Legendary Artist Synthia Saint James Dishes About Her Career and USPS 50th Anniversary Kwanzaa Stamp

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Screenshot via Facebook. Original Photo by Leroy Hamilton

In 1966, pan-African scholar and activist Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga created Kwanzaa as a way to reconnect African-Americans with their West African roots.

The term “Kwanzaa” derives from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanzaa” which translates to “first fruits of the harvest.” From Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, families adhere to seven core principles such as Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility) and more. They typically create art and music, celebrate Black history, and wear traditional West African clothes like Kente cloth during the week-long holiday.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Kwanzaa, the United States Postal service released a new stamp on Oct. 1.

“I was commissioned by the Postal Service to paint the first Kwanzaa stamp in 1996, which was released as a 32-cents stamp on Oct. 22, 1997,” painter Dr. Synthia Saint James told Atlanta Black Star in an exclusive sit-down. “Nearly 19 years later in 2015, I was commissioned again by the USPS. This time to create/paint a Kwanzaa Forever Stamp.”

Read more here.

Homeschooled 8-Year-Old Starts a Baking Business After Mother Teaches Him the Basics of Entrepreneurship

untitled-1-minAfter 8-year-old Jalen Bailey expressed a desire to buy his mother a house, Sharhonda Mahan took the proper channels to get her son’s bakery business running.

In July, the Fresno, California residents applied for the necessary licenses and signed the legal documents to make Jalen’s Bakery a reality.

Within a week, young Jalen was making, selling and shipping off his baked masterpieces to lucky customers.

Jalen’s popularity grew instantly, and local media outlets wanted to share his inspiring story.

Mahan spoke to Atlanta Black Star about how Jalen started his own company before the age of 10 and how homeschooling affected his drive in life.

Around 2014, 6-year-old Jalen was baking on his own and baked his first peanut butter cookie without the help of his mother.

“I look at cooking as one of those things — like a basic thing for me,” Mahan told ABS. “I taught him to read when he was very young, to clean up and cook … Those were essential things he would need to know … I tried to make sure everything was fun — especially the things I knew he would need when he was older.”

Read more here.

Detroit Engineer Develops Coding Program to Teach Teens Tech Skills in a Gutted Out School Bus

2016-09-04_1910_001-minIn recent years, Detroit’s fledgling school system and constant infighting between teachers and governmental officials has dominated national headlines.

That infighting and bitterness came to a head in May when teachers staged a sickout.

The protest addressed the uninhabitable classroom conditions — mold, inoperable restrooms, and broken air conditioner/heating units — that contributed to health issues.

It also brought the school system’s inability to pay teachers’ salaries to the forefront of the news cycle.

Atlanta Black Star reported earlier this year that lawmakers passed a $715 million education reform plan in March to bail out Detroit Public Schools’ $515 million operating debt.

It appears that the city of Detroit is in constant instability.

However, one man sees the light before the dawn and has grown tired of the political circus.

Amazon engineer and Detroit native Thomas Phillips hopes to provide an alternative — a positive educational environment — with his Aspire Tech Bus project.

Read more here.

Self-Made 26-Year-Old Tech Entrepreneur Creates Multi-Million Dollar Telecommunications Company

At only 26-years-old, Freddie Figgers is the CEO of a $2.2 million Florida telecommunications company.

According to a 2014 study by Insight Research Corp, telecommunications services revenue worldwide will grow from $2.1 trillion in 2014 to $2.4 trillion in 2019.

This great news means there is money to be made in this industry. However, African-Americans are not the ones making it.

Figgers Communication hopes to change that.

In addition to being a successful business mogul, Figgers is an inventor, patent holder for four inventions and a software designer who strives for perfection.

The 26-year-old even achieved all of this without finishing college.

This real-life Tony Stark (Marvel’s Iron Man) spoke to Atlanta Black Star about his tremendous foray into the tech industry and how he plans to inspire others.

How a Young Talented Artist Turned Social Media Success into a Booming Business

2016-08-20_1223-minMiami, Florida-based artist Yashiva Robinson has become a viral sensation by creating art depicting Black music icons such as Tupac Shakur and Erykah Badu.

Since kindergarten, the 26-year-old painter has been drawing and creating masterpieces in various mediums.

Now, the artist, tattooist, singer, beautician and model has turned her online success into a thriving business.

Robinson, commonly known as Sheeeves, has acquired more than 17,000 Instagram followers and a booming Tumblr blog because of these various talents.

While many strive to turn their passion for art into a money-making venture, Robinson has done so in spite of detractors.

The artist extraordinaire spoke to Atlanta Black Star about her consciousness, emerging business and her life.

Read the interview here.

Chemotherapy Didn’t Stop This Driven Young Woman from Becoming Youngest Graduate at St. John’s University, Launch Non-Profit

2016-06-29_2022-minThe lives of disabled students can be difficult and stressful, because balancing treatment and education is no easy task. In some cases, schools are unaccommodating and peers can be mean-spirited.

Nyla Smith, a 20-year-old motivational speaker and advocate for disabled students, has taken the lessons she has learned from battling severe depression, anxiety disorder, inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease to help others in need.

The Dallas, Texas, native spoke to Atlanta Black Star about her incredible journey and her non-profit, The Hustle Hard Campaign, in an exclusive interview.

 

Everything is Competence Porn and That is Good

The reviews for Ridley Scott’s The Martian has been summed up as “competence porn” by many critics because it shows an intelligent person “science the sh*t” out of a bad situation. It seems like the 2009 coined term, competence porn, has a bad reputation when it shouldn’t. Every inch and cranny of our media consumption shows competent geniuses solving problems other average Joes’ could not. The same way competence is good for drama, incompetence is great for comedy e.g Veep or Silicon Valley. Every comic book film, Christopher Nolan picture, Shondaland TV show, and so many others revolve around the best and the brightest because intelligence is equivalent to magic to us.

Competence porn is a self congratulatory celebration of a writer or creator’s own intelligence. Watching extremely talented people do their jobs well is not dramatic. However, it is dramatic if you perceive everyone around you to be dumb and incompetent. Then you will have to use your expertise to save, con, take down, or conquer the idiots.

And I love it.

The Martian does this by making the planet Mars look like the idiot in the room.

According to Slate writer Sharan Shetty ” ‘competence porn’ is a truly excellent phrase for an old phenomenon; the frisson of watching smart people tackle tasks with freaky aptitude dates as far back as Robinson Crusoe. Liam Neeson, in movies like Taken and The Grey, is the James Deen of competence porn.”

We live in a world where everyone in our films and on our TV screens, digital devices and so on is Sherlock Holmes. They can look at a problem and figure it out in a mere few minutes. What makes this trope exhausting is not that everyone to 2009’s Star Trek to BBC’s Sherlock and beyond is a expert in their respective field; it is that the main characters are white.

Diversity will and has made this trope more interesting. For example, if the 2014 film Whiplash starred an black drummer from the inner city, the film would be drastically different than the one we have. The film is amazing as is but we have seen this before. One film that comes to mind is Black Swan.

We are already seeing this change on TV. Think about it. Annalise Keating portrayed by Viola Davis in How to Get Away With Murder is extremely competent at being a lawyer. Every case is solve in a matter of 45 minutes and she never loses. The fact that a black woman is shown to be the most competent on a TV show is impressive to me as an avid TV watcher when TV is flooded with extremely competent white characters. This can be said about Algernon Edwards from The Knick, Alex Parrish from Quantico, Olivia Pope from Scandal, Beaumont Rosewood from Rosewood, John Luther from Luther, Mary Jane Paul from Being Mary Jane and even Cookie Lyons from Empire who manages to save everyone on the show.

The best example of this competence porn featuring a POC is MR. Robot. Our main character Elliot is of mixed race and he manages to bring the down the entire global financial system all from a computer. It is a brilliant show and it is refreshing because it doesn’t focus on a typical white hacker/ programmer.

I mean if I was white, I would wonder: Are there any competent people of color? The oversaturation gets boring. It is like eating steak everyday of your life. The first few are delicious but sooner or later you will want chicken, fish, pork, etc.

New and different competent faces shakes up a trope that has been around since The Odyssey.

So yes The Martian is competence porn and that is not a problem. Hopefully, Idris Elba, Priyanka Chopra or Angela Bassett gets an opportunity to be competent in a similar film. That is all I am saying.

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