Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Muhammad Ali Lands Living Legend Honor from Africa

Muhammad Ali has been honored as a “Living Legend” by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Ghanaian based African Communications Agency (ACA).

"The Greatest” is a 2007 inductee into the ECOWAS Hall of Fame.

Ali’s African connection dates back to 1974, when he faced George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire for the “Rumble in the Jungle."

Mr. Ali accepted his award by telephone from the United States during an elegant awards banquet held at the Nicon Hilton Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria.

Dr. Erieka Bennett, Vice Chairman of the ACA and founder of the Diaspora African Forum proclaimed “we are honored to celebrate the life of Muhammad Ali."

Accepting the award, a grateful Ali declared “this tribute is especially meaningful to me as we celebrate Black History Month here in America."

Past ECOWAS Living Legend Award recipients include:

  • Nelson Mandela (former South African President)
  • Kofi Anan (former United Nations Secretary General)
  • Dudley Thompson (former Jamaican Ambassador to Nigeria)
  • Ruth Sando Perry, (former President of Liberia)
  • Professor Wole Soyinka, (Nigeria)
  • Dr. Babacar Ndiaye (former President, African Development Bank)
  • Dr Bamanga Tukur (former Nigerian Minister of Industry)

Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, won an Olympic gold medal in Rome as a light heavy weight in 1960.

He defeated Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the heavy weight championship for the first time.  Ali won the crown again in 1974 by beating George Foreman.

"The Greatest” became the first person in boxing history to win the heavy weight title three times when he took out Leon Spinks in 1978.

Ali refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army (he was a conscientious objector on religious and moral grounds).  He was stripped of his first title in 1967.

The official Muhammad Ali website has much more for you to enjoy!

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 03/28 at 10:15 AM
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spike Lee Directs Cinema Forward at 50

Shelton Jackson “Spike” Lee was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 20, 1957.  Spike’s family moved to New York City in 1959 for employment opportunities for his jazz bassist father, Bill Lee.

Spike Lee graduated from Morehouse College in 1979, then studied film at New York University.

Lee’s 1983 student film, We Cut Heads, was screened at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City as part of the New Directors/New Films Festival.

We Cut Heads was also broadcast on public television in 1983-1984.

Spike’s first successful commercial hit, She’s Gotta Have it, premiered at the San Francisco Film Festival in March, 1986.

Lee’s vision is to make realistic movies for and about real African American people that stimulate, provoke, and entertain.

His success in films School Daze, Jungle Fever, and Do the Right Thing, have paved the way for other contemporary African American directors, including: Mario Van Peebles - New Jack City, John Singleton - Boyz N the Hood, Matty Rich - Straight out of Brooklyn, and (Lee cinematographer) Ernest Dickerson - Juice.

When the Levees Broke, Lee’s acclaimed 2006 documentary about Hurricane Katrina, was featured on both HBO and public television.

Spike Lee’s entire filmography is available at

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 03/21 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Walker, Washington, and Winfrey Capture Women's History Success

March, Women’s History Month, is a great time to look at three African American ladies who identified specific community needs, created some valuable services, and then prospered financially from their cutting edge innovation.


Madame C.J. Walker, (1867-1919), was one of the first American women to become a millionaire.  Walker was also the first African American female millionaire.

She created an original formula for straightening hair.  Her hair ointment became an overwhelming overnight success.

With just $2, the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company was born in Indianapolis, Indiana (1910).  At its zenith, the Walker business empire directly employed 5,000 black women in schools, salons, laboratories, and factories.


Madame Sara S. Washington, (1881-1953), was also a pioneering African American entrepreneur.  She too became a millionaire by providing cosmetic and beauty products targeted toward black women.

The Buckley, Virginia native launched her first beauty shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  In 1920, Washington manufactured hair care and beauty preparations under the name of Apex Hair Products.  She also founded various Apex Beauty Colleges.


Oprah Winfrey’s gateway to success: mass media, communications, and entertainment.

Oprah was Nashville, Tennessee’s first African American television correspondent in 1973.  By 1978, she was co-hosting a local talk show in Baltimore, Maryland.

After a year in the Windy City hosting A.M Chicago on WLS-TV, the program was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1985.

In 1988, she launched Harpo Productions, the creative center of her many entrepreneurial activities.


In the black history timeline...

  • Madame C.J. Walker
  • Madame Sara S. Washington
  • Oprah Winfrey

are three creative African American women who have personally reaped big financial benefits because of their direct and indirect involvement in doing something positive for their communities.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 03/14 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How New Museums are Preserving Black Culture

Museums that focus on the critical role of African Americans in U.S. history and culture are more popular than ever, and several cities are planning new or expanded facilities to attract tourists and scholars.

Birmingham, Alabama has a civil rights district that includes the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the site of a 1963 bombing that killed four young girls.  Another exhibit features the door to the jail cell where Martin Luther King Jr. sat in 1963 and wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

There are approximately 200 U.S. museums that focus on the African American experience.  Several new projects are on the drawing board.  Here are a few:

  • A museum in Atlanta to exhibit the papers of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • United States National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

The old F.W. Woolworth store in Greensboro, North Carolina, is being converted into a museum that will display the “whites only” lunch counter where, in 1960, four black college students launched the sit-in movement to protest segregation.

One of the newest museums is the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, which opened in 2004. It tells the stories of the estimated 100,000 slaves who escaped via the “underground railroad,” a loose network of clandestine routes and safe havens provided by abolitionists, freed slaves and other sympathizers.

Not all African American museums focus primarily on slavery or civil rights.

Museums in Dallas and New Orleans, among others, are dedicated to African American art and culture.

Kansas City, Missouri, has the American Jazz Museum.

There’s the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio, which created an exhibit that traced African dance over 400 years.

In New York, the Museum for African Art is being expanded and moved to a new home where it will be “a cultural gateway to Harlem,” according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The new museum in Washington, DC, which will take several years to develop, is going to cover the breadth of experience from African origins down to the present.

These museums are not just aimed at an African American audience, they are for everyone.  They create the opportunity to really understand the history of black people in the USA.


Louise Fenner contributed to the research and wrote portions of this article.


Check out the Association of African American Museums for more details and links to black museums across the USA.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 03/07 at 02:02 AM
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Friday, March 02, 2007

Black History Video DVD

Thank you to the scores of folks who contacted us by telephone and email today because you were not able to use our shopping cart to claim your copy of the Empower Encyclopedia Salute to Black History DVD.

Since so many people were not able to claim the DVD before our special offer expires tonight, and because I don’t want you or anyone else to get shut out, I am resetting the timer and extending the deadline through Tuesday evening, March 6, 6 PM Eastern time.

Thanks again for all of you who contacted us.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 03/02 at 03:04 PM
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MLK DC Memorial Fund gets closer to Goal

February 2007 was the best fundraising month yet for the Martin Luther King Jr. Washington, DC National Memorial.

Harry Johnson, President and Chief Executive of the memorial’s foundation is asking everyone, including school kids, to get involved in the effort to raise the $100 million dollars needed to build and maintain the memorial on the national mall.

On February 27th, the National Association of Realtors announced a $1 million donation, bringing the total value of gifts raised from all sources to $78 million dollars.

Last week, I donated copies of the Empower Encyclopedia Salute to Black History DVD to a silent auction, sponsored by a major media organization, with all proceeds going to the King Memorial fund.

You can claim your copy of the Empower Encyclopedia Salute to Black History DVD and take advantage of a special incentive that ends today for readers of our blog.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is scheduled to open in 2008, facing the Jefferson Memorial, on the banks of the Tidal Basin.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 03/02 at 09:49 AM
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