Alton Glass Debuts New Virtual Reality Film At American Black Film Festival

 Back in 2014, Alton Glass’ groundbreaking drama CRU made history at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) Independent Film Awards when it took home a win in each category it was nominated for, including Best Film and Best Director. Three years later, the award-winning filmmaker returned to the annual festival to break new ground yet again with his virtual reality movie, A Little Love, which premiered Saturday, June 17, 2017.

The story of A Little Love explores the themes of love, family, and adventure, and stars actors Kellita Smith and Dorien Wilson. Watch Glass summarize the plot of the film in the video clip below:

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Although the majority of the films screened at ABFF were shot via a standard camera, Glass’ VR film uses a combination of live-action and animation footage to leverage innovative VR technology in a way that completely immerses viewers in a 360° experience. In turn, this enables the audience to feel part of the narrative itself.

“Seeing the audience watch A Little Love for the first time was really awesome,” Glass says, in an interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE.“They were looking all around, laughing, and just fully transported into this experience. I think that this was something very different for them to experience at a film festival [and] at ABFF, and I think that they loved it.”

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Along with providing the audience with an exclusive VR experience, the accompanying panel included a Q&A about the convergence of technology, media, and entertainment, which featured Glass as well as VR experts and television executives. During the talkback session, Glass opened up about being one of the few African American pioneers in the VR filmmaking landscape.  He also spoke about his decision to explore VR filmmaking, after directing a number of highly acclaimed movies like The Confidant (2010), starring Boris Kodjoe and David Banner; and The Mannsfield 12(2007), which was acquired by BET.

“What inspired me to create a narrative in virtual reality like this, was being able to see someone like myself—for people of color or diversity—inside of an experience in virtual reality,” Glass says. “I’ve never seen anything where I felt like I was there—[in the film]— with people that looked like me. So, I felt compelled to make that piece.”

The celebrated director also explained why he chose to premiere his VR movie during the five-day festival. “It was important for me to debut this film at ABFF because one, ABFF has very supportive throughout my career,” Glass says, also adding that secondly, A Little Love is one of the first VR films to feature people of color.

Source: Alton Glass Debuts New Virtual Reality Film at American Black Film Festival 

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How Seeds of Fortune Creates Economic Empowerment Opportunities for Young Women of Color

As a high school senior, Nitiya Walker, was met with a challenge that many students face—”I have dreams of getting a college education, but I can’t afford it.” 

Seeds of Fortune

The Seeds of Fortune team (Image: Seeds of Fortune)

“I met a young lady who earned $150,000 in scholarships to Spelman College. Her mom assisted her, so I asked her mother to work with me. She helped me win $250,000 in scholarships. I thought to myself “What if I never met the young lady in my Girl Scout troop?” It sparked a desire to want to help other girls gain access to free money. From this experience, Seeds of Fortune was born.

Seeds of Fortune is a scholarship program focused on creating the next generation of financially empowered young women of color. With more than 40 young women enrolled in the program, scholars have garnered $6 million in scholarship offers from top universities across the country and accepted more than $1 million in scholarship offers.

Black Enterprise: When it comes to being successful, what do you think is the most undervalued skill? 

Nitiya Walker: The ability for people to communicate their story and decisions behind their future goals and dreams. We help our scholars prep for interviews as well as intensive college essay development so they can share their stories with stakeholders. We also teach them critical thinking skills. This helps them decide which colleges are more cost effective, the career paths that align with their interest, and how money can be used as a tool to make it happen.

BE: Why did you decide to include an entrepreneurship component to your program?

NW: Entrepreneurship is the No. 1 way to build wealth in America. It is the third pillar of our values, as we believe that young women of color should be able to control their destiny and use their resources to create opportunities for themselves.

BE: Can you share one piece of advice to financially empower young women?

NW: It’s important to build savings, as savings brings security, and it will help to start your investment capital. In turn, investments build wealth. Also,

  • Pay yourself first. Then divide your accounts between a short-term savings account and a long-term savings account.
  • Select a second savings account that is difficult to access like credit unions, small banks, or digital banks.


Source: How Seeds of Fortune Creates Economic Empowerment Opportunities for Young Women of Color 

Where the Hell Are the Police? Another Noose Found on National Mall


Surely, with all of the camera surveillance as well as several branches of police (federal, local, military, etc.) patrolling one of the most tourist-laden places in these United States, one would think that there would be an arrest or some movement in this noose-hanging frenzy going on all over the National Mall.

However, these noose-placing cretins have been able to move about and do their dastardly, not to mention cowardly, acts with no repercussion thus far.

And so, perhaps because the perpetrators have been emboldened, USA Today reports, there was yet another noose found on the National Mall on Saturday evening, this time near the National Gallery of Art, hanging from a lamppost.
Who’s on the case—Inspector Clouseau? Or maybe it’s just not a priority. Or maybe, for those more cynical, it’s an inside job? I mean, that is what any logical person might assume.

The continued placement of these terror symbols is a mar on the United States as well as the police protecting our most prominent monuments.
So far, there have been no arrests in connection with the four or five nooses placed on or near the National Mall and elsewhere in or around Washington, D.C., in the last few weeks, but police say they’re on it—and “investigating” this latest incident.

Read more at USA Today.

Source: Where the Hell Are the Police? Another Noose Found on National Mall 

Apparently, Senate Republicans Don’t Believe White Men Are Terrorists

Hours after a white male opened fire on members of Congress, Senate Republicans hosted a hearing on violent extremism. Aside from a perfunctory mention of James T. Hodgkinson’s violent extremist act that very morning, GOP members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs called on a number of Islamophobic “experts” to sidestep the one fact—a fact that numbers, researchers and every law-enforcement agency agree on—about who represent the most immediate terrorist threat in the U.S.: white males.

Entitled Ideology and Terror: Understanding the Tool, Tactics, and Techniques of Violent Extremism, the Wednesday hearing opened with a statement by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) explaining that the mission of the meeting was “to enhance the economic and national security of America.” Johnson added that the meeting’s purpose was to address border security, cybersecurity and infrastructure and countering extremism.

Johnson ironically noted that “the only way you can solve a problem is to admit you have one,” then proceeded to ignore what the New America Foundation’s Homeland Security program has called the United States’ “biggest threat.”

Because of their Senate and House majority, Republicans were allowed to choose three of the four witnesses who testified in front of the committee. According to the New Republic, despite objections from Democratic members on the panel, GOP leaders selected the following:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: A vocal critic of Islam whom the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled an “anti-Muslim extremist,” Ali has wrongly stated that Islam is responsible for 70 percent of the violence in the world, and believes that “there is no moderate Islam.”

Asra Nomani: An ardent supporter of President Donald Trump’s travel ban (hey, I didn’t call it that—he did), Nomani refuses to believe FBI statistics that show an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes since Trump’s election.

John Lenczowski: He blames all of this on Barack Obama’s refusal to say the words “radical Islamic extremists” as president.

Ranking member Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) insisted that the panel was overlooking the fact that the real danger comes “from people who are Americans, or who are legally in this country, who have been radicalized. We face threats from a range of sources, including white supremacists, eco-terrorists, ISIS sympathizers—there is a long list,” but the panel concentrated on Islam; ISIS, or the Islamic State group; and the impending threat of Shariah law—which, again, has never been proposed or instituted by any state, county or municipality in the United States.

The senators, who swore an oath to “defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” conveniently forgot the “domestic” part, along with the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion. They also managed to avoid the following:

  • The research by the Cato Institute that shows that the chance of being killed by a foreign-born terrorist is 1 in 3.6 million (pdf);
  • The nationwide review by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness that found that attacks by race-based extremists have more than doubled, with most attributed to white supremacists;
  • The deadly 2017 attacks by Jeremy ChristianJames HodgkinsonSean UrbanskiJames Jackson and Adam Purinton—all white men;
  • The arrest of neo-Nazi Brandon Russell, who was found with bomb-making materials, and who witnesses say was planning to “bomb infrastructure”;
  • Congress’ own Government Accountability Office (pdf), which reported, “Fatalities resulting from attacks by far-right wing violent extremists have exceeded those caused by radical Islamist violent extremists in 10 of the 15 years, and were the same in 3 of the years since September 12, 2001.”

Maybe this has nothing to do with racism or Islamophobia. Perhaps Republican senators don’t want to upset their base by providing actual solutions. They might be afraid that their “alt-right” constituency will dismiss this as another attack on the white male. Maybe the reason the committee doesn’t want to address the reality that this country is endangered by white males willing to hurt Americans because of their political ideology stems from one simple fact:

Every Republican member of the homeland-security committee is a white man willing to hurt America because of his political ideology.

Isn’t that ironic?

Watch the entire hearing here.

Source: Apparently, Senate Republicans Don’t Believe White Men Are Terrorists 

Audio of the Killing of Charleena Lyles by Seattle Police Paints a Disturbing Picture of the Last Moments of Her Life

Updated Monday, June 19, 2017, 12:47 p.m. EDT: Seattle police have released audio of the police shooting that ended with Charleena Lyles dead in front of her children. The audio, linked to dashboard cameras in the two patrol cars responding to the initial call, is redacted in certain areas, according to the Seattle Times. 

The officers can be heard discussing Lyles’ previous calls to police and her mental-health issues. One officer says that Lyles began “talking all crazy about how the officers weren’t gonna leave,” while another asks if she had a “mental precaution on her.” The officer responds that she has an officer-safety precaution on file.

The recording reveals that officers were aware of Lyles’ mental-health issues and the fact that children might be in the home before they opened fire in the apartment. One officer asks, “Wait, is this the one with, like, the three kids?”

“Yeah,” the other officer responds. “Yeah, so this gal is the one who was making all the [inaudible] statements about how her and her daughter were gonna turn into wolves.”

The woman, presumably Lyles, allows officers to enter, and she explains the break-in to the cops. The children can be heard in the background as she answers questions. The conversation seems civil as she lists the items missing, and then the officers yell “Get back!” approximately 11 seconds before gunshots are heard.

According to the Seattle Times, one of the officers mentioned scissors in an unreleased portion of the audio.

Earlier:

Two white Seattle law-enforcement officers opened fire on a pregnant, black mother of four Sunday morning, killing the 30-year-old in front of her children after she called police to report a burglary.

Charleena Lyles was living in transitional housing for homeless families in Seattle, according to the Seattle Patch, when she dialed 911 to report an attempted burglary. In a statement, Police Detective Mark Lyles wrote, “Although this was a typical burglary report, two officers were required due to information pertaining to this address that presented an increased risk to officers.”

KIRO7 News reports that the police officers knew Lyles, so they sent two police officers because they were “concerned for their safety”—which is understandable, considering the threat of the undersized, petite woman whom family members called “tiny” and said “weighs, like, nothing soaking wet.”

Mother with knife killed by police was pregnant and had mental-health issues, family says

Seattle police on Sunday shot and killed a 30-year-old old woman who had called officers to report…

  1. However, police have said that when they arrived at the fourth-floor apartment, Lyles confronted them with a knife, causing them to open fire on her, even though there were several children in the apartment with her.

The police have issued few details, but using The Root’s proprietary algorithm for police shootings of black people, we can predict exactly what will happen next:

  1. Seattle police officers will smear the victim with menacing photographs and release her criminal history.
  2. The officers will be placed on paid leave, meaning that taxpayers will continue to give them full pay even though they are not working (referred to by many, including some dictionaries, as “vacation”).
  3. The officers will meet with police-union officials and create a story that revolves around how they “feared for their life.”
  4. There will be a march, a community vigil and a hashtag.
  5. The police who shot her will never serve a day in jail.

Family members say that the victim was receiving counseling for mental-health issues. Lyles was also the subject of a 2008 news story about how she had entered a program for at-risk youths, using it to get off welfare and get a full-time job.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has promised a full investigation, and Lyles’ family is demanding answers to questions such as:

  • Is it standard procedure to open fire in a home filled with children?
  • What was the relationship between Lyles and police that made police think two cops needed to be sent to her home?
  • How is a cop surprised that a woman reporting a burglary, at home alone with her children, would answer the door with a weapon or some form of protection?
  • Why did two officers feel that pepper spray, a baton or even a Taser wouldn’t be enough to subdue a 30-year-old pregnant mother of four?

The Seattle Police Department has remained mum, but again, our algorithm has already deduced the answer to all of these questions:

Because they can.

The two officers—an 11-year veteran and a “newer” officer—have been placed on paid leave. The Seattle Times, the Seattle Patch and KIRO7 News have all reported on Lyles’ criminal record.
Source: Audio of the Killing of Charleena Lyles by Seattle Police Paints a Disturbing Picture of the Last Moments of Her Life 

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Minnesota Officer Acquitted in the Shooting Death of Philando Castile

St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota police officer was acquitted of manslaughter Friday in the fatal shooting of a black motorist who had informed the officer seconds earlier that he was carrying a gun.

Jeronimo Yanez was also cleared of two lesser charges in the July traffic stop in a St. Paul suburb. Yanez testified that Philando Castile was pulling his gun out of his pocket despite his commands not to do so. The defense also argued Castile was high on marijuana and said that affected his actions.

Castile had a permit for the weapon. Prosecutors questioned whether Yanez ever saw the gun. They argued that the officer overreacted and that Castile was not a threat.

The case garnered immediate attention because Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, streamed the aftermath live on Facebook.

Yanez, who is Latino, was charged with second-degree manslaughter, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, though sentencing guidelines suggest around four years is more likely. He also faced two lesser counts of endangering Reynolds and her daughter for firing his gun into the car near them.

The jury got the case Monday, after just five days of testimony, evidence and arguments. The 12-member jury included two blacks. The rest were white. None was Latino.

Castile’s shooting was among a string of killings of blacks by police around the U.S., and the live streaming of its aftermath attracted even more attention. The public outcry included protests in Minnesota that shut down highways and surrounded the governor’s mansion. Castile’s family claimed he was profiled because of his race, and the shooting renewed concerns about how police officers interact with minorities. Minnesota Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton also weighed in, saying he did not think the shooting would have happened if Castile had been white.

Yanez testified that he stopped Castile in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights because he thought the 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker looked like one of two men who had robbed a nearby convenience store a few days earlier. Castile’s car had a faulty brake light, giving the 29-year-old officer a legally sufficient pretext for pulling him over, several experts testified.

Squad-car video played repeatedly for the jury shows a wide view of the traffic stop and the shooting, with the camera pointed toward Castile’s car. While it captures what was said between the two men and shows Yanez firing into the vehicle, it does not show what happened inside the car or what Yanez might have seen.

The video shows the situation escalated quickly, with Yanez shooting Castile just seconds after Castile volunteered, “Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me.” Five of the officer’s seven shots struck Castile. Witnesses testified that the gun was in a pocket of Castile’s shorts when paramedics removed him from his vehicle.

Prosecutors called several witnesses to try to show that Yanez never saw the gun and acted recklessly and unreasonably. But defense attorneys called their own witnesses to back up Yanez’s claim that he saw Castile pulling the gun and that Yanez was right to shoot.

After shooting Castile, Yanez is heard on the squad-car video telling a supervisor variously that he didn’t know where Castile’s gun was, then that he told Castile to get his hand off it. Yanez testified, “What I meant by that was I didn’t know where the gun was up until I saw it in his right thigh area.”

He said he clearly saw a gun and that Castile ignored his commands to stop pulling it out of his pocket. His voice choked with emotion as he talked of being “scared to death” and thinking of his wife and baby daughter in the split-second before he fired.

Prosecutors argued that Yanez could have taken lesser steps, such as asking to see Castile’s hands or asking where the gun was. After Castile told the officer he had the gun, Yanez told Castile, “OK, don’t reach for it then,” and, “Don’t pull it out.”

On the squad-car video, Castile can be heard saying, “I’m not pulling it out,” as Yanez opened fire. Prosecutors said Castile’s last words were, “I wasn’t reaching for it.”

Reynolds testified that she began recording the shooting’s aftermath because she feared for her life and wanted to make sure the truth was known. Defense attorneys pointed to inconsistencies in several of her statements.

Defense attorneys also argued that Castile was high on marijuana and said that affected his behavior. But a prosecution expert testified there’s no way to tell when Castile last smoked marijuana or whether he was high.

Source: Minnesota Officer Acquitted in the Shooting Death of Philando Castile