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Empire’s Trai Byers Talks ‘The 24th’ and #BLM / EUR Exclusive!

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Trai Byers in “The 24th”

*In an exclusive interview with EURweb, actor  Trai Byers talked about his explosive and compelling film, “The 24th” and Black Lives Matter.

Well-known for his role in “Empire,” Byers stars in the little known story about “The 24th” Infantry Regiment. A must see film for all, “The 24th” is especially required viewing all those opposed to “taking a knee.”

“The 24th,” a riveting depiction of how black soldiers, who sacrificed their lives fighting overseas for the United States—and its flag—were killed, peed and spat on by racist whites right here in America just because they were black.

Based on true events, Vertical Entertainment’s rendering of the inhumane, horrific treatment of blacks in “The 24th,” is timely. The all-Black 24th U.S. Infantry sparked the Houston Riot of 1917, when members stationed at Camp Logan in Harris County, Texas, rebelled against harassment from the local police department, and members of its white community. The soldiers marched on Houston and initiated a deadly shootout.

Directed by  Kevin Willmott  (who co-wrote “BlacKkKlansman” and “Da 5 Bloods” with Spike Lee),  he also  co-wrote “The 24th” with Byers.

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Trai Byers

Trai, how relevant is this film, written about events in 1917, to what’s going on now with Black Lives Matter?

As you see in the film, there is one police officer who sparks the entire thing. Just like now, there is one police officer with his knee on George Floyd’s neck. There’s one police officer who just shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times. And I could go on and on. I really believe if you don’t learn from the past, you’re doomed to repeat it. And there’s something cyclical about this violence in terms of maintaining power that is inflicted upon people of color in this country. It’s just like today unfortunately, and it’s sickening.

How aware were you of this part of our history?

I had no idea about the Houston race riot. I didn’t even know about the East St. Louis riot. Or the Atlanta riot in 1906. There are so many riots around that time. Kevin Willmott calls it the Black Holocaust for people of color at the turn of the 20th century, where there was just event after event, after event, that ended up in black people’s demise.  It’s just ridiculous that we’re not taught this in school. It’s almost as if we went from slavery to now without experiencing the heart of Jim Crow as free people, but not really free. It just frustrates me that I hadn’t been taught this in history class. How dare anyone question that Black Lives Matter.

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Boston (Trai Byers) and his Regiment.  Photo Vertical Entertainment

This is not only a much needed story about black history,  but a love story?

Yes, the film is multifaceted. There’s a warm love story between my character (Boston) and Marie (Aja Naomi King). It’s cute and sweet, right? This is also a story about brotherhood. The story is about honor. There are so many stories of our history that are just buried, not only the devastating acts but the heroic deeds. And these men in particular, despite Jim Crow, despite having a background of slavery, wanted to fight for this country, and for the honor of their people.

“The 24th” is available now on demand

 

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Pastors of Different Races Merge Churches and Release New Book to Help Heal Racial Divides (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)

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Pastor Derrick Hawkins and Pastor Jay Stewart

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*In 1960, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “11 ‘o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hour, in Christian America.”

The civil rights leader’s famed quote was in reference to of course just how segregated church services were, and in many cases still are, across the United States.

Hoping to bridge this wide gap, in 2016, Pastors Derrick Hawkins (African American) and Jay Stewart (Caucasian American) decided to merge their racially separate congregations into The Refuge Church in North Carolina.

The recently released book, “Welded: Forming Racial Bonds That Last,” co-authored by the pastors, chronicles their relationship and what led to this racial reckoning. (Buy book now).

“We are living in a time where there still is much division, anger, and confusion in our nation especially as it relates to racial unity,” Pastor Stewart said in an EUR phone interview. “The bottom line is that we have a very unique story and God has chosen to write a better narrative in the midst of all the confusion and anger.”

Pastor Stewart continued, “So, we have an opportunity to share our story but to also give practical guidelines for how people can build relationships with people who look different than they do. The subtitle of the book is ‘forming racial bonds that last’ and that’s really the reason we’ve written this book.”

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Pastor Jay Stewart (Photo Credit: iDisciple Publishing)

Pastor Hawkins blames the media partly for the racial strife and sees their story as a positive alternative.

“I think there are so many different narratives going on across the media,” Pastor Hawkins told the EUR. “There are so many things that the enemy is trying to spread. We wanted a better narrative and not just a better story and to let people know that there are amazing things happening with the body of Christ that are positive.”

Guidelines in the book to start racial healing include practicing understanding others, respecting others’ opinions, getting out of one’s comfort zone, and committing to unity.

“We seek to understand more than we seek to be understood,” said Pastor Stewart. “So, we have to lay down our own agenda and really come to the table with the goal of understanding the other person. Secondly, we value the relationship more than being right. We live in a day where everybody feels that they have a right to their own opinion. One thing we’ve learned is that we lay down our rights because the relationship is more important.”

Pastor Stewart added, “We also have to break out of our comfort zones and be willing to inconvenience ourselves for the sake of others and if we do that we discover the most greatest and thrilling adventures in our relationship with Christ.”

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Pastor Derrick Hawkins (Photo Credit: iDisciple Publishing)

Pastor Hawkins said of people coming together, “I live by the motto in Ephesians 4:3, just making unity a priority. We know that we don’t have the ability to create unity, but it is our job to project unity. Pastor Jay always said we want to take every opportunity to make unity a priority but also preserve it.”

“Unity doesn’t mean there’s an absence of disagreement, but we have the ability to protect unity at all costs,” added Pastor Hawkins. “And there’s a way to look at your own echo chamber to see what you can do to make sure you are building healthy relationships with people who don’t look the same as you.”

The recent presidential election and election in general showed that most white Christians favored Donald Trump and Republicans. This support has led many in the black community to believe that white Christians overwhelmingly support racism and other ideologies that divide the races. The pastors said political views should have no place in the church.

“The kingdom of heaven trumps any political party,” said Pastor Hawkins. “Our job is to always align people to the kingdom and those things that we know are biblical truth. That’s why Ephesians 4:3 is so important.”

“We’ve only chosen to focus on the things that we share in common,” said Pastor Stewart. “And those are the things that unite us in the word of God. Bottomline, our loyalty is to Jesus Christ and our loyalty is not to some political party or to some person and that’s the thing that unites us.”

Pastor Stewart and Pastor Hawkins met in 2014 and two years later the two merged their churches. The Refuge Church has three campuses in North Carolina- Kannapolis, NC (main campus), Salisbury, and Greensboro. Plus, an international location in Brazil.

Pastor Stewart heads the main campus, while Pastor Hawkins leads the Greensboro location. They often lead together in the church as one unit.

Here is a video clip regarding the merging.

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If you have not noticed, the pastors are also of different ages. They maintain a close father-son relationship because, “I’m just incredibly cool,” said Pastor Stewart. “I just have a heart for the kingdom and age doesn’t matter to me. God just knit us together in a really special way. It’s never been an issue for me, and I don’t think it’s been an issue for him.”

“I grew up around my grandmothers and older individuals and I love gleaning from the wisdom from the generations,” Pastor Hawkins said. “There’s no future without the shoulders of the previous generations. Outside of white, black, political differences, chaos, and challenges, this man has poured into me and my life has been better because of his core and his relationship with the Holy Spirit.”

The book “Welded: Forming Racial Bonds That Last” is now out and available to buy here. For more information on the book, go here. For information on The Refuge Church, go here.

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Pastor Derrick Hawkins and Pastor Jay Stewart, authors of newly released book “Welded: Forming Racial Bonds That Last.”

 

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Actors Dexter Darden and Belmont Cameli Talk About Their Roles in The New Saved By The Bell

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Dexter Darden

*The 90s sitcomSaved by the Bell” is returning to TV. The revised Saturday morning favorite will be airing on NBC’s new streaming service Peacock.

The show will focus on a new generation of Bayside High students along with some old favorites. Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) is now the governor of California and come under heat as he is blamed for the closing of many low-income schools. To rectify the situation he proposes those students attend Bayside High.  

The transferred students find themselves adjusting to being out of their element, while the Bayside students try to play nice and make room for the new kids. We spoke with Dexter Darden and Belmont Cameli about their characters.

“It really is important to show that just where you are doesn’t necessarily have to be where you’re going to go. For Devante to come to Bayside and meet Jamie Spano and Mac Morris and have the opportunity to interact with all these kids who aren’t like him and not what he’s used to, it’s really special,” is what Dexter had to say about his character Devante.

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Belmont Camelin plays Jamie who is the son of Jessie Spano, played by Elizabeth Berkley. As a true fan of the original, you have to wonder if the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree?  Is Jessie’s son a passionate outspoken book worm kind of kid? Well only somewhat according to Belmont:

 “I don’t think he’s as strong about his academics but he’s certainly passionate and he’s a very expressive person. His mom has made him very aware of his feelings and relationships,” says Belmont.

Not only was Jessie a straight-A student she was also vocal about anything she felt wasn’t right, so it’ll be interesting to see her son be just as vocal as the show covers topics that the 90’s version didn’t cover.  

Check out the new generation of “Saved By The Bell” November 25 on Peacock.  

 

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Young Filmmaker Kalia Love Jones Evokes ‘Power of Hope’ and A Bright Future

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Kalia Love Jones filmmaker Nov 2020 14yrs old

Writer, Producer, Director & Animated Filmmaker Kalia Love Jones (Nov. 2020)

*Kalia Love Jones is a young filmmaker who has taken the transformative words of former First Lady Michelle Obama to another level.

At just fourteen years old, she is now the writer, producer and director of an animated short called “The Power of Hope.” Kalia got the idea for the film when she was twelve.

Her parents supported the idea but encouraged her to earn her own money to finance her film.  Kalia rose to the challenge and a year later her film was complete thanks to the funds she acquired from recycling.

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Kalia Love Jones, 14 year old animated filmmaker is making waves with “The Power of Hope.” www.thePowerofHopefilm.com

“The Power of Hope” depicts a young girl who aspires to be a renown architect.   When she encounters obstacles, she commits to staying focused on her goals and working harder while remembering the words of Michelle Obama.   The six minute animated short is on par with the work of seasoned filmmakers, layered with emotion, vibrant cinematography, a lyrical score and anchored by a beautiful aspirational story.  Well Hollywood, make way for a new femme fantabulous in the field of animation.  Kalia is currently on the festival circuit with “The Power of Hope” and it is evident that the sky is the limit.  Visit www.ThePowerofHopefilm.com. For info on Kalia Love Jones contact: Yvonne Gilliam [email protected]  or call (214)336-1583.

LaRita Shelby cropped slate shotLaRita “Jazzy Rita” Shelby is a writer & entertainer and Director of Digital Strategy & Sales for EURweb.com, newly branded Everything Urban & Radioscope.  Winner of MIMPA’S 2020 Entertainment Journalist of the Year Award & Proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho.  LaRita is the author of The Brand Beside the Brand and On My Father’s Side. Check out her new single on iTunes “Goodbye 2020.” Chat, swap ideas & vision at [email protected]

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