*In the highly competitive and widely watched game of basketball, players are often polarized, misunderstood and judged by what they do on the court. There are few players that have transcended the game itself and that have emerged as giants amongst men.
Sonny Weems is such a man. As a child, Weems was born with cleft feet. When this diagnosis was learned, doctors and family were certain that the toddler would not be able to walk, let alone run.
His childhood was quite tumultuous. But, after enduring many painful years of growth and wearing corrective shoes, the young Weems was able to begin playing sports and living an active lifestyle. The budding athlete went on to become a state long jump and high jump champion in track and field at West Memphis High School.
Although Weems excelled as a stellar track and field athlete, he would ultimately go on to pursue his true love of basketball. His height and natural dexterity with the ball helped to shape his court presence. But, his dedication to the game and on-court dominance helped to solidify him as a great basketball player. After much deliberation and an outpouring of support from his family, Weems decided to make basketball his sport of choice and with that switch, his life would never be the same.
Weems graduated from West Memphis High School where he was named first team all-state as a senior. He led his team to the Arkansas 5A Championship before going on to play for two years at The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. While there, Weems continued to perfect his craft and to polish his skillset. He became an All-American while at The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and became ranked No. 1 in the nation by several national ranking services. Weems would go on to lead his team to two National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Eastern Conference Division titles.
The star athlete would later go on to sign with the prestigious University of Arkansas. As a Razorback, he competed for coach Stan Heath in his final year of coaching. He averaged 11.8 points per game for the SEC NCAA Division I powerhouse and would lead his team to two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Weems would later finish his senior year as the State Farm College Slam Dunk Champion at the NCAA Final Four. After college, he continued to pursue his dreams in basketball, as he was selected as the 39th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls.
Weems has played for 10 years at the professional level and is still going strong. His NBA career includes the Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptures, Phoenix Suns and the Philadelphia 76ers. He continued his love for the sport and subsequently went on to play in Europe in the summer of 2011 for three seasons before returning to the NBA in July of 2015. But, his love for the game internationally helped to push his return overseas. He has taken international teams to multiple EuroLeague Final Fours and was named to the First Team EuroLeague Competition, which is the top of the line in international sports. He played last season in China, where he was named one of the top ten players in scoring averaging more than 30 points per game.
Weems continues to actively lead on and off the court with the work that he does to give back to the community. In 2012, he created and developed Weems Week for the youth in his hometown of West Memphis, Arkansas. The annual week-long event’s goal is to inspire and motivate the next generation of thinkers, movers, and doers. This was the 6th year that Weems hosted the event, which features a basketball camp, back to school supplies and backpack giveaway and community cleanup. Weems has traveled the world pursuing his dream of playing professional basketball and desires to help others to achieve their dreams as well.
“These kids need this. There are a lot more things to do than just running around in the streets,” said Weems.
The 2018 Weems Week, held July 30 to August 3, was met with much success and a stellar turnout. Weems Week kicked off with a community cleanup at the Sonny Weems Basketball Park in West Memphis, Arkansas. The city of West Memphis dedicated the outdoor basketball court and park to Weems in 2015 to show appreciation for his commitment to the community. From the community cleanup, Weems hosted a basketball camp at the Lehr Arena on the Academies of West Memphis campus, formerly known as West Memphis High School. The camp focused on 7th grade male athletes and helped to foster creativity, greater motor skill function and daily life advice for all attendees.
Weems Week concluded with a back to school backpack giveaway. The supplies from the backpack giveaway are one of the many highlights of the camp. It allows students that are underprivileged to have access to much needed school supplies for their return to school in the fall.
Weems’s legacy continues to grow and the work that he continues to do is helping to champion the next generation of great leaders both on and off the court.
“To inspire and to motivate” are the principles that Weems Week was founded on.
“This is my way to give back to the youth in my community. Growing up in the inner city, I was not afforded the same opportunity as many other children at the time and so I desire to build something positive that can change the lives of children in the future,” said Weems.
Weems plans to expand Weems Week to serve more students across the country. Plans for Weems Week 2019 are underway and will be finalized by early January.
As Weems continues to give back, he serves as a light on and off the court for the many aspiring basketball players to come.
“It’s not the gift that God gives someone that we should be in awe of, rather it is what a person does for his fellow man with the gift that is given,” said Weems.
For more on Sonny Weems, visit SonnyWeems13.com. follow him on social media via:
Walter James Lovett II is an author, podcaster and digital journalist that hails from West Palm Beach Florida. In 2009, he launched WITIN RADIO, a weekly podcast focusing on lifestyle, faith, film, food, sports and pop culture. This fall, Lovett will release a new comic book series and screenplay entitled “The Watcher,” based on the sex trafficking industry and sex addiction in the American Mid-South.
Pastor Cal Keeps Love Alive on ‘Married at First Sight’ (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)
*For 11 seasons, “Married at First Sight” (MAFS) has been the ultimate experiment in matchmaking as couples who have never met – complete strangers – tie the knot.
If you are not familiar with the popular Lifetime series, people looking for love are matched by relationship experts (Dr. Pepper Schwartz, Dr. Viviana Coles, and Pastor Calvin Roberson-known as Pastor Cal) and agree to tie the knot before meeting their mates.
The show follows the couples for a few weeks as they experience their first meeting at their weddings, their honeymoons, meeting each other’s families, and other milestone events all the while being counseled by the experts. At the end of each season, the couples are given the chance to continue in their marriage or get a divorce.
While some may question the show’s premise, the EUR spoke to Pastor Cal recently and he said the series is genuine.
“My job on the show is to get these couples, put them together, and make sure they stay together,” said Pastor Cal. “My goal is to look at their differences, see where they’re compatible, counsel them and in some cases, threaten them, to make it work. All the experts, our focus, is simply making sure the couples stay together.”
As for a method in which the couples are matched, he added, “There isn’t a solid formula we apply to every couple. It has to be tweaked as we find out people’s peculiarities. It can be nerve-wracking but it’s rewarding in the end.”
Like many MAFS seasons, there are surprising revelations and this one, featuring couples from New Orleans, is no exception.
“Season 11 has brought us so many surprises,” Pastor Cal said. “Even in casting, one of the couples we thought would get along much quicker is one of the ones lagging behind. And one couple we thought would move slower to intimacy are moving ahead. And that’s with Miles and Karen being the slower and Woody and Amani being the faster of the two.”
He continued, “Also, by my own admission, I fall on the sword on this one, I was not expecting Bennett and Amelia to get along so well. I thought she would be put off more by his lack of profession. It was a big surprise to me.”
The next MAFS season will include Atlanta couples and after that the show heads to Houston, which is casting now. Pastor Cal told the EUR that the show adapts to the couples from each city.
“I believe that every city we film in brings a certain flavor and the participants from that city take on the flavor from that city,” Pastor Cal said. “New Orleans is laid-back, they party, and it’s a very fun city as opposed to a city like D.C. that is very political, buttoned up, and tight. But definitely we found that every city influences the participants. We definitely see different personalities coming out of each city.”
Speaking of Atlanta, Pastor Cal is the lead pastor at Progression church in the peach city. He and his wife Wendy have a marriage coaching organization that offers marriage and relationship conferences, boot camps, and seminars worldwide.
While COVID-19 may have slowed down the in-person events, that has not stopped people from contacting Pastor Cal for love connections, “Because of COVID, we’re online. I get more people through DM’s, email, etc. asking me to match them.”
And how does the church feel about the show?
“My church actually loves it.” Pastor Cal said. “They are so supportive and such an incredible group of people. They tell people about the show. Our church was actually founded on relationships, so it was an easy fit. Our church was founded on positive marriage and positive family.”
Look out for Pastor Cal’s book, “Marriage Ain’t for Punks,” slated to come out next year.
If you are interested in being on “Married at First Sight” and live in Houston, click here to apply.
For more information on MAFS’ current season, click here.
Nigerian Bread Seller Lands Modeling Contract After Photobombing Rapper’s Shoot
She was discovered on the streets of the city of Lagos by international photographer Ty Bello, who was shooting with English rapper Tinie Tempah. Unintentionally, Orisaguna came out in one of the images.
Days later, Bello shared pictures from that shoot on his social media but with interest of finding out who the bread seller was in the photo.
“WHO IS SHE? Everyone has been asking if this lady is a model… She definitely SHOULD be a model… I’ll find a way to track her down somehow. You guys can also help,“ the photographer captioned the post.
BEATIFULX : WHO IS SHE.Every one has been asking if this lady is a model .. It was just perfect coincidence … She just happened to be walking by while I photographed . It happened so fast .She definitely SHOULD be a model. .. I’m happy to help her build a portfolio if she’s interested .She’s so beautiful and photographed so well. I’ll find a way to track her down somehow . You guys can also help #lagos #doesanyonerecognizeher #okunorentwins #tinietempah @thisdaystyle #lagos #phaseone
As PEOPLE notes, from that moment on, her life changed forever. In less than a year, Orisaguna managed to sign contracts with recognized agencies. Earlier this year, she wrapped up her tour of South Africa and she also launched a vlog and reality show.
“I never expected this would ever happen to me,” she told CNN. “My friends have told me they saw me on the TV and they are really happy. My parents cannot believe their own child can become such a success.”
In March, she celebrated the one year anniversary of her discovery. In an exclusive interview with Pulse in January, Orisaguna spoke about the people who have been influential in her rise to fame. During the interview, she thanked Azuka Ogujuiba of ThisDay Newspaper, as she was instrumental in Olajumoke’s success story.
Orisaguna, who left her two children and husband to sell bread, is now being offered by a bank to pay for her kid’s education through college.
‘Origin of Everything’ on PBS Sparks Interest with Controversial & Everyday Topics (EUR Exclusive!)
*“Origin of Everything,” available on PBS.org, has been exploring topics since 2017 that run the gamut. The show jumps into a variety of subjects by investigating daily life like the words we use, pop culture, and why we are hooked on technology.
The show does not shy away from controversial topics such as slavery, race and ethnicity, and mass incarceration of African Americans.
Danielle Bainbridge, Ph.D., the host and lead writer of “Origin of Everything,” told the EUR in a recent interview that the series is about making people think beyond the restrictive ways we have been taught to view history.
“It’s a show about our collective story and how we are envisioning history,” Dr. Bainbridge said. ”How do we think about history that includes all of us and just not the figures and facts that we were taught in school. So, it’s a show about under told and underrepresented history. We’re trying to make history feel very present to the people who watch it.”
She continued, “One of the reasons to watch it is if you’re curious about how did we get to our current moment? How do small things such as why do we eat popcorn at the movies or what is the origin of ethnicity and how do these things still impact the way we think about the world?”
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Deftly equipped to talk about controversial topics, Dr. Bainbridge holds a Ph.D. in African American Studies and American Studies from Yale University and graduated Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in English & Theatre Arts. She is also a faculty member at Northwestern University in Theatre and African American Studies
In early 2017, when she was a graduate student, she was contacted by PBS about working on the show and thought it was a joke.
“When they first reached out to me, I thought it was a hoax,” Dr. Bainbridge said. “I was thinking how would they even know who I am because I was a graduate student? But I think they found me through a since defunct janky website that I had set up. They reached out to me, I auditioned, did a screen test, and a writing sample and after that I was hired to help develop the show.”
Viewers are encouraged to be interactive with the series because it is digital. With instant commentary from the audience, the show knows immediately what viewers think, which for the most part is positive. However, when it delves into controversial subject matters things can get sticky.
“I would say overall people are pretty positive about the series because most of the folks who watch it are longtime watchers who tune in every week for episodes,” Dr. Bainbridge said. “The only exception is if we cover more sensitive topics like, race, gender, or sexuality we will get some pushback. I think that’s just the cost of doing business with open discourse.”
One of the most controversial shows was about the transatlantic slave trade.
“We did one episode on why Europeans enslaved Africans and that was probably our most viewed episode as well as our most critiqued one,” Dr. Bainbridge said. “I think often times if you view yourself as pretty well versed in history from what you learn in school and then you learn something that goes in the opposite direction it can be jarring or for some people upsetting. We think of it as our value or service to our audience to present accurate history or history that doesn’t get told that often so that people can be informed with the whole picture.”
She added that she has an answer for those who point out that Africans sold slaves to Europeans.
“Slavery was not invented with West Africans and Europeans,” Dr. Bainbridge continued. “Some form of enslavement – whether through war, becoming a prisoner of war, or through different systems – goes back to ancient societies from around the world. So, it is not distinct to West Africa or Europe or any other region of the world.”
Dr. Bainbridge added, “But the difference with this particular moment in slavery was that it intersected with capitalism in a way that was very different with slavery that preceded it. People were taken into the system and their children inherited their status as a slave and that is where the differences started to emerge. We have to think about these things as distinct only because the system that existed with chattel slavery was so radically different than the slavery that existed around the world beforehand.”
With the ongoing protests against police brutality, “Origin of Everything” has also tackled the racist beginnings of United States law. Dr. Bainbridge breaks down the discriminatory history by looking at colonialism, slavery, the Jim Crow era, and mass incarceration.
“I decided to write this episode about legal discrimination, and I didn’t have a particular agenda in mind,” she said. “As I started doing the research it was overwhelming. I started to find (material) that just dealt with legal discrimination about black people in this country from its origin to now. I thought it was something that people needed to know.”
“I was never taught in any history class that I took through high school any of the information from that episode. I was taught that things are fair and that a lot of the blame was placed inadvertently or inherently on black communities, impoverished communities, or communities that struggle. When I saw that in some ways the law was stacked against black people and certain other populations, I thought that was important to bring to light. In this moment, people are looking for reliable sources and this could add to the conversation.”
New episodes of “Origin of Everything” are available on PBS.org and the PBS Digital Studios’ YouTube Channel. Join the conversation by visiting Twitter-@PBSOrigin and Instagram-@pbsoriginofeverything.
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