Ashanti Douglas, Topping the Charts and Helping Frontline Workers

File: Ashanti 2012.jpg” by MoniqueTatum is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

| Written by Melony F. Carter | February 14, 2021|

Grammy award winner, actress, songwriter, and student of professional dance— Ashanti Douglas was born October 13, 1980 in the small city of Glen Cove, not far from Long Island, New York.

Ascending From Dance to Music

With a strong foundation in performance arts, she studied at the school of Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center. Ashanti’s mother, now “momager” Tina Douglas and father, Kincaid Douglas had allowed Ashanti to express herself as a talented dancer.

Soon her dedication would yield results, allowing her to perform at Carnegie Hall and the Apollo Theater. As a youth, Ashanti would go on to earn a spot in the Disney TV movie, “Polly” for director and choreographer Debbie Allen.

Cultivated to dance, at eleven, Ashanti’s mother was convinced her daughter was born to be a star. One day upon overhearing Ashanti singing an acapella version of Mary J Blige’s, song, “Reminisce” Tina believed she was meant to sing.

The Record Label’s Lead Vocalist  

An honor student in high school, Ashanti was offered athletic and academic scholarships for Princeton University and Hampton University. But it was her passion for a career in music that drove her to continue pursuing a record deal. For her, to nestle her R & B techniques with hip-hop and rap, would allow her to standout. Ashanti searched for the right record label. After leaving Def Jam she signed with gangster label, Murder Inc. becoming the first lead vocalist. With the chance to flex, Ashanti showcased her talent on the chorus “How We Roll” with artist Big Pun.

Topping the Billboard Charts

Confident, that Ashanti was ready for the mainstream, executive record producer Irv Gotti, decided it was time for the songstress to release her own album, “Ashanti”.

In April of 2002, with hits like “Always on Time” featuring Ja Rule, and so forth, Ashanti was the first artist since the Beatles, to have two songs, “Foolish” and “What’s Luv?” in the Hot 100 Billboard top ten— alongside, the third, that she wrote for singer, Jennifer Lopez, “Ain’t It Funny” in the first week of her album release.

Acting, Awards and Philanthropy

Holding over 73 acting credits and the recipient of many awards, Ashanti has appeared in role such as, the film Coach Carter (2005), Malcolm X (1992), John Tucker Must Die (2006) and Resident Evil: Extinction (2007). She has also appeared in the TV series Proud Family, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. 

Most recently, today, Ashanti Douglas, during the pandemic— has reached out in support of frontline workers in New York Hospitals by providing 30,000 N95 masks and 400 breakfasts from “Beyond Meat and Dunkin’ Donuts,” vegan breakfasts sandwiches. She has also released her new single, “I Want You” (2021) which is already streaming on most social media platforms.   

Cited Works:

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Ashanti.” Encyclopedia Britannica, February 14, 2021 https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/music-popular-and-jazz-biographies/ashanti-singer

Staff Writer, Los Angeles, CA, Enjoli, Audrey of Live Kindly. “Ashanti Supports Frontline Workers With Free Vegan Meat.” MAY 1ST, 2020 https://www.livekindly.co/ashanti-frontline-workers-vegan-meat/

An Original Influencer, Cicely Tyson

| Written by Melony F. Carter | February 7, 2021|

A Broadway performer, a multi-generational award-winning actress, a former Ebony magazine model, the dignified Cicely Tyson, (1924 – 2021) was a pathfinder.   

Since the early 1950’s— a prominent figure in the film community, Cicely Tyson, purposefully made it her true intention to represent a positive image of Black women in film and media. An early trendsetter and supporter of the natural hair movement, Cicely, was one of the first women to wear an afro on the TV series East Side West Side (1963). She would later go on to wear cornrows in the film Sounder (1972), which gained her a nomination for best actress for an Academy Award.  

As an actress, Cicely considered roles that displayed the progression of the Civil Rights movement to be necessary. In 1978, she went on to act in both TV mini-series King as Coretta Scott King, and as Harriet Tubman in A Woman Called Moses.

She was best known for roles like, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1994) which won her two Emmy Awards, Roots (1977), Harlem (1997), and the 1968 film version of Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and her Emmy winning TV movie Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1994).  

Growing up in Harlem, Cicely’s parents were immigrants from the Caribbean island of Nevis that helped to ground her in her religious roots.  

With a strong passion in gospel music, she eventually developed her very own Cicely Tyson Community School for Performing and Fine Arts located in East Orange, NJ. In 2015— Tyler Perry, opening his 330-acre lot production facility in the heart of Atlanta, named one of his sound stages after Cicely Tyson in her honor.  

Cited:

Biography, Editors of Biography. “Cicely Tyson.” Biography, January 28, 2021. https://www.biography.com/actor/cicely-tyson

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Cicely Tyson.” Encyclopedia Britannica, January 28, 2021. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Cicely-Tyson.

The First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald

 

Written by, Melony F. Carter

Picture: Creative Commons
Date: February 27, 2019
Elegant, harmonious, jazz legend; this tribute is for, “The First Lady of Song” Ella Fitzgerald!With a singing career that lasted nearly 50 years, it is no wonder her artistic talent helped her overcome hard times to become an uncompromising, renowned award-winning jazz, swing and scatting musician.

Her Courage

Born in 1918 in Newport News, Virginia Ella Fitzgerald was privy to the jazz era that began in the 1920’s. As this new genre blossomed into a new musical concept its style was established with roots in “Spirituals, blues, field hollers, African rhythms, folk songs, and marches.” As the new form of music developed popularity, Ella would soon become a part of its impact.

In 1934, at the age of 16, ready to showcase her talents; originally Ella had agreed to dance for the first-time during amateur night at Harlem’s own Apollo Theater. But once it was time to entertain the crowd due to a bad case of stage fright Ella had become so nervous that she could not perform her routine. Overwhelmed by the pressure, unrehearsed she had courageously decided to sing instead. Recalling her mother’s tunes by the Boswell Sisters, “Believe it, Beloved” and “Judy”— she sang. Her last-minute decision was brilliant enough to actually win $25 that night gaining her the reputation as a singer.

Afterwards, she continued to enter talent shows singing around town. She eventually landed herself jobs performing in 1934 with saxophonist Benny Carter, and in 1935 she would professionally sing with the Tiny Bradshaw band making $50.

Overcoming Tragedy

Orphaned at the age of 17, by the passing of her mother in 1935, bandleader Chick Webb and his wife Sallye Webb adopted Ella. Overcoming the lost, Ella would soon go on to record her first song with the Chick Webb Orchestra entitled, “Love and Kisses” which opened up doors for various songs like, 1935 and her first hit, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket, Porgy and Bess (1957), and many others. She also toured with the Philharmonic and in 1958 Fitzgerald won a Grammy for her work, The Irving Berlin Songbook.
Today in Honor Of 
Said by Bing Crosby, “Man, women or child, Ella is the greatest singer of them all” today she is still acknowledged as one of the best vocalists in history. To honor her remarkable deeds an excellence, on December 2, 1979 in Washington, D.C., Mrs. Fitzgerald was honored by President Jimmy Carters wife, Rosalynn Carter at the Kennedy Center. In 1987 she was also awarded the National Medal of Arts by Ronald Reagan.

Before she passed away in 1996, she also had the opportunity of working with other jazz musicians such-as Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie who is seen here in this infamous photograph gazing at Ella as he is captivated by her singing the song, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

Works Cited:
Kliment, Bud. Ella Fitzgerrald. Grolier Incorporated, 1990.

Ella

Rosa Parks

Rosa ParksRosa Parks

Written by, Melony F. Carter
Picture: Creative Commons
Date: February 11, 2019

Selfless, in my opinion, this word honestly depicts Rosa Parks in this image. Undergoing fingerprinting on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama for her stance against racial inequality practices in the United States, as an African American activist Mrs. Rosa Parks is a global hero.

Early Years

Born in Tuskegee, Alabama on February 4, 1913 Rosa Louise McCauley was married to Mr. Raymond Parks in 1933. Working by trade as a seamstress, Rosa had a second job as a secretary for the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). One afternoon, December 1, 1955; after getting off work from the department store Mrs. Parks who took the Montgomery Cleveland Avenue bus had refused to give up her seat in the front row, when the driver had demanded she do so and move to the back row. During that time, noncompliance was considered a criminal act in the state of Alabama.

Her Charge

Arrested, for her act, she was fined $10, which was paid for by E.D. Nixon. Reports of her charge caused a domino effect that ratified the entire system. Being a member of the NAACP (1943 – 1956) and The Women’s Political Council (WPC) news spread quickly about the arrest. And discussion of a boycott to end segregation begun.

Overcoming the Pressure

The news was so prevalent that it was publicized on December 4, in the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper. Once the boycott arose it lasted from December 5, 1955, through December 20, 1956. The nonviolent boycott’s led by such members including, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ultimately ended the city’s racial segregation ordinances.
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Today in Honor Of

Enduring, bomb threats, violence, and protests Rosa Parks is an example of the change that real determination can bring. Awarded with the Congressional Gold Medal from the U.S. Congress in 1999, Mrs. Rosa Parks, is a legendary civil rights activist. Her act of bravery, in the face of racial turbulence will always be remembered as a pivotal celebrated moment in American History.

Works Cited
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Rosa Parks
American civil-rights activist.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Rosa-Parks.
The Editors of History.com. “Montgomery Bus Boycott.” History.com, https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/montgomery-bus-boycott

Number 42, Jackie Robinson!

Written by, Melony F. Carter
Picture: Creative Commons
Date: February 5, 2019

With 137 home runs, a batting average of .311 and a record of 29 bases stolen during his overall baseball career as a First, Second and Third base runner, Jackie Robinson (Number 42) played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, who could deny his prolific talent as an athlete.

Education and Career
First attending school at Pasadena Junior College in 1938, Jackie would soon be transferred to UCLA in 1939-1940. According to CMG Worldwide, “at UCLA, Jackie became the first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. In 1941, he was, [selected for] …the All-American football team.”

Soon after he would go on to join the U.S. Army from 1942-1945 to become a second Lieutenant. Though facing racial discrimination, he received an honorable discharge.
Known for his good reputation and sportsmanship like demeanor Robinson according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “he was” purposely chosen to help break the color barriers that where established during the 20th century. Mr. Robinson, was to play “as an infielder and outfielder for [the National League Brooklyn] Dodgers from 1947 through 1956.”

Overcoming the Pressure
As time progressed Mr. Robinson faced many challenges on the field like hateful name calling, bottles being tossed at him, ugly commentary, death threats, as-well-as strikes and the Jim Crow laws. But with the love and support of friends and family he was able to overcome his many trials to receive accolades making Rookie of the Year in 1947, during his first season.

Winning Season
Some of his accomplishments include, winning six league championships and one World Series. Also, in 1949 Jackie was named the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). He was recognized for having a .342 batting average. In 1962, as the first black male, Mr. Robinson was recognized in the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, New York.

Shining Talents
As his popularity became widespread, he became a published author of his autobiography entitled, “I Never Had It Made”, actor, starring in his own film in 1950, “The Jackie Robinson Story”, and fashion designer in 1952, introducing a line of men’s fashions in Harlem on 125th street.

Never forgetting his roots, Jackie went on to become an activist for the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) from 1957-1967.

Today in Honor Of
With so many talents, it is undeniable that Mr. Robinson is clearly a shining example of a person determined to make a good change by displaying what it means to persevere whilst contributing to his community, and culture. Today, as a tribute to his many successes we continue to celebrate Number 42, every April 15 on Jackie Robinson Day.

Works Cited
CMG Worldwide. “Jackie Robinson.” About, https://www.jackierobinson.com.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Jackie Robinson
AMERICAN ATHLETE.” Encyclopaedia Britannica https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jackie-Robinson.