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The Grace, Beauty and Grit of Vanessa Williams

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*Vanessa Williams is a creature unlike any other. It’s as though she came here to impart the ins and outs of living life on one’s own terms.

From unwitting societal lightning rod during the 1980s to multi-platinum selling recording artist; and Broadway, film and television star, Vanessa Williams slayed the male-dominated Hollywood dragon long before the #MeToo movement happened. You can tell from talking to her that, both, the scars of past judgment she endured, and the fruits of her sweet success have made their impact. Both created indelible imprints.

In more recent years, Williams stunned audiences with sultry scene-stealing characters on hit series like Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty. Her recent film starring Orange is the New Black‘s Uzo Aduba, Miss Virginia, tackles the socio-economic and educational inequities that urban students of color endure, showcasing a more socially conscious film portrayal.

Vanessa Williams’ exotic beauty strikes you dead on arrival, but Williams does not lead with her looks. She prefers to enter a conversation with intellect, boldness and strength.

Williams is now preparing to take her Broadway-honed stage skills across the pond to London’s West End, where she will be starring in a production of City of Angels, opening at the Garrick Theatre in 2020. She’s also added fashion designer to her packed resume, launching the sexy and sophisticated Vanessa Williams collection for HSN, and fresh on the heels of a multi-album deal with BMG, Williams is working on new music to reflect a collection of musical genres she is currently passionate about.

A renaissance woman for the ages, Vanessa Williams’ life is nothing if not purposeful.

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Allison Kugel: Something told me to read your 2012 memoir, You Have No Idea, which I read cover to cover yesterday. I’m so glad I read your book, because it was the missing piece to really understanding you. The one constant theme throughout your life, it seems, is that you are a natural-born rebel!

Vanessa Williams: (Laughs) Yeah.

Allison Kugel: That quality plays out in one way when we’re young, but changes as we get older. How do you express that side of yourself now?

Vanessa Williams: It’s now about being unafraid to take chances. In terms of my career, I just signed on to do City of Angels on the West End [of London]. It’s not a lot of money, but it is an opportunity to work on the West End. It’s always been a dream of mine to live overseas, and to study in London. I’ll be working at the Garrick Theatre. We start rehearsals in January, we open in March, and the show will be running until the end of July. There are no guarantees, in terms of leaving my life in the states behind, but it’s something that excites me. At this stage of my life it’s all about asking myself what I want to do that I’ve never done. The challenge of it excites me, and doing the same thing bores me.

Allison Kugel: When nude photos of you surfaced during your 1984 reign as Miss America and you were forced to relinquish your crown ten and a half months into your year-long reign, you were counted out there for a while in your twenties. Do you ever pat yourself on the back these days and say, “I did it!”? Broadway, films, television, platinum-selling recording artist and on and on… do you feel vindicated?

Vanessa Williams: No, I really don’t. I don’t think that, because there’s always that next goal, like, “but I want to originate a role on Broadway;” “but I want to do a movie musical.” There is always something yet to be done. It’s not that I’m never satisfied, but there is always another goal on the horizon. When you’re an actor, it’s like being a gypsy. You jump into another circle of players, and it’s great. Then when it’s over, it’s heartbreaking, but then you’re ready to move on to the next circle. That’s what excites me and that’s what will always propel me to say, “Ok, what’s next?”

Allison Kugel: Clearly, you value adventure over routine.

Vanessa Williams: Well, I look at some people who have been on the same show for eleven or twelve seasons, and it’s a great cash cow. It’s great to have that kind of consistent salary where you can budget and put money away. God bless everyone who has had a series on the air for ten years, but there is an energy that keeps you kind of hungry when you are always looking for the next thing and you don’t know what that next thing is.

Allison Kugel: I want to go back a bit and talk about the beginning. I think people may forget because it was so long ago, but you broke through a pretty significant glass ceiling in your twenties by being crowned the first African American Miss America. You became this societal lightning rod at the time. In 2008, when President Obama was elected as our first African American president, did you feel a connection or kind of kinship with him, since he broke a barrier in a similar way?

Vanessa Williams: Oh, absolutely, in terms of his safety, and his presence was worldwide. But there is an expectation that comes with that honor of breaking barriers. It’s also a tremendous fear, not only for yourself, but for family members; because there is such division, which doesn’t seem to leave us. I thought it was over in the 1980s and it wasn’t; I thought it was over in the 2000s and it wasn’t; and, obviously, it’s still apparent now. So, there is a specific fear and uncertainty that you have, but you have to be brave and you have to continue to do what you were chosen to do, and the job that is before you.

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Allison Kugel: Had you ever had that conversation with President Obama about that?

Vanessa Williams: I met him right before he began his run for president. I’ve been on the Special Olympics international board for years, and I was on Capitol Hill with the Special Olympics meeting people and trying to raise money for our group. I met him right off the heels of that wonderful speech he’d given at the Democratic National Convention, and word was out that he was someone to watch. I gave my little spiel about how we needed more funding for the Special Olympics. I could see the appeal, and then he announced. When he announced that he was going to run for president, I was definitely in his corner. My mother was coming from the perspective of having lived through Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. being assassinated, and Kennedy being assassinated, and she was fearful for his life. That’s the generation that she grew up in. I felt that it could happen, and she also, of course, had some issues with it. It just showed the fear that was due to where my mother’s generation had come from.

Allison Kugel: What have you learned about love? What’s been your greatest love lesson?

Vanessa Williams: I’m lucky to have four children, and there is nothing like that love; a love like that never ends. Once they’re out of the house, you’re still, as a mom, always available. You’re still always worried (laughs) and concerned. And you’re still always extremely proud, no matter their age or what they are doing.

Allison Kugel: How do you take care of your body, mind and spirit; and what’s your feel-good routine?

Vanessa Williams: My feel good is waking up with a good cup of coffee and doing a crossword puzzle in the sun. That starts my day off perfectly. And when I get a chance to explore and travel, I love to horseback ride, wherever I am, and go to the stables and find a horse and go on an adventure and explore the terrain on horseback. Spending time at home is also a joy for me. I’m on the road traveling so much, so my happy place is kicking off my shoes and hanging out at home.

Allison Kugel: You’re a practicing Catholic and you attend Church regularly, but in your most quiet and intimate moments, whom or what do you pray to, and what do you pray for?

Vanessa Williams: Hmm… it depends on what it is. I pray to God and my ancestors and my guides, and everyone who has been with me along my journey. As far as what I pray for, it depends on what I want or need at that particular moment; whether it’s guidance, whether it’s “show me the way,” or whether it’s protection for one of my children. It depends on what my particular need is at that moment.

Allison Kugel: What do you think you are here in this life as Vanessa Williams to learn, and what do you think you are here to teach?

Vanessa Williams: I absolutely love to teach, in the literal sense, and I’ve done it for three years in a row at NYU (New York University). I’ve taught Master Classes at Syracuse University, where I went for musical theatre. I also teach women’s groups. It’s teaching strength and to be aware, because you never know when and where something is going to happen for you. Whether that’s your talent, whether it’s an opportunity… just be open to who comes into your life and what they can bring.

Allison Kugel: And you’re here to learn?

Vanessa Williams: That as women, for sure, we are a community, and to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or for help. Look for a mentor. I’ve learned that there are many people that are willing to be teachers and to help you along in your life, so don’t be afraid to ask because there will always be somebody there to offer help. I think I’m here to learn to keep moving ahead. On this earth we have setbacks, struggles and obstacles. You have to be able to say, “What is this teaching me?” so you can move through it and move ahead in your life. Avoiding something or trying to deny it won’t get you anywhere.

RICK FOX AND HIS REAL-LIFE DAUGHTER STAR TOGETHER IN OWN’S ‘ONE FINE CHRISTMAS’ [TRAILER]

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Allison Kugel: Speaking of giving advice to other women, back in 2011 and 2012 you worked on Tyler Perry’s film Temptation with Kim Kardashian while she was going through the separation from her ex-husband, Kris Humphries. The two of you spent some time together during filming. Did she seek your advice about weathering scandal and a media firestorm?

Vanessa Williams: She’d just broken up with Kris [Humphries] and the press was all over the place, so Tyler made it very easy for her to hide from the press on set. Basically, it worked on the set, keeping the press away. Then we flew back to LA together. I just needed to be the sounding board for her at that point. Sometimes you don’t need to talk. You just have to let them talk, and you have to listen. She talked about all the stuff that was happening and her fear of being judged, but that it was something she felt she needed to do. My advice to her was that you go through the storm, but the dust will settle, and you’ll get an opportunity to see clearly, and it will be a different day; and you’ll feel better and you can move on.

Allison Kugel: Do you consider yourself a trailblazer for women?

Vanessa Williams: I think my history has made me a trailblazer, unknowingly. I’ve always just been myself and that’s how it played itself out.

Allison Kugel: What makes you feel most beautiful?

Vanessa Williams: The sun and the warmth makes me feel beautiful. Every time I land someplace that’s warm, it makes me feel like I’m connected to nature. And that’s without hair and makeup and wardrobe, and all that stuff. It’s just the breeze, the water, and heat that makes me feel like my most natural self. And then being around children. Whether it’s my children who are all grown up… there’s a connection that I have with kids. Maybe because both of my parents were elementary school music teachers, but there is a connection that me and my kids have with young kids that I absolutely love. My connection with children makes me feel so alive.

Allison Kugel: You recently launched your own clothing line, Vanessa Williams, which is available through HSN. The collection is versatile, imaginative and sexy, yet understated. And I love how you incorporate animal prints and patterns with different looks.

Vanessa Williams: Thank you. It’s another opportunity to be creative and I’ve got a great manufacturer, so the quality is fantastic. It’s an extension of what I love, which is putting my stamp on things. I love fashion, and I’ve been fortunate to work on amazing shows, both on television and on Broadway, where I’ve worked with incredible costume designers and been exposed to fantastic fashion through stylists. And I’ve settled into what my own personal style is, along with what resonates with other people. When I design, I keep my eighty-year-old mother in mind, and then my children; my girls are from age 19 to 32. Everyone’s got their own sensibility, and there’s one piece for everyone to enjoy.

Allison Kugel: When will you be recording your next album?

Vanessa Williams: Now! I just finished recording a children’s album, which will be out next spring. And I’m working on a new album for BMG that will be out next year. We’re leaning towards mood and tropical music for this next album, and there will be more projects to come.

Allison Kugel: Let’s circle back to your upcoming show on London’s West End, City of Angels. You’re a Broadway veteran, but this will be your West End debut!

Vanessa Williams: This will be my “junior year abroad” that I never got the chance to do! In college, I was supposed to go to London and then I became famous that September. So, it’s my delayed junior year abroad, thirty-six years later (laughs). And it’s getting a chance to show my stage talent on another respected stage. My children are not at home, so it’s an opportunity to tick another thing off the bucket list.

Vanessa Williams5 - 2nd ChoicePhoto Credit Mike Ruiz

Shop the Vanessa Williams collection at HSN and pre-order tickets to see Vanessa Williams star in City of Angels at the Garrick Theatre in London’s West end.  Visit VanessaWilliams.com.

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Allison Kugel

Allison Kugel is a syndicated entertainment columnist, author of the memoir, Journaling Fame: A memoir of a life unhinged and on the record, and owner of communications firm, Full Scale Media. Follow her on Instagram @theallisonkugel and at AllisonKugel.com.

Photo Credits: Rod Spicer, Mike Ruiz, Gilles Toucas

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** FEATURED STORY **

’12 Years a Slave’ Screenwriter John Ridley Exposes ‘The Other History of the DC Universe’ with Black Lightning

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*Step into the DC Universe and history awaits. So much history. So many iconic heroes and villains. Yet only one side of the story.

Until now.

Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley is opening a new door into the familiar backdrop with his new comic book offering, “The Other History of the DC Universe.” As the name implies, Ridley shines a light on different perspectives of the iconic moments of DC history, from the eyes of heroes of color.

‘The Other History of the DC Universe” kicks off with Jefferson Pierce, a.k.a. Black Lightning for its first issue. The inclusion of Black Lightning was a no brainer to Ridley, whose view of comics changed with seeing the hero on the cover of Justice League #173. The sight of Black Lightning talking to members of the legendary Justice League proved to Ridley that someone like him could exist in the same world as the superhero elite.

“I love comics. I read comics, but I remember the first time I saw Black Lightning as a hero. When I went to the comic book shop, this was mid-’70’s and I was young. But I had to pull back,” Ridley, a longtime comic book fan, recalled while speaking at a media roundtable to promote “The Other History of the DC Universe” about his fateful trip to purchase comics the week he was introduced to Black Lightning.  “And I remember getting that bag that week and honestly, I remember like it was yesterday, and spilling the bag out and going through them and seeing Black Lightning and seeing a hero who looked like me, was a teacher like my mother was. That was really, really impactful for me.”

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Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley

Anchored by Ridley, “The Other History of the DCU Universe,” features artists Giuseppe “Cammo” Camuncoli, Andrea Cucchi, and colorist José Villarrubia. Covers for the five-issue bimonthly DC Black Label miniseries were constructed by Camuncoli (with Marco Mastrazzo) and Jamal Campbell. “The Other History of the DC Universe” marks Ridley’s latest venture into the world of comics after finding success outside the genre as a screenwriter with critically-acclaimed and award-winning work in film (“12 Years a Slave”), television (ABC’s “American Crime,” Showtime’s “Guerilla”).

Despite his good fortune in other areas, Ridley’s love of comics and Black Lightning remained as the country transitioned into its current state of strained race relations, a divided political climate and efforts for more diversity. Coupled with frequent protests, the arrival of “The Other History of the DC Universe” couldn’t come at a better time. For the project, Ridley played it close to his heart by selecting heroes “that meant something to me when I was growing up,” while paying respect to DC’s history and readers.

“I didn’t want to do a made-up history of the DC universe. I didn’t want to go through and say, ‘I don’t care about what happened before. This is John Ridley’s version of it.,’ said Ridley. “Honestly, I wanted a reaction…where a fan will look at moments and go, ‘Omigosh, I remember that.’ Here’s some different context.’ It wasn’t about saying the past doesn’t equal the moment that we live in. It was saying we’re here for a reason. We’re here because we’re fans.”

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Jefferson Pierce, a.k.a. Black Lightning

Ridley’s inspiration for “The Other History of the DC Universe” is more personal as each issue reflects the essence of storytelling, with someone telling their version of what happened while relaying their thoughts on how events affected them. With Black Lightning, readers experience his interaction with the Justice League and the world’s view of those with superpowers he felt focused more on worldwide threats than what was going on in his hometown.

“Here’s Black Lightning giving a version of an oral history, saying ‘Yeah, I remember that moment too,’ But it may be a little bit different than an individual would contextualize it, different readers,” Ridley stated. “But also what’s interesting about the series for me is that we also revisit moments from other characters that have a shared moment and may remember it completely differently than Jefferson Pierce did or feel differently about it or feel differently about Jeff Pierce. About, you know, why are you always this way. So for me, more than anything, it was trying to treat these stories as an oral history and getting the reaction that you have.”

Reflecting on stories he heard from his parents, Ridley recounted how moments shared were “were real heartbreak.”

“My dad was in the Air Force. They were all about service. And yet, there were moments where they were treated as just black people. But when we hear stories from people, when people share stories, if you have an ounce of empathy in you, you can hear that pain, that joy, that heartache, heartbreak. The inspiration that comes from an individual. Those stories, again, if you have the slightest ounce of empathy in you, the slightest capacity to see yourself in others, those stories mean much more,” Ridley added. “We definitely could’ve done the other history of the DC universe where it was just about big action moment and here’s Black Lightning just being a hero. Those are great stories because all of these folks are heroes in these stories. But I wanted to try to treat them as though you were listening to your uncle, your brother, your aunt, your sister, your cousin tell these stories in their own voices with their own perspectives and make them in some ways oral histories and so that it wasn’t just about these, a series of giant moments. But these were lives that were being shared. These were perspectives that were being shared.”

Black Lightning’s oral history isn’t the only one readers will be privy to. “Other heroes giving their side of “The Other History of the DC Universe” include Mal Duncan a.k.a. Herald and his wife, Karen Beecher (Bumblebee), Renee Montoya (the Question), Tatsu Yamashiro (Katana) and Black Lightning’s daughter Anissa, a.k.a Thunder.

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Tatsu Yamashiro a.k.a. Katana

“There were many characters that I wanted to try to include. For example, in the first issue, Mari McCabe, Vixen, I did not see the story as having her own story. But there was no way that you could not have Vixen in this series, that her appearances were not just a one and done. There was an arc to it. That is Jefferson Pierce being myopic and underestimating her. I thought that was really important that it wasn’t just characters of color railing against the prevailing culture all the time. Jefferson is a black man of a certain age, with a certain concept of Mari, what she could do and what she couldn’t do. And the next thing, she’s working with Superman. She’s big-time,” Ridley said while highlighting notable appearances from Vixen and John Stewart, one of the most popular Green Lanterns in the comics.

“So his [Black Lightning’s] relationship with John Stewart. A lot of people were like, ‘How could you not have John Stewart?’ John Stewart was always gonna be a part of it. but again, Jefferson’s relation to John and their reconciliation. I wanted to have a very human end.”

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Green Lantern John Stewart, appearing in the pages of John Ridley’s “The Other History of the DC Universe”

The views of black heroes only scratch the surface of “The Other History of the DC Universe.” As much attention is paid to Renee Montoya, a Latinx police officer, as well as Tatsu Yamashiro, a Japanese national living in America during the ‘80s, Ridley made sure these characters’ stories were given their due, adding another layer to his latest opus.

“With Tatsu Yamashiro (Katana), I remember in the ’80s, when America was at its height of anti-Japanese xenophobia. What’s it like for a Japanese national coming to America in the ’80s,” Ridley explained about Yamashiro. “And on the one hand, there are other people who look at her as a hero when she is in costume. There are other people who look at her as a menace when she’s just walking around.

“Renee had to be in it. You want to talk about a character who just started as a minor character in ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ and is now one of the most durable characters in the DC Universe? And played The Question at one point, my all-time favorite character, The Question. So she was gonna be in it. Always,” he continued about his reasons for including Montoya. But also Latinx, a police officer. You know, this series started before our current reckoning on race and police. To tell a story from a police officer’s point of view, who’s Latinx, who’s closeted, who believes in law and order but is also commenting on things like the LA uprising and what that means to her as a police officer.”

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Renee Montoya a.k.a. The Question

Coming back to Black Lightning,” Ridley examined another side of the hero with his daughter Anissa. The young heroine’s point of view is one that differs at times from her father’s, which is shown in the first issue.

“I just thought it was really important to try to bookend this series with a father and daughter. And there are things that you will see in Anissa’s story that goes back in common with what you have seen or read in the very first issue. And again, Jefferson pierce as a human being and things that she has missed, things that he deals with as a man of a certain age. And some of them positive, some of them, I wouldn’t say slightly negative, but certainly representative of a myopia that we see in the black community,” Ridley told the round table. “So it was not just again trying to pick up the characters from column A and column B. the characters that I felt a connection to because I felt like I had seen them grow up over a certain space and time. They had been part of my life. And wanting to be very honorific with the work the creators had done in the past having them arrive in this space.”

Furthering the diversity, Ridley included Duncan and Beecher in to the mix, knowing a couple with different views of the same happening would be a fun aspect to play with.

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Mal Duncan a.k.a. Herald and his wife, Karen Beecher a.k.a. Bumblebee

“It was very important that in this story, we were going to have at least one that was a black couple who were in love, who were sharing their story together. Also, because I thought it would be fun for a couple to…it was kind of ‘The Newlywed Game.’ ‘Wait. What? How do you remember that? No, that wasn’t how it happened.”

As the series examines unique views from its roster of heroes, it’s worth noting each issue takes place around the time the heroes were created by DC. According to Ridley, the time frame ranges from the ’70s to the early 2000s, a period that supports Ridley’s intent to create a real timeline and add weight to each character’s story.

“It was really important to me because I did think it added to the verisimilitude, it added to the reality to say that Jefferson Pierce is only gonna live in a certain amount of time. When the story ends or wherever he be found, he’d be roughly my age,” he said about placing Black Lightning in the ‘’70s. ”The stories begin essentially and I think you see in the issues, they all have timelines on them. I think roughly ‘77 to ’90-something. Technically, it’s a little bit earlier because he is in the Olympics in 1972. But if he was a decathlete, he would’ve been in the ’72 games. He would’ve been around the Munich massacre. What does that mean for him as a person? What does that mean for a guy who wanted to be better because he lost his father and at the games where was going to show what an amazing human specimen he is. it means nothing, compared to the loss of those Israeli athletes.

The Munich massacre was an attack during the 1972 Olympics, involving members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. The incident resulted in the deaths of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team, who were taken hostage by Black September.

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Black Lightning in action as Superman looks from above in the first issue of John Ridley’s “The Other History of the DC Universe.”

“So I wanted those true timelines. Tatsu for example, coming around in the ’80s. What would that mean for a Japanese national? What would it mean for Renée to be a cop in the ’90s,” he added. “We treat it as a timeline. It was important to me because it helps makes these characters and their stories as real

Speaking to EURweb’s Lee Bailey, a humble Ridley welcomed the possibility of ‘The Other History of the DC Universe” crossing over into film as a way for his story to be seen by more people.

“I will say this. I have been very, very fortunate. Obviously, I work in film and I work in television and I continue to do so. So for me, writing a graphic novel was the endgame. It was so special and its’ such precious real estate. I mean I can’t lie. Even if somebody came back and this was successful enough and they said, ‘Hey, we would like to try and make it into a movie or a series or something like that…who doesn’t want to try to reach as many people as humanly possible, said Ridley. “But for me, because I am lucky enough to work in other spaces, it wasn’t about, ‘Oh this only is going to be fun or enjoyable or impactful for me if they make it into a movie. No, I mean the fact that this is going to be out, people are going to, within the confines of the Covid world we live in, go somewhere, purchase it, get it to read it, talk about it, love it, hate it. You know, embrace it. And whatever those things that people do with any issue, I get to be part of that. That is so special, in and of itself. If that is all that happens to it. I could not be more fortunate.”

The first issue of John Ridley’s “The Other History of the DC Universe” is on sale now. The second issue of the miniseries will be available on January 26, 2021.

 

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Is Pres. Elect Biden Obama’s 3rd Term? & What 44 Said About Black America’s Progress Under His Watch on ‘Breakfast Club’ (VIDEO)

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*Attorney Antonio Moore discusses the recent Obama Breakfast Club interview during his Book tour.

Moore harshly critiques the interview of Pres. Obama performed by Charlamagne, DJ Envy and Angela Yee.

He also looks closer at President Elect Joe Biden’s cabinet picks and measures them again Barack Obama & Bill Clinton’s prior administrations.

MORE NEWS: Ripped in Their 50s! Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Strip Down for Weigh-in / WATCH

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** FEATURED STORY **

The Virtual United Negro College Fund Tour Heads to NY, DC & NJ on Fri & Sat-Nov. 20 & 21 (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)

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*African American students interested in going to college can attend the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) Fall 2020 virtual Empower Me Tour. Set for this Friday and Saturday (November 20 & 21, 2020), New York, District of Columbia, and New Jersey will be repped. (This year’s tour kicked off earlier this month in Wisconsin and Illinois). To register, go here.

The Empower Me Tour is an extension of the goals of the UNCF. Founded in 1944, the UNCF, a non-profit, has raised more than $5 billion and helped more than 500,000 students attend 37 private historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The EUR caught up with Stacey Lee, the tour’s director for four years, who discussed the importance of the event.

“The UNCF is the nation’s largest provider of education support to minority students,” said Lee. “The Empowerment Tour has been executed for the past 12 years and last year along we offered over $12 million dollars in scholarships.”

MORE NEWS/RELATED: BMEE Authors: Urgent Steps Are Necessary to Address Implicit Bias in Early Education  

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Stacey Lee, director of the Empower Me Tour. (Photo credit: UNCF)

Lee continued, “I think the great thing is that during these times, even with COVID-19, is that a number of corporations (Wells Fargo/P&/FedEx/Disney/Goldman Sachs) and donors have really been providing opportunity and financial access to our schools and students.”

The tour is packed with information and resources so that students and parents have the right tools to make informed decisions.

“It’s a free event that provides educational support, scholarships, interviews with colleges, empowerment, and information on how to get to and through college. We also provide this information for parents as well. We have a parent section that focuses on financial aid and the things you need to get your students to college.”

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Source: Empower Me Tour

Lee continued, “Sometimes we have students that don’t realize that they can attend college. They can receive scholarships. Some of them don’t even know what an HBCU is. So, it’s inspirational for me to see these students receive this information and the excitement that’s around this tour.”

In addition to college information, panel sessions on issues affecting the community will also take place. Legendary rapper Bun B will be part of a special My Black Is Beautiful panel. The panel will have discussions with girls and boys and the MC will lead the male portion.

“It’s about empowerment,” Bun B told the EUR. “It’s vital for us to lift each other up and amplify each other’s voices. We just talk about now what that role is in this COVID world. And with everything that we are seeing with young Black men on television, we want to keep them motivated and centered. We want to make sure that they are not discouraged in this moment.”

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Legendary rapper Bun B is a panelist at the Empower Me Tour. (Photo credit: UNCF)

Ever since Kamala Harris threw her hat into the presidential race and elected vice president of the United States, a spotlight has shined on the fact that she’s an HBCU grad (Howard University) and member of the African American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. These facts are not lost on the UNCF.

“Kamala has really boosted people’s awareness about HBCUs and (African American sororities) and the type of people that come out of HBCUs. HBCUS have also provided so many people from science, mathematics, and engineering programs (STEM).”

Bun B added, “We have more than enough examples to show you how beneficial an education from an HBCU can be. So, there is no reason to not be a part of an HBCU because the world is just as available to you as it is for anyone else attending any other type of university.”

Register for the virtual Empower Me Tour on November 20 & 21, 2020 here. Spring tour dates will be announced soon. For general information on the United Negro College Fund, go here.

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(Photo credit: UNCF)

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