Saturday, June 30, 2012

Flashback: My BET Awards Interviews Revive My Contribution to Their AIDS Awareness Campaign

The first book to which I ever really contributed was One Hand in My Pocket, a 2001 anthology of inspirational short stories by several of my co-workers at BET about people living positively with HIV/AIDS. The book was a part of BET's Rap-It-Up campaign that paired celebrities with activists and health professionals to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. This topic, seminal to my short story "Decisions, Decisions, Decisions," was a difficult subject for me to tackle - especially as my first published fiction work. Despite the horrible title I chose, my story turned out well and I felt that I was contributing to the understanding of this pervasive illness that was wreaking havoc on many communities, especially those of color.

But there were others who had been on the front lines of the awareness campaign about HIV/AIDS since 1998. One of the most committed was Denise Stokes, the lead spokesperson for Rap-It-Up who'd been infected with HIV at age 13. When I interviewed Stokes for the 2012 BET Awards Viewers Guide (page 34), her passion for raising awareness about HIV/AIDS was moving:

"During one Rap-It-Up forum, a young student stood up in front of her entire school and acknowledged that her mother was living with HIV," said Stokes, who transformed a life of homelessness, and emotional, physical and substance abuse into such activism that she became one of the youngest members of President Clinton's HIV/AIDS advisory council. "She said she was encouraged by my story and the Rap-It-Up message and you could just feel the sincerity in her heart and the relief just to say it. The students embraced her with so much love and understanding and we, the panel members, sat there in tears, so happy for her."

Former CNN anchor TJ Holmes told me that a lot of his focus will be about what it means to be a young Black man in America as she steps into his new multi-platform role at BET. Thanks to the BET Awards Viewers Guide (page 38), I also had the opportunity to sit down with the host of "Don't Sleep!, " a late night show debuting on BET in the fall. 

"Unfortunately people have preconceived notions about young black men," said Holmes, who speaks Kikongo, the tribal language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where his wife was born. "We have absolutely failed in the media to drive this message home. We are losing an entire generation."

I learned a great deal from the interviews I did in preparation for the BET Awards. The glitz and the glam will definitely be on front street Sunday, July 1, when the high profile hit the stage - led by Samuel Jackson, one of the baaaaadest brothers on screen. While I'll certainly be checking out the red carpet, I'll also be reflecting on how refreshing it was to connect with these individuals who showcase how celebrity can play an important role in raising awareness about issues that affect us all. 

Keep on Enjoyceinglife!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

VIDEO: When I Asked Roland Martin Three Questions About Social Media....

Roland S. Martin is a fearless, off-the-cuff commentator. He's always adding in a few Roland-isms to his political analysis and social commentary on CNN, the "Tom Joyner Morning Show," and his own vehicle, "Washington Watch" on TV One. The syndicated columnist is also quite the social media enthusiast, often using humor in his posts on Twitter and Facebook.

My Spelman College co-worker Terrilyn Simmons and I put Roland Martin on the spot. Of course he rose to the occasion, clowning me for using an iPad and not a "real" camera to capture his thoughts on social media. 

Not too long ago, a comment Roland made on Twitter landed him a month-long suspension from CNN. But it didn't seem to turn him off to the digital world. As he says, he's a "keep it moving" type of guy. After Roland moderated a great social media panel at the Spelman College Leadership and Women of Color Conference, he shared his perspective in this video about mixing personal and professional brands online.


During the conference, it was so fantastic to catch up with media guru James Andrews and to finally meet Digital Sisterhood's Ananda Leeke, who also shared great tips on the social media panel. 

The next day we toasted Ananda as she was honored for her digital prowess with a key to Digital Sisterhood at the fun and frenetic Digitini Social Happy Hour, produced the ladies of Everywhere. Check out the photo gallery

I was nearly overstimulated posting comments and photos to Twitter and Facebook and dining on tasty Digitinis and yummy OMG Cup & Cakes, all while connecting with numerous social media folks I'd followed but never met. Shout out to Execumama, BrothaTech, SojournerRuth, JackieHWrites, HeyHeyLBJ and LisaCWrites. Great time!

Keep Enjoyceinglife!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Celebrating Black Fathers - Including Mine! - on

When I was asked to participate in's weeklong celebration of Black fathers, it was a no brainer for me to accept.
     I was moved by the sheer wonderfulness of AtlantaBlackStar engaging seven extremely talented Black women to write about Black fathers around seven subjects. From former Essence magazine editor-in-chief Diane Weathers to the baddest writer I know, MyBrownBaby's Denene Millner, these women explore Black fathers who are committed to leading, building, providing, caring, protecting, working and loving their families and their communities. 
     A few tears were shed as I reflected on the sacrifices my father made for our family and community. But they were tears of joy as my fingers typed about the commitment of many Black fathers to their families - a reality that rarely makes it into public dialogues about Black parenting.

     Visiting AtlantaBlackStar today, I saw that my piece was featured on homepage and nearly shed more tears because my dad is so awesome. Until you get out here in the world, it's hard to appreciate what your parents have done for you. And being a parent myself now, I'm often humbled when I look back on my childhood and realize just how involved my father was in my upbringing, when there were so many other things he could have been doing. But he is and has always been "well intentioned, sincere, respectful and responsible," as I share in my piece: Black Fathers: Building and Sacrificing to Lift Their Families
     So please join me and AtlantaBlackStar during this wonderful week of celebrating Black fathers. And keep Enjoyceinglife! 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Donna Summer & Idris Elba: Taking the Bitter with the Sweet in Jet Magazine

I arrived home yesterday evening to find my tribute to the incomparable Donna Summer in the new issue of Jet Magazine - the one with the incredibly attractive Idris Elba on the cover. As always I gobbled up the whole issue immediately: Relived writing my Donna piece (her On the Radio album was one of the first I ever had), salivated over the honesty of Idris (he's getting finer with age), and enjoyed the surprise of seeing my former coworker (Ericka Pittman, VP Brand Strategy, Sean "Diddy" Combs' The Blue Flame Agency) as one of the Jet Set 10 Under 40: Young Gifted & Black.

I'm not really a girly girl, but I'm moved pretty regularly by some of the touching wedding stories in the revamped Love section. Jet is looking great, thanks to the leadership of my talented friend Mitzi Miller, who is celebrating one year as the editor of the 61-year-old pub. Keep doing your thing, Mitzi. Your hard work is paying off - lovely!

Below are a couple of YouTube videos I posted on Facebook as I was writing my tribute to the queen of disco:

Such a clear strong voice...R.I.P. Donna...

When I was a kid I loved this song, but used to cry every time I played it because I thought it was about a real woman distraught that she'd left the cake she'd made in the rain. And it was melting. And she'd never have that recipe. Again. Now ain't that sad?!? Don't listen unless you've got 17 minutes - it's the fab long version....Missing Donna...

This is some pretty brilliant production in "Dim All the Lights" to go from country-westernish to pop dance and even a surprising dip into funky electronica. And it all works quite nicely...

Hope you're Enjoyceinglife!

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