All Articles Tagged "activism"

MLK Would Be Proud: Celebrities Who Won’t Stay Silent On Injustices

January 19th, 2015 - By M A
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Celebrities are more than just red carpets adornments and glitz and glamour. While we will admit that there are many A-listers who seem more concerned with themselves than they do with serving their communities, we’d be remiss to discount the countless celebrities who donate their time, money, energy and likeness to a variety of causes. From domestic violence awareness and prevention to campaigning against racial and social inequality, some celebs are true inspirations. In their honor, MadameNoire takes a look at the celebrities who speak out and refuse to stay silent when it comes to the issues they are most passionate about.

World AIDS Day: Activist Maria Davis Reveals How AIDS Virus Has Affected Her Love Life

December 1st, 2013 - By Madame Noire
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Back in 1995, South Bronx-born music promoter Maria Davis was on top of the world — young, beautiful, happy, and getting her first real taste of success. Her weekly “MAD Wednesdays” hip-hop showcase was a hot industry event, and as its host she even scored a guest spot on Jay-Z’s debut album “Reasonable Doubt.”

But then came the letter that sent her entire world crashing down. When she was forced to take a blood test for a life insurance policy, Davis learned she was HIV positive, and had contracted the virus from her fiance. Three years later, she was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS.

That was 14 years ago. Today, despite the odds, Davis is not only alive and well but also on a mission: She is a Making AIDS History Ambassador, and together with the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), she’s spent the last 18 years of her life fighting to stay alive and to help spread awareness within her community and raise money to support research for a cure.

We know all about her public battles, but when sat down with Davis we asked her how living with AIDS has affected her private life. She opened up about her desire to find a soul mate and the hurdles the disease has created along her path to true love.

ESSENCE: Have you dated a lot since your diagnosis? What’s dating been like for you?
DAVIS: It’s been very fearful. But I love love. Tyler Perry is a big inspiration. I’m always watching his movies and the relationship dynamics that he puts in them. They’re all about a woman being hurt and finding love, and I’m crying and thinking to myself, Man, I want to be in love too. I’m not having a relationship with anybody unless I know their status. You can be re-infected. Another part of it is the person I’m sleeping with could have a different strain of the virus than I do. So whereas your strain is manageable, you could get another strain and it could take you out of here. The only way you can know for sure is to go and get tested together. That’s for anyone, in any kind of relationship. Whether you’re jumping the broom, just dating, whatever – before you sleep with someone, you should know him or her in and out. You have husbands and wives who have given each other HIV.

ESSENCE: Is making your status known right away most important to you when you’re dating someone new?
DAVIS: Absolutely! I’m a spokesperson. The only way you really don’t know I have HIV is if you haven’t read or seen anything about me. But I make it clear that I am living with AIDS. Actually, when I’m in a relationship, I’m more afraid of an individual than they are of me, trust me. They know what I have coming into the relationship, but I don’t know what they have. Are you telling the truth? Are you being honest? Are you telling me one thing, but it could be another thing? If so, then my life is in jeopardy all over again.

ESSENCE: Do you feel it’s been harder to find love because of your diagnosis or your fears?
DAVIS: Let’s be for real: It’s because of my diagnosis. I’ve had guys tell me I’m fine, or they try to talk to me. Then when I tell them that I’m living with AIDS they kind of back off. I do have one friend I’ve been in and out of a relationship with. But his head isn’t ready yet.

You can read the rest of Maria Davis’ interview over on, including advice she has for younger women who are dealing with HIV or AIDS and yearn to have a successful relationship. This is yet another important facet of dealing with this terrible disease that often gets overlooked. It is great to see Maria Davis opening up even more about how it has affected her personal life.

‘That Dude Don’t Stand For Nothing In The Hood:’ Tionna Smalls Rips Into Jay Z’s Barneys Response

October 28th, 2013 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Jay Z

Sources: Facebook, WENN

Yesterday we told you that hip hop mogul Jay Z  finally issued a response to growing concerns in the Black community regarding his business partnership with luxury department store chain, Barneys New York. The controversy began after the company made headlines for allegedly using racial profiling tactics in an attempt to cut down on fraud. The methods unfortunately led to the unjust arrest of 19-year-old Trayon Christian and the questioning of 21-year-old Kayla Phillips. Both young adults are now suing the luxury retailer. In response to a petition urging the 43-year-old Brooklynite to take a stand and end his business deal with Barneys, Jay issued an official statement.

Many of you predicted that he would continue to straddle the fence, never truly taking a stand either way. And according to some, that’s exactly what he did.

“Making a decision prematurely to pull out of this project, wouldn’t hurt Barneys or Shawn Carter, but all the people that stand a chance at higher education. I have been working with my team ever since the situation was brought to my attention to get to the bottom of these incidents and at the same time find a solution that doesn’t harm all those that stand to benefit from this collaboration,” an excerpt from his statement reads.

As with anything, there are mixed feelings regarding his response. Some feel that he’s totally justified in not jumping the gun and cutting ties with Barneys. Others found it to be a total cop out. One of those people happen to be MTV’s Girl Get Your Mind Right star, Tionna Smalls. The outspoken Brooklynite took to her Twitter page to blast the rapper for his lukewarm stance.

“That’s why we keep getting sh***ed on because the ones who are in the talented 10th don’t take a stand.

“The boy who bought the Ferragamo belt and the girl who bought the Celine bag wanted to be like stars when they bought those items. Not knowing that stars don’t give an F when Shyte hit the fan. I was that girl saving my $$$ to get nice ish. So I’m 100% against Barneys!Everybody admire Jay-Z for what? I really see what people were telling me years ago. That dude don’t stand for nothing in the hood!” she continued.

She went on to address the widespread credit scams, which is believed to be part of the reason that Barneys has gotten more aggressive with their loss prevention tactics.

“Yall credit card scammers get me phucking sick too cuz it’s a lot of yall fault why law biding, young, blacks are stopped!If your stomach don’t hurt after seeing this cover of the NY Daily News- I have to question your humanity! Geesh!”

“Jay-Z has more power in the black community than anyone and I swear to God, Allah, Buddah, &Jesus that he never uses it the right way! STAND FOR SOMETHING OR YOU WILL FALL FOR ANYTHING! Now everyone is going to act like Jay-Z dont have any power in the hood! Stop it! I am done. Jay-Z pissed me off and I’m over it.”

Do you agree with Tionna?

Nanny? Not! Most Childcare Workers Make Poverty Wages

August 9th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Why are childcare workers paid so little? That’s the question journalist E. Tammy Kim, who is set to join Al Jazeera America as a staff writer, set out to answer recently in an article for The Nation reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute with support from the Ms. Foundation for Women Fellowship.

In “Why Do the People Raising Our Children Earn Poverty Wages?,” Kim writes: “Childcare workers perform that most vital labor, rearing our young, But across the country, they are invisible and poorly paid, without healthcare, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation or other benefits.”

Low wages are common. Each state conducts an annual market-rate survey of childcare fees and then tries to pay providers around the recommended seventy-fifth percentile (few states do), reports Kim. The market, however, reflects what parents are willing to pay, not the actual costs.

“In theory, providers could raise their private-pay rates or impose strict late fees to make up the difference,” Kim points out. But the reality is that most parents just can’t afford to pay more as child care already takes a large chunk of their income.

Most child care workers are  middle-aged women of color, earning very little in comparison to the responsibility they hold. According to Kim’s findings, most child care workers are low-income and a significant number do not speak English. “Legally, they are not considered employees. In New Jersey and 14 other states, in-home providers paid through public subsidies now belong to a union and can bargain collectively,” writes Kim.

In New Jersey, for example, “full-time” subsidy rate is based on only 30 hours per week (or “6 or more” hours per day) of childcare. “This hardly covers the average parent’s workday of eight or more hours plus the commute, but there’s no bonus or overtime pay for anything over 30 hours,” reports Kim.  Due to this, the child care provider either charges a late fee or works the extra hours free. In 2011, the median income for a child care provider was $19,000 per year. Seventeen percent were living in poverty.

There is a push to organize child care providers to provide them better pay and working conditions. But the move has had many struggles. Read more at The Nation, but please chime in. What do you think is fair pay for a child care provider?

Please Welcome Cash Money’s Newest Signee…Al Sharpton! The Rev Signs A Deal For His Latest Project

June 29th, 2013 - By Drenna Armstrong
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Rev. Al Sharpton

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No, I’m not joking.

My initial response was, “No, who’s playing a cruel joke?”  I mean, this has already been a tough week in news, entertainment and everything else. The last thing we needed was for Al Sharpton to lose his mind.

But according to, is definitely signed to Cash Money. Well, Cash Money Content, that is.  Rev. Sharpton recently signed a deal with Cash Money Content, the record label’s publishing division, to release his new book, The Rejected Stone. The deal is a partnership between CMC and Simon & Schuster’s Atria imprint.

The book will be discuss how Sharpton went from a cunning street activist to a civil rights leader. It will be released on October 8th.

This is definitely an odd pairing and neither Sharpton reps nor Cash Money reps discussed how or why they decided to sign this deal. In fact, Sharpton and Lil Wayne, Cash Money Records’ biggest bread winner, got into a war of words just a few years ago.

In 2008, Sharpton harshly criticized Wayne’s excessive use of the “b word” and “n word” in his music. In response, Wayne came directly back at Sharpton in a song from his The Carter III album saying, “You are no Jesse Jackson. You are nobody to me. You’re just another Don King—with a perm.” That prompted Sharpton to make one last response: “Why dignify a response to one rap artist who doesn’t even say anything substantive?”

Sharpton says he will discuss Lil Wayne and other rappers in his book in hopes of starting an open dialogue:

“Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable.”

I guess that’s that! Something tells me Lil Wayne still won’t be jumping at the opportunity to have a discussion with Rev. Al.

Keep Your Eye On The Prize: How Ory Okolloh’s Vision Took Her From Blogger to Google Influencer

February 28th, 2013 - By C. Cleveland
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Welcome to the “Work It!” column, where we take a look at business innovation of every kind.

Being an innovator in your field can be as easy as K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Sis. A singular vision focuses your efforts on becoming the best at what you do, and reduces your chances of being sidetracked or scattered. Ory Okolloh’s rise from blogger activist to policy manager for Africa for Google is a perfect example of the difference having a vision can make on your career.

Watch Vision Work

Okolloh realized early on that her true passion was using technology to ensure African voices were heard.

In 2006, Okolloh co-founded (“patriot” in Swahili) to track the Kenyan Parliament. The country’s TV and print media took weeks or months to sort through legal developments in the country. Meanwhile, Okolloh’s blog meticulously tracked the actions of political leaders and kept records of parliamentary bills in real time.

During Kenya’s controversial 2007 presidential election, which was marked by outbreaks of violence, she co-founded another site Ushahidi (“Testimony”). This time she focused on helping citizen journalists report incidents of violence and peace efforts. Before the experts dubbed the process “activist mapping, ” Okolloh’s site leveraged web, mobile, e-mail, SMS, Twitter, and Google Maps to visualize what was happening on the ground.

Ushahidi evolved from a website into a nonprofit tech company developing software platforms for citizen journalist initiatives. The organization was called on to launch humanitarian efforts in the aftermath of earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, a wildfire outbreak in Russia, and snowstorms in Washington DC.

via Twitter

via Twitter

The Perks of Being An Expert

Okolloh’s success in online activism allowed her to move on from blogging to become a spokesperson for citizen journalism, youth activism, and technology in Africa. In a world where non-experts are championed, Okolloh is an anomaly.

The trend of the moment is to know a little something about everything. It’s true; non-experts are able to pull from a variety of sources to come up with creative solutions. However, the old-fashioned approach of focusing on what you’re good at still has its benefits.

Thoroughly understanding the space where you work allows you to recognize needs others wouldn’t.  Working where your passion and strengths intersects, ensures that you enjoy what you do, and won’t mind putting in the extra work required to be the best.

“One of the best pieces of advice I received while I was at the university was to get paid to do what you love to do, so that’s my philosophy, and much of the time you find it’s not mutually exclusive and your natural talents is what you end up loving to do. But passion – you spend so much time working, ideally you want to love it.”

– Ory Okolloh, “Africa’s Most Successful Women: Ory Okolloh,” Forbes

A clear vision for your career begins with looking inside. Start thinking about what you love, and how you can use your strengths to pursue it.

C. Cleveland covers professional development topics and entrepreneurial rebels who blaze their own career paths. She explores these stories and more on The Red Read, Twitter (@CleveInTheCity) and Facebook (/MyReadIsRed).


We’re highlighting Pioneers in the Game every day here on Madame Noire. Click here to meet all of our salutes.

And The Winner Is: Kerry Washington Wins Big At The NAACP Image Awards

February 2nd, 2013 - By Drenna Armstrong
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"Steve Harvey pf"


Well, 2012 certainly turned into the “Year of Kerry” and 2013 started out recognizing Kerry Washington for all that hard work. The actress picked up three awards during Friday’s 44th NAACP Image Awards: outstanding actress in a drama for Scandal, supporting actress in a film for Django Unchained and the President’s Award which is a special recognition for public service. As many may know, Kerry was very instrumental during both terms of President Obama’s campaigning.

The show was hosted by Steve Harvey and was held at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Washington noted during her first “thank you” speech for Django that the award did not belong to her, but rather to the ancestors whose shoulders they stood on while filming the movie.

Other winners during the live portion (many of the awards were given out prior to the NBC broadcast) included: Don Cheadle for outstanding actor in a comedic series for House of Lies, Loretta Devine for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series for Grey’s Anatomy and Lance Gross, looking a king size chocolate bar, for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy for Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.

The legendary entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte was honored with the Spingarn Award, which honors outstanding achievements by an African-American.  Common and Wyclef immediately followed with their version of Belafonte’s “Day O.”

The surprise award of the night was handed to George Lucas for Red Tails, winning for outstanding motion picture. Lucas joked on staged by saying, “Look, I beat Tarantino” who was also nominated in the category for Django Unchained.

Gladys Knight also performed “The Way We Were” during the “In Memoriam” portion of the show.

Denzel Washington, Viola Davis and Omar Epps were televised winners but were not present to accept their awards. While they absolutely could have been busy working, it makes you wonder if some celebrities feel that these awards shows (read: the black awards shows) aren’t as important as the so-called “major” awards. Just a thought.

Did you catch it? What did you think? Fashion reviews?

TV ALERT: 2012 Black Girls Rock! Awards On Tonight!

November 4th, 2012 - By Drenna Armstrong
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D. Salters/

It has quickly become one of the most respected awards shows highlighting the successes of African-American women in almost any field but particularly the media and finally, we get to see what is going to unfold during the 2012 Black Girls Rock! awards show.

Hosted by actresses Tracee Ellis-Ross and Regina King, the show will air tonight on BET at 7p/ET. This year’s honorees include: singers Dionne Warwick, Alicia Keys and Janelle Monae, magazine legend Susan L. Taylor, activist Dr. Hawa Abdi and actress Kerry Washington.  There will also be performances by Ciara, Brandy, Keyshia Cole, India Arie and Alicia Keys. Men are allowed in on the act this year with performances from Luke James and Eric Benet.

The awards show is an extension of Black Girls Inc., founded by DJ Beverly Bond. The purpose of BGR is to foster the healthy development of young women and girls.  They aim to build the self-esteem and self-worth of young women of color by changing their outlook on life, broadening their horizons and helping them to empower themselves. It has been quite amazing watching the organization grow over the last few years.

Will you be watching?


Alice Walker Refuses Reprint of “The Color Purple” in Israel to Fight Apartheid: Was She Right?

June 20th, 2012 - By Charing Ball
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Famed Author Alice Walker is making headlines for her refusal to authorize an all-Hebrew version of the classic book The Color Purple, the 1982 novel about inhuman treatment of a poor black girl in the rural South.

The 68-year old acclaimed author and activist recently sent a letter to Yediot Books, an Israeli publishing house, politely requesting that her book not be republished “at this time” because of Israel’s inhumane treatment of its neighbors in Palestine. In the letter, which was also published on the website of the “Palestine Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel,” Walker writes:

“Thank you so much for wishing to publish my novel THE COLOR PURPLE.  It isn’t possible for me to permit this at this time for the following reason: As you may know, last Fall in South Africa the Russell Tribunal on Palestine met and determined that Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories. The testimony we heard, both from Israelis and Palestinians (I was a jurist) was devastating.  I grew up under American apartheid and this was far worse.  Indeed, many South Africans who attended, including Desmond Tutu, felt the Israeli version of these crimes is worse even than what they suffered under the white supremacist regimes that dominated South Africa for so long.

It is my hope that the non-violent BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, of which I am part, will have enough of an impact on Israeli civilian society to change the situation.”

The letter also goes on to mention the personal significance of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning novel, “to rid humanity of its self-destructive habit of dehumanizing whole populations” including Walker’s insistence that the film version not be shown in apartheid South African.  She writes, “I lobbied against this idea because, as with Israel today, there was a civil society movement of BDS aimed at changing South Africa’s apartheid policies and, in fact, transforming the government.”

Walker roots in the BDS movement against Israel can be traced back to her nuptials to a Jewish law student in 1967 when she started learning more about the sorted history of the country, this according to an interview with Foreign Policy magazine. Last year, she would join the flotilla of ships, which sought to break Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip in hopes of bringing supplies and raising awareness of the situation there. Already, pro-Israel groups are jumping on Walker, accusing her of being Anti-Semitic, including right-wing conservative blogger Debbie Schlussel, who called Walker’s act a far-left pronouncement from a “self-important Ms. Thang” and “excessively-hyped, lesbionic screedist.”

However, Walker is not the only artist willing to take a stand against the heavy-handed practices of Israel. Artists Against Apartheid, an international alliance committed to equal rights and justice, as well as the elimination of apartheid worldwide, has also called for cultural boycotts of Israel and is supported by hundreds of artists around the world, including former Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters, Carlos Santana and Elvis Costello.

The Israeli conflict/occupation is now in its fifth decade. Despite international pressure for Israel to stop the of expansion of its original stated 1948 boundaries, that country continues to increase the number of settlements into Palestinian territories – often times by military force and in violation of international law. This has resulted in not only the displacement of Palestinians from their homes but also a wave of violence from both sides including suicide bombings by Palestinians within Israel and the death of thousands of civilians along the Gaza Strip.

Sexual Assault of Black Women: A Non-Issue for Black Organizations?

September 1st, 2011 - By Christelyn Karazin
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sexual assault

I turn on the television and see Jesse Jackson marching with Walmart workers, Al Sharpton is doing the 24-hour news circuit, and the leader of the New Black Panthers is somewhere defending young black boys against the latest outrage de jour.  As nice as that seems, every protest is centered around the plight of black men, to address the racist penal system, or complain about government entitlements, unequal education, lack of jobs–the list goes on.  There are marches and picket lines for the latest offense, but virtually none of them directly involve the mistreatment of black women through rape and sexual abuse that happens more and more often these days.  Most of the offenses are perpetrated by the boys and men they love and know–many who look like them.  No longer is the bogeyman without. He is within.