Securing Online Payment Gateways

If you are like me, you take technology as it comes and you just make adjustments accordingly. I have made the jump from 8 track tapes to cassette tapes to CDs to live-streaming, all in just the past 40 years. I took shorthand in high school and learned to type on a typewriter—I used Wite Out correction fluid and those thin, plastic correction tabs to fix my errors—and this was cutting edge stuff back in the day. I now live in a time where people walk around with small computers in their hands all day and communication with someone half a planet away is possible within seconds. As technology constantly changes, we must adapt and even plan ahead, to ensure these “undiscovered roads” don’t take us down the wrong path. I mean, initially, when we first starting using the Internet, there were all types of potential threats many of us did not anticipate. New threats await us as our use of computers and hand held devices rule the day. To protect yourself, and your information on the internet, it is important to understand the newest technological advancements and how they affect our lives.

With online purchases becoming more and more prevalent in today’s world, the threat of hacking is very real. When you send your information out into the vast internet, whether it be your driver’s license number, your bank account number, or other personal material, the fact remains that it is susceptible to crooks—crooks who know how to hack information you thought was protected. What safeguards do we have when making online purchases or filling out personal forms on websites? Thankfully, revolutionary advancements in shielding sensitive details are protecting you, even if you aren’t aware they’re there.

Take, for example, encryption. Encryption takes an algorithm to transform plain text, like your credit card number, and convert it into a non-readable format called cipher text. To decipher the encrypted information, the party receiving the material must have the algorithm and an encryption key to return it to its original plain text. Built in encryption systems protect the millions of people from sensitive data breaches.

The drawback with encryption is that data can be breached on either end. The security of the data relies on the strength of the encryption. Encryption is also time consuming and somewhat expensive. The trouble is, you just never know how strong the encryption data is at your bank, your local store, or your kid’s school, so your information may be vulnerable to attack, even when you believe it has been safeguarded.

Since encryption has its detractors, tokenization has become a welcome alternative to protection of personal details. Tokenization works differently from encryption, even though they are widely mentioned together. Tokenization requires taking the sensitive data and replacing it with a token, or placeholder. This token is randomly generated and is swapped for the plain text and then it is stored in an offsite database. Essentially, the tokenization process is taking data and turning it into random, meaningless information so that if it is somehow compromised, it cannot be deciphered by criminals looking for raw data. With encryption, if they break the code, they have the desired information. Unlike encryption, tokenization does not use an algorithm to make its replacement token. Instead, data is stored in a secured token vault which stores the link between the actual data and the token. The great part about tokenization is there is no key to change the tokens back to real data, so information is safer in the long run. Tokens can be set up to reflect the actual number, or at least a portion of it, which is why your bank may ask for the last four digits of your social security number or account number. The actual numbers are saved offsite, but the token number might reflect a portion of the real data. So, say you are online and purchasing something from a company from which you have previously purchased something—your data should be saved. In this case, the token is submitted to the token vault when you request to use the card and the index retrieves the real data for use in the authorization process. The company receiving the data feels no lag time—they are given the real data immediately, yet the “switch” was made in the cloud token vault.

Tokenization is now widely used by vendors because the real data is kept off site. With encryption, it is still within their database, even if it is encrypted. The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council holds merchants to compliance standards to ensure clients’ information is protected. Both encryption and tokenization are accepted under these standards, but the encryption method leaves the merchant more at risk of a breach than tokenization does.

Some key vendors use tokenization for payment, including Visa, MasterCard and American Express. These big three are looking to standardize tokenization in the payment industry’s sector. Their push for tokenization stated this new standard would “help provide the payments community with a consistent, secure and interoperable environment to make digital payments” according to The Motley Fool, an online source. As a matter of fact, MasterCard has teamed with has teamed with Synchrony Financial and Citi Retail Services to use tokenization in their transactions, making it the first payments network to do so. Through MasterCard’s Digital Enablement Services, or MDES, MasterCard can offer tokenization services that can ensure purchases can be made from any internet connected device while also delivering the safety customers expect. Not only does this new technology give consumers the opportunity to make their selections online, revolutionizing the way we shop, but it also alleviates the lingering worry that your credit card information will be stolen online. Since there are more ways to purchase items, including through phone apps, ecommerce, and reoccurring payments, having the information stored in an off-site token vault makes the transactions even safer than ever before.

Consumers today can rest assured their information is protected to its fullest extent when tokenization is used. It’s the wave of the cyber-future, making online purchasing the most practical and convenient way to shop.

Difference Between Your General Dentist And An Orthodontist

Your dentist keeps your mouth clean and your teeth shiny, but what can you do about dental abnormalities like crooked teeth? Seeing a qualified orthodontist may be the answer for you!

An orthodontist is a specialist who focuses on the straightening of teeth and can treat problems pertaining to the upper and lower jaws, gums, and facial muscles. While many people see an orthodontist for purely aesthetic purposes, it is important to know that there are sound medical reasons to straightening your teeth. First of all, crooked teeth can impede your ability to properly bite, chew and even speak! Additionally, crowded or crooked teeth can cause jaw pain, uneven tooth wear and difficulties with oral hygiene, like flossing. To accurately assess your need for orthodontic work, the doctor will work in conjunction with your regular dentist. Once a need for orthodontia has been determined, it is then a matter of selecting the best method to properly align the teeth. Orthodontists have many different options to help you achieve your desired result and make your teeth functional for a lifetime.

So is there a real difference between your general dentist and an orthodontist? While both are dental professionals, they have different specialties, much like your family doctor is different from a foot doctor. After acquiring a doctor of dentistry degree, an orthodontist must complete an additional two to three years of specialized training. Orthodontists invest this additional time into learning how to treat misaligned teeth as well as other dental and orthodontic procedures. They can also treat abnormalities of the jaw, with the assistance of medical prosthetic equipment. The most common procedure that orthodontists perform is the straightening of teeth, generally through various types of braces. For an orthodontist to know how to reposition your teeth, they study the movement of teeth. At times, teeth may require spacers, usually either rubber bands or thin, metal pieces placed to separate or at times, join teeth that are either too close or too far apart. Braces can be used to fix overbites, under bites, cross bites, and open bites. After a patient is finished wearing braces, they usually graduate to a plastic retainer to ensure teeth do not shift back into their original places after the braces are removed. While many people believe that the retainer step is a nuisance or unnecessary, it is a key element is maintaining the straightened smile. In extreme cases, a patient may need the assistance of headgear, which can be worn just at night or all the time, depending upon the doctor’s recommendation. The use of headgear is not as prevalent as it once was, possibly due to the fact it is cumbersome for the patient.

Many orthodontic professionals will not start working on children until all of their baby teeth have fallen out. Orthodontics can also be challenging if an adult patient does not have all of his or her teeth, or a patient’s mouth is too crowded to start the process. You may need to have additional dental services before your orthodontia can begin, like dental implants to replace missing teeth or the extraction of wisdom teeth to reduce overcrowding. Your orthodontist will discuss the necessary options and answer any questions you may have. He or she will also discuss your medical history and any pre-existing conditions that may impede your progress. Once the treatment plan is finalized, the braces and a retainer will be used to align the teeth.

The first step in developing your orthodontic treatment is to have the doctor take x-rays of your teeth and gums and take impressions of your teeth. The orthodontist can view the mouth from every angle to put together the best course of action. The overall process to straighten the teeth is not a quick one; it can take months and in some instances, years before the teeth have moved into proper alignment. An orthodontist will see a patient every few weeks to determine the patient’s progress and to adjust the treatment as needed. Sometimes this is as easy as tightening braces and sometimes it is as complicated as taking an entirely new approach.

Taking care of your teeth while wearing braces is an important element in your treatment. Brushing twice a day or preferably, after each meal is of vital importance. Any trapped food left in between your braces or in the brackets can turn into decalcification spots—little white spots on your teeth where the brackets once were. Alignment can be delayed if your teeth and gums are not kept clean, resulting in a longer treatment plan. Flossing is paramount as well and some orthodontists may have you use a fluoride rinse to protect your teeth.

Your orthodontist will keep you apprised of your progression and make adjustments along the way. He or she may have you close gaps by wearing tight rubber bands in your mouth or may surprise you with the news that your teeth have aligned much faster than anticipated. When the braces are removed, you will find yourself licking your teeth and you may want to eat foods that you couldn’t eat while wearing traditional braces. The orthodontist will take another impression of your teeth to compare the before and after. You will probably examine your teeth often in the mirror; it’s hard to picture how great they look while you are wearing braces for so long! Your orthodontist will also give you your retainer with explicit instructions on how to wear it and care for it. Retainers are expensive to replace, so don’t let your dog get it and don’t drop it down the sink and most importantly, remember to wear it! By skipping the retainer step of the orthodontia process, you may find your teeth shifting back into their previous places and you may have to endure braces again to get them to straighten!

Choosing to have your teeth aligned may be a purely aesthetic choice or it may be a medical one. Whichever it is, you will want to follow the instructions of your orthodontist to ensure you achieve a picture-perfect smile.

Hearing Aid Care and Maintenance

Millions of Americans deal every day with some type of hearing loss. Although this this product is tiny, is can be expensive, therefore requiring information to correctly preserve its function and situation. Millions of Americans still depend on these gadgets that are little to create a difference in their own life.

Within the years, some key improvements have been created by hearing products. In reality, it is often noted time, the unit have been created to be smaller and more successful over that the digital hearing-aid was stated in in the 1950s and the littlest one to-day can create outcomes that are huge. To the device, directional microphones were put in the starting in their design to enable the wearer to concentrate on one-on-one conversation as well as the capacity to converse in places. As you can suppose, these versions weren’t as helpful as suppliers and those to day discontinued their production till about the 1990s where engineering actually took a flip for the better.

Hearing-aid technologies provide a range of possibilities, meeting the requirements of variety of folks, today. Some are more complicated or more costly than the others, but these digital or gadgets nonetheless need the assist of an experienced audiologist to select the correct item and proper-fitting. The price of the gadget can surpass $5 and can commence below $2,000. Combined with the installation comes good care, which may help keep it operating precisely and extend the life span of the hearing-aid. They’re an expense for particular.

As an expense, care makes your funds go quite a distance. Understanding repair, clear and the way to store your hearing aids in Oklahoma City will keep it working as it absolutely was meant to and might avoid the need for recurring repairs over time. First, in regards to the shell, the the top of hearing aid ought to be stored clear. Aids typically have particles from oil or dirt in the grooves. Using an absence of treatment, possibly are functioning precisely or perhaps not fitting precisely. Chemical and water cleaners needs to be avoided in your hearing aid. Tissue or a moist fabric needs to be watchfully utilized to wipe down the hearing aid. Many kits contain a brush that will be of good use for earwax buildup. The microphone is acutely fragile also it’s essential never to poke the port. During cleansing, the microphone should constantly be facing the ground as well as the brush that is provided ought to be used. Wax buildup could be prevented by daily cleansing together with the brush .

In the event you have any queries or need further help on the appropriate cleansing techniques, it’s recommended that you simply ask your audiologist. They are the specialists in this area and will gladly evaluate these procedures along with one to ensure effective hearing aid performance. As it pertains to moisture, a hearing aid can lengthen their life and drying container or a support package will assist keep dampness from building-up inside the hearing aids. Be certain before putting them in a great spot so that you can help them as long as they possibly can to consider the batteries from the hearing-aid. This, also, will extend battery life. Signs of batteries are scratchy sounds output, distortion, improved suggestions, intermittence or odd and uncommon sounds like static. As some batteries might only last a week or two proper battery treatment demands program everyday or weekly screening. It’s recommended that a spare battery that ought to also be stored in a great location is usually carried by a person using a hearing aid.

Although batteries nowadays are made to last considerably longer lengthier than in the immediate past, drying is advised with all the use of possibly a forced-air blower (no, maybe not a blow dryer) or a can of compressed-air such as the kinds employed to clear a key pad. Moisture can occur from even sweat or rain. Climatic circumstances and your activity level are a couple of the most frequent identified variables impacting dampness buildup. People with people who sweat or high ranges of bodily physical exercise are susceptible to moisture problems as it pertains with their hearing devices. Likewise, residing in locations of large humidity can also irritate its performance. Whether from external or internal sources, moisture ought to be averted as most useful you are able to. Some aids will stand as much as moisture than the others. Consult your audiologist to determine whether they advise drying containers or particular dry help kits and also discuss your particular lifestyle together. Your audiologist can assist you pick the correct aid that’ll support your present lifestyle in the event that you are a bodily individual and danger more perspiration than the others. This, subsequently, will assist you get the most from the hearing aid.

Many folks are interested in the common whole life of a hearing system. Their longevity depends on the sort of help in addition to good care they’ve gotten. Problem fixing care and methods can aid prolong the life span of course, of the gadget. For the most portion, the hearing aids of today’s are excessively trustworthy, long-lasting and powerful. Things might go incorrect, but it is possible to save time plus money in the end by avoiding pricey and serious repairs, when you care for them properly. Information on appropriate treatment is a potent device in this circumstance. Not only are hearing aids heading to boost the standard of life, however they’re worth the additional treatment which they require.


Healthy Eating In Oklahoma City

Restaurants Offer Healthy Alternatives

More and more Oklahoma restaurants are offering healthy alternatives to “Oklahoma comfort food“. As people become more health conscious in this day and age, they are becoming more picky about what they put into their bodies. We traveled to Oklahoma City this past month and ventured out on a foodie excursion to experience the local dishes first hand. I was not disappointed at all, plenty of “stick to your ribs” items on the menus and friendly faces serving. There was a highlight to our trip though that I wanted to share in this post. We found a gem, a place that took as much pride in their food as the Sooners do in their football team.

The Healthy Hearth

healthy hearth chefWe had asked some locals for a hole in the wall gem where we could eat healthy and enjoy Oklahoma cuisine at the same time. The Healthy Heart showed up on our radar and it did not disappoint. In addition to their healthy lunch options, they also had a desert menu to die for. I am not a fan of super sweet desserts, and I am not a fan of processed sugars in general, so I was hesitant to order any dessert. When I spoke to the Chef he said that they only used natural sweeteners in their desserts and stayed clear of anything that rots out the teeth. It was interesting to talk further about the menu because even the sauces were limited on sugars, which is a difficult thing to pull off. The Chef went on to say that with rotten teeth and cavities how can anyone enjoy their meals? I agreed, and I was pleased to taste such an amazing meal without all the sugar. I didn’t finish my dinner and want to rush home to brush my teeth, there just wasn’t that over abundance of sugar in any of the items I enjoyed. The Chef joked that if we ate dessert over at the Dairy Queen down the street that we might have to find an excellent orthodontist in the Oklahoma City metro area to straighten us out like a rotten set of teeth (haha). We laughed at his humor, our teeth were straight and our stomachs were full.

We Will Return

Next time we are out in Oklahoma City we will definitely be returning to indulge in the great food and company. Chef also suggested that we visit Shawnee Oklahoma for  bite to eat at a local caffe where they serve a healthy brunch for a fair price. He suggested that we try the roasted veal bone broth, but again joked that there is  a new orthodontist in Shawnee, Oklahoma if we needed to get a tooth repaired from biting into a bone. I hope he was kidding (haha).


‘The Chi’ Brings Authenticity to SXSW

According to executive producer and creator Lena Waithe, the goal of The Chi is to bring an authentic voice to the city of Chicago. 

Cast members Jason Mitchell and Jacob Latimore joined executive producer and actor Common on a panel moderated by TV Guide‘s Jim Halterman during SXSW. During the panel discussion, the group reflected on several different scenes presented on screen and tied them back to why it was so important that this story is told authentically. 

“It’s a unique way to look at black people… We’re really just being. We’re not tap dancin’, we’re not trying to get out the hood, we’re not rappin’,” said Waithe.

Common joked, “What’s the matter with rappin’?” but, completely understood Waithe’s perspective. “I didn’t want to play a dude from Chicago, but mostly that happened because there were people writing who didn’t know what a dude from Chicago would really be like. It’s a testament to how great Lena has created these characters. I wanted to be a part of the show because the writing is so great and the characters have dimensions to them.” 

Common, Executive Producer and Actor; 'The Chi' panel at SXSW (Image: file)

Common, executive producer and actor; The Chi panel at SXSW (Image: file)


Mitchell added, “It’s already a blessing when you know that somebody is authentically from somewhere and they’re executive producing it and they’re writing it and you got Common also jumpin’ in and doing the same thing. It’s a wave that you know you gotta get on top of.”

“I don’t think I would have been a part of it if there weren’t any real Chicago people behind the project,” said Latimore. “We’re just giving Chicago a real voice. It’s really dope.”

Actors, Jason Mitchell and Jacob Latimore; 'The Chi' panel at SXSW (Image: file)

Actors Jason Mitchell and Jacob Latimore; The Chi panel at SXSW (Image: file)


It’s amazing to see Hollywood embracing authentic and diverse voices. This is a conversation that expands beyond multiple industries and we see what happens when done correctly. The numbers speak for themselves; just look at Black Panther grossing over $1 billion to date and the Ava DuVernay-directed A Wrinkle in Time, leading No. 2 in the box office.

In addition to Waithe and Common, the series is also executive produced by Elwood Reid, Aaron Kaplan, Rick Famuyiwa, Derek Dudley, and Shelby Stone of Freedom Road Productions. The series is produced by Fox 21 Television Studios and will return with new showrunner Ayanna Floyd Davis, according to Variety.

The Chi is wrapping up its first season with the finale this Sunday, March 18, but not to worry—fans haven’t seen the last of it. The show has been renewed by Showtime for season 2. Premiere dates have not been announced.

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This Is The Only Black Woman-Owned Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco

Meryanne Loum-Martin is a Parisian lawyer turned entrepreneur and founder of Jnane Tamsna, a boutique hotel located in Marrakech, Morocco. Beyond the fact that she has the only black woman-owned hotel in the area, she and her husband purchased land in 2000 and in less than one year, they built the hotel from the ground up. “At that time, I was a black woman in a country with a low percentage of black people,” says Loum-Martin. “I didn’t speak the language and the field of construction was very much a world of men who are known to ignore women. And you know what? We designed everything ourselves. My husband was responsible for the gardens and I was responsible for the architecture, interiors, and floor plans.”

Eighteen years later, her confidence, courage, and fierce determination have paid off—from five-star reviews and features in coffee table books and magazines like Elle, Vogue, and Town & Country, to venue host of stylish events such as “The IMARA Retreats: the Colored Girl” (a black female empowerment retreat that hosted powerhouses like Bozoma Saint John). Loum-Martin, who is half West Indian and half Senegalese, has no plans of slowing down.

We asked Loum-Martin to share her insights and tips on providing exceptional customer service experience.


My tips to individual hotel owners would be stick to your identity—it’s your strength and uniqueness. Don’t be shy to appear a bit eccentric, especially if it expresses your true self. Make a personal connection without being intrusive or too much present. People love connections and human experiences because this is what’s missing in our over-digitalized and corporate world.

We’ve created a property with a soul and I rely on our trained staff that have worked with us for over 15 years for this. We are here to create an experience and share the passion we have for the beautiful country of Morocco.

Having created an estate, we’re not interested in competing with conventional luxury. We offer supreme individuality. There’s no TV, no room service, no DJ by the pools but excellent Internet so people can be connected to CNN and the stock market. I have made a bet with some guests: the day the news will be good, we will have a TV in all rooms. Until then, enjoy the gardens.

Several times, I noticed that people whose lives would never have crossed were having the most interesting conversations by the fireplace and then decide to do activities and tour together. Our place creates a bridge between guests who have nothing else in common than staying at the same time at Jnane Tamsna and loving the experience.


We’re situated on nine acres of land, which includes five pools and one tennis court. We’re also very organic, grow our own food, and produce our own olive oil and the best fruit preserves. Our food is a fusion of Mediterranean food and modern Moroccan food. We have 635 century-old palm trees, olive trees, and orchard and vegetable gardens.

We have a very loyal clientele, who come back again and again and send their friends who could be anyone from Hollywood stars, musicians, models, writers, and even journalists—who just love to sit under the shade of our extraordinary trees, read, chat, or sip our own organic grapefruit juice.




We’ve hosted fascinating literary salons around famous writers. We host stays for garden lovers, lifestyle and design lovers, and culinary adventures.


Our own house is on-site and we often invite guests over for drinks. This gives a very different experience to a usual hotel stay. Lastly, our personal commitment to philanthropy and causes has always been accessible to our guests. We’re involvedfrom girls education in rural mountain areas to now assisting African migrants with medical and legal support, food, shelter, and opportunities. This project was started by our son.

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Finally! A Solid Definition of Afrofuturism and How It Relates to ‘Black Panther’

It’s been nearly a month since the debut of Black Panther and the blockbuster movie continues to shatter records. The pro-black superhero film reached the $1 billion benchmark at the box office worldwide on Sunday, just 26 days after its debut. This makes the Disney and Marvel Studios movie the No. 9 top film of all time, domestically, and puts it on track to surpass The Dark Knight to become the No. 2 superhero film in history.

Black Panther topped $1 billion following its release in its final major market in China, where it opened with an estimated $66.5 million. The African-themed sci-fi flick also maintained a firm grip on the No. 1 spot at the U.S. weekend box office for a fourth straight week, becoming the first Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film to hold this title. It’s also only the fifth MCU movie to earn $1 billion and the 16th Walt Disney Studios’ to reach this milestone.

However, in addition to smashing records and defying the expectations of success for an all-black film, Black Panther has also sparked a renewed interest in Afrofuturism. The term, which was first coined in the 1990s, describes the infusion of Afro-centricity, history, and technology to shape and define the world. Tim Fielder, a cartoonist, Afrofuturist, and the creator of the Matty’s Rocket Episodic Comicbook Series, stopped by Black Enterprise to explain the history and significance of Afrofuturism, as well as how it is portrayed in Black Panther.

“The interesting thing about the way Afrofuturism is depicted in Black Panther is [that] the Marvel universe takes place in modern time—it’s contemporary. It’s assuming that there is an African country was never colonized and that they—through existing without that colonial interference—were able to become more technically advanced than any other society on the planet.”

Fielder goes on to discuss other aspects of Afrofuturism, including how Ruth E. Carter, an Academy Award-nominated designer, infused it into the movie’s costume designs. Watch the video below.

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Three Unexpected Takeaways From Black Panther

I’m just a software engineer, not a movie reviewer. If you’re looking for an expert critique of Ryan Coogler’s hugely successful big-budget blockbuster, Black Panther, you have come to the wrong place.

That isn’t to say I didn’t appreciate the film. I enjoyed strong performances from Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and the rest of the legendary supporting cast. I loved the attention to detail in everything from the costumes to the fight scenes to the distinctively black hairstyles. The production quality was as top notch as we’ve come to expect from a Marvel film.

The thing is, I thought the movie was great—just not for the reasons you might think. Let me tell you my three takeaways from the movie.

Disclaimer: If you’re already familiar with the comic, there isn’t much in the way of spoilers ahead. Everybody else, consider yourself warned.

Takeaway #1: The world could use more black innovation

In the film, the fictional African people of Wakanda guard a miracle metal known as Vibranium. Its magical properties fuel their unparalleled technological advancements. Hidden from the view of the outside world, the Wakandans ensure that outsiders remain unaware of their precious metal. They know that no one would guess a seemingly impoverished, third-world country like Wakanda would ever be capable of pioneering the most sophisticated innovations known to mankind.

Like the Wakandans, the innovations of black people throughout American history are also largely invisible. No, black people weren’t trying to hide them from the world. Racism robbed many black innovators from receiving the credit they earned. Unfortunately, history may forget them altogether.

Did you think that Katherine P. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson were the only hidden figures?

As one of the rare black software engineers in Silicon Valley, I remind others of the innovations of black people like Garrett A. Morgan, Lewis Latimer, Frederick McKinley Jones, and Madam C.J. Walker, who invented everything from the precursor to the modern traffic light to the portable refrigeration that makes ice cream trucks possible today.

I’m excited for the growing interest in making the world aware of these and other black inventors. Many amazing, untold stories of black innovation are waiting to be told in film. Hopefully, Hollywood will take notice.

Takeaway #2: Black people are still struggling over the souls of black folk

The central conflict of the movie lies between King T’Challa and Erik Killmonger. T’Challa seeks to guard Wakanda’s technological secrets from the world. And Killmonger? He wants to arm the worldwide African diaspora with the means to rise up against oppression.

This conflict reminded me of the famous nemeses in black American history. For instance, I considered the disagreement between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. King advocated peaceful civil disobedience. Malcolm believed in black liberation by any means, including violence.

(Image: Wikimedia)


(As an aside, don’t forget that the Black Panther Party—no relation to the comics—also advocated for using violence to defend blacks against the terrorism of the Jim Crow era.)

King and Malcolm weren’t the only ones to take opposing sides. W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington debated whether the future of black progress lay in the classroom or the shop floor. Du Bois believed in political action and growing black intellectualism to compete with racism in the battlefield of the mind. Washington, on the other hand, argued that hard work and wealth-building would win the respect of white people.

The schisms between these viewpoints still exist in the black community today. Seeing this debate play out on the big screen made me appreciate the richness of the Black Panther storyline.

Takeaway #3: STEM is a tool for uplifting black communities

At the end of the movie, T’Challa realizes Wakanda must share its technology for the good of humanity. He decides to open up an international outreach post in Oakland, California, a city where black people still make up the largest racial demographic. The audience is led to believe this development would uplift a community long victimized by inequality and injustice.

As soon as I saw that scene, I was instantly reminded of the computer lab that Google opened for Oakland youth near Fruitvale Station in 2016. That transit station is where a police officer killed a handcuffed black man, Oscar Grant III, in 2009. Fruitvale Station is also the name of the biopic about the incident directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Michael B. Jordan.

Silicon Valley is investing in Oakland as they look to raise the representation of blacks and Latinos in tech. I believe that there is real opportunity for companies like Google and others to make a difference in the long-neglected hoods and ghettos that exist all across America. By getting proximate with these communities, as activist Bryan Stevenson puts it, tech can provide the tools that underrepresented groups can use to climb out of poverty.

As Black Panther continues to make film history, I’m hopeful that future films will probe the depths of the important themes that matter to underrepresented communities. I would certainly pay to see more films as entertaining and as thought-provoking as this one.

The author wishes to thank fellow Googlers Cynthia, David, Kalon, Jennie, Mitul, and Olivier for their feedback.

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The Obamas May Become The First Post-Presidency Streaming Show Producers

Until Theodore Roosevelt, who jumped in and out of the political fray, former presidents often return to their homes, allowing their successor to establish themselves as the new commander-in-chief.

George Washington became the country’s largest whiskey distiller. William Howard Taft became Chief Justice of the United States. George W. Bush pursued his passion as a painter. 

Much of President Barack Obama’s moves in the weeks leading to his White House exit was left to speculation. For 55-year-old Obama, living in seclusion was not an option. He had already announced in 2016 that he wasn’t leaving Washington until his daughters completed school. He also said he’d have no choice but to speak up if America’s core values and principles were ever under attack. He didn’t say much else other than taking his wife, Michelle on a vacation trip.

According to the New York Times, the Obamas are close to securing a deal with Netflix to produce a series of high-profile shows.

“President and Mrs. Obama have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire,” Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to the former president, said Thursday. “Throughout their lives, they have lifted up stories of people whose efforts to make a difference are quietly changing the world for the better. As they consider their future personal plans, they continue to explore new ways to help others tell and share their stories.”

Although the format for the shows and the number of episodes are yet to be decided, the report stated that President Obama’s plan is to highlight inspirational stories instead of using the platform for response to President Donald Trump.

One potential show idea, the Times said, was for President Obama to moderate conversations on topics that dominated his presidency, from healthcare, voting rights, immigration, foreign policy to climate change. The program could also feature topics Michelle Obama championed as first lady. The couple could also lend their brand and endorsements to Netflix programming that align with their beliefs and values. 

Still unclear is how much the couple will be paid and whether it will come close to their $65 million book. The exclusive content would be made available on the streaming platform to its nearly 118 million global subscribers.

For Netflix, the Obamas’ deal is a part of a broader strategy to develop more original content as the streaming service competes with Apple, Amazon, and traditional broadcast networks. Late last month, Netflix announced it was going to spend as much as $8 billion on original shows this year alone. Not only does Netflix spend more money on non-sports content than any streaming provider, it also spends more than many traditional TV media companies.

Apple and Amazon, which both own their own streaming services, have reportedly “expressed interest in talking with Obama about content deals.”

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What Is An ‘Inclusion Rider’ and Why Is Michael B. Jordan Using One?

When Frances McDormand closed her Oscar acceptance speech last weekend with the phrase “inclusion rider,” very few had ever heard the term based on the scanty applause in the audience and the spike in Google searches.

Deemed the Rooney Rule for Hollywood, Stacy L. Smith, who directs the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, introduced the idea in a 2014 column:

What if A-list actors amended every contract with an equity rider? The clause would state that tertiary speaking characters should match the gender distribution of the setting for the film, as long as it’s sensible for the plot. If notable actors working across 25 top films in 2013 had made this change to their contracts, the proportion of balanced films (about half-female) would have jumped from 16 percent to 41 percent. Imagine the possibilities if a few actors exercised their power contractually on behalf of women and girls. It wouldn’t necessarily mean more lead roles for females, but it would create a diverse onscreen demography reflecting a population comprised of 50 percent women and girls.

An “inclusion rider” is a clause that actors and actresses can ask to be inserted into their contract that would require diversity among a film’s cast and crew.

In light of the global success of the Black Panther movie, actor Michael B. Jordan announced yesterday that he will be adopting the diversity clause for all the projects his production company, Outlier Society takes on going forward.

“In support of the women & men who are leading this fight, I will be adopting the Inclusion Rider for all projects produced by my company Outlier Society,” the post read. “I’ve been privileged to work with powerful woman & persons of color throughout my career & it’s Outlier’s mission to continue to create for talented individuals going forward.”

In support of the women & men who are leading this fight, I will be adopting the Inclusion Rider for all projects produced by my company Outlier Society. I’ve been privileged to work with powerful woman & persons of color throughout my career & it’s Outlier’s mission to continue to create for talented individuals going forward. If you want to learn more about how to support the cause – link in bio. #OutlierSociety #AnnenbergInclusionInitiative

A post shared by Michael B. Jordan (@michaelbjordan) on

The announcement comes just a day after Netflix CEO’s Reed Hastings said his company has no interests in doing such a thing. Reed said he would rather have his staff speak with filmmakers to determine how diverse the overall cast and crew on a film is.

“We’re not so big on doing everything through agreements,” Hastings said at a press briefing in his office. “We’re trying to do things creatively.”

In January, comedian and Oscar-winning actress Monique called for a boycott of the movie streaming service over gender and pay disparity issues, noting that Netflix allegedly offered her $500,000 for a comedy special while offering millions in compensation to Amy Schumer, Dave Chappelle, and Chris Rock.

While the company, which has an estimated 117 million subscribers continues to play an important role in Hollywood, putting on more shows with diverse casts and producers is a great example of the easiest, quickest, and least permanent execution of diversity, noted Black Enterprise Editor-at-Large Alfred Edmond Jr.

While the company deserves praise for the diversity of its shows, its board is made up of white men and five women, with African Americans only making up 4% of its staff and leadership.

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8 TED Talks by Exceptional Black Women You Didn’t Know You Needed

It’s International Women’s Day (and Women’s History Month), which means that in addition to showing some extra love and support to the Women of Power in and around your circle, it’s a good time to binge on some enriching TED Talks by phenomenal influencers.

You can extract some major life inspiration from such thought-provoking speakers as Jedidah Isler, the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Yale, who expresses her deep belief in the value of diversity in STEM fields; Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, who stresses the untapped potential of girls around the world; author Luvvie Ajayi, who encourages women of color to speak their mind; and Joy Buolamwini, the MIT grad student fighting bias in machine algorithms.

The passionate women featured here are fearlessly creating magic, disrupting paradigms, and sparking change with their transformational ideas and actions. Each woman is making a sizable impact in her field and each talk is bound to fill you with insight and motivation to last throughout this entire Women’s History Month and beyond.

These are the eight TED Talks by exceptional black women that you cannot miss.

Jedidah Isler, Astrophysicist – “The Untapped Genius That Could Change Science for the Better”


Luvvie Ajayi, Author – “Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable”


Joy Buolamwini, Coder, Founder, The Algorithmic Justice League – “How I’m Fighting Bias In Algorithms”


Leymah Gbowee, Peace Activist, Nobel Peace Prize Winner – “Unlock the Intelligence, Passion, Greatness of Girls”


T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, CEO and COO, GirlTrek – “When Black Women Walk, Things Change”


Elizabeth Nyamayaro, Political Scientist, Executive Director, UN Women – “An Invitation to Men Who Want a Better World for Women”


Mellody Hobson, Investment Expert, President, Ariel Investments – “Color Blind or Color Brave?”


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Novelist – “We Should All Be Feminists”


Honorable mention: Shonda Rhimes, Writer, Producer – “My Year of Saying Yes To Everything”


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‘Black Panther’ Gives Oakland New Life

Over the past few weeks, Black Panther has been all the rage, but let’s talk about what it has done for the city of Oakland. During the actual release, the Oakland A’s sponsored a screening that was showcased to 200 Oakland youth who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to view it. These organizations included East Oakland Youth Development Center, Boys and Girls Club of Oakland, YMCA of the East Bay, and Oakland Unified School District’s African American Male Achievement students.

Black Panther Screening (Image: Oakland Athletics)

Black Panther screening (Image: Oakland Athletics)


Before the film, there was a panel discussion moderated by the Oakland A’s Vice President of External Affairs Taj Tashombe with participants that included Jason Mayden, co-founder of Super Heroic; Elisha Greenwell, founder of Black Joy Parade; Ashara Ekundayo, co-founder and chief creative officer at Impact Hub Oakland; myself; and Devin Lars, CEO and founder of Kurieo Media, and believe me, some gems were dropped.

“Our children are watching. If we walk out of here and shrink, they are going to learn to shrink so we can’t teach them to shirk anymore,” said Mayden. “I think we need to support each other. It’s really easy to say be black every day, go to work black every day. That’s really hard when no one else is black. All it takes is one other black person in your work to be like, you’re good,” said Greenwall.

This screening brought out Oakland A’s legends Rickey Henderson and Vida Blue and local elected officials, small business owners, and the local community, putting them all under one roof, something that the city hasn’t seen in a long time.

Legendary Oakland A's player Rickey Henderson (Image: Oakland A's)

Legendary Oakland A’s player Rickey Henderson (Image: Oakland A’s)


Beyond that, Disney is giving back to the community. According to a recent post, in light of the extreme success from Black Panther, Disney has decided to donate $1 million to expand STEM programs in Oakland, along with 11 other areas, including Harlem, Chicago, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and others.

And, of course, we can’t forget the representation in the film itself. Yes, Ryan Coogler! You put on for the town.



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From Insecurity to Impact: How This Woman’s Birthmark Inspired a Self-Love Brand for Kids

We all have flaws, yet we often conceal the things that make us feel less than beautiful. But what if you used your flaws to your advantage? Well, meet Jennifer Vassel, a woman who turned a childhood insecurity into I Am Unique!, a book and global empowerment brand reaching children in the United States, Africa, United Kingdom, Philippines, and Australia.

Vassel was born with a birthmark covering a quarter of her back and for 10 years she did everything under the sun to conceal it—from refusing to wear tops or dresses that exposed her back to using a makeup artist for her prom to conceal the birthmark with foundation. Thankfully, college was a turning point for Vassel to feel free and comfortable in her own skin. “When I got to college, I thought to myself, ‘This is silly; I’m tired of hiding. If they stare or ask about it, I’ll just have to deal with it when that time comes,’” says Vassel. “It was liberating. My hope is that through my story, kids won’t be hindered by their own insecurities as long as I was.”

We caught up with Vassel to learn more about her journey.

Since the book launch, what are you are most proud of?

Our mission is to inspire girls to live their lives undimmed. There have been requests to have the book translated into both French and Spanish. This lets me know that this story is needed and self-love is a universal language.

I remember one mom purchased a copy and later called me to say how excited and surprised her daughter was to know that she had met an author in real life. She thought “all authors were dead”! Representation matters, and doing this work opens their eyes and mind to the limitless possibilities available in their own lives. We’ve also received photos and messages from people from places like Nigeria, United Kingdom, Philippines, and Australia who have connected with Erin’s story. One of my favorites is a video of a Kenyan girl reading the first page of I Am Unique! When we saw her face light up at the end, we knew we were on the right track.

You’ve published a parent guide and teacher guide to supplement I Am Unique!, tell us more about your plans to grow the I Am Unique! empowerment brand.

Not only will Erin’s story be told in the form of a books series, we’ve been creating different product lines to encourage self-love through various mediums. Whether it is a free “I Am Unique!” audiobook, a coloring book, parent and teacher’s guides, an Erin doll or app, we are creating a space where girls (and women) can go to be inspired. We want to inspire girls and women to overcome their insecurities so they can share their unique gifts and do more of what sets their soul on fire.

The goal is to position Erin as the face of self-love and partner with organizations who share the same message. We’re currently working to integrate our book into schools’ curriculum, where teachers will be equipped with common core aligned discussion questions and theme-based activities to drive the message home.


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#OscarsSoWhite Creator April Reign Launches New Initiative to Diversify Hollywood

Not enough has changed since the #OscarsSoWhite movement first disrupted Hollywood, calling for fair representation for people of color in the entertainment industry. Even with the record-breaking success of Marvel’s Black Panther and widely popular television shows like Empire, people of color are still not afforded equal access and opportunities in front and behind the camera. According to a new UCLA report titled “Five Years of Progress and Missed Opportunities,” only 8% of film writers of 2016’s top films were minorities, while just 7% were creators of broadcast scripted shows.

To help fill this gap, April Reign, the social media mastermind behind the viral #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, created an initiative that pairs Hollywood studios and media networks with talent of color. Just days before the 2018 Academy Awards, Reign announced the launch of Akuarel, an online database for people from underserved groups looking to work in creative spaces. Through the initiative, she aims to dispel the myth that studios can’t find nonwhite talent for hire.

“This answers one of the issues raised by #OscarsSoWhite of studios saying, ‘We want to work with people from marginalized communities, but we just don’t know where to find them,’” Reign told Mic. “This is going to drop them right in their lap.”

Akuarel, which derives from the French word for watercolors, “Aquarelle,” was developed in partnership with the Motion Picture Association of America. The program allows actors, creatives, and media professionals of color to search for open positions in film, television, and journalism – free of charge. To sign up, Akuarel users can also identify themselves by race, sexual orientation, and gender. In turn, studios, networks, media outlets, and theater companies can gain access to the database for a fee. Once they subscribe, they can search for candidates based on their identity and/or other criteria for an interview or audition.

David Morgan, president of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association, which built and hosts the Akurel’s website, says their “main objective now is to get Akuarel populated by the talent and the stakeholders themselves. The value to the studios will be once it’s sufficiently populated. A lot of the studios were already partnering with us on sponsorship arrangements.”

Reign, who hosted an Akuarel launch party in Los Angeles Thursday night, called the project “the solution” to the #OscarsSoWhite epidemic. “#Akuarel is a gift to both the creators and the consumers of art and media,” she tweeted. “For those who are committed to issues of equity and inclusion based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and disability, Akuarel™ is the solution.”

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