(Akiit.com) Dammy Krane, an emerging superstar in the Nigerian music scene, was born in 1993. This was the same year that the then military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, annulled what many still believe was Nigeria’s freest and fairest elections yet. The country was thrown into chaos as a result, President Babangida “stepped aside,” and we ended up with General Sani Abacha as head of state. He went on to lead Nigeria for five of its darkest years before passing away.

About the same time, the new movie industry in Nigeria was born. In 1992, a businessman, Kenneth Nnebue, who imported loads of videocassettes but couldn’t sell them, since CDs were becoming the vogue, decided to shoot a movie on those empty videocassettes and sell them as home videos. The movie Living in Bondage, shot in the Igbo language, took the entire country by storm regardless of tribe, and it inspired other businessmen and filmmakers to make their own movies. Nollywood was born.

The movie industry took on a life of its own, and by its 10th anniversary, it was already being called the third largest movie industry in the world (based on the number of movies produced). Today it is ranked second only behind India’s Bollywood, and is the number one movie market in the world for movies made in the English language — which makes it bigger than even Bollywood and Hollywood. With annual revenues of about $600 million, it’s impossible not to be impressed with the industry born just two decades ago with no structure in place.

Sometime around the late 90s, Nigerian music also started to experience a rebirth. Cable and satellite television became popular in the country and television stations that played music videos across Africa emerged. Most videos that made the cut at the time were South African, as Nigerians paid little or no attention to quality. But the more people saw the South African videos, the more people realized the need to step up and do better. And step up they did. Today, no party anywhere on the continent is complete without a good number of Nigerian songs.

Nollywood is huge and the Nigerian music industry is the pacesetter in Africa. But something continues to hold them back: intellectual property protection. Major record labels and film studios are still not convinced enough to come (back) into the country, as piracy is still rife and distribution is a major problem.

Pirates control entertainment in Nigeria, where the situation has evolved from them being faceless figures to unofficial distributors for these artists. It’s an interesting formula. Albums and movies are produced and taken to the pirates, in exchange for a large payout and the relinquishing of the artists’ rights over their works. It seemed like a wise financial move at the start, seeing as artists initially struggled to sell units worth anything close to $5,000, while the deals with the pirates had some of them cutting checks for between $40,000 and $150,000. But it isn’t sustainable.

Dammy Krane might have had a different story if he had grown up two decades ago, without the option of exploring his passion for entertainment — or if he had grown up in a future where piracy had undermined the business model of the entertainment industry. He, like many others in film, directing, production, styling, IT and the many extensions to the industry, is happily employed today simply because that option now exists. There are many like him who know how important the entertainment industry is, both personally and to the Nigerian economy — which is why the distribution problems must be fixed.
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(Akiit.com) Just a day after Saturday Night Live announced the midseason addition of Sasheer Zamata to the cast, and still weeks prior to her scheduled debut, at least one Hollywood critic was already scribbling an asterisk by Sasheer’s name.

*Token, undeserving, diversity hire.

SNL’s decision to cast a Black woman for the first time in seven years — the fifth Black woman in the show’s 39-year history — was dismissed as a “discriminatory PR stunt,” and an overreaction to a few “isolated complaints.”

“If SNL standards were relaxed,” the critic wondered aloud, “this special initiative is going to look misguided in retrospect.”

I read the article and cringed. It’s precisely this type of patronizing mentality from industry decisionmakers, who in 2014 are still largely lily white, that underlies Hollywood’s continued undervaluation of both Black talent and Black audiences. It is an unacceptable status quo.

I, for one, plan to watch the show Saturday night for the first time in a long time, and will be rooting for Ms. Zamata in her major television debut. Although this young comedian will take the stage under a huge spotlight, I applaud Lorne Michaels and NBCUniversal’s willingness to take an innovative approach to fill a critical void that their traditional casting process left empty for too long.

Back in November, we at ColorOfChange.org sent a letter to Lorne Michaels raising concerns about recent casting decisions, as well as SNL’s history of problematic portrayals of Black women. We sat down with executives at NBCUniversal just before Thanksgiving to discuss those concerns in greater detail, share a representative selection of feedback gathered from our 900,000-strong membership, and open up a dialogue about the kind of example SNL can set for other television properties — not to mention the broader comedic universe — in committing to modernizing its hiring practices.
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(Akiit.com) As a Mayor, , I can assure you that nothing is more important than investment in our water and transportation systems. Increasingly, our success as a nation depends on how we address our transportation and other infrastructure needs in our metropolitan areas. As Congress prepares for renewal of the federal surface transportation law in October, we must work together to expand our current levels of investment and avoid simply flat-lining these commitments.

According to a July 2012 report, U.S. Metro Economies: Outlook – Gross Metropolitan Product, and Critical Role of Transportation Infrastructure, we have found that over the next 30 years, metropolitan areas will grow by 84 million people. As one of the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the nation, Atlanta’s population is projected to grow by 67.8 percent from 2012 – 2042. It is hard to fathom how a constant or declining federal commitment will ensure that America reaps all of the potential economic growth in competition with regional economies worldwide.

Under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (P.L. 112-141) (MAP-21), our federal government has made important policy reforms by consolidating programs, improving project delivery, providing for greater accountability, and assisting project sponsors with more financing options. But we have yet to address the demands of an increasingly metropolitan American economy and the calls from local officials who seek greater empowerment in deciding how transportation dollars are invested.

We must strive to get all partners – federal, state, regional, local governments, private entities and the public – to the transportation decision-making table, instead of pretending that concentrating power with state transportation bureaucracies is the solution, especially in a nation which continues to concentrate more of its economic future in its metropolitan areas.

In Atlanta, our principal transit system – MARTA – is the ninth largest in the country, and our highway system is one of the best-maintained in the nation. There is no dearth of ideas and innovation for dealing with the challenges of growth and transportation in Atlanta, yet we continue to have some of the most significant congestion in the nation – largely because of a mismatch of resources to our needs.

The Atlanta Regional Commission just released recommendations for an update of our Regional Transportation Plan. The vision outlined in those recommendations would cost $123 billion to the year 2040 – yet we have available only about $59 billion during that period. An overwhelming 71% of all available funds will go to the maintenance of the existing system.

As a region, we will target our projects more carefully. Emphasis will be placed on travel demand management programs, basic bridge and road maintenance, safety projects, innovation in roadway design and cost-effective transit projects. We will focus our investments on our regional freight network, which will become even more important as international freight increases through the Port of Savannah.

Cities are the country’s laboratories for innovation. Cities are where public and private entities collaborate on the ground level to create jobs and build places people want to live. In Atlanta, one of the most prominent examples of how we have taken a proactive approach to build for the future and attract investment and jobs is the Atlanta BeltLine.
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(Akiit.com) The justice system. We often like to think that in a great democracy like ours, we are all equal under the law no matter what our personal or financial background. The reality is, that while we may have a right to an attorney and a day in court, our judicial system is far from perfect. Too often, those with money and power can avert harsh sentences, while the poor find themselves receiving maximum time and penalties. This aspect of economic inequality — one where a 16-year-old teenager can drive drunk, kill four people and receive no jail time because he allegedly suffered from ‘affluenza’ — is one of our greatest remaining challenges.

Financial disparity within our judicial system isn’t a notion of the past; it is ever present today. And perhaps nothing serves as more of a stirring reminder of this grave injustice than the very case of this teen, Ethan Couch, who has forever shattered the lives of many and received nothing but a virtual slap on the wrist.

Texas Judge Jean Boyd sentenced Couch to 10 years probation and rehab at a ‘treatment facility’ after he pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter by intoxication, and two counts of assault by intoxication causing serious bodily injury, according to reports. Prosecutors had asked for 20 years in prison. Couch and his friends reportedly stole alcohol from a Walmart store, then piled into his father’s pickup truck; Couch struck and killed four pedestrians while traveling 70 mph in a 40 mph zone, according to news outlets. Not only were those four pedestrians killed, but two of his friends were seriously injured after they were reportedly thrown from the vehicle — one who may be permanently paralyzed. Couch’s attorneys argued that the teen suffered from ‘affluenza’, a condition where the rich apparently don’t know how to be held accountable for their actions because they grow up in an environment of privilege.

Shockingly, it appears the ridiculous theory worked. Instead of prison, Couch is heading to a $450,000/yr facility where he will have access to martial arts training, nature hikes, etc. Meanwhile, the families of the victims are left without a semblance of justice.

It’s remarkable how this 16-year-old has been given a pass despite the fact that police claim his blood alcohol level at the time of the accident was three times the legal limit, and according to published reports, traces of Valium were in his system as well. And this isn’t the first time Couch has had brushes with the law. According to a lawsuit filed against his family, Couch was previously arrested and charged with alcohol possession, and he was once found in a car with a passed out, naked 14-year-old girl. How could this pattern of behavior not be taken into account during sentencing? Do we really believe that a young teenager from an inner city or from a rural area who had a rough upbringing would receive time at a treatment facility if he/she killed four people after driving drunk? I don’t think so, and neither do the majority of us.

For more years than I can remember, I have discussed the idea of inequality within our justice system. It begins with strategically profiling certain segments of the population, and it ends with a legal system that rewards the wealthy and their high-powered attorneys while viciously locking up the poor and powerless. The very judge in Couch’s case, Jean Boyd, apparently had no problem sentencing a 14-year-old black teenager to up to 10 years in prison for punching a man who later died as a result of his injuries. According to published reports, Boyd sentenced this teen to 10 years, which will begin at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, but if he is deemed not to have made progress, he could be transferred to an adult prison before his 19th birthday.

Where is this child’s opportunity to go enjoy nature walks and a luxury rehab center? If we truly believe in equality and rule of law, then our judges, courts and the entire legal system must conduct themselves as such. Anything less is simply a miscarriage of justice.
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(Akiit.com) As we enter February 2014, the 38th Anniversary of Black History Month, we have to ask ourselves, why is there a Black History Month? Why is it in February? What is it intended to do? Is there anything that Fort Wayne Blacks of 2014 can do to add to the genius of Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s insights concerning the intellectual enlightenment of black people?

According to Daryl Michael Scott, professor of History at Howard University, the story of Black History Month begins in Chicago in the late summer of 1915. Carter G. Woodson traveled from Washington, D.C. to Chicago to participate in a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the State of Illinois.

Inspired by the three-week celebration, Woodson decided to form an organization to promote the scientific study of black life and history. On September 9, 1915, Woodson and 4 others formed the Association for the study of Negro Life and history (ASNLH).

Woodson realized that most text books at this time ignored the history and achievements of blacks. This in addition to the Journal of Negro History, which he established in 1916, he wanted to find a way to encourage interest and study of black history. As early as 1920 Woodson urged Black Civic organizations to promote the achievements that researchers were uncovering.

In 1924, they responded with the creation of Negro History and Literature Week which they renamed Negro Achievement Week. Their outreach was significant, but Woodson desired greater impact. As he told an audience of Hampton Institute students, “We are going back to that beautiful history and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.” In 1925, he decided that the ASNLH had to shoulder the responsibility. Going forward it would both create and popularize knowledge about the past. He sent out a press release announcing Negro History Week in February 1926.

It is commonly said according to History Professor Daryl Michael Scott, that Woodson selected February to encompass the birthdays of two great Americans who played a prominent role in shaping Black History, namely Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, whose birthdays are the 12th and 14th respectively.

Although I am presenting a very limited, condensed overview of the origin of Black History Month’s scope and intention, one remaining question stimulates my curiosity. Although I absolutely understand the importance of knowing about the trials, tribulations and contributions that past Blacks have made to make American in some way better, I think Kekionga Blacks have a point to make that can significantly add to this discussion.

I agree with the insights of Dr. Carter G. Woodson that Black History Month celebrations should always promote the accomplishments of black people. But as we salute those who have succeeded, there does exist real forces out there that somehow systematically trap the majority of blacks at the bottom of America’s social, economic and ethnic hierarchy. Are the masses of black people uneducated, lazy and stupid? Why is it that everyone seems to dislike black people including black people themselves? Why is there such strong self-hatred as shown by black on black violence and a lack of cohesion? Are there any Rev. Jesse White protégés out there to stand up to this confusion?
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