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Questlove will make his directorial debut with an upcoming documentary about a legendary black music festival, Variety reports. Black Woodstock, chronicles the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which featured performances from Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight and The Pips, B.B. King, The Staples Singers, Sly and the Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson, Moms Mabley, and more.
The weekly summer music festival, aimed at promoting black unity and pride, was attended by over 300,000 people and went down every Sunday for two months in the summer of 1969. Members of the Black Panther Party provided security for the festival after the NYPD refused the job.
A concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of Black Woodstock was held at Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park earlier this year. The documentary will include dozens of hours of never-before-seen footage shot 50 years ago by director Hal Tulchin, who died in 2017.
“I am truly excited to help bring the passion, the story and the music of the Harlem Cultural Festival to audiences around the world,” Questlove said in a statement. “The performances are extraordinary. I was stunned when I saw the lost footage for the first time. It’s incredible to look at 50 years of history that’s never been told, and I’m eager and humbled to tell that story.”
David Dinerstein and Robert Fyvolent will produce the film along with RadicalMedia, the company behind the Netflix documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? Joshua L. Pearson, who edited the Simone documentary, has also signed on for Black Woodstock, as well as music supervisor Randall Poster. Executive producers include Beth Hubbard, Vulcan Productions, Concordia Studio, Play/Action Pictures.
A Mary J. Blige documentary is in the works and heading to Amazon Prime Video very soon. Produced by Amazon Studio and eOne, the untitled film is set to detail the life of the "Queen of Hip Hop Soul" who stepped onto the bubbling hip-hop scene with her second studio album My Life.
With Bad Boy Records founder Sean "Diddy" Combs serving as executive producer, Blige will revisit her music and reflect on "the woman she was then… and the woman she has become." According to a press release: "The film provides a personal and never before seen look into the emotional journey of Mary J. Blige’s past struggles with poverty, abuse, addiction, and heartbreak."
It continues: "This raw and honest film follows the music legend as she heads out on a special concert tour to perform her sophomore album, My Life, for the first time ever as it approaches its 25-year anniversary. This album and its songs directly correspond to the love, motivation, passion, and healing that Mary J. Blige was experiencing then and has continued to experience through her life as an artist and human being."
Blige will also serve as an executive producer under her Blue Butterfly company (Ashaunna Ayars, Nicole Jackson) alongside eOne (Tara Long), and Creature Films (Mark Ford and Kevin Lopez).
No word on when the film will be released on the streaming service Amazon Prime Video.
Gabrielle Union's exit from America's Got Talent is now under the scope of SAG-AFTRA after it was reported that the actress/author was fired for speaking out against questionable practices at NBC.
SAG-AFTRA, also known as the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists labor union for media professionals, announced their investigation Monday (Dec. 2) following reports that Union's firing from the program was rooted in several types of bias. After it was announced that Union and fellow new judge Julianne Hough would not be returning for another season, Love B Scott reported that Union wasn't asked back due to her constantly calling out the problematic behavior by producers and producer Simon Cowell to NBC. Vulture also spoke to sources close to the show who shared several instances where producers displayed racial bias.
When it came to the talent on the show, producers were allegedly irked by Union when she asked the preferred pronouns of those who performed in drag. Union also shared concerns over the treatment of talent of color. One case involved 10-year-old black rapper Dylan Gilmer who was a hit with the audience. Despite this, the judges were told to pick an act “that America can get behind.” In the same meeting about Gilmer, co-host Howie Mandel suggested a South African choir who took part in the competition could sing “something from The Lion King."
One of the most notable incidents that happened on the AGT set occurred when Jay Leno made a racist joke towards Koreans. After viewing a painting of Cowell and his five dogs, Leno said the images “looked like something on the menu at a Korean restaurant.” Union urged producers to report the joke to human resources but the notion fell on deaf ears. The joke was ultimately cut out of the episode.
Lastly, Union was allegedly told that her rotating hairstyles were “too black” for the AGT audience. A source says both Union and Hough received complaints about their hair, but Union was told dozens that her hairstyles were "too black." The actress wore various of styles on the show like cornrows, sleek bobs and ponytails.
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A spokesperson from SAG-AFTRA confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter the investigation. "We take issues of workplace health and safety very seriously," they said. "We immediately reached out to Ms. Union's representatives when these reports came to light. It is our practice to work closely with members who reach out to us and their representatives in instances like this, as that usually affords the best protection and best resolution for the affected member."
The statement continues, "For certain matters, our investigation and enforcement needs to happen independently and we are prepared to handle this issue accordingly, as warranted. Our enforcement action is usually handled confidentially to protect the member involved, and we typically do not publicize these matters unless the member requests that we do so. While we have taken steps to investigate this matter, we have nothing to report now."
Vulture previously reported that Union and Cowell had a meeting to work out the kinks of their working relationship. Since both of them are repped by CAA, the actress was "pushed" into having the private meeting in an effort to smooth things over. The show then went into hiatus and she was fired shortly after.
Union has been met with support from her husband Dwyane Wade as well as the Time's Up organization and fellow actresses like Megan Good, Debra Messing, Patricia Arquette and Grey's Anatomy actress and activist Ellen Pompeo.
See some of the messages to Union below.
It’s unfortunate that @nbc the same network that protected disgusting men like Matt Lauer and punished women for speaking out or not putting up with it...has not changed their practices or culture. I support @itsgabrielleu commitment to speaking up to injustice. It takes courage
— Ellen Pompeo (@EllenPompeo) November 28, 2019
So my child wants act like a whole different human at her grandparents house. I’m exhausted. I saw that I missed a lot on the Twitter. We love you @itsgabrielleu ! #blackhairchallenge pic.twitter.com/A7iSFs17U4
— Tika Sumpter (@iamtikasumpter) November 28, 2019
I love you. I stan you. And I stand with you @itsgabrielleu https://t.co/xMKmthzIz6
— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) November 30, 2019
The reason why this Gabrielle Union story hits chord with so many black folks is because the workplace that's being described is one where we've all worked. Where they hire you to bring some diversity to the table and then hate you for actually trying to make them diversify.
— Corey Richardson (@vexedinthecity) November 28, 2019
This! This! AND THIIISSSSSSS!!!!!! https://t.co/RCrtKtkQ4L
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) December 1, 2019