Music Mogul Kevin Liles Talks about the #freestyle50 Competition and Longevity [Video]

#freestyle50#freestyle50 (Image: London on da Track and Kevin Liles courtesy of LaGrant Communications)


Music mogul Kevin Liles knows a thing or two about hip-hop. He started his career as an intern at Def Jam before climbing the ranks to become CEO of the paramount record label, which signed artists like Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Ludacris. After he left Def Jam in 2004, he served as executive vice president for Warner Music Group. When he stepped down in 2009, he formed his very own record label, KWL Management, which represented such artists as Trey Songz and Mariah Carey. In 2015, his passion for hip hop led him to co-found another record company called 300 Entertainment, which represents rap stars Migos, Fetty Wap, and Young Thug.

Despite leading an extraordinary career in music and lasting imprint in hip hop, Liles has never stopped his hustle.  He’s currently on a mission to find the next big voice in hip hop through a national freestyle competition that he launched in partnership with Verizon called #freestyle50. Now in its second year, the competition is accepting submissions from aspiring artists with the chops to freestyle over the beat from Tee Grizzley’s hit single “No Effort.” To enter, participants must upload their freestyle video on Instagram or Twitter and tag @300Ent and @Verizon and include “#freestyle50challenge” in the caption. The grand prize winner of the competition will be awarded a single record deal with 300 Entertainment, a song produced by London on da Track, $10,000, and the opportunity to open for a 300 Entertainment artist.

According to a press release sent to Black Enterprise, “eight national finalists will be selected to compete live at the #freestyle50 cypher in Los Angeles on Aug. 30, where the 2017 #freestyle50 challenge champion will be crowned.” The deadline for entry is Friday, Aug. 4.

To promote #freestyle50, Liles teamed up Verizon and London on da Track to host a launch event at Marquee in New York City. The exclusive party featured performances by hip-hop icon Busta Rhymes, rising rap star Tee Grizzley, and Hot 97’s DJ Enuff. Tre’ Da Kid, the winner of the 2016 #freestyle50 challenge, also hit the stage.

While at the event, Black Enterprise spoke exclusively to Kevin Liles about the talent competition, what it takes to maintain longevity in the music industry, and the evolution of hip hop. BE also spoke to London on da Track. Watch the interviews below.

Click here to learn more about the competition.


The Slave Behind Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Recipe to Receive New Honor

Jack Daniel's

The slave who helped craft Jack Daniel’s, the most successful American whiskey of all time, is finally getting his due recognition.

(Image: Pixabay)


Although Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel is credited with inventing Jack Daniel’s in the 19th century, the company revealed last year that Daniel learned the trade of whiskey making from a slave named Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green. (Green’s nickname is often incorrectly misspelled as “Nearis.”) Daniel then went on to open the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey distillery in 1875, where Green worked as the master distiller until at least 1881.

New York Times best-selling author Fawn Weaver says she discovered the story of Green from an article published by The New York Times that moved her to dig more into his history. That’s when she learned that Green was not the only African American involved in the process of distilling Jack Daniel’s whiskey. In fact, generations of Green’s descendants worked together with the Daniel family to make the iconic whiskey decades later. Some of Green’s offspring still work in the whiskey industry today.

Now, Weaver will dedicate a book, memorial park, street naming, and museum to pay tribute to Green’s legacy. She also plans to set up a college scholarship fund for his descendants.

“When Fawn contacted us, we were excited to hear that someone was bringing to light all of this information about our family,” said Mitchell Green, a relative of Green, in a statement. “Until now, only our family and a small community were aware of the impact our ancestor had on the Tennessee whiskey industry.”

According to a press release, Weaver and her husband have purchased the farm where the original Jack Daniel’s Distillery was located and have set up The Nearest Green Foundation to ensure that Green’s story “will never again be forgotten.”

“Already in the works are artifacts being placed on permanent loan to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.; plans for a museum in Lynchburg dedicated to the history of Tennessee whiskey; the renaming of a street to Nearest Green Way; the Nearest Green Memorial Park in Lynchburg; a book scheduled for completion this year; an improvement project at Highview Cemetery in Lynchburg, where Green is believed to have been buried; and a scholarship fund to benefit his direct descendants. The scholarship’s first recipients are Matthew McGilberry and Marcus Butler, both attending college this fall,” reads the press release.

“To correct the record, Weaver has written a new foreword and preface for Jack Daniel’s official biography, “Jack Daniel’s Legacy,” which will be republished this month in honor of the 50th anniversary of its original release.”

To top it off, Weaver will release a handcrafted, ultra-premium Tennessee whiskey called Uncle Nearest 1856 later this month.

“When I met with the descendants of George Green, the son most known for helping his father, Nearest, and Jack Daniel in the whiskey business, I asked them what they thought was the best way to honor Nearest, said Fawn. “Their response was, ‘No one owes us anything. We know that. But putting his name on a bottle, letting people know what he did, would be great.’”

Quincy Jones Wins $9.42M in Lawsuit Against Michael Jackson’s Estate

Quincy Jones

Legendary music producer Quincy Jones was awarded $9.42 million in damages on Wednesday in a legal dispute with Michael Jackson’s estate over unpaid royalties.

Quincy Jones (Image: Wikimedia)


Jones, who worked with Jackson to co-produce his albums Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad, originally filed a lawsuit in 2013 against MJJ Productions, which is controlled by Jackson’s estate. The suit claimed that Jones was owed $30 million in royalties for the use of Jackson’s music in the posthumous film This Is It and two Cirque du Soleil shows. According to Jones, the estate cut him out of the deals that were made to feature Jackson’s music following his sudden death in June 2009. The estate, on the other hand, argued that Jones was due $392,000, which occurred from accounting errors, reports The New York Times. They also pointed out that Jones generated $8 million in royalties until 2011.

After a two-week trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, the jury awarded the 84-year-old veteran producer less than one-third of his initial ask.

“Although this judgement is not the full amount that I was seeking, I am very grateful that the jury decided in our favor in this matter,” Jones said in a statement, according to Variety. “I view it not only as a victory for myself personally, but for artists’ rights overall.”

He added, “This lawsuit was never about Michael, it was about protecting the integrity of the work we all did in the recording studio and the legacy of what we created.”

Jackson’s estate attorneys, Howard Weitzman and Zia Modabber, released a statement condemning the decision. “While the jury denied Quincy Jones $21 million—or more than two-thirds of what he demanded—from the estate of Michael Jackson, we still believe that giving him millions of dollars that he has no right to receive under his contracts is wrong.”

They added, “Although Mr. Jones is portraying this as a victory for artists’ rights, the real artist is Michael Jackson and it is his money Mr. Jones is seeking.”

Russell Simmons, Stephen G. Hill, and Bozoma Saint John Talk About the Importance of Saving Kids Through Art [Video]

Russell Simmons

Celebrities, business luminaries, and artists gathered on July 15 at the Art For Life benefit, one of the hottest Hamptons parties of the summer. But besides enjoying the luxury of fine dining, live entertainment, an array of art on display, attendees raised over $1.1 million for an art education initiative founded by brothers Russell, Danny, and Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons.


Russell Simmons Art For Life Honoree Chuck D. and Russell Simmons (Photo Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images Courtesy of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation)



Their organization, Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation (RPAF), was launched in 1995 to provide children of color with access and exposure to the arts while helping to develop and support underrepresented artists, curators, and audiences. To fund the org, proceeds from Art For Life benefit RPAF’s arts education and gallery programs, which have directly served tens of thousands of at-risk youth for the last two decades. This year, the benefit, “Midnight at the Oasis,” was held at Fairview Farms in Bridgehampton, New York, and sponsored by Merrill Lynch, UBER, and Coty Inc. Renowned journalist Soledad O’Brien returned to host the gala, which welcomed stars like Star Jones, Super Bowl champion Darrelle Revis, artist Elle Varner, and legendary music executive Kevin Liles.

While on the red carpet, Black Enterprise spoke to the 2017 Art For Life honorees, including former President, Consumer Beauty Division for Coty Inc. Esi Eggleston Bracey; legendary hip-hop artist Chuck D; Chief Brand Officer for Uber Bozoma Saint John; former President of Programming for BET Stephen G. Hill; and 2017 featured artist, Sanford Biggers.

“It’s a dream come true. I’ve been coming to this event for a long time and now to be honored amongst such great artists, I’m so excited about that,” Saint John told BE, before mentioning her recent move from Apple to Uber.



Hill, who announced a surprising departure from BET in March, spoke about how the power of art unites cultures and stimulates innovation.



With the growing demand for STEM jobs, O’Brien lamented that funding for art programs “are often one of the very first things that get cut” from schools. She added her thoughts on the huge impact RPAF has made in the lives of disenfranchised children through scholarships and its signature programs in New York City schools.



BE also spoke to Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winning artist Cynthia Erivo, who delivered a stellar performance at the benefit.

“Art is a wonderful way of teaching,” she said. “Whenever a child is able to access art, it opens up another side of them, and I think that’s important to share. The more ways that we can get kids to learn, the better.”



During the dinner, Russell Simmons took the stage and joked about the all-vegan menu created by Great Performances Chef De Cuisine Mark Russell, urging guests to keep an open mind. He also stressed how vital art is to student achievement and our overall well-being.

“When kids struggle, there’s nothing greater than exercising creative muscles,” said Simmons. “The creative process is how we move from step to step in life. Beyond the political landscape that we find ourselves in, the political landscape before that or even before that, we’re here to do the work for our kids. You guys have helped us do that for 22 years.”

Later, the media mogul hosted a live auction that raised an impressive $150,000 in less than 10 minutes. However, Chuck D stole the night with a surprising performance of the 1989 classic hip-hop hit “Fight The Power.”




Following the dinner and performances, Danny Simmons talked to BE about the immense impact that Art For Life has had on inner-city kids.

“We have been able to reach thousands of children through the New York City School System, we put kids in college, [and] we have kids who been through college that come back and teach other kids,” he said, adding that they plan to expand the programs outside of New York and Philadelphia. “We want to make this national because we know it works.”

Jaleel Wilson, a 19-year-old freshman at LaGuardia Community College in New York, is just one of the students who benefited from RPAF. He told BE that the Art For Life scholarship he received last year has helped him financially and pushed him closer to his aspiration to launch his own art organization.

“It’s helped me with college so that I don’t have to come out of my pocket and spend money for college. So I appreciate them very, very much for that.”

Likewise, Ardelia Lovelace, a 19-year-old student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, said being awarded a full scholarship through the Rush Arts has relieved her of an immense financial burden. No longer am I “worrying about how am I going to pay for college,” instead, the scholarship “allowed me to put that money and focus onto other things instead of stressing about if I’m in debt and how much I owe.”

She added, “Art is such an amazing part of life and I feel like a lot of people aren’t able to experience that.”

“Step” Teaches Discipline to These Inner-City Baltimore Girls

Step Documentary (Image: Fox Searchlight)

Poverty, lack of resources, and more obstacles than most adults will encounter in a lifetime can pose massive roadblocks for girls of color to achieve. For three young African American girls from Baltimore, none of these circumstances have held them back.

Step Documentary (Image: Fox Searchlight) Step Documentary (Image: Fox Searchlight)


Recently, Fox Searchlight, in partnership with Value Partnerships, screened Step, at the Century 9 Theaters in San Francisco and Black Enterprise was in attendance. The audience waited anxiously not knowing what to expect. Was the film about dance, was it about adversity, was it meant to be inspirational, or was it all of the above?

The lights faded down and the documentary began.

During the film, we witness an in-depth look into each of these high school seniors lives as they fight to get out of their current situations, aiming for higher education as a means of escapism. We watch as they tackle adversity through the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, set on the backdrop of The Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. While in school, we witness the ladies push to elevate the school’s step team, led by Gari “Coach G” McIntyre, which had previously been defined by a legacy of failure. We watch as they fight to change not only the team’s legacy but their own.

There was laughter, crying, and inspiration. “I’m like a notch down from Beyoncé, because I do still mess up. Beyoncé doesn’t mess up. But even if she does, she pulls it off so good and I just don’t even notice it,” said Tayla.

After the screening, I had a chance to interview the entire cast including the three lovely ladies: Blessin’, Cori, and Tayla; Coach G; the tough as nails guidance counselor, Paula Dofat; and director, Amanda Lipitz, who admittedly stated, she was unfamiliar with the depths of step but she knew dance and knew that this story was one that had to be told.


Step Documentary Screening (Image: Regina Walton) Step Documentary Screening L to R: Sequoia Blodgett, Amanda Lipitz, Gari “Coach G” McIntyre, Tayla Solomon, Paula Dofat, Cori Grainger, Blessin’ Giraldo (Image: Regina Walton)


“Step taught me discipline,” said Blessin. “When I entered my first year of college, I didn’t take any step classes because I wanted to be completely focused on school.”

“That woman crying in the film, that’s not me,” said Paula Dofat. “I’m tough as nails, but I really care for these girls and want to see them succeed.”

The crowd erupted after Cori made her announcement as to where she decided to attend school and what she decided to major in. All of a sudden a bidding war broke out and every tech company in the building was vying for her attention. I don’t want to give it away but, you can use your imagination. Now I’m left to wonder where she will choose to start her professional practices.

Check out the new movie Step in theaters Aug. 4. We know some of you sorors and frats may want to go in bulk, so if you’re interested in a group sale or a theater buyout, email #StepisLife.


An Extraordinary Celebration of Black Men: What You Need To Know

For more than two decades, the Black Enterprise Golf & Tennis Challenge has been the ultimate end-of-summer getaway for top black executives, entrepreneurs, tastemakers, and influencers across every industry, profession, and field of endeavor. However, this year begins a new era for this unique event, which has been reinvented as an extraordinary celebration of the contributions, excellence, and leadership of men of color: The Black Men XCEL Summit.


The excitement around the introduction of Black Men XCEL has been building since the event was first announced at the 2017 Women of Power Summit in Phoenix, resulting in thunderous applause from the nearly 1,000 top executives in attendance at that event. Since then, the buzz has spread to social media, with overwhelming consensus that an event uplifting and celebrating black men is long overdue.

However, as with any inaugural event, that excitement and interest also comes with questions about this extraordinary celebration. Here are a few key things to know about Black Men XCEL.

What’s Happened With The Golf & Tennis Challenge?


Everything you loved about the Golf & Tennis Challenge—from the golf tournaments and luxurious spa experiences, to the Mars vs. Venus Trivia Competition and Celebrity Chef Challenge, to live comedy and musical performances (not to mention partying with influencers, power players, and celebs)—you’ll still enjoy at Black Men XCEL. The Black Men XCEL Summit is an extended, festive, extraordinary celebration of black men, designed to be both inspiring and empowering, as well as loads of fun.

What Is the Black Men XCEL Summit?


The Black Men XCEL Summit is a bold, festive, and exciting multiday event developed to celebrate the many contributions and achievements of today’s black men. The crown jewel of our BMX Summit, The XCEL Awards: An Extraordinary Celebration of Excellence and Leadership, will recognize iconic black men in every field of endeavor—from corporate America and entrepreneurship, to the entertainment industry, the education sector, and beyond. Attendees will enjoy energizing and empowering sessions focused on solutions and strategies to replicate success and opportunities for black men, as well as live comedy and top-notch musical performances, a star-powered awards dinner, luxury spa services, world-class golf and much more—all designed to create the ultimate inspiring, end-of-summer getaway experience.

Is There a Social Media Hash Tag For The Black Men XCEL Summit?


Yes. You can follow and join the buzz around Black Men XCEL by checking for #BMXCEL on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms.

Is the Black Men XCEL Summit Just For Men? Are Women Invited?


Not only do we want women to attend the Black Men XCEL Summit, we need you there to celebrate with us! After all, you—our wives, mothers, sisters, girlfriends, daughters—are our biggest champions; no one is prouder of our achievements or more invested in our success. You provide us with both motivation and inspiration. We need you to join us because you believe in us and you want us to win! The Black Men XCEL Summit is for black men, and for those who love us. How are we supposed to have fun without you?

(Image: Pixabay)


With that in mind, there is plenty for you to enjoy, whether you’re flying solo, hanging out with your best girlfriends, or spending quality time with the special man in your life. From luxurious spa amenities and great golf and tennis, to sessions including Women Uncensored and live music and comedy, you’ll have an amazing time!

How Is Black Men XCEL Related To Your BE Modern Man Campaign?


BE Modern Man, launched in 2015, is about men we know and see every day—in our families and neighborhoods, at work, in church or from college—who are doing extraordinary things in the course of their daily lives. The XCEL Awards celebrates the extraordinary, iconic black men who have achieved transcendent greatness.

The tagline for BE Modern Man is “It’s Our Normal to Be Extraordinary.” BE Modern Man is a year-round digital and social media campaign of, designed to bring to light the countless black men who are making valuable and even heroic contributions to our families, communities, nation, and the world in every field of endeavor, but who go virtually unnoticed by mainstream media and popular culture.

While BE Modern Man is about the daily contributions of black men, Black Men XCEL, and the XCEL Awards in particular, is the ultimate celebration of black men who represent absolute greatness and serve as the standard of excellence not just to African Americans, but the world. Our inaugural XCEL Award honorees are who the BE Modern Man aspires to become.

E Modern Man and the Black Men XCEL Summit have a shared mission: To challenge the prevailing narrative of mainstream media and popular culture by showcasing black men more accurately as significant contributors, solution providers, and valued assets to the world. Despite the forces arrayed against them, Black Men XCEL.

Learn more about Black Men XCEL at


Quick Tips to Plan Your Own “Girls Trip” Away From the Office

Girl getaways have always been popular, but don’t be surprised if you become inspired to plan your own trip, especially after the release of the movie Girls Trip. Entrepreneurs, and everyone else, sometimes need to get away and chill out with friends.

(Image: iStock/tunart)


A lot can go right in a girl getaway, but a lot can go wrong, too. Here are five tips for planning your own “girls trip” without a hitch.

Choose Your Destination Wisely


You could go on an exotic vacation to somewhere luxurious with the girls, or you could simply go around the way to New Orleans as in the movie Girls Trip. Keep in mind, if you stay closer to home, you can save money or bow out and head home if you end up feeling miserable on the trip.


Choose Your Travel Companions Carefully


If you don’t want a chaotic mess of “plus ones” whom you didn’t invite on your trip, select only your good girlfriends for your getaway. Don’t allow your core group of friends to invite other people. Make it clear that extra guests, children, and significant others are absolutely not invited, because this trip is just for a special group of sister-friends. Oh, and it’s a good idea to invite girls who get along with each other.


The Money Situation


It’s best that you take care of the money situation upfront:

Are you treating your girls to the trip?

Should everyone pitch in to pay for her accommodations, food, etc..?

All-inclusive resorts offer one of the easiest ways to travel without always having to go into your pocketbook for this or that. Just make sure that everyone knows how much she should pay.

Be Creative With Ideas


Discuss excursion ideas with your girls. Plan to go on a yacht ride. Go wine tasting, shopping, to the beach, to a popular bar. Go the club or visit a castle (the ladies on Basketball Wives LA toured the Pena National Palace in Portugal).

And just because it’s a girl’s trip doesn’t mean everyone is together all of the time. Don’t forget to give everyone their space. Encourage participation, but if someone isn’t willing to participate in an activity or two, allow her to choose an alternative activity. One important rule for a happy girl’s trip: Everyone is not going to agree on everything.






Lawrence from ‘Insecure,’ aka Jay Ellis, Talks Tech

Jay Ellis aka Lawrence from Insecure (Image: Ken Franklin)

When we left the last season of HBO’s Insecure, the block was hot. Issa cheated on Lawrence, Lawrence had a breakdown and did what he did with Tasha and we were left at the edges of our seats like what in the entire ****?!

Since every other platform has covered that recap to the T, I took a different approach. As the Silicon Valley tech editor at Black Enterprise, I was really curious about Lawrence’s app Woot-Woot, which he somehow wasn’t inspired enough to get off the couch for and his new tech job that proved to the world that his bounce back game was actually stronger than we all may have assumed.

Additionally, I was extremely intrigued by Jay Ellis in real life. How close was he actually to the character Lawrence on the show and how knowledgeable is he really about the tech industry?

I met up with Ellis at his new restaurant Verlaine, in Beverly Hills, and we set down for some tech Q&A followed by an interesting round of digital Truth or Dare. When all was said and done, I was pleasantly surprised. Ellis is extremely knowledgeable about tech. He understands the landscape, gets company valuations, and is pretty well versed on the latest technologies currently on the market.

Sequoia Blodgett and Jay Ellis (Image: Ken Franklin) Sequoia Blodgett and Jay Ellis (Image: Ken Franklin)


I asked him how he would use virtual reality and he said he’d love to see inside the human body. “Yeah, it’s crazy, it’s like one of the most amazing organisms on the planet, right. It’s so resilient and it’s constantly recreating itself. I would love to just watch it all work.”

That’s an extremely fascinating concept and something that I’d love to witness as well. On the flip side, imagine Lawrence with VR goggles. Oh boy! He would never have gotten up off that couch.

Check out the full interview below and catch Season 2 of Insecure on HBO, July 23rd.

(Video: Ken Franklin)

10 Celebrity Power Women Who Pledged the Divine Nine

Graduation season has rolled out and many are prepping to take the next step onto the college or university campus of their choice. And per usual, a big part of successful acclimation to a total 180 degree change in environments, rules, goals, and expectations is pledging a sorority or fraternity—whether you’re carrying on a proud legacy or a newbie looking to find a sisterhood or brotherhood that will help you weather the challenges and celebrate the wins.

(Image: Wikimedia/Tabercil)


Actress, Keisha Knight Pulliam: Delta Sigma Theta

Many know her as Rudy from the ’80s TV classic The Cosby Show, but this Spelman College grad has since grown up to become a mom and award-winning actress who has worked with the likes of Tyler Perry, Queen Latifah, and Viola Davis. A community advocate, she is also the founder of Kamp Kizzy Foundation, which provides mentorship programs for children.

Actress, Phylicia Rashad: Alpha Kappa Alpha

Another forever-famous alumnus of The Cosby Show fame, Rashad has become a living legend, with honors and nominations for Emmys, NAACP Image Awards, and Screen Actors Guild. She’s also the first black actress to win a Tony for best actress in a play for her role in a revival of A Raisin in the Sun. Her latest power move: playing the antithesis of Clair Huxtable, a sinister matriarch on Fox’s hit show, Empire.

Singer, K. Michelle: Delta Sigma Theta

Gaining notoriety on VH1’s Love & Hip Hop franchise and eventually moving on to her own show, this Memphis-bred singer-songwriter has accolades under her belt that have far surpassed reality TV fame, including a Soul Train Music Award and an NAACP Image Award, and she continues touring nationwide, all while serving as a Jack Daniels endorser and taking a leap into the entrepreneurship pond with her Puff & Petals boutique restaurant in Atlanta.

TV & Radio Mogul, Cathy Hughes: Alpha Kappa Alpha

Hughes is the founder and chairperson of Urban One Inc. (formerly  Radio One Inc.), a powerhouse media enterprise (and BE 100s mainstay) that is the driving force behind cable network TV One, radio syndicator Reach Media, web publisher Interactive One, and marketing firm, One Solution. Her résumé boasts a who’s who of media industry awards and honors, from the NAACP Chairman Award, to the ADColor Lifetime Achievement Award, to induction into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame. As the first black woman to lead a publicly traded company, Hughes has revolutionized and diversified entertainment, news and media options for audiences of color.

Haircare & Beauty Mogul, Lisa Price: Sigma Gamma Rho

A veteran and frontrunner in the natural haircare movement, Price’s line of products have become a staple in the closets, bathrooms and salons of African American professionals and celebrities around the world. Partnering with companies including Macy’s and Walt Disney and getting early backing from entertainment industry heavy-hitters including Jay Z, Mary J. Blige, and Jada Pinkett Smith, Price took her homegrown business to multimillion-dollar levels, and in 2014 she joined an elite group of entrepreneurs when her company was bought by international beauty behemoth L’Oréal.

Educational Leader, Elmira Mangum: Zeta Phi Beta

When Mangum was appointed president of Florida A&M University in 2014, she became the first woman to permanently hold the post in the school’s more than 100-year history. Before that post, she served as senior associate provost at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and as vice president for budget and planning after being a member of the adjunct faculty in the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. Since stepping down as head of FAMU, Mangum has served as a research scholar at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions and the University Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

Singer & Actress, Brandy Norwood: Alpha Kappa Alpha

Sold-out tours. Platinum albums. Hit TV shows. Broadway and off-Broadway success. Though under 40, Norwood is a Hollywood and music industry veteran who has influenced a generation of young musicians, singers, and fans—from her signature braids to her coming-of-age experiences on and off-screen. With more than 20 years of entertainment industry success under her belt, she’s still at it, performing this summer in North America and Canada on stages with artists including Monica, Bobby Brown, and Keith Sweat.

Music Legend & TV Host, MC Lyte: Sigma Gamma Rho

An award-winning pioneer in hip-hop and beacon of female empowerment, MC Lyte is one of the history-making rap icons whose imprint on the culture can’t be denied. From music she transitioned into acting, having had roles on shows including In Living Color, Moesha, and My Wife and Kids, and served as co-host of syndicated radio show “Cafe Mocha.” As a philanthropist and community activist, she continues to lead her nonprofit Hip Hop Sisters, an organization that empowers women through media, mentorship, and events. She’s also the CEO of Sunni Gyrl Inc., an entertainment management and production firm.

Politician, Loretta Lynch: Delta Sigma Theta 

Lynch was the 83rd Attorney General of the United States—and the first African American woman to hold the post—appointed by President Barack Obama. She previously held the position of United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York under former President Bill Clinton and Obama. In the latter position, she oversaw efforts against major terrorism, organized crime, and public corruption. As U.S. attorney general, she led efforts to expose corruption in professional soccer, gender discrimination, and police bigotry and brutality in response to the killings of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Olympian and Medical Professional, Flora Hyacinth, M.D.: Zeta Phi Beta

Hyacinth is a chiropractic doctor, three-time Olympian, former holder of a world record and a fitness enthusiast. A native of St. Lucia, she competed in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, and the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

She was a record-holder in 1987 when she became the first woman to triple jump over 45 feet, and in 2003. Venturing into business, she founded her own fitness studio, Flo Fusion Fitness—and competed on season 8 of American Ninja Warrior—and chiropractor practice in California.

ABFF and Lightbox Launch Documentary Film Competition for Black Filmmakers

Film Competition

If you’re an African American filmmaker with an original documentary idea, then don’t miss this opportunity to sign up for the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) Feature Documentary Competition. Select films entered into the competition will have their movie idea developed and produced by ABFF Films Division and Lightbox, a media company that has produced several acclaimed documentaries, including ESPN’s Fantastic Lies and LA 92, which is based on the 1992 L.A. riots following the acquittal of the police officers in the Rodney King beating case.

“We are honored to be partnering with the ABFF to encourage further diversity in the documentary genre.” said Lightbox co-founders Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn in a statement. “The documentary community has a rich tradition of embracing creative voices from a wide array of demographics and perspectives, but there is clearly more work for us to do to support African-American and filmmakers from minority communities who want to express themselves through the powerful medium of documentary story telling.”

The inaugural Feature Documentary Competition, which is being sponsored by National Geographic and 21st Century Fox, is part of a larger initiative created by ABFF and Lightbox to promote diversity in documentary films.

According to, the submission guidelines and eligibility rules are as follows:

  1. Open to African American documentary filmmakers and others interested in exploring non-fiction stories and themes that speak directly to the African-American experience.
  2. Filmmakers must complete and submit the official entry form, downloadable from, along with the following two items which complete a single “proposal.”
    1. a 1-3 page documentary feature film treatment (.pdf file). Written treatments are to clearly articulate the narrative and creative ambition of the documentary.
    2. a 2-5 minute “proof of concept reel” (in the form of a standard digital video file, protected by a password). The reel must clearly demonstrate the proposed feature documentary in any manner the applicant feels is relevant. Proof of concept reel may include original or 3rd party footage for the purposes of illustrating the story, themes and style of the proposed documentary
  3. Filmmakers may submit up to three (3) proposals each.
  4. All film proposals must be wholly originated by the applicant and cannot have received any funding prior to submission.
  5. Filmmakers must submit proposals to by no later than July 30, 2017.
  6. Three semi-finalists will be selected, followed by one winner who will receive the opportunity to enter into a development deal with ABFF Films and Lightbox (Fall 2017).

For full details, visit The deadline for entry is July 30.

film competition (Photo courtesy of ABFF)