IYB Woman Crush Wednesday | ‘Virgin Power! Virgin Pride!’

To say I have a crush on all seven of these Zimbian beauties–lined up in a row like blooming tulips in a nursery–would be an understatement.

Each 9-year-old taught me more about their struggles with abandonment, rape, AIDS and lack of education in their country than any NGO report ever could. With passion and poise each preteen girl stepped up and demanded to be heard. And seen for who they truly are. Not to be victims, but victors (to borrow from Rev. Osteen.) They refuse to be discriminated against, bullied, belittled, infected or labeled just a wife and mother. They each have dreams and know hard work will achieve them. Girl Power!!

The four minute video–captured by tech company/NGO Keepod to get Zambian schoolkids digitally connected–caught the attention of Global Citizen. The global community seeking to find answers to the world’s biggest conundrums like poverty and hunger (good luck with those head scratchers) and throwing a summer concert around it, were surprised to find each young girl had the answers to each of there dilemmas.

Value them and all they’re worth: a country’s future.

FEEL GOOD FRIDAY | Michelle Obama, Wale Urge Kids to ‘Beat the Odds’

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Just when you think FLOTUS can’t get any cooler, she ups her fab factor. In addition to giving the Oscar selfie some major competition (take that Internet!) Michelle Obama created a summit to help kids better transition into college.

The  “Beating the Odds” summit invited 130 soon-to-be college frosh to the White House. All from different walks of life, but one common denominator is they all struggled to make it into college, which means they’ll likely have more difficulty staying.

Cue Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative that gives first gen college students–like herself and POTUS–the support and tools they need to make it through all four years.

To give her a hand, Entertainment network’s Terrence J, Grammy-nominated rapper Wale shared his story of goofing off in college in hopes of getting into the NFL. The Chicago Sun Times reports Wale eventually ended up on academic probation, but college gave him a good foundation to be “self-made.”

Before Wale hopped on the stage to perform, POTUS Barack Obama introduced him and made this confession.

My rapping skills are terrible. That’s one thing I can’t do is rap. I like rap but I cannot rap.

But he had to do something right to pull Michelle, he added.

I got enough of a rap that I got Michelle to marry me.

Bloop. Yes, you did Mr. Prez.

Good luck, class of 2020 (God, I’m old)

If You Blinked Woman Crush | Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Mission to End Human Trafficking

jadapinkettexploitJada Pinkett Smith’s one hour CNN takeover (don’t worry Don Lemon stayed home) exposing the atrocities of human trafficking, makes her our Wednesday Woman Crush.

Human trafficking is the illegal distribution and sale of girls and boys for the purpose of forced labor and commercialization of sex through exploitation.

Jada tapped into her inner Diane Sawyer to interview, be interviewed, narrate and exec-produce CNN’s special report;  “Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking.” The report is one-part “How to Catch a Predator” where a Georgia-based special victims unit detective races around the state to nab exploiters. Mostly found at the airport where most human trafficking is committed.

The second half. The most important half. The part that’ll make you want to lock your sons, daughters, nieces and nephews in their room forever–is when we meet the survivors. The teenager so desperate for friends she’s lured into the sex trade by a friendly face. Her void of companionship was filled with a series of johns.

“I had sex with almost 40 guys in one day,” recalls the teen when describing her abuse.

Jada Pinkett Smith boosted her advocacy of human trafficking after learning from her own daughter, Willow Smith, that human trafficking is right in their backyard.

In 2012, Mrs Will Smith appealed to Congress to create tougher sanctions for human trafficking aka modern day slavery.

Five Takeaways from CNN Special Report: ” Children for Sale”

  1. Girls or Boys that feel lost or abandoned are susceptible to being Human Trafficked
  2. A pimp could easily trade a girl or recruit her by making eye contact.
  3. An average human trafficker in Atlanta can make $32,000 a week.
  4. Georgia is one of the largest states for human trafficking. The state’s airport is cesspool for human traffickers to export and import victims.
  5. Human traffickers target social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to recruit girls.

Jada says she was motivated to do something when she saw herself in all the human trafficking survivors she met. Just as they were vulnerable to fill a void, so was she, pointing to her absent father as the reason. Good thing Big Willy was there to love and not exploit her. A wish she has for all the survivors.

“They have so much to offer humanity if we just give them a chance.” says Jada.

Russell Simmons’ Art Foundation Honors Dave Chappelle & Ava DuVernay

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Art merged with philanthropy at Russell Simmons’ Art for Life Gala in the Hamptons this weekend. The 20th anniversary (yes, count ’em the big 2-0) brought out habitual hermit Dave Chappelle and ‘Selma’ director Ava DuVernay. The odd pair were recognized for their artistic abilities. And helped raise money for Russell Simmons’ RUSH Philanthropic Arts Foundation that finances arts programs in schools and galleries.

Funnyman Chappelle didn’t mince words about art saving his life, and it being used to reveal some deep seated issues (cough…racism… cough) and disturbing societal patterns (cough…police brutality against minorities… cough) still present.

“I went to an arts high school when shit was awful; there was a crack epidemic and AIDS, and all kinds of shit was happening, and the National Guard was policing DC and I found out about this arts program, and it changed my life in ways I couldn’t even imagine.

“And now  look at me today! Here I am with the “Winners Circle” in the Hamptons. And I have a ‘Great Gatsby’ hat on… I can say honestly that I’m happy. I can stay home on Tuesday nights and watch (Keegan Michael) Key and (Jordan) Peele do my show. And it doesn’t hurt me at all. It doesn’t hurt me at all. I’m just joking y’all.”

Jokes aside, he hinted at how art could be instrumental in making a change.

” The biggest enemy of an artist is apathy. A kid gets killed by the police and I buy a T-Shirt and before I can wear that one, there’s another kid (killed) and I’m running out of closet space.”

Hopefully he won’t need anymore.

Marcus Samuelsson and Don Lemon Host Charleston AME Church Fundraiser

marcussamWant to feed both your stomach and conscience today? Stop by Ginny’s Supper Club in Harlem. The soul food spot is holding an all day fundraiser to benefit families of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.

Famed chef Marcus Samuelsson, of Red Rooster Harlem, will be burning pots to make the Southern buffet ($30 minimum donation) lunch and three course dinner ($75 donation required) even more worthwhile.

Reverend Calvin Butts of Abyssinian Baptist Church will team up with Reverend Michael Walrond of First Corinithian Baptist Church to host the fundraiser. And both church choirs will provide gospel music to eat with.

CNN’s Don Lemon is also part of the fundraiser’s host committee.

To buy tickets to the Harlem Helps fundraiser click here

Money raised from the lunch and dinner will go to victims families of the Charleston church shooting.

Feel Good Friday | R&B Diva Gives Back in the Big Easy

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Kelly Price may be too booked for  R&B Divas: Hollywood but she made time to spoil Big Easy residents this week.

Capitalizing on Essence Fest buzz, the balladeer joined the bishop and first lady of Beacon Light International  Cathedral in Louisiana to lend a helping hand to pamper Hurricane Katrina survivors.

Or hands.

As there are a lot of moving parts to her service oriented mission. Let’s start with the beauty makeovers. Walk-ins were treated to press and curls and faces getting beat by volunteers.

Plates of free food. I mean, need we say more. Well, if you insist…

There was also free health and mental screenings. Even Beacon Light Bishop Darryl Brister took advantage of it by getting his blood pressure checked.Or as Kelly calls it “leading by example.”

All supplies for the Give Back to New Orleans event was donated online and through the church.

Wonder why Lil Mo and Dawn couldn’t make it…

If You Blinked Woman Crush | Lupita’s Homecoming

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Lupita Nyong’o made the sojourn to her homeland of Kenya this week. All in the name of preserving the real-life “Dumbo’s” of her country from poaching. The Academy-Award winner was named the global ambassador for the Wild Aid org that protects against endangered animals.

Elephants (sadly) are on that list because of their ivory tusks. Poachers kill the gentle giants, illegally I might add, to strip them of their ivory then sell them to the highest bidder.

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Lupita is using her newfound fame to put a stop to elephants extinction, any creative way (the pic above is an #elfiselfie) she can.

During a press conference, Lupita described the time spent studying the animal’s habits and their value. She shared, elephants would likely live 65 to 75 years if not for being poached and their economic networth is set at $1 million tourism dollars.

Hear Lupita’s full press conference statement 

“I learned, currently, an elephant is being poached every 15 minutes. 15 Minutes. Every 15 minutes another dollar is lost. That’s $96 million dollars a day.”

Now that we know the scale of the problem the “12 Years a Slave” star recommends supporting local elephant advocacy orgs that campaign against poaching. And influence govt officials–mainly in Asia and the US where ivory tusks are sold–to do more to protect elephants.

“Join me in putting your love for this beautiful, gentle animal into sustainable action.”

If Lupita’s words don’t convince you maybe the hilarious elephant compilation video below will.

Elephants lives matter, y’all.

FEEL GOOD FRIDAY | Marriage Equality for All | Jilly from Philly Schools Future Writers

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I’m still smiling from SCOTUS’ landmark decision to permit every American (YES!, you, you and you) in every state, to walk down the aisle and into the arms of their beloveds today. In sickness and health, for richer or poorer til death do them part. Or divorce. Hey, ish happens, even he gets that.

As my five-year wedding anniversary creeps up this summer, I’m so overjoyed that members of my family, friends, can finally experience the same act of love and commitment (y’all can jump the broom!!) that was at one time only granted to us, straight couples. Love really does conquer all.

And who knew 9 justices wearing long robes would give us the long-awaited love lesson we’ve all been waiting for. For the first time in my adult life I’m proud to be an American. For two reasons: this moment of human rights and dignity for ALL and because my president can do this.

Let’s keep FEEL GOOD FRIDAY stories flowing. First, I want to apologize for my absence these past few weeks. But I’m back, bishes and ready to spread some good vibes.

So let’s get to it.

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Jilly from Philly is partnering with Mahogany greeting cards (an African-American imprint of Hallmark) to create college scholarships for future scribers.

The national scholarships will be handed out through Jill Scott’s Blues Babe Foundation, which provides mentoring and college tuition assistance to students in poor areas of Philly (where else?), Camden, NJ and Delaware.

The two winners (from anywhere in the US) will each receive a $10,000 scholarship and an invite to a three-day writing workshop at Hallmark headquarters in Kansas City for Summer 2016. The workshop, specifically catered to students, is to shadow a Hallmark writer.

Mahogany writers will also infiltrate Camp Jill Scott, annual summer camp for North Philly junior high students, to teach creative writing.

Here’s what the three-time Grammy winner said about them teaming up.

“My love and passion for writing is reflected in my music and my poetry and I’m sincerely grateful that Mahogany decided to partner with the Blues Babe Foundation to help nurture young minds.”

Yet another reason to buy Black cards at local pharmacies. For more info about the merit-based scholarships click here.

Happy Feel Good Friday, babes. Love wins.

If You Blinked Woman Crush | Pursuit of Haiti

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Angela Simmons–Rev Run’s daughter–nixed R&R for public service while vacationing in Haiti this week.

In between getting outdoor massages, modeling local designers two-piece creations and hiking, Angie made time to visit Mission of Grace orphanage. Twice.  And was instantly attached to  a little boy named Michael that didn’t want to leave her hip. Awwww.

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Angie also visited Mission of Hope that reportedly feeds 90,000 Haitian kids daily.

“I felt really connected to the children. They actually remembered me from the day before. But I was happy I could come and share my love again,” Angela writes on Instagram, where she’s documenting her trip.

Angela Simmons is our woman crush for nurturing needy children and spotlighting an often overlooked place in the world. Even when it’s newsworthy.

Angie isn’t the only one that loves the kids. ‘Power’ star Naturi Naughton paid a visit to her alma mater: East Orange Campus High School to share with the kiddies how to make power moves.

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Just don’t go Tasha and Ghost’s route, kids. Just say no.

If You Blinked Woman Crush | A Dancer’s Dream for Brooklyn

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It’s safe to say once on Oprah’s payroll you stay on it, unless your name is Lindsay Lohan. But, Brooklynite dancer Dwana Smallwood took the Oprah experience and ran with it–from South Africa to Brooklyn.

Let’s start at the beginning. Smallwood danced her way to the biggest companies in the world: Alvin Ailey Dance company. Yet, she yearned for more.

She told WABC:

“Even though Alvin Ailey is one of the biggest companies in the world, and that was the only place I wanted to dance, and I kept thinking is that my life’s purpose to perform.”

Not for long. After performing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Oprah begged her to take her talent of graceful pirouettes to her South African all girls school.

“I said please, please, please would you go to my school in South Africa and teach my girls what you know.” Oprah reveals to WABC.

Not only did she go. Smallwood’s one week diversion of teaching turned into four years.

“What she did at my school, she came in to teach dance but she taught them about life, she taught them all of the social emotional skills that we know it takes to really be successful, and not only survive but to thrive in the world,” Oprah says.

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And now Smallwood is bringing those valuable lessons to her own dance school–Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center in her hometown of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

The 4,000 square foot studio was made possible by Oprah’s more than half a million donation. Smallwood’s goal of molding future Misty Copelands or even Barack Obama’s through discipline and motivation remains the same.

“I want to give you wings so you can fly can just give you the tools to compete on the world stage as a dancer, as a doctor, a teacher, anything you want.” Smallwood says.

It seems to be working. One student had this to say about Smallwood’s guidance:

“Ms Dawa has inspired me to become anything I want to become” Sahai Heyward told WABC.

Marking this dance queen our woman crush of the week.

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