*”Chi-Town” is a well-known reference to the city of Chicago, home of the Chicago Bulls with one of the unquestionably all-time greats of basketball, Michael Jordan.
Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker, Patrick Beverly, Anthony Davis, and countless other current NBA players pop up quickly when you think about Chicago, basketball, and NBA players who were born and bred in Chicago.
So, why does the “Chi-Town” documentary focus solely on Keifer Sykes who had an “improbable shot” but “meteoric rise” in the world of basketball?
Keifer Sykes asks that question himself.
Via Zoom, Sykes talked to me about his documentary “Chi-Town.” For five years, a filming crew followed Sykes as he completed his last year of high school and entered four years of college.
“[The documentary] covers me growing up in Chicago as a kid…wanting to reach these dreams, despite all the obstacles, different things we have to face each day in poverty. It was neat to have this movie because at first, you know, these were things that was normal to me, just my normal life, you know. Some of my friends not having the same opportunities…some of them getting shot. Some of them going to jail and also you know me graduating from high school. You know, being a teenage father…I was blessed to have a talent that got me a scholarship to go on to college and you know to get my degree and chase my dream of being a professional basketball player which I have accomplished.”
Sykes’ documentary is a platform that has allowed him to travel “the world” speaking to youth who have a similar dream. Sykes also uses the documentary “Chi-Town” to engage open conversations with people from all walks of life who can use his expertise.
“Chi-Town” the documentary reveals some of the complexities of poverty, violence, improbabilities, and a dream that basketball is an escape. All those topics are still on the table for discussion, and Sykes wants to talk about them to everyone he can.
Sykes says the documentary and his subsequent experiences of talking with people was “eye opening to me because a lot of people gravitated towards me…motivated and inspired you know just by my daily life so…I was blessed that…this crew was able to you know capture it and tell my story and that it’s just been so profound and just it’s had just an enormous impact on my life first and foremost, but now which is what I’m trying to do is just have an impact on the world with my Free 10 Foundation.”
When asked about obstacles and opportunities in the inner city, Sykes says his family and support system helped him to overcome the problems that get in the way for many inner city youth. The documentary features many scenes highlighting Sykes’ family dynamic.
Even though many inner city youth do not have that family support system, Sykes says “a lot of these athletes are fortunate enough to be blessed to have a lot more opportunities than just the normal kid that goes to a urban public high school, however, that comes with much more distractions and just more ways for them to get derailed and for them to be more self disciplined and focused. That’s something I’ve been through.”
Sykes applies his own experience in his Free 10 Foundation by creating the types of supports that he believes are most helpful to inner city youth, including mentoring, skills camps, building reading programs, computer programs. Another important topic for Sykes is teaching inner city youth how to handle both obstacles as well as success.
“Success for kids that come from poverty or from these urban communities…it looks different than…a normal American or white American that has that family structure…and that strong support system.” Sykes says those success stories don’t include having to bring along relatives, fight off gangs, friends, and fake friends like inner city youth have to do.
He talks about the metaphor of yoga as a way to help inner city youth accomplish balance.
“Everything you do on the yoga mat is metaphoric to what you do in life. If you don’t have your balance, if you don’t have your breath…if you don’t have presence…you will be off balance.”
Another area that Sykes sees as vital is the father and male figures that are absent in many inner city children’s lives. One of his priorities is to fill that gap through his Free 10 Foundation.
Sykes has a gym on the West side of Chicago where he is actively involved in impacting the lives of inner city youth. He highly values the work he has done with Chicago Bear, Matt Forte who has a What’s Your Forte foundation.
Asked who Sykes would like to additionally bring in, he wants yoga instructors, nutritionists, chefs, and people from all walks of life who can help youth have holistic growth.
Asked which Chicago celebrities he would like to involve, Sykes mentions President Barrack Obama, and cites that they are both from the Southeast side of Chicago, without mentioning that President Obama is also very much a basketball player himself. Sykes hopes that from a shared passion for helping inner city youth, other Chicagoans like Chance the Rapper, Patrick Beverly (who also attended Marshall high school) and Derrick Rose will work with him.
Sykes’ Free 10 Foundation has been active for 3 years. Now that they have achieved not for profit status, Sykes is getting some help, where he was previously funding the activities out of his own pocket. His website KeiferSykes.com features some of the many activities and camps and giveaways that Free 10 has done, including a coat giveaway at Thanksgiving. Sykes says it was important to give people something they would have for more than one day. At Christmas, Free 10 sponsored a bowling party.
Sykes talks about trying to fill the void many inner city youth experience. He cites the devastation that gun violence and mass incarceration create.
“A lot of people don’t understand…having hundreds of murder[s] per year that a lot of these murders are you know, a lot of our black fathers. And, they leave behind more than one child that…it’s really hard to fill that void and fill in the resources, the support and for them to be nurtured and…for them to just grow and blossom into the kid that they want to be.”
Sykes talks about how Free 10 tries to fill in the gap with “time, resources, financial stability, any connections” for youth who have lost a parent to death or prison, or any other complexities of poverty.
Sykes welcomes anyone who has a desire to contribute their knowledge or expertise to the youth he supports.
Concluding the interview, Sykes talks of the places basketball has taken him, and where he hopes it will take him. Sykes is currently an international basketball player who is working hard to get an NBA contract. Sykes and Beverly share both attending Marshall and international basketball careers, which was Beverly’s route before signing with the NBA.
Sykes says the theme of his life has been what he calls “The Journey.” He used to vlog and has begun vlogging again about his life as a journey. He feels blessed that his “journey” has taken him to places that he used to just see on a map. He talked about spinning a globe and seeing places that he thought had no one there. While playing internationally, he has found places and people that he never thought he would, including being on the Amalfi Coast and in Milan for Fashion Week.
“This journey has just opened up my life to realize that I have to be grateful in every day, every experience.”
“Now that I come to Chicago, you know, my eyes are up. I have a different lens on life…I enjoy every day…to enjoy a city that has the beach and metropolitan area downtown.”
Sykes says he’s had some highs and lows throughout the journey but considers himself blessed. He sees his experience and success through basketball and his documentary “Chi-Town” as a way to change the world around him.
You can also contact his publicist Cynthia Busby for media requests, inquiries or bookings at [email protected]
J. Jermayne (@JJermayne Writes) is the author of 6 published books; 3 are sports themed. Jermayne freelance writes and travels to cover sports, entertainment and cultural events.
‘Tamar Braxton: Get Ya Life’ Exclusive Clip: Tamar Tries Some Tea to Get Snatched! [WATCH]
*We have an exclusive look at Thursday’s episode of Tamar Braxton’s ‘Get Ya Life!,’ a new WE tv docuseries that takes viewers on the singer’s journey to turn her life around.
This week, Tamar is caught in the middle of a disaster between her new boo and the path to relaunch her music career. Cameras roll while David fights to protect Tamar from witchcraft.
In the clip above,Tamar wants to lose weight with diet tea. Will the tea give her what she wants?
Watch “Tamar Braxton: Get Ya Life” Thursdays at 9/8c.
Tamar Braxton is back! After nearly losing everything, including herself, Tamar is determined to turn her life around and take matters into her own hands by sharing her truth in a revealing new docu-series that follows her every move. Tamar teams up with music and TV mogul Mona Scott-Young to bare it all and bring her “baggage” – aka the camera crew — along with her for the ride. But nothing can prepare Tamar for the most epic journey of her life. In a series of shocking revelations and extreme breakthroughs, it’s the most authentic side of Tamar Braxton ever as she vows to show the good, the bad and the ugly. Cameras continue rolling during Tamar’s most vulnerable hours as she invites love back into her life with her new boo David, relaunches her music career, navigates co-parenting with ex-husband Vince Herbert, and battles the pressure to reconcile and reunite with her family. In the end, will Tamar be able to bounce back and turn her life around or will all of her demons defeat her? This is her last shot.
Show ‘Em How We Do It Now! Happy 78th B’Day to Herb Fame of Peaches & Herb [EUR Video Throwback]
*There were many Peaches in Peaches & Herb throughout the decades, but only one Herb. And today is his 78th birthday.
Born Herbert Feemster on Oct. 1, 1942, in the Anacostia section of Washington D.C. , Herb changed his last name to Fame and got his start in the music business after graduating from Roosevelt High School.
While working in a record store, he crossed paths with musician and record producer Van McCoy, who would go on to record the iconic disco staple “The Hustle” in 1975.
Van McCoy ended up signing Herb to Columbia subsidiary Date Records and paired him up with Francine “Peaches” Barker, who had been part of a trio on the label called The Sweet Things under her stage name Francine Day.
From McCoy’s recordings of Fame and Barker – now called Peaches & Herb – came the single, “We’re in This Thing Together,” which was a flop — until months later in December of 1966, when a St. Louis disc jockey played the single’s B-side, a revival of the 1934 hit “Let’s Fall in Love.”
“Let’s Fall in Love” became a hit, and was followed in the next two years by several albums and singles, including the hits “Close Your Eyes,” “Love Is Strange” and “For Your Love.”
Although their careers were taking off around their media image as the “Sweethearts of Soul,” Barker got tired of her years on the road and decided to retire from the duo. Enter singer Marlene Mack (aka Marlene Jenkins), who became the new “Peaches” on stage, while Barker’s vocals remained on all of the duo’s recordings for Date Records.
Herb ended the act in 1970 and took a hard left turn by enrolling in the D.C. police academy. He was a full time police officer until 1976, when he decided to jump back into the music business with a fresh new Peaches. His mentor McCoy suggested local D.C. talent Linda Greene, whose musical training took place at DC’s Sewell Music Conservatory. Fame met Greene and the two hit it off, becoming the most successful Peaches and Herb incarnation of the three to date.
Their first of seven albums together, “Peaches & Herb,” was produced by McCoy for MCA Records and generated the lone hit single, “We’re Still Together.”
Next, Peaches & Herb signed with MVP/Polydor and released the album “2 Hot,” which went gold. It’s first single, “Shake Your Groove Thing,” also went gold and peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1979.
The follow-up single was the triple platinum, Grammy-nominated hit “Reunited.” With a wink to the 1960s Peaches & Herb hit “United” (originally recorded and made a hit by The Intruders), “Reunited” reached No. 1 on both the Hot 100, the Billboard R&B chart, and in Canada. It was nominated for a Song of the Year Grammy in 1980.
Subsequent albums with Polydor produced several more hits, including the wedding staple, “I Pledge My Love.”
After changing labels again to the Entertainment Company, Fame and Greene released their seventh and final album in 1983. Scoring only one minor hit, the duo decided to call it quits. Fame returned to law enforcement and joined the U.S. Marshals Service in 1986 as a deputized court security officer at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
Herb Fame recruited at least five more Peacheses in subsequent years, including the first non-black Peaches. He continues to tour and perform with the Peaches du jour…
But he never quite matched the success of his run with Peaches #3, Linda Greene.
‘Negative Exposure’: Film Flips the Script on Racism to Achieve Racial Reform / VIDEO
*For centuries, Black people in America have been subjected to systemic racism that has touched every sector of their lives. With ongoing displacement, exclusion, bias, segregation, and socioeconomic injustices, an overwhelming population of Black people find themselves woefully and wrongfully denied fair housing, a quality education, bountiful employment, affordable health care, and a fair justice system. For White people, it’s the opposite.
Yet, what if the tables were turned, which presented a reversal of Black and White roles in America? Imagine if Black people were the privileged sector of society and benefactors of golden opportunities in their lives. Suppose White people were transmuted to assume subservient roles that many Black people have struggled to shake since slavery.
In the recently released film, “Negative Exposure,” such reversals of Black and White roles come to fruition. The movie’s storyline follows Jayson Gresham (Taylor Katsanis), a young WHITE MAN trapped in the ghetto, where vicious cycles of poverty, hopelessness, racial profiling and police harassment have been a daily way of life for generations. Jayson’s longtime friend is Bones (Darrell Snedeger), a White hoodlum who controls everything that’s illegal in the hood, specifically the sale of drugs and gang activities.
Nevertheless, Jayson seeks a better life for his young daughter and himself. However, Blacks maintain a system of racism to keep Jayson and other ghetto-dwelling Whites suppressed. As a result, Jayson, through interactions with Bones, faces decisions and consequences that will alter his life in definitive ways.
The film was shot in Columbia, South Carolina – although it could have been shot in any American city, where impoverished communities and underserved populations fight for survival.
“The film’s concept has been brimming in me for about eight years,” said Bishop Eric Warren Davis, who is the film’s executive producer and stars as Pastor Kingsley, an elite Black clergy with ruling class privileges, who is ultimately faced with soul-searching decisions in the name of humanity. “After the Trayvon Martin deadly shooting, I found myself having discussions with interracial groups and saw the lack of empathy, even in rooms with multicultural pastors. That’s when the concept came to me to make a movie where there is a reversal of roles. I saw the film as a way to deliver a powerful message about racism.”
According to Davis, he created E.D. Legacy Films in Columbia, South Carolina. Last year, Davis and his film company partnered with writer/director/producer Tony Tite of Atlanta-based Global Star Media TV/Films. Tite wrote the movie script and served as the film’s director. The two men assembled a production crew out of Atlanta and an integrated cast of actors and actresses from Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. The movie, said Davis, was shot in 21 days, wrapping up production in early March of 2020, just days before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented the film from being shown in movie theaters, at the moment, “Negative Exposure” can be seen on Vimeo, an on-demand film/video hosting, sharing, and services platform. On Vimeo, the movie can be rented or purchased. However, Davis said talks are still on-going with national and international movie theaters to show the film.
“The feedback from the film has been very positive,” said Davis. “We expected some pushback because people are going to have their biases. Most people thought because the film was directed by a Black person that it was going to have an angry message. This movie has black and white points in it that had to be made but the ultimate message is loving one another and having empathy for one another. But there were some hard points made in the movie to get to those messages.”
Davis believes “Negative Exposure” is right for this moment in time, although racism has been around for centuries. And there are countless news stories of police brutality and other injustices against Black people at a rate too frequent to count. However, the tragic murders of Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd represent only a few Black lives that have been lost to the rages of racial and inhumane hatred. What has followed these fatal encounters have been mass protests, coast to coast.
“The reasons why there are so many protests across the country and the world is that people are tired of systems based on stereotypical perceptions that are not in step with a changing world and generations,” said Davis. “The world is crying out for ‘justice and change.’ It’s no longer classism or racism as usual, there has to be a clearer picture, and in ‘Negative Exposure’ we offer the opportunity to look at where we need to be moving as a society.”
Based on the film’s potent message, the movie has garnered the attention of The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL). With its 700 members, the organization represents more than 50 million Americans across the country. NBCSL has adopted the J.A.Y.S.O.N. (Just as Your Son) Resolution, which is based on a concept from the movie. During the upcoming NBCSL 44th Virtual Annual Legislative Conference in late November into December, the group will screen the movie as part of a central discussion. The organization is targeting more than 100,000 young people to watch the film.
“Negative Exposure” is seen as a call to action in an effort to expedite legislation to transform policing into a model that is equitable and safe for all communities, specifically those inhabited by people of color,” said Davis. “We want to take audiences out of the dark into the light and joining forces with NBCSL to strengthen political advocacy in local communities is one way to accomplish this goal. This film stands as a beacon for social and racial reform!”
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