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Melvin Van Peebles, ‘Godfather of Black cinema’ dies at 89

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Melvin Van Peebles, the groundbreaking filmmaker, playwright and musician whose work helped usher in the “blaxploitation” wave of the 1970s and influenced filmmakers long after, has died. He was 89.

In a statement, his family said that Van Peebles, father of the actor-director Mario Van Peebles, died Tuesday evening at his home in Manhattan.

“Dad knew that Black images matter. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what was a movie worth?” Mario Van Peebles said in a statement Wednesday. “We want to be the success we see, thus we need to see ourselves being free. True liberation did not mean imitating the colonizer’s mentality. It meant appreciating the power, beauty and interconnectivity of all people.”

Sometimes called the “godfather of modern Black cinema,” the multitalented Van Peebles wrote numerous books and plays, and recorded several albums — playing multiple instruments and delivering rap-style lyrics. He later became a successful options trader on the stock market.

But he was best known for “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” one of the most influential movies of its time. The low-budget, art-house film, which he wrote, produced, directed, starred in and scored, was the frenzied, hyper-sexual and violent tale of a Black street hustler on the run from police after killing white officers who were beating a Black revolutionary.

With its hard-living, tough-talking depiction of life in the ghetto, underscored by a message of empowerment as told from a Black perspective, it set the tone for a genre that turned out dozens of films over the next few years and prompted a debate over whether Black people were being recognized or exploited.

“All the films about Black people up to now have been told through the eyes of the Anglo-Saxon majority in their rhythms and speech and pace,” Van Peebles told Newsweek in 1971, the year of the film’s release.

“I could have called it ‘The Ballad of the Indomitable Sweetback.’ But I wanted the core audience, the target audience, to know it’s for them,” he told The Associated Press in 2003. “So I said ‘Ba-ad Asssss,’ like you really say it.”

Made for around $500,000 (including $50,000 provided by Bill Cosby), it grossed $14 million at the box office despite an X-rating, limited distribution and mixed critical reviews. The New York Times, for example, accused Van Peebles of merchandizing injustice and called the film “an outrage.”

Van Peebles, who complained fiercely to the Motion Picture Association over the X-rating, gave the film the tagline: “Rated X by an all-white jury.”

But in the wake of the its success, Hollywood realized an untapped audience and began churning out such box office hits as “Shaft” and “Superfly” that were also known for bringing in such top musicians as Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Isaac Hayes to work on the soundtracks.

Many of Hollywood’s versions were exaggerated crime dramas, replete with pimps and drug dealers, which drew heavy criticism in both the white and Black press.

“What Hollywood did — they suppressed the political message, added caricature — and blaxploitation was born,” Van Peebles said in 2002. “The colored intelligentsia were not too happy about it.”

In fact, civil rights groups like the NAACP and the Congress of Racial Equality coined the phrase “blaxploitation” and formed the Coalition Against Blaxploitation. Among the genre’s 21st century fans was Quentin Tarantino, whose Oscar-winning “Django Unchained” was openly influenced by blaxploitation films and spaghetti Westerns.

On Wednesday, a younger generation of Black filmmakers mourned Van Peebles’ death. Barry Jenkins, the “Moonlight” director, said on Twitter: “He made the most of every second, of EVERY single damn frame.”

After his initial success, Van Peebles was bombarded with directing offers, but he chose to maintain his independence.

“I’ll only work with them on my terms,” he said. “I’ve whipped the man’s ass on his own turf. I’m number one at the box office — which is the way America measures things — and I did it on my own. Now they want me, but I’m in no hurry.”

Van Peebles then got involved on Broadway, writing and producing several plays and musicals like the Tony-nominated “Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death” and “Don’t Play Us Cheap.” He later wrote the movie “Greased Lighting” starring Richard Pryor as Wendell Scott, the first Black race car driver.

In the 1980s, Van Peebles turned to Wall Street and options trading. He wrote a financial self-help guide entitled “Bold Money: A New Way to Play the Options Market.”

Born Melvin Peebles in Chicago on August 21, 1932, he would later add “Van” to his name. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1953 and joined the Air Force, serving as a navigator for three years.

After military service, he moved to Mexico and worked as a portrait painter, followed by a move to San Francisco, where he started writing short stories and making short films.

Van Peebles soon went to Hollywood, but he was only offered a job as a studio elevator operator. Disappointed, he moved to Holland to take graduate courses in astronomy while also studying at the Dutch National Theatre.

Eventually he gave up his studies and moved to Paris, where he learned he could join the French directors’ guild if he adapted his own work written in French. He quickly taught himself the language and wrote several novels.

One he made into a feature film. “La Permission/The Story of the Three Day Pass” was the story of an affair between a Black U.S. soldier and a French woman. It won the critic’s choice award at the San Francisco film festival in 1967, and Van Peebles gained Hollywood’s attention.

The following year, he was hired to direct and write the score for “Watermelon Man,” the tale of a white bigot (played by comic Godfrey Cambridge in white face) who wakes up one day as a Black man.

With money earned from the project, Van Peebles went to work on “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.”

Van Peebles’ death came just days before the New York Film Festival is to celebrate him with a 50th anniversary of “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.” Next week, the Criterion Collection is to release the box set “Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films.” A revival of his play “Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death” is also planned to hit Broadway next year, with Mario Van Peebles serving as creative producer.

 

SOURCE: CBS News

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United Africa Organization and 5,315 hopeful immigrants sue Biden administration

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On Tuesday, Chicago-based United Africa Organization and over five thousand Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery applicants filed a lawsuit against the Biden Administration in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, challenging the unlawful withholding of Diversity Visas. (Complaint available upon request.)
As part of their legal challenge, Plaintiffs attack the lawfulness Secretary Antony Blinken’s policy changes implemented through a November 2021 cable with the subject line, “Recalibration of Consular Services Prioritization at Posts Abroad.”
Immigrant plaintiffs all entered the FY-2022 lottery in late 2020 and were selected in May 2021 from a pool of millions of entries through a computer-generated random drawing. They should each be eligible 55,000 visas that should be issued in FY-2022 (between October 1, 2021 and September 20, 2022).[1] Immigrant plaintiffs followed the rules and submitted their applications. They made plans to build a new life in America. Yet, the Biden administration, still beholden to restrictive immigration policies adopted during the Trump administration, stands in their way.
Modernly, the Diversity Visa lottery program is responsible for the largest percentage of African and Black immigration to the United States. Yet, according to the CATO Institute, Africans Face Steepest Decline in Immigrant Visas under Biden.
Fasika Alem, Programs Director of United African Organization, said:
“The administration’s decision to make the DV lottery program a low priority for visa issuances is decreasing African immigration to the U.S, and that outcome is not consistent with the country’s values.”
Alexandra George, Chicago-based co-counsel for Plaintiffs, said:
“President Biden campaigned on promises to support the DV lottery, but the administration’s own policies are the biggest hurdle for African winners. These broken promises harm thousands of real people and tarnish Biden’s legacy.”
Jana Al-Akhras, co-counsel for Plaintiffs, said:
“The DV Program, its selectees, and its recipients are a vital aspect of our country’s immigration process — the importance of which cannot be overstated. The Biden Administration’s attempt to undermine this program harms our nation and runs contrary to the express will of Congress. We urge the Biden Administration to consider the harm that incurs as a result of their deprioritzation of these very worthy applicants.”
 
Case number: NDIL: 1:22-cv-02599
 
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Watch: Michael Blackson’s fiancée allows him one sidechick a month

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American-based Ghanaian Comedian and Actor, Michael Blackson and his fiancée, Rada have revealed they have made some special arrangements in their relationship.

The couple made an appearance on the Shade Room and revealed that they have both agreed to allow Michael have one “sidechick” every month.

In a conversation with Thembi from the Shade Room, Rada explained why she’s allowed Michael to have a sidechick every month.

“The reason why is I’ve been in a long term relationship and I’ve said it before, you having sex with the same individual for years, it gets boring and I need some excitement in the bedroom,” Rada said.

When asked if Michael also allows Rada to have a side piece, he responded;

“I mean, she’s allowed to have any female she wants and not a man because we don’t need another penis in the relationship.”

Watch rest of their conversation below;

Michael Blackson and Rada have been engaged since July 2021 after two years of dating.

In May, 2021, Rada announced on social media that she had broken off the engagement because she was not going to be lied to. However, the two got back together immediately and have been lovey lovey ever since.

Michael also brought her back home to Ghana during one of his numerous visits to introduce her to his family back home in Ghana.

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Drug dealer in Mac Miller case sentenced to over 17 years for fentanyl distribution

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One of the three men charged in relation to Mac Miller‘s 2018 death from a drug overdose has been sentenced to 17 years and six months in prison. (more…)

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Moneybagg Yo And Kodak Black Team Up For Heartfelt New Single/Video “Rocky Road”

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Photo Credit: “Bodi” aka Botti Denton

Today, Memphis superstar Moneybagg Yo drops “Rocky Road,” a heartfelt, Kodak Black-assisted new single that affirms the pair’s status as the faces of modern, complex street rap. “Rocky Road” also arrives with an evocative video and is now available at all digital retailers via CMG/N-less Entertainment/Interscope Records. With this release, Bagg is featured on the cover of New Music Daily on Apple Music Listen HERE.

Cruising over emotive keys, Kodak kicks things off with a declaration of loyalty: “Tryna get to my hoe but the Perkys got me froze / Been doing my baby momma wrong and leaving her at home / I cannot leave you on your own, we made this child together.” For his part,Moneybagg injects memories of the hustle and damaged romance: “Out there standing by the pole, selling dope to buy some clothes / Cause I knew that attract the hoes, until one left my heart so cold / I just didn’t know no better made me hard on the next forever.” Soul-baring yet of the streets, “Rocky Road” is Moneybagg and Kodak at their best.

The video also dwells in that zone. Equal parts gritty, evocative, thoughtful, and real, the Young Chang-directed clip spins a familiar narrative as a man who’s already balancing life’s complexities finds himself at a crossroads: how to respond to another man’s reckless violence. The two rappers bear witness, occupying a perspective both within the scene and adjacent enough to have eyes on the bigger picture. It’s a space Bagg’s held down for a long time now. Watch HERE.

As a pioneer of his craft the Memphis native has been able to garner a cult fan base and prove his artistry as one of the best to do it. After sharing his album Time Served, Bagg continued to prove his aptitude and magnetism with the release of his fourth studio record, A Gangsta’s Pain, which debuted No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The critically acclaimed project features notable features with the likes of Pharrell, Lil Wayne, Future, and Jhené Aiko to name a few and was accredited “Best of 2021” by several media outlets including The New York Times, NPR, Billboard, Fader, Rolling Stone, Complex. In addition to his album going No. 1 he also topped the Urban Radio chart four times consecutively with “Said Sum” “Time Today” and “Wockesha,” and, “Scorpio.” A Gangsta’s Pain was the fourth highest selling rap album of the year and ultimately led to his performances on Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, a live performance on the BET Awards and several award nominations (BET Hip Hop Award, MTV VMA, iHeartRadio Award, etc.) As a man on the go Moneybagg Yo also starred in a Nike Commercial, helped develop artists on his own label, Bread Gang, and continues to explore several business ventures with his latest being Vior Water. In 2022 the Certified Speaker will maintain his unbreakable hot streak and continue to immerse himself in various projects. With “Rocky Road” at his back, Moneybagg Yo is all set to continue his trend of leveling up with each month.

Moneybagg Yo – “Rocky Road ft. Kodak Black” eSingle
Retail: http://MoneybaggYo.lnk.to/RockyRoad
Amazon Unlimited: http://MoneybaggYo.lnk.to/RockyRoad/amazonmusic
Apple Music: http://MoneybaggYo.lnk.to/RockyRoad/applemusic
Audiomack: http://MoneybaggYo.lnk.to/RockyRoad/audiomack
Deezer: http://MoneybaggYo.lnk.to/RockyRoad/deezer
iTunes: http://MoneybaggYo.lnk.to/RockyRoad/itunes
Pandora: http://MoneybaggYo.lnk.to/RockyRoad/pandora
Soundcloud: http://MoneybaggYo.lnk.to/RockyRoad/soundcloud
Spotify: http://MoneybaggYo.lnk.to/RockyRoad/spotify
Tidal: http://MoneybaggYo.lnk.to/RockyRoad/tidal
YouTube Music: http://MoneybaggYo.lnk.to/RockyRoad/youtubemusic

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Kali Uchis wins Top Latin Female Artist and Top Latin Song at Billboard Music Awards

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Grammy-winning artist Kali Uchis won Top Latin Female Artist and Top Latin Song for “telepatía” at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards last night, where she was a finalist in four categories total.
Additionally, Uchis is nominated for six Latin American Music Awards this year for New Artist of the Year, Song of the Year for “telepatía,” Favorite Artist – Female, Favorite Artist – Pop, Favorite Song – Pop for “telepatía” and Viral Song of the Year for “telepatía.”
Uchis recently won Favorite Latin Song for “telepatía” at the 2021 American Music Awards. The track has accumulated more than 2 billion global streams after hitting #1 on Billboard’s Latin Airplay and Latin Pop Airplay charts and topping Latin Digital Song Sales for ten weeks straight. It is the longest running Spanish-language song by a solo act on the Billboard Hot 100 this decade (23 weeks). Additionally, her Spanish-language album Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞was nominated for Best Música Urbana Album at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards.
Last year, Uchis won her first Billboard Latin Music Award for Latin Pop Album of the Year, her first Grammy for Best Dance Recording with Kaytranada and her first Premios Nuestra Tierraand Univision Premios Juventud awards. She also performed at the Hispanic Heritage Awards on PBS, where she was also recognized as the 2021 Inspira Honoree.
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Photos: See all the looks from the 2022 Billboard Music Awards

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The 2022 Billboard Music Awards took over the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday (May 15), with Sean “Diddy” Combs hosting and performing. (more…)

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