Dawg’s friends who grew up with him in St. Albans made an appearance at the public memorial. (Photo by Madina Toure)

Steve McDaniel, 41, also of St. Albans, said he and Phife spent a lot of time playing basketball and football in St. Albans Park.

“When they (his friends and Phife) were in high school—I was younger than them, I was in junior high school—I would meet them in the colosseum on Jamaica Avenue and we would go down to the food court and sit there and bug out with a lot of the kids we grew up with from back here on Sayres Avenue,” McDaniel said.

Another friend of Phife’s, Norman Bennett, 37, who lives next door to McDaniel, referred to him as his “little big bro” because Bennett was younger but taller. They bonded over their common heritage: Bennett’s father is from Trinidad and so is Phife’s family.

“Everyone would beat on the (picnic) table, kick rhymes, something crazy was going on… we played football, baseball, kickball,” Bennett said.

St. Albans resident Keith Taylor, 42, also a friend of Phife’s, echoed similar sentiments.

“Malik was a good dude,” Taylor said. “We all grew up together so we all seem similar. He loved sports and he got into the music thing and kind of went off on his way.”

The first 200 fans who arrived at the memorial received a Phife Dawg T-shirt as well as a ticket to attend an invite-only tribute concert for the musician at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem Tuesday.

Andres Titus, known by his stage name Dres, is one-half of Black Sheep, a hip-hop duo from Queens that started in the 1990s. He had known Phife Dawg since 1989, describing him as a “dope (cool) person” who “had a moral compass.”

Jarobi White, an honorary member of A Tribe Called Quest, waives at fans during the processional. Photo by Madina Toure

The processional for Phife Dawg’s funeral drove by the park along Sayres Avenue and 172nd Street. Jarobi White waved at fans from a car

There are currently two efforts underway to honor the singer and the group. One calls for Linden Boulevard between 192nd and 193rd streets to be co-named A Tribe Called Quest Boulevard—where the video for the first single from the group’s second album was shot—while the other calls for St. Albans Park to be renamed “Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor Park.”

The article was published in the TimesLedger Newspapers.

(The Root) NY Valedictorian Is Celebrating Her Acceptance to All 8 Ivy League Schools

Posted: April 5 2016 9:26 AM


Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna


Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, a high school student from Long Island, N.Y., has a big decision to make soon. The Elmont High School valedictorian has been accepted at all eight Ivy League schools!

Schools in the Ivy League are Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University.

She also gained admission to Johns Hopkins University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Augusta is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, and she said her parents instilled in her the value of education.

“Though I was born here in America, I visited Nigeria many times,” she told WABC. “And I’ve seen that my cousins don’t have the same opportunities that I have. So definitely, whatever I do, I want to make sure that it has an impact on Nigeria.”

She also says that her own tenacity and persistence helped shape her into becoming a great student. But as with a lot of students, she did face hardships with some classes.

“I’ve struggled with numerous classes in the past,” Augusta told the station. “But I guess what allowed me to be successful, ultimately, in those classes, at the end, is my persistence and my tenacity.”

Augusta hasn’t decided which college to attend, but with a GPA of 101.6 and a recent invitation to the White House Science Fair, there’s no doubt that she’ll continue her academic excellence.

Read more at WRIC.

(TimesLedger) Petitions underway for Phife Dawg, A Tribe Called Quest to be honored in Queens

Nu-Clear Cleaners on 192nd Street and Linden Boulevard was featured in a single from A Tribe Called Quest’s second album. A petition is seeking to have the boulevard co-named after the group.

By Madina Toure

Two major efforts are underway to honor legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest and one of its members, Queens-raised Phife Dawg, who recently died.

Malik Taylor, known by his stage name Phife Dawg and his nickname “The Five-Foot Assassin,” died March 22 in California at the age of 45 due to complications from diabetes, according to his manager, Dion Liverpool, known as DJ Rasta Root.

He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes—when the body does not produce insulin—in May 1990, according to his profile on the website of dLife, or the Diabetes Health Company.

One petition, addressed to City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Mahattan), calls for Linden Boulevard between 192nd and 193rd streets to be co-named “A Tribe Called Quest Boulevard.”

The video for the group’s single “Check the Rhime,” the first single from their second album, “The Low End Theory,” releaded in 1991, was shot on that boulevard.

Brooklyn resident Leroy McCarthy, who has also been pushing for street renamings for hip-hop figures in the other boroughs, started the motion for the street renaming and Brooklyn native Tee Smif, a TV producer, started the petition, which has 5,359 of the 7,500 signatures needed.

“I have spoken with the management for Phife Dawg and shared with him my condolences and asked them if they would be receptive to this idea,” he said. “They said they are.”

Liverpool said he and the family are interested in the petition but are still recovering from their loss.

“Based on our conversations with him (McCarthy), we felt like it is an honor,” he said. “I think whether Phife had passed away or not, I think that should have been in play just based on what the group has done for culture.”

A spokesman for Mark-Viverito said she is interested in the proposal.

“We’re happy to review the petition,” he said.

Miller said Phife Dawg’s death is a loss for St. Albans and the entire hip-hop industry.

“I look forward to supporting the introduction of this legislation and this tribute to these musical pioneers,” he said in a statement.

Community Board 12 Chairwoman Adrienne Adams said the board is waiting to receive the appropriate forms from McCarthy.

“If it’s what the community wants, then it what’s the community should have,” Adams said.

Taylor, who was raised in St. Albans, is one of three members of A Tribe Called Quest, which he formed in 1985 along with fellow Queens native Q-Tip and Brooklyn native Ali Shaheed Muhammad. The fourth member, Jarobi White, who also helped found the group, left in 1991 but remained as an honorary member.

The group’s first album, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,” was released in 1990. The group broke up in 1998 but has reunited several times.

Phife Dawg released his solo album, “Ventilation: Da LP,” in 2000.

Another petition, started by Noelle Ross, calls for St. Albans Park to be renamed “Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor Park.” The petition has received 5,002 of 6,000 needed signatures.

A Parks spokesman said parks are named by the Parks commissioner or through local law, but the agency has not received any official proposals for the renaming of the park.

“NYC Parks, too, is saddened by the sudden death of Queens’ own Phife Dawg,” the spokesman said.

On his Facebook page, White called for Sayres Avenue from 180th Street to Merrick Boulevard to be renamed “Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor Avenue” and for St. Albans Park to be renamed.McCarthy said White expressed support for the Linden Boulevard petition and that they support the St. Albans Park petition, which Smif also signed.

“It’s not competing petitions,” Smif said. “It’s just love across the board. Different people want to show their love in different ways.”

The article was originally published in the TimesLedger Newspapers.

(Everyday Feminism) 9 Ways Privileged People Can Reduce the Negative Impact of Gentrification

Source: Panoramio

Source: Panoramio


There was once a small brick barbeque joint on Divisadero Street in San Francisco known as Da’ Pitt.

Its customer base was small, but loyal, comprised mostly of low-income African-American families. Though no one travelled more than walking distance to get there, nor wrote about it on Urbanspoon, it fed its community and it was loved.

But the neighborhood gentrified, the community dwindled, and Da’Pitt could no longer serve enough BBQ to pay its rent.

Another company, 4505 Meats, took over the space.

They put wood tables outside and painted the exterior. They added a vegetarian sandwich, an organic salad, and beers on tap to the menu. They hired young, bearded, and beanied white men to work the cash register. They put up artsy meat references, such as buffalo skulls and decorative metal pigs. They advertised the existing wood-fired barbeque pit as “historic.”

The building is the same, the barbeque is—well—still barbeque, but lines of yuppies and hipsters now extend down the block, and local food blogs are singing its praises.

Art-ified and White-ified, Da’Pitt is now Da’ Place to be.

And so is the rest of the block.

What used to be dollar stores and auto shops is an impressive collection of fine dining restaurants, high-end retail stores, specialty food vendors, and recently remodeled apartments that cost an average of $3,480/month (no, that’s not a typo).

The city’s “deadliest neighborhood” in 2005 became its “comeback neighborhood” in 2011.

What We Need to Talk About When We Talk About Gentrification

We know gentrification is racist and classist, that it hurts marginalized people and destroys communities. We know that it fits into a larger cultural reality in which people with more social, political, and economic power have more control over space. We know it fosters discrimination and cultural appropriation. We see the connections.

But there’s a reason that Divisadero Street comes to mind when I think about gentrification: because it’s not a clear picture of behemoth corporations and soulless developers snatching real estate from impoverished communities while comically evil landlords evict their tenants into surefire, immediate homelessness and politicians throw money in the air, laughing maniacally.

At least, that’s not what we see.

Instead, despite our negative views of gentrification, what many of us experience is a more subtle, nuanced version of gentrification, in which not every change is bad and there aren’t any obvious heroes or villains (pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!).

The owners of 4505 Meats, for example, are local residents who are known for using the whole animal, sourcing humane meat from local farmers, and other sustainable, community-oriented practices. They seem like good people, and if Yelp is any indication, their food is pretty good, too (their vegetarian sandwich has green chiles, Oaxacan cheese, and grits, y’all, and I want it).

And we feel more comfortable walking in their now well-lit parking lot.

And we miss our favorite dollar store down the street, but it’s gonna be a kava lounge, dude! (I don’t make this stuff up.)

We are those that benefit from gentrification. And we are ambivalent.

We laugh when things are sold as “urban” and “local” (like, what were they before?), but if we want them, and can afford them, we buy them. We cringe at the idea of sacrificing a one-dollar street taco for a six-dollar street-inspiredtaco, but if our friends invite us out to try one, we go. We side-eye the ten-dollar pear cocktail at the art bar, but what else are you to drink at Indie dance night?

And with our faces in our iPhones and our booties shaking to music made before our time that’s totally cool again, we forget that there is even a problem at all.

And it’s especially easy to ignore the struggles of the poorest members of our community when they have beenremoved from our community, when marginalized people are literally on the margins.

But just because something doesn’t look like a problem doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. So we can choose to enjoy the colorful, “revitalized” façade of our shiny new neighborhoods – or we can peek behind the curtain.

What Gentrification Really Is

Gentrification is not merely a natural shift in the demographics and business landscape of an area, but a collection ofsystematic changes to maximize profit, serving a higher class of people while alienating the middle class and pushing out lower income individuals and families.

The word gentrification comes from “gentry,” which denotes a noble, ruling class of people who own large tracts of land, to which they believe they are entitled, where other lesser people are not.

It’s the same idea that fueled European colonizers to roll up on this continent looking to occupy already-occupied land behind the enlightened, civilized doctrine of “me want, me take.”

It shouldn’t guide city landscapes in 2014.

But it does.

And the results are horrific.

Like immigrant families living twelve-to-a room in mold-ridden apartments, afraid to assert their tenant rights for fear of eviction. Or non-profit agencies unable to retain their funding as their once populous client bases are forced out of the city and far from the services they need to survive. Or meager earners attending apartment viewings where young white men in dress shirts walk in and write checks for double the asking move-in amount, pricing out everyone at the open house.

I want to scream and throw things do something about it.

Change Starts with Us

Challenging your privilege sucks, and it’s easy to find a reason to resist.

I just got here! I didn’t make this building or set this rent! I work hard at my job! I took the apartment I could afford! I’ve been dreaming of opening this restaurant my whole life! I charge six dollars for gluten-free donuts because people pay it!

Yes, you’re right. You’re not single-handedly responsible for all the problems in your city, and if you’re not a speculator or a landlord or a millionaire, you’re probably also limited by gentrification in some way. But your actions have consequences, and they don’t exist outside of the larger social context.

So, when you’re sitting on the balcony of your new high-rise flat eating your six-dollar vegan donut, watching the community below you crumble, you must ask yourself: Do I have a part in this? How do my actions affect this community? Is there something I can do with my power, privilege, and —ahem— money?

And yeah, there is.

1. Acknowledge Your Privilege

Privilege is a complicated issue, and no one is definitively “privileged” or “oppressed.”

But if you are able to live somewhere post-gentrification, are able to enjoy the amenities in a gentrified neighborhood, and aren’t somebody that people want out of their neighborhood due to some aspect of your physical presentation or identity, then you have some privilege that others don’t.

Own it. And use it to engender change.

Like, if you’re chillin’ at your start-up and your broworker is bragging about how he kicked a bunch of Latino teenagers off of their neighborhood soccer field because he paid the city to rent the field (seriously, I don’t make this stuff up), put down your craft brew, hop on the slide down to the first floor, and be like, “Not cool, bro!” He may hear your voice over those of a hundred local kids.

Yes, that likelihood is maddening.

But that’s the thing about power: It’s powerful.

2. Respect the History of Your New Neighborhood

Neighborhoods have a history, a people, a unique culture.

Enjoy it, learn about it, and work to preserve it, even as new cultural elements and businesses are introduced.

Don’t expect it to look like your old neighborhood.

3. Listen to the Voices of Your Neighbors

People like to talk about being a “voice for the oppressed.” That’s misguided. The oppressed have their own voices. We just have to hear them.

In February, Spike Lee criticized gentrification in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, where he grew up.

When he was a child, Lee recounted, “The garbage wasn’t picked up every [expletive] day…the police weren’t around… why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers for the facilities to get better…to get the schools better?”

Lee’s impassioned speech was met with vicious criticism. Apparently, Lee had “mouthed off” and should “take a valium and calm down.”

Don’t dismiss the voices of marginalized people of color according to your genteel preferences. Open your mind. Truths aren’t always spoken calmly.

4. Understand That Residents Have Feelings About Their Changing Neighborhood

If there is anger, there’s a reason.

People who have been disadvantaged by gentrification may not be friendly or nice to you if your presence represents the destruction of their neighborhood – the very destruction that you benefit from.

Be sensitive to this, and allow for some discomfort.

Your discomfort is nothing compared to a disenfranchised group’s oppressed experience.

5. Make Socially Conscious Purchase Decisions

When you go out for a coffee or a drink or a sandwich, think about the places you are going to.

Are they welcome spaces for all types of people? Do they fit into the social landscape of the existing community? Do they hire local bartenders and waiters? Are they paid a living wage? Are there at least a few items on the menu that most people in the area could afford?

It doesn’t always matter that these places aren’t new – there’s always room for creativity and innovation – but that they add to the character of the neighborhood and don’t take away from it.

6. Invest in Community-Focused, Community-Run Organizations

Developers and large businesses love to create charities and fundraising projects to minimize (read: distract us from) the damage they are doing to a community. These projects are, however, often run by people from the organization (read: not the community).

If you want to invest your money or time into a community (yes! do!), make sure you are giving directly to the community and following their lead.

Communities know who they are, how they do things, and what they need better than outside bodies. And they should have the agency to direct these efforts towards change.

7. Question Exclusionary Tactics Claiming to Be About ‘Safety’

You may be told that the influx of bouncers, security guards, and police in your area is about keeping everyone safe.

Be skeptical.

Because this isn’t about the safety of everyone.

Security staff keep paying customers safe while making elite spaces unwelcome to anyone who doesn’t look like they fit in. Ask a teen in a hoodie if they feel safe in front of a nice restaurant or with increased law enforcement presence in the area and you might get a very different perspective.

Most importantly, despite claims that revitalization lowers crime, studies have suggested that gentrification actuallyincreases crime. So, there’s that.

8. Advocate for Yourself and Others

Get to know the tenant rights laws in your area – they may be more comprehensive than you realize – and visit local organizations for additional information.

Share materials with others. Stand with your neighbors if they are facing eviction or being taken advantage of, and do the same for yourself.

When my last landlord attempted exploitative and illegal actions, ones he had carried out successfully with a string of young female tenants before us, we reported him immediately to the Rent Board. We won several hundred dollars, a signed agreement to stop, and the upper hand. We moved nearly a year ago, and he has yet to re-rent the place.

These victories matter.

9. Vote

This may be the most important factor of all.

Your vote can determine how rent control is regulated, how much affordable housing is built, whether a large corporation can build a skyscraper on your cityscape, what social services will be available this year, and other things that affect your area.

So, get out to the polls! No dress code required.


It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the reality of gentrification, but if you’re able to afford your apartment and your groceries, it’s also easy to ignore.

This isn’t about blame or guilt, but a call to make choices more in line with our values and visions of the world while maintaining respect for the visions that community members have for their own communities.

Unfortunately, not everyone will hear this call to action. They will shut their curtains, lock their doors, and call the cops if it gets too loud.

And that’s Da’ Pitts.

Katy Kreitler is a Clinical Social Worker specializing in youth, gender, and trauma.  She holds an MSW from USC and a BA in Psychology and Sociology from USF. She can be found somewhere in San Francisco reading a book, eating a burrito, and side-eyeing humanity. 

This article was originally published in Everyday Feminism. 

(Backstage) Jerrod Carmichael Treats His Audience Like Adults

By Benjamin Lindsay | Posted March 23, 2016, 11 a.m.

Jerrod Carmichael Treats His Audience Like Adults

Photo Source: Chad Griffith

“I like art that’s perceived to require thought,” says comedian and actor Jerrod Carmichael over lunch in lower Manhattan. That much is clear even in his small talk. While walking to Felice 15 Gold Street after a photo shoot, he riffs on everything from Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” to John Oliver. (While he cites West as a musical revolutionary, he thinks the “Last Week Tonight” host can do better than #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain.) Now splitting a cheese plate and bruschetta, he hones in on someone else’s thought-provoking art: his own.

“I’m curious about how things affect the world more than just personal exploration,” Carmichael says, turning a grape over in his hand. “When I hear of situations, my mind goes to—in the healthiest sense of the word—the ‘broader’ sense of [how] this is affecting everybody around us.”

Such thought processes are apparent in his socially conscious standup and sitcom. His Spike Lee–directed HBO special premiered in 2014, and more recently, his eponymous NBC series, “The Carmichael Show,” premiered its second season on March 13 after a brief six episodes last August.

“My lawyers are the only reason I say ‘Season 2,’ ” he jokes of the new 13-episode arc. “It’s a deeper version of the same thing.”

For fans of the series, that’s good news. At the tail end of summer 2015, “The Carmichael Show” beat the odds and nabbed an audience over the course of three weeks and six episodes. Its deft blend of familial slapstick and of-the-moment politics ensured Carmichael was a voice worth listening to. He got viewers thinking. In standout episodes like “Protest” and “Gender,” Carmichael brought hot-button issues like the Black Lives Matter movement and heightened visibility of the transgender community to the least likely of stages: the multicam sitcom, live audience and all.

“I actually originally envisioned it as single-cam and they changed it,” Carmichael now admits. “Then I realized that multi was more of a challenge. The narrative of the realm of multicameras is that it’s dying, it’s dead, there’s no true art in it. And what’s more fun than that challenge? [There is] also a connection with the stage performance of it—being a standup comic and knowing that at its best, multicam [gets] that reaction. It elicits this response.”

Luckily, it wasn’t just the studio audience that responded. “The Carmichael Show” Season 1 pulled in NBC’s best ratings for its late summer time slot in over a decade and was promptly scooped up for another round. The series also got a stamp of critical approval. Season 2 has already rolled out buzzed-about half-hours on class and infidelity, gentrification, and most notably, Bill Cosby’s tarnished legacy. After the premiere of the Cosby episode, titled “Fallen Heroes,” Salon went so far as to crown Carmichael “the most important comedian in America.”

“People are much smarter [and] the audience wants more than I think a lot of people behind the camera give them credit for,” says co-creator and Carmichael’s “Neighbors” director Nicholas Stoller of the series’ appeal. “People want to hear the conversations they’re having in their living rooms.”

That’s just where the bulk of “The Carmichael Show” takes place: Carmichael’s childhood living room. Largely inspired by the dynamics of his own family growing up in North Carolina, Carmichael plays Jerrod and is joined by all of the genre’s necessary players: a schlubby, down-and-out brother (Lil Rel Howery); a loud, opinionated father (David Alan Grier); a jovial and equally opinionated mother (Loretta Devine); and Carmichael’s black sheep—and, as the series points out, half-black—girlfriend, Maxine (Amber Stevens West).

Politics of the religious right and bleeding heart left come under one roof while certain events offscreen (a Black Lives Matter protest, for instance) stoke a conversation that is both nuanced and hilarious. More surprisingly, there’s no agenda at play. Audiences can trust that, for better or worse, they will hear all opinions on a matter between the cast’s varied personalities. And while it doesn’t shy away from bits of sobriety, “Carmichael” just as quickly lightens the mood with a laugh-out-loud (if not entirely politically correct) quip. “The laugh that happens after the serious moment [is] just huge because the audience is so relieved,” Stoller says. Look no further than Grier’s take on one character struggling to come out as transgender: “Don’t worry, the woman trapped inside of him will tell the man what to do.” Cue the studio laughter.

“The main thing, I think, that was really important to me and also to Jerrod as we made the show, is that no one’s right and no one’s wrong,” Stoller continues. “I think [that] makes much more interesting conversation and television.”

Carmichael says that much of the series’ content is his perspective as he’s debated with himself and others on these topics. “It’s a completed argument for me,” he summates. “A lot of [Jerrod] is my perspective. Some other characters are my perspective, even the polar opposites. It’s an argument that I’ve had with myself [that’s] harder to do in standup, but with the show, I can fulfill the argument immediately.”

Today, Carmichael credits his analytical humor to his days living in the very home he’s now depicting on prime time. While he’s always rejected the notion of being “just a comedian,” saying it seemed “kind of arrogant” to assume he can make people laugh, that’s exactly what he’s been doing since his days in middle school making comedic topical shorts instead of writing essays. “I have teachers that, years later, tell me they still show some of the videos. My version of ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ is amazing,” he insists. But even before dreams of becoming a comic, Carmichael recalls wanting a series on NBC.

“This is going to sound like I made it up, but my brother likes to remind me of it: When I was 13 years old, I said, ‘I want a show on Thursday night on NBC,’ ” he says with a sheepish grin. “I wanted a sitcom. That was all I ever really wanted.”

So in 2008, he left to chase the dream and moved to Los Angeles. As any working actor will know, a career’s early years are often the most trying, but Carmichael remembers them with clarity and fondness. He didn’t take for granted that L.A. is a mecca of creativity and Hollywood history. He’d often spend afternoons at the Paley Center watching old TV shows and evenings at open mics.

“Me and a lot of the closest friends I have now even still just wanted to impress each other. We wanted to try new things constantly. We weren’t afraid to fail,” he says.

“Don’t think about it. You just do the work, do the art. At some point in the process, you should do it purely for the love of it,” he advises. “A lot of people jump in and sort of make it a business first, and while I knew [my work] could obviously prove profitable, it was really important for me to view it as art. I try to hold onto that as much as I can, even while navigating the business aspect.”

Surviving the industry’s business aspects, however, can be just as daunting, and having an understanding of Hollywood’s effect on art and vice versa is key to striking gold. Carmichael says success also requires a thick skin and an ability to compromise and collaborate without selling out.

“You have to be stronger than everyone’s collective caution and everyone’s collective fear,” he says. “A show is still a business. There’s a lot of money at stake… [but] audiences recognize when a machine created something and when something is personal and true and close. When it comes to creation, playing ‘the game’ doesn’t apply. When you make something, it needs to be as pure as it can be.”

Time and again, Carmichael proves a voice worth listening to. Are you listening yet?

Keep Standing Up

Even at the height of his success at NBC, Carmichael continues to do standup whenever he can. When he was in New York City earlier this month, he made it a point to do a quick set at the historic Comedy Cellar. “Sometimes when I’m writing the script [for ‘The Carmichael Show’], I’ll go onstage and talk about what we’re talking about in the episode to really explore how I feel about it,” he says. Contrary to popular belief, though, Carmichael says standup isn’t all about the laughs. “I’m looking for feeling, I’m looking for connection, I’m looking for a reaction…. When I think comedian, I think [of] the satire of Mark Twain as much as the jokes of Chris Rock. Obviously, laughs are an important thing and you want to be funny and you want to give [audiences] that experience, but you also want them to feel some type of connection to what you’re saying. I treat my audience like adults.

The article was published in Backstage.

(Daily News) EXCLUSIVE: Ted Cruz knows ‘absolutely nothing’ about counterterrorism in NYC, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton says

BY  | SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS | Updated: Saturday, March 26, 2016, 7:18 PM
Ted Cruz speaks during an appearance in Virginia.STEVE HELBER/AP

Ted Cruz speaks during an appearance in Virginia.

There seems to be a widespread belief among certain members of the political class that protecting the country against terrorism is a matter of ideology. According to them, the strong leaders in this area are the ones who are willing to insult Muslims, advocate torture, and engage in various other provocations. They claim that other leaders are paralyzed by political correctness and that they alone have the ideological fortitude to guard against the terrorist threat.

Terrorism is ideologically driven but counterterrorism, like other kinds of police work, has no ideological component whatsoever. It is about stopping the terrorists before they strike. That requires intelligence gathering, analysis and focused investigative work.

In the event of a terrorist attack, police also need the capacity to respond swiftly and with effective tactics. It is a matter of consistent, determined, targeted detective work, of highly trained and well-equipped operational units, and of intelligence analysts who can interpret the data, decipher the chatter and distinguish the real threats from the bluster and the noise.

Recently, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz called for police to “patrol and secure Muslim communities before they become radicalized.” We already patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods, the same way we patrol and secure other neighborhoods.

When people call the police, we rush to help them. When people break the law, we move to arrest them. But no, we do not single out any populace, black, white, yellow or brown for selective enforcement. We do not “patrol and secure” neighborhoods based on selective enforcement because of race or religion, nor will we use the police and an occupying force to intimidate a populace or a religion to appease the provocative chatter of politicians seeking to exploit fear.

Bill Bratton holds a press conference in New York City.ANDREW BURTON/GETTY IMAGES

Bill Bratton holds a press conference in New York City.

Nor will we accept the fiction of Sen. Cruz’s narrative as presented. Cruz repeated the false reports surrounding the NYPD Demographics Unit and my decision to abolish it because it wasn’t serving any useful purpose. He tried to depict the demise of the unit, as other ill-informed observers have done, as a knuckling under to the forces of political correctness rather than the sensible administrative decision that it was. The fact is that the former administration had allowed the unit to dwindle down to two investigators. Why? Because the work of the unit, which was to map the ethnic makeup of the city to better understand the domain of the New York metropolitan area, was finished. The two remaining detectives simply had little to do.

This sensible move was translated in the bumper-sticker, sound bite language of politics to be one of two extremes. Either transferring the last two detectives out of the Demographics Unit ended an extensive spying program that inhibited religious freedom (it wasn’t and it didn’t) or, we eliminated the key program protecting New York City from terrorists and with it, our undercover operations, informants and surveillance (it wasn’t and we didn’t).

Members of the NYPD Strategic Response Group stand outside NYPD headquarters after a press conference in New York City.ANDREW BURTON/GETTY IMAGES

Members of the NYPD Strategic Response Group stand outside NYPD headquarters after a press conference in New York City.

It is clear from his comments that Sen. Cruz knows absolutely nothing about counterterrorism in New York City. We have in this city, without a doubt, the most effective and extensive counterterrorism capacity of any city in this country and virtually any city in the world. Let me count the ways:

—The Joint-Terrorism Task Force, with the FBI, has more than 100 NYPD detectives working full time on counterterrorism investigations. They do not place entire communities under surveillance, but at any given time, based on authorized investigations, they may be watching individuals who have aroused suspicion as to possibly being involved in terrorist activity. Our Intelligence Bureau detectives work with informants, surveillance teams, undercover officers and cyber specialists on investigations that are documented, authorized and regularly reviewed to protect the city from terrorism.

—The Critical Response Command, founded on Mayor de Blasio’s watch, deploys more than 500 highly trained and thoroughly equipped officers to critical sites and potential targets. These officers would be immediately deployable to any attack, or series of attacks, and could engage heavily armed terrorists without delay. Given the pattern of attacks in Europe where terrorists hit multiple sites simultaneously and showed the clear intention to kill as many people as possible, these new units have the mission of engaging the terrorists, as quickly as possible, with equal firepower and superior training to stop the killing as soon as possible. The CRC is backed up by other commands with counterterrorism capabilities, including the Strategic Response Group and the Emergency Service Unit. These NYPD units have the capacity to deploy hundreds of heavily armed officers to any attack site in the city at any time of the day or night.

—The NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau, which encompasses both the Joint Terrorism Task Force and Critical Response Command, also houses a wide variety of other capabilities, including a 40-officer bomb squad; a 150-officer World Trade Center Command; radiological detection water vessels and aircraft; an infrastructure unit that hardens targets across the city; and a public-private partnership called SHIELD, with a membership of some 15,000 local property and business owners.

—The NYPD Intelligence Bureau is staffed not only with police officers but highly skilled civilian intelligence analysts, the sort of experts who work in national intelligence. They are continuously vetting leads, hints and rumors to keep the threat picture in New York updated. The Intelligence Bureau also maintains liaison officers in multiple cities around the world who can swiftly report back to us on any attack anywhere on Earth.

—The NYPD Domain Awareness System is one of the most sophisticated networks of cameras, license plate readers and radiological censors in the world, providing real-time information across southern Manhattan and in many other parts of the city.

The dashboard for the NYPD's Domain Awareness System (DAS) is seen in New York.SHANNON STAPLETON/REUTERS

The dashboard for the NYPD’s Domain Awareness System (DAS) is seen in New York.

So, no, transferring the two detectives we found languishing in the already defunct Demographics Unit did not have any effect on our ability to protect New York City from terrorists. Sen. Cruz’s references to the discontinuance of the Demographics Unit shows he has been hoodwinked by a 21st century fairy tale that refuses to die. He uses it in tandem with his suggestions that the police create a looming presence to intimidate Muslim neighborhoods with a show of force.

In New York City, we protect all communities from crime and terrorism — yes, Muslim communities too — because like us, they are Americans who own businesses, work hard, pay taxes and dream of a better life for their children. Over 900 of them work in my police department as police officers, many of them in counterterrorism and intelligence. Many of them have served in the military and fought for their country. We police our city not by campaign slogans or inflammatory rhetoric, but by an old piece of parchment called the U.S. Constitution and another called the Bill of Rights.

Ted Cruz and others seem to be willing to sideline these principles because what they stand for shifts with the tide of the campaign and the shrillness of the name-calling. But as it has been said, when you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything. Sen. Cruz needs to do some homework before he speaks again.

Meanwhile, in New York, we will continue keeping the city safe while policing constitutionally, respectfully and effectively.

Bratton is the commissioner of the NYPD.

The article was published in the New York Daily News.