Nate Parker

The “The Birth of a Nation” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Birth of Nate's Nation!

Actor/humanitarian-turned-writer/director Nate Parker first received critical attention for his starring role in The Great Debaters opposite Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker. Nate received an honorary Doctorate from Wiley College, the school featured in the fact-based story.

More recently, Nate starred in Beyond The Lights opposite Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Minnie Driver, and Danny Glover. He also appeared in the action thriller Non-Stop opposite Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore.

In 2012, he was a member of the ensemble cast of Red Tails which included Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr. The film chronicled the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps who went on to become some of the finest pilots in World War II.

Nate also starred opposite Alicia Keys in The Secret Life Of Bees, which featured an all-star cast of Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Dakota Fanning and Paul Bettany. Additionally, he has been seen in Pride alongside Terrence Howard and in Dirty opposite Cuba Gooding Jr.,

On the stage, Nate appeared opposite Dustin Hoffman, Annette Bening, Rosario Dawson and James Cromwell in American Voices at the Broad Street Theater. Here, he talks about making his writing and directorial debut with The Birth of a Nation, a reverential biopic in which he stars, too, as slave revolt leader Nat Turner (1800-1831).

 

Kam Williams: Hey, Nate, how you been? .

Nate Parker: Kam! Great to speak to you again, friend!

 

KW: Congratulations on The Birth of a Nation's winning both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

NP: Thank you, brother. What a blessing! Right? Never in a million years would I even have dreamt of that. I just made a movie I hoped would touch people, but I can't even describe what it felt like to receive those accolades.

 

KW: How long had this project been percolating before you went into production?

NP: Ooh, years. I'm in my 8th year of the project now. At the starting point, I'd done a couple of films, and I thought to myself it isn't often, as black men, that we get an opportunity in Hollywood to play a leading role with a strong character. And when one does come up, there are so many people competing for it, plus the narrative isn't usually controlled by us. So, I asked myself, if I could tell any story, which would it be? And Nat Turner being my hero from a social justice standpoint, he became the focus of my desires when it came to making a film. I just wanted to create a hero that added to the narrative of America who didn't look like the usual patriots.

 

KW: William Styron won a Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for "The Confession of Nat Turner" Did you rely on that best-selling novel while writing your script?

NP: I never looked at it once. I had read enough of it when I was younger to have my stomach turn by an author who completely denigrated the life and motivations of one of our greatest heroes. But I don't blame him, because it's a work of fiction.

 

KW: Have you met Anikah McLaren, one of the executives at Fox Searchlight working on The Birth of a Nation?

NP: I know her very well. I love her! She's a wonderful human being.

 

KW: I've known her family for years. Her younger brother and my son were good friends growing up and I've also been long-time friends with her mother and stepfather, Arnold Rampersad, who used to teach here at Princeton.

NP: You know some good people, man. That's a good circle of friends. That says a lot about you.

 

KW: Thanks. In an earlier interview, you told me that you felt that you were blessed by God at the beginning of your career. Given how spiritual Nat Turner was and how he had a vision from God which inspired him, I wonder whether you see any similarities between him and yourself?

NP: I believe that Nat Turner, at his core, was striving to be more Christlike which dictated his thoughts and actions. I wouldn't say I'm trying to be like Nat, but I'm definitely striving, as he was, to get closer to my faith and to be more Christlike in the context of my own imperfections as a human being. I believe that Nat Turner is a role model that all of us could identify with and aspire to emulate in a positive way, because he used all of his influence to address a systemic crisis. And he did so with his faith and he did so sacrificing on behalf of people he'd never meet, like you and me.

 

KW: Even though I asked you in our first interview many years ago about the 1999 rape accusation when you were a college student, I would be remiss in not raising it again, since it has resurfaced and ignited a firestorm of controversy recently. What do you have to say about the incident?

NP: I'll say this. I'm 36 years-old, and my life has been a series of obstacles, a series of educating moments. As I said before, I'm trying to come as close to my faith as possible, and I see this journey as just that, a journey. I set out to make this film because I felt like it was written in my heart. And any obstacle that has come before or will come after I will have to deal with accordingly, with my faith. My hope is that people will see this film for what it is, and I also hope they will be able to see a bit of my heart and of what I'm striving to do with this film

 

KW: The last time we spoke was a couple of years ago when you were in Ferguson, Missouri in connection with the Mike Brown case. At that time, you spoke of "revolution" and described yourself as an "actor-vist" dedicated to eradicating the dehumanization and criminalization of black youth. I was concerned that, as an emerging star I had described as possibly the next Denzel, you might be tarnishing your image by being so visibly political.

NP: I originally sought to make this film really to create solutions to the systemic crisis we were dealing with then. But here we are, 8 years later, dealing with the same crisis. I heard someone say, if the next 50 years are like the last 50 years, then people of color might not exist except as assimilated people and as inmates in the prison-industrial complex. I believe that the more we recognize that we're in crisis, the more we will realize that there is a need for revolution. Because of our historical baggage, most people automatically assume that revolution means black people rising up against whites. But that's not what I'm saying. If Dr. Martin Luther King was right in saying "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," then anyone who is on the side of the oppressed needs to stand up, regardless of what they look like or where they come from. And they should do so employing their skills and their strengths, taking advantage of their occupations. Nat Turner only had broom handles and axes, and didn't even have the right to assemble. Today, we have journalism, technology and social media, yet we fall silent when it comes to dealing with injustice. When I speak of "revolution," I talk about it within the context of humanity. Our country started with a rebellion. What would our identity be without that rebellion? Who would we be as Americans, if we didn't even know that we fought against British rule? If history is an indicator, we know that subjugation will lead to revolution anyway. We just don't know what that revolution will look like. Am I an advocate of violence? No. I'm an advocate of freedom and liberation and, whatever that means, I'm willing to stand for it.

 

KW: Why did you call your film The Birth of a Nation, the same title as the D.W. Griffith classic released almost exactly a century ago?

NP: That was very intentional. I had my title before I had my script. I deliberately want to tether the present to 1915 in order to create context as to why we are where we are. Griffith, in my opinion, may have been one of the most powerful people around in the sense that he inspired all of America to embrace white supremacy as a form of self-preservation. As a son of the Confederacy, he asked America to turn its back on any thought of solidarity with people of color with the hope that whites would be able to maintain their privilege forever. And that idea of white supremacy wasn't limited to the Ku Klux Klan and toothless hillbillies, but it made its way all the way to the White House, where President Woodrow Wilson had connections to the Klan through D.W. Griffith. So, I use that film designed to disenfranchise and terrorize us as a starting point with the hope that, by reclaiming and re-purposing it, we could right a massive wrong, since we're still dealing with the fallout of the terror that it inspired.

 

KW: I really liked this film better than 12 Years a Slave. Can you put a finger on why that's the case?

NP: I think it was a desperate love for one's brothers and sisters. In this film, they're not trying to escape to the North for a better life that they once enjoyed. Instead, they're trying to reconcile the life they're stuck in with what they see as God's purpose for their lives as reflected in the scriptures. And Nat interpreted the Bible as saying that God was on the side of the oppressed, as He was with Israel. .

 

KW: How hard was it directing for the first time?

NP: It was very difficult. It wasn't my original intention to direct and produce the film. But no producers raised their hand saying "Here's the money!" and no director stepped forward saying, "I want to tell this story." People saw this movie as a threat. And I was even warned by many people in Hollywood that there would be grave consequences for making it. But you can't let fear control your actions, when you feel the Lord calling you to do something. So, I decided to just go for it. And despite raising only a third of the money needed, we were somehow able to achieve the impossible.

 

KW: It's interesting that the film is now being released at the height of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

NP: I think it's a testament to God's plan that it's coming out now. Imagine, if it had been released 8 years ago, 5 years ago, or even 3 years ago, I doubt that it would have had the same impact that it's having now in terms of creating an enlightened moment at a time of a desperate need for change.

 

KW: One thing that surprised me when the closing credits rolled was to see that Gabrielle Union and some other stars I hadn't recognized were in the movie.

NP: I told all the women in the project that we were going to do this natural, with no makeup. That's a scary thing, especially when so much of what we do is controlled by image. But people really bought into it, and we were able to achieve an authenticity that most projects are unable to match.

 

KW: What's up next for Nate Parker?

NP: I have a couple projects I'm considering, but I'm being careful to make sure it's something I'm passionate about.

 

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?

NP: Yes and no. I was exposed to Christianity early on, but I didn't really understand the magnitude of God's power and the role of prophecy in my life. It wasn't until going through college that I began to appreciate this thing called faith and to explore whether there was something in it for me. So much of my life has changed since then, and my desperation for a connection to the Lord continues to deepen with every breath I take.

 

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

NP: No money, just my insurance card and credit cards. I used to carry around some pictures of my kids, but I keep putting my wallet in the washing machine. [Laughs]

 

KW: Thanks again, Nate, and I hope to speak to you again during Oscar season.

NP: Oh, Lord willing, Kam. Thank you, brother.

 

To see a trailer for The Birth of a Nation, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i18z1EQCoyg

 

Sandra L. Richards

The “Rice & Rocks” Interview with Kam Williams

Richards Rocks!

The American-born daughter of Jamaican immigrant parents, Sandra L. Richards is the author of “Rice & Rocks.” She hopes that her debut picture book will serve as an educational resource for families seeking to teach their children the value of their heritage and the importance of cultural diversity.

Sandra completed both her undergraduate and graduate studies at Seton Hall University, and is the Executive Director, Head of Diverse and Multicultural Marketing, Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley. Learn more about Sandra at www.sandralrichards.com.

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Kam Williams: Hi Sandra. Congratulations on "Rice & Rocks."

Sandra L. Richards: Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

KW: What inspired you to write the book?

SLR: The inspiration for "Rice & Rocks" came from my family in two parts. One, my parents are from Jamaica and immigrated to the USA with the hopes to give their children a chance of growing up with greater opportunities. However, it was important to them that we were raised with a sense of pride of our culture and traditions, and food was certainly at the center of that, especially Sunday dinners!The second source of inspiration stemmed from a heartbreak. In 2007, I lost my 8-year old nephew Giovanni to meningitis. That loss left a hole in the heart of our entire family. Over the years, I thought long and hard about a way to help keep his memory alive. Of course, we had pictures of the time we spent together, but that just didn’t seem to be enough. As I would replay moments of our time together in my mind, I kept finding myself thinking back to conversations we had over the years, and I fondly remembered one conversation in particular which had to do with food and culture. Giovanni was a very imaginative child and decided he wouldn’t eat his grandma’s rice and beans because the beans looked like rocks to him. That casual conversation ultimately led to the me writing "Rice & Rocks," a children’s picture book in my nephew’s memory.

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KW: What message do you want kids to take away from the tale?

SLR: While memorializing Giovanni was the original intent of "Rice & Rocks," it was designed to do much more. "Rice & Rocks" is also a story that teaches kids about cultural diversity and the importance of learning about their own heritages. I think it is important for children to have knowledge about their culture and heritage as it will give them a sense of self, pride and ownership of their own story. How powerful would that be for a child to have that gift, a foundation for them to stand on, being able to identify who they are for themselves and not letting someone define it for them?

KW: Where did you come up with the idea of Jasper, a talking parrot from the Congo?

SLR: Giovanni actually owned a bird. He loved birds! In this story, I created Jasper, a parrot from the Congo, as a way to acknowledge Africa in the story. Jasper is quite a character and kids that read the story love him! I hope that will pique their curiosity to learn more about him and, ultimately, more about Africa.

KW: How did you settle on the dialogue, given that it it's a mix of child, adult and animal chatter?

SLR: Here is the funny truth. We grew up with animals in our family as pets: dogs, cats, birds and fish. We would all talk to them, and engage them in our conversations. So, for me and perhaps every other pet lover out there, it is normal to talk to your pets. They understand and respond in their own way. It was pretty easy to weave Jasper into the dialogue, because, after all, he is a parrot which is known to have a vocabulary of up to 600 words. My two dogs, Skye and Honey, appear in "Rice & Rocks" too and, while they don’t have a speaking part, they are very expressive in the book!

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KW: What's your target audience?

SLR: "Rice & Rocks" is geared towards children ages 5-9. But, to be honest, I have had adults tell me they love reading picture books. I am in that category, too! I would say for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and godparents, there is something for you in this story to share with a child in your life, whether it be talking about your family roots and traditions, to opening your child’s mind to exploring new foods, to embracing the saying ‘It takes a village’ when needing help in raising future culturally-aware citizens of the world. For teachers, "Rice & Rocks" would be a great addition to their curriculum, as there is growing interest in talking about diversity and inclusion in the schools.

KW: Tell me a little about the book's illustrator, Megan Kayleigh Sullivan.

SLR: In short, Megan is brilliant! She graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 2012 with a degree in illustration. I enjoyed working with Megan, alongside our wonderful art director. I had a front row seat, watching the story come to life sketch by sketch, page by page. What I loved most about working with Megan was her attention to detail and asking questions about my family early on, outside of the story, that would help capture the essence of not only Giovanni, but also Auntie, Grandma and other family members.

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KW: Any plans to write a series of books about Giovanni?

SLR: Yes, there are plans to write more stories about Giovanni and Jasper while also introducing a few more characters along the way.

KW: AALBC.com founder Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?

SLR: The last book I read was "Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1476777098/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

And I just started "Homegoing," by Yaa Gyasi.

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1101947136/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?

SLR: I can still remember it now like it was yesterday, the first time I went to Jamaica. I was 8-years old. I loved it! It was beautiful! I met my maternal and paternal grandmothers for the first time, and they taught me how to cook. There is a road not too far from my grandmother's house, Holland Bamboo. It looked so regal, as though you are driving to a majestic palace. As a child, when we got close to the road, I would get excited because I knew it was only a matter of minutes until the fun begins. But I would also be sad when it was time to leave, looking out of back window as Holland Bamboo would appear further and further away. Today, I will gladly admit that those same feelings creep in when I see Holland Bamboo.

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?

SLR:This immediately plays in my head, when you ask me this question: “We have come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in His holy word. He never failed me yet.” I was blessed to have a godfather who was a Bishop of a church in Hempstead, New York. My brothers and sister, along with my cousins, were in his church every Sunday as kids. We were in Sunday school, the church choir, and we were there for every church revival. My mother and father had such a deep faith in God, and that set a huge example for me.

KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you've learned so far?

SLR: Discernment. There is something that my mother would say when things happen; good, bad or indifferent: “Everything happens for a wise purpose.” This goes back to the spiritual component of my life that has developed and evolved over time. It is human nature to question things that occur, certainly if you feel like it puts you at a disadvantage or hurts your feelings. When I begin to question those things, I replay my mother’s words, sit in silence and ask myself the honest and sometimes tough questions. What is the purpose? What lesson am I supposed to learn? What role did I play in this? If it is necessary for me to act, this exercise allows me to address things with courage, humility and grace.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

SLR: I love to cook curry shrimp with vegetables and fried plantains with Basmati rice. Kam, I have been told that my dish is delicious and nutritious. Do you remember that line from Brown Sugar?

KW: Yep! When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

SLR: I see a harmonious blend of my mother and father, and I am a reflection of their love.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

SLR: My heart would be so full if I could have one more Sunday dinner with my mom, dad and Giovanni.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

SLR: Scratch offs!

KW: Thanks for the time, Sandra, and best of luck with the book.

SLR: Thank you so much, Kam! I am honored to have spent this time with you.

To order a copy of "Rice & Rocks," visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1940014735/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

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Jahking Guillory

The “Kicks” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jahking and I!

 

An undeniable young talent on the rise, actor and rapper Jahking Guillory is already a veteran in the entertainment business at the age of 14. Born and raised in Long Beach California, ‘King’ started pursuing his dream at 9 years-old, landing jobs in national commercials, music videos and national print campaigns.

Graduating to larger roles in film and TV, 'King has already shown how versatile an actor he is, playing the ultra-cool kid with swagger, to the computer geek, to the teenage drug dealer. In addition to acting, 'King is a talented rapper and works on his craft every day. He writes lyrics about his life and makes beats with his friends to every song he records.

Jahking is also a championship athlete. He played running back for superstar rapper Snoop Dogg’s Junior football team, winning five championships. He is a track star, too -- winning the 800 and 1500 meter dashes in the Junior Olympics.

Here, he talks about his starring role as Brandon in Kicks, a coming-of-age adventure set in the Bay Area.

 

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Kam Williams: Hi Jahking, thanks for the interview.

Jahking Guillory: Thank you.

 

KW: What interested you in Kicks?

JG: The story. It’s real. People are getting killed for materialistic things everyday and it has to stop.

 

KW: How would you describe your character?

JG: Brandon is shy and not confident. This changes for him drastically in the film.

 

KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?

JG: My mother.

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

JG: I like to help my mom cook Jambalaya.

 

KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

JG: Play Ding Dong Ditch. It was crazy!

 

KW: Craig Robinson asks: What was your last dream?

JG: I was sitting on the beach with my great-grandma.

 

KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

JG: A cheetah.

 

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?

JG: Mike from Monsters, Inc.

 

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

JG: My ID and some condoms. [LOL]

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Jahking, and best of luck with Kicks.

JG: Thanks, Kam.

 

To see a trailer for Kicks, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWV2hK4HVEk

Emayatzy Corinealdi

The “Roots” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Emayatzy!

Born at Fort Knox, Kentucky on January 14, 1980, Emayatzy Corinealdi was an army brat whose family moved around a lot during her childhood as dictated by her dad's military career. After stints around the country and overseas, she put down roots in New Jersey, which enabled her to study at the Actor's Training Studio as well as William Esper Studio.

She parlayed a recurring role on the TV soap opera The Young and the Restless into a critically-acclaimed starring one in Ava DuVernay's Middle of Nowhere (2012). She's since appeared in the screen adaptation of Zane's erotic thriller Addicted (2014), and as Miles Davies' wife Frances in miles Ahead (2016).

Here, Emayatzy talks about her latest out as Belle, Kunta Kinte's (Malachi Kirby) wife, in the remake of Roots.

 

Kam Williams: Hi Emayatzy, thanks for the time.

Emayatzy Corinealdi: Thanks, Kam.

 

KW: What interested you in Roots?

EC: The idea of bringing the story of the history of this country to a new generation was an important conversation that I believe is necessary, given the current climate of race relations in the United Slates.

 

KW: How did you prepare to play Belle Reynolds? Did you watch the original miniseries?

EC: What was happening everyday in this country: police brutality, injustice, people feeling angry and ignored, all of these issues were things that helped to prepare me. That coupled with the knowledge that I have since gained about enslavement and its history.

 

KW: Did you have any emotional moments on the set during the shooting?

EC: Every day was an emotional moment on set. The final scene, having her daughter Kizzy taken away, might've been one of the toughest by far.

 

KW: What message do you hope people will take away from the miniseries?

EC: Know your history. It can teach you who you are, where you have come from, and how to be a better person as a result. Also, I hope that young people especially will begin to have a better understanding of slavery and its effects, which are still evident today, To understand those parallels and, from there, begin ta be a part of the wave of hope to change things for the better

 

KW: You recently portrayed Frances Taylor, Miles Davis' first wife, in the biopic Miles Ahead. Did you feel any extra pressure to get the role right, given that you were playing a real person?

EC: Definitely! I indeed wanted Ms Frances to be pleased while at the same time honoring my director's vision, along with rny own creativity. It is a balancing act which, I am glad to say, did pay off with her approval!

 

KW: Did you consult Frances in preparation for the role?

EC: For sure. We had quite a few lunches that were filled with great stories, laughter and truth.

 

KW: Are you a fan of Miles' music?

EC: I am now. I was not as familiar with him before the film. He was always this mysterious man on my father's album covers up until that point.

 

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?

EC: Climbing trees when I was about 9 with my best friend. Climbing trees is still one of my favorite things to do. A tree and a good book and I'm happy.

 

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?

EC: Absolutely! God has always been the head of my life, even before I knew it.

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

EC: Arroz con pollo, my father's recipe. He is a chef in Kansas City, and he is fantastic.

 

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

EC: I don't have one. I like what looks good on me and, as a result, I don't find myself drawn to one specific designer all the time.

 

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

EC: To hug my mother just one more time.

 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

EC: A woman who stands up for what she believes.

 

KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

EC: Called my friends up at almost midnight to play in a freshly excavated ditch near my house. It was dark, there were piles and piles of dirt, space and opportunity and each and every one of them came and we had a good time. Until the police came, that is. But hey, it adds to the excitement.

 

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?

EC: Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men. He has taken the place of Jason who was my former favorite. I don't ever want to see that dude anywhere.

 

KW: AALBC.com founder Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?

EC: "Her Again," a Meryl Streep biography.

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0062342843/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

 

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

EC: Capital One was the first thing that carne to mind. [LOL]

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Emayatzy, and best of luck with all your ventures.

EC: Take care, Kam.

 

To see a trailer for Roots, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-qsh9rXifs To order a copy of Roots on Blu-ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01GEW31YY/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

 

Jeff Bridges

The “Hell or High Water” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

Rappin' with "The Dude"

 

One of Hollywood’s most successful actors and a six-time Academy Award-nominee, Jeff Bridges performance in Crazy Heart as Bad Blake, the down-on-his-luck, alcoholic country music singer at the center of the drama, deservedly garnered the iconic performer an Oscar in the Best Lead Actor category. The performance also earned him a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Independent Spirit Award.

 

Jeff earned his first Oscar nomination in 1971 for Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show, co-starring Cybill Shepherd. Three years later, he received his second nomination for his role in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. In 1984, he landed more kudos via a Best Actor nomination for Starman. In 2001, he was honored with his fourth Oscar nomination for his work in The Contender, a political thriller co-starring Gary Oldman and Joan Allen in which he played the President of the United States.

 

In December 2010, his reunion with the Coen Brothers in the critically-acclaimed Western True Grit landed him his sixth Oscar nomination. The same month he was seen in the highly-anticipated 3D action-adventure TRON: Legacy. Jeff reprised his role of video-game developer Kevin Flynn from the classic 1982 film TRON. with the help of state-of-the-art technology. The picture featured him as the first actor in cinematic history to play opposite a younger version of himself.

 

Prior to Crazy Heart, Jeff was seen in the war comedy The Men Who Stare at Goats, playing Bill Django, a free-spirited military intelligence officer, who is the leader of a secret group of warriors in the army. Additionally, he has starred in numerous box-office hits, including Seabiscuit, The Fisher King, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Jagged Edge, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, Blown Away, Fearless and American Heart.

In 1983, Jeff founded the End Hunger Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to feeding children around the world. He also produced the End Hunger tel-event, a three-hour live television broadcast focusing on world hunger. The show featured Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon, Burt Lancaster, Bob Newhart, Kenny Loggins and other leading film, television and music stars in an innovative production to educate and inspire action. He is currently the national spokesman for the Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry campaign that is fighting to end childhood hunger in America. Another of Jeff’s true passions is photography. While on the set of his movies, he takes behind-the-scenes pictures of the actors, crew and locations. After completion of each motion picture, he edits the images into a book and gives copies to everyone involved.

 

Jeff’s photographs have been featured in several magazines, including Premiere and Aperture, as well as in other publications worldwide. He has also had gallery exhibitions of his work in New York, Los Angeles, London and San Diego. In 2013, he was the recipient of an Infinity Award, presented by the International Center of Photography in Manhattan.

 

The books, which have become valued by collectors, were never intended for public sale, but in the fall of 2003, powerHouse Books released Pictures: Photographs by Jeff Bridges, a hardcover book containing a compilation of his photographs taken on numerous film locations over the years, to much critical acclaim. Proceeds from the book are donated to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a nonprofit organization that offers charitable care and support to film-industry workers.

 

In August of 2011, Jeff released his self-titled major label debut album for Blue Note Records. Multiple-Grammy Award-wining songwriter, musician and producer T Bone Burnett produced the album. It is an organic extension and culmination of his personal, professional and music friendship with Burnett, whom he has known for more than 30 years.

 

The critically-acclaimed album was a follow up to his first solo effort 'Be Here Soon,' on Ramp Records, the Santa Barbara, California label he co-founded with Michael McDonald and producer/singer/songwriter Chris Pelonis. The CD features guest appearances by vocalist/keyboardist Michael McDonald, Grammy-nominated Amy Holland and rock legend David Crosby. In 2014, he released his first live album 'Jeff Bridges & The Abiders Live' and has been touring off and on when he is not working.

 

Jeff and his wife Susan divide their time between homes in Santa Barbara and Montana. Here, he talks about his latest outing as wily Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton in Hell or High Water, a cat-and-mouse crime thriller co-starring Chris Pine and Ben Foster.

 

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Kam Williams: Hey Jeff. I'm honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Jeff Bridges: Why, thank you, Kam. it's good talking to you, too.

 

KW: I loved Hell or High Water. I don't know why they released it in August instead of just ahead of awards season. Everything about it screams Oscars.

JB: It's an awfully good movie.

 

KW: Yeah, from the A-list cast to the visually-captivating cinematography to its haunting musical score to its intriguing script featuring an unpredictable cat-and-mouse thriller as well as some decent character development. It all added up to an enchanting cinematic experience.

JB: It was a great experience for me watching it, too, and also making it, of course. It's a good one!

 

KW: Absolutely! What was it like working with such a talented ensemble. I was already familiar with Ben Foster and Chris Pine, but Gil Birmingham who was new to me did a great job, too.

JB: Yeah, the whole team they assembled, not only the actors, but the crew--the writer, the director, the set designer--all came together. That's a pretty rare phenomenon! It certainly doesn't happen all the time. And such a great screenplay by Taylor Sheridan. That's where it all began.

 

KW: And how about trusting a British director, David Mackenzie, to make a modern Western set in Texas?

JB: Yeah, he had those fresh eyes. He was so concerned about getting it right, and I think he did a brilliant job.

 

KW: I agree. How did you come up with your character Marcus Hamilton's persona?

JB: Well, it was definitely on the page. That was one of the things that attracted me to the project in the first place. It just rang so true. It seemed like Taylor Sheridan really knew what he was talking about. I found out that his cousin, Parnell McNamara was a Marshall down in Texas. He was made available to me, and I talked to him quite a bit. We were also very fortunate to have a very famous Texas Ranger, Joaquin Jackson, on the set with us. He died recently, but he was very instrumental, for me anyway, in getting my character right.

 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: I loved you in True Grit. Is there another remake you'd like to star in?

JB: Nothing really comes to mind, although I understand they're doing a remake of Starman. I know this doesn't exactly answer your question but whenever I see Karen Allen, who was with me in the original, we often ask, "Gee, why don't they make a sequel to Starman?" After all, she was impregnated by the alien guy... He's given her the silver ball... There's a story there! But I guess they're going ahead with a remake instead. That doesn't answer your question. As a matter of fact, when the Coen Brothers came to me with True Grit, I went "Why do you want to remake that? It's already a famous movie?" They asked me, "Well, have you read the novel by Charles Portis?" So, I checked out the book, which read like the Coen Brothers' script. And then I understood what they were up to.

 

KW: Even though you've had so many great roles, whenever I told someone I was going to interview, invariably the response would be, "The Dude! The Dude! The Dude!" a reference to another Coen Brothers film, The Big Lebowski. Do you also get more of a fan response about that film than any other?

JB: Oh, absolutely! I just signed a couple of bowling pins moments ago. That sort of thing happens to me just about every day when I'm out and about. It's great! I don't feel any resentment about it. The Big Lebowski's a real masterpiece, as far as I'm concerned. I suppose I'm a bit biased because I'm in it. But even if I weren't, I'd still love that movie, it's so well done.

 

KW: Yeah, my son always says it's his favorite movie of all time. Which of your roles are you fondest of?

JB: It's like that corny thing actors say about how it's like being asked to pick their favorite kid. Each one is such a different experience.

 

KW: Is there one that comes to mind?

JB: Lebowski is certainly up there. I couldn't pick one favorite, but I loved working with my brother [Beau] and my father [Lloyd] whenever that happened. I had a wonderful experience making The Fabulous Baker Boys which I felt was a great movie, too. And I got to work with my dad in Tucker and in Blown Away which were also wonderful experiences. Sometimes, it's hard for me to separate the experience from the final product.

 

KW: What was a film you really enjoyed making that might not have enjoyed box-office success?

JB: The moguls was an obscure movie I had such a good time on. It's also called The Amateurs. It had a great cast and a wonderful director [Michael Traeger], and we had so much fun. It was about the citizens of a small town getting together to make a porno movie. I think it came out great., but it fell apart because the distributor turned out to be a crook, so it never got released. Hardly anybody saw it, but you could probably find it somewhere.

 

KW: Watching your dad on TV in Sea Hunt, was a big part of my childhood. was the show a big part of yours, too?

JB: Yeah, unlike a lot of people in Hollywood, he loved showbiz so much he encouraged his kids to go into it. If you were a Sea Hunt fan, then you probably saw me on the show as a little kid. He was like, "Hey Jeff, why don't you come to work with your old man. You get to skip school."

 

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?

JB: Sitting in my living room and seeing my mother open the front door. She was wearing a mink stole but had just cut off all of her long beautiful hair. She had a very short kind of bob. It just freaked me out. I just ran and locked myself in the bathroom. I must have been about 3 or 4.

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

JB: I'm not much of a cook. Maybe scrambled eggs or something like that.

 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

JB: A stranger, as of late. I sort of don't recognize myself. It's kind of an interesting situation. I went through a very hairy period. I had a movie where I was going to play Walt Whitman that fell through. At the time, I had grown this huge beard and very long hair. But then, the movie got canceled, I had some other parts, and I currently have very short hair. So, when I look in the mirror, I don't know who I am exactly. It's interesting.

 

KW: When you prepare to play a character, do you take him on mentally as well as physically?

JB: Sure, yeah.

 

KW: How long does it take you to shake off a character and get him out of your system after a film has wrapped?

JB: That's hard to say. Once, during an interview in front of my wife, I was asked, "Are you one of those actors who brings your character home? Do you stay in character?" I said, "No, not really. I don't do that," and she started laughing. I asked her why. She said, "Well, you might think you don't bring characters home, but you do." So, while I don't feel like a character is lingering, it probably is.

 

KW: What are you up to musically?

JB: I'm looking at my guitar right now. I play music as much as I can. I have a band called The Abiders. We've put out a couple of albums you can find on iTunes. We tour and all that stuff, so music is very much a part of my life.

 

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

JB: I have my prized possession in my wallet. That's a photograph of the first words I ever uttered to my wife, and her answer to my question when I asked her, "Will you go out with me?"

 

KW: What was her answer?

JB: "No." I happen to have snapped a photograph of that moment.

 

KW: Well, it all worked out very well for you in the end. Thanks again for the time, Jeff. I really enjoyed this.

JB: Nice chatting with you, too. Have a good one, Kam.

 

To order a copy of Jeff Bridges & The Abiders' "Live" CD, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00N2D53J0/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

To order a copy of Jeff Bridges' "Be Here Soon" CD,

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00004RI61/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

To order a copy of Jeff Bridges' "Jeff Bridges" CD,

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B004XJ317S/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

 

To see a trailer for Hell or High Water, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQoqsKoJVDw

Seth Rogen

The “Sausage Party” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

Rappin' with Rogen!

 

Seth Rogen has established himself as a prominent actor, writer, producer and director, a Renaissance man with the talent to generate, launch and star in his own projects. In 2011, Rogen, along with lifelong friend and writing partner, Evan Goldberg, founded Point Grey Pictures, the production company behind such movies as The Interview, Neighbors, This Is the End and 50/50.

Earlier this year, Seth produced and starred in the sequel Neighbors 2: Sorority. Point Grey’s first TV show, Preacher, based on Garth Ennis' graphic novel, airs on AMC and has recently been renewed for another season. Here, he talks about his new film, Sausage Party, a raunchy animated comedy co-starring James Franco, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Salma Hayek, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd and Danny McBride.

 

Seth Rogen and Salma Hayek seen at Columbia Pictures and AnnaPurna World Premiere of "Sausage Party" on Tuesday, August 9, 2016, in Los Angeles.

 

Kam Williams: Hi Seth, thanks for the interview. I'm honored to have this opportunity to speak with you. I've enjoyed so much of your work over the years, from Superbad right up to the present.

Seth Rogen: That's so nice of you, Kam. Thank you so much.

 

KW: I really enjoyed Sausage Party, which struck me as a very sophisticated variation of irreverent animated comedies like South Park and Team America, .

SR: Thanks again. That's a lovely compliment. I really appreciate it.

 

KW: Where did you find the courage to go against the grain in these politically-correct times when most stand-up comedians are afraid to touch controversial topics?

SR: Honestly, that's not something I've ever personally agreed with. [Laughs] I think if a joke is well thought out and actually funny, then I haven't had a problem exploring any idea. One does have to be aware of the climate, but that doesn't mean you can't incorporate that itself into the joke, if you want. So, I, as a writer, don't agree with the notion that there are politically-correct pressures ruining comedy.

 

KW: How do you expect the audience to respond to Sausage Party's primary theme suggesting they question the wisdom of blindly following religious dogma? I suspect the movie might have people laughing first, but then perhaps reflecting upon their own blind faith.

SR: Maybe! That would be very interesting. It's not a reaction that I necessarily expect, but I wouldn't be upset, by any means, if that happened. Overall, I'd say the message of Sausage Party is that faith and religion are okay, unless they divide us. I think that's a very important distinction the movie makes, that we should try to not let differences get in the way of our own happiness or in the way of our getting along with one another.

 

KW: Does this religious theme reflect something that you and/or your writing partner, Evan Goldberg, have struggled with privately?

SR: It's something we've talked about a lot. Our film This Is the End explored a lot of religious themes, as does our TV show Preacher. It's just one of the biggest things that has occurred in the history of humanity. As a result, it's something that we think and talk about a lot and try to incorporate into our work.

 

KW: What is it about a Seth Rogen project that so many A-listers want to be involved?

SR: I have no idea, but it's incredibly flattering. One of the things I'm most proud of with this movie and others are the casts we've been able to assemble. The fact that all these people trusted us enough to be a part of Sausage Party was just incredibly complimentary. And, as we were making the movie, a large part of my thought involved making sure they liked it and were proud of being in it.

 

KW: Well it's doing great both with the critics and at the box office.

SR: It's wonderfully shocking that everybody seems to be appreciating it and getting what we were going for. It's just very nice when that happens. [Laughs some more]

 

KW: Besides faith, the movie also explores numerous other issues, such as race, sexuality and even the Middle East conflict. How did you manage to pack so much serious material into 90 minutes, along with the laughs, too?

SR: That's the result of our working on the movie for a really, really long time. Because of that, you get a lot of opportunities to pour over every moment and to really try to maximize every second of screen time, as much as is humanly possible. It's also natural for the person making it to want to improve upon it while you're working on it.

 

KW: Did you have any qualms about possibly contributing to the delinquency of a minor by having Iris Apatow [Judd's daughter] in the cast of your R-rated production.

AR: [LOL] That's one minor's delinquency I don't have to worry about contributing to. [Laughs some more]

 

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

SR: No, not really. I always think I'd be terrible at interviewing people. [Laughs]

 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

SR: I don't know. Different things on different days.

 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

SR: No, not really. That just seems so hard. I think we really have the best luck doing stuff that's as original as possible. And we enjoy working the most when we feel like we're making something that no one's done before. That's what was so much fun about Sausage Party and why we put so much into it. We knew that we were doing something that no one had done before. And that was a very appealing prospect.

 

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?

SR: Playing with toy cars when I was about 2.

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

SR: I have two favorites. I like making ribs and steak.

 

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

SR: I use an elastic band for a wallet. It's literally just my driver's license, credit cards and a little bit of cash with an elastic band around it. [Chuckles]

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Seth, and best of luck with the film.

SR: Thank you so much, Kam. I really appreciate it.

 

To see a trailer for Sausage Party, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAJrBPUVDJM

Marc Lamont Hill

The “Nobody” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marc Lamont Matters!

 

Marc Lamont Hill is one of America's leading intellectual voices. He is currently the host of BET News and VH1 Live, as well as a political contributor on CNN.

Marc has received prestigious awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation and the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, to name a few. He holds a Ph.D with distinction from the University of Pennsylvania and currently serves on the faculty of Morehouse College as its Distinguished Professor of African-American Studies.

Here, he talks about his new book, "Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond."

 

 

Kam Williams: Hi Marc, thanks for this opportunity to speak with you.

Marc Lamont Hill: My pleasure.

 

KW: I really enjoyed the book. What inspired you to write it?

MLH: It started with the death of Michael Brown. When I got to Ferguson to cover the funeral and the aftermath of the shooting for BET News, I found more than I expected. I realized that there was so much more to the story than what was being represented in the news. It was deeper than [Police Officer] Darren Wilson and Mike Brown. It was also about all these other factors that made Mike Brown nobody long before he ever walked onto Canfield Drive the day of the shooting. I really just intended to tell the story of Ferguson, but then Daniel Pantaleo was not indicted for killing Eric Garner... Tamir Rice was killed... Then Freddie Gray was killed that spring... And Walter Scott was shot in the back. And Sandra Bland was killed. Before I knew it, there was a whole range of stories. So, I decided to tell a story about state violence and about how there's a deeper war on the vulnerable that's being prosecuted everywhere that allows the state violence to occur in the first place.

 

KW: Do you have any qualms about using Mike Brown as the poster child of the Black Lives Matter Movement when he was caught on tape robbing a convenience store a few minutes before he was shot? Also, the grand jury concluded that he never said, "Hands up, don't shoot!" Wouldn't it be better to rally around a more deserving victim? Whatever happened to Dr. King's notion of judging not by the color of the skin but by the content of the character?

MLH: Black Lives Matter emerged months before Michael Brown was ever killed. So, the movement had already started. It certainly got a lot of energy and focus after his death, but I think this idea that we need perfect victims is problematic. Mike Brown is killed after he steals Cigarillos from a store, a point I concede in the first chapter of the book, as well as the fact that his hands weren't up and he probably wasn't running away. Mike Brown wasn't blameless, but robbery still isn't a capital offense, nor should be for Eric Garner for selling loose cigarettes on the street in Staten Island. The question isn't are these people perfect, but rather are they subject to a level of surveillance, policing and punishment commensurate with their crimes? I want to live in a world where you don't have to be perfect to survive. I think Mike Brown is a perfect representation of Black Lives Matter precisely because he isn't perfect. He still deserved to live.

 

KW: Do you think video games and gangsta' rap might have contributed to the image of the black male as violent and dangerous, perhaps causing cops to have an itchy trigger finger around them?

MLH: Video games don't help, rap music doesn't help, and news outlets running B-roll footage of black people being violent doesn't help, but I think there's a deeper cultural problem that we need to wrestle with. There has never been a moment, since the birth of White Supremacy, when we didn't think black people were violent.

 

KW: In your conclusion you say, "Empires eventually fall, and that freedom is closer than we think." Are you expressing your expectations about America?

MLH: I'm saying nothing lasts forever, whether it's Greece, Rome or the British Empire. It doesn't mean that America has to end. The country could be reshaped and reimagined in a way that is even more democratic and less imperial in nature. We're trying to radically reshape the nation in ways that are more just and fairer. That's what I mean when I say that empires eventually fall. I'm not calling for the end of America. I'm just calling for a reimagination of its democratic possibilities.

 

KW: Still, I wonder why you would start your book with Mike Brown, if you want to unite the country and rally as many people as possible to the cause.

MLH: It wasn't my choice to start with Mike Brown. Remember, since August 9, 2014 we've seen the most protracted resistance to police violence in U.S. history. That's when the movement started.

 

KW: I'm also concerned about situations like the City of Flint, where corrupt politicians were all too willing to commit crimes and ruin children's lives by covering up the fact that the water was contaminated with lead. How many other Flints do you think might be out there right now?

MLH: These are acts of civil evil. These are crimes that only happen when you're poor, or black, or brown or severely disenfranchised. This is not just about people making mistakes or being indifferent. There's a system installed that allows this to happen.

 

KW: Where do you see the country headed because of the rift being created by Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter or the police and Blue Lives Matter?

MLH: I think there's rift, but it's a false dichotomy suggesting that we have to choose between critiquing state violence and people who shoot police officers. We can grieve over the tragic deaths of police officers, but it's apples and oranges, because we still need a consistent conversation about state violence.

 

KW: What about the fact that we have a black President and Attorney General, who passed on federally prosecuting police for the murders of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and others. And look at Baltimore where you had a black Mayor, Prosecutor and Judge, and still couldn't get any convictions. Maybe we're finally post-racial.

MLH: The argument has never been about having black representation. The freedom struggle has been about justice, safety and peace, not about getting black people to do the same things that white people do. Having a black President and Attorney General doesn't change the fact that the system's broken. We didn't integrate police forces so that black cops could beat us or so that black mayors could impose the same rules. The fundamental goal is to change the system, not to change the manager of the empire.

 

KW: What is wrong with simply saying All Lives Matter?

MLH: It's fundamentally dishonest. It suggests that people asserting that Black Lives Matter are somehow indifferent to the lives of others. It's not that white lives don't matter. White lives aren't being erased by the state in the same way. So, the declaration that Black Lives Matter is about spotlighting a particular need, not about diminishing the significance and value of other needs. It's imperative that we articulate as loudly as possible that Black Lives Matter, too, because if we don't, no one else will.

 

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?

MLH: Sitting at my parent's dining room table in North Philly at 3 years of age reading a "Dick and Jane" book, and their not believing that I knew how to read. They thought I was pretending and had just memorized the book.

 

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?

MLH: I don't know if it was meaningful to me, but my parents went to church every week. It was certainly meaningful to them.

 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

MLH: I see an African.

 

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

MLH: Justice.

 

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

MLH: Way too many business cards of people who stop me on the street.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Marc, and best of luck with the book.

MLH: I appreciate this conversation, Kam. It's been great!

 

To order a copy of "Nobody," visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1501124943/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

 

Nobody cover

Eric Bolling

The “Wake Up America” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

Rollin' with Bolling!

 

Chicago native Eric Bolling is a Fox News Channel personality perhaps best known as a co-host of the highly-rated show "The Five." He also has his own weekend program, "Cashin' In," and he frequently appears on other Fox programs, including subbing for Bill O’Reilly on "T'he O’Reilly Factor."

Eric was raised in Chicago where the lessons he learned during childhood led to his eventually being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team and to his subsequent success as a trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Eric and his wife, Adrienne, live in Demarest, New Jersey where they are raising their son, Eric, Jr. Here, he talks about his best-selling new book, "Wake Up, America."

 

Kam Williams: Hi Eric, thanks for the time.

Eric Bolling: No problem. How're you doing, man?

 

KW: I love The Five. I think it's one of the best talking head shows on TV.

EB: That's great. I appreciate it.

 

KW: I've already interviewed two of your co-hosts on the show, Dana Perino and Juan Williams.

EB: Perfect! Great! Let's do it!.

 

KW: What inspired you to write the book?

EB: I've been at Fox for 9 years, and at NBC prior to that, and people have always asked me to put my conservative viewpoint on paper. I said, "I'll write a book when the time is right." Well, the time seemed to be right, since we were being dragged kicking and screaming so far left by President Obama. I felt that before it's too late I needed to hurry and create a road map back to center-right where the country was founded and where it has thrived. So, when I finished writing, I dedicated it to President Obama, because if it weren't for him, I wouldn't have written the book, and it wouldn't have been so easy to write.

 

KW: In "Wake Up, America," you lay out the 9 virtues the country was built upon. Which one would you say is the most important?

EB: I started with "Grit" because I believe that's really one of America's founding virtues, that spirit of falling, getting back up, dusting yourself off, and trying again until you succeed. We've always done that so well, but I felt grit was in danger because of Obama's liberal-progressive ideas like giving out participation trophies or eliminating valedictorian. "Profit" was also important to me because I come from a very poor background in Chicago and I'm blessed to sit in the center sit on The Five because of profit, because I've worked hard, been successful, and as rewarded for my hard work. I end the 9 virtues with the one that's most important to me, and that's "Providence." It's meaningful to me, because I'm a very spiritual person. I go to St. Patrick's Cathedral every day before The Five, and I go on Sunday as well. My path has been lit by the Good Lord, so I wanted to end with that.

 

KW: To what extent do you think growing up Catholic might have shaped you in terms of these virtues?

EB: Clearly, "Providence" has been a theme throughout my life. But I think growing up American is more of the reason why I succeeded. Neither one of my parents had a college education, yet they instilled all these virtues in me.

 

KW: What do you think of the pressure exerted on conservatives by political-correctness?

EB: It's sad that we've come to this place where everyone is so easily offended. The left has pushed politically-correct culture on us so aggressively that there is a huge portion of the population that's tired of being told what they can or can't say. My book is touching a nerve because it is a road map back from this liberal-left pushing back to the center-right country that we really are.

 

KW: How do you feel about Black Lives Matter?

EB: I'm a fan of the First Amendment and of people speaking their minds. I get that. But I'm not a fan of this Black Lives Matter group. It's insane when they call it racist when someone says "All lives matter" and when they say the vast majority of cops are bad cops. They're declaring war on law enforcement. Our police officers are the ones who kiss their wives goodbye everyday and go out into the streets to keep us safe. Not you. Not me. 600 thousand officers are protecting over 300 million of us. Without them, there would be anarchy. I respect them. I think what Black Lives Matter is doing is detrimental and threatening the very fabric of the republic. The vast majority of cops are good, hard-working cops

 

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

EB: [Laughs heartily] No! Just ask me how to get an autographed copy of the book.

 

KW: The Dana Perino question: What keeps you up at night?

EB: My son is going off to college soon. Sending him off to a liberal institution keeps me up at night.

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

EB: I love to barbecue. I love a back door barbecue, no matter what it is... turkey burgers... hot dogs... I'm all for it.

 

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?

EB: I talk about it in the book. I was 6 years-old. We didn't have a lot of money. My mother let me but myself a pair of sneakers. I couldn't believe the look on her face when I brought home Pro Keds. She said, "Son, we can't afford those." It was earth-shatteringly shocking to me to realize that there were haves and have-nots, and that we were have nots..

 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

EB: Grit and determination.

 

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

EB: Cash.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Eric and best of luck with the book and the shows.

EB: Thank you, Kam.

 

To order a copy of “Wake Up America,” visit:

https://www.amazon.com/Wake-Up-America-Virtues-Great/dp/1250112508?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

Joan Trumpauer Mulholland

Legendary Civil Rights Icon Reflects upon the Past as Prologue  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “She Stood for Freedom” Interview

with Kam Williams

16 (joan_and_king) 1962 - Joan escorting Dr. Martin Luther King around Tougaloo College campus

Joan escorting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. around the Tougaloo College campus

[all photos courtesy of the Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Foundation]

 

Joan Trumpauer Mulholland was a little girl in the 1950s. When she saw that black people were being treated differently from white people, she promised herself that she would do something to change that. As a teenager, she joined the Civil Rights Movement and protested the injustice she saw around her.

During the 1960s, Joan attended many demonstrations and sit-ins, she protested at a Woolworth's lunch counter, and she participated in several organized marches, including the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Though she was threatened, arrested, and mocked, she held true to her promise to make the world a better place for everyone. "Anyone can make a difference," she says. "It doesn't matter how old or young you are. Find a problem, get some friends together, and go fix it. Remember, you don't have to change the world...just change your world."

Here, Joan talks about “She Stood for Freedom,” an illustrated biography about her co-written by her son Loki and Angela Fairwell.

 

Kam Williams: Hi Joan, thanks for the interview. I want to begin by thanking you for your commitment to the Civil Rights Movement and for the sacrifices you made, risking not only your education and career, but life and limb.

Joan Trumpauer Mulholland: Thank you, Kam.

 

KW: How does it feel to have your son, Loki, write a book about you?

JTM: It's his project, and I'm in a supporting role for his efforts to reach young people about what has gone before and to inspire them to shape a better future. What is past is prologue.

 

16 Joan Trumpauer Mulholland & son, Author_Director Loki Mulholland (_MG_2371)Joan today, with son, Loki

 

KW: What message do you hope people will take away from it?

JTM: That they, too, can make a difference.

 

KW: What first interested you in the Civil Rights Movement?

JTM: I'd realized since grade school that segregation and prejudice were wrong. This was students my age trying to peacefully change things.

 

KW: Do you think you might have been a little naive about how difficult it would be to change the minds of white Southerners

JTM: No. I AM a white Southerner--these were my people. I'd grown up amongst them. I knew how they felt.

 

KW: How hard was it for you to adhere to SNCC, Dr. King and Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence in the face of the hostility with which you were met?

JTM: Non-violence was a no-brainer, in keeping with Christianity..."Turn the other cheek," "Love thy neighbor," etcetera. And I'm a Christian. Besides, if you fought back, you were hopelessly outnumbered and could be arrested for assault and battery.

 

KW: How did you feel when you were imprisoned on Death Row in Mississippi?

JTM: Death Row had great intimidation value, and the guards made sure you knew you were at their mercy--no reporters, lawyers only up from Jackson once a week, and so forth. On the other hand, it was certainly roomier, cleaner, more comfortable than the Hinds County Jail, and the food was better.

 

KW: What was it like being white but attending a black college and pledging a black sorority?

JTM: I was always a "minority," so college was nothing new. At first, some of the students were a bit uncertain about me, but when I returned for the second, I was just one of the crowd. Had to eat that old cafeteria food and study like everyone else.

 

KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?

JTM: My grandmothers.

 

KW: AALBC.com founder Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?

JTM: Almost finished Vilhalmur Stefansson's 1942 book, "Greenland." https://www.amazon.com/Greenland-Vilhjalmur-Stefansson/dp/B0006APSK6?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

JTM: Red beans and rice. My five sons would ALWAYS eat it, and some still ask for it when they come to visit.

 

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

JTM: Pick your issue, find a few like-minded folk, and just DO IT--non-violently.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Joan, and congratulations again on “She Stood for Freedom.”

JTM: My pleasure, Kam.

 

To order a copy of “She Stood for Freedom,” visit: https://www.amazon.com/She-Stood-Freedom-Trumpauer-Mulholland/dp/1629721778?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

 

SSFF cover art - middle [2]

 

To order a copy of “She Stood for Freedom,” picture book edition for ages 4 to 8, visit: https://www.amazon.com/She-Stood-Freedom-Trumpauer-Mulholland/dp/162972176X?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

 

cover

Dr. Julianne Malveaux

The “Are We Better Off?" Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tip of the Chapeau to Dr. Malveaux!

 

Dr. Julianne Malveaux has long been recognized for her progressive and insightful observations. She is a labor economist, noted author and colorful commentator. Her contributions to the public dialogue on issues such as race, culture, gender and their economic impacts are shaping public opinion in 21st Century America.

Dr. Malveaux is the founder and President of Economic Education, a 501-c3 organization focused on personal finance and economic policy education and their connection. Here, she talks about her new book, “Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy."

 

Kam Williams: Hi, Julianne, thanks for another opportunity to interview you.

Dr. Julianne Malveaux: Greetings, Kam. I hope you are well. Thanks for the opportunity to talk with you again.

 

KW: You're welcome. What inspired you to publish "Are We Better Off?"

JM: People will be talking about the Obama legacy for decades, and I wanted to include my voice in the analysis of this presidency. This is a column collection, or as one colleague called it, “history in real time,” recounting my perspective on the highs and lows of this presidency from an African-American perspective. More than simply a column collection, the book has a substantial introduction that frames the Obama presidency, explores the way Obama was treated by the political establishment and also how this first black president treated “his” people. In the epilogue, I use numbers to tell the story of African-American gains and losses during this presidency.

 

KW: How did you decide which articles to include in the book?

JM: Wow! That’s a great question. It was quite a process to narrow more than 400 columns down to 80. I write weekly, though, and I don’t always write about President Obama, so that was the easy elimination. Sometimes, I repeat myself, and that was a second elimination. I worked with a team, including a great editor who, as the project came together, suggested other additions and eliminations. It was a process.

 

KW: Well, are we better off after eight years of Obama?

JM: The economy is better than the one President Obama inherited, and unemployment is lower, but the unemployment rate gap remains large. Black child poverty is higher. As I write in the epilogue, “Yes we can. No he didn’t. President Obama didn’t push black people backward, but he missed the opportunity to move us forward.”

 

KW: In the Introduction, you ask, "How does President Obama treat his people?" before criticizing him for not reciprocating the overwhelming support he's received from the African-American electorate. You say, "He scolds instead of uplifts, and offers tepid gestures to our needs." What do you think he could have done in terms of jobs, housing and education?

JM: If some of the recovery money had gone to cities instead of states, the urban population, read "Black" and "Brown," would be better off with recovery jobs. While the banks got big bailouts, a sizeable chunk of African-American wealth evaporated because so many people lost homes. Some of the federal programs to help homeowners were never fully implemented. And President Obama’s pick of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education was abysmal. Cutting HBCUs was unconscionable. Implementing new regulations on Parent Plus loans, which cost HBCUs 28,000 students, was hostile. At the same time, it is important to note that, except for his first two years, which were a missed opportunity, President Obama faced rabid opposition from the Republicans. Indeed, as soon as he took office, Senator Mitch McConnell announced that his top priority was to deny President Obama a second term. The president did introduce a jobs bill that could not clear Congress. The Republicans simply would not work with him.

 

KW: What about all the black-on-black violence in so many inner cities across the country. Do you really think the president could have put a dent in it from Washington, DC? After all, his own Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, became Mayor of Chicago, and the body count has only escalated there?

JM: President Obama’s choice of Rahm Emmanuel as his Chief of Staff was questionable, and perhaps coverups around the police violence against black people in Chicago is reflective of Mr. Emmanuel’s values. Did Rahm Emmanuel serve President Obama or did he serve himself as he prepared to run for Mayor of Chicago? I don’t use the term black-on-black violence, since I’ve never heard the term white-on-white violence. Most violence is intra-racial, and much of the violence in African-American communities is a function of drug availability, joblessness and poverty. Obviously these conditions predate the Obama presidency and the president has limited ways to dent this violence. But funding war weapons in cities, as opposed to more community policing, is not the solution.

 

KW: What about the issue of blacks as the victims of violence by police and vigilantes like George Zimmerman? Do you think Obama could have done more for Trayvon Martin than to say that he could've been his son?

JM: President Obama did put together a task force on 21st Century Policing, led by Philadelphia police chief Charles Ramsey, to look at some of these issues after Ferguson. The Task Force didn’t produce any earth-shattering findings but it suggests that this matter is on the president’s radar screen. However, this is an issue that persists. In the first week of July, we already saw two black men killed by police in questionable circumstances, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in a Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Trayvon Martin could have been any of our sons, so I was not especially moved by that remark of President Obama’s. He intended, I think, to say that he took Trayvon’s death somewhat personally. He might have said more about “stand your ground” laws and how they give vigilantes a pass. And he might say more about these rogue cops and their license to kill. Although he was in Poland to participate in the NATO conference, President Obama did respond well to the back-to-back killings, as well as to the attacks on Dallas police officers that followed. I especially appreciated hearing the President affirm that “black lives matter” and that it means that some citizens are feeling more pain, and experiencing more negative effects than others, and he offered up the stats. He also indicated that black lives matter does not negate the fact that blue lives matter. He ably walked the tightrope, here, between affirming both black life and police life.

 

KW: It seems that Obama will be better remembered for LGBT than African-American civil rights. If Trayvon had been transgender, do you think the Attorney General would have charged George Zimmerman with a federal crime?

JM: Let me answer the question another way. The President became quite emotional about transgender student rights, threatening to pull Department of Education funds from school districts that do not comply with federal regulations. Black children are suspended from school three times more than white children are, and there is no evidence that black children are three times as unruly. Has the President ever threatened to pull the Department of Education dollars from a school with these disproportionate suspensions? African-Americans have rarely been the beneficiaries of Presidential rhetorical excess.

 

KW: When you interviewed Obama, his staff wouldn't let him talk about reparations. What did that tell you about him?

JM: This was in 2004, and it told me that President Obama intended to be very careful and noncontroversial in addressing race matters. It is now 2016, and I’m not sure that I’ve heard the President address that matter yet. I serve on the Institute of the Black World’s National Commission on African-American Reparations, and we have asked the President to, by executive order, establish a commission to study reparations. He can do this without Congressional approval. While I am not optimistic, I do hope that President Obama considers this in these waning months of his Presidency.

 

KW: In the book, you suspect that Obama's image as a community organizer in Chicago might be more a "manufactured mythology" than a "gritty reality." Have you done any research to determine whether he developed roots and maintained ties to folks he worked with in the hood?

JM: I’ve talked to dozens of Chicagoans who will only go off the record in talking about the manufactured mythology. The published record will show that many in Chicago have mixed feedback on the President’s role as organizer.

 

KW: You also talk about how outspoken critics of Obama, like Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West, have ended up ostracized by the black community. Do you think this has a had a chilling effect, and did it make you less willing to disagree with the President?

JM: Tavis Smiley lost lots of corporate support after he was critical of President Obama, and Dr. West has lost some esteem. I think that Smiley and West come at the President somewhat differently though, and find some of West’s criticism too personal and base to be credible. Still, the way they were treated has caused many to bridle their tongues when discussing President Obama. I had my own challenges with the Obamaites when, in 2008, appearing on a program with Tavis and Cornel, I gave then-candidate Obama’s nomination acceptance speech a B. At the time I was President of Bennett College for Women, and actually had disgruntled members of the public write my Board of Trustees and faculty, and address me in ugly and disparaging terms, including black women calling me the N-word. Ugliness does not bridle my tongue, and while some of the consequences of being an honest critic of this President have been unpleasant, I can manage. Don’t get me wrong. As I write in the book, I do not regret either of my votes for President Obama, nor my support of him when he ran for the Senate before that. I get excited as I ever did when I see that black man on Air Force One. But I won’t settle for symbolism, and our President’s record should be open for analysis.

 

KW: Do you think the African-American agenda might have been placed on the Obama administration's back burner because of a hesitancy on the part of black leaders to question or criticize the President?

JM: Absolutely! You will not get fed in your mama’s house if you do not bring your plate to the table. Some of our leadership has been so happy to be there that they haven’t pushed our agenda. I don’t know how many off the record conversations I’ve had with African-American leaders who would not be quoted and refused to make their sentiments public.

 

KW: What grade would you give Obama?

JM: Depending on the day of the week it varies. At the moment, though there are just a few months left in our President’s time in the Oval Office I’d like to give him an incomplete and hope he surprises me. Actually, overall he gets a solid B, but for his work with Black America he gets a low C, at best.

 

KW: AALBC.com founder Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?

JM: I am addicted to the printed word, and my idea of a good time is a good book. So I had a read-a-thon over the 4th of You Lie weekend. Kindle First offered "The Daughter of Union County" by Francine Thomas Howard as a freebie, so I read it. Post-Reconstruction historical fiction that resonated. Then, I re-read "Twelve Years A Slave." It was my third read of that book. I first read it years ago, maybe in the '90s, again when the film came out. I could never see the movie after reading the book. This time, I just read it because I always want to read something about our people’s enslavement near the 4th. To keep it light, I also read Rolanda Watts’ "Destiny Lingers" She is a sisterfriend and I ran into her at Essence. Then, I finished Paul Taylor’s "The Next America." Taylor is the Executive VP at the Pew Research Center, and he uses their excellent data base to talk about the coming “generational showdown” which we are experiencing, at some level, in Black America.

 

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?

JM: More spiritual than religious. I describe myself as a “spiritual sampler,” raised Catholic, been Baptist, Methodist, and a Unity member. Always firmly believing in a higher power, I have also always been in search of a spiritual peace.

 

KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you've learned so far?

JM: I like to think that life lessons are learned and re-learned every day and take on importance at different times in life. In trying times, I like to remember that you have to keep walking because you can’t see what is around the corner.

 

KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

JM: Do you really think I’m going to go on record telling you the craziest thing I’ve ever done. There’s a reel in my brain, and I think I’ll keep it there. No regrets, though.

 

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

JM: A little money, a couple of credit cards, some ID, and a couple of scriptures on a 3x5 card. Matthew 17:20 and 1 Corinthians 16:9.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Julianne, and best of luck with the book.

JM: Thank you so much, Kam.

 

To order a copy of "Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy," visit: https://www.amazon.com/Better-Race-Obama-Public-Policy/dp/0982775016?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

 

Leslie Jones & Kate McKinnon

The “Ghostbusters” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who You Gonna Call? Kate and Leslie!

Comedienne Leslie Jones was hired as a writer by Saturday Night Live in 2014 and quickly gained popularity after a memorable on-air appearance during the show’s “Weekend Update” segment. So, she was subsequently officially invited to join SNL's ensemble cast during the show’s 40th season.

Earlier this year, Leslie shared the stage with Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock and Whoopi Goldberg in an epic Academy Awards sketch in a montage re-imagining some classic, Oscar-winning films with black actors. Her movie credits include Chris Rock’s Top Five, Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck, and the upcoming Masterminds, co-starring Kate McKinnon and Kristen Wiig.

Currently, Leslie can be seen on TV in an Allstate Insurance commercial that's in heavy rotation.

Kate McKinnon is also an SNL cast member and has been nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards for her work on the show. Since coming aboard in April 2012, she has entertained viewers with her critically-acclaimed impersonations of Hillary Clinton, Justin Bieber and Ellen DeGeneres.

 

Kate was recently seen in Sisters opposite Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and as the voices of Wife Fish in Finding Dory and of Stella in The Angry Birds Movie. In December, she'll co-star opposite Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston in Office Christmas Party.

 

Kam Williams: Hi Leslie, hi Kate. Thanks for the interview.

Kate McKinnon: [Shouts] Kam! how are you?

Leslie Jones: Hey, Kam.

KW: I'm doing great, and I absolutely loved this film.

KM: Oh, thank you, Kam.

LJ: Thanks.

KW: I liked how the movie paid homage to the original and brought back a lot of its cast members while breaking new ground in its own hilarious fashion.

KM: I think that's what we were trying to do. We're both huge fans of the original, but it was just too good to just leave it buried, so [director] Paul Feig wanted to put a fresh take on it, and I think we managed to achieve that.

KW: You certainly did. I love Paul's work. In fact, his movie Bridesmaids, was my pick as the #1 film of the year on my Top 100 List for 2011, a rarity for a comedy. And this film ranks right up there with Bridesmaids.

KM: Wow! Thank you. That means a lot, because Bridesmaids is one of my all-time favorites. I think that Paul started something of a mini-revolution when he made that film. And this movie is a continuation of that.

KW: Leslie, I love your Allstate Insurance commercial. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ghl19lJJ_mA] Want my number?

LJ: No! [Laughs heartily]

KW: What's it like to be in good hands?

KM: It's a little scary, man.

KW: Kate, I like your Mastercard "Less Typing, More Dancing" commercial, too. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tfy7J-0Duw] May I dip you?

KM: Well, I've been dipped so many times that I have vertigo from all the dipping.

KW: In September, we're going to see both of you in the movie Masterminds. How did you enjoy making that film?

KM: That was a while ago but, man, did we have fun.

LJ: Ooh! Nashville was great!

KM: Leslie and I went out and ate our weight in chocolates one night.

LJ: There was also a place there that had great shrimp and grits. Oh, it was so good!

KM: And Jared Hess, the director, we love. He's such a funny guy.

LJ: Yeah, Jared's funny, and he's so nice, too.

KW: Back to Ghostbusters. What was the most challenging part of shooting this film?

KM: Was it the stunts?

LJ: Yeah, I would say all the physical stuff. That was challenging, because I think Paul forgot we were comediennes.

KM: No, he remembered. He just forgot to tell us about the stunts. [Both laugh]

KW: Kate, what is your favorite impersonation to do?

KM: Hmm... Well... It's really tough to say. Probably Justin Bieber just because of the dancing.

KW: How was it different for the two of you to be making a movie together as opposed to doing Saturday Night Live?

KM: What was it like? Well, thank God for Leslie, since we knew each other really well. Being in a movie this big was was sort of a new experience for both of us. We would turn to each other frequently and go, "Where are we? What's happening? Are we messing this up? We must be messing this up?"

LJ: Yeah.

KM: She really helped me through the whole experience because it's daunting to walk onto a set with Kristen [Wiig] and Melissa [McCarthy] who are two of my favorite comediennes of all time, even though there also two of the nicest people in the world.

KW: Leslie, what did you channel in order to come up with your character, Patty?

LJ: It wasn't hard. Paul kind of based a lot of her on my realness and how I like to keep it real. But I enjoyed the historian part of her personality, too, because I got to show another side of myself.

KM: You are a historian in real life. Leslie taught me more about the history of rap than I ever could have imagined. Straight Outta Compton came out while we were filming, and you taught me every single thing about the history of rap.

LJ: Oh, my God! That was such a fun night! We shoved a bottle into the... [Clams up] We probably shouldn't talk about that part. [Both LOL]

KM: Anyway, you gave me lectures about rap all summer. I took notes on the stuff you taught me.

KW: One thing I really liked about Ghostbusters was how each of the four leads was able to showcase her own distinct brand of humor. I thought that was fabulous.

KM: Thank you. I think Paul really wanted to have no overlap. And I don't think there was any overlap. This was four different kinds of gals and he just let us do our thing. And we got along really well and it was so much fun.

KW: And what did you channel to come up with your character, Holtzmann?

KM: Oh, honey, that's just me. I didn't have to do a lot of work there. I really like science. I try to have a joyful attitude. And often I say weird stuff without meaning to.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

LJ: Ooh, good question! I cook a mean pork chop. Fried pork chops.

KM: I like to throw a paella party. It's a full event with paella, salad, appetizers and stuff. It's a full event.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

KM: That's an interesting question. I would hope that I see what I look like, but I'm not sure. [Chuckles]

LJ: I see a crazy person, literally! [LOL] Someone who's insane in the membrane. [Laughs some more]

KM: That's what I see for myself, too, which is why we're such good buds, right?

LJ: Exactly! because we respect the craziness.

KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

LJ: Oh, homey!

KM: She can't say that for the papers, honey.

LJ: That's not for publication, baby.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks that you wish someone would?

LJ: Yeah, no one ever asks me what role do I really want to play.

KW: Okay, what would be your dream role?

LJ: I want to do a biography of Pearl Bailey. I think she's awesome.

KM: Kate, is there any question no one ever asks that you wish someone would?

LJ: No, they've run the gamut with me.

KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

KM: I'm a big introvert, I'm very quiet, and I like to sit in silence at home with my cat, Nino, who is my whole world, or most of it. So, that's different. I don't know whether you get that or not.

KM: It's a total surprise, but I can believe it. interesting.

LJ: I am clean when you see me on the red carpet. I've washed myself and put on makeup and combed my hair. [Giggles]

KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Is there anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?

LJ: Ooh, that's another good question.

KM: There are a lot of places in the world I'd like to visit, like Laos, but I don't know whether I'll ever make it there. I'd love to go to Laos and Kazakhstan and some other places I wouldn't feel comfortable traveling to alone. But I haven't found anyone to go with me yet. Maybe soon.

LJ: I've always wanted to go somewhere exotic by yacht, but I've never done that yet. Sorry.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

KM: Oh dear, several credit cards, my SAG-AFTRA card, and all of my health insurance cards. You have to bring your health insurance cards with you wherever you go in case of an emergency. What else? Hmm... I never keep cash.

LJ: I just keep my lawyer's business card, because I'm going to need him. [Laughs]

KW: Thanks again for the time, Leslie and Kate. Best of luck with Ghostbusters, and I hope to talk to you both again for the premiere of Masterminds.

LJ: Thanks, Kam.

KM: Have a good day.

 

To see Leslie Jones' Allstate Insurance commercial, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ghl19lJJ_mA

To see Kate McKinnon's Mastercard commercial, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tfy7J-0Duw

To see a trailer for Ghostbusters, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3ugHP-yZXw

Mark Obama Ndesandjo

The “An Obama’s Journey” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

First Brother Raps about His Autobiography and Barack

 

Born in Kenya in 1965 to Ruth Baker and Barack Obama, Sr., Mark Obama Ndesandjo is an accomplished musician, author, artist and businessman. Prior to settling in Shenzhen, China, he earned a BS in Physics from Brown University, an MS in Physics from Stanford, and an MBA from Emory.

A half-brother of President Obama, Mark consults worldwide, employing his considerable telecommunications, international marketing and branding experience gained as a senior manager at Lucent, Nortel and other companies. He is also fluent in Mandarin, both as a speaker and as a writer, and he's an avid brush calligrapher, too.

As an author, he has published the novel, "Nairobi to Shenzhen," as well as an intriguing autobiography, "An Obama’s Journey." Musically, he's released 3 piano CDs, "The Untimely Ones," "Night Moods" and his own composition "Reflections on William Blake."

He regularly gives piano lessons to orphans in and around the city of Shenzhen, and he was appointed Volunteer Image Ambassador and Special Olympics Image Ambassador by China. Furthermore, he founded the Mark Obama Ndesandjo Foundation, Ltd for cultural exchange, whose goal is to bring art to disadvantaged youth.

 

 

Kam Williams: Hi, Mark. Thanks for the interview.

Mark Obama Ndesandjo: No, I am actually very honored, and I'm glad we finally linked up. It's been months, hasn't it? [Laughs]

 

KW: Yeah, the 12-hour time difference can make it a little hard to connect by phone. I already know that from writing for some Asian outlets.

MON: That's right. You're truly a global person in many ways. I've read your interviews. You've touched base with so many interesting people from all over.

 

KW: Including your sister, Maya, who touched me at the end of my interview with her, when she said, "I won’t forget you and I would love to meet you someday."

MON: That's great! The art of the interview includes understanding yourself, and if one is trying to be thoughtful, it's a way in which one can see parts of yourself that perhaps weren't so clear before. So, you have a very important tool, and I can understand what Maya meant.

 

KW: Did you know that I also went to Brown and lived in the Grad Towers while I was there.

MON: Omigosh! Another Thayer Street refugee. [LOL] What a small world it is, Kam.

 

KW: I found "An Obama’s Journey" fascinating.

MON: Thank you. It was a very difficult book to write.

 

KW: I can imagine. It's so revealing emotionally. Plus, you had to deal with the burden of your brother's being in the public eye.

MON: I'm so glad you liked it. Writing a book, you have to reach very deep inside of yourself to share a message that will touch the readers. Otherwise, people will know, and it won't connect.

 

KW: Some of what you wrote about Barack, like how, for political reasons, he lied to the press about when he first met you, was very revealing.

MON: One of the focuses was just to share some of the important facts that have shaped lives in our country and in individuals in my family. Hopefully, people can take positive lessons from that, and use it to make a change or do something positive. I don't speak for Barack. I speak for myself, as you know. There are many things about him that are difficult and almost inscrutable. That's part of the mystery and also part of the reason for his success. When he said that he'd only met me for the first time a couple of years before, when he really hadn't, it was very surprising and disappointing to me, because it seemed like politics were taking precedence over family. Having been through the excesses and the extreme emotional politics of family dynamics had already made me very sensitive. But that being said, I support my brother. He's a remarkable person, and he's changed my life in many ways.

 

KW: I have asked for permission to interview him many times, but the White House has repeatedly declined. Should I give up at this point?

MON: I hope that you get a chance to interview him one day. It'll probably happen. So, don't worry too much about it. [LOL]

 

KW: What message do you think people will take away from the book? What did you hope to achieve by publishing the book?

MON: There were a few reasons why I wrote the book. One was that I wanted to tell my story myself, and not have others tell it for me. Another was tht I felt my family is nebulous in many ways. A lot of people don't understand it. It represents change which can be frightening to many people. I wanted people to know about the Obama family and where we come from, with a lineage traced back to the 17th Century. I think that's a service the country needs to know. The other thing I wanted to talk about is the experience of being mixed-race. Many Americans, and more and more people around the world are going through this globalization of race, culture and religion. And we're discovering that we don't represent just one culture, but two or three. Growing up as a mixed-race kid was a very bumpy road, and I wanted to share how that experience helped form my identity, hoping that it might serve as a lesson for the kids of the world who are closer and closer physically as well as intellectually.

 

KW: I found your writing intense and moving, especially that chapter about the loss of your brother, David.

MON: Thank you so much. That was a tribute to my brother. I wanted to make sure that no one forgot him. He was the closest to me in many ways. We had the same mom and the same dad. In that chapter and the one on my step-father I try to pay my respects to two remarkable people. Part of my purpose was to express the humanity of these wonderful people in my family.

 

KW: Well, you certainly succeeded. But you also succeeded in painting your biological father as a monster.

MON: He was tortured. For a long time, I felt that it wasn't a big deal, until I appreciated its effects on my life. For a long time, I couldn't remember anything good about my father. That was one of my reasons for writing the book. How can a child actually not remember one good thing about his father? I would really try to, Kam, but I couldn't.

 

KW: What inspired you to write about him anyway?

MON: The pride that Barack inspired in me about the Obama family once again. That rush of elation and that sense of being a part of something bigger than myself was unmistakable. For all of Barack's flaws and shortcomings, his ability to inspire people is amazing. Then, as I was writing, I felt like I couldn't write about a father who was so one-dimensional. And in the process of researching more about him, I imagined his good points, I came to a sort of resolution, and I also came to understand a little bit more about myself. Still, there was something so raw about that chapter that I couldn't read it after I wrote it. It's so emotional for me, but it was something that needed to be said.

 

KW: You have a way with words. For instance, it was very vivid how you described Barack's smelling like cigarettes and his callousness.

MON: [Laughs] Details are important. I realize that people find it strange when I talk about my brother in physical detail. But I don't see him as the President. I see him as a brother. That's the fundamental difference in perspective between me and the vast majority of the people I interact with. When he steps off a plane, I might notice the bags under his eyes. Some people feel you shouldn't point that out about a president. You've got me going, Kam. [Laughs heartily]

 

KW: Cousin Leon Marquis says: I didn't even know Barack had a brother. How'd you get a name like Mark when your brother is named Barack? Did you Americanize it, like when Barack called himself Barry?

MON: When I was born, my father, being a member of the Luo tribe, wanted to give me a Luo name. He called me Okoth. But my mother, from the outset, wanted to give me a Western name, too. She took Mark from the Bible.

 

KW: Professor/Author Dinesh Sharma asks: Do you feel that growing up with parents from two different cultures shaped you in any important ways?

MON: I talk about this in the book. Because of the issue of domestic violence, I instinctively gravitated towards my mother and bonded with her, her values and her culture, Western culture. She was a beacon of love in a family driven by conflict. And I associated my father with negatives. My father was brilliant, but doctorates don't have currency with kids. Children look for love, but they don't really care about degrees. So, I gravitated away from African culture, and towards being alone, reading books and my music: Chopin, Beethoven and Mozart, and towards the intellectual giants. I love Western culture in many, many

ways. These cultural conflicts and also these cultural joys sustained me and kept me going in Africa for a long time.

 

KW: Were you raised by your mother to appreciate your Jewish heritage?

MON: Yes, I was always very proud of being Jewish. She and my maternal grandmother, who emigrated to America from Lithuania, were the ones who helped me with that by exposing me to music and intellectuals I really admired like Einstein. My grandmother would come to Kenya to visit us. I remember sitting on the bed with her, leafing through the Torah, even though I didn't understand the characters. She'd be explaining the meaning of the characters, like "God," in Yiddish, but she could only pronounce them in Hebrew. She was also very musical, and helped me learn piano. Although my mother was secular, she took me to a synagogue when I was very, very young. I remember the warmth of the congregation. They didn't care about my skin color or where I was from. As long as I had a yarmulke on my head, I was fine. I considered Judaism as sort of a glue, like a 4th or 5th dimension, which cut across all of these cultures.

 

KW: In terms of your journey of self discovery, do you feel that living in three cultures, Africa, America and China, has made you a better person?

MON: Yes, because I've been able to take some of the good things from each of the cultures and tried to mold them into one. The process takes years, but you eventually develop a unique identity that has Chinese, Kenyan and American aspects. It's a process of self-discovery.

 

KW: Dinesh also says: I have suggested in my book, “Barack Obama in Hawaii and Indonesia” that not having a live-in biological father made Barack a bigger person? Do you agree?

MON: Sort of. Having a very good, strong single-mom can make up for a lot. I think the absence of a father helped Barack, because it gave him the freedom to seek heroes. He could imagine what an ideal father would be, and his mother would support that, because mothers don't want their children to be unhappy. They want them to think of their absent fathers as special people. And I speculate that that's probably what happened with Barack.

 

KW: Do you think Barack has grown in the presidency, and do you think he will be regarded as important beyond being the first black president?

MON: I think my brother is America's first global president in more ways than one. Two huge things, the financial crisis and healthcare were addressed on his watch.

 

KW: When you first met him many years ago in Kenya, he was a different person, searching for his roots? How do you think he has developed as a person from then and now? How do you think he has evolved over time?

MON: When I first met Barack, we were both pretty arrogant. I was going to Stanford, he was at Harvard, and we both thought we were brilliant. I was shocked to learn that there was someone smarter than I in my family. I think he's mellowed a lot since then, but he's also distanced himself from Kenya and his Kenyan family as President. That's quite different from the way he was 20-odd years ago. He's a master of politics, and the challenge he's facing is how to reconcile character and personality, and family and politics without turning them into a political instrument.

 

KW: Sangeetha Subramanian asks: For people traveling to a new country, what are some key tips on being respectful and for learning a local culture's etiquette?

MON: I love this question. There are two things I've learned from my experiences. First, take an active and passionate interest in the culture, whether the traditional culture or otherwise, maybe in the arts. Second, develop an emotional connection by trying to give back to the people in the culture. When I came to China, I wanted to connect with the orphans here. I've been teaching them to play piano for 14 years now. It's amazing how that can give you an emotional connection with a country. I believe those two things are fundamental.

 

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What drew you to live in China? In other words, what do you love the most about the Chinese culture? MON: Two things. Learning to read and write Chinese opens a window to an amazing past with multiple layers of meaning. It's not enough to be able to speak Chinese. Second, the ability of foreigners to come here and lose themselves.

 

KW: Patricia would also like to know a little about your foundation. MON: MarkObamaNdesandjo.com/ is an outgrowth of activities I've been doing for some time. The foundation is based on the cultural exchange concept. The idea is to bring arts to children and disadvantaged kids around the world. My vision is not only to bring pianos but piano teachers to hundreds of schools all over the world.

 

KW: Editor Lisa Loving asks: Do you worry about the safety of the First Family? They seem so nice and I suspect Obama receives more death threats than any other president did.

MON: That fear was one thing that helped me reconnect with my brother after we'd been separated for over 15 years.

 

KW: Editor Robin Beckham asks: How would you describe your relationship with Barack now?

MON: I've been pretty open and candid in the book about my past experiences with my brother. But out of respect for his feelings and privacy, I've decided not to comment any further about our relationship. All I can says is: how could anybody take a job that gives you so many white hairs?

 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: What is the significance of being Barak Obama’s brother, given that you didn’t know one another growing up?

MON: The significance is that he enabled me to expand my vision. The path I've followed probably would've been the same if he hadn't become President, but it 's definitely been amplified.

 

KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: What has been the most important effect on you and your family of having Barack Obama as President? Has it brought you more privileges and/or attention than you would normally otherwise have received?

MON: Yes it has, but it has forced me and the other members of the family to reflect very deeply on who we are and on what we want in our lives. The tension and the focus has left us no choice but to think about what we want to be and what we're going to do about it.

 

KW: You have an extraordinary background in humanitarian work and in the arts and sciences. How do you connect these accomplishments with the also extraordinary, but different, arc of your brother, Barack?

MON: They say fathers and sons have a unique relationship. Sons either achieve their fathers' dreams or correct their mistakes. I believe Barack has been achieving our father's dreams while I have been trying to correct some of his mistakes.

 

KW: Interesting. In your wildest dreams, did you ever think your brother could be where he is today? If so, at what stage in his life and what characteristic in particular made you feel this was at least possible?

MON: When I was at Stanford, I heard he was campaigning for Bobby Rush's seat in Congress. At that time, I sensed that he was going to do something in politics, but how far he was going to succeed, I did not know.

 

KW: Being President of the U.S., especially recently, has not been a bed of roses. Do you feel the emotional ups-and-downs in accordance with his triumphs and troubles?

MON: We're not twins. [Chuckles] During the first few months of his presidency, I was with him every step of the way. Then I was a little depressed after realizing that we had separate lives and that Barack didn't really need me. But that also freed me to see him from a distance and to evaluate him more objectively. And part of the result are the books that I wrote.

 

KW: Marcia Evans asks: Why are you pushing to have a relationship with Barack when it's evident that he would prefer not to have one?

MON: [LOL] I'm not sure I'd agree with your premise, Marcia. At times, Barack has reached out to me. Other times, we've been separated by distance. Barack and I are brothers, and we're tethered together by fates well beyond our control. I know a little bit more about relationships in our family than people who are not Obamas. But thanks for the question.

 

KW: Marcia also asks: Wasn’t your father just a product of his environment in Africa where men can have more than one woman, if they so choose? How would that part of your book help American and European readers, when we have a different culture?

MON: Sometimes, it's a little more complicated than just having more wives. There were a number of issues in my father's case that led him to turn out the way he did: childhood abuse, alcohol, domestic abuse. I wrote about them in the book. It's not fair to lump him into a category suggesting he's simply representative of a certain culture.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Mark, and best of luck with the book.

MON: Thank you, Kam, and keep up the great work you're doing.

 

To order a copy of "An Obama's Journey," visit:

https://www.amazon.com/Obamas-Journey-Odyssey-Self-Discovery-Cultures/dp/1493007513?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

[Note: A portion of the proceeds will go to Mark's foundation

[MarkObamaNdesandjo.com/] and to other charities helping disadvantaged kids.

To order a copy of "Nairobi to Shenzhen," visit: https://www.amazon.com/Nairobi-Shenzhen-Novel-Love-East/dp/1593306237?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

Michael Jai White

The “Vigilante Diaries” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Back Kicking Butt as Rogue CIA Agent!

 

A highly trained martial artist and actor, Michael Jai White has broken barriers as a Hollywood star and international box office sensation. With his dynamic personality, agile abilities and physique of a bodybuilder, Michael has earned respect for his versatile talents both on and off screen.

Born November 10, 1967 in Brooklyn, New York, it was watching the film Five Fingers of Death that initiated Michael’s interest in the martial arts. At the tender age 7, he started taking weekly Japanese Jujitsu classes to stay focused while growing up on the tough streets of Brooklyn.

At 8, Michael’s family relocated to Bridgeport, Connecticut where he studied the Shotokan and Kyokushin forms of karate, earning his first black belt by 13. Upon graduating from Bridgeport’s Central High School, he went on to further his education, first attending Southern Connecticut and then UConn. While winning multiple championships as a national martial arts competitor, he became a Special Education teacher at Wilbur Cross Elementary School in Bridgeport.

Bitten by the acting bug, Michael began auditioning for commercials and acting gigs on weekends and during summer breaks while teaching. When he began landing jobs in commercials and guest-starring roles on television shows and films; he left teaching and moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career full-time.

Before long, he would go on to guest star on such hit television shows as Saved by the Bell, Martin, NYPD Blue, and CSI. Proving his acting ability, he would also be cast in the lead role of legendary boxer Mike Tyson in the HBO biopic, Tyson.

Michael was subsequently cast to play the title character in the movie Spawn which came with the distinction of being the first black superhero in a major motion picture. While he cemented his Hollywood status as a bonafide action star, more diverse roles emerged that allowed him to showcase his physical prowess as well as display his on-screen charisma and comedic ability in such films as Exit Wounds, Undisputed 2, Silver Hawk, Blood & Bone, Black Dynamite and Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married and Why Did I Get Married Too playing opposite Tasha Smith. The two would ignite such on-screen chemistry, they would go on to star together in the long running OWN Network series, For Better or Worse.

Michael resides in Los Angeles with his wife, actress Gillian White, and their three daughters. Here, he talks about his new movie, Vigilante Diaries, an action thriller starring Paul Sloan, and featuring Michael Madsen, Jason Mewes, Quinton Rampage Jackson and Danny Trejo.

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Kam Williams: Hey Michael, thanks for another opportunity to speak with you.

Michael Jai White: My pleasure, Kam.

 

KW: What interested you in this crazy action film, Vigilante Diaries?

MJW: I was one of the players invited to the party, and I had fun at it. Paul Sloan, the picture's scriptwriter and lead actor, invited me to join the project, as did Christian Sesma, who directed it. And it became a really fun romp.

 

KW: You certainly had an impressive and diverse cast, with actors ranging from veteran actor Michael Madsen to Jason Mewes from the Kevin Smith movies to action stars like like you and Danny Trejo of Machete. How were you all assembled?

MJW: Well, it started out as a web series, and then they turned it into a full-length feature film. .

 

KW: Tell me a little about the guy you play, Barrington?

MJW: He's sort of a rogue CIA Agent who's pulling strings all over the place, You can't tell if he's a good guy or a bad guy. I think that's indicative of all the characters. It's kind of a dark comedy. [Chuckles] The good thing about the movie is that you just can't tell where it's going to go.

 

KW: I won't spoil the ending of the film, but let me say I was definitely shocked by one of the surprising developments involving your character.

MJW: Yeah. It's one of those movies where you find yourself saying, "Wait a minute. Where are we now?" It's an action movie that's not trying to pretend to be anything other than that.

 

KW: Does the movie have a message, or should people just sit back and enjoy the action?

MJW: I'd say just sit back and enjoy the action, and also the laughs, because there's a lot of funny stuff in the movie as well.

 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

MJW: Wow! There are probably several of them. I made my attempt to redo Hard Times [the Charles Bronson classic from 1975]. I called it Blood and Bone. And there are certain other classic films I'd love to see again, but under a different name.

 

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?

MJW: Well, the first movie I ever saw was Five Fingers of Death, which was really the first kung fu movie sent to the United States. It freaked me out because people were pulling out adversaries' eyeballs. I ran out of the theater, and my brothers and cousins had to come get me. So, it's amazing that I would study martial arts years later, because that certainly freaked me out at first. .

 

KW: What type of dietary regimen do you follow to stay in such good shape?

MJW: I basically eat fish and vegetables, pretty much the pescatarian route.

 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

MJW: A constant work in progress.

 

KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

MJW: At 16, I traveled across the country by Greyhound bus.

 

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

MJW: Fairness. I just wish there was fairness overall. And you know what? I also wish for honesty.

 

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?

MJW: Gamera, the giant, flying mutant turtle.

 

KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Is there anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?

MJW: Boy, these are great questions. I'm a former Special Ed teacher, and I plan to do more in the country's public schools system. I definitely intend to help with policies in the inner-city school system. That's something I haven't done yet., but I'm going to.

 

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

MJW: Two credit cards, my driver's license and 20 bucks.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Michael, and best of luck with the film.

MJW: Thank you, Kam.

 

To see a trailer for Vigilante Diaries, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kl3cEhULgsQ

Mahershala Ali

The “Free State of Jones” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

A Holler from Mahershala!

Born in Oakland and raised in neighboring Hayward, California, Mahershala Ali received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications at St. Mary's College. He made his professional debut performing with the California Shakespeare Festival in Orinda, California. Soon thereafter, he earned his Master's degree in Acting from New York University's prestigious graduate program.

Mahershala is fast becoming one of the freshest and most in-demand faces in Hollywood with his extraordinarily diverse skill set and wide-ranging background in film, television, and theater. Last fall, he wrapped Brad Pitt and Adele Romanski's independently-produced feature film, Moonlight, as well as reprised his role in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, the final installment in the Hunger Games franchise, alongside Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, and Julianne Moore. As District 13's Head of Security, 'Boggs' guides and protects Katniss through the final stages of the district's rebellion against the Capitol.

On television, Mahershala was recently cast in Netflix's Luke Cage in the role of Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes. He can also be seen on the award-winning Netflix original series House of Cards, where he's reprising his fan-favorite role as lobbyist and former press secretary Remy Danton.

Mahershala's previous feature film credits include The Place Beyond the Pines opposite Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, Crossing Over starring Harrison Ford, John Sayles' Go For Sisters, and David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

On television, he appeared opposite Julia Ormond in Lifetime's The Wronged Man for which he subsequently received an NAACP Nomination for Best Actor. He also had a large recurring role on Syfy's Alphas, as well as the role of Richard Tyler, a Korean War pilot, on the critically-acclaimed drama The 4400.

On the stage, Mahershala appeared in productions of Blues for an Alabama Sky, The School for Scandal, A Lie of the Mind, A Doll's House, Monkey in the Middle, The Merchant of Venice, The New Place and Secret Injury, Secret Revenge. His additional stage credits include appearing in Washington, D.C. at the Arena Stage in the title role of The Great White Hope, and in The Long Walk and Jack and Jill.

Here, Mahershala talks about playing in Free State of Jones, a Civil War saga co-starring Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Keri Russell.

Kam Williams: Hi Mahershala, thanks for the interview.

Mahershala Ali: Thank you, Kam.

 

KW: What interested you in Free State of Jones?

MA: The story, first off. I had never heard of Newton Knight. So, the narrative as a whole was really attractive to me because it was a refreshing departure from the homogeneous depictions of the Civil War where the North wanted to abolish slavery while the South wanted to keep it intact. Here, you had an example of a Southerner who spoke out against slavery during the war and who later became an activist for civil rights and this new idea of equality for all people regardless of one's skin call, race or creed.

 

KW: What interested you in playing Moses?

MA: I had never seen a character in this time period who had such agency and mobility for someone living in the South. He had run away with a group of former slaves and was really living life on his own terms in the swamps. And he was determined to be pro-active in his people's emancipation. Also, seeing his evolution over the course of the narrative really inspired me. He's a disenfranchised, runaway slave with no education who learns to read and write and really becomes a leader and an active participant in the democratic process who mobilizes others. His were big shoes to fill, but they were ones that I was very excited to step into.

 

KW: How was it working with such an accomplished cast that included Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell and Brendan Gleeson?

MA: It was very inspiring and also humbling. It was a difficult shoot, being in the swamps in both the heat and the cold for four months, but everybody arrived ready to go, all-in and totally committed. It all started with Matthew and Gary [director Gary Ross] who had a wonderful energy and approach to the work every day that trickled down to the rest of the cast and crew. Everyone was aware of and inspired by the importance of the story we were telling, and that was another added layer that contributed to the focus that everyone had.

 

KW: And how was it being directed by a four-time Oscar-nominee in Gary Ross?

MA: Pretty phenomenal, starting with the audition process. He was very curious about my ideas in terms of fleshing out the character, and he also wanted to know my perspective as an African-American and whether I felt it reflected the African-American experience. And it was mind-blowing and empowering how Gary wanted to portray African-Americans participating in their own liberation. So, I would work with him again at the drop of a hat.

 

KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?

MA: That the struggle for freedom continues. And if you're a person like Newt, it becomes your responsibility to empower those in close proximity to you.

 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

MA: The Great White Hope. I would love to redo that film in a way where it would be more focused on Jack Johnson.

 

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?

MA: Terrence Stamp as General Zod in the1978 version of Superman starring Christopher Reeve.

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

MA: I'm not much of cook, but I cook a mean bowl of oatmeal.

 

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?

MA: I remember choking on the core of an apple while being bathed in a large sink by my dad. He slapped me on the back until I coughed it up.

 

KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?

MA: My parents and my grandparents. My mom was extraordinarily present, but I'm so appreciative of all of them.

 

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?

MA: I grew up in church. My mom's a minister, and my grandmother was an ordained minister. I was always very mindful of the presence of a greater being I call God.

 

KW: How were you affected by the passing of Muhammad Ali?

MA: I was very affected by it. He was my first hero. I was mesmerized by his photos and his presence, even though he was retiring around the time I was becoming conscious of him. He was 100% my first hero and idol.

 

KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you've learned so far?

MA: Hold tight to the mentality of being a student, meaning hold on to curiosity and approach life as a student.

 

KW: What was your very first job?

MA: Working at Kentucky Fried Chicken. I was able to save up and by my first car over the course of that summer.

 

KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

MA: Commit myself to this journey of becoming an actor. It takes a lot of love and support and wonderful allies. But I don't necessarily recommend it.

 

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

MA: No one ever asks me what inspires me. What inspires me today is a desire to get closer to an understanding of what my artistic capacities are with the hope of organically sharing my gifts with an audience in the most heightened way I possibly can.

 

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

MA: Granola. I never grew out of the cereal thing. As an adult, I could eat granola three times a day, if it didn't have so much sugar in it.

 

KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?

MA: They tend to believe in themselves and to be really impassioned. The people that I admire have a wonderful balance of self-belief and humility.

 

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

MA: To really be conscious of how long the journey is, be patient, push yourself, persevere and always be working on your craft while waiting for your break. That's what I'm still working on, having done this for 20 years now.

 

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

MA: I guess as someone who was always looking to grow and improve in all the aspects of my life, from acting to being a good family man to embracing the spiritual tenets that I choose to practice. I always hope to be a better person tomorrow than today.

 

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

MA: [Chuckles]I don't have a wallet. I carry my driver's license and a couple of credit cards in my phone. That and a money clip.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Mahershala, and best of luck with the film.

MA: Thanks, Kam.

 

To see a trailer for Free State of Jones, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_38WdArR20

Sanaa Lathan

The “Now You See Me 2” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Now You See Sanaa!

 

Sanaa Lathan is a Tony Award-nominated actress (for A Raisin in the Sun) who delivers a striking presence and undeniable energy to each project she takes on. Sanaa was last seen on the big screen in the thriller The Perfect Guy, which finished first at the box office during its opening weekend.

She is currently shooting the highly anticipated Fox series “Shots Fired,” created by Love & Basketball filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood and produced by Academy Award-winning producer Brian Grazer. The series, which also stars Helen Hunt, Stephen Moyer and Richard Dreyfuss, examines the dangerous aftermath of racially-charged shootings in a small town in Tennessee.

Sanaa co-starred in The Best Man, one of the 10 highest-grossing African-American films in history, and its wildly popular sequel The Best Man Holiday, with Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, Regina Hall and Morris Chestnut. She will also appear in the series' third film, The Best Man Wedding.

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Her other film credits include Contagion, opposite Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Lawrence Fishburne; Something New, with Simon Baker; Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys, alongside Kathy Bates and Alfre Woodard; Wonderful World, opposite Matthew Broderick; Brown Sugar, alongside Taye Diggs, Queen Latifah and Mos Def; Love & Basketball, with Omar Epps; AVP: Alien vs. Predator; and Out of Time, opposite Denzel Washington.

In 2001, Sanaa received an NAACP Image Award for her unforgettable performance in Love & Basketball. And earlier this year, she landed another for a terrific turn in The Perfect Guy. Here, she talks about her latest outing as Natalie Austin in Now You See Me 2.

 

Kam Williams: Hi Sanaa, thanks for another opportunity to speak with you. .

Sanaa Lathan: Oh, it's my pleasure, Kam.

 

KW: I never saw the original, but I really loved this film. It's crazy!

SL: Good! I'm so glad. I think what makes this film so unique is that it's not the sort of big, blockbuster adventure that we're all used to, but it's really well done. A lot of times there's more pomp and circumstances surrounding the content. One of the things that attracted me to the film was not only the cast, but that it was really well-written.

 

KW: It's very sophisticated with a rather intricate plotline.

SL: Yes, and the magic was so much fun. They actually had some of the world's top real magicians on the set

 

KW: How did you approach your character, Natalie Austin?

SL: For me, Natalie really admires Mark Ruffalo's character, Dylan Rhodes, looking at him as an example. She's a woman who really takes her job seriously, and wants to bring justice to anybody who's being wronged. But even I can get confused about who's a bad guy and who's a good guy. You know what I mean?

 

KW: Yes, when the story got too complicated for me to follow, instead of trying to figure it all out, I decided to just sit back and enjoy the film, because it's so much fun and beautiful to watch.

SL: You're right. What's so great is that it's so intricate and so layered that you can watch it over and over and find new things. You'll be like, "Oh, I missed that the first time."

 

KW: Yeah, I sensed that. How did your director, Jon Chu, and his casting crew pull together such an impressive cast? You, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Daniel Radcliffe, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo, Lizzy Caplan, etcetera..

SL: I don't know, you'd have to talk to them. [Chuckles] I wasn't involved in the original, but I was very happy to be a part of this one.

 

KW: Did you get to work with all of them?

SL: My part was mostly with Mark but, yes, I did get to work with all of them briefly.

 

KW: Is a third installment already in the works?

SL: I read that somewhere, but I'm not sure though. It's exciting, because there are endless possibilities in terms of what the "Four Horsemen" can do.

 

KW: How do you feel about magic in real life?

SL: I love it! I was at the Magic Castle in L.A. not too long ago. Somebody had a birthday surprise there. I was blown away by some of the magic I saw. You can't believe some of the tricks. You can't wrap your mind around it. It's a true art, and I have so much respect for it.

 

KW: Tell me a little about the new TV-series you're working on, "Shots Fired."

SL: It's a 10-hour special event that will air next spring. It was inspired by all the racial profiling, police brutality and loss of African-American lives due to gun violence that's been occurring in the country. It's a beautifully-written piece, and I'm so excited for the world to see it. It'll be powerful, moving and enlightening.

 

KW: Tell me a little about your character, Ashe.

SL: I play an investigator who's basically investigating two murders in this small town that seem to be the result of police violence. I'm trying to solve the cases and bring justice.

 

KW: And congrats on The Best Man Wedding!

SL: I don't know why they announced that. It's not real. I hope one day it can be real. But, as of now, Malcolm [director Malcolm Lee] is busy and a lot of the cast is working. But it would be amazing if it could all come together at the same time.

 

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

SL: I have a little pin that one of my meditation teachers gave me that reminds me to be in the moment and be grateful for the now.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Sanaa, and best of luck with the film. I look forward to speaking to you when the TV show premieres.

SL: Yes, and have a great day, Kam.

 

To see a trailer for Now You See Me 2, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1KXFU2Zp0c

Dr. Dinesh Sharma

The “The Global Hillary” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharma Sets Sights on Hillary, Poised to Make History

Dinesh Sharma is a social scientist, marketing consultant and an acclaimed author with a doctorate from Harvard University. He is an Associate Research Professor at the Institute for Global Cultural Studies at SUNY-Binghamton; an adjunct Professor in Organizational Psychology at Fordham University; and a senior fellow at the Institute for International and Cross-Cultural Research in New York City.

Dr. Sharma's biography of the 44th President of the United States, entitled "Barack Obama in Hawaii and Indonesia: The Making of a Global President," was rated as among the Top 10 Books of Black History for 2012 by the American Library Association, Book List Online. His next book, "The Global Obama," was published by Routledge Press and received Honorable Mention on this critic's Ten Best Black Books of 2014 as published by the African-American Literary Book Club (AALBC) and widely syndicated across the country.

Sharma's recent articles and opinions have appeared in the New Republic, UPI, AP, Real Clear Politics, Raw Story, Asia Times and numerous other newspapers. Here, he discusses his new book, "The Global Hillary: Women's Political Leadership in Cultural Contexts."

 

Kam Williams: Hi Dinesh, thanks for the interview.

Dinesh Sharma: Thanks, Kam, for this opportunity to speak with you about my new book.

 

KW: What about Hillary Clinton interested you enough to edit a book about her global image?

DS: I think she is by far the most qualified person running for the White House right now -- Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, First Lady -- who also happens to be the first woman candidate, pretty close to securing the nomination.

 

KW: Tell me where you got the idea for “The Global Hillary.”

DS: This is a follow-up to "The Global Obama" book which you reviewed. The same publisher, Routledge Press, wanted me to write a book about Hillary Clinton's leadership.

 

KW: How would you describe the main thesis of this opus?

DS: In this book, we explore the linkage between "Smart Power" and Hillary Clinton's leadership style. Can she advance American leadership and women's development worldwide? "The Global Hillary" addresses these questions and many others. Bringing together two key aspects of Clinton’s ongoing career--her advocacy for international women’s rights and the mission to foster democratic development around the world--I argue Clinton is a transformative leader of global influence.

 

KW: What message do you think people will take away from the book?

DS: The essays in this collection provide insight into Clinton’s leadership style, particularly her use of American "Smart Power" in foreign policy, while examining her impact on the continuing worldwide struggle for women’s rights. Using an international perspective on the historical and cultural contexts of Clinton’s leadership, this book also looks toward the future of women’s political leadership in the 21st Century with special attention to the prospect of electing a woman to the United States' presidency. The big takeaway is the idea of "smart power."

 

KW: How would you define Smart Power?

DS: The idea of Smart Power was proposed by Joseph Nye, a political scientist at Harvard University. He has argued that the United States needs to rely on the combination of both 'hard' military power and 'soft' cultural power to deal with the host of new challenges we face in the post-9/11 world. Hillary Clinton has been a champion of this idea at the State Department

 

KW: How does Smart Power relate to women's development?

DS: The project for women's development is one of the stronger initiatives pushed by the U.S. government in different parts of the world. It is a key component of the Smart Power approach advanced by Hillary Clinton. She believes that in parts of the world with high degrees of unrest and instability, women's development tends to be abysmally poor.

 

KW: Is there a link between terrorism and women's development?

DS: Yes, they are negatively correlated. In parts of the world where women's development is poor, terrorism seems to fester unabated.

 

KW: Can you eradicate conditions of terrorism by improving the conditions of women?

DS: In summary, yes, that is the theory behind the claim.

 

KW: Has this idea been fully tested?

DS: There is lots of evidence to suggest that this idea is internally consistent, but it needs more empirical testing. For instance, increase women's education leads to better conditions for young girls and families.

 

KW: Does the book deal with this issue?

DS: Yes, the book presents essays and evidence from different parts of the world--Africa, Asia, Europe, and the US--to suggest that this is one of the main issues Hillary Clinton has been advancing throughout her career.

 

KW: Is this book at all biographical?

DS: Yes, at the margins, we delve into her biography to the extent it impacts her social policy ideas. We have tried to show in the book that some of these policy ideas she has been advocating for a long time--at Yale Law School, the keynote speech at a Women's Rights conference 20 years ago in Beijing ["Women's Rights Are Human Rights"], and recently as Secretary of State--are focused on democracy and women's development, and the three big D's: Democracy, Development and Diplomacy.

 

KW: Finally, would you say the US is "exceptional" when it comes to women's rights?

DS: Yes, it is "exceptional" in advocating for women's rights worldwide. But it still lags in terms of political representation of women in elected offices, and it is really an exception to the rule in not having elected a female head of state or a woman president.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Dinesh, and best of luck with the book.

DS: Thank you, Kam.

 

To order a copy of The Global Hillary, visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1138829749/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Princess Shaw

The “Presenting Princess Shaw” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aspiring Singer Talks about Transformation into Youtube Sensation with Help of Secret Admirer/Music Producer

 

Born and raised in Chicago, 39 year-old Samantha Montgomery moved to New Orleans in 2006. By day, she works as a caregiver for the elderly and, by night, she fearlessly performs as Princess Shaw online and at local open mics.

 

Inspired by her personal joy and pain from past and present, Princess’ lyrics resonate with honesty and emotion in a very visceral way. It’s this truth that inspires her collaborator Kutiman as well as the emerging fans who have discovered their viral hit "Give It Up."

 

Here, she talks about her very uplifting biopic, Presenting Princess Shaw, which will be in theaters, on Demand and on iTunes starting May 27.

 

 

Kam Williams: Hi Princess, thanks for the interview.

Princess Shaw: Thank You, Sugar!

 

KW: When did you develop an interest in singing and songwriting?

PS: When I was very young, but I didn’t really find my own voice and my own sound until much later--around 2012.

 

KW: How hard was it finding time to pursue your dream while working long days in the nursing home?

PS: It’s just about finding balance and making time to do what you love.

 

KW: Were you ever discouraged when the videos of yourself you put on Youtube failed to generate much traffic?

PS: No, because I didn’t put the videos up for other people, I put them up for me, as something to do for myself.

 

KW: How about when you weren't picked to be a contestant on the reality-TV series The Voice?

PS: They want you to share your story on those shows, and I just felt that wasn’t the right time for me to share my story, so I didn’t. When Ido [director Ido Haar] came along, I knew he was someone that I could trust and felt comfortable sharing my story with.

 

KW: When was the first time you heard of Kutiman?

PS: I had heard a mash-up of his about a year before he released mine, but didn’t connect that the two were the same person until much later. I wasn’t familiar with his name at all when he released his video with me.

 

KW: What did you think the when you heard what he'd done with your songs?

PS: I was so happy and excited--like he took the music that was in my heart and put it out into the world. The music that he put with my lyrics was exactly what I wanted and had always heard in my heart.

 

KW: How surprised were you to learn that Ido Haar was making a movie about you?

PS: Initially, Ido was making a documentary about several of the Youtubers that Kutiman was including in his videos, although none of us knew we were being included. But slowly, over time, it narrowed down to just me and Kuti. Ido said that every time he left New Orleans his heart was telling him to come back. I had no idea that he and Kutiman knew each other when he started filming me, or even when I heard the song for the first time.

 

KW: What was it like meeting Kutiman in person?

PS: It was amazing, like finding a musical soulmate. He is like a brother to me now, and we have become great friends.

 

KW: What message do you think people will take away from Presenting Princess Shaw?

PS: That you survive the struggle in your life and if you keep going and keep pursuing the thing that feeds your soul, it’s worth it.

 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

PS: I see someone who has a lot of love for herself now, and that’s beautiful.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Princess, and best of luck with the film.

PS: Thank you, Kam.

 

To see a trailer for Presenting Princess Shaw, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMXGIch82ZU

To see Princess Shaw performing "Give It Up," as produced by Kutiman, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoHxoz_0ykI

To see Princess Shaw performing "Stay Here," as produced by Kutiman, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwM4n1VVHzI&nohtml5=False

 

Professor Eddie Glaude

The “Democracy in Black” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glaude Matters!

Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. is the William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African-American Studies and the chair of the Department of African-American Studies at Princeton University. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including the 2002 Modern Language Association William Sanders Scarborough Prize for his book, Exodus!

Professor Glaude is on the editorial board of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, African-American National Biography and Contemporary Pragmatism. Professor Glaude's work also includes African-American Religious Thought: An Anthology (2004), co-edited with Dr. Cornel West.

Here, he talks about his new book, Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul.

 

Kam Williams: Hi Professor Glaude, thanks for the time. I really appreciate it.

Eddie Glaude: I really appreciate you.

 

KW: What inspired you to write Democracy in Black?

EG: Two things. All of this talk about economic recovery, when all of the data suggests that African-Americans were still wallowing in what I call "The Great Black Depression." What does it mean to talk about recovery when white wealth is 13 times that of black wealth, and 38% of our children are in poverty? and that led me to the idea of the "value gap," a belief that underneath all this white people are valued more than others. And that belief animates our social practices and informs our political arrangements and economic realities. The second motivation was the death of Trayvon Martin and, of course, Mike Brown. Trying to come to terms with all this senseless death, I felt like I needed to intervene in this moment.

 

KW: But haven't African-Americans made significant progress since the civil Rights Movement?

EG: Of course there's been progress. But what hasn't changed is the belief that white people matter more than others. And as long as that informs and shapes how this society is organized, the outcomes will be the same, no matter what the inputs are. So, part of what the book attempts to do is lay bare that reality, and how that has happened even with a black man in the White House.

 

KW: You come down pretty hard on Obama.

EG: The book isn't just about him. But the reality is that, over the last 8 years, we're not doing well by every statistical measure. The level of unemployment in the black community is still at a crisis level. Many of us have been kind of taken with protecting the President from the vitriol coming from the right. What we haven't seen at appropriate levels are folks crying from the rooftops that our communities are in crisis, that we are witness a devastation, whether it's schools closings, flatlining wages, the jobs crisis, long-term unemployment and, of course, mass incarceration. Black Lives Matter has pushed him to address that. so, the second part of the book is really about our complicity. What we've seen over the decades since the assassination of Dr. King, is a narrowing of black political life. All of this has happened on the watch of black liberals. I'm not saying we need to embrace black conservatism; I'm just arguing for a much more robust form of black politics.

 

KW: It's amazing how Obama got a pass from the black community, his most loyal constituency, despite not attending to its agenda.

EG: You can see how over the course of these past 8 years there's been an insistence on a kind of discipline vis-a-vis President Obama. However, this isn't about Obama bashing, but about the narrowing of African-American politics. It's the traditional black liberals versus the post-racial black liberals, and in between the black poor is languishing in opportunity deserts and falling farther and farther behind. So, the book is really a challenge to the black political class, because they've failed us over the past few decades.

 

KW: So, what's the solution?

EG: We need a revolution of value. We need to change our view of government by changing our demands of government. We need to change our view of black people which means we need to change the view of white people. And we can't be greedy, selfish and narcissistic. We can't live in a world where 62 people own more than 3.5 billion people. That's sick. That's evil. A revolution of value requires a strategy for the streets, a strategy for the court room and a strategy for the ballot box. We have to do something dramatic to break loose of the stranglehold of the current political landscape.

 

KW: Blacks certainly haven't been rewarded for loyalty to the Democrat Party.

EG: For decades, political scientists have talked about the black community as a kind of captured electorate that the Democrats herd us to the polls every 2 or 4 years, as if we're cattle chewing cud. And then they have no reason to deliver on policy, because we have no place else to go. Whatever this is, this ain't democracy.

 

KW: Well, the book is certainly incendiary and thought-provoking.

EG: It's a provocation to get us to have a conversation. If I've achieved that, then I've done exactly what I set out to do when I sat down to write the book.

 

KW: Thanks for kickstarting an overdue political conversation, Eddie.

EG: You got it, Kam. Thanks so much.

 

To order a copy of Democracy in Black, visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0804137412/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Dr. Randal Pinkett

The “Donald Trump” Interview with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apprentice Winner Explains His Opposition to Trump Candidacy

 

Dr. Randal Pinkett has established himself as an entrepreneur, speaker, author and scholar, and as a leading voice for his generation in business and technology. He is the founder, chairman and CEO of his fifth venture, BCT Partners, a multimillion-dollar management consulting and information technology solutions firm headquartered in Newark, NJ.

Dr. Pinkett has received numerous awards for business and technology excellence including the Information Technology Senior Management Forum’s Beacon Award, the National Society of Black Engineers’ Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the National Urban League’s Business Excellence Award. He has been featured on nationally televised programs such as The Today Show, Live with Kelly and Michael, Nightline and CNN. In 2009, he was named to New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine’s official shortlist as a potential running mate for Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey.

Dr. Pinkett is the author of Campus CEO: The Student Entrepreneur’s Guide to Launching a Multimillion-Dollar Business and No-Money Down CEO: How to Start Your Dream Business with Little or No Cash and co-author of Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, which was named one of “The Best Books of 2010.” He holds five degrees including: a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Rutgers University, where he competed as a high jumper, long jumper, and captain of the men’s track and field team; a M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Oxford in England; and a M.S. in Electrical Engineering, MBA, and Ph.D. from MIT. Most notably, he was the first and only African-American to receive the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship at Rutgers University and was the first, African-American winner of Donald Trump's reality television show, “The Apprentice.”.

Born in Philadelphia and raised in New Jersey, Dr. Pinkett is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and attends First Baptist Church in Somerset, NJ, where he resides. He is happily married to his wife, Zahara, and they are the proud parents of their daughter and two sons. Dr. Pinkett firmly believes that “for those to whom much is given, much is expected,” so throughout his endeavors, he places great emphasis on his desire to give back to the community.

Recently, Dr. Pinkett and several other Apprentice alumni held a press conference to voice their opposition to Donald Trump's candidacy. Here, Randal explains why he feels Mr. Trump is unfit to be President.

 

 

Kam Williams: Hi Randal, thanks for the time. How you been, bro? .

Dr. Randal Pinkett: I've been blessed, my brother, I've been blessed. How are you?

KW: Great! How's the family?

RP: Everybody's well, my friend. Thanks for asking. How're things on your end?

KW: Very well, and I have to thank you again for taking the time to mentor my son and a few of his classmates when they were in college.

RP: My pleasure! My pleasure!

KW: Let's get down to business. Five years ago, Donald Trump pointed at his picking you as the winner of The Apprentice as proof that "He's the least racist person there is." What does it mean that you are now saying he's unfit to be president?

RP: I find his use of me as his defense against allegations of racism as not only absurd but as also misguided. Consider the history of our relationship, particularly my finale on The Apprentice when I expressed concerns then and, maybe my opinion now, that his decision to ask me to share the title was either racially insensitive or just straight racist. To display that behavior toward me, the only person of color he'd ever hired on the show, and to then say I'm the evidence that you're not racist means that your privilege has so sufficiently blinded you that you don't see the insidiousness of what you did then or of what you're saying now.

KW: How do you feel about his reaction to the six of you, calling you "failing wannabes?"

RP: [Laughs heartily] His reaction was un-presidential, petulant and sophomoric.

KW: What do you think of the prominent black people in his corner, like Dr. Ben Carson, Omarosa and his national spokesperson, Katrina Pierson. Have you spoken to any of them?

RP: No, I haven't had direct contact with any of them, although I've known Omarosa for years, and I would consider her a friend. I saw her on MSNBC the day of our press conference, attempting to defend Donald. As she suggested, sometimes members of the same family simply have to agree to disagree, and we disagree as it relates to Donald. It is certainly the case that Omarosa has her position and her agenda, and she and Donald have developed a mutually-beneficial relationship in terms of business and media exposure. That's her guy! She knows where I stand. I've been very clear and very transparent that I see things differently.

KW: What always bothered me the most about Donald Trump was how, during the Central Park Jogger case, he took out full-page ads in all of the New York daily newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty. That helped create an atmosphere in which there was rush to justice and five innocent teenagers were convicted of the crime. And when they were finally exonerated years later, Trump never apologized or offered any jobs or money to help them readjust to society.

RP: I echo your sentiments. Not everyone is familiar with, let alone intimately familiar with the Central Park Five and the atmosphere that was created around that entire case. I have made repeated references to his behavior regarding the Central Park Five, to housing discrimination cases that were brought against him, and to first-hand reports I received during my year working there in terms of the lack of diversity at the executive and decision-making levels within the organization. There were even people who expressed their dissatisfaction with how they had been treated during their tenure within the Trump Organization. To people who keep wanting to dance around the question of whether he's racist, sexist or xenophobic, let me suggest that he has a pattern of this kind of behavior. and when you have a pattern, you have to call a spade a spade. I agree that Donald's behavior regarding the Central Park Five was deplorable. Reprehensible! There's culpability on his hands in terms of the way those young men were treated. And in accordance with his playbook, he does not back down or apologize. Instead, he doubles down. and that, to me, is one of the reasons why he's dangerous as a potential president. That is not the behavior you want in a world leader.

KW: What do you think of his having spearheaded the Birther Movement, suggesting that President Obama wasn't born in Hawaii?

RP: There's a common thread there which reflects a conscious or unconscious bias that drives his behavior. He will aggressively, vehemently or neglectfully go after a person of color, whether it's his apprentice, guilty until proven innocent offenders, or the President of the United States. He does not exhibit the same behavior with non-minorities. To summarize, I think he's dangerous for the country. I think he's dangerous for the world.

KW: Well, thanks again for the interview, Randal.

RP: Always good to connect with you, Kam.

Ali Wong

  The “Ali Wong: Baby Cobra” Interview

with Kam Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

All's Right with Wong!

 

Ali Wong is a stand-up comedian living between Los Angeles and New York. After SF Weekly selected her as “The Best Comedian of 2009″ and the SF Bay Guardian awarded her “Best of the Bay,” she decided that it was finally time to depart her hometown. In 2010, Comedy Central listed Ali Wong as one of 7 “Comic’s to Watch.”

In 2011, Variety Magazine named her as one of the “10 Comics to Watch” and Ali appeared in the 2011 and 2012 Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal. Since then, she has performed on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, appeared in Oliver Stone’s “Savages” and was a series regular on NBC’s “Are You There, Chelsea?”

In 2012, Ali hosted the Golden Globes live coverage on E! and in 2013 she joined the reboot of VH1′s “Best Week Ever,” MTV’s new show “Hey Girl” and performed on the new season of “John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show.”

Here, she talks about her comedy special, “Ali Wong: Baby Cobra,” which is set to premiere on Netflix on Friday, May 6th.

 

Ali Wong 1 [Photo credit: Alex Crick/Netflix]

 

Kam Williams: Hi Ali, thanks for the interview. Congratulations on the baby!

Ali Wong: Thanks, Kam.

 

KW: How do you think motherhood might affect your career?

AW: I can't go on the road to perform stand-up as much, and I also have to say "no" to a lot more projects. But, ultimately, it cuts the fat out, and I had a problem saying "yes" to everything before I had the baby. I look to women like Jessica Alba, who turned motherhood into a weapon by founding the Honest Company. I'm hoping to do the same thing in some regard with my stand-up.

 

KW: What inspired you to shoot it while you were 7- months pregnant?

AW: I've been doing stand-up for 10+ years now, and I had been wanting to film a 1-hour special. When I got pregnant, I knew that if I didn't shoot it before having the baby, it would never happen. So, it was hard, preparing for it while I was so tired and nauseous, but it was worth it. And I'm excited to show the special to my daughter one day, and tell her that both of us were on stage together in that special.

 

KW: What's the theme of the show?

AW: The life of a stand-up comedian is extremely unconventional. So, outside of that, all I wanted was a traditional life: love, marriage and the baby carriage. And I got it all, but the way it all happened did not go exactly as I had planned. The special is all about that twisted journey.

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

AW: Chicken noodle soup! My husband and I eat a bastardized version of Chicken Pho, probably 10 times per week. It's so easy, fast and healthy.

 

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?

AW: I had a nightmare in my crib when I was a baby. I was at the bottom of a hill in a stroller and my parents just kept on walking up the hill and forgot about me. Maybe that's why I do stand-up, because I always have the urge to shout: "Hey! Listen to me! I'm HERE!"

 

KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?

AW: I have three siblings who are all 10+ years older than me. I was an accident, or as I prefer to call myself, a "blessing." My two sisters and my brother were so loving and attentive to me. They spoiled me with attention, brought me on dates when they were in high school, introduced me to great art and music, and taught me how to have confidence.

 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

AW: A tired, lucky, 34-year old mom that's just trying to get through the day.

 

Ali Wong Comedy [Photo credit: Alex Crick/Netflix]

 

KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you've learned so far?

AW: If you're a woman who wants to have a career and a family, choosing the right life partner is the most important decision you'll ever make.

 

KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

AW: I've eaten a still-beating cobra heart.

 

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

AW: Asian Mary Poppins to live in my house, take care of my child, and cook yummy Asian food all the time.

 

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

AW: Chris Brown's music.

 

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?

AW: Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. His name also cracks me up so hard.

 

KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?

AW: I think all successful people are people of action. They don't get bogged down by jealousy and they don't focus on their limitations, they just do what needs to be done, at the end of the day.

 

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

AW: Stop collecting advice and go create.

 

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

AW: So many coupons.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Ali, and best of luck with Baby Cobra.

AW: Thank you, Kam.

 

To see the trailer for Ali Wong: Baby Cobra, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vzk-bj5bRNs