Great times at my "annual therapy" convention in San Diego! It’s the National Association of Black Journalists (www.nabj.org) … and since 1991 when I was a part of NABJ’s student internship/scholarship program, I’ve not missed one Convention.
These two folders of pix can tell a bit of the story - visually:
But I’ll walk you through some of it:
Last Wednesday, I made it to San Diego - safe and sound. Had to hit the ground running with run-throughs and final script tweaks for the next day’s Opening Ceremony/Plenary (with Dr. Oz) which I co-produced with my Morehouse BFF Michael K. Watts. Since Ant didn’t come until Friday night, my girlfriend Mara Schiavocampo (NBC Digital Correspondent) was my social partner for the first few nights. Also, my friend Karu Daniels (AOL Black Voices) was in the mix. And we also took a shuttle from the ship back to the hotel. Good music was playing and - of course - I had to get the party started. LOL!
Thursday morning began with a BREAKING NEWS PLENARY – featuring Shirley Sherrod. Mara and CNN’s Don Lemon led the special session. Donnie McClurkin canceled in the 11th hour (with apologies, but a health development prevented him from being there). Still, the show went on with Rene Syler as host. Dr. Oz and I have had the chance to work intimately over the years – including a search for dead and decomposing bodies in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Here at NABJ, he dropped science on all things optimum health in the African American community. NABJ’s Emerging Journalist of the Year Mike Feeney agreed to be Dr. Oz’s Truth Tube subject. And Roland Martin –ascot and all – agreed to have his waist measured. Dr. Oz was so gracious and generous with his presentation. And he told me he LOVED working with me again. My girl Elise was the Convention Chair – so it too was good to work with her again as we’ve maintained our relationship since meeting in 1994, but we haven’t worked together since our days at “Good Day Atlanta”.
REALITY SHOWS: THE NEW JOB FRONTIER
From there, Michael K. Watts and I were on a high of positivity and accomplishment. This, despite some feedback I received that disappointed me. Without muddying the waters and giving the dis a spotlight, I will say this: though much of what any of us does in news – especially arts & entertainment - can promote negativity and messiness, I stand firm that my mantra around “pop culture” and “possibilities” keeps me standing firmly and successfully in this industry. And anything that diverts me from that is not for me – even satirically speaking. I should call those shots instead of losing my integrity at the pass. Lesson learned. So, re-committing to those affirmations that work, I have washed that feedback out of my hair and - in that moment - I segued to moderate the first of the NABJ A&E Task Force's offerings in San Diego: a "Reality TV" panel. Though my buddy Dr. Ian K. Smith canceled on us, the balance of the participants ensured they were on their A game. TV One (www.tvoneonline.com/) sponsored the panel and Senior Vice President of Original Programming, Toni Judkins shared helpful tid-bits about where TV One is going in the direction of Reality TV – including a new show coming up with Jodeci’s K Ci and JoJo. It’s called “Come Clean”. And the clip was really compelling: http://news.tvoneonline.com/tv/k-ci-jojo-talk-tv-one-reality-show-7299.htm. Additionally, my friends came through for me: Evolyn Brooks (Executive Producer/Viasol Productions, Inc.) was the show runner on “Monica: Still Standing” and “Frankie & Neffe”. She hired me to work on those shows as field producer and story producer. Her knowledge – along with my girl Jacque Reid (TV/Radio broadcaster – Kiss 98.7 FM/Cast member, “Let’s Talk About Pep”) – was priceless. So many came up afterwards and throughout the rest of the convention to say: “Now, I know there is another genre for which my skills set is applicable and I don’t feel as wiped out by the industry now.” I like that feedback! And to Ev’s fiancé Gary: “I LOVE YOU!” <Inside joke! LOL!>
I LIKE IT!
NASCAR and BET threw some awesome receptions. It was good to see so many of my friends – too many to name. But I couldn’t mix and mingle too long because there was dinner awaiting. The spot? The Palm with Mr. El Debarge and a host of other fab A&E journalists. He is promoting his upcoming comeback CD: "Second Chance". I'm close to his twin cousins Shelly and Sherry who helped make this moment happen – in part. But the driver of the effort is my Spelman sister Tosha Whitten Griggs (www.frontpagepr.com). We drank, posed for pix, sang, ate, and CELEBRATED the return of one of my ALL-TIME FAVORITES! And at 49, he is back and fit as ever. We all shared our Debarge memories – mine including Savannah, Georgia. October 1984. My mom was dropping me off to the Coastal Empire Fair to join my friends. As we drove down the dark road – aligned with Spanish moss, I can remember hearing the first note of “In A Special Way” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyQm3rYyNrQ). I was transfixed. Of course, I was already a huge fan of Debarge from “I Like It” and “All This Love” and a few other modest tracks that Savannah played in heavy rotation. But I knew Debarge was claiming its throne as a FAVORITE when I heard that song. Too, I recall when Debarge came to Savannah (opening for Luther Vandross. Also, The Deele – with Babyface & L.A. Reid - was on that set). And as excited as we were to see El and the boyz, Bunny was on maternity leave. We were devastated! LOL! El laughed at that one, since - after all - he was there. And I didn’t share this one, but in July 1994 (just a couple of weeks before my mom’s passing), I worked on “Good Day Atlanta” and booked El to be on the show – promoting a solo project). Additionally, he agreed to come and visit my kids at “Options: Image of the Future” – a summer camp at Georgia Tech that I co-founded with my childhood buddy Reggie. At the time, my nephew was in Atlanta and accompanied me to this special day and as I had each student introduce themselves to El, my nephew also – at five years old – did an introduction, which impressed El. Fast forward through some challenging times around an admitted drug addiction, he says he has been clean for almost two years. And El is excited to be back in the studio preparing for his “Second Chance” release on September 28 (Interscope). That means a tour in the Fall/Winter? Well, “Time Will Reveal” – one of the tunes he shared with us a cappella while we enjoyed this intimate, eventful moment with him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyQm3rYyNrQ.
SPORTS TASK FORCE PARTY
We always work hard and play hard at NABJ. So, after Black List 3 screened via HBO and TARGET, and its creator Elvis Mitchell, El worked the room to say HI to NABJ. Then, after we said goodbye, I segued to the NABJ Sports Task Force party with Mara at Stingaree. It was a BLAST! We were also joined by our girlfriend Shani (and our new girlfriend Sasha). Sasha is best buddies with Shani and Andrea, who – you recall – supported us on shooting this pilot project on which I’m hosting. (By the way, we’re still editing and getting ready to pitch it). This was quite the reunion of NABJ friends. And GREAT DANCING – ALL NIGHT LONG!
Most of what you see me dressed in is compliments of my friend R. Scott French at Richard Harris USA (www.richardharrisusa.com) and American Chang (www.americanchang.com). They provided me pulls from their Fall 2010 line-up. But also, my Nigerian designer friend Moshood (whose pieces I’ve worn all around – including The White House) dressed me in a number of awesome pieces – including these FELA-inspired sandals. So, it was perfect that I wore it to the FELA! news conference where I met the Tony-award-winning show’s producer Stephen Hendel. This moment was made possible by my NABJ friend Neil Foote and my dearest friend Marcia Pendelton (www.walktallgirlproductions.com).
THE YOUNG, THE RESTLESS, & THE LEGACY
So, our NABJ A&E Task Force reception - powered by Y&R – was a huge success. Kristoff St. John; Darius McCrary; and Julia Pace Mitchell came (Though Jeanne Cooper - "Mrs. Chancellor" – canceled due to an 11th hour illness). We honored Y&R for all it has continued to do in the way of celebrating its African American cast. Also, we saluted Y&R for keeping their corresponding storylines up front and center. And it's worth noting that Julia's mother is legendary 70s actress Judy Pace. It turns out Judy is the widow of the late baseball great Curt Flood, Julia's stepfather. He was honored at the Sam Lacy Pioneer Awards. Our NABJ A&E Task Force honored JET's Clarence Waldron with our NABJ A&E Legacy Award which included a stellar presentation by our NABJ A&E Task Force co-chair Greg Dunmore. Greg also produced a tribute video that included remarks from Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, Dionne Warwick, Brandy, India.Arie, Jesse Jackson, Tavis Smiley, and many, many more. It was wonderful! And Clarence was so full and inspiring with his acceptance speech.
Ant came into town quickly enough to see me host the Disney event. Disney has asked me to host their special presentations over the last few years. American Idol’s Kimberly Locke performed. And Cupid - of Cupid Shuffle fame – performed as well. We all did the Cupid Shuffle at the end of the night. Then, we all gathered for the President's Reception before doing a round of social hanging amidst the varied hospitality suites in our host hotel. It was also great to see Steve Perry who is the founder and principal of the Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut. I had a chance to interview Steve for an ESSENCE Magazine piece from November 2009. It was a look at the shifting image of manhood in the era of Obama. Steve is also the author of "Man Up!: Nobody is Coming to Save Us," which offers solutions to problems in the black community. He continues to be a support as I explore how to get a book published.
"HE IS CONCERNED ABOUT YOU"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqYaovs8WLs For a week that was filled with work and timely deliverables… at a time when my own morale has and can be tested by difficult economic times and challenges with keeping revenue-generating work… in a week where I am moving so fast – on automatic pilot, CE CE WINANS was anointed to move not just me, but the masses inside NABJ’s Gospel Brunch. Tears fell… my heavy heart lightened… and I am so GRATEFUL for all of the aforementioned and the chance to share – with Ant and my NABJ family – a fellowship of spiritual renewal and revival. THANK YOU, CE CE! YOU ARE AWESOME!
“WRITING FOR SCRIPTED TV”
Another NABJ A&E Task Force offering included our "Writing for Scripted TV" which I also moderated. It included a stellar panel: Lauren Anderson (Director of Comedy Development and Production/NBC Universal - Universal Media Studios); Cheo Coker (Southland/Notorious); Brett Mahoney (Producer/CSI: Miami); Eunetta Boone (Executive Producer/Writer for many things, including Cuts/Hip Hop 101). NBC Universal was the sponsor of this well-attended event as well as the sneak peek of “Undercovers” with Boris Kodjoe (as moderated by Shaun Robinson, our NABJ A&E Task Force member and weekend host/correspondent for “Access Hollywood”): www.nbc.com/undercovers/. You must check it out. It’s high-energy “eye candy” that you won’t want to miss when it debuts this Fall on Wednesday nights at 8pm. THANKS NBC UNIVERSAL!
“IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON’T RISE”
Spike Lee came to NABJ several times. Most recently, his 'joint' “Miracle at St. Anna” came to Chicago a couple of years ago. I interviewed the author of the book from which the film was adapted: James McBride. For his four-hour, two part documentary “If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise”, he explores New Orleans – five years after Hurricane Katrina. The documentary debuts AUG. 23 and 24, exclusively on HBO ((www.hbo.com/documentaries/index.html). He brought 90-minutes of it to us and he explores how the ambitious plans to reinvent the Crescent City are playing out. According to the release, it’s a “patchwork of hope and heartache in a story that is book-ended by a pair of momentous events — the historic 2010 Super Bowl victory and the disastrous British Petroleum oil spill”.
SALUTE TO EXCELLENCE
On the last night of NABJ, Ant and I attended the Salute to Excellence Awards. Congrats to my friends and NABJ fam: Paula Madison; Mike Feeney; Soledad O'Brien; et al. who received much-deserved honors. And everyone surely cleaned up brilliantly. Just a room full of beautiful people. Always fun to dress up a bit. PHILLY - where NABJ will be next year - put on a party with DJ Monie Love on the 1-2s. Then, Ant and I got to hang with friends Scott, Tony, Sasha, and all of our NABJ fam!
Ant and I enjoyed some couple time at the San Diego Yacht Club for Sunday brunch before heading back east. Re-nourished from NABJ. Now, what's next? Many follow-ups and networking updates towards more work. I have a great, new pool of influence from which to create synergies. I LOVE YOU, NABJ!
Just a few hours of sleep since my early morning return from San Diego, I had to high-tail it to my nephew who has moved to town. His parents (my brother & sister-in-law) brought him to town from Georgia last week (while I was in San Diego). From the distance, Ant and I made sure they were entertained – including tix to “Wendy” and “FELA!”. But since I was now back, we squeezed in the George Faison Firehouse 2nd anniversary celebration of James Baldwin (with Dr. Maya Angelou). After we enjoyed Miss Maude's Spoonbread Too Restaurant, we went to 'Remembering Jimmy' where I introduced my nephew Noot to Norma Jean Darden, Miss Maude's owner. The evening provided us so much entertainment. Toni Seawright; Ebony Joanne; and many others performed. My Morehouse brother Khalid worked on the production. George Faison is his cousin. And the many guests made my sister-in-law very happy as she was so excited to see: Lynn Whitfield; Paul Mooney; Phylicia Rashad; Ruby Dee; Roberta Flack; Ashford & Simpson; and my friends Charles; Dwayne; and Raymond. FUN FAMILY TIME! WELCOME TO NYC, NOOT!
I invited Noot and one of his friends Chanel to join Ant and me at Jimmy Choo’s NYC Flagship Store on 5th Avenue. It was an evening of refreshing cocktails, delicious appetizers, great dance music, and several of my favorite people. I got to introduce the new New Yorkers – straight out of Morehouse and Spelman – to their AUC sister Jacque Reid. Of course, it became an official event when Bevy Smith walked through the door. Additionally, my favorite New ROs (I call them) were in the house. Michelle Sanchez-Boyce was in the house. So was her husband Nelson. Our artist friend Cynthia always brings it. And our host with the most Erika Munro Kennerly was so gracious and inspiring throughout the set which benefitted the people of Haiti. Thanks for having us, Erika.
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