Mos Def

Mos Def

George Wein’s Jazz Festival 55 (for 55th year) in Newport, Rhode Island, August 7, 8, and 9, features a far more diverse lineup than in years past. Black, Latin, and Asian artists will perform on the same stage as legends Tony Bennett and Dave Brubeck. Etta James, Branford Marsalis, Esperanza Spalding, and Mos Def (and his Watermelon Syndicate) are scheduled to perform, along with lesser known African-American artists and bands, including James Carter, Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band, and Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band.

Visit the festival’s official web site for more details and tickets:

Worth checking out!

Speak your peace.



President Obama announced today his nominee for U.S. surgeon general and SHE is BLACK. Dr. Regina Benjamin attended Xavier University in New Orleans, was a member of the second class of the Morehouse School of Medicine, and received an M.D. degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

A family physician, Dr. Benjamin has rebuilt the clinic she founded in 1990 twice in Bayou La Batre, AL, after hurricanes George and Katrina devastated it. The clinic serves the many uninsured patients in the small Gulf Coast shrimping village of roughly 2,500 people.

Born in 1956, Dr. Benjamin has received accolades galore as a caring “angel.” The New York Times chronicled her work in the article, “Angel in a White Coat.” Time Magazine listed her as one of the “Nation’s 50 Future Leaders Age 40 and Under.” She was elected to the American Medical Association’s board of trustees in 1995—the first physician under 40 and the first Black woman to be elected to the board. She received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights in 1998. She was chosen as “Woman of the Year” by CBS This Morning and People Magazine. Most endearingly, she received the award inspired by Mother Theresa, the 2000 National Caring Award. Dr. Benjamin has also done missionary work in Honduras and serves on the Board of Physicians for Human Rights.

Go, Sister!!!

Speak your peace.

James Brown, Bill Withers, B.B. King, Miriam Makeba, the Spinners, Celia Cruz, the Crusaders, and more are featured in the  new documentary Soul Power, capturing Zaire ’74, a three-day soul music festival that was originally scheduled to take place the same week as Muhammad Ali’s Rumble in the Jungle championship fight against George Foreman in Kinshasa, the capital of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). Foreman postponed the fight by roughly six weeks due to an injury, but the determined festival producers mounted the concerts as planned. Nearly 80,000 people came out to see  the dynamic soul musicians.

The same crew that filmed the Rumble in the Jungle documentary, When We Were Kings, also shot the footage for Soul Power, which opens Friday.

Check it out.

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(AP)mcnair, kazemi

Shot twice in the head and twice in the chest, 13-year NFL veteran Steve “Air” McNair , 36, was the victim of an apparent homicide Saturday. The body of his girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, 20, lay nearby—dead from a single bullet in the head. A semiautomatic handgun was found beneath her body. Local authorities are not calling the shooting a murder-suicide…yet. The dead lovers were found in McNair’s rented condo, which overlooks the Titans’ stadium.

According to Kazemi’s sister, Soheyla Kazemi, the 20-year-old Dave & Buster’s waitress was expecting McNair to divorce his wife, Mechelle, and marry her. McNair married Mechelle in 1997 and has two sons with her, along with two sons from other relationships.

Best known for the 9 seasons he spent as a quarterback in Tennessee, two years with the Tennessee Oilers and 7 with the Titans, McNair spent his last two seasons in the NFL in 2006 and 2007 with the Baltimore Ravens. The Mississippi native began his career with the Houston Oilers in 1995. Known as a generous man, McNair was very active in the communities in which he lived, supporting football camps and food drives.

Rest in peace.

You may recall the six young Black men in Jena, La., who were charged with attempted murder for a schoolyard fight with white schoolmate Justin Barker. After a major civil rights demonstration protesting the inappropriate severity of the charges, international media attention, and fund-raising to pay for legal representation, the charges were later reduced to second-degree battery against Carwin Jones, Jesse Ray Beard, Robert Bailey Jr., Bryant Purvis, and Theo Shaw. Now the five have agreed to plea no contest to a misdemeanor simple battery charge, which requires them to pay a $500 fine and court costs, and serve 7 days probation. Mychal Bell, the sixth man, pleaded guilty to the second-degree battery charge in December 2007 and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Theo Shaw will not  have to pay the fine or court costs. Shaw sat in jail for nearly 7 months after his initial arrest, because his family could not raise bail. The other defendants paid the fines and court costs right after sentencing. As part of the deal, Barker is supposed to receive an unspecified amount in restitution.

All six young men are either preparing for college or already in college. Thanks to the Black community, the Jena Six can now move on with their lives and avoid the derailment that so many young Black men experience too often.

Check out the video for background info on the case from CNN.

Speak your peace.

Kirk Wright reported phony investment gains.

Bernard Madoff, the grand Ponzi schemer of all time who bilked investors out of $50 billion, is all over the headlines again after being sentenced today to 150 years behind bars, but there once was another financial adviser who stole millions from his investors, some of them former NFL players.

Kirk Wright, a Harvard-educated hedge fund manager, committed suicide in his jail cell in May 2008 in Marietta, GA, an Atlanta suburb. A few days before his apparent suicide, using a rope made of bedsheets, Wright was found guilty on counts of mail fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering as part of a $150 million hedge-fund scheme, and faced serious prison time. It wasn’t exactly a Ponzi scheme, since he didn’t give any money to any of his estimated 400 – 700 investors. He just falsified investment-performance documents. He reported significant gains almost every month to investors, and went as far as reporting balances hundreds of times greater than what really existed in investors’ accounts.

Wright’s Atlanta-based International Management Associates (IMA) collapsed in 2006, after several investors requested fund distributions and, instead, received worthless forged checks. Six former NFL players, Steve Atwater, Ray Crockett, Al Smith, Blaine Bishop, Carlos Emmons, and Clyde Simmons, lost $20 million by investing with Wright and his firm. The ex-players felt comfortable investing with Wright, since he was was registered by the National Football League Players Association, the players’ union, as a reliable financial adviser. Two of the former athletes were so impressed with Wright and the funds he managed, they studied to become registered advisers themselves, eventually becoming employees of Wright’s firm, to help other players prepare for retirement.

Wright’s partners, who have not been charged with any wrongdoing, Nelson Keith Bond and Fitz Harper Jr., Atlanta-based anesthesiologists, helped him attract wealthy physicians in the metro area to invest with IMA. Bond and Harper filed a lawsuit in March 2006, claiming a loss of over $1 million, after the demise of the firm.

Wright generally told unsuspecting  investors that he was able to garner unbelievable returns on their investments by short selling a stock, an investment strategy sometimes used by wealthy investors. You really have to know what you’re doing with this investment approach. According to Forbes, “when you short sell a stock, your broker will lend it to you. The stock will come from the brokerage’s own inventory, from another one of the firm’s customers, or from another brokerage firm. The shares are sold and the proceeds are credited to your account. Sooner or later you must ‘close’ the short by buying back the same number of shares (called covering) and returning them to your broker. If the price drops, you can buy back the stock at the lower price and make a profit on the difference. If the price of the stock rises, you have to buy it back at the higher price, and you lose money.”

After a nationwide FBI manhunt, Wright was arrested in 2006 at his Ritz-Carlton hideout in Miami. He was drinking by the pool. Investigators found false ID, equipment to produce IDs, and a stash of cash in his hotel room. They also recovered at the scene a Mercedes E320 he bought under an assumed name. In IMA’s heyday, Wright used investors’ money to buy jewelry, luxury cars, and real estate, and to cover the cost of a $500,000 wedding and house renovations. He also used other people’s money to line his and family members’ pockets.

Kirk Wright grew up in the Bronx. He attended Bingham University and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1993. In 1995 he earned a master’s degree  from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in public policy. He launched IMA as a home-based business in a DC suburb after a brief stint at DC-based consulting firm Kaiser Associates. By 1998, Wright was managing three hedge funds for a small group of investors with investments totaling $15 million. The connections he made with the help of former NFL players and the two anesthesiologists who would later become his partners catapulted his business to 9-figure status in just two years.

Apparently, Kirk Wright was a talented guy, but greed got the best of him…and his investors. Yet, unlike Madoff, Wright robbed people who seemingly could afford it. Many of Madoff’s investors sacrificed their life savings.

Now IMA investors are being asked to split any recovered losses, which makes them feel like they’re being swindled all over again.

Speak your peace.


American icon Michael Jackson, lead singer of the ’70s R&B group The Jackson 5, later renamed The Jacksons after a record-label change, and winner of 10 individual Grammys as a solo artist in the ’80s, died today of sudden cardiac arrest in Los Angeles. He was 50.

The King of Pop made history with the 1982 release of Thriller, which is still the biggest-selling album of all time with over 59 million copies sold so far, along with Bad in 1987, the first album in music history to produce five #1 hits. The stage show for Bad became the highest-grossing concert tour of all time.

An amazing performer, prolific songwriter, and creative genius, Jackson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001; the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. He was set to perform a “final” series of concerts in two weeks at London’s state-of-the-art O2 arena.

The 8th of ten children born to Joseph and Katherine Jackson, Michael Joseph Jackson is survived by three children, Prince Michael, Paris Katherine, and Prince Michael II, his parents, and 8 brothers and sisters, including recording artist Janet Jackson.

The beloved music legend will never be forgotten, especially by those of us who remember him as an adorable 11-year-old singing sensation from Gary, IN.

The music will live on forever.