Thursday, December 16, 2010

Detroit Filmmakers: Get in Where You Fit In

On Dec. 31, 2010, Specs Howard and Global Pictures will present the 1st Annual Michigan Film Gala at the Sheraton Detroit Novi Hotel.  This event will be hosted by Detroit's own Brandon T. Jackson and will feature appearances from a host of other Hollywood film industry play makers such as Tanya Ryno (producer of Saturday Night Live), Rod Harrell (RLH Talent), Ruth Daniels (Executive VP, Emagine Theaters), Darryl Farmers (Willow Smith producer and Disney composer), and laundry list of others.

So, fellow filmmakers or enthusiasts, why do you need to be there, you ask? Because if you are really serious about taking your film making platform to the next level, this event will afford you the opportunity to have access to people from every aspect of the film making process at your disposal. And if you choose not to take advantage of it, then you should never again complain about what resources are "lacking" in Detroit.

Ever since the film incentives have been rolled out in Michigan, local independent film makers have felt slighted because most of us don't have access to enough money to actually take advantage of them and when the hiring is done, somehow we still aren't getting a shot. But now, Specs Howard and Global Pictures have gone out of their way to make sure that Detroit film makers get their fair chance at bat by bringing in the people who can provide that missing link: a relationship.

This gala will feature interactive Q&A panels and film screenings during the day and a star-studded New Year's Eve party that evening...what more could you ask for?

I know first hand from conducting a film festival for the past 4 years, sometimes it's difficult to get Detroiter's to latch on to positive things that can actually benefit them. But after seeing how many film makers have benefited from our efforts, we continue to press on for our city.

So, with that being said, please don't miss out on this wonderful opportunity. The ticket prices are reasonable and with most packages you get a room at the luxurious hotel in addition to the panel, workshop, party and dinner. You can't beat that! So film making Detroit, please take advantage of these opportunities because if we don't, the industry is going to pack up and leave again and we'll be stuck with a bunch of "I should'ves".

Michigan Film there or stop complaining. #thatisall

For more information about the 1st Annual Michigan Film Gala visit

For more more information about Trinity Film Coalition please visit

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

One-on-one with El DeBarge

When 80's heartthrob El DeBarge made his triumphant comeback appearance on the 2010 BET Music Awards, women (and men) everywhere made haste to dust off CD, cassette tape and record collections boasting timeless hits such as All This Love, Love Me In a Special Way and I Like It from an era of when music was, well...meaningful.

Fresh off the ordeal of serving a drug-related prison stint, El DeBarge has resolved to reestablish his claim on his life, his music and his career. And from the looks of things, it appears that he is off to a very promising start.

I got a chance to sit down with him to find out about his battle with addiction, his new outlook on life and second chances.

Janaya Black: Tell us how excited you are about your new project and it being your first album in 16 years.

El DeBarge: I'm very excited. Like Tony the Tiger would say, "I feel grrrrreat!" I'm so happy to be back and back on scene.

JB: Tell me about the new album.

EB: It's called Second Chance, it'll be out Nov. 30. I did a song with 50 Cent (a very nice song), I did a song with Fabulous, and I did a duet with Faith Evans. Just feel good music, you know what I mean?

JB: The title "Second Chance" obviously has a deep meaning for you...

EB: It has a very deep meaning for me. It's a song of thankfulness, gratefulness, redemption, the triumph of the human spirit, what God has brought me through and me realizing that this is my second chance that He's given me.

JB: When did you get to the point where you knew that you had to turn your life around to get back to where you wanted to be as a person and as an artist?

EB: The moment when I picked up a crack pipe when I was 25-years-old out of curiosity it threw me off. It threw me out of my balance, it threw me off my game...I had no idea what was going to hit me, that it was going to hit me like that. I was just curious. I said let me try it. I knew right then and there that it was wrong. It was evil, but I had no idea it was going to take me 22 years to get back. But I was praying the whole time and God saw fit to rescue me.

JB: Well, congratulations to you for overcoming that.

EB: Thank you.

JB: What's your favorite song on the album right now?

EB: My favorite song on the album is I Just Want to Lay With You, the duet I'm doing with Faith Evans and the one I do with 50 Cent, Switch Up the Format. I like those two a lot.

JB: Between 16 years ago and this album, what is it that you like and dislike about how the industry is right now?

EB: I like a lot about it. I have more pros than cons about the industry. I think it's evolving. Music is teaching the industry how to evolve and how to fit into music's format. You know people change, things change, people's appetites change. Music is still, to me, the voice of international language known to all mankind. It just feels really good. I don't really have any qualms about it.

JB: Do you foresee a DeBarge reunion in the near future?

EB: My family has given me their 100 percent support. Even more than that they just want me to just do what I'm doing. They told me, they said, "El, do you. We got you, don't worry." They said they would let me know when they're ready to do something. I'm just waiting on them.

JB: So are there any plans for any reality shows or anything like that?

EB: I don't know, it could happen there's a lot of reality going on. It could happen, but I did hit the big screen already with something that will be out next year it's called Jumping the Broom with Paula Patton. I play myself in the movie where she always wanted to meet me because I was her favorite artist, and her fiancĂ© proposes to her in Lincoln Park in New York and to her surprise I'm sitting there on a baby grand piano with an orchestra around me in the middle of the park, and while he's proposing he drops down on one knee and I start singing a song to her for him. 

JB: Awww! So you've been bitten by the acting bug?

EB: Well you know what? It's like that's my entry to it, so we'll see what happens after that.

For more information on El DeBarge and his upcoming appearances and projects, please visit or follow him at

For more information or to contact visit or follow on Twitter at

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Life With AIDS: A Personal Testimony

In observance of World AIDS Day, I wanted to share an interview that I did with Tim'm West about his personal experience with AIDS and how it has affected his life. Read it and govern yourselves accordingly.

Be blessed!

Life With AIDS: A Personal Testimony

Since the HIV/AIDS epidemic reared its ugly head back in the 1980’s, society’s knowledge and ability to deal with the disease has increased significantly.  But while the overall awareness has increased the numbers of those becoming infected continues to rise, especially among those in the African American community.

According to, at the end of 2008 and estimated 33.4 million people were living with HIV/AIDS, and according to 5,700 people die from it every day.  In the face of those staggering statics the question then becomes: Are people just not taking this disease seriously? How do we bridge the gap between providing information and making it effective?

Tim’m West is a 36-year-old man who has been living with HIV for more than ten years, and he has made it his personal mission to help educate about the disease and be a living testimony that there is life after contracting the disease.         

I had a chance to speak with West about his personal experience of living with a disease that has no respect of persons and his ability to find hope somewhere in between. 

Janaya Black: How old were you when you contracted HIV?

Tim’m West: Probably 26.

JB: How did you contract it?

TW: Unprotected sex.

JB: What emotions did you experience when you found out that you were HIV positive?

TW: Initially…I mean, I’ve been working in the field of HIV/AIDS part-time so I knew a lot about the virus.  Being a Black man who had sex with both males and females I was aware of the risks, at least in the gay male community. But, I think when you have a connection to the gay community it’s not so much that it’s not shocking, but it’s not as mind blowing as it might be to some people who just don’t expect it. 

So I think you kind of grow up being told that if you practice that behavior or if you decide to be in “that lifestyle”, that you’re going to be more susceptible to HIV/AIDS.  Because of some of the health symptoms I was experiencing at the time that I got tested…it was disappointing, but I was somewhat prepared for it when I got the results.  It was more or less that I was getting tested to confirm something that I already believed to be true.

JB: Prior to you going to have that test, what were some of the symptoms that you were experiencing?

TW: It was the weight loss.  You know, right now I’m a pretty healthy 205 lbs, but I think at that time I was probably 165 lbs but I just thought I was real cut up.  So there was some weight loss along with it, but not a whole lot of symptoms.  Like my lymph nodes were swelling some but it wasn’t anything really extreme, just things when you’re really attentive to your body you kind of notice.

JB: How have you adapted or conditioned yourself to live with it?

TW: Well, I think you’re faced with a choice when one faces anything about a chronic illness.   We often put HIV in a different category but I think this is true for all kinds of diseases.  With HIV you can decide that you’re going to just give up and die or you can decide you want to live.  And for me it became about a health issue.  It became about how people live with it; about what I need to do to make sure I can.  There are plenty of thousands of other people who live healthy full lives with HIV.  For me, those are the examples I look to.

I had to let go of the shame and the stigma that’s associated with it because people get so caught up in those issues that they don’t take care of themselves.  HIV is not treated like cancer.  You know, you tell someone they have cancer no one asks anything.  They don’t ask if you smoke.  They don’t ask how you got it; they just immediately have this out pouring of sympathy.  But if you say you have HIV, immediately people want to know how you got it and what you did wrong to get it.  And I think that’s a critical difference and it really underscores the degree of stigma around it, which needs to change.  That’s one of the reasons that I’m so vocal and visible about my HIV status because I think people need real positive, real life examples of people who decide to beat it.

JB: You mentioned stigma in your personal experience. What kind of stigma, or discriminations, have you come up against with letting people know your status?

TW: There’s some in dating.  You know, everyone’s entitled to not date someone who’s HIV positive and not put themselves at risk.  But, yeah, there’s some of that in particular.  The gay male community is over sensitized to it, but I haven’t found that to be as problematic as people might think.  I think a lot of people applaud my courage for being open and honest about it, and I think those are the people that I look to.  So, in some ways it’s been a really interesting discriminating tool I’ve used; being open about my HIV status to assess other people's character.  You know, how will they respond. 

I’ve taught high school in both Washington, D.C. and Oakland, CA urban schools, and in both settings students knew both about my orientation as well as my HIV status and it wasn’t an issue.  And I think that part of it is just because I think I present myself in a way that demands respect and I’m known for what I do well and how I do it.  So you bring a certain level of professionalism and confidence to your game and I think people just have to respect that.

JB: As far as care goes, what are some of the things that you have to do on a daily basis to maintain good health?

TW: You have to stay with the regimen, and not everybody takes medication.  But I didn’t have the fortune of being able to delay treatment, and basically that’s the advantage of getting tested early and always knowing your status; that if you know your status early you may be able to defer treatment for some period of time and that enables you to add a few more years to whatever your life span would be.  So I always say always know your test results.

But I’m on the medication.  I take my cocktail- they call it a drug cocktail- twice a day.  And provided I adhere it, it’s worked for the past 10 years.  I’ve never been hospitalized.  I get sick like other people get sick.  I think that’s one of the things I would say is definitely (say beyond just disclosing, discrimination and dating) one of the pains of living with HIV. If you get a flu it’s a little bit different than when most people get the flu.  You wonder the kind of impact it’s going to have on your immune system because it’s already compromised.

JB: What are still some of the most common misconceptions that people have about HIV?

TW: Some of them are quite tragic and sad.  I still do work in the field with HIV and AIDS and common ones are that HIV can be spread through contact and through fluids like saliva.  Another one is that you can tell when someone is HIV positive.  I always enjoy dispelling that one personally.  [Another one is] that straight people don’t get it and that all gay men have it.

JB: What are some of the things you’ve been doing to help raise the awareness?

TW: Right now I work for an organization called St. Hope Foundation and they have a drop in center for young African American men ages 16-24.  We work there and do a lot of sort of 1-on-1 discussions with young brothers.  We try to look at their whole distinct lives, not just attending to the HIV status.  We do a lot of testing and just a lot of taking care of the whole person to lead to a point where they don’t have to just deal with HIV.  That’s our whole idea is to do prevention based work.

But, I think in my personal life, I’m a rap artist and a spoken word artist, so I’ve integrated a lot of HIV/AIDS messaging in my lyrics and in my poetry.  I think that’s been one of the more productive ways I can get some of the messaging across.

JB: In your 10 years of living and dealing with this successfully, what would you say is your biggest personal triumph?

TW: Wow.  I can say it simply is that I haven’t given up.  I mean it’s tiring- it’s really tiring.  I don’t at all mean to give the impression that living with HIV is a cakewalk and I’ve had some trials of late that have been demoralizing.  Your medication; when you’re not sure if it’s working anymore and even the reminder of just taking those things every day, and they’re not Flintstones.  It’s not just popping pills.  They’re medications that have quite toxic effects on the body every time you don’t regulate that kind of thing.  So there’s just the exhaustion of it and I think the fact that I get up every day and say, “Hey, I’m going to fight again today because I believe I’m worth it."

JB: What would you say to someone, especially the Black community, about the importance of getting tested?

TW:  What I always say about that is getting tested is a win-win situation.  There’s a saying that what you don’t know won’t hurt you, and with HIV that’s just completely the opposite.  What you don’t know can kill you and put others at risk.  So if you get tested and you’re negative, great.  You have an opportunity to recommit to safe practices, better behavior and that’s a good thing.  If you get tested and you’re positive then you know about what’s going on in your body and you can start to get the care you need to lead a productive and a good life.  So we need to know what our statues are so we can take care of ourselves. HIV/AIDS is as big a threat now as it ever was.  The only difference is that now, in this day and age, there is absolutely no excuse for ignorance.  So don’t wait, get tested and know your status.  

For more information on HIV/AID or to find a testing location in your area, please visit

For more information on Tim'm West, please visit

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Review: Inside Rain

Every now and again I come across a book that lets me know that there are writer's in this world who are just as "touched" as I am when it comes to the stories they choose to tell, and I can honestly say that author Monique D. Mensah is definitely my kind of writer!
Her latest book, Inside Rain, is the gripping tale of Rain, a young girl who witnesses the brutal murder of her mother at a very young age and struggles to cope with that reality as an adult.

In the beginning you are introduced to Rain's remaining family: Her grandmother, who is the center of her world; her brother Danny who is a self-centered womanizer who resents Rain's weak character; and her sister Carmen who is a promiscuous drug-whore, who would love nothing more than for her sister to simply disappear.

As the story unfolds, the reader is taken on an intimate journey into the lives of each sibling to see how the gruesome death of their mother has affected their lives. And with the turn of every page, Mensah skillfully plunges the reader into a psychological thrill ride that will have you backtracking just to rediscover what you may have missed the first time around.

What I really loved about this book was that from the beginning it grabs and holds your attention with a vise-like grip. Each chapter is filled with fast paced drama that will have you staying up until all hours of the night trying to figure out how it all ends.

After reading Mensah's first book, Who Is He to You, I was already a fan, but now after reading Inside Rain I can honestly say that this author is definitely someone that I see in my regular reading rotation.

All-in-all I give Inside Rain an enthusiastic 10 spirit fingers and encourage you to definitely make it a must have for your holiday reading list. Great job Ms. Mensah and keep writing.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween: What does it really mean?

Check out this commentary I did a couple of years ago for a Michigan publication about Halloween. Just an informational piece to remind folks of what is really being celebrated on Oct 31st. Be blessed.

Each year, millions of people look forward to this time of year when they can dress up in costumes and celebrate all that is scary. Haunted houses, horror flick mania on TV, trick-or-treating and lavish parties are all indicative of the Halloween season that Americans have come to know and love. But what does it all really mean?

It seems that in today’s fast-paced society, the true ideology of many of the traditional holidays celebrated in America have become lost, thereby allowing their actual meanings to fall by the wayside. But it stands to reason that if people knew the true meaning and origin of some of the things we celebrate, views may be somewhat altered.

Halloween, which is now essentially viewed as a childish holiday, originated over 2000 years ago in Ireland and was known as the festival of Samhein (pronounced “sow-in”). During this festival the Celts celebrated their new year, which was Nov. 1. The Celtic New Year marked the end of the summer and the beginning of the dreaded cold months which were associated with death.

The Celts believed that on the night preceding the new year the boundaries between the world of the living and the dead became “blurred.” So on the night of Oct. 31 they would celebrate Samhein, which is the time they believed that the spirit world returned to the earth to claim the bodies of the living. And many of the rituals they practiced were in effort to protect themselves from these evil spirits.

“Trick or treat,” give me something good to eat

Every year, parents dress their children up as cute and cuddly little ghosts and goblins so they can parade around the neighborhood going door-to-door collecting sugary treats. But the tradition of trick-or-treat tradition stems from a Celtic practice of fear. The Celts would leave fruit, nuts and other fine foods on their doorstep on the eve of the Celtic New Year in effort to appease evil spirits. This was done out of fear that the returned spirits would wreak havoc on their crops and livestock if gifts were not offered.

Wearing of masks and costumes

During this celebration, the Celts believed that in addition to the spirits of loved ones, evil spirits could also cross over into the land of the living. So in order to protect themselves they would wear masks because they believed that by masquerading as part of the spirit world they would be able to confuse the demonic spirits and cause them to bypass their homes. This is where the tradition of dressing up for Halloween comes from.

The jack-o’-lantern

The jack-o’-lantern is the festival light for Halloween and an ancient symbol of a damned soul. Originally, the Celts would carve demonic faces into turnips or beets to frighten off the evil spirits. When the Irish immigrated to America, turnips were not in ready supply so they began to use pumpkins.


During this new year celebration the Druids, Celtic priests, would light large fires on sacred hilltops on the eve of Samhain to offer sacrifice to the spirit world to ward off sickness and bad fortune. Often during these sacrifice rituals, animals, and sometimes children, would be burned in these fires, which were called “bone fires” because of the bones that would remain when the fire was extinguished.

After the fire died, it was considered good luck to carry an ember from the bone fire to relight the home hearth fire. Today centuries later, “bone fire” has been condensed to bonfire and millions gather around them each Halloween to tell scary stories and roast marshmallows.

Black cats

The infamous black cats, which are often depicted in various Halloween scenarios, were thought to be incarnates of evil dead souls.

Bobbing for apples

Bobbing for apples was considered to be a ritual of fertility. For the Celts, the apple was symbolic for the fertility goddess Pomona and when an apple is sliced in half the seeds form a pentagram, which they believed to be a symbol of fertility. So during the festival, young unmarried people would try to bite into an apple floating in water or dangling from a string and the first person to successfully do so would be the next one to marry.

In addition to these, during the month of October horror and slasher films infiltrate television screens night after night, vicariously drumming violent and gory images into the minds of millions of young people. Haunted houses amass millions in revenue by putting carnage, gore and mutilation on display for eager viewers. Children have become desensitized to the violence and mayhem that is readily exhibited during Halloween.

This is insight to just a few of the practices that take place during the Halloween season. In addition to what has been embraced as a good old-fashioned American fun pastime, Halloween is one of the biggest holiday celebrations for those who partake in the occult.

For those of Christian faith, it is a huge compromise of the basic foundation of the Christian belief to partake in a holiday with such an openly occult background. In fact, this country’s Pilgrim forefathers originally banned the celebration of Halloween because they were well aware of its roots in the occult. Halloween was not celebrated in this country until 1845, when Irish immigrants migrated to New York during the Irish Potato Famine.

So in essence, it is imperative that we examine and understand the things that we take part in and expose ourselves to because everything that appears to be innocent and fun is not.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Big Stage Talent Challenge

If you aspire to be Detroit's next big singer or rapper, here's your chance! The Big Stage Talent Challenge will take place on December 11th at the Paul Roberson Theater located inside the Northwest Activities Center.

Ten contestants will perform before an audience of their peers, and industry judges, at the Northwest Activities Center in Detroit for a chance to win $500 in cash, a professional photo shoot, an artist development package from Star Factory, an internet promotion package (courtesy of Black/Smith Consulting) and a chance to perform on the NEXT Bash school tour.

The Big Stage Talent Challenge is open to Michigan singers and rappers, ages fourteen and up. Auditions will be held at Star Factory, located at 13305 Capital in Oak Park, on November 20 at 4 p.m. Applicants must be Michigan residents and should be prepared to perform a two minute selection with no profanity or explicit lyrics. The registration fee per group is $20.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Movie Review: RED

I went to see Bruce Willis' new movie RED this past weekend and I have two words for it: LOVE IT!

First off I have to say, I am a huge action movie fan and I love Bruce Willis in action movies. With that said, here we go...

RED centers on the life of Frank Moses, a retired CIA agent, who has settled into a life of "normalcy" with his nice cushy pension and a phone crush on his hopelessly romantic case worker Sara, until one day the powers-that-be decide that he's too dangerous to be allowed to live.

So what ensues is a mad dash for Moses to get out of dodge, make a connection with his phone crush to save her life and find out why the government wants him dead, which ultimately leads to him rounding up an old (literally) group of friends/ex-agents for help. And needless to say that as they search for answers, all hell breaks loose.

While the premise of the film was far from being original, I found the storyline to be very entertaining and comical all at the same time. Willis and the mature all-star cast, which consisted of Morgan Freeman, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich and  Helen Mirren, had a great chemistry which made this movie work.  Ever since his Die Hard days,  Bruce Willis, and his signature dry sense of humor, has always been able to carry off his "kick-anus-now-and-ask-questions-later" persona off with the utmost believability.

If you love high tech espionage, laced with plenty of fight sequences and explosions, then you too will be pleased with this flick. And I have to say that it was really cool to see the older action heroes get to kick butt for change.

So overall, I give RED a solid A. For the first time in a good while, I wasn't disappointed that I had to actually pay to go to see a film at the movies.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

There Are No Words...

I have come to realize that there is not enough breath in my body to thank God enough for all the things that He has done for me.

Over the past few months, He has revealed Himself to me in ways that can only be referred to as miracles.  And within these amazing experiences that I have had, I have had to learn how to trust Him through the good and bad.  I have also had to learn that once I give something to Him that I cannot take it back, I have to trust Him to see it through to the end.  Because after all...He is God and He doesn't need my help.

Through my recent experiences I have also learned that possessing the ability to bridle one's tongue is of paramount importance. (Thanks mom!) All too often I find myself getting too comfortable with speaking about things pertaining to other people and their situations that I don't always realize that the words that I am speaking may be adversely affecting them in ways that I could never imagine, thereby blocking my own blessings.

Case and point: My mom and I were having a conversation about Bishop Eddie Long and I began to talk about my thoughts on the situation and why I felt the way I did in a very negative way. My mother immediately stopped me and reminded me that no one knows for sure yet what went on in the situation. We can only speculate. She also reminded me that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and that it was not for me or anyone else to judge that situation because only God can do that. But by all means the man should get his day in court.

She then pointed out that in the not to far future that I would be going before a judge for my own personal situation and asked me how I would feel if my whole case was played out and judged in the media by people who knew nothing about my circumstances and had no evidence.

There was nothing I could say, because I knew that in my personal situation I was being lied on and unfairly accused of things that I know I didn't do. So right then and there, we prayed together and I asked for forgiveness. But the kicker is that before she explained her point of view, I felt totally justified in my opinion because Bishop Long is a "celebrity" and it's common practice for society to talk about them just because.

Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof."

Death and life are in your words! Do you know how powerful that statement is?

And James 3:6 goes on to say, "And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
So when we speak negativity in our lives, that's what manifests. The same thing goes with positivity. When you are going through trials and tribulations, stop and take a moment to think about the things you've been saying about yourself and others.  It really does matter.

For the sons and daughters of God, what is bound and loosed on Earth is bound and loosed in Heaven. And when you think about it in those terms it's a pretty heavy thing, so think about that the next time you are tempted to speak in anger toward or about someone.

I personally know that taming the tongue is a very hard thing to practice, but if you pray for me...I'll pray for you.

Just some food for thought...until next time!

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Real Tank

After a long hiatus, sexy R&B crooner Tank is back to making sex music.

Known and loved for his velvety voice and suave lyrical word play, "Mr. Please Don't Go" is back with a new single and a new vibe.

The latest release, Sex Music, from his upcoming album Now or Never, is a more up tempo vibe than what we're used to from Tank, but from the looks of things, it seems to be working out pretty well for him.

Fresh on the heels of a successful movie debut, Tank is now focused on doing what he does best: making bedroom bangers.

I got a chance to sit down with him to find out what he's been up to, what it's like playing the villain, what he likes in a lady and what we can expect from his latest project.

JB: What do you have going on right now?

Tank: I have a new single out right now called Sex Music and it's taking off. It's taking sexy and throwing a little bit of groove on it and making your bedroom move a little bit. You know what I mean? Like, just kind of shaking up the atmosphere a little bit. Not just the slow [jam], which everybody kind of expects from me, but we put some tempo on it and it's working pretty good for us.

JB: When can we expect the album to come out?

Tank: For the album, we're looking at around September, maybe a little later. We want to set it up and make sure we come out and that our first week is good and let everybody know that Tank is really back with new energy and everything.

JB: How much control did you have over this project?

Tank: Me and my company, we made the whole album the way we wanted to make it. We did pretty much most of it, but we went to some good friends of ours; Jim Jones, Rico Love, Danja, Stereo Types, Harvey Nixon, Jr. and we collaborated and got some good material from them. So, it wasn't like it was a selfish project, but it was just a project that we wanted to make and we used it and we put all the pieces together to make it work.

JB: How do you feel about it? What's the excitement level and what should fans expect?

Tank: Well, it's progress from my last album Sex, Love and Pain, which was nominated for two Grammys. And then being nominated with Pleasure P, Keri and Jamie and winning one with Jennifer Hudson, I've learned a lot over those years of producing and writing and in the things that I do for myself and the things I do for other people. Now I kind of get it. I kind of see the magic that works for me and the way that I can progress into a more powerful artist, a more powerful singer/songwriter, producer...the whole nine yards. So, I'm super excited about it because I feel like everything has met together at this point in time for a reason and that's why I titled the album Now or Never, because it's the pressure I put on myself. Number one, based on what we've been able to accomplish and where I feel like we are right now and based on what R&B is. And I feel like I'll join the war in taking a stance to make sure that R&B has a platform and not just place in somebody's small club, but in somebody's arena. That's what R&B deserves; that's where it was and that's where it should always be. So that's the fight. That's the gear I'm taking; now or never.

JB: So you don't feel pressure to keep up with the "Joneses"? You still feel like you're able to do what you do and stay true to yourself?

Tank: There's no pressure for me because the great part about what I do is that I help the Joneses keep up with the Joneses. I do the writing and producing for your Chris Brown's and for all these other people who are still very relevant, so it keeps me relevant and it keeps me current to do my own project. It just falls in line.

JB: You mentioned Chris Brown, how do you feel about the rap he's getting with not being able to get his just due as being an artist because of the past stuff that he's been through?

Tank: Well, you know it's some of everything, especially the things that end up being great. I think that he's just going through some things as a result of some things that he's been through and time heals all wounds. So in time he'll serve his debt to society and prayerfully the people will feel served and they'll get back to seeing him for what he is: a very talented young man and just appreciating him in that light.

JB: Ok, so let's talk about your acting career. You were recently in a movie, what was that like for you?

Tank: Yeah, I had the movie The Preacher's Kid with me and LeToya Luckett and a host of others, which was very awesome for me. We were like the only artists on set as far as singers and we were the lead so it was tough for me.

JB: You were playing a bad guy, right?

Tank: Yeah! We were around all of these good actors so we had to pull it together. So we had some great help on set to help us do all of that and it was a stretch for me because I'm like the villain. I'm used to being the guy that's consoling the ladies and helping them through everything, and now I'm actually putting them through it. So, it was neat because I never really et to express those feeling so that gave me a chance to say things I wouldn't normally say and probably thinking. Like stuff I'd mumble under my breath, I actually got to say out loud and it was real fun doing that.

JB: What was it like watching yourself play a role like that?

Tank: It was weird. It was just weird watching myself on film period because I'm my worst critic. So everything I'm watching like, "I could have did this. Oh, I wish I would have did that." So it was tough, but I think for the time I did everything I could to prayerfully be great in that movie. So hopefully everybody will check it out and like it.

JB: What's going on with the movie now?

Tank: It's on DVD. You can get it on iTunes, Blockbuster and all that stuff. Go check it out, it's a really good movie, really good message, the whole nine, so people should go check that out.

JB: Do you plan to do more movies?

Tank: Yeah, I'm doing more movies. I want to do some action movies and stuff like that, so we're working on all of that. My management team is helping me progress in that area to make sure that when we pop there, I want to be the best in that too. So, I've got a lot of work to do; there're a lot of people ahead of me in that game.

JB: What is the craziest thing that's ever happened to you on tour?

Tank: (laughing) I can' t say the craziest thing, but I've had fans almost tip over a limo.

JB: Wow.

Tank: I mean like literally rocking it to a point where it's off the ground. At first it's funny because you're like, "My fans love me!" Then it goes to, "Ahhh, we're gonna die!" (laughing) That was my craziest thing.

JB: For the ladies, what does Tank look for in a lady and are you single, looking or what?

Tank: I'm single. I don't know if time allows me to look, but what I do like in a woman...I guess the first thing is physical attraction; for me anyway. And I like a smile. I like a woman that takes care of herself, and you can tell that when you look at a woman from her hair to her fingernails, to her feet. You know, you can tell a lot from those things.

And then in getting to know a person, of course spirituality, a sense of God being present somewhere in her life, and a sense of humor. I like to laugh and have fun. I'm a big kid. So...yeah. An you can cook a little bit at least! Some bacon and eggs or something! (laughing) Get the stomach together!

JB: For all the women who think they know you based on what they see of you on TV, what is the biggest no-no for you?

Tank: I can't say that they would get this from me from watching me, but I guess the biggest no-no just to answer the question is: I don't like easy. I've always been attracted to the woman that really isn't rushing to get into VIP. Then it's like who is that? She's secure in her own things. You know what I mean? And she doesn't need me to validate that and that's the thing that's attractive to me.

JB: Wasn't there a point where you were doing a collabo with Tyrese and Ginuwine?

Tank: Yes.

JB: What happened with that?

Tank: We tried it and we had a little bit of success with it and at the end of the day when it came to actual business time it just didn't work out.

JB: Any collabos on the album you want to mention?

Tank: We're still keeping it a secret because we're still putting the finishing touches on the album. We've got some people that are coming to the table, thank God, and they are making this project colossal. I'm going to keep a lid on that for now. Nothing's ever done until it's until it's mixed I'm not saying anything.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Lottery Ticket Movie Review

Bow Wow is back in his third big screen starring role in Ice Cube's new movie Lottery Ticket. This all-star cast production takes a comedic look at how people's lives can change when money gets involved.

In Lottery Ticket, Bow Wow plays Kevin Carson, a high school graduate, who by all practical appearances seems to be a responsible young man who is focused on working to help keep the bills paid at his grandmother's house. Until one day as luck would have it, what seemed to be the worst day of his life turns out to be the best day of his life when his number falls in the $370 million lottery.

Due to the fact that the day he goes to claim his winnings falls at the beginning of a long holiday weekend, Kevin is faced with the task of trying to figure out how he's going to hold on to the winning ticket, and his life, until the claims office reopens on Monday. And in midst of all this, somehow the entire neighborhood, including the neighborhood thug Lorenzo, finds out about his winnings and now everybody wants a piece.

With stars like Ice Cube, Brandon T. Jackson, Loretta Devine, Terry Crews, Mike Epps and Charlie Murphy one would walk into this movie expecting to be doubled-over from side-splitting laughter but unfortunately that wasn't the case; for me anyway.

While Lottery Ticket did have it's funny moments, I still left the theater a little disappointed that it wasn't as funny as I thought it was going to be. And for some reason when it came to the comedy relief, it just always seemed like Brandon T. Jackson tried way too hard to be "that guy".

Even though the overall message was endearing and the acting was believable, there was really nothing memorable about the film. I would have been totally cool waiting to see this one on video from the comfort of my own home.

So, at the end of the day I give Lottery Ticket a solid B-.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Necessary Intolerance

Before I begin this tirade you have to watch the video to fully appreciate everything I am about to say.

When I first saw this video my jaw almost hit the floor. I was disgusted, appalled and saddened by the fact that anyone would find this behavior appropriate for a child, and worse yet, that they would find it funny enough to post on the Internet.

Kids do not need to watch any and everything that comes on TV. With all the sexual predators and perverts that are teeming in our neighborhoods, is it really a good idea to have a little girl posted on the web for the world to see how well she can "ride it"? Come on! Be serious!

It's really sad that the world we live in has become so desensitized to any and everything that goes on anymore, and it's a shame that the people who actually stand up and speak out about these things are called "intolerant" and "judgmental". 

Well sometimes intolerance is needed. It seems that the more we "tolerate" the worse things get.

We tolerated them taking God out of the schools. Now the kids are killing each other at staggering rates, drop outs have increased exponentially and  we don't even blink at teen pregnancy anymore.

We have allowed society to minimalize the sanctity of marriage and now divorce rates at an all time high, gay marriage has made a mockery of God's plan for the union between men and women, and we wonder why young men have no concept of what the word "family" really means or what it takes to maintain one.

Video games show people getting their heads chopped off with demonic figures plastered all over the place, while stealing cars is rewarded with money, women and prestige. They even have a game on the market overseas that allows people to simulate rapping young girls. Then we wonder why the same kids have no problem robbing, raping and killing people in real life.

It's way past time for some intolerance. Everything is not ok and saying so doesn't mean you're being judgmental; it just means that you're standing up for what's right.

Things are on a downward spiral; you only need to turn on the news to see that for yourself. If people, the church especially, doesn't speak out then what hope do we have?

We have to do better. Education is key...when we know better we do better. If you know better then reach out and teach somebody else. Be the change you want to see.

Be blessed and stay prayerful.
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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Inception Review

Inception...where do I begin?

I'll start off by saying that Leonardo Dicaprio did a great job in this movie, but the problem is I still don't know whether to make heads or tales of the film itself. The best way to describe this film is complex.

Inception is essentially about a band of thieves who possess a very special skill: They can go into people's dreams and steal their ideas. Dom Cobb (played by Dicaprio) is the leader of the pack, and he is on the run from the U.S. government for murder and is desperately trying to find a way to get back home to his two children.

In the midst of being a fugitive, Cobb takes on various corporate espionage jobs with his partner Arthur (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to keep his head above water. But after a job gone bad due to the fact that Cobb's deranged late wife likes to randomly show up and blow his cover, unable to continue on business-as-usual for fear that his disgruntled employers will end his life, Cobb is given an offer that he can't refuse by the man that he failed to steal the idea from.

The offer: Use Inception to plant an idea into the competitions mind. The reward: Criminal record disappears and Cobb gets to go home to his family.

It seems simple enough, but we all know that making it that simple would make for a very boring movie. Needless to say, the crew takes the job and everything that can go wrong does and the audience is left on the edge of their seats waiting to see if the hero will save the day.

I applaud this film for the creativity that went into the storyline and the artistry behind the cinematography, but at the end of the day this movie was very cerebral. There was very in depth talk about the subconscious mind, it's various levels and how traumatic occurrences in dreams can affect the brain in real life, along with a lot of other psychiatric mambo jumbo.  Not only was there the talk, but as a viewer you actually have to pay attention to it if you truly expect to understand what's going on in the movie. So, this is definitely not a film to go see while you're drunk or high.

Overall, Inception was a pretty good movie. For those who thrive on explosions, high speed car chases and highly choreographed fight scenes, there was plenty of that, but make no mistake- you're going to have to use your brain for this one.

So at the end of the day, I give this movie a solid B+. If you like going to the movies for mindless entertainment this is not the movie for you to spend theater money on. Wait until it comes out on DVD. But if you enjoy a good mind-boggler, then by all means knock yourself out with this one.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Salt-Movie Review

I have to admit that in real life, I am not a huge fan of one Ms. Angelina Jolie but I have to give props where props are due: When it comes to action movies Angelina Jolie is the woman! I mean seriously, she does it all and she does it well.

So for this review I will have to look past the fact that she is a home-wrecker long enough to focus on her craft.

In the her new movie Salt, Jolie plays CIA agent Evelyn Salt who is accused by a Russian defector of being a Russian spy. What ensues after this most untimely accusation is a big budget, Hollywood-style, action-packed rat race to clear her name and foil an elaborate plan to destroy America in the process.

That is pretty much the nuts and bolts of the film. While many aspects of the plot were intriguing as it related to action, international espionage and high tech weaponry, there was really nothing exceptionally original about the plot.

The biggest redeeming factor is that Angelina Jolie proves once again in this film why she deserves to be one of the highest paid female actresses in the game. Her ability to continuously make you believe that she is whatever kick-butt-now-and-take-names-later, hard nosed, action-hero vixen that she happens to be playing at the moment is nothing short of justified fodder for the entertainment of the masses.

Liev Schreiber was pretty on point in his role as Agent Tim Winter, Salt's only ally, and Chitwetel Ejiofor was plausible as Agent Peabody, the super-alpha agent who is hell-bent on getting his man (or woman) by any means necessary.
While I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, I have to admit that I wish it would have had just a little bit more of a wow factor with respect to the storytelling aspect. But overall, it was a worthwhile movie-going experience.

At the end of the day I give Salt a solid B+.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ode to a Good Man- A True Love Story

I have to start this story off by asking the question: Do you believe in love at first sight? I do. I do because I have experienced it first hand. I met my soul mate one day in August and two weeks after we exchanged our first "hello" we were talking about getting married.

I reflected on that as I sat in my bathroom at the age of 18 anxiously counting down the torturous 3 minute time period it would take to see if the tiny little strip on the pregnancy test would let me off the hook by showing the negative sign, or seal my fate by displaying the dreaded positive sign. My heart seemed like it was going to jump right out of my chest.

As the seconds ticked away a million thoughts ran through my mind: What would I do if I was? What would he say? What would my parents say? And worst of all, what if he turned his back on me and I ended up having to do this alone?

By the time I had finished running through all the scenarios, my 3 minutes were up and sure enough there it was as big and bold as ever...a blue plus sign. Then three more pregnancy tests later there was still a big fat blue plus sign. There was no getting around it, I was pregnant by the man I had fallen in love with after only few months.

So, being the super control freak that I am and hating to have unknown variables in my life I decided to tell him and my parents immediately and get it over with. After all, what was done was done so I may well go ahead and get it over with.

After crying a river in my parents' bathroom, I pulled myself together and went over to his house and sat him down to tell him the news. Much to my surprise, a smile lit up his face and he immediately held me and told me that he was going to be there for me no matter what and not to worry about anything. He then asked if I had told my parents and I told him that I had not.

"Do you want me to come with you?" he asked. I told him no. I didn't think it would be a good idea for him to be there when I told my father, as you could imagine, he wasn't going to be too happy about his 18 year old daughter being knocked up by some guy she'd just met.

Needless to say that after I told my parents, my father reacted just as I expected. But the deed was done and there was nothing more I could do so I went to work in hopes that maybe time would fast forward him from being angry and disappointed to loving his little girl again.

As the hours went painfully by at work, I could hardly concentrate as I tried to figure out how I was going to deal with the situation at hand and before I knew it, it was time to go home. When I got there, much to my surprise even though his car was in the shop, he was sitting in the study talking to my father.

This man, my man, had jumped on his bike and rode the distance while I was at work to come and sit face-to-face and man-to-man to talk to my dad about his intentions for our child and our future. I was overwhelmed. Right then and there I knew that even though I didn't deserve it, God had blessed me with a good man.

From there we decided to move in together because I felt that it would be best for me to leave my parents home. As a young couple we got to know each other not only as lovers, but as people and ultimately best friends.

With a sense of urgency toward becoming a father, he immediately sought to secure a job with benefits and as a result had to forfeit his college basketball scholarship. He never once complained and he always made sure that I was comfortable and provided for.

Before we knew it the holidays were right around the corner. Our new life together was going extremely well and we grew to love each other more and more everyday. Then one day while we were out, he turned down a dark dirt road out in a countryfied area and proceeded to drive toward an area I had never seen before. As we approached some dark forbidding farmland I started feeling like I was being dragged into a scene from a bad horror film.

Just as he pulled into a wooded area and put the car in park, I frantically began looking out the window to survey my surroundings and off in the distance I could see a white sheet blowing in the wind. With the darkness having set in, with no street lights and bare trees at the end of November, you could only imagine what the scene looked like. Needless to say that by this time, I was getting a little scared and I demanded that he take us back out to the main road.

He just looked at me and laughed and said, "Let's go see what that is blowing in the wind." I said, "Are you crazy? We're on someone else's property, that could be some KKK mess or something!" And he just laughed and continued driving toward the sheet that was blowing in the wind.

So now I'm mad and frantically trying to figure out if I'm going to jump out of the car or what and he stops directly in front of the sheet which I'm starting to notice has some writing on it. I look a little harder to see what it says and spray painted on this sheet in the middle of nowhere are the words "Will You Marry Me".

By the time I finish reading and turn to him, I see that he is holding a box with an engagement ring in it with a smile on his handsome face and he said, "Janaya, will you marry me?"

That was 14 years ago and today I am still happily married to that man. The man who has always made me feel like a queen. The man who has always been a loving father to our children. The man who supports and encourages me in everything that I do. The God-fearing man that I will gladly follow where ever he leads. The man that I thank God for everyday and proudly call my husband.

There is so much negativity circulating in the media about men, relationships and everything in between that I just felt like putting something positive in the universe.

Ladies, good men do still exist. We just have to learn to recognize them when they are right in front of us. All too often we let them go or pass them by because of some flashy, fast-talking, charismatic disappointment that has the ability to get all up in our heads.

I'm not saying that my story is typical or that young girls should go out and try to get pregnant at a young age, rather I just felt like sharing the story of a man who made a conscious decision to step up and take care of his responsibility.

A man who I have been blessed to have been given the privilege of spending my life with and I wouldn't trade him for the world.

This is my ode to a good man. I love you Rockey.
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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Poetic Jusitce: Congrats to Elin Nordegren-Woods

I'm going to start by saying that I know that I'm going to get a lot of flack from the fellas for this one be it.

Recently, reports surfaced stating that Elin Nordegren-Woods (the estranged soon-to-be ex-wife of golf star Tiger Woods) would be receiving a $750 million divorce settlement. After this announcement was made people went on the nut on both sides of the fence arguing about why this woman should or should not receive that amount of money.

Well, here's my take on it: she deserves every penny of whatever she ends up getting.
 So what if Elin never swung a golf club other than to allegedly break out the windows of Tigers vehicle when she found out about his affairs. When that man stood before God and the rest of the world to take that woman as his lawfully wedded wife, he made a commitment. And that commitment was meant to be honored until death do them part.

I get really tired of hearing men make excuses for the men who get caught up in these situations by saying things like: Women go after high profile men so what does she expect? It's the nature of a man to want to conquer as many women as possible. Or, and this is the one I hate the most, maybe he has a sexual addiction.

Well let me just tell you that is just a heaping helping of a bunch of crap on top of crap. There is no excuse for a MARRIED man, or woman, to cheat and I applaud Elin for being strong enough to walk away with her head held high. All too often these things happen and women will overlook it just because society says that this is what men are supposed to do.  Kiss my grits with that mess!

If a person feels that they still have "wild oats" to sow, then that person should NOT get married; plain and simple. It is selfish to expect someone else to be understanding just because you want to have your cake and eat it too. Every marriage has it's ups and downs, but that's called being in a relationship. If you are unhappy with your current circumstances, be man or woman enough to go to your spouse and talk about it. If the problems can't be worked out, you don't just get to cheat, you seek any other alternative possible to try to work those problems out. That's what marriage is about. Nobody ever said it was easy!

So in this situation, and situations like these, it seems like the only thing that really truly gets these guys' attention is when you hit them where it really hurts: in their pockets. While the money won't take away the pain and humiliation that was suffered from the infidelity, it goes a long way for soothing it.

So fellas, whether she walks away with $100 or $750 million, don't hate on Elin.  Rather you should pull your boy by the coattails and tell him to take note so that it doesn't happen to him.  Next time tell him to ask himself: Is the jump-off really worth losing half? I tend to think not.

But then again, I'm just a woman. But you better believe that if my hubby messes up, I'm not just going to try to take half and I ain't lying...just read one of my books. :-)

 Anyhoo, until next time...keep it in your pants and you won't have these types of problems.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

2010 BET Awards: A Step in the Right Direction...Sort of

Well, I know I'm a little late posting this but for those who watched the BET Awards the other night, I think it would be fair to say that they definitely stepped it up from last year's debacle.

For those who didn't see it...don't worry you didn't miss a whole lot.

Sure, Queen Latifah pretty much came out of the closet, Keyshia Cole butchered BoB's Airplanes, Monica looked like she was going to fly away (though she sang beautifully), Trey Songz murderlized Prince's song, Alicia Keys gave us all a baby scare when she recklessly climbed up on the piano during her performance, Patti came out of her shoes yet again and Prince look like he wanted to backhand each and every one of his tribute performers, but overall it was a pretty decent show.

El DeBarge's performance was priceless (all 7 of them), Chris Brown danced his way back into everybody's heart with is touching MJ tribute and subsequent breakdown, and BET did a great thing by honoring regular people who are doing great things in the community.

So all in all, we see you BET! You're trying to step it up and your efforts have not gone unnoticed. Keep working still have a ways to go, but you're definitely on the right track.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Toy Story 3 Review

Woody and Buzz Lightyear are back in the third and final installment of the Disney hit mega-series, Toy Story 3.

This time around Andy is all grown up and is preparing to go off to college. As he prepares himself for his transition, his mother insists that he get rid of his unused “junk” before he leaves. So naturally, the first thing she looks to him to get rid of, store, or donate are his favorite old toys that he hasn’t played with in years.

Once the toys get wind of the fact that they may be stored away in the attic, or even worse set out on the curb, they immediately begin scrambling to come up with a plan of action. One mishap and misunderstanding later, the toys find themselves in a bad situation. What ensues is an action-packed adventure that is synonymous with everything that is Toy Story.

Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Ham, Rex, Slinky Dog and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head all find themselves in a daycare that, for all practical purposes, should be heaven for an old toy. Dazzled by the laughter of children and the colorfulness of their new surroundings, the toys find themselves being won over by the prospect of being in a place where they will never be tucked away on a shelf again. Meanwhile Woody, ever the loyal toy, tries his best to smooth everything out and convince his friends that they have to get home by trying to make them understand that Andy loves them and would never throw them away.

After deciding to try their luck at the daycare, Woody resolves to find his way back home to Andy. In the meantime, the toys quickly find out that everything is not as it seems when the head honcho, a crazed bear named Lotso, sentences them to endure toddler torture.

Without giving too much away, I have to say that this installment definitely kept me entertained. It had excitement, comedy and even a few touching moments; not to mention that the interaction between Ken and Barbie was hilarious. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen have a great chemistry with their respective characters, and the supporting cast did much to add to the Toy Story 3 experience.

Overall, I give Toy Story 3 a very enthusiastic ten spirit-fingers! It’s a great movie that the entire family can enjoy together. And now days with all the questionable things that surround much of the subject matter that you seen in movies, that’s saying a lot.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Parents: Get Involved or Go to Jail?

Recently, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced that she is pushing for a proposal that would force parents to become more active in their children's school lives by requiring them to attend parent-teacher conferences under the threat of  fines or jail time for failing to do so.

Her thought behind this is that if more parents are forced to get involved in their kids' education then maybe they will take a more active role in helping teachers be more successful in reaching their children and at the same time hoping that more parental involvement will curb juvenile violence and truancy.

Worthy's efforts on this matter have been met with a bevy of mixed emotions, and rightly so. On one hand, I completely agree with her thought process about parents needing to get more involved in the lives of their children, especially where education is concerned.  But on the other hand, I would have to say that putting people in jail for a lack of parenting skills is a little bass-ackward.

Though her heart is undoubtedly in the right place, one would have to wonder if Worthy really thought out the entire laundry list of pros and cons of what she is proposing. For instance, if a parent is brought up on charges for missing conferences, what good is it going to do the child if that parent is then thrown in jail? That reaction only compounds the problems by leaving another child in the system if there are no family members who are willing to step in.  On top of that the child now has to deal with an absent parent on top of everything else, and society has to foot the bill for yet another inmate.

But the biggest part of this piece is that you can't force someone to care. You can fine them and threaten them with the harshest punishments you can think of but at the end of the day, will that really make them care more about their kids then they do already?

While it is a no-brainer that parents obviously need to take more stock in the lives of their children, it really doesn't seem like jail time is a viable option for something like missing parent-teacher conferences. Our jail and prison systems are already overflowing with mothers and fathers who need to be at home raising their children.

So in essence, the remedy is not jail time; the remedy would be to address and modify the behavior. Maybe employers could be enlisted to make provisions for parents who need to leave work to attend parent-teacher conferences by granting time off to attend and then requiring a note from the school to verify that the parent attended. Or maybe perhaps instituting incentives for parents to come to conferences or fun incentives for them when their kids make honor roll status. Not that anyone should be paid to raise their kids, but free movie tickets would be a lot cheaper than housing them in jail for 24 hours a day for X amount of days. Just some food for thought.

I don't fault Kym Worthy for coming up with an idea, I just think that in this case the end doesn't justify the means. So let's go back to the drawing board on this one and see what else we can come up with.

What do you think?
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Friday, June 11, 2010

The Karate Kid Review

The Karate Kid is back with a vengeance! The 2010 remake of the original pop culture classic of the same name from 1984 that starred Ralph Macchio and the late Pat Morita, turned out to not be a disappointment.

Dre Parker, played by Jaden Smith, is forced leave everything he has ever known behind when his mother Sherry’s, played by Taraji P. Henson, job is transferred overseas to China. While he tries his best to be a good sport for his mother and give their new living situation a fair shot, all bets are off when he starts getting terrorized by bullies at his new school.

In the midst of ducking and dodging his middle school kung-fu master tormentors, he manages to find a friend in a young girl name Meiying (who just happens to be the object of affection of his main adversary), and an unlikely ally in the seemingly aloof maintenance man, Mr. Han, played by Jackie Chan.

If you’ve ever seen a Karate Kid movie, you pretty much know how the plot plays out from there.

In this rendition of the movie I have to give major props to young Jaden Smith. That young man did a phenomenal job in this movie. I can’t even begin to imagine the type of training he had to go through to prepare for this role. His training scenes were well portrayed and realistic, his acting was believable, and his fight scenes were very well executed.

And then to take into account the amount of dedication he had to have to see the project through to the end. Sure, super star mom and dad Jada and Will’s guidance had probably had a lot to do with it, but at the end of the day it was up to Jaden to get the job done.

Jackie Chan also gets a major kudo for his role in this project. While we already know that Chan is a masterful martial arts craftsman, he showed a whole different facet to his acting ability in this film. I have to admit that a shed more than a few mommy tears during this one.

So overall, The Karate Kid gets an enthusiastic ten spirit-fingers. This is a feel good movie with more than a few morally wholesome messages that the entire family will enjoy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Usher's New Look

Check out my recent round table interview with Usher Raymond as seen in the Michigan FrontPage!

Usher’s New Look
By Janaya Black

After a harrowing year of divorce and media-frenzy, GRAMMY award-winning artist Usher Raymond has been flying high on the wings of all that is celebratory after topping the Billboard charts with his newest album release, Raymond Vs. Raymond, and the feeling of accomplishment in the midst of the successful launch and continuation of his New Look Foundation for kids.

During a brief stop in Detroit for the 12th Annual Ford Freedom Awards, where he was named “The Dream Maker” in recognition for all of his outstanding achievement and philanthropy, the FrontPage got a chance to sit down with Usher to find out more about his “new look” and what it means to carry the title of being a “dream maker”.

FrontPage: What do you say to young people to let them know that they can and should aspire to do something other than being an entertainer, actor or athlete?

Usher: Well, my being here is a sense of dedication to something and that’s really what I hope to convey to them, that if there’s something your passionate about you should be willing to spend the time and be patient in dealing with whatever it maybe. This is hard work and a lot of times when kids are able to find motivation in what they seek, they understand better as a result of physically being able to see something. Most of the kids who are inspired are inspired by looking at the television seeing the basketball players fly down the court, or either turning on the television looking at a video, or looking at a red carpet interview or whatever it may be. I just hope to speak to them in a way of simply planting a seed today for a harvest, not quick, but one that will speak to who they ultimately want to be.

FP: Is there a correlation between what you’re saying now and the comments you reportedly made about American Idol and leap-frogging into success?

Usher: Well, often sensationalism has given us the perception that things are one way; that things are easy to come by. As I said, them being able to physically see the hard work that goes into what we do as philanthropists and what we do as artists, they don’t get a chance to come behind the scenes. But at least I can talk to them about it, answer questions and show some sense of patience.

Just to speak to the comments that were quoted in the media about me and my opinion of American Idol, I, like some other people, was of the opinion that American Idol was not the real thing. [It] was a quick fix. You look at television and you see that an artist is on television [you think] they can make it over night. It doesn’t happen that way. That’s why I was honored to be able to mentor kids, and not just kids but young adults, and show them aspects of mastering the game, of mastering this industry, and understanding the nuances that come with being an entertainer. It’s not just walk on the stage and sing and that’s it. You really have to understand stage presence. You have to understand how to connect and identify with the audience that you’re playing to, how to connect through music, through melody, through passion…that’s the heart of things that you don’t get to see through reality TV.

FP: What was your incentive behind launching an organization to educate youth about the entertainment and sports?

Usher: Well, I am the DNA for what I’ve created. As a result of having this incredible story that started from entertainment that really started from a dream, then passion and then success in music, and then a business man, and then a philanthropist and entrepreneur. To begin to engage them in that way, I feel like I’m speaking to the same kid who was 6-years-old who said, “I want to do that!” Well, here are the tools that you need in order to succeed in becoming that.

FP: Being as young as you are, how does it make you feel to be given the title “The Dream Maker”?

Usher: I love that. To be a dream maker or someone to help kids catch up to their dreams or be able to help them begin to shape these dreams into reality is, as I said, what I am. I’m a living product of it, so they can do it as well. This is part of the reason that with this 501(c) 3 that I’ve decided to go and mentor the least likely to be heard, because there lies some of the greatest most difficult, complicated stories that you have to deal with but yet they’re the most likely to succeed if you just give them the opportunity for their voice to be heard.

FP: What do you tell kids to do when it’s hard to believe?

Usher: That with the good comes the bad in life; there are high peaks and low valleys. But one thing that I told the kids as an entrepreneur, the first thing you’ve got to do is have a dream. Align yourself to your passion, create a plan and know that there will be high peaks and low valleys. Don’t stray from it if this is something that you are truly connected to and passionate about.

FP: How do you encourage young people to get involved in service?

Usher: I too am a believer that service makes a difference. The sheer statistics here in Detroit where we had an I Can’t But You Can campaign, where we allowed the kids through service to mentor adults about the voting process. The one thing President Barack Obama asked me personally was to educate our youth and give them a voice about understanding the voter campaign. So we decided to do something that would allow them to understand and that they could also be passionate about. Obviously, this president would impact their lives, so we gave them a voice through service to make a difference.

FP: What advice do you give to Justin Bieber?

Usher: Justin is a whole different story. This is a kid who, with the support of his mother, was daring enough to believe that someday all of his hard work of teaching himself single handedly to play drums, having gotten familiar with how to play piano and guitar, and listen to the radio and lean the lyrics and go out and sing about it and put it online…that right there was just unique in itself, which is why I wanted to be involved with the maturing of who he is and who he would become. The one thing that I always tell him and anybody is don’t be short-sighted. You have to understand that life is long and the story that is told then it of peaks and low valleys. Enjoy the high peaks but understand and appreciate the low valleys.

FP: How does it feel to be honored for something outside of music?

Usher: It’s right on time that in some way while you’re doing other good work, shall I say God work, things are getting taken care of.

For more information about Usher’s New Look Foundation, please visit
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