April 2nd, 2012, by

Here’s a look back at some guests in February and March 2012.

Check out images of and quotes from journalist Thomas B. Edsall, R&B artist Anthony Hamilton, filmmaker Lucy Walker, former advertising executive Charlotte Beers, actor Don Cheadle, actor-musician Steve Martin, King of Otuam Peggielene Bartels, singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor, equal payadvocate Lilly Ledbetter, former U.S. Army Ranger Sean Parnell, physician-author Mark Hyman and singer-songwriter Macy Gray.

For additional images and quotes from the “Made Visible” discussion, visit our slide show on the feature page.

All images by Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.

March 31st, 2012, by

This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding affirmative action for the first time in nearly a decade. Photo:Duncan Lock creativecommons via Wikimedia

Since 1997, the state of Texas has had a policy in which the top ten percent of any of its high schools’ graduating classes would have automatic entrance into any state-funded universities, including the University of Texas.

This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on claims that a female student was denied admittance to the University of Texas due to its affirmative action policy.

There are a two major concerns I have with her argument.

First off is the student’s academic standing at the time of her high school graduation. With respect to the “top ten” rule, this student just didn’t graduate in that percentile. So it wasn’t that she was denied admittance due to race, she simply did not meet the school’s particular qualifications at that time for “top ten” admittance.

Secondly, on the issue of affirmative action, I think it is important to note the evolving history of its standing. While affirmative action was, in its inception, designed to help African Americans, it was later expanded to offer support to other citizens who were discriminated against, including women. So, in essence, this plaintiff is arguing against a policy that is designed to help persons of color and women. President Lyndon Johnson made sure of it with an Executive Order in 1967.

This year’s upcoming case is sure to bring up a hotbed of topics, especially surrounding this issue of race. Before all the talking heads begin offering their opinion, I thought I’d go ahead and share my two cents.

March 31st, 2012, by

I recently posted about an exhibition of photographs from inside North Korea, some taken by an American photojournalist, others provided by the state’s news agency. While the photos afford a rare glimpse inside the notoriously secretive nation, they remain fairly benign, clearly the result of the extremely limited access afforded the photographer by his North Korean minders.

While researching the post, I came across this story about a young man’s escape from inside a North Korean prison camp. It is truly one of the most horrifying accounts I’ve ever read. Shin In Geun was born a prisoner. “The…crime Shin’s father had committed was being the brother of two young men who had fled south during the Korean war. Shin’s crime was being his father’s son.” He knew nothing of his mother’s crimes or past–she never spoke of them, and he never asked.

Shin was one of an estimated 200,000 political prisoners inside North Korea and is the only one known to have escaped from the unbelievably harsh conditions of its labor camps. He was regularly tortured, starved, beaten and terrorized. He was 20 when he learned–from another prisoner, an educated man who had traveled outside North Korea–that the world was round.

This story is truly shocking, and there’s no reason to believe that the conditions Shin describes in the account of his memoir, written by journalist Blaine Harden, Escape From Camp 14, do not persist for many thousands inside the socialist state. When held alongside the photos from the exhibition, they take on new meaning. Not only do we have almost no idea of the goings-on inside North Korea, stories like this one only underscore how troubled and broken the nation is.

March 31st, 2012, by

A trailer appeared online recently for Disney’s upcoming nature docudrama Chimpanzee, which tells the story of an orphaned chimp, his adopted parent and the bond that forms between them. The trailer is obviously adorable. You’d have to be made of stone to not be moved by the two of them cuddling and playing together as the little ape grows up. In pretty much every way, they appear to behave a lot like people.


Being the unrelenting critic that I am (and some might substitute “cynic” for “critic”, which would not be unfair), my first thought after watching this was, “Well this looks more than a little manipulative.” Chimps are indeed a lot like humans, from their DNA down to the fact that they are the only other animals who make and use tools; but the fact remains that they are not humans and should not be viewed as such. Just ask the lady who had her face mauled by one a few years back. Or these folks.

It’s worth noting here that Chimpanzee will likely have a great effect on protecting chimps in the wild, both through a percentage of ticket sales going to charity and by spreading awareness about the species’ plight, both very good things. If Jane Goodall is involved, the project has about as much chimpanzee street cred as anyone could want. My concern, however, is that this movie and others like it, go too far in their anthropomorphism of animals and are ultimately dangerous to people’s understanding of them.

Around the time March of the Penguins came out, there was plenty of criticism about the way the film applied human emotions to its animal stars. As experts subsequently noted, it’s highly unlikely that penguins are capable of the range of emotions–or bare intelligence–given them by the filmmakers. Sure, it makes for a better narrative, but at the expense of truth in what is ostensibly a nature documentary, it hardly seems appropriate or responsible.

To be fair, chimps are a lot smarter than penguins, and judging an entire film by the contents of its trailer is a bit like judging a book by its cover. However, if I were a parent taking my kids to see this movie, I’d want to make sure they had the whole story, not just the bit that makes for a good Disney narrative. Or, more likely, I’d just take them to see Ice Age. There, at least, we could enjoy a good story without worrying too much about facts getting in the way.

March 30th, 2012, by

Donald Trump blasts Paul Ryan's latest plan. Photo: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Can’t members of the GOP just all get along? Whether it’s Newt fighting against Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum undermining Romney, folks in the GOP just don’t seem to get along these days. Now, it’s Trump forging ahead with the latest GOP criticism.

According to a recent interview on CNBC, Donald Trump weighed in on the release of the Ryan budget plan that recently passed in the House of Representatives.

The former presidential hopeful thinks the timing of the release was a bad idea. The plan as it stands is also slated by political analysts to be DOA in the Senate. The Ryan plan calls for tax cuts for the wealthy and deep spending cuts, including in Medicare.

Trump ultimately cancelled his bid for the White House, citing his part-time gig as celebrity host of NBC’s The Apprentice as too much of a good thing to leave behind.

Back in 2011, Mr. Trump filed as an independent, in order to preserve his ability to run for the Oval Office should he find himself still interested in the 2012 election. However, his political adviser states that Mr. Trump still has strong Republican roots. Check out the full interview to hear more of The Don’s political viewpoints.

Speak Out: Was Trump being too critical of Ryan’s plan, or does his argument have some merit?

March 30th, 2012, by

Photo courtesy: Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.

Airdate |
Monday, April 2, 2012

Hometown | Lansing, MI

Birth name | Earvin Johnson

Parents | Christine and Earvin Johnson, Sr.

Why You (Should) Know Him

  • He was drafted first overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1979 and played alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. All 13 years of his NBA career were with the Lakers.
  • Johnson and Larry Bird symbolize the Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics rivalry in the 1980s.
  • His retired #32 Lakers jersey is still worn by fans across the globe.
  • His November 7, 1991 press conference, where he announced testing positive for the HIV virus and his subsequent retirement, was named as ESPN’s seventh most memorable moment of the past 25 years. He is an HIV activist, working under the Magic Johnson Foundation to spread awareness and educate people about the disease. ESPN Films recently aired “The Announcement,” which outlined that event and what followed.

Why He’s Buzzing

  • He’s part of Guggenheim Partners, a group that, as of March 27, agreed to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt for a record-shattering $2 billion.
  • His rivalry with Boston Celtic Larry Bird is the pulp of the stage production Magic/Bird, which will premiere on March 21, 2012 at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway in New York City.
  • ESPN Films’ The Announcement premiered on March 11, 2012. (See trailer below)
  • He’s recently linked up with Comcast to launch Aspire, his own 24-hour “inspirational-themed” cable television network. The channel will target African Americans and is scheduled to launch on June 30 of this year.

Magic Johnson Trivia

  • He was dubbed “Magic” after he scored 36 points, 16 rebounds and 16 assists while playing at Everett High School. He was only 15 years old. Furthermore, his mother thought the nickname was blasphemous.
  • The Johnson-Bird rivalry didn’t start with the Lakers and Celtics. The rivalry traces back to the 1979 NCAA finals, when Johnson and Michigan State defeated Bird and the Indiana State ball club. The two men became friends while filming a Converse show advertisement in 1984. Bird inducted Johnson into the Hall of Fame, and Johnson attended Bird’s 1992 retirement ceremony.
  • In 1980, he became the first rookie to start in an All-Star game.
  • According to his biography, his on-court skills “inspired the addition of the term ‘triple-double’ to basketball’s lexicon.” (A triple-double is when a player accrues a double-digit number total in any of three categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots.)
  • At 6 ft. 9 in, he is the tallest point guard to play that position in NBA history.
  • He hosted his own talk show on Fox called The Magic Hour in 2008.

The Magic Johnson Empire

Under Magic Johnson Enterprises, subsidiaries include: his promotional company, Magic Johnson Productions; Magic Johnson Theaters, a chain of movie theaters around the U.S., his movie studio, Magic Johnson Entertainment; and the Magic Johnson Foundation, a charity that, according to their mission statement, ‘works to develop programs and support community-based organizations that address the educational, health and social needs of ethnically diverse, urban communities.’

Selection of Honors

Elected to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2002)
NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)
NBA Most Valuable Player (1987, 1989, 1990)
Nine-time All-NBA First Team (1983-1991)
All-NBA Second Team (1982)
All-Star Most Valuable Player (1990, 1992)
Olympic Gold Medalist (1992)


  • Magic’s Touch: From Fundamentals to Fast Break with One of Basketball’s All-Time Greats (1992)
  • What You Can Do to Avoid AIDS (1996)

ESPN Films: The Announcement Trailer


March 30th, 2012, by

When hip-hop lost a brother, Ms. Voletta Wallace lost a son. (Photo credit: H.Depot)

Voletta Wallace mourns the loss of her son the way any mother would. Her son Christopher Wallace, aka The Notorious B.I.G. was shot and killed in California in 1995.

It’s been 15 years since the smooth rapper extraordinaire was taken away from us. Since that time, Voletta Wallace’s quest for justice has been unwavering.

Unfortunately to this day, no arrests or convictions from the 1995 shooting and subsequent death have been made. Now, Biggie’s Mom says it’s time for justice to prevail, and there’s talk of new information that may finally lead to just that.

L.A. Weekly journalist Chris Vogel writes that a former police detective, Greg Kading, recently wrote and self– published his account of the L.A. investigation in his newest book, Murder Rap.

In the article, Vogel goes on to write that Kading’s information may provide new evidence, which can hopefully lead to some closure and justice for the Wallace family. No mother or family should ever have to go through that.

It’s a tragic case that has been cold for too long. And while the hip hop community felt as if they lost a brother, it’s important to remember that Ms. Wallace in fact, lost a son. My hope is that the new information leads to an actual arrest and conviction soon.

March 26th, 2012, by

Today the fight for job creation, home ownership and sustainable living is at the forefront of many Americans’ lives. Often times when listening to news reports of the number of men and women facing unemployment and foreclosures in this new economy, it’s important to put a real face to these issues.

Yahoo’s Remaking America is an exploration of people in the country living, working and fighting to survive. It is an extraordinary journey into the lives of Americans who are at a financial and, at times, emotional crossroads in their lives.

These families have shared their stories for the world to see in an effort to put a face on the real issues many Americans are facing throughout the country. The courage displayed in sharing their stories is a testament to the American spirit of perseverance and excellence. Hopefully it will inspire you to dig deep and overcome any challenges you may face in your life.

Check out the clip below.

March 24th, 2012, by

Even with the glut of excellent TV soon to be upon us–the return of Mad Men this weekend and Game of Thrones next–I was disappointed to hear about the recent cancellation of HBO’s newest series, Luck. Created by David Milch (of Deadwood renown) and starring Dustin Hoffman, among other notables, Luck looked like it might have the goods to become a hit.

Sadly, after two horses died on set during the filming of season 1, and a third perished during the filming of season 2, HBO pulled the plug on the series. Some speculated that HBO’s reasoning had more to do with the buzz-diminishing effect of the deaths, while others pointed out that groups like PETA had been critical of Luck since the beginning.

What’s clear is that HBO entering into the unwinnable debate on the ethics of horse racing wouldn’t have been good for business.

The irony of this situation, of course, is that Milch is an outspoken lover of horses and horse racing, and Luck is something of a love letter to his lifelong devotion to the sport. A sad, seedy love letter, but a love letter nonetheless. The other irony is that horses regularly die in the course of horse racing and training, often at a far greater rate than they did on the show. Nonetheless, the argument that one horse death for the sake of entertainment is one too many seems to prevail here. The animal rights activists have won this battle, but the war is ongoing.

March 24th, 2012, by

A new solo show by Canadian photographer Stan Douglas takes a look at the culture of the 1970s through the lens of a fictional photojournalist. Douglas’ latest works examine two seemingly disparate 1970s cultural scenes–disco-era New York City and post-war Angola–and shows how common elements in dance, fashion and politics suggest they are closer linked than we might think. Juxtaposing scenes carefully set up to resemble ’70s-era New York City’s vibrant disco scene with images recreating Angola in its heyday, Douglas comments on war, dance and the cultural crossovers between those far-flung locations in that turbulent decade.

Apart from Douglas’ convincing art direction, which flawlessly and artfully recreates both of these places and times, the show is a great starting point for a discussion on the distinctions between journalism and art. How apropos.

Disco Angola, at New York’s David Zwirner Gallery, runs through April 28th. Or check out the slideshow on Cool Hunting.

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