50th anniversary of March on Washington changed much, hopes to change more

One of the hopeful faces from the March on Washington 50 years ago today

One of the hopeful faces from the March on Washington 50 years ago today

Fifty years ago today, something momentous took place in Washington, D.C. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took to the podium at the historic March on Washington to deliver his famed “I Have a Dream” speech, the tapestry of the United States was set to be forever changed. Little did he realize that all these years later, his words would echo with as much resonance as they did that day.

What an amazing premise was the entire concept of the march. A peaceful, non-confrontational way to express the disappointment of a marginalized race of people, the walk drew participants from every walk of life. Rich or poor, young or old, even white or black, it didn’t matter; the mission was the same…equality. And 50 years later, Dr. King’s words still hang in the ears of those who still struggle for equality.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

In 1963, those words did indeed ring true; with some caveats. Even though for the first time in history blacks were to be viewed as equal to their white brethren, many didn’t see it that way. To many, to be black was to still be inferior. And sadly, this is still in the mind of many in this country today. But much of what the March on Washington stood for is outside of race. The poverty level for blacks in that time was huge, and no opportunities were available. Before the march, there was no hope of this statistic changing. So while race was the impetus behind the march, what it really stood for was having the opportunity to have a chance…a chance at a better quality of life.

“We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro in Mississippi and the Negro in New You believes he has nothing to vote for.”

Affirmative action, anti-discrimination laws, and greater opportunities for education have all helped blacks in the U.S. to achieve that chance at a better life. Blacks have been offered greater opportunities in business, in their communities, in politics. Adopting the moniker African Americans, we have chosen to pick up the gauntlet that Dr. King threw down that day in 1963. Many of us have run with it, some have stumbled and fallen. But with the resiliency of a people long presumed to be destined for failure, we press on…and will continue to do so.

“We ain’t where we could be, we ain’t where we should be, but thank God we ain’t where we was.”

Fast forward 50 years, and today the struggle for equality has shifted. As African Americans, our pursuit of a better quality of life has been improved…but there is still ground to cover. And now, we need to take those lessons taught to us by Dr. King, and share them with those facing the marginalization and discrimination that many before us endured. And it is also important to pay homage to those who lost their lives in the pursuit.

“Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, we are free at last.”

Much thanks…to Dr. King, and to all those who had the courage to stand up to their beliefs. We all owe each and every one a debt of thanks.

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Can gay African American men expect acceptance from their own community, or doomed to a life on the DL?

African American men struggle with community acceptance, but is the "DL" the answer?

African American men struggle with community acceptance, but is the “DL” the answer?

The term “on the down low” originated within the African American community. By definition, it describes a lifestyle predominately practiced by young, urban African American men who have sex with other men as well as women, yet do not identify as gay or bisexual. To many, this definition is a part of their everyday life; albeit a double life. With nowhere to turn to within the community, many of these men drift into situations that can potentially put their lives, and the lives of their sexual partners in jeopardy…all because of the secret. Film maker Lee Daniels, director of the recent release “Lee Daniels ‘The Butler,’” says that for many of these men on the “DL,” there is no place for them to turn.

In a recent interview on “Larry King Now,” the famed director said that there is no clear way that black gay men can come out.

“Black men can’t come out. Why? Because you simply can’t do it,” Daniels says. “Your family says it. Your church says it. Your teachers say it. Your parents say it. Your friends say it. Your work says it. So you’re living on this ‘DL’ thing and you’re infecting black women – and its killing us,” he adds.

“The black culture and the Hispanic culture have a thing about [homosexuality].”

Daniels himself relates a story from his childhood, when at age 5 he began to feel “different.” He tells how during a poker game hosted by his father for some of his police officer friends, Daniels came down into the basement wearing a pair of his mother’s red pumps. Daniels’ father was not pleased by his son’s choice of self-expression.

“I got beat. He beat me severely for it,” he says. “But that didn’t stop me because the following Sunday I walked down the stairs wearing her blue pumps – this time with her purse.”

Daniels attributes the lack of acceptance to the African American community itself, and its inability to accept homosexuality not as an illness, but a part of who a person is meant to be inside.

“We are nothing to many people, especially in the African-American community,” Daniels said. “We are told, especially as black men, that we have to live up to certain expectations. The churches say it’s not good. Our neighbors say it’s not good. Our friends and family say it’s not good. I am living in my truth, and I demand that in [my work], too.”

Keith Boykin, commentator on the BET network and author of the book Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America applauds Daniels for how open he has been about his own sexuality. He also sees the current wave of celebrities and athletes, particularly African Americans, making the decision to come out publicly as a positive sign, and the beginnings of a shift within the community as a whole.

“What a difference a year makes,” Boykin says. “Last year at this time, Republicans were trying to convince African-American voters to abandon Obama’s re-election campaign by complaining of his recent support for same-sex marriage. This year, African-Americans have been coming out of the closet and coming out in support of marriage equality like never before.”

He mentions in particular actress Raven Symone’s Twitter message that seemingly “outted” the young actress, and the recent LAX baggage claim confession of WWE wrestler Darren Young that he is gay as well. Added to the article on professional basketballer Jason Collins earlier this year, and the wave of African Americans coming out could be on the rise.

“It’s becoming harder and harder to make the clichéd argument that Black people are more homophobic than whites,” continues Boykin. ”It’s an argument that never held much water in the first place when Black history has long heralded the voices of African-American LGBT icons like James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Alvin Ailey, Audre Lorde, Billy Strayhorn, Alice Walker, E. Lynn Harris, Josephine Baker, Angela Davis and many others.”

But still, when it comes to the idea of sexual acceptance within the African American community, the road is still a bit long. But in light of recent news-worthy events, the road is getting shorter. Boykin sums it up best…

“Every time we watch The Color Purple or attend an Alvin Ailey dance performance, we’re publicly recognizing the Black LGBT icons in our cultural traditions. Black America is not just witnessing this changing history. We’re making it.”

 

 

 

The Denver Business Journal announces 12 Outstanding Women in Business for 2013

DBJ’s Outstanding Women in Business Communications, Media and Public Relations Winner Timi Aguilar of Aguilar Public Relations

The Denver Business Journal honored 12 distinctive women during their annual Outstanding Women in Business awards luncheon held earlier today at the Grand Hyatt hotel in downtown Denver. Winners in the categories of architecture, engineering and construction; banking, finance and accounting; communications, media and public relations; education, government and nonprofits; health care; large business owner; law; Mile High Leaders; real estate; small business owner; technology and telecommunications were announced, as well as a special lifetime achievement recipient.

Timi Aguilar, Principal of Castle Rock, Colorado-based Aguilar Public Relations was this year’s winner in the category of communications, media and public relations. Timi’s fellow finalists include Meg VanderLaan, Vice President of Corporate Communications for MWH Global in Broomfield, Colorado, and Megan Moye Zacher, founding partner and designer with Zebra Inc. in Denver, Colorado.

The winner of the lifetime achievement award for this year was Jane Miller, CEO of Charter Baking in Boulder Colorado makers of Rudi’s Organic and Gluten-free baked goods.  Ms. Miller has held an executive position at every company she’s worked for — Frito-Lay, Bestfoods and H.J. Heinz in London, to name a few. She is also a mentor and board member for the Boulder-based Unreasonable Institute, which connects entrepreneurs from around the world with successful mentors in business, technology, social change and other areas.

A full breakdown of today’s event, including expanded information on all of the very talented finalists in all the categories, will be available on The Denver Business Journal web site Friday.

Online celebrity feuds becoming trendy: are they to save floundering careers?

Twitter battle ensues between Oprah Winfrey and Stacey Dash

Twitter battle ensues between Oprah Winfrey and Stacey Dash

When Twitter launched in 2006, it was launched with a singular purpose in mind; to keep users close to the information they care about. As of 2012, more than 500 million registered users were sharing everything from photos, to recipes, to status updates with their fan base. But recently, the tide of the Twitter-sphere has shifted, and gone the way of a tabloid publication.

Celebrity feuds are nothing new in the media, but here in the 21st century cyberspace has created a whole new place for celebs to vent their disdain for each other to a worldwide audience. For many of these celebs, it is a way to challenge more established stars to boost their sagging popularity. Case in point; Stacy Dash and Oprah Winfrey.

In a recent interview while shilling for her latest film work, Lee Daniel’s “The Butler,” media mogul Oprah compared the recent Florida case of Trayvon Martin trial to the murder and trial of Illinois teen Emmett Till in 1955 in Mississippi. In that case, Till was abducted from a relative’s home, taken to a barn where he was tortured and murdered by the husband and brother-in-law of a woman Till had spoken to earlier in a grocery store. The case made headlines due to the decision at the trial to acquit the men accused of the crime.

Apparently, Oprah’s words set off something in Dash, who took to the Twitter-sphere to lash out at Winfrey for her comparison.

If You aren’t careful, The newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed And loving the people who are doing the oppressing ~ Malcolm X Oprah Compares Trayvon Martin to Emmett Till; Says Obama is “Smart” for Not Appearing on Fox News http://foxnewsinsider.com/2013/08/07/oprah-compares-trayvon-martin-emmett-till-says-obama-smart-not-appearing-fox-news via @foxnewsinsider Shame on you @oprah

Dash, the “star” of such films as “Clueless” and “Above the Top,” is an unwavering supporter of the Republican Party, and supported former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the most recent election calling him “the only hope for the future.”  She has tweeted on a number of hot-button political topics such as immigration reform, requiring voter ID’s and the military presence in Syria.

KK copy

Reality celeb Kim Kardashian and journalist turned talk show host Katie Courid

In a similar vein, “celebrity” Kim Kardashian recently fired back at journalist and talk show host Katie Couric on Twitter, and Couric made a statement recently to “In Style” magazine about her thoughts on the Kardashian family, and their contribution to the entertainment industry.

“I don’t understand … Why are they so famous,” Couric to the magazine. “I think it’s mostly teenage girls that are interested.”

Attempting to make a mea culpa to Kardashian after the recent birth of her first child with boyfriend Kanye West, Couric sent a gift to the couple with an enclosed note that read as follows:

Dear Kim and Kanye
Congratulations on the birth of your baby girl!
And may I humbly suggest you continue the K tradition for names
Fondly, Katie Couric

This “breach of etiquette” by Couric apparently unleashed something in Kardashian that could be likened to a post-partum hormonal imbalance, causing her to fire back on Instagram with the following hash tag laden dig:

#IHateFakeMediaFriends #MayIHumblySuggestYouNotSendGiftsThenTalkShit

The similarity between these two instances is simple; an unquenchable desire to remain relevant. Dash, who has had little media attention for her acting as of late has chosen to take to the web to share her political beliefs about the state of the country, challenging the current administration of President Barack Obama with Tweets like “This White House is like Lord Of The Flies. Someone please! Get the conch shell and lead us!”

Rapper Kanye West and celeb baby-momma Kim Kardashian

Rapper Kanye West and celeb baby-momma Kim Kardashian

Similar can be said for Kardashian. Since her “subsidized” wedding to basketballer Kris Humphreys, and their subsequent divorce, her “star” has been a bit on the decline. The pairing with rapper with West has done little to improve her popularity, as West is no stranger to media controversy.  West has repeatedly been at odds with reporters and paparazzi; just days ago the Los Angeles district attorney’s office chose not to pursue charges filed against the rapper by a reporter he allegedly got into a scuffle with at Los Angeles International Airport. The case is currently being reviewed by the Los Angeles city attorney for potential misdemeanor charges, which could pave the way for a civil suit.

Incidentally, sales of West’s most recent musical endeavor, “Yeesus,” dropped 80% in its second week of release, the 4th largest drop in history. Could his celeb status be in jeopardy as well?

So the question remains; is launching a “celebrity feud” on the internet the way to remain relevant? In the Dash vs. Winfrey battle, Oprah has taken the high road and remained mum on the topic. Couric did release a statement, taking the high road as one would expect saying:

“I didn’t mean to hurt her feelings. The gift is genuine and I’m happy for Kim and Kanye.”

From the responses of some of their own followers, these two “battle-challenging celebrities,” should keep their thoughts to themselves and off the Twitter-sphere; #zipyourlips.

What are your thoughts on the celebrity cyber wars? Weigh in with your comments.

 

“Jobs” star, and others in their A&F model days

ashton-kutcher-pour-abercrombie-amp-fitchOn the eve of the opening of his latest film “Jobs,”  actor Ashton Kutcher may be reminiscing of some earlier, simpler times in his career. Times that didn’t include holding up a network TV show, a messy divorce, and media scrutiny of almost every aspect of his life. From this shot, things looked pretty carefree back in 1998. Follow the link and check out other celebs before they were more famous striking a pose for clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch.

What do you think of Kutcher’s photo, as well as the rest? Share your feedback with us here.