- Created on 08 November 2013
Despite several star turns by African-American actresses on the small screen of late, longstanding television institution “Saturday Night Live” has an alarming lack of Black women in their performing troupe.
With recent comments from cast members Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah bringing the situation to light, “SNL” finds itself on the opposite end of a relentless campaign spearheaded by Color Of Change.org executive director Rashad Robinson.
Robinson joined Roland Martin‘s “NewsOneNow” show Thursday morning to discuss his ultimatum to meet with “SNL” and NBC executives, and the next steps of his fight to bring much-needed diversity to the program.
Robinson made demands to meet with SNL producer Lorne Michaels on Wednesday, telling Martin that the efforts of his organization, coupled with the galvanized outcry of others, helped facilitate a discussion that continued on Thursday.
“We heard from SNL and we heard from NBC. We actually have a meeting today with senior executives from NBC to discuss this matter,” shared Robinson. “We also have a face-to-face meetings scheduled for later this month out in L.A. with senior executives.”
“We know this wouldn’t have happened without folks all around the country really speaking up and standing up. The fact of the matter is, this isn’t a question of whether or not Black folks can laugh at themselves or be a part of the joke. This is about whether or not we’re going to be at the table and can be in on the joke,” Robinson added.
Robinson made it clear that the campaign is about more than SNL. He hopes that the discussions sparked by the Color Of Change campaign will help Black comediennes and actresses, along with writers and show producers, get a fair shot at gaining exposure on shows like “SNL” and beyond. Robinson was also certain to state that the campaign isn’t ending because of the traction made with the recent talks.
Martin made mention of “SNL” stars that have used the sketch comedy show as a launching pad for careers that went well beyond their humble starts. Big names such as Steve Martin, the late John Belushi, Eddie Murphy and Tina Fey among others were mentioned, with the host linking how “SNL” helped to expand their opportunities. Robinson responded to that point as well.
“Lorne Michaels is the gatekeeper,” said Robinson. “For 39 years, he’s been able to tap people on the shoulders and get to decide who’s funny and who’s not, to be the arbitrator of that, and as a result, who has opportunities for greater careers and who doesn’t.”
“So the question for us as consumers, as advocates, as people who hold those in power accountable is for those who have the opportunity as gatekeepers, what are doing to expand the pie [so that] more people have opportunities,” continued Robinson.
- Created on 07 November 2013
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, left, stands with Washington Mayor Vincent Gray, as he speaks to reporters during a visit to Malcolm X Elementary School in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. Duncan announced that today's fourth and eighth graders are doing better than their predecessors in math and reading.(AP Photo / Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sometimes the best isn't good enough: Most American fourth and eighth graders still lack basic skills in math and science despite record high scores on a national exam.
Yes, today's students are doing better than those who came before them. But the improvements have come at a snail's pace.
The 2013 Nation's Report Card released Thursday finds that the vast majority of the students still are not demonstrating solid academic performance in either math or reading. Stubborn gaps persist between the performances of white children and their Hispanic and African-American counterparts, who scored much lower.
Overall, just 42 percent of fourth graders and 35 percent of eighth graders scored at or above the proficient level in math. In reading, 35 percent of fourth graders and 36 percent of eighth graders hit that mark.
Still, as state and federal policies evolve in the post-No Child Left Behind era, the nation's school kids are doing better today on the test than they did in the early 1990s, when such tracking started, with more improvement in math than in reading. Students of all races have shown improvement over the years.
The results come from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, which is given every two years to a sample of fourth and eighth graders.
This year's results, compared to results in 2011, show average incremental gains of about one or two points on a 500-point scale in math and reading in both grades, although the one-point gain in fourth grade reading was not considered statistically significant.
"Every two years, the gains tend to be small, but over the long run, they stack up," said Jack Buckley, commissioner of the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics.
Buckley said he was "heartened" by some of the results, "but there are also some areas where I'd hoped to see improvement where we didn't."
Today, President W. Bush's landmark education law No Child Left Behind, which sought to close achievement gaps among racial groups and have every student doing math and reading at grade level by 2014, has essentially been dismantled.
After Congress failed to update the law before it was due for renewal in 2007, President Barack Obama allowed states to get waivers from it if they showed they have their own plans to prepare students. Most states took him up on the offer.
In the meantime, a majority of states are rolling out Common Core State Standards with the goal of better preparing the nation's students for college or a job. The states-led standards establish benchmarks for reading and math and replace goals that varied widely from state.
Academic scholars have long debated what effects the law and other state-led reforms have had on test scores.
This year, Tennessee and the District of Columbia, which have both launched high-profile efforts to strengthen education by improving teacher evaluations and by other measures, showed across-the-board growth on the test compared to 2011, likely stoking more debate. Only the Defense Department schools also saw gains in both grade levels and subjects.
In Hawaii, which has also seen a concentrated effort to improve teaching quality, scores also increased with the exception of fourth grade reading. In Iowa and Washington state, scores increased except in 8th grade math.
Specifically pointing to Tennessee, Hawaii and D.C., Education Secretary Arne Duncan said on a conference call with reporters that many of the changes seen in these states were "very, very difficult and courageous" and appear to have had an impact.
Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said the biggest problem revealed in the results is the large gap that exists between the performances of students of different races.
There was a 26-point gap, for example, between how white and African American 4th graders performed on the math section. In eighth grade reading, white students outperformed Hispanic students by 21 points.
"We still have a situation where you have kids that are left behind. They aren't given the same instruction. They aren't given the same expectations as other kids," Minnich said. He said it's time for "doubling down and making sure the gaps get smaller."
Duncan said too many African-American and Hispanic children start kindergarten a year or two behind and that early childhood programs are key to leveling the playing field. Duncan and Obama have lobbied for congressional passage of a preschool-for-all program.
This test specifically looked at the performance of American children, but the results from other recent assessments and studies have shown American children and adults scoring below peers in many other countries.
The exam was given this year to about 377,000 fourth graders and 342,000 eighth graders in public and private schools. However, state-specific numbers are only from public schools.
In math, students were asked to answer questions about topics such as geometry, algebra and measurement. In reading, students were told to read passages and recall details or interpret them.
Among the other results:
—More boys than girls scored at or above the proficient level for both grades in math. In reading, more girls than boys scored at or above that mark.
—Twenty-five out of the 52 states or jurisdictions measured had a higher average score in 2013 than in 2011 in at least one subject and grade.
—Five states had a lower score than two years ago in at least one subject and grade: Massachusetts, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.
—Hispanic students were the only racial or ethnic group that saw improvements in math scores in both fourth and eighth grades; Asian/Pacific Islanders students had the highest percentage of students performing at or above the proficient level in both math and reading.
- Created on 04 November 2013
In the age of Beyonce, Oprah and Kerry Washington, it's hard to believe that a show as versatile as "Saturday Night Live" could have a diversity problem. But, it's true.
After weeks of criticism and letters from civil rights groups, SNL's founding producer has finally issued a response to the controversy.
In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Lorne Michaels said he plans to hire a Black female comedian eventually, however he's not doing any favors.
"It's not like it's not a priority for us," he said. "It will happen. I'm sure it will happen."
He went on to agree with cast member Kenan Thompson, who said that black female performers aren't "ready" during the audition process.
"You don't do anyone a favor if they're not ready," he concluded.
Back in October, SNL star Jay Pharoah suggested for Darmirra Brunson to join the team.
"Why do I think she should be on the show? Because she's black, first of all, and she's really talented," he told The Grio. "She's amazing. She needs to be on 'SNL.'"
Since this issue is such a "priority," it will be interesting to see how long it takes show producers to hire a Black leading lady. We'll be watching and waiting.
- Created on 06 November 2013
Celebrity chef Charlie Trotter died shortly after he was rushed from his Chicago home to a hospital Tuesday morning, CNN affiliate WGN-TV reported.
Trotter - whose namesake restaurant in Lincoln Park received a long list of culinary honors over its 25 years of service - was 54.
There were no details immediately released about the cause of death, which happened at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Frank Shuftan, Public Information Officer for the Cook County Bureau of Administration confirmed the death to CNN and an autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.
Police expected to stage a death investigation at Trotter's home. Trotter leaves behind his wife, Rochelle, and their son, Dylan.
His wife released a statement early Tuesday evening saying, “We are incredibly shocked and deeply saddened by the unexpected loss of Charlie at our home in Lincoln Park. He was much loved and words can not describe how much he will be missed. Charlie was a trailblazer and introduced people to a new way of dining when he opened Charlie Trotter’s. His impact upon American cuisine and the culinary world at large will always be remembered. We thank you so much for your kind words, love and support. We appreciate the respect for our privacy as we work through this difficult time.”
Trotter closed his flagship restaurant in 2012, saying he wanted to go back to school and possibly pursue a Master of Philosophy degree. He received a "Humanitarian of the Year" award from the James Beard Foundation that same year. The JBF had previously proclaimed Trotter the Best Chef, Midwest in 1992, the Nation's Outstanding Chef award in 1999 and Charlie Trotter's as the Nation's Outstanding Restaurant in 2000, among other awards.
Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement saying that Trotter: "changed Chicago's restaurant scene forever and played a leading role in elevating the city to the culinary capital it is today. Charlie's personality mirrored his cooking - bold, inventive and always memorable. Charlie Trotter will be remembered for serving the finest food and his generous philanthropy, and he will always have a seat at the table among Chicago's legendary figures.”
An outpouring of condolences and remembrances from the food community quickly followed the news of his passing.
Chef Eric Ripert told CNN, "I was very saddened by the news. Charlie was a tremendously gifted chef and one of the pioneers of American celebrity chefs. He was very noble and a true gentleman. I always had great respect for Charlie and my thoughts are with his family. His legacy as a star and true hero of modern American cuisine will live on."
Wine educator Belinda Chang, who worked at various positions at Charlie Trotter's from 1997 to 2002, said the community was stunned. "My phone has been blowing up all day," she said. There is such an amazing network of alumni of the restaurant around the world. My former co-workers and I are all shocked."
Chang added, "The other incredible thing is that I have been getting texts and e-mails from former regulars of the restaurant as well - people I haven't seen since I worked the floor. Charlie Trotter touched so many."
John Winterman, maitre d' at Daniel restaurant, spent some formative years in the chef's sphere. He worked for Trotter from 1994 to 2001 in various roles including dining room manager and told CNN: "Of all the shadows to fall upon the landscape of modern American gastronomy, his was the longest. I learned so much from the man."
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- Created on 01 November 2013
President Barack Obama's approval rating is the lowest it's been since he took office in 2008.
According to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 51 percent of Americans disapprove of the Commander In Chief's job in office, while just 42 percent approve.
NBC News reports that "no single reason explains Obama's lower poll standing. Rather, they attribute it to the accumulation of setbacks since the summer — allegations of spying by the National Security Agency, the debate over Syria's chemical weapons, the government shutdown and now intense scrutiny over the problems associated with the health care law's federal website and its overall implementation."
CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borge agreed. "I don't think it's all tied to the health care website rollout or the government shutdown," she said. "You've also got the NSA surveillance controversy, the Syrian conflict. The President's had a very complicated and tough time of it since he was re-elected. I often wonder why people want a second term in the White House. They end up with so many headaches."
But President Obama isn't the only one in the nation's capital with a thumbs down rating. According to the same survey, only 22 percent of Americans see the Republican party in a positive light, six in 10 citizens want to replace their state's member of Congress and just 22 percent say the country is headed in the right direction.
The NBC-WSJ poll surveyed 800 adults by phone from October 25 to Octber 28.