MLK Day of honor and celebration, say Hampton U. students

By Carlton Griffin

The celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a celebration of black excellence at its finest, and as a result most HBCUs [historically black colleges and universities] have some sort of program honoring his life and legacy. Hampton University will commence its annual MLK Day March on Monday, Jan. 16, at 10:30 a.m. Students are encouraged to attend as it not mandatory.

Jaelin McGull, a senior marketing major from St. Louis, plans to attend. He believes that King was an influential figure in his life and had a huge part in placing us in the state that black America is in now. "Obviously, we still have a lot to do, but progress is one step at a time," he said.

As for a handful of other students interviewed, some said yes, they will attend, some said no, some were still undecided.

Britney Bailey, a senior strategic communication major from McDonough, Georgia, said she will not be attending because she has been there before and the event gets repetitive. She believes there is more that could be done to make the event more enjoyable. "His life and legacy could be celebrated differently than marching from Point A to Point B," she said.

Allie-Ryan Butler, an assistant dean in the Scripps Howard School, said that event could use something different to attract more students, but encourages students to still attend the event as it is important to remember King during this peaceful transition of power as the first black president leaves office. "It is imperative that students attend this event, considering the state of Black America," said. Butler, adding he would like to see a panel discussion led by the new generation of activists on the current state of Black America as he thinks this would be a nice addition to the march.


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Several students interviewed have much anticipation for the annual MLK Day march and program on Monday. The march will start at the Emancipation Oak national landmark, where the slaves were read the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The program will be held in Ogden Hall, where Michael Anthony Battle, the former U.S. Ambassador to the African Union, will speak.

Battle once served as the dean of the University Chapel at Hampton University and pastor of the University's Memorial Church.

"I'm sure former Ambassador Battle will deliver a stellar speech while commemorating Dr. King's legacy," said Jolie Jemmott, a sophomore student leader and nursing major from Philadelphia. "It's great to know that he was once a part of Hampton's staff and I'm glad he is returning to deliver this speech,"

Others students believe MLK Day is a day to honor and serve Dr. King's legacy. Dr. King's frequently appeared in the media for speaking out against racial injustices and leading peaceful protests.

"Dr. King was a great community leader and made it OK to speak for what he believed in," said Brittany Bailey, a senior strategic communications major from McDonough, Georgia. "We can relive his work and honor him by doing community service."

Photo and additional reporting by Leondra Head. Both students are in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Hampton U. students in China travel path of ‘The Long March’

By Larry-Michael Mencer-Aclise

YONGZHOU, China – Three Hampton University students took part in a journey through mainland China. Hosted by ICN Television network, students Larry-Michael Mencer-Aclise, Miah Harris and Zhavier Harris participated in and covered the significance of various traditions of Chinese culture. [Assistant Professor Kangming Ma, Ph.D., supervised the students.]

On Aug., 24, the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications team was on set at the Xiaoshui River in Yongzhou to pay respects to Chen Shuxiang, commander of the 34th Red Army Division. In October of 1934, the 29-year-old was appointed to lead a 6,000-member force that trudged to the historic city to provide relief for beleaguered soldiers crossing the river there. The event was known as The Long March, a 368-day campaign that covered 6,000 miles, nearly twice the distance between New York and San Francisco, noted History.com.

At that time, the Red Army, since 1927, had been engaged in a civil war with nationalist forces led by Chiang Kai-shek, according to History.com

Information retrieved by Hampton student correspondents from search engine baidu.com provides this narrative: By the time the commander arrived, Shuxiang's force had been cut down to 1,000 men. When they tried to cross the river, they were ambushed, and Shuxiang was captured after being wounded in the torso by a bomb. Upon realizing they had captured a high-ranking official, enemy forces were ecstatic and offered treatment. Knowing the gesture was only an attempt to extract information, Shuxiang refused such treatment and purposely ripped his intestines out, killing himself. His head was later cut off and hung to intimidate oncoming forces.

Locals would later bury his headless body inside Dao County where today people visit his cemetery to pay respect to his legacy.

China has already proven itself to be a true experience for Hampton University students. As a team of three works its way through the vast mountains and forests, they can only hold tight to their cameras in anticipation for what will happen next.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

How 1980s Houston bred a nightlife superstar

By Kristyn Beecher

The air was thick with Jheri Curl activator fumes and Jovan Musk cologne. Kool and the Gang were singing about a "Celebration" and U.S. President Ronald Reagan had just taken office. For a young Jamaican immigrant, 1981 was the beginning of the American dream and a continuation of a love affair with music.

This season, CNN's "The Eighties" series directed by Tom Hanks, has resonated with many so-called Generation X and Baby Boomer-age citizens. The decade was a period of tumultuous change in music, mass media and global politics.

For Paul Beecher, 1980s America was a wish come true. "We would sit on the porch and watch American television, dreaming about America," he said. "We had it nice, my father was the superintendent of prisons and my mother was a preacher, but everything in America was way bigger than we could imagine."

Shows that aired during his childhood like "Leave it to Beaver" and "Mr. Ed" showed American people living the life that most Jamaican families prayed for. Paul Beecher – father of this writer – and his five siblings lived well above the average family in Jamaica, but they dreamed of something even larger; they dreamed of America.

In the states, Paul was in heaven. He loved the women, the Afros, and the opportunity. After immigrating to America in the late '70s, Paul settled in Georgia. Over the years most of his family would eventually leave their Caribbean island and settle here as well.

There was so much in America for him to experience and none of it was what he came to this country for. "I came to America to study medicine, then I changed my major to computers," said Paul. He never finished either course of study, because Paul dropped out of college in the spring semester of his senior year. Paul couldn't afford it anymore and something else was calling his name. Music.

Paul had a long history of forgoing his responsibilities for his love of music. In his home country of Jamaica, he would steal the family car and sneak out at night to DJ parties in the local cities and get his siblings in trouble as they tried to cover for him. Now, in a new country, he had absolute freedom to pursue his passion.

"Rap started in Jamaica in the '60s and '70s," he said. "That little story about how it all began in New York isn't all the way true. If it was, I wouldn't be here right now."

Paul was referring to the Jamaican tradition of toasting, where club DJs would recite rhymes and chants over breaks in reggae records. This party style originated in the 1960s Jamaica and most of hip hop's most influential pioneers were Jamaican immigrants who added some American style to the Jamaican party trend.

Houston, Texas in the 1980s was the perfect place for Paul to explore this budding world combining American hip hop and reggae music. After leaving school, and making sure that his older sisters were settled in Georgia, Paul moved to Texas to continue following his dreams of music.

"It was easy back then," he said, "to pick up your life and start over. There was just so much opportunity and everyone was so willing to help out a brother or a sister."

Paul got a job at a local listener-funded radio station and it was in 1984 that DJ Paul Mellotone was born. DJ Mellotone hit the airwaves on station 90.1 KPFT in the Houston metropolitan area. The late-night reggae show was one of the first in the city and the usually mainstream airwaves now had a Caribbean flavor.

"In the '80s reggae was the thing," said Shirley Brooks, a Houston native who recalls listening to Paul's nightly radio show. "Everybody, white, black, Asian, Hispanic; it didn't matter, was jamming to reggae music. It brought people together."

Tropical fever had hit Houston, hard. What's now the fourth most-populous U.S. city known for country music, rodeos, and oil wells had been taken over by an island wave. Reggae artists from across the world were coming to Houston performing to packed crowds in sold-out venues that American artists couldn't dream of performing in.

"There was place called Caribana in Rice Village that would be full of people every night," said Nina Giles, a former Houston resident. "The drinks were cheap and the music was good, so I went basically every time those doors opened. It was just something about the '80s we had real fun, you know."

Paul was ready to monetize this fun. He was noticing how powerful music was in the '80s and he was ready to capitalize. Nightclubs were booming, but a key slice of Houston's demographic was without a place to party. "There was no place for blacks to go, most people had these little hole in the walls that couldn't fit more than 20 people and they were cramming eighty sweaty bodies in there," Paul said. Blacks just weren't owning the nightlife like the other races.

There were huge night clubs in Houston. They all had a specific niche market and most of them were striving to be like the mega clubs in New York. Numbers, Riches, and the Paragon were some of the most historic '80s spots in Houston. But racism and classism kept some people locked out of the fun.

Paul joined Jamaica Jamaica as co-owner in 1987. Patrick Gillies another Jamaican immigrant, had started the club a few years earlier as a place for reggae music to cater to a black audience. "We wanted people to jam, be here and not worry about a thing, and we were ready to bring the real island flavor to the city," said Paul.

The nightclub was packed every night and reggae's biggest names graced the stage: Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Isaacs, and Third World all performed in the nightclub tucked away in the middle of a strip shopping center in Houston's Kirby District of Houston.

"The line for Jamaica Jamaica would be around the block," said Shirley Brooks "Everybody wanted to be there. Celebrities would be passing through Houston and had to stop at the club."

As the 1980s closed out and made way for the new generation of club kids in the '90s, Paul Beecher's legacy was able to live on. The former medical student who dropped out of college just shy of graduation was able to ride the island wave to success in Houston. The '80's was a perfect storm of good music, good fun, and good vibes.

Paul Beecher found a way to use all of those make a name for himself in a foreign country and cement his history in 1980s Houston.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

1980s: A transformative decade of change, says CNN

By Kenneth Wells

As CNN airs the television special, "The Eighties," on Thursdays, Director Tom Hanks resurrectsnostalgia of '80s babies all around the world.

During the early portions of "The Eighties," cable television appeared in millions of homes across the nation. Under the guidance of billionaire Ted Turner, Turner Network was established creating numerous networks such as CNN, TNT, and TBS.

Van Dora Williams, a Hampton University associate professor, believes CNN was a true groundbreaker in the cable industry: "With the introduction of CNN came the introduction of 24-hour news," she said. "CNN showed different coverage in comparison of the three main networks."

Within the first few years, CNN made groundbreaking achievements before establishment networks ABC, CBS, and NBC. On March 30, 1981, then-President Ronald Reagan was shot outside of the Washington Hilton Hotel. Press Secretary James Brady was critically wounded in the shooting and taken to a nearby hospital. Some news networks were quick to declare Brady dead, but not the upstart cable network. CNN anchorman Bernard Shaw said that the sources that gave the other news were "the same as ours."

Like CNN, other news organizations have made an impact in the news world. The creation of USA Today made nationwide news as Gannett and founder Al Neuharth launched the newspaper on Sept. 15, 1982. By 1984, daily editions of USA Today were the second-leading newspaper behind the New York Times, circulating 1.4 million issues daily.

USA Today's breakout issue was in 1988 advertising Super Bowl XXII. The issue covered over 44 pages and sold over 2.4 million issues nationwide. Currently, USA Today is stationed in Tysons Corner, Virginia along with its parent company Gannett.

Just as news dominated cable television, so have television programs. Among the big three networks, NBC made some of the largest splashes on television as David Letterman made his debut in 1982 hosting "Late Night" that followed Johnny Carson's the "Tonight Show."

Another show that took America by storm was "The Cosby Show." The sitcom, which was directed by Bill Cosby, ran for eight seasons running for an average of 25 episodes each year. In the next several years, other shows such as "The Golden Girls," "Cheers" and other sitcoms rose to primetime prominence.

The rise of movies was also a notable feat during 1980s as several titles such as "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial" won four Oscars and a Golden Globe in different categories. "The '80s was known as the Sci-Fi age to many people," said Kenneth Wells of Northern Virginia, the father of this writer. "The Terminator," featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a high-grossing movie that gained $34 million from box-office sales.

One of the most famous directors of '80s that made early success in his movies was Spike Lee. In 1983, Lee produced his first movie "Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads" as his senior thesis in college. Lee would produce different works such as "School Daze" (1988) and "Do the Right Thing (1989). "Lee was only getting started," said Wells. "Looking at his early movies showed that he bound for great things."

Music was on a rise in the '80s as the introduction of MTV was exposed to cable television. On Aug. 1, 1981, Music Television or MTV launched on cable and became one of the first 24-hour music stations. Montess Wells, schoolteacher and mother of the writer, remembers MTV as "great exposure" for young artists, she said. Some musicians and groups Montess remembers are Michael Jackson, Public Enemy, and Afrika Bambaataa as early favorites of MTV.

The 1980s was known as an expansion for cable television across the United States. From the creation of CNN to the revival of primetime sitcoms, the 1980s will be forever remembered as a decade of change.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications

‘Know your history' mobile exhibit comes to Hampton U.

By Jordan E. Grice

Rodney J. Reynolds, publisher of American Legacy magazine, was on Hampton University's campus Wednesday.

His visit here pertained to the American Legacy magazine "Know your History" mobile museum tour. The magazine is no longer in production; however, the exhibit showed covers and topics that the quarterly had done over 15 years since 1995.

While aboard the motorized archive, visitors could see covers with African-American icons including Rosa Parks, Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Bessie Coleman and the Tuskegee Airmen.

The exhibit also has memorabilia of black history like a baseball display with the crowning piece being a crisp white baseball jersey that reads "Robinson" in blue letters on the back. Along with the keepsakes on display visitors could view videos that cover African-American military units and their contributions to wars throughout history.

Caryn Fuller, the mobile museum, docent had this to say about the exhibit: "The American Legacy magazine was meant to promote black history and educate the readers on the more obscure events that took place in black history. The magazine is no longer in production but the exhibit is meant to bring awareness and encourage people to learn more about black history."

Nashid S. Madyun, director of the Hampton University Museum and Archives and publisher of International Review of African American Art, said, "Rodney J. Reynolds certainly represents and elevates the optimism in the American Dream. For decades, he has been able to bridge the many sectors of African-American heritage and the American legacy through in depth retrospectives in music, humanity, and visual culture, with a passion and integrity that commands recognition. Having a long list of awards pales in comparison to the remarkable ability and consistency he has shown in chronicling the complex tapestry of the African Diaspora and its American path.

"He is truly an American treasure."

The "Know your history" mobile exhibit was on display in front of the Student Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Also, Reynolds was the guest on The Caldwell Café at 6:30 p.m. in the Scripps Howard School TV studio.

Additional research provided by Aleeah Sutton. The writers are students in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Hampton U. examines the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

By Antoinique Abraham

The 34th Annual Black Family Conference incorporated its theme, "Roots & Wings: The Road to the Future Runs through the Past," into a panel discussion based on this year's selected read-in book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," by Rebecca Skloot.

The panel discussion held on March 15, highlighted widespread issues concerning the black family.

Topics included were racism and discrimination, as well as individuals knowing their medical history.

Panelists included Denise Motley Johnston, human resources director for recruitment at Duke University; Karima Jeffery, associate professor in Hampton University's English Department; Fredda Bryan, breast cancer survivor with the American Cancer Society; and Phill Branch, assistant professor of English and Cinema Studies at HU.

"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" is based on a poor black tobacco farmer, whose cells were taken without her knowledge or consent in 1951. This book tells the story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine.

Johnston used the acronym R.E.A.D.Y to place the book into different categories: Respect, Ethics, Acknowledgement, Dignity, and the ability to say "yes," she said, are all important factors that individuals should taken into consideration before allowing one to conduct research.

"Where is our voice in research projects?" said Bryan, regarding the necessity and importance of being involved in your medical process. "What is meant for good can be turned into bad and ugly."

Although HeLa – Lack's cells – became one of the most important tools in medicine, she remains virtually unknown and her family can't afford health insurance.

Questions of race were prevalent in many of the inquiries to the panelists. A common thread was, would this book be relevant if it was written by a black woman, or if Henrietta Lacks was a white woman?

According to Branch, if this story was written by a black woman, the content would be same yet the publishing would have been different and her story wouldn't have been heard.

The Hampton University Read-In was scheduled on March 27 and 28.

For more information about the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, visit rebeccaskloot.com or henriettalacksfoundation.org.

The writer is a student at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.