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Black History Captured on Film: Gordon Parks An Undeniable Force in the Arts

written by Betti Halsell

Gordon Parks was the first Black director to produce a major film under a mainstream studio label, he’s also highlighted for composing music, writing poetry, and mastering different genres of photography.

“There’s nothing, to tell you the truth, that I haven’t done. I wish that I can do everything I’ve done better. I wish I can compose better music, I wish I can take better photographs, I wish I can write better poetry, and write better novels. That’s all I wish for.” – Gordon Parks (Gordon Parks interview, 2000)

A multifaceted man, critically acclaimed for composing and writing music, directing and producing films, and taking photos in multiple different genres– wished that he could do everything better. Parks became the first Black director to produce a film under a mainstream studio company, but that was only a nod to the countless works he created. Through his lens, he battled racism and laid the groundwork for many Black artists, who followed his vision of equality of talent and to be an undeniable force.

Parks was born November 30, 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas, in a family of 15 siblings. Many different energies and interests lived within his household, which may have contributed to his number of fascinations to various mediums of self-expression. Among his arsenal of artistry, Parks is considered a master in photography, however, he didn’t pick up his first camera until he was 25. During an interview, the visionary credits his work ethic to the motivation of knowing he would have a meal the next day.

Before his eagle-eye view of the world that he captured on camera, one would find Parks cruising in the music scene. He started off as a jazz pianist in a brothel, traveling with a band. Parks had been playing piano by ear since he was young and with his type focus, he was able to compose and write his own music before he learned the standardized style. This seed of talent would eventually blossom in other mediums of his work.

Gordon Parks’ American Gothic

Parks used his channels of art as “choice weapons,” through his range of creativity, Parks was able to capture the spirit of his subject. Some of his ingenious visual artwork include: American Gothic (1942), Grease Plant Workers (1944), and Harlem Gang Leader (1948), Parks did a deep dive in each of these works as an artist; providing more than 1,000 words in each picture.

The Renaissance man became the first Black photographer at Life Magazine, he would then move on to contribute to Glamour, Vogue, and help build a positive narration around Black Beauty within Essence Magazine. In 1969, Parks had already published a book, “The Learning Tree,” that later Warner Bros. Studio would green light into production. He scored, directed, wrote the screenplay, and produced the film under Warner Bros. As a director he produced other iconic movies, such as “Shaft ,”(1971).

Researching Parks has proven to be its own rabbit hole of information, the list of what he did is as eternal as his energy he had for work. Parks brought new awareness around Black talent and to the perspective in which an underrepresented community sees the world. There is so much richness and a velvet flow of Parks career, he is encapsulated skills that would take multiple lifetimes to master, and used them as his weapon of choice to fight for a saturation in diversity, in a time of prevalent limits stacked on top a particular race, seen only through a lens of black and white.

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“I Feel Really Bad That He (Smith) Never Apologized”, Chris Rock’s Mother Talks The Oscars Incident

Comedian Chris Rock’s mother Rose Rock spoke about Will Smith slapping her son. She shared her thoughts during her recent interview on WIS’ Billie Jean Shaw.

“You reacted to your wife giving you the side-eye, and you went and made her day because she was mulled over laughing when it happened,” Mrs. Rock said.

According to the mother, her son was looking forward to giving Questlove his Academy Award, and because of Smith, that moment was taken away. “When he slapped Chris, he slapped all of us. He really slapped me. No one even heard his speech. No one was able to just be in the moment because everyone was sitting there like, ‘What just happened?”

Rock’s mother admitted that she initially thought the slap was a skit, but when she heard Will Smith screaming from his seat afterward, she realized it was real.  Rose said she reached out to her son after the incident to make sure he was okay and to commend him on his restraint. 

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‘Martin’ 30th Anniversary Reunion: Here is What We Know

It’s been 30 years since Martin made its TV debut on Fox. And, here we are, three decades later, about to relive some of the most hilarious and memorable moments of the 90s sitcom together with Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, Tichina Arnold, and Carl Anthony Payne II.

“To be able to sit here 30 years later with this amazing cast that has had such an impact on pop culture is truly a blessing,” Lawrence told Deadline. “I am always humbled that the fans still want more of the show and its characters. I am looking forward to the reunion special.”

The taping of the special episode took place last month. Here is what we know so far.

The anniversary episode was filmed on Feb. 20 and will launch on BET+ this summer.

Talk of a reunion of sorts has been going on for a minute, as Arnold and Campbell previously appeared on the Tamron Hall Show last April and revealed that the show likely won’t have a reboot following Ford’s death. Arnold said that  “a show can never be a reboot without the original cast,” but that a reunion was “maybe” possible. (source: complex)

The special will focus on the show’s origin and evolution. Hosted by comedian-actor Affion Crockett, the episode will feature interviews with the cast, original directors, special musical performances, and behind-the-scenes commentary of the show’s influence. (source: ABC News)

The anniversary special is also scheduled to feature some “surprise guests.” Celebrity guests stopped by during the taping, including Tracy Morgan, Kim Coles, Chris Rock, Snoop Dogg, and more. (source: The Grio)

It’s still unclear how the reunion plans to honor castmate Thomas Mikal Ford, who died back in 2016. (source: complex)

Martin, which premiered in 1992, starred Lawrence – who played various characters, Campbell as Martin’s girlfriend and later his wife, Gina; Arnold as Gina’s best friend, Pam; and Martin’s two best friends Cole (Payne) and Tommy (played by the late Thomas Ford). The series concluded with season five namely due to the tensions between the two main cast members. People reported, Campbell sued Lawrence for “repeated and escalating sexual harassment, sexual battery, verbal abuse and related threats” in 1997. The two later reconciled, with Campbell announcing in 2020 that she was “so glad that we’re in a good place right now.”

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‘Master’: Regina Hall Stars in New Horror Movie

Amazon Studios debuted the official trailer for its upcoming thriller titled Master, starring Regina Hall. The film first premiered during the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and will be released in theaters and on Prime Video on Friday, March 18.

Written and directed by Mariama Diallo, Master tells the story of three women who strive to find their place at a prestigious New England university whose frosty elitism may disguise something more sinister. Professor Gail Bishop (Hall) has recently been promoted to “Master” of a residence hall, the first time at storied Ancaster College that a Black woman has held the post.

Master REGINA HALL

Determined to breathe new life into a centuries-old tradition, Gail soon finds herself wrapped up in the trials and tribulations of Jasmine Moore (Zoe Renee), an energetic and optimistic Black freshman. Jasmine’s time at Ancaster hits a snag early on when she’s assigned a dorm room that is rumored to be haunted. Things get worse when Jasmine clashes in the classroom with Liv Beckman (Amber Gray), a professor in the middle of her own racially charged tenure review. As Gail tries to maintain order and fulfill the duties of a Master, the cracks begin to show in Ancaster’s once-immaculate facade. After a career spent fighting to make it into Ancaster’s inner circle, Gail is confronted with the horrifying prospect of what lies beneath, her question ultimately becoming not whether the school is haunted but by whom.

Watch the trailer below.

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