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Celebrities, Family and Friends Lay Whitney Houston to Rest

[via AllHipHop] A number of celebrities, family members and friends laid the legendary R&B singer Whitney Houston to rest yesterday (February 18) in Newark, New Jersey.

Whitney Houston was found dead in her Beverly Hills Hilton hotel bathtub on February 11.

The cause of death has yet to be determined.

Houston, 48, was laid to rest at New Hope Baptist Church, where A-listers like Kevin Costner, Bobbi Christina, Tyler Perry, Elton John, Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Mariah Carey, Ray J., Roberta Flack, BeBe and CeCe Winans, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and numerous others attended the invitation-only “home going” service.

Pastor Donnie McClurkin sang the first song, “Stand,” which was followed by a speech by Tyler Perry.

Next was a selection by Bebe and CeCe Winans, while Kim Burrell sang a version of Sam Cooke’s classic “A Change is Gonna Come.”

Legendary actor Kevin Costner addressed the church with a few unheard stories about Whitney Houston.

“This feels right. I’d like to thank Cissy and Dionne for inviting me here. I’d like to say some stories. Maybe some of them you know, maybe some you don’t I wrote them down because I didn’t want to miss anything.” Kevin Costner said, who related several stories about his church upbringing and how it similar to Whitney Houston’s.

“At the height of her fame, I asked her to be my costar in the movie called ‘The Bodyguard.’ I thought she was the perfect choice, but the red flags came out immediately. Maybe I should think this over a bit. I was reminded that this that this would be her first acting role. ‘We could also think about another singer, maybe somebody white,’ was their suggestion. Nobody ever said it out loud, but it was a fair question. It was. There would be a lot riding on this. Maybe a more experienced actress was the way to go. It was clear I’d really have to think about this. I told everyone that I ‘have’ taken notice that Whitney was black. The only problem was I thought she was perfect for what we were trying to do,” Costner said, revealing how he personally selected Whitney Houston for the famous role.

A teary-eyed Alicia Keys was up next, who sat at the piano and performed the selection “Send Me An Angel.”

According to reports, Bobby Brown left the funeral after staying briefly. Apparently Brown was too distraught to stay.

“I am at Whitney’s funeral. I spoke with Bobby Brown trying to calm him down and not distract from the services,” Reverend Al tweeted. “Today is about Whitney!”

Other speakers and performers included Dionne Warwick, Clive Davis and R.Kelly.

Today (February 19), Whitney Houston will be buried at the John Russell Houston Jr., at the Fairview Cemetery.

Watch video from Whitney's funeral below:

Alicia Keys Performing "Send Me An Angel"
Stevie Wonder performing "Ribbon In The Sky"
R. Kelly performing "I Look To You"
The Winans family

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Man Exonerated After Serving 45 Years Forced To Sell Prison Artwork For Money

A Detroit man who served 45 years behind bars for a crime that he didn’t commit, is forced to sell his personal collection of artwork that he made in prison. Richard Phillips, 72, doesn’t have steady income at the moment, and his lawyer is currently battling the state of Michigan to get him compensated for the wrongful conviction that stole his freedom.

"I don't have an income right now," said Phillips while showing off his paintings to Fox 2 Detroit. "This is my income."

In the early 1970s, Phillips was wrongfully convicted for the murder of Gregory Harris. He was sentenced to life in prison but always maintained his innocence. “I would rather died in prison than admit to a crime I didn’t do,” Philips said.

Phillips was convicted through an eyewitness account implicating him and a second man, Richard Palombo. In 2010, Palombo admitted that Phillips had no involvement in the murder and that he didn’t even know him. A new investigation was launched in 2014, nearly 20 years later Phillips appealed his murder conviction.

Last March, Wayne County Prosecutors Kym Worthy dropped all charges against Phillips, officially freeing him from prison. “There’s nothing that I can say to bring back 40 years of his life. The system failed him. There’s no question about it,” Worthy said at the time. “This is a true exoneration. Justice is indeed being done today, but there’s nothing that we can do ... to bring back those years of his life.”

Art played a big part in helping maintain his sanity through the sentence. Though he remained optimistic, Phillips admitted that he never truly believed he would be released. To pass the time, he began painting. He pulled inspiration from everywhere: his favorite artists, photos and even tapped into some of the loneliness that he felt in prison. "It was created in a harsh environment. But it goes to show you that beauty can come from something ugly."

Last year, Detroit's Demond Ricks was awarded $1 million for spending 25 years in prison on a wrongful conviction. As it stands, Phillips is the longest-serving wrongfully convicted former prisoner in U.S. history.

Phillips' artwork will be on display at Michigan's Ferndale's Level One gallery beginning Jan. 18.

See more on his artwork in the video below.

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Gladys Knight Defends Decision To Perform National Anthem At Super Bowl Amid Criticism

Glad Knight says she wants to “give the National Anthem back its voice.” The music legend released a new statement defending her decision to sing  the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in Atlanta, next month, amid criticism from fans.

Several artists turned down offers to perform at the Super Bowl in protest of the league’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick. Knight clarified that her choice to sing has nothing to do with Kaepernick, and she doesn't exactly agree with the anthem being "dragged into the debate."

"I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight said in a statement to Variety. “It is unfortunate that our National Anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the National Anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone.”

The 74-year-old singer also noted that she has been on the forefront of social justice issues for much of her career. "I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words,” Knight said. “The way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good.

"No matter who chooses to deflect with this narrative and continue to mix these two in the same message, it is not so and cannot be made so by anyone speaking it,” she continued. “I pray that this National Anthem will bring us all together in a way never before witnessed and we can move forward and untangle these truths which mean so much to all of us."

Knight isn’t alone in catching heat for joining the Super Bowl lineup. Travis Scott and Big Boi, both of whom will perform with Maroon 5 at halftime, received backlash as well.

Earlier in the week, reports surfaced claiming Scott had a meeting with Kaepernick that ended with “mutual respect” and “understanding.” Kaepernick’s girlfriend and Hot 97 DJ, Nessa Diab, denied the report tweeting, “There is NO mutual respect and there is NO understanding for anyone working against @Kaepernick7 PERIOD. #stoplying.”

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Wendy Williams Postpones Show Return Due To “Complications” From Graves’ Disease

Wendy Williams is promising to get back to The Wendy Williams Show by the end of January, after delaying her return two previous times.

Williams announced another extended hiatus from her talk show as she continues recovering from a shoulder injury and recent “complications” brought on by Graves' disease, according to a statement posted to the show’s Instagram account Friday (Jan. 18).

“Over the past few days, Wendy has experienced complications regarding her Graves’ Disease that will require treatment,” reads the statement. “Wendy will be under the strict supervision of her physicians, and as part of her care, there will be significant time spent in the hospital. Despite her strong desire to return, she is taking a necessary, extended break from her show to focus on her personal and physical well-being.

“Wendy thanks everyone in advance for their well-wishes and for respecting her and The Hunter Family's privacy during this time.”

The statement included a message of support from Debmar-Mercury, the company that syndicates The Wendy Williams Show. “We wholeheartedly support Wendy in this decision to take the time she needs and we will welcome her back with open arms the moment she is ready.”

Williams will return with new episodes the week of Jan. 28.

 

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A Note from The Hunter Family As Wendy Williams Hunter previously shared, she fractured her shoulder and has been on the mend. Over the past few days, Wendy has experienced complications regarding her Graves’ Disease that will require treatment. Wendy will be under the strict supervision of her physicians, and as part of her care, there will be significant time spent in the hospital. Despite her strong desire to return, she is taking a necessary, extended break from her show to focus on her personal and physical well-being. Wendy thanks everyone in advance for their well-wishes and for respecting her and The Hunter Family's privacy during this time. Statement from Debmar-Mercury For over ten years, Wendy has been a vital part of the Debmar-Mercury family. We wholeheartedly support Wendy in this decision to take the time she needs and we will welcome her back with open arms the moment she is ready. The Wendy Williams Show will air repeat episodes the week of January 21st and will produce original episodes with a variety of hosts starting the week of January 28th.

A post shared by Wendy Williams (@wendyshow) on Jan 18, 2019 at 9:34am PST

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