Ava DuVernay Works to Bring Closure for Five Harlem Men and Exposure to The Injustice That Was Handed Them


Social Commentary

It was the Spring of 1989 when their lives made headlines. Five boys from Harlem who became known as the ‘Central Park Five’ were accused of a brutal crime. The story was branded as a ‘park wilding’ with them being taken in for questioning. But the story was a big cover-up for political gain.

Fast-forward to present day, as the woke film director Ava DuVernay works to bring closure and exposure to the injustice that was handed them. Even after DNA evidence came back without a match to any of them, the prosecuting attorneys still went ahead to frame the story in a way opposite to the facts.

So DuVernay with the support of Oprah Winfrey as an executive producer, decided to produce the Netflix special ‘When They See Us’ to tell the true story. Her approach was one of looking at the criminal justice system from four angles: policing, prosecution, parole and the prison industrial complex.


She got high praise from Tyler Perry, Levar Burton and others for the project’s cinematic depth. Her social justice work aims to open eyes, inform minds and touch hearts to inspire broader change. This project fits that mold and begs the question, “What if the ‘Black to America’ story were told with similar gusto?

This summer commemorates 400 years of that journey which began around August 1619 at Jamestown Virginia. The upcoming ‘America in Color’ Report presents a new way to see history, family, culture, country and social issues with a better picture quality for a higher level of citizenship.

One way to unpack the 400-year journey is by the 7 phases, 3 communities and 2 questions that overlap the story. Parts of the story call for celebration, parts describe periods of determination and parts of the story include racial oppression. It’s a story of ‘strong citizens’ and their ‘citizen shining moments.’

Many Americans know a more recent idea of strong citizens which got its start after Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012. As elected officials visited some affected areas in New Jersey, a sentiment began to surface. The point of pulling together to recover and rebuild was later phrased as ‘Jersey Strong.’

This caught-on in other areas across the country, including after the Boston marathon explosion where we heard ‘Boston Strong.’ The idea of strong citizens may have started during some of the darkest times in the ‘Black to America’ journey. But it also shows up today as a ‘Hometown Strong’ feeling.

So having an ‘America in Color’ perspective means seeing the larger storyline with a similar kind of truth-telling to better understand American history from five angles: Justice, Political, Education, Immigration & Tax systems. This helps to give a better picture quality for seeing social issues more clearly.

DuVernay said in a recent Oprah chat that she changed the name of the project from ‘Central Park Five’ because she wanted to present a new take for how the story is told. Well, ‘America in Color’ is a new name for how the ‘strong citizens’ story is told and #WhenWeShowThem represents what it means to survive and even thrive no matter the personal/social challenge.

Tracks: Mary J. Blige ft Nas – Thrive  – https://youtu.be/98YJEr9NaXc

Koryn Hawthorne ft Lecrae – Unstoppable – https://youtu.be/us7hvF6lsoc

Solange Knowles & ‘Chance the Rapper’ Used Their Awards Appearance for a Greater Cause – #HometownChat

Hot Shot (Old-School): “Real Talk with Industry Players and Biz Leaders”
– Oprah Winfrey, TV Host & Entertainment Mogul

Hot Shot (New-School): “Real Talk with Industry Players and Biz Leaders”
– Kevin Hart, Comedian & Actor


#HometownChat – “Smart Community, Special Service, Civic Dreams”

It was another sunny day in LA as Red Carpet watchers came out for the pre-show. So it was in England as well, as Solange Knowles performed a music set for concert goers. Then she got on a plane headed for LA. Knowles & Chance the Rapper used their BET Awards appearance for a greater cause.

She was there to honor a social activist; he was there to receive the Humanitarian Award. After receiving her own award earlier in the show, Knowles embraced the work of those working to address issues of brutality and criminal justice. Meanwhile, Chance is no stranger on empowering kids on the block.

He was almost brought to tears by a surprise clip from former First Lady Michelle Obama praising him for his work. With the lead-up to the Essence Festival and Independence Day celebrations underway, there’re many getting ready to get their groove on. Others are also considering the issues of the day.

For some, these times feel like there’s a kind of fog over the country’s social/political optics. Whether it’s in cases of laws being enacted or rights being revoked, it’s not clear how long it’ll take for this fog to burn off. How can we get through the fog? What does the fog look like? Well here are some things to consider.

  1. When vision is low, turbulence is high.
  2. When clouds are in the way, civic instruments have a role to play.
  3. When sunshine is blocked, social/civic development gets cooled.
  4. When haze is in the air, proceed with caution or move to higher ground where things are clear.

The healthcare debate and criminal justice matters have taken center stage in recent days. There’ve been a series of court rulings and proposed Senate legislation that have communities wondering ‘what are we, worst-in-class citizens?’ Some are even thinking out loud ‘how could anyone be so mean?’

An often quoted word of inspiration says ‘where there’s no vision, the people perish.’ This might also be modified to suggest where there’s no vision, no sense of common purpose, no justice, the people perish. What we see in the back-and-forth is that when vision is low turbulence is high in matters of public affairs.

As an example, the turbulence on a flight can happen during the first 10 minutes of takeoff or later at higher altitude. Low lying clouds have a way of making the early part of the ride bumpy. In the case of higher altitude, it’s usually due to a phenomenon called ‘air pockets.’ This is like a pothole in the sky.

When clouds are in the way a pilot has to use on-board instruments to help see through the fog. In the case of our country’s optics, that’s what the Special Prosecutor role headed by Robert Mueller is all about. But there’re other civic instruments and institutions that as citizens we get to add our say.

We look back on our history and see those moments when ‘America was born, died and came back from the dead.’ This is seen from the events leading up to America’s Independence to the Civil War period to the age of Civil Rights. They’re times when the light of progress came through after dark days of pain.

Solange and Chance are helping us get through the fog or dampness in the air by letting their light shine through. Just like when the sun is shining it warms the air, when the light comes through, our social and civic development grows. But when the light is blocked our social/civic development gets cooled.


They also know when haze or ‘air pockets’ are in the path, to proceed with caution or move to higher ground where things are clear. When vision is high it points us towards that higher ground. In a sense that’s what can be achieved through the collective efforts of ‘Community 3.0, Vision100 and the United Streets of America.’

So where do we find ourselves on issues of the moment? Some of the concerns have been around for a while. It feels like same old stuff, different day. Maybe we’re at the crossroads of belief and relief. We’re trying to believe there’s room enough for fresh change while hoping for some relief from the confusion.

When it comes to technological change we’re in a phase known as ‘the Internet of things.’ This is where more of our electronic devices and home appliances are connected to the Internet. This way there’s more we can do to measure and manage the efficiency in our daily lives by being more connected.

To advance our effectiveness in social change, there needs to be a mindset that a “Community of things’ will move us from the ‘politics of things’ to the ‘common purpose of things.’ How we get there might seem a bit fuzzy. But it could mean connecting ‘Mission Ready Blocks’ (MRBs) with ‘Mission Rocking Beats.’

Abraham Lincoln once said Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character give him power. Martin Luther King Jr. is quoted as saying Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice and suffering; the tireless exertions and passionate concerns of dedicated individuals.

Where we are today fits those quotes. Those in power show us their true character. What they propose assumes that anything goes. Lincoln and King would have us know we must fight for opportunity and against injustice. These things we can do in the meantime until sunshine comes after dark days are gone.

Block Talkback: These days should we fight for something (like healthcare for more citizens) or fight against something (like brutality and social injustice)?

Groove-tracks: Baby Cham ft Alicia Keys – Ghetto Story – https://youtu.be/loPRsrqrDXc

TLC – It’s Sunny –  https://youtu.be/EolE4i0UmWw

Beyoncé & Chrissy Teigen Do Other Things Behind the Scenes To Impact Social Culture – #HometownChat

Hot Shot (Old-School): “Real Talk with Industry Players and Biz Leaders”
– Oprah Winfrey, TV Personality & Media Mogul

Hot Shot (New-School): “Real Talk with Industry Players and Biz Leaders”
– Sergio Garcia – Pro Golfer


#HometownChat – “Smart Community, Special Service, Civic Dreams”

It’s safe to say that two things driving pop culture are music and fashion. Take a look through any popular magazine and there’s so much to see in style pictures. You’ll find it at Awards Shows too starting with the Red Carpet. But Beyoncé & Chrissy Teigen do other things behind the scenes to impact social culture.

Beyoncé has grown in mainstream relevance since her time in Destiny’s Child. These days as mother and wife she’s preparing for her new twin arrivals. Beyond what she does in studio and on stage, she’s also inspiring a growing list of colleges offering courses with content in the area of ‘Bey Brandalicious.’

Teigen who made a name for herself on the fashion runway is also playing that nurturing family role. Her dude John Legend keeps turning out music that puts him in the Billboard Awards arena. It’s also their acts of civic consciousness that seem to drive topics of conversation in the classroom and on social media.

Lessons from their celebrity-life chapters & verses remind us of how the value of pop culture is more than just hooks and looks. It’s why these college classes might show that when pop culture is at its best, celebrities and other personalities make a difference in ways that are not just trendy but also timeless by:

  1. Sharing information that widens the scope of general understanding.
  2. Spotlighting showbiz moments that bring thrills to everyday enjoyment.
  3. Celebrating stories that give sense to today’s new realities.
  4. Spreading views that provide clarity to free-speech in public spaces.

Remember those times of what’s hot and what’s not? Well it’s been said that you live life forward, but understand it backward. This is true for those who’ve grown-up before our eyes. The things we see from watching them go through growth and change might have true meaning to our personal experiences.

There’s a special feeling in thinking back to the before-and-after times in general understanding. That’s one reason why fans can become die-hard supporters of their fav artists. What they provide as an experience in fun and dance is just a part of why they’re admired and cause others to be so inspired.

Sometimes it’s being able to say ‘I was there when.’ Whether it’s going to a concert or performing in the mirror, there’re moments in pop culture we savor because of a certain thrill it brings to everyday enjoyment. Beyoncé has a way of pulling this off in her appearances, even if it’s just in a snap or gram.

Furthermore, in each decade from the past we find those moments that stick in our cultural memories. Some can point back to the hippies of the 60s, the discos of the 70s, maybe the styles of the 80s and so on. Along with these flashbacks are certain signature events in the life and times of those decades.

These days many look to social media to get the skinny on what’s happening culturally. Teigen who reigns supreme with her posts recently did something for someone whose goal was to finish beauty school. So Teigen paid off the balance of what was needed in tuition to complete the program.


Celebrating stories like these can help us respond to today’s challenging realities. It’s one way of providing hope when others feel like life’s saying nope. The person receiving this random act of kindness from Teigen might view this gesture as an example of what pop culture has done for her lately.

The U.S. Constitution affords us as citizens the benefit of free speech. This means that people are able to have and hold opinions without fear of reprisal. Now, not everything someone says or believes is necessarily all there is to know on a subject. We have the option to hear and study these ideas further.

Beyoncé and Teigen aren’t the traditional social experts. But they seem to have a way of cutting through the noise and bringing clarity to free-speech in public spaces which can be easier said than done. They know sometimes it’s better to get a point across through art or poetry than through theory or prose.

The cultural dilemma nowadays is balancing the voice of the people and the views of the pundits. It’s getting past the bad news and connecting with the good news. It’s stepping-up our game in order to do the things that bring change, gain a measure of choice and give us the courage to face those challenges.

How pop culture moves us is similar to how the weather shifts. Sometimes the temperature at the start of the day doesn’t change much throughout the day. Other times there can be a huge swing in temperature from daybreak to nightfall. Sometimes we have small shifts and other times huge swings in social culture.

The real story in what we express and enjoy about pop culture is in how love looks good or music makes us go or how we grow and have fun. The benefit from savoring this depends on if we take an approach that’s forward-looking or backward-looking. In the end, these times have helped many reach their best.

Block Talkback: When it comes to taxes, if the storyline of ‘Everyday America vs Enterprise America’ never goes away, how should folks bridge the gap and feel like there’s enough breaks to go around?

Groove-tracks: Janet Jackson – What Have You Done for Me Lately – https://youtu.be/r9uizdKZAGE

Usher – Love Looks Good –  https://youtu.be/AC2t6cjss1E

Oprah’s List of Favorite Things Has Grown Leaps and Bounds


Trivia: What’s the name of Carrie Underwood’s co-host on the CMA Awards (Answer below)

It looks like the Christmas holiday season is in the building! Many stores have already setup their seasonal displays. Some stores seem to have the smell of the holidays. There’s something else that’s brewing, and it’s not coffee. It’s Oprah’s list of favorite things which has grown leaps and bounds.

This holiday attraction dates back to the 2002 season of her daytime show. It has grown in popularity over the years. Her ‘favorite things’ list has become one of the most anticipated features in O Magazine as well. Who knows, maybe it started with about 20 items, grew to 40 items and is now 60-items strong.

Oprah’s take on her list is “These are some of my ultimate, ultimate favorite things.” She went all-out with an elaborate photo spread. The Vera Wang gown she wore took 100 hours to make, has a 15-ft train and weighs around 25 pounds. Oprah says it took four hours makeup and prep for a 10-minute photo shoot.

At first it seemed like it was over-the-top. But look at it this way, professional athletes practice for at least 10 hours a week for a 2-3 hour game. TV sitcoms have dozens of takes for a half-hour show. So, it’s important to love what you do because more time’s spent in practice than performing in the game of life.

Oprah feels it’s less about the list and more about the heart. She hopes people see this as a way to share of their worth to others who’re worthy. This list is a metaphor for the joy of giving and the value of giving back. It’s maybe another reflection of how much she’s grown in mind, body, spirit and riches.

Tip: The more time spent in practice correlates to less time messing-up while performing and better results in producing.

Answer: Brad Paisley