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Black History Month: Billie Holiday bio, music, facts and more

The gutsy Billie Holiday, fondly remembered as Lady Day, would have been 104 years old come April. Her discernible voice — sultry, mellow and strikingly melancholy — earned the “Strange Fruit” singer an indelible posthumous legacy.

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Born Eleanora Fagan to a pair of poverty-stricken teenagers, her personal life was plagued with tragedy and scandal from the very start.

Her stage name was a tribute to movie star Billie Dove and her father, jazz guitarist Clarence Holiday, who was only 15 when his daughter came into the world on April 7, 1915. Her mom, Sadie Fagan, was 13. The union didn’t last long.

Growing up, Holiday would run errands for a Baltimore brothel in exchange for a chance to listen to jazz icons Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith, two legends who inspired her most. But it was ultimately desperation — not desire — that led Holiday to song, according to her obituary in The New York Times.

Upon moving to New York, her mom fell into a debilitating depression and was unable to find work. A teenage Holiday went down to Harlem “looking for any kind of work,” the Times reported.

Both mother and daughter had ultimately turned to prostitution.

After a stint in prison for solicitation, Holiday landed her first singing gig at Harlem’s Jerry Preston’s Log Cabin, where the amateur had been turned down as a dancer. For $2 a night, six nights a week, you could hear Holiday serenade audiences with “Trav’lin All Alone” or “Body and Soul.”

In 1933, she entered the studio to sing “Your Mother’s Son-in-Law” with Jack Teagarden, Gene Krupa, Joe Sullivan and Benny Goodman, who had heard of her talents through producer John Hammond.

Her time with the group catapulted her to fame as Lady Day, a nickname later given to her by Count Basie tenor saxophonist Lester Young.

With her head tilted back and white gardenias in her hair, Holiday’s famous 1939 performance at New York’s Café Society introduced the world to two of her most renowned songs, “God Bless the Child” and “Strange Fruit,” the latter of which left witnesses stunned then — and still resonates with many today.

Ahmet Ertegun, the legendary record producer, called the song, which Holiday first sang 16 years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus, “a declaration of war … the beginning of the civil rights movement,” Times critic David Margolick wrote in 2000.

Written by Jewish poet Abel Meeropol (pseudonym Lewis Allan), “Strange Fruit” was a protest song about lynching, “the first to shoulder an explicit political message into the arena of entertainment,” The Guardian reported in 2011. But “it was not, by any stretch, a song for every occasion. It infected the air in the room, cut conversation stone dead, left drinks untouched, cigarettes unlit. Customers either clapped till their hands were sore, or walked out in disgust.”

The biting depiction, further haunted by Holiday’s vulnerable performance and the measured cadence of her finger snaps, came at a time when lynching was on the decline in the country but still common in the South.

When she’d sing “Strange Fruit,” she said she always thought of her father, who died at age 39 after being denied treatment at a “whites only” hospital in Texas, according to her 1956 autobiography, “Lady Sings the Blues.” While touring in the South, she was banned from sitting with white vocalists and was asked to use a hotel’s freight elevator so as not to offend white clientele.

“Political songs legendarily age poorly, yet even with listeners desensitized to ‘Strange Fruit,’ the song has acquired a painful and unwanted freshness in the age of Walter Scott and Eric Garner,” The Atlantic wrote in 2015.

Holiday’s rise to fame in a world still ripe with racism further crumbled with her own growing battle with heroin. She was arrested for a narcotics violation in 1947, a conviction that kept her from retaining the cabaret license required to perform in New York’s nightclubs. Her entanglements with a series of abusive men and inescapable drug and alcohol abuse through the 1950s exacerbated the fall. Self-destruction eventually stole the luster from Holiday’s hardening voice.

On July 17, 1959, Holiday was arrested and handcuffed for drug possession as she lay dying of pulmonary edema and heart failure at New York’s Metropolitan Hospital. She was 44 years old. Her last album, “Recording,” was released just four months before her death. At the end of her short life, Holiday had just 70 cents in her bank account, and most of her recordings were out of print.

More than half a century later, you can find them all. With a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Grammy to her name, spots on both the Grammy and the Rock and Roll Halls of Fame and much more acclaim associated with her work, Lady Day’s enduring legacy lives on.

Church raises $150,000 for HBCUs through fasting

A Virginia church is making sure college students at Howard University don’t have to worry about their student debt.

Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, paid the school debts of 34 students at the HBCU, The Washington Post reported.

Some of the full-time students chosen to get the windfall owed as little as $100, others owed thousands of dollars

In total, the church members paid $100,000 to clean the financial slate of university seniors, “Good Morning America” reported.

The congregation also gave $50,000 to Bennett College, the Post reported.

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But how was a church able to raise so much money and why?

About 4,000 church members participated in a 30-day fast of not only food but social media and money. They were asked to not spend anything extra, and then donate the money saved to a worthy cause, the Post reported.

The Rev. Marc Lavarin had the idea of donating to Howard University during a prayer.

“I thought, ‘What better way to celebrate Black History Month than investing in the young, black heroes of HBCUs?’” Lavarin told The Washington Post.

Church members thought they would raise $25,000, but by the end of the month, they had $150,000, “Good Morning America” reported.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

The church has had a long connection with HBCUs. About 60 percent of members attended one of the country’s historic black colleges and universities and the church holds an annual event for prospective HBCU students.

On Jan. 31, the students were told about their award via an email from the financial aid office about a “special financial aid opportunity,” the Post reported

When they reported to the Interdisciplinary Research Building, the ministers from Alfred Street Baptist were there with the university’s financial aid staff to give the seniors the good news.

About 95 percent of students at Howard University get financial aid to pay the $24,966 annual undergraduate tuition, according to the Post.

White Wisconsin Republicans Force Colin Kaepernick's Name to Be Scrapped from Black History Month Celebration

Republicans lawmakers in Wisconsin successfully pushed to erase Colin Kaepernick from a state celebration for Black History Month, multiple news outlets report.

The legislature’s black caucus initially included the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback in an annual resolution to honor prominent black figures from Wisconsin, praising the Milwaukee native as an activist “who has sought to raise attention to racial injustice and systemic oppression.”

But Republican lawmakers refused to pass it unless Kaepernick was left off the list, according to CBS News and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

State Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke said Republicans would not support Kaepernick’s inclusion for “obvious reasons,” deeming the athlete too polarizing, according to CBS. They objected to another name on the list and said those included should be without controversy.

Democratic Rep. David Crowley, who wrote the resolution, called the move a “slap in the face” and a “textbook example of white privilege.” He pointed to Kaepernick’s donation to a Milwaukee nonprofit in support of area children, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Black lawmakers in the state have harshly criticized the move by the white majority.

RELATED: What to Know About Colin Kaepernick — Why the Former Quarterback Is Protesting and How It Started

Milwaukee Sen. Lena Taylor, a Democrat, said it is “outrageous” that some Republicans wish to “censor African American legislators.”

“So while we celebrate the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, evidently the Republicans don’t think the First Amendment rights should be afforded to African Americans,” Taylor said.

The Republicans tried — and failed — this week to pass their own resolution excluding Kaepernick’s name. Later, they added the Black Caucus’s resolution to the agenda but amended it to delete Kaepernick’s name, according to the Associated Press.

“So while we celebrate the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, evidently the Republicans don’t think the 1st Amendment rights should be afforded to African-Americans.” Poignant words by @SenTaylor today in Madison ????? https://t.co/c5ZXj8bBLi— Rep. Gwen Moore (@RepGwenMoore) February 14, 2019 .@SenTaylor tells @CBS58 she will be request the Senate to amend the #BlackHistoryMonth resolution to include the name of Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7). The Assembly passed the resolution yesterday that took out any mention of Kaepernick. The Senate takes it up this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/q7lC8OS3RC— Victor Jacobo (@victorjacobo_) February 13, 2019

That resolution ended up passing 95-0 and moved on to the state Senate, the AP reported, but it now appears to be in limbo, according to the Journal Sentinel. The senate’s two black members have voted against it.

Crowley, one Democrat who supported the amended resolution, said he had “heartburn” over the Republican’s tactic, the AP reported.

“It’s sad,” he said. “What you may despise, we may lift up.”

From the Assembly floor he said, according to the Journal Sentinel: “It is critical for this body to recognize the black caucus and recognize the resolution we put forward. Many of these people that you don’t agree with will still be in the history books that your children and grandchildren will be reading.”

Kaepernick started the #TakeAKnee movement to protest police brutality and racial injustices.

RELATED: Colin Kaepernick Revealed as the Face of Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ Campaign in the Wake of NFL Protests

The 31-year-old became the face of Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign for his efforts to take a stand against racial inequality in the U.S. He started the international protest in August 2016 when he remained seated during the national anthem at the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Later, he opted to take a knee instead.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told Steve Wyche of NFL Media.

Kaepernick received support from stars like tennis champion Serena Williams and NBA star LeBron James, but has also faced backlash and hasn’t been hired by another team since –– despite a strong 2017 season, according to Sports Illustrated.

President Donald Trump has been one of Kaepernick’s most vocal critics.

Instagram Launches #ShareBlackStories Campaign to Celebrate Black History Month

Instagram’s latest campaign is a picture-perfect way to celebrate Black culture.

The photo-sharing app is honoring Black History Month with #ShareBlackStories, its month-long initiative to feature Black art and creations while encouraging social media users everywhere to use effects, filters, and the hashtag to participate in the celebration.

“You can #ShareBlackStories by using new creative tools, conceptualized by Black voices at Instagram, including camera effects inspired by the rich cultural history of telling stories through African mud cloth patterns,” officials wrote in a statement.

The company will even use its own Instagram account (@Instagram) to join in on the fun, sharing short films on its IGTV channel beginning on Feb. 19 and highlighting the work of creators like Uzumaki Cepeda,Tawny Chatmon, and Paola “Pao Pao” Mathé.

View this post on Instagram To honor the black community on Instagram and celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth, we’re kicking off a new series: #ShareBlackStories. This month and beyond, follow along and share your unique perspective using the hashtag. For artist Tawny Chatmon (@tawnychatmon), #ShareBlackStories, and Black History Month in general, is “not about having other people validate us. It’s about us celebrating ourselves — celebrating ourselves and creating that work that we want to be in this world.” Tawny creates compelling images by fusing together black history and art history — sometimes quite literally. For one of her series, “Deeply Embedded,” she took portraits of young girls and placed images of African women from the U.S. National Archives in their hair. “If you see work like this with black faces, it’s going to have some effect on you,” says Tawny, who lives outside of Washington, DC. The inspiration for these photo collages came after Tawny read about the real-life stories of children who were sent home from school because of their hairstyles and their natural hair. “It became personal,” Tawny explains. “I have three kids. So I just started feeling like, these are my kids. They are my responsibility.” Today on our story, we visit Tawny’s studio to see more of her powerful portraits. Photo by @tawnychatmon A post shared by Instagram (@instagram) on Feb 4, 2019 at 2:36pm PST

RELATED STORY: Teacher’s Powerful Black History Month Lesson About Slavery Goes Viral: ‘They Didn’t Steal Slaves’

Instagram is just the latest company to take part in the national, month-long holiday.

Snapchat recently launched a virtual art gallery filled with works from young Black artists, according to AdWeek. Artists include Gianni Lee, Bianca Pastel, Jessica Spence, and Paracosm.

Snapchat officials have called it the first-ever augmented reality museum dedicated to young Black artists, AdWeek reported.

Meanwhile, Lyft has vowed to provide a free ride (up to $10) to a local cultural site that celebrates Black history and culture, officials announced last week.

“At Lyft, we believe in recognizing, celebrating, and supporting the contributions of incredible Black women and men throughout history and within our communities today,” the statement reads.

Mississippi teacher’s Black History Month display on slavery goes viral

A Mississippi middle school math teacher has drawn national attention for her uplifting lesson about slavery. 

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Jovan Bradshaw, a sixth-grade math teacher, has become the subject of national news coverage after a Facebook post of her Black History Month message to students at Magnolia Middle School has gone viral, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Bradshaw said she was inspired to step outside her typical lessons on long division when a student shared what she considered to be a skewed view on slavery, she told WLBT News in Jackson, Mississippi. One of her students at the school in Moss Point relayed to her that "slaves didn’t do much," since many weren’t able to read and write.

“He kinda caught me off guard,' Bradshaw told the television station. “I said, ‘Baby, if I snatched you up and dropped you off in China or Germany or Africa even, you wouldn’t be able to read and write their language either. Does that make you useless or any less educated?’”

Bradshaw eventually created a classroom door display with a message she attributes to poet and author Nadine Drayton-Keen. The message, which is posted across yellow paper, reads: “Dear Students, they didn’t steal slaves. They stole scientists, doctors, architects, teachers, entrepreneurs, astronomers, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, etc., and made them slaves. Sincerely, your ancestors.”

The math teacher’s message was welcomed with votes of approval, shares, likes and numerous black empowerment GIFs once she posted it on Facebook on Thursday. The post has been shared more than 105,000 times and liked more than 16,000 times.

Bradshaw didn’t stop with the bright message at the entrance of her classroom. In addition to posting the image, she attached the link to a GoFundMe campaign titled “Stay Dropping Knowledge.” Through the campaign, she hopes to raise more than $35,000 to send her students to the Black History Museum in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, purchase band instruments for the school and create a firm that would assist schools in curriculum for students. She’s raised $50 so far.

“I am a 2nd generation educator and kids are my passion. Being in a Title 1 school is hard because resources are limited,” Bradshaw said in a message on her GoFundMe page. “I want to use this money to further educate my personal students as well as educators around the U.S. Our students could be so much more if they just felt good about themselves and where they come from.”

Lyft offering free rides to cultural sites for Black History Month

Lyft is offering free rides in more than 30 cities this month in celebration of Black History Month.

The ride-share service announced the offer Feb. 7 in a blog post. Specifically, the rides are to black history museums, memorials and black-owned businesses.

>> Read more trending news 

“At Lyft, we believe in recognizing, celebrating, and supporting the contributions of incredible Black women and men throughout history and within our communities today,” the company blog post said. “That is why during the month of February, we’ll be providing one free ride up to $10* to Black history museums, memorials, and relevant cultural sites, as well as to Black-owned businesses throughout various communities in which we serve.”

The participating cities each have at least one designated location that the free ride a can be taken to. Specific destinations are at the Lyft Blog. Participating cities and free ride codes are below:

Atlanta (Promo code: BHMATL19

Austin, Texas (Promo code: BHMATX19)

Baltimore (Promo code: BHMBWI19)

Birmingham (Promo code: BHMBHM19)

Boston (Promo code: BHMBOS19)

Charleston, South Carolina (Promo code: BHMCHS19)

Charlotte, North Carolina (Promo code: BHMCLT19)

Chicago (Promo code: BHMCHI19)

Cincinnati (Promo code: BHMCVG19)

Columbus, Ohio (Promo code: BHMCMH19)

Columbia, South Carolina (Promo code: BHMCAE19)

Dallas (Promo code: BHMDFW19)

Denver (Promo code: BHMDEN19)

Greenville, South Carolina (Promo code: BHMGSP19)

Jersey City, New Jersey (Promo code: BHMNJ19)

Kansas City, Missouri (Promo code: BHMMCI19)

(Long Island, New York (Promo code: BHMLI19)

Los Angeles (Promo code:  BHMLA19)

Memphis, Tennessee (Promo code: BHMMEM19)

Minneapolis (Promo code: BHMMSP19)

Nashville, Tennessee (Promo code: BHMBNA19)

New Orleans (Promo code: BHMMSY19)

New York (Promo code: BHMNYC19)

Oakland, California (Promo code: BHMOAK19)

Ottawa, Ontario (BHMOTT19)

Philadelphia (Promo code: BHMPHI19)

Phoenix (Promo code: BHMPHX19)

Pittsburgh (Promo code: BHM19PIT)

Portland, Oregon (Promo code: BHMPDX19)

Richmond, Virginia (Promo code: BHMRIC19)

San Francisco (Promo code: BHMSFO19)

Seattle (Promo code: BHMSEA19)

St. Louis (Promo code: BHMSTL19)

Toronto (Promo code: BHMTO19)

Washington (Promo code: BHMDCA19)

Teacher's Powerful Black History Month Lesson About Slavery Goes Viral: 'They Didn't Steal Slaves'

A sixth-grade teacher in Mississippi is going above and beyond to empower her young students while teaching a very important lesson about slavery.

Jovan Bradshaw, who teaches at Magnolia Middle School in Moss Point, used poignant words from famed author and poet Rev. Nadine Drayton-Keen to send an important message to students for Black History Month.

“Dear Students, they didn’t steal slaves. They stole scientists, doctors, architects, teachers, entrepreneurs, astronomers, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, etc., and made them slaves. Sincerely, your ancestors,” she wrote.

She placed the message over yellow paper on her classroom door. Bradshaw shared the photo on Facebook, writing “Stay dropping knowledge.” The post quickly went viral, amassing 105,000 shares and more than 16,000 “likes” on the social media site.

Bradshaw told WLOX that it was one of her students who inspired the lesson.

“It all started with this little boy in my class. We were talking and he said, ‘Slaves didn’t do much because they couldn’t read or write.’ He kinda caught me off guard, ” Bradshaw told the station.

RELATED STORY: These Teachers Have Taken Door-Decorating to New Levels for Black History Month

“I said, ‘Baby, if I snatched you up and dropped you off in China or Germany or Africa even, you wouldn’t be able to read and write their language either. Does that make you useless or any less educated?’ “

Bradshaw tells PEOPLE that it took her an hour to put the display together, noting that she was looking for a way to teach the lesson quickly.

“Being a math teacher … my time is limited,” she says. “This was a way to reach all of my students. My door speaks for itself and I can keep teaching equations.”

RELATED VIDEO: 5-Year-Old Channels African-American Icons in Epic Photo Shoot

Bradshaw, who is running for the school’s Teacher of the Year honor, is among many educators across the country who are using their classroom doors to celebrate Black History Month.

“So many of our African-American students don’t know where they come from. All they are taught is slavery, the servitude side only,,” Bradshaw told WLOX.

“They need to know that we were great long before slavery. We built a country with our blood, sweat and tears, and the strength of our ancestors is why they can be great today. You have to see people who look like you contributing to society, and the African contribution is left out at school. I teach math, but I’m woke and I plan on waking up every student that comes through the halls of MMS.”

Bradshaw has set up a GoFundMe page to take her students on trips and purchase band instruments.

Smokey Robinson Slams Critics of Jennifer Lopez's Motown Tribute for 'Trying to Set Us Back 100 Years'

Smokey Robinson is standing up for Jennifer Lopez and her Motown tribute.

The legendary singer, 78, came to Lopez’s defense on Tuesday after many argued that the 49-year-old singer should not have been chosen to perform in the tribute at Sunday’s Grammy Awards.

His passionate post refuted the argument that black performers should’ve been chosen to honor the genre that was made famous by artists like Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Gladys Knight & the Pips and The Temptations.

“Attention, all those of you who protested a wonderful, super talented, world renowned, super star like Jennifer Lopez, showing her love and support for Motown music, here’s some food for thought,” he began in the lengthy Instagram post shared on Tuesday.

“On the very first day of Motown Berry Gordy told the five of us who were present, ‘I’m gonna start my own record company and we’re gonna make music for everybody and always be sure to make quality music that the world can enjoy,'” he recalled. “And through the Grace of God and hard work and determination, we accomplished that.”

View this post on Instagram God bless you... Smokey Robinson... #MotownDidItFirst A post shared by Smokey Robinson (@smokeyrobinson) on Feb 12, 2019 at 12:35pm PST

“Kids of all races, worldwide, grew up loving the music of Motown, imitating our acts,” Robinson continued. “Pretending to be Diana Ross, the Temptations, Michael Jackson and so on. Parents were and still are turning their kids on to the music of Motown.”

The “Crusin'” singer went on to slam the people who were criticizing J. Lo saying they were going against everything that the Motown era originally set out to be.

“So now you’re gonna try to diminish the scope of Motown and narrow it down to just music for Black people and you call yourself defending the image of Motown,” he said. “Well you’re trying to set us back a hundred years. If you call yourself loving Motown, be happy that we reached so many people and broke down so many racial barriers.”

“And that an artist like Jennifer, even after hearing all your negative comments, still loved Motown enough to do the tribute anyway. Now that’s love and respect,” he added.

Jennifer Lopez and Smokey Robinson

Robinson even brought up other instances where artists of different ethnicities, including Tina Marie and Rare Earth, paid tribute to Motown and claimed that those against J. Lo also must have “hated” her predecessors’ performances.

“Stop hating. Motown united people not divided them,” he stated. “So don’t call yourself loving Motown if you’re a hater and spreading the same bigotry that you so strongly oppose coming at you from others. J Lo was great and we at Motown love her.”

“The beauty of Motown is that we’re a family made up of Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian women and men,” Robinson finished. “We had a very diverse employee roster. So I hope knowing these few facts helps you get your perspective together and think about the hate you’re spreading.”

Jennifer Lopez and Smokey Robinson

Robinson then shared a photo with Lopez on stage and captioned it: “Thank You, MY GIRL @JLo 💛💙 #Grammys #MotownDidItFirst”

RELATED: Smokey Robinson Defends Jennifer Lopez’s Grammys 2019 Motown Tribute Amid Twitter Criticism

The “Jenny From the Block” singer also argued that she was worthy of headlining the performance in a recent interview with Entertainment Tonight.

“The thing about music is that it inspires all,” Lopez said. “Any type of music can inspire any type of artist. You can’t tell people what to love. You can’t tell people what they can and can’t do, what they should sing or not sing. You gotta do what’s in your heart.”

Jennifer Lopez and Smokey Robinson

RELATED: Jennifer Lopez Defends Grammys Motown Performance Amid Criticism — and Dedicates It to Her Mom

She went on to say that Gordy, as well as the producers of the awards show, were “thrilled” about her involvement. “They know how much I have been influenced by that music and so it was a natural fit for them.”

As for those critics? “That’s okay,” Lopez said to the outlet. “I’m just very humbled and honored to be able to have sung those songs.”

But on Sunday, users on Twitter weren’t so convinced by her involvement with the tribute.

J. Lo better not salsa her way to the cookout because she is uninvited for that terrible performance. ???? How do you do a Motown tribute without an ALL BLACK cast of artists?! And it’s Black History Month too. ???????????#GRAMMYs #Grammy2019— Jared Sawyer Jr. (@JaredSawyerJr) February 11, 2019 People who could've done the Motown tribute:-Gladys Knight-Stevie Wonder-Patti Labelle-Jennifer Hudson-Tina TurnerOr practically anyone else #GRAMMYs— Jared Sawyer Jr. (@JaredSawyerJr) February 11, 2019

“J. Lo better not salsa her way to the cookout because she is uninvited for that terrible performance,” preacher Jared Sawyer Jr. tweeted. “How do you do a Motown tribute without an ALL BLACK cast of artists?! And it’s Black History Month too.”

Sawyer suggested that Knight, Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle, Jennifer Hudson, Tina Turner or “practically anyone else” take Lopez’s place.

Other tweeters echoed that sentiment.

The irony of the very sexy J.Lo Motown revue is that Berry Gordy had the women of Motown tame their sexy so as to not fall into the Jezebel, highly sexed trope which White America places black women in! So they could have NEVER given a performance like that, ladies at all times!— bevysmith (@bevysmith) February 11, 2019 @RecordingAcad I don’t understand how you could #whitewash #MotownTribute w/ @JLo. We like her well enough but not for this. There are literally 1000s of black musicians that would have performed. This is why #Motown was formed because black artist couldn’t get a chance.— Benti F. (@FrankiB) February 11, 2019 I like J.Lo and all but....How you gonna do Motown like that in black history month????#GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/hnEwOKYHWW— Ash Ketchum (@3xcalib3r) February 11, 2019

Lopez’s tribute had the Bronx-born singer performing hits like “Dancing in the Street,” “Do You Love Me,” “Money (That’s What I Want),” “Please Mr. Postman” and more — while wearing numerous sparkling numbers. In addition to Robinson, Motown recording artist Ne-Yo also joined Lopez during the set.

At its conclusion, Lopez gave a heartfelt shout out to her 73-year-old mom, Lupe, whom she said raised her on the soulful music.

Black History Month:  Ritz Chamber Players

Black history is filled with rich culture, art, and music.  One classically-trained local group is using their performances to keep that history alive.

In a recent performance by the Ritz Chamber Players at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, music reached the highest ceiling peak. It glided over taut strings echoing through hollow chambers captivating the audience.

Sarah Spencer attended this performance and said, “The soprano singer. Just her voice. It just penetrates your soul”. The Ritz Chamber Players is a group born from the history of the Lavilla neighborhood –the heart of Jacksonville's African-American culture.

Terrance Patterson is the founder of the Ritz Chamber Players. “Every year we do a concert in celebration of Martin Luther King and it's entitled Remembrance of the Dream.” He says music played a vital role in the civil rights movement thanks to Dr. King's wife Coretta. She attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston when they met. “She would do concerts called freedom concerts to raise money for the whole movement.”

Continuing that tradition is what inspired violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins. “Without that era, without his work, we wouldn't be here today. The pluralistic voices, those are the sorts of things that he talked about.”  The classical music group also debuted a powerful new piece of music.

Art Mills was also in the audience that day and says, “I'm proud to live in a community that wants to honors him, and this is a great way to honor him.” Another audience member, Debra Corbitt says, “It's a good time to stop and think about the things that he did and work that he did for this country to uplift people, and this music celebrated that.”

And like the man who inspired a movement -- this music strikes a chord resonating with generations to come.

*This story is courtesy of Action News Jax*

Lyft Celebrates Black History Month with Free Rides to Cultural Sites

Headed to a Black history museum this month? Lyft has you covered.

As the nation observes Black History Month, the car service has vowed to provide a free ride (up to $10) to a local cultural site that celebrates Black history and culture, officials announced last week.

“At Lyft, we believe in recognizing, celebrating, and supporting the contributions of incredible Black women and men throughout history and within our communities today,” the statement reads.

“That is why during the month of February, we’ll be providing one free ride up to $10* to Black history museums, memorials, and relevant cultural sites, as well as to Black-owned businesses throughout various communities in which we serve.”

Snapchat has featured two of my works in its curated Augmented Reality art show.In celebration of Black History Month, Snapchat launched an immersive lens on today that lets users explore a virtual art gallery filled with the work of black millennial artists. pic.twitter.com/UB8yvxexxI— Gianni Lee (@giannilee) February 11, 2019

RELATED STORY: Wisconsin 6th Graders Recreate Famous Photos to Honor Black Icons: ‘Representation Is Key!’

The offer covers multiple cultural cites in at least 35 cities, according to the statement. For the effort, Lyft teamed up with Black Girls Code, a nonprofit organization that works to increase representation of Black women in technology.

“Much has been done, much remains to be done, and Lyft is honored to step up today to do our part to continue building inclusive and more connected communities while helping provide greater opportunity for the leaders of tomorrow,” Lyft officials continues.

RELATED VIDEO: 5-Year-Old Channels African-American Icons in Epic Photo Shoot

The ride-hailing service isn’t the only company celebrating Black History Month in a special way.

Snapchat recently launched a virtual art gallery filled with works from young Black artists, according to AdWeek. Artists include Gianni Lee, Bianca Pastel, Jessica Spence, and Paracosm.

Snapchat officials have called it the first-ever augmented reality museum dedicated to young Black artists, AdWeek reported.

These Teachers Have Taken Door-Decorating to New Levels for Black History Month

With Black History Month in full swing, teachers across the country are going all out for their classroom door displays to honor Black culture and heritage.

As Black History Month is a time to honor the accomplishments, legacies, and impact of Black people throughout history, it’s also a time to cherish the Black culture and leaders of today. With that in mind, several teachers have pulled out all the stops to make sure their classes are observing the month-long holiday from the moment their students approach the door.

Here are just a few of the creative displays:

Hollie Tibbs of P.S. 231 in Brooklyn, New York

Tibbs fashioned her classroom door as a Black woman with a head full of curly hair. With several ringlets made from black construction paper, the woman even appeared to wear a vibrant head wrap. At the bottom of the door, Tibbs included a collage of famous Black Americans throughout history.

“I wanted to create a door that represented the African American women that work in the class with me,” Tibbs tells PEOPLE. “I work with children with disabilities so the door needed to be a visual statement for them as a presentation of who they are as well.”

Glen Mourning of Friendship Public Charter School in Washington, D.C.

The fourth-grade teacher used his display to honor activist and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who started the #TakeAKnee movement to protest police brutality and racial injustices. The door appears to show the NFL player kneeling with black paper fashioned into an afro.

“The purpose was to shine a light on the most prominent members of our culture who were actively engaging in dialogue or bringing about real-life change concerning the wrongdoings that are still harming the community,” Mourning, author of the children’s book series Crunchy Life, tells PEOPLE.

“The fact is, kneeling done by Kaepernick and others was viewed by many as showing love and positivity in the form of peaceful protesting and exercising our rights … We need to keep the dialogue going!”

Chanique Davis of Lake Alfred Elementary in Lake Alfred, Florida

Davis, an art teacher, says she wanted to pay homage to the dreadlock hairstyle with her classroom door display. A photo of the art piece showed a woman with a crown in her hair.

“As many of the Black History Month doors created by teachers all over the nation are showing appreciation for the natural hair movement, I wanted to pay homage to the loc style,” Davis tells PEOPLE.

“Because this style is considered taboo in many professional and corporate settings I wanted to teach my students that diversity even in hairstyles should be accepted.”

Marcia Waller of Miller Fine Arts Magnet Middle School of Macon, Georgia

Waller used her door display to portray a young Black girl with two curly puffs in her hair and wearing a dashiki.

“Our culture is so rich with the accomplishments of African-Americans past and present,” Waller tells PEOPLE.

“I want my students to know where they come from. I want them to know their heritage and that the world is full of opportunities and possibilities.”

Anecia White of Harvest Preparatory School in Minneapolis, Minnesota

White says every student in her fourth-grade class is Black. So, she was sure to feature several prominent Black figures on her door under what appeared to be a Black woman with a full head of black hair.

“My source of inspiration for the door was every student in my classroom. They inspire me to be a better teacher every day, and I hope to inspire them to continue to learn about themselves,” White tells PEOPLE.

“I try to instill in my students that Black History should never be narrowed down to just one month within the year, but we should celebrate Black History year round. That is why I began decorating my door before Black History Month, and I plan to keep the door up well after this month is over.”

Jennifer Lopez Defends Grammys Motown Performance Amid Criticism — and Dedicates It to Her Mom

Critics may have questioned why Jennifer Lopez was tasked to lead the Motown tribute at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, but the 49-year-old singer wasn’t hearing it.

After Lopez lit up the stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles with a high-energy performance, she defended her connection to Motown in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.

The thing about music is that it inspires all,” Lopez said. “Any type of music can inspire any type of artist. You can’t tell people what to love. You can’t tell people what they can and can’t do, what they should sing or not sing. You gotta do what’s in your heart.”

She went on to say that Motown producer Berry Gordy, as well as producers of the awards show, were “thrilled” about her involvement. “They know how much I have been influenced by that music and so it was a natural fit for them.”

As for those critics? “That’s okay,” Lopez said to Entertainment Tonight. “I’m just very humbled and honored to be able to have sung those songs.”

Jennifer Lopez Jennifer Lopez and Smokey Robinson Ne-Yo and Jennifer Lopez

Many Twitter users were quick to criticize Lopez’s participation in the Motown tribute on Sunday, calling for black performers to honor the genre that was launched by Gordy with artists like Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Gladys Knight & the Pips and The Temptations.

J. Lo better not salsa her way to the cookout because she is uninvited for that terrible performance,” preacher Jared Sawyer Jr. tweeted on Sunday. “How do you do a Motown tribute without an ALL BLACK cast of artists?! And it’s Black History Month too.”

Sawyer suggested that Knight, Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle, Jennifer Hudson, Tina Tuner or “practically anyone else” take Lopez’s place.

RELATED: Smokey Robinson Defends Jennifer Lopez’s Grammys 2019 Motown Tribute Amid Twitter Criticism

Other tweeters echoed that sentiment.

J. Lo better not salsa her way to the cookout because she is uninvited for that terrible performance. ???? How do you do a Motown tribute without an ALL BLACK cast of artists?! And it’s Black History Month too. ???????????#GRAMMYs #Grammy2019— Jared Sawyer Jr. (@JaredSawyerJr) February 11, 2019 People who could've done the Motown tribute:-Gladys Knight-Stevie Wonder-Patti Labelle-Jennifer Hudson-Tina TurnerOr practically anyone else #GRAMMYs— Jared Sawyer Jr. (@JaredSawyerJr) February 11, 2019 The irony of the very sexy J.Lo Motown revue is that Berry Gordy had the women of Motown tame their sexy so as to not fall into the Jezebel, highly sexed trope which White America places black women in! So they could have NEVER given a performance like that, ladies at all times!— bevysmith (@bevysmith) February 11, 2019 @RecordingAcad I don’t understand how you could #whitewash #MotownTribute w/ @JLo. We like her well enough but not for this. There are literally 1000s of black musicians that would have performed. This is why #Motown was formed because black artist couldn’t get a chance.— Benti F. (@FrankiB) February 11, 2019 I like J.Lo and all but....How you gonna do Motown like that in black history month????#GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/hnEwOKYHWW— Ash Ketchum (@3xcalib3r) February 11, 2019

Lopez’s tribute had the Bronx-born singer performing hits like “Dancing in the Street,” “Do You Love Me,” “Money (That’s What I Want),” “Please Mr. Postman” and more — while wearing numerous sparkling numbers. Motown legend Smokey Robinson and Motown recording artist Ne-Yo joined Lopez during the set.

At its conclusion, Lopez gave a heartfelt shout out to her 73-year-old mom, Lupe, whom she said raised her on the soulful music.

We used to dance around to this music,” the Second Act star told E! on the Grammys pre-show red carpet, explaining that she was dedicating the performance to her mother. “I grew up with this music and me and my sisters, the three of us, we were, like, the backups. We were The Temptations and we just sing with her and I feel it’s a dream come true.”

That love for her mom stayed with Lopez after the performance.

“I could cry. It’s such a good moment,” Lopez told Entertainment Tonight. “It was for my mom. … It’s just a dream come true. Singing up there with Smokey Robinson, like, I gotta pinch myself. I grew up on all those songs and because my mom loved him so much she passed him on to us.”

Jennifer Lopez

RELATED: Her Personal Photographer! A-Rod Seen Snapping Photos of Jennifer Lopez at 2019 Grammys

Meanwhile, Lopez wasn’t the only one standing by her performance.

Robinson also defended Lopez’s involvement, telling Variety at Saturday’s Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy gala that Motown music was “for everybody.”

“I don’t think anyone who is intelligent is upset,” he said. “I think anyone who is upset is stupid.”

“Who’s stupid enough to protest Jennifer Lopez doing anything for Motown?” Robinson asked.

Smokey Robinson Defends Jennifer Lopez’s Grammys 2019 Motown Tribute Amid Twitter Criticism

Jennifer Lopez took the stage with host Alicia Keys, Ne-Yo and Smokey Robinson at the 2019 Grammy Awards to honor Motown Records. She performed hits like “Dancing in the Street,” “Do You Love Me,” “The Best Things in Life Are Free” and more, while wearing numerous sparkling numbers, including a one-piece with a deep v cut.

During the Grammys preshow, Lopez told E! she planned to dedicate the performance to her mom Lupe.

“Mommy, this is for you because we used to dance around to this music,” the Second Act star, 49, said. “I grew up with this music and me and my sisters, the three of us, we were, like, the backups. We were The Temptations and we just sing with her and I feel it’s a dream come true.”

Lopez during her Grammys 2019 performance.

RELATED: Grammys 2019: Everything You Need to Know About Music’s Biggest Night

But many Twitter users were quick to criticize Lopez’s participation in the Motown tribute, calling for black performers to honor the genre that was launched by Berry Gordy with artists like Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Gladys Knight & the Pips and The Temptations.

J. Lo better not salsa her way to the cookout because she is uninvited for that terrible performance,” preacher Jared Sawyer Jr. tweeted on Sunday. “How do you do a Motown tribute without an ALL BLACK cast of artists?! And it’s Black History Month too.”

J. Lo better not salsa her way to the cookout because she is uninvited for that terrible performance. ???? How do you do a Motown tribute without an ALL BLACK cast of artists?! And it’s Black History Month too. ???????????#GRAMMYs #Grammy2019— Jared Sawyer Jr. (@JaredSawyerJr) February 11, 2019 People who could've done the Motown tribute:-Gladys Knight-Stevie Wonder-Patti Labelle-Jennifer Hudson-Tina TurnerOr practically anyone else #GRAMMYs— Jared Sawyer Jr. (@JaredSawyerJr) February 11, 2019

Sawyer, 21, suggested that Knight, Stevie Wonder, Patti Labelle, Jennifer Hudson, Tina Tuner or “practically anyone else” take Lopez’s place.

View this post on Instagram “Next time you wear that suit, you’re opening my act.” A post shared by Alex Rodriguez (@arod) on Feb 10, 2019 at 8:26pm PST

RELATED VIDEO: Jennifer Lopez Celebrates ‘Two Years of Laughter,’ ‘Fun’ and ‘Adventures’ with Alex Rodriguez

TV and radio personality Bevy Smith, 52, pointed out that female Motown artists would never have been able to give a performance like Lopez’s under Gordy’s direction.

Be sure to check out PEOPLE’s full Grammy Awards coverage to get the latest news on music’s biggest night.

“The irony of the very sexy J.Lo Motown revue is that Berry Gordy had the women of Motown tame their sexy so as to not fall into the Jezebel, highly sexed trope which White America places black women in!” she wrote on Twitter. “So they could have NEVER given a performance like that, ladies at all times!”

The irony of the very sexy J.Lo Motown revue is that Berry Gordy had the women of Motown tame their sexy so as to not fall into the Jezebel, highly sexed trope which White America places black women in! So they could have NEVER given a performance like that, ladies at all times!— bevysmith (@bevysmith) February 11, 2019

RELATED: The Grammy-Winning Record of the Year When You Were Born

Other tweeters echoed that sentiment.

“We like her well enough but not for this,” @FrankiB wrote. “There are literally 1000s of black musicians that would have performed. This is why #Motown was formed because black artist couldn’t get a chance.”

@RecordingAcad I don’t understand how you could #whitewash #MotownTribute w/ @JLo. We like her well enough but not for this. There are literally 1000s of black musicians that would have performed. This is why #Motown was formed because black artist couldn’t get a chance.— Benti F. (@FrankiB) February 11, 2019

Added @spanishfly_69, “When I think about Motown that gracefully put the spotlight on black music & artists and the CULTURE during black history month… Ummm NO #JLo is not who comes to mind.”

Clearly you're not currently reading TWITTER dragging her ass right now. When I think about Motown that gracefully put the spotlight on black music & artists and the CULTURE during black history month... Ummm NO #JLo is not who comes to mind. ????— Marci Jones (@spanishfly_69) February 11, 2019

“I like J.Lo and all but…. How you gonna do Motown like that in black history month????”@3xcalib3r wrote.

I like J.Lo and all but....How you gonna do Motown like that in black history month????#GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/hnEwOKYHWW— Ash Ketchum (@3xcalib3r) February 11, 2019

Gordy, 89, watched the tribute in the audience.

Gordy in the Grammys crowd. Robinson

But Robinson, 78, had no problem with Lopez honoring Motown, defending the choice to Variety at Saturday’s Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy gala.

“I don’t think anyone who is intelligent is upset,” he said. “I think anyone who is upset is stupid.”

The “Being With You” singer said Motown music was “for everybody.”

“Who’s stupid enough to protest Jennifer Lopez doing anything for Motown?” Smokey asked.

The 61st Annual Grammy Awards are broadcasting live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT on CBS.

‘Do the Right Thing’: Why Spike Lee’s 1989 masterwork remains relevant

It was life imitating art in the cruelest of ways.

On July 17, 2014, in a scene captured on camera, Staten Island man Eric Garner was killed by members of the New York City Police Department who put him in a deadly choke hold.

Garner would painfully repeat, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Those three words became a rallying cry for a series of demonstrations and social unrest surrounding his death and the deaths of other black men and women at the hands of police.

RELATED: Read AJC Sepia’s full Black History Month Series

Two and a half decades earlier — in an albeit fictional encounter — it was Radio Raheem, a hulking Brooklyn character in the film “Do the Right Thing,” who was put in that same choke hold and killed because he was playing his radio too loud. Unlike Garner, who was stopped for selling loose cigarettes, Radio Raheem, played by Morehouse College graduate Bill Nunn, never said a word, instead spitting and gagging as the life was choked out of him.

“When I saw the video of it, I was not the only one who thought of the choke hold of Radio Raheem in my film ‘Do the Right Thing,’” Spike Lee told the BBC in 2014. “What you have is that amongst communities of color in the United States there is a deep mistrust of the police departments. There is an epidemic of black men being killed by police in America.”

RELATED: Ruby Dee: Actress known for talent, activism, marriage to Ossie Davis

It is hard to believe that until this year’s “The BlacKkKlansman,” Lee had never been nominated for an Academy Award for best director or best picture. Critics agree that “The BlacKkKlansman” is very good and deserving of all its accolades.

But they also agree, with perhaps a strong argument from the “Malcolm X” camp, that “Do the Right Thing” is Lee’s masterpiece. Don’t be distracted that the year “Do the Right Thing” should have been nominated, “Driving Miss Daisy” won the Oscar for best picture.

Opening on July 21, 1989, “Do the Right Thing” was a sweltering look at a Brooklyn block on the hottest day of the year and the tension the heat and simmering racial issues unleashed.

Centered around the Italian-owned Sal’s Famous Pizzeria, Lee filled the block with characters that could have come from a Zora Neale Hurston novel: Mother Sister, the neighborhood watcher; Da Mayor, the neighborhood drunk; Mookie, the neighborhood slacker; Coconut Sid, ML and Sweet Dick Willie, the neighborhood chorus; with Mister Señor Love Daddy providing the neighborhood soundtrack — but only when Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” wasn’t blaring out of Radio Raheem’s massive boombox.

RELATED: How Fight the Power became an anthem

Filmed in reds and yellows to signify the heat, the movie’s premise hinged on one question dripping with irony, race, patronage, privilege and Brooklyn’s past and future with gentrification: “How come you ain’t got no brothers up on the wall?”

Moments before engulfing a slice of pizza, Buggin’ Out, played brilliantly by Giancarlo Esposito, notices that in the overwhelmingly black Bed-Stuy neighborhood, photographs of Frank Sinatra, Michael Corleone, Robert DeNiro and Joe DiMaggio beam down on him from the walls of Sal’s Famous Pizzeria.

The question sets off a series of subtle but increasingly menacing events as everyone in the neighborhood struggles to “always do the right thing.”

Should Buggin’ Out and others in the neighborhood have a say in whose photos go up on the wall? Or as the owner of the only restaurant on the block, should Sal be afforded the right to do whatever he wants with his place?

By the end of the movie, Buggin’ Out incites a riot that ultimately results in the death of Radio Raheem and the torching of Sal’s pizzeria. For 30 years, scholars and critics have argued about what was more valuable, Radio Raheem’s life or Sal’s restaurant?

RELATED: Before Spike Lee there was Oscar Micheaux

A 1991 book about Lee’s works, “The Films of Spike Lee: Five for Five,” includes an essay by Nelson George in which he writes: “The violence of ‘Do the Right Thing’ invites a feeling of uneasiness as characters the audience cares about make wrong, life-rupturing decisions. It is not cartoon mayhem. It can be characterized as spur-of-the-moment aggression, echoing what occurred in Bensonhurst and Howard Beach. It is the kind of reactionary violence that changes lives and divides cities.”

George’s reference to Bensonhurst and Howard Beach is Lee using art to imitate life.

In 1986, 23-year-old Michael Griffith was killed in the Howard Beach section of Queens after being hit by a car as he was chased onto a highway by a mob of white youths who had beaten him and his friends. In August 1989, just a month after “Do the Right Thing” came out, Yusuf Hawkins, a black 16-year-old, was shot to death in the Italian-American working-class neighborhood of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, after being attacked by a crowd of up to 30 white youths.

Fast-forward 25 years and you have the ongoing spate of black deaths at the hands of law enforcement. After Eric Garner came Michael Brown, then Laquan McDonald, then Tamir Rice, then Walter Scott, then Freddie Gray, then Sandra Bland, then Philando Castille, then Alton Sterling … and the list keeps growing.

In 2018, researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California wrote in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health that while whites constitute more than half of the people killed by police in the United States, blacks and Hispanics die at a disproportionately higher rate based on the overall population.

Back in 2014, about two months after Garner’s death, Spike Lee found himself once again in the editing room with “Do the Right Thing,” which the Library of Congress had selected for preservation in the National Film Registry because it was deemed “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.”

This time he was splicing the video of Garner’s choking with his footage of Radio Raheem being choked. 

It was disturbing how similar they were. 

But perhaps more disturbing was how seamless the edit was.

Black History Month

Throughout February, the AJC will spotlight a different African-American pioneer in the daily Living section Monday through Thursday and Saturday, and in the Metro section on Fridays and Sundays. Click here to read AJC Sepia’s Black History Month Series and for more subscriber exclusives on people, places and organizations that have changed the world, and to see videos on the African-American pioneer featured here each day.

PODCAST | How to celebrate Black History Month in Atlanta

MOVIE’S MEMORABLE LINES

• Buggin’ Out: Hey, Sal, how come they ain’t no brothas on the wall?

• Mister Señor Love Daddy: Today’s temperature’s gonna rise up over 100 degrees, so there’s a Jheri curl alert! That’s right, Jheri curl alert. If you have a Jheri curl, stay in the house or you’ll end up with a permanent black helmet on your head fuh-eva!

• Da Mayor: Those that’ll tell don’t know, and those that know won’t tell.

• Radio Raheem: (while playing “Fight the Power” loudly in Sal’s pizzeria) Two slices.

• Mother Sister: Mother Sister’s always watching!

• Pino: (describing the neighborhood) I detest this place like a sickness.

• Radio Raheem: Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand. It’s a tale of good and evil. Hate: it was with this hand that Cain iced his brother. Love: these five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love.

Da Mayor: Doctor …

Mookie: C’mon, what. What?

Da Mayor: Always do the right thing.

Mookie: That’s it?

Da Mayor: That’s it.

Mookie: I got it, I’m gone.

• Mister Señor Love Daddy: My people, my people, what can I say; say what I can. I saw it but didn’t believe it; I didn’t believe what I saw. Are we gonna live together? Together are we gonna live?

Black History Month:  St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children

The St. Josephs Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children is a piece of black history in a place you would never thought you'd find it, Mandarin, a predominantly white suburb of Jacksonville, FL.

If you know the Mandarin area today it's not the same as it was when this one-room schoolhouse was built in 1898.

History tells us Mandarin was majority black in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s.

According to Sandy Arpen with the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society, Mandarin today is only 7 percent black.

This historical building has survived different uses over the past 120 years but has again realized the original purpose, nurturing minds. In 1898, it was the minds of black boys and girls.

In 2019, it's the minds of everyone who didn't realize such a place existed.  But it does exist.   Where?

The schoolhouse is located on the grounds of the Walter Jones Historical Park.  Do you know someone who may have attended this school? History begs you to speak up.

This isn’t the only piece of black history here. 

Walk inside the Mandarin Museum and you’ll see a variety of artifacts. 

One such item is a replica of the Steamboat Maple Leaf.   

When the ship was sunk in the St. Johns River, four people lost their lives.   Four black men.   They are remembered here in the Mandarin Museum.

Field, Foster, Sumner and Wiggin were asleep in this area of the ship.

When you visit the Mandarin Museum, you’ll learn more about Mandarin’s black history including how Harriet Beecher Stowe spent her time in this area.  You’ll also find out about a free black pilot by the name of Romeo Murray and his connection to the Maple Leaf.

The park itself is open daily from dawn to dusk.  You can tour the museum and schoolhouse Saturdays, 9-4.

Listen to my interview (below) with Sandy Arpen about the St. Josephs Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children.   It answers your questions about exactly how the school got started, how the Sisters were punished for teaching black kids and what kids today say about segregation.

If you missed last week’s Black History Month spotlight on Augusta Savage, check it out here

Gucci Issues Apology After Coming Under Fire for Turtleneck Sweater Evoking 'Blackface'

Gucci is facing intense backlash over an $890 sweater that has sparked accusations of racism.

The brand’s wool “Balaclava” sweater (a look inspired by the brand’s fall/winter 2018 runway show in Milan last February) features a turtleneck top that covers half the face and features large red lips printed around a mouth cut -out. The design has been checked by many for evoking racist blackface iconography. The Italian fashion house issued a statement on Twitter apologizing for the insensitive piece.

“Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper…We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make,” the brand shared.

Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper.We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make. Full statement below. pic.twitter.com/P2iXL9uOhs— gucci (@gucci) February 7, 2019

Although the top has officially been removed from its shopping site and all of Gucci’s stores, many people are still outraged and have taken to Twitter to expressing their disappointment.

We have ONE month to celebrate the history of African Americans. Feb. 2019: Multiple accounts of politicians wearing blackface. And now news Gucci was selling a $890 blackface sweater. We are a nation desperately in need of diversity training. #gucci #BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/tHXEAP2pjN— Michelle Singletary (@SingletaryM) February 7, 2019 So @gucci puts out a sweater that looks like blackface......On Black History Month....And then issues an apology because they didn't know that blackface images are racist.??????????? pic.twitter.com/G3HjPTIuuQ— Tariq Nasheed ???????? (@tariqnasheed) February 7, 2019 Balaclava knit top by Gucci. Happy Black History Month y’all. pic.twitter.com/HA7sz7xtOQ— Rashida (@fuckrashida) February 6, 2019

Many have also pointed out the unfortunate coincidence that the design house released this item during Black History month.

The brand’s creative director Alessandro Michele seemed to indirectly reference the controversy by posting a photo from a recent runway show with the caption: “I love all colors.”

View this post on Instagram ????I love all colors ???? A post shared by Alessandro Michele (@alessandro_michele) on Feb 5, 2019 at 1:24am PST

This is not the first time a high-end brand has been called out for offensive imagery. Prada was just recently at the center of its own blackface controversy for releasing a product line of cartoon characters in December of 2018. The label also made the quick decision to pull the products and released an apology on Twitter: “Prada Group abhors racist imagery. The Pradamalia are fantasy charms composed of elements of the Prada oeuvre. They are imaginary creatures not intended to have any reference to the real world and certainly not blackface. Prada Group never had the intention of offending anyone and we abhor all forms of racism and racist imagery.”

How does this keep happening with supposedly 'luxury' brands? No-one at Gucci clocked the similarity between the racist imagery of their $890 blackface jumper and Prada's keychain - the latter of which was pulled from stores less than two months ago? Or do they just not care? pic.twitter.com/pNxTbuJeXV— Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff (@CharlieBCuff) February 7, 2019

Social media users have noticed the derogatory-style pattern in these luxury brands. Author Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff called out Gucci and Prada on their designs.

The $890 designer jumper has been officially removed from all Gucci retailers.

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