Actress Phylicia Rashad Will Be Face Of $25 Million Initiative To Diversify American History

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You may know Phylicia Rashad from The Cosby Show and from her most recent role as Diana DuBois on the Fox hit show Empire, but the acclaimed actress has added a new title to her remarkable resume. 

Rashad is now the ambassador of the African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (AACHAF), a $25 million initiative aimed at preserving African American historical sites and teaching young black people about untold nuggets of black history.

The initiative is possible because of the work of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the Ford Foundation, the JPB Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations. For 70 years, the National Trust has led the way in preserving historic sites – like the Shockoe Bottom in Richmond, Virginia, and the Fort Huachuca Black Officers’ Club in Arizona – that are important to black history and in just the past five years the organization has received $10 million to do its work.

“There is an opportunity and an obligation for us to step forward boldly and ensure the preservation of places which tell the often-overlooked stories of African Americans and their many contributions to our nation,” Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a news release. “We believe that this fund will be transformative for our country, and we are committed to crafting a narrative that expands our view of history and, ultimately, begins to reconstruct our national identity, while inspiring a new generation of activists to advocate for our diverse historic places.”

In addition to preservation, there will be The National Trust’s Hands-On Preservation Experience that teaches youth about black history, and there will be a research aspect to the initiative that will find links to preserving historic sites and the resolution of urban problems. Academic, arts, government and business leaders will also play a role in the fund by serving on its advisory council.

Continue onto Blavity to read the complete article.

30-year-old Mareena Robinson Snowden is the first black woman to earn a PhD in nuclear engineering from MIT

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When Mareena Robinson Snowden walked across the commencement stage at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) on June 8th, she became the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the storied university.

For her, there was one particular word that the experience brought to mind: grateful.

“Grateful for every part of this experience — highs and lows,” she wrote on Instagram. “Every person who supported me and those who didn’t. Grateful for a praying family, a husband who took on this challenge as his own, sisters who reminded me at every stage how powerful I am, friends who inspired me to fight harder. Grateful for the professors who fought for and against me. Every experience on this journey was necessary, and I’m better for it.”

Snowden’s Ph.D. was the culmination of 11 years of post-secondary study. But the 30-year-old tells CNBC Make It that a career in STEM wasn’t something she dreamed of as a child.

“Engineering definitely was not something I had a passion for at a young age,” she says. “I was quite the opposite. I think my earliest memories of math and science were definitely one of like nervousness and anxiety and just kind of an overall fear of the subject.”

She credits her high school math and physics teachers with helping to expand her interests beyond English and history, subjects she loved.

“I had this idea that I wasn’t good at math and they kind of helped to peel away that mindset,” she explains. “They showed me that it’s more of a growth situation, that you can develop an aptitude for this and you can develop a skill. It’s just like a muscle, and you have to work for it.”

When Snowden, who grew up in Miami, was in the 12th grade and studying physics, she and her dad were introduced to a friend of a friend who worked in the physics department at Florida A&M University. At the time, she says, she was considering colleges and decided to make a visit to the campus.

“We drove up there and it was amazing,” says Snowden. “They treated me like a football player who was getting recruited. They took me to the scholarship office, and they didn’t know anything about me at the time. All they knew was that I was a student who was open to the possibility of majoring in physics.”

Continue onto CNBC News to read the complete article.

Nicole Maines on Being TV’s First Trans Superhero

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On Saturday at Comic-Con came news that Nicole Maines would be making history on the fourth season of CW’s “Supergirl,” becoming the first ever trans superhero on television.

Variety sat down with the trans activist shortly after the news broke to talk about her character Nia Nal aka Dreamer as well as what the TV casting means for the trans community.

“I haven’t really wrapped my head around it,” Maines told TV exec editor Debra Birnbaum at Variety’s Comic-Con Studio. “It feels fitting to say with great power, comes great responsibility,” adding, “I’m nervous because I want to do it right.”

Maines, who was featured in the HBO documentary “The Trans List,” says she wants fans and TV viewers to take away a better understanding of the trans community with the casting.

“We can be whoever we want, we can do whatever we want, we can be superheroes, because in many ways we are,” adding, “We’ve had trans representation in television for a while but it hasn’t been the right representation.”

Continue onto Variety to read the complete article.

Marysol Castro, Mets’ first female PA announcer and MLB’s first Latina, hits it out of the park

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Marysol Castro remembers a hot and humid summer day between third and fourth grades. She was playing stickball with her brothers and neighbors in her native Bronx, New York, and she remembers some boys looking at her with disdain when she hit her first home run.

She noticed the looks, but it didn’t stop her, and it certainly hasn’t stopped her yet.

Castro, who’s about to turn 44, has spent a little over a month in her job as the first female public address (PA) announcer for the New York Mets and the first Latina PA announcer in Major League Baseball.

“This month has been incredible,” said Castro, speaking to NBC News from her new “office” in Citi Field. “The minute I open this door and look at this view, I realize how incredibly fortunate I am.”

During her two-decade career, Castro has worked in local TV news and has been a national network weather anchor on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and on the “The Early Show” at CBS, as well as a reporter on ESPN — all positions often dominated by men.

“I’ve worked really, really hard,” said Castro.

Sporting feminine wedge sandals and bright red nail polish, Castro is petite, yet she speaks with an authoritativeness and power that shows she’s used to hanging with the guys and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.

Castro was ambitious at an early age; she recalls first wanting to be the shortstop for her hometown team, the Yankees, and then wanting to go into politics. At 12, she decided on her own that she would get a full scholarship to boarding school, and she did. Castro says she knew the world was bigger than the Bronx, and she wanted to see it and learn about it.

She taught English at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, and it’s there, Castro says, where she learned the power of real communication. After attending Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she began her career in broadcasting.

A ‘BRIDGE BUILDER’ FOR MLB’S GROWING LATINO AUDIENCE

The new PA announcer is proud of her job and of being a Latina role model.

“In almost every job I’ve had, I’ve been the only Latino,” said Castro. “We have to reflect the eyeballs that watch us.”

Both of Castro’s parents were born and raised in Puerto Rico. Her father, who passed away when she was 10, was a U.S. Navy veteran, a NYC bus driver and was active in the Young Lords, a groundbreaking civil rights group, as well as other community organizations.

Landing her new position “means everything,” said Castro, because she gets to “be a bridge builder for other Latinos” at a time when Hispanic-viewing baseball audiences are at an all-time high in the U.S.

A study showed that the addition of international players to MLB teams, many from Caribbean and Latin American countries, have resulted in a jump of millions in profits. As of last year, MLB players hailed from 19 countries, including the Dominican Republic (93 players), Venezuela (77) and Cuba (23).

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.

Two Women Refereed An NBA Game Together For The First Time Ever

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Two black women did something this week that no other women have done before: They refereed a professional basketball game together.

Danielle Scott and Angelica Suffren officiated an NBA Summer League game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat on Tuesday evening. Marc J. Spears, a senior writer for ESPN’s The Defeated website, pointed out the news in a Tuesday tweet.

“First time I’ve ever seen two black women referee an NBA game of any kind,” Spears wrote. “Violet Palmer would be proud Danielle Scott and Angelica Suffren reffing at the California Classic Summer League Lakers versus Heat.”

NBA spokesman Mike Bass confirmed to HuffPost that this was the first time two women have officiated an NBA game.

Palmer, a retired basketball referee, broke the NBA’s gender barrier in 1997 when she and Dee Kanter were hired. Palmer was the first woman to officiate an NBA game ― on Oct. 31, 1997, between the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks. She was also the first woman to ref an NBA playoff game ― between the Indiana Pacers and the New Jersey Nets on April 25, 2006.

Twitter users applauded the historic moment this week.

“Now, it’s time to have a woman coach,” one user wrote.

Continue onto the Huffington Post to read the complete article.

Netflix Orders Mexican Drama Series ‘Monarca’ From Salma Hayek

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Netflix has greenlit another international series.

The streaming giant has handed out a series order to Mexican drama Monarca, starring Irene Azuela (Quemar las Naves, El hotel de los secretos, Las oscuras primaveras). The new series, which will begin production this fall and will launch globally in 2019, will follow the world of wealthy Mexican elites riddled by corruption, scandal and violence.

Produced by Salma Hayek’s company Ventanarosa, along with Lemon Studios and Stearns Castle, Monarca is described as a high-stakes, multi-generational family saga about a tequila-born Mexican business empire and the battle that ensues when a member of the family decides to fight the dirty system her family helped create.

In addition to Azuela, the series will star Juan Manuel Bernal. Monarca was created by Diego Gutierrez and written by Fernando Rovzar, Julia Denis, Ana Sofia Clerici and Sandra García Velten. Michael McDonald from Stearns Castle will serve as a producer.

“I’m extremely excited to partner with Netflix, and to be working with amazing Mexican talent in front of and behind the camera,” said Hayek. “We are proud to show Mexico as a vibrant, sophisticated and culturally rich nation fighting to control its own destiny.”

Added creator and showrunner Gutierrez: “This is the definition of a passion project for me. Having been born and raised in Mexico, I’m humbled to have the opportunity to tell this story with Netflix and the incredibly talented team of people we’re assembling, both in the U.S. and Mexico.”

Continue onto The Hollywood Reporter to read the complete article.

Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty Unveil First-of-its-Kind Resource to Address Youth Homelessness

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Cyndi Lauper Fund

Cyndi Lauper and the True Colors Fund, in partnership with the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, recently unveiled the State Index on Youth Homelessness—a first-of-its-kind resource that evaluates all 50 states and the District of Columbia on their efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness.

The two organizations have also launched a campaign to empower the public to contact their governors to improve their state’s index scores.

The State Index on Youth Homelessness provides a snapshot of some of the legal, systemic, and environmental barriers that youth experiencing homelessness face. The State Index assigns all 50 states and the District of Columbia a score of up to 100 and provides concrete steps that states can take to protect the safety, development, health, and dignity of youth experiencing homelessness. The State Index will be updated annually and will act as a barometer of the progress each state makes year over year in their efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness.

See the State Index here: https://truecolorsfund.org/index/

“It doesn’t matter if you’re from Kansas or California. In the United States of America, everyone deserves a place to call home. As Americans, we have a responsibility to protect the safety, health, and dignity of every young person experiencing homelessness,” said Cyndi Lauper, co-founder and board member of the True Colors Fund. “Youth who experience homelessness are the some of the most resilient people I know. It is our dream for this State Index to help each state amp up its work to ensure these young people can reach their full potential.”

“Young people experiencing homelessness face steep barriers in exiting homelessness – and even simply surviving – when laws prevent them from securing a job, renting an apartment, or accessing health care,” said Maria Foscarinis, founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “States must take action now so that these youth have a chance for a better future. The State Index provides practical tools for states to do that and helps the public hold them accountable.”

According to a recent study by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, one in 30 youth ages 13 to 17 and one in 10 young adults ages 18 to 25 endure some form of homelessness in the U.S. each year. The study also found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQ youth. The State Index on Youth Homelessness takes LGBTQ inclusion into account in its findings and provides recommendations on how states can address the unique needs of LGBTQ youth.

Cyndi Lauper, the True Colors Fund, and National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty are asking the public to take action by contacting their governor over email and Twitter to improve their state’s index scores. People can take action in a matter of seconds at truecolorsfund.org

As the True Colors Fund launches its tenth anniversary celebration this month, the State Index is the latest example of Cyndi Lauper’s and the organization’s commitment to ending homelessness among LGBTQ youth through federal, state, and local public policy efforts. Lauper has been an unwavering advocate for equality throughout her entire life, which lead to her co-founding the True Colors Fund in June 2008. Today, the True Colors Fund is the national leader on preventing and ending LGBTQ youth homelessness and is fulfilling its mission through a broad array of advocacy, training and education, and youth collaboration programs.

For nearly 30 years, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (the Law Center) has used the power of the law to prevent and end homelessness in America. Maria Foscarinis, who founded the Law Center in 1989, has advocated for solutions to homelessness at the national level since 1985, having served as a primary architect of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, the first major federal legislation addressing homelessness. Today, the Law Center serves over 3.5 million Americans experiencing homelessness through impact litigation, policy advocacy, and public education. The Law Center also provides training and technical assistance to schools and advocates, and legal support to families, to ensure children have access to quality education under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

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Co-founded by Cyndi Lauper, the True Colors Fund works nationally to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth. Through a broad continuum of training & education, youth collaboration, and advocacy programs, the True Colors Fund is creating a world where all young people can be their true selves. truecolorsfund.org

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (the Law Center) is the only national organization dedicated solely to using the power of the law to prevent and end homelessness. With the support of a large network of pro bono lawyers, we address the immediate and long-term needs of people who are homeless or at risk through outreach and training, advocacy, impact litigation, and public education. nlchp.org

Barbie Has a New Career of the Year: Robotics Engineer

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And she comes with a matching coding e-book.

Since 1959, the Barbie doll has undergone many transformations. Not only does pretty much every celebrity from Gigi Hadid to Frida Khalohave their own doll, but also, the original Barbie has had careers as a firefighter, nurse, astronaut, and many more (including, in 2016, president). The latest “career of the year” from Barbie’s makers, Mattel, is yet another field where women are underrepresented: robotics engineering. According to People, only 12% of the field’s employees are women.

“For almost 60 years, Barbie has exposed girls to roles where women are underrepresented to show them that they can be anything,” said Lisa McKnight, Barbie’s global general manager and senior vice president, according to People. “By playing with Robotics Engineer Barbie on and offline, we are giving girls a new platform for play in their imaginary world and teaching them important skills for their real world.”

In collaboration with Information Science Professor and Coder Casey Fiesler, PhD, Barbie is releasing Code Camp for Barbie and Friends, an e-book that provides a kid-friendly introduction to coding and will be available on Amazon, according to a press release by the company. Mattel has also provided a grant of support to Black Girls CODE and gifted dolls at robotics workshops to “reach young girls interested in developing skills in the field” and will continue a multi-year relationship with Tynker, a coding platform for children, to provide workshops. Krishna Vedati, cofounder and CEO of Tynker, says, “Our mission is to empower youth to become the makers of tomorrow through coding, and the Barbie brand is an ideal partner to help us introduce programming to a large number of kids in a fun, engaging way.”

There will be four versions of Robotics Engineer Barbie, each with different skin tones, hair types, and hairstyles. All four, however, will wear black jeans, a blue denim jacket, a graphic T-shirt, white sneakers, and safety glasses. The different versions seem to be part of Mattel’s commitment to a more inclusive Barbie doll following the 2016 release of dolls with petite, tall, and curvy body types with customizable hair textures and skin tones.

Continue onto Teen Vogue to read the complete article.

P&G partners with Katie Couric to champion women

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Procter & Gamble Co.has revealed the new ways the company is pushing for more accurate and positive portrayals of women in advertising and media.

The Cincinnati-based maker of consumer goods (NYSE: PG) said a new series of commitments and partnerships with advocates such as journalist Katie Couricand actress/producer Queen Latifah is designed to increase diversity throughout the creative supply chain.

The effort was outlined by P&G chief brand officer Marc Pritchard in conjunction with the Monday opening of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France, which is an annual gathering of some of the world’s top advertisers and agency representatives.

“As the world’s greatest creative minds gather to celebrate creativity, we are committed to do our part with meaningful actions to advance gender equality in advertising, media and the creative pipeline in the next five years,” Pritchard said. “We also know no company can do it alone, so we hope to inspire others to be agents of change to accelerate momentum.”

Gender equality is good for society and business, said Pritchard, who oversees $7 billion in advertising spend annually for Procter & Gamble.

“Some of P&G’s best-performing brands have the most gender-equal campaigns,” Pritchard said, citing Always’ #LikeAGirl ads, SKII’s “Change Destiny” advertising and Olay’s “Live Fearlessly” spots as well as Tide, Ariel, Dawn and Swiffer ads that show men sharing the load in household chores. “It’s clear that promoting gender equality is not only a force for good, it’s a force for growth”

To inspire broader efforts on gender equality, P&G will partner with the nonprofit social action group Global Citizen and co-host the first #SheIsEqual Summit on Sept. 28 in New York during United Nations General Assembly Week.

The event will bring together companies, government officials and influencers from advertising, media and entertainment to share perspectives on gender equality, women’s economic empowerment, girls’ education and advocacy.

In addition, P&G will be among companies partnering with Katie Couric Media to collaborate on content that reflects their mutual values and commitment to important issues. Couric’s firm will produce and distribute stories in a variety of formats, including digital series, documentaries, scripted projects, podcasts and live programing.

“My mission for Katie Couric Media is to lead a female-driven team in partnership with leading brands that share our values to develop meaningful content that will help people navigate our complicated world, promote understanding and enrich their lives,” Couric said.

Continue onto Chicago Business Journal to read the complete article.

Octavia E. Butler, Who Brought Diversity to the World of Science Fiction, Honored With Google Doodle

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Octavia Butler

Octavia E. Butler, a groundbreaking African-American science fiction writer who would have turned 71 on Friday, was honored with a Google Doodle that celebrates her contributions to the literary world.

Butler was one of the first writers in science fiction — traditionally dominated by white male authors — to include diverse protagonists in her stories, and was widely admired for evocatively exploring hierarchies and human flaws in her work.

Butler died in 2006, but her family released a statement to coincide with Friday’s Google Doodle that paid tribute to her legacy.

“Her spirit of generosity and compassion compelled her to support the disenfranchised,” her family said in a statement. “She sought to speak truth to power, challenge prevailing notions and stereotypes, and empower people striving for better lives. Although we miss her, we celebrate the rich life she led and its magnitude in meaning.”

Throughout her life, Butler won various awards and became the first science-fiction author to get the MacArthur Fellowship. Here’s what you need to know about her prestigious career:

Nebula and Hugo awards

Butler won two Nebula awards and two Hugo awards in her career, two of the most prestigious prizes in science fiction. Two of those awards were for the same short story, Bloodchild, in which human refugees are imprisoned on an alien planet by insect-like creatures that protect them while using them as hosts to breed their young. Butler insisted the story was not an allegory for slavery while critics applauded it for reversing gender roles and examining the complex structures of oppression.

MacArthur Fellowship

In 1995, Butler became the first science-fiction author to be awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. The award came with a prize of $295,000. The foundation said Butler’s “imaginative stories are transcendent fables, which have as much to do with the future as with the present and the past.”

Television adaptation of Butler’s book

Last year, it was announced that Ava DuVernay, who recently directed A Wrinkle In Time, would be adapting Butler’s book, Dawn, into a television series. It is not clear what network will pick up the show just yet.

Read the complete article and more at TIME Magazine.

Latina Director Launches Production Company to Tell Stories About Queer Women of Color

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Back in 2016, director Deborah S. Esquenazi’s documentary Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four documented the case of four Latina lesbians put on trial for assaulting two young girls.The four were convicted and served time before their case was investigated as an example of prosecutorial prejudice and the well-known homophobia that was present in their town. It remains one of the best Latino movies you should seek out, and audiences who were fortunate to see the film then were eager to find out what the Cuban Esquenazi would do next.

The director, who holds both an Emmy nomination and a Peabody award, has announced today she is starting her own production company, Myth of Monsters. The company will “focus on utilizing media and multilingual projects to upend myths about women of color and queer-identified individuals.” The first project set to debut under the Myth of Monsters banner is a scripted adaptation of Esquenazi’s own Southwest of Salem. The TV adaptation has brought on Mad Men writer Jason Grote to work on the script alongside Esquenazi.

The company is also moving forward on a bilingual coming-of-age LGBTQ drama called Queen of Wands. The film will be set in 1989 and is a semi-autobiographical look at Esquenazi’s life growing up as a lesbian in a Cuban-Sephardic household. It is said to draw from the Bible, family stories, and “gay phantasmagoria.”

Continue onto Remezcla to read the complete article.