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VIBE Cover Story: Django Unchained

Despite the site-unseen criticism of Quentin Tarantino’s latest film rebellion, Django Unchained isn’t a blaxploitation slavery flick. Jamie Foxx, who plays a gun-slinging slave on the warpath, reunites with Kerry Washington for the epic tale, while Leonardo DiCaprio finally puts on his black hat and goes dark. Gathered at a Manhattan studio, the big three explain how they mastered the art of telling this historically hot-button story. —Erik Parker

JAMIE FOXX knows what you're thinking when you see him as a shivering slave in the trailer for his latest film, Django Unchained. This is no Roots. It's not like he didn't know his role in Quentin Tarantino's latest backslap to Hollywood conventions would confuse some and infuriate others. He's smirking atop a horse in a powder blue costume while going all badass on white folks like some Dolomite slave fantasy for goodness sake. But according to Foxx, 45, and key members of the all-star cast–Leonardo DiCaprio and Kerry Washington–they half-expected the verbal lynching.

With Django Unchained, Tarantino adapts his familiar revenge themes (Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds) to the story of a slave gone rogue in the name of love. In this flick, the genre-splicing director tracks Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave who is recruited by a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) who happens to be hunting the men who sold Django's wife (Kerry Washington, 35) to the most wicked of all plantation owners, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

While Tarantino was awarded Screenwriter of the Year for Django by the Hollywood Film Awards in October, black Hollywood had a different take. Nate Parker (Red Tails, Red Hook Summer), who was also considered for the role of Django, called the script ‘‘upsetting.” Tyler Perry, who wrote the Madea series, raised questions about Tarantino's screenplay (more on this later). But the actors in the film, which also include Samuel L. Jackson, stuck to their guns.

‘‘I wanted to go in there and try to embody somebody and an attitude that is so foreign to me and go the distance,” says DiCaprio, 38, who had his own reservations about the language and imagery. While at the photo shoot for VIBE, the most revered actor of our time puffs neat circles of smoke from his electronic cigarette. Not look-at-me plumes. More an absentminded exercise to pass the time and focus his thoughts. ‘‘I think it took me to places I didn't even imagine,” he continued. ‘‘It really took on a life of its own.

When Foxx, DiCaprio and Washington finally sit for a chat about the film, the conversation also takes on a life of its own. Here is the story behind the story.

VIBE: Before Django was even completed, the screenplay and the trailer received criticism from black people who objected to the treatment of slavery, suggesting it is not serious. It is a spaghetti western not a heavy drama like, say, Roots or The Color Purple. Were you prepared for this type of scrutiny?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: We knew there was going to be controversy. The question is: What is not a realistic depiction? I would argue that it is. It is Quentin's re-creation; this character doesn't exist. There's nobody that is documented to do what Jamie's character has done at the time. But the documentaries I saw went even further.

JAMIE FOXX: Put it this way: I completely understand what you're saying. 'Cause as black folks we're always sensitive. As a black person it's always racial. I come into this place to do a photo shoot and they got Ritz crackers and cheese. I'll be like, ain't this a bitch. Y'all didn't know black people was coming. What's with all this white shit? By the same token, if there is fried chicken and watermelon I'll say ain't this a bitch? So, no matter what we do as black people it's always gonna be that. Every single thing in my life is built around race. I don't necessarily speak it because you can't. But the minute I leave my house, I gotta put my other jacket on and say, ‘‘Hey, Thomas, Julian and Greg.” And I gotta be a certain person.

DICAPRIO: Thomas, Julian and Greg?

VIBE: Those are white people.

FOXX: No some of those people are black. But when I get home my other homies are like how was your day? Well, I only had to be white for at least eight hours today, [or] I only had to be white for four hours. Everything we do is that. When you're talking about the script, of course it's going to be controversy. I remember talking to Tyler Perry about it. [In Perry's very serious voice] ‘‘Ah man, the script, man. Have you read it?” When I finally read it, I called Tyler and we had a conversation. I said, ‘‘I got a different take on it than you did.” And we shared. And I called Tyler while we were shooting it. I said, ‘‘Do you know that Quentin Tarantino knows all of your shit on TV. I don't even watch all of your shit.” He said, ‘‘Really?” The difference is the Quentin Tarantino Effect. I ran into Spike Lee at the BET Awards. You know Spike, he'll let you have it whether it's good, bad or ugly. And he said, ‘‘I'm not going to say anything bad about this film. It looks like y'all are getting it

KERRY WASHINGTON: This is not a doc. This is a Quentin Tarantino film. But I remember there was this one moment in the script where Jamie's character was put in an awful crazy medieval metal mask. I said, ‘‘That's some sick thing Quentin thought up.” And when I went to the production office to meet about my wardrobe, I saw into the research office. Twenty photos of real masks like that. It made me sad. I realized as much as my degrees and everything I've read on slave narratives [should have informed me], I didn't even know that they wore masks like that, that people did that to us. It took a Tarantino movie for me to know that that's not some crazy thing out of his imagination. That's how it went down.

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Billionaire Robert F. Smith Will Pay Off Morehouse Class Of 2019's Student Loans

Billionaire Robert F. Smith has earned one of Morehouse's biggest cheers after the commencement speaker announced he'd pay off the student loans for the entire graduating Class of 2019.

"This is my class,” he said, “and I know my class will pay this forward.”

Dang! There are a lot of happy graduates at Morehouse College today.

Commencement Speaker Robert F. Smith is establishing a grant to pay off the Class of 2019's student loans. #SundayThoughts #sundaymorning pic.twitter.com/kupvjyhT9Y

— Holly Figueroa O'Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) May 19, 2019

The 56-year-old philanthropist and technology investor made the surprise revelation Sunday morning (May 19) at the Historically all-male Black college ceremony.

The 400 student-graduating class could hardly contain their excitement. Tonga Releford, whose son Charles Releford III, graduated today with an estimated $70,000 in student loan debt. The news of a financial clean slate was overwhelming.

“I feel like it’s Mother’s Day all over again,” she said.

The debt for all 400 students hovers around $40 million, which is a fraction of Smith's reported $5 billion.

When news broke of Smith's generous donation, many online expressing happiness, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Every Morehouse Class of 2019 student is getting their student debt load paid off by their commencement speaker.

This could be the start of what’s known in Econ as a ‘natural experiment.’ Follow these students & compare their life choices w their peers over the next 10-15 years. https://t.co/UM1qTJOxHf

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 19, 2019

This is real philanthropy.

Not giving money to a school to get your name on the wall while Administrators get raised.

Helping out real students in real need.https://t.co/HD7eF53qzu

— Mike Cernovich (@Cernovich) May 19, 2019

Just so everyone’s clear: Robert’s gift is estimated at $40 million. It is the largest ever gift to @Morehouse and the single largest gift ever provided to eliminate student debt in the United States. With student debt disproportionately strangling Black people, this is major. https://t.co/qTUCFJKAQy

— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) May 19, 2019

And because the Internet is the Internet, the jokes had to fly.

Next year’s Morehouse commencement speaker: pic.twitter.com/gYApx8OXGm

— Eric Haywood (@EricHaywood) May 19, 2019

Big ups to Mr. Smith and congratulations to Morehouse's Class of 2019.

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Christopher Polk

The Internet Was Conflicted About Future's Birthday Gift To Baby Future

It's Future Zahir's birthday and the cutie patootie 5-year-old received massive love from his parents and a pricey gift from his dad.

Nayvadius recorded Baby Future's initial response to opening up his gold Rolex, which merited a sincere "thanks." However, the Internet seems a bit conflicted on whether or not Future's gift to his son was sincere or even appropriate.

https://twitter.com/SPLASHnewz/status/1130136017959301124

Some online thought it was no one's business what Future gifts his son, or that others were jealous.

https://twitter.com/1JOSHLAFLARE/status/1130134869122650114

https://twitter.com/FEELZ_____/status/1130125891777028097

Some took to Twitter to allege Future gave his son the gift he would've wanted for himself.

This is a status symbol for Future not a gift for baby Future. I’m sure he got toys and stuff in addition. But that only makes this Rolex thing worse. Why not just get him an ass load of whatever toys he likes and leave it at that? https://t.co/xQP5r0du7F

— Mars and Stars (@marcia_too) May 19, 2019

Lmao baby future looking at that watch like “this not Paw PAtrol” lmao I’m weak

— Chief Stallionaire in Meg’s Kitchen (@AskWhy05) May 19, 2019

https://twitter.com/_kingsb/status/1130135731215699969

It's silly to even give that type of gift to a child. That Rolex might be in the toilet by Tuesday, And Future will expect Ciara and Russell to make him wear the watch in every picture.

What is Baby Future gonna get when he's 6? A REAL Lambo, instead of a Power Wheels Lambo? pic.twitter.com/qpMqwcNGrg

— B-Ball Guru (@northcyde) May 19, 2019

Future's relationship with his son has been marred by assumptions of how well he can parent compared to Russell Wison. There are many who think The Seattle Seahawk's QB is better equipped to care for baby Future than his own father, while the other side of the Internet assume Future is a fine dad, he just doesn't have Wilson's squeaky clean image.

Oh well, whether baby Future knows the value of his gift is neither here nor there. Let me go charge up my Fitbit before it dies.

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Sybrina Fulton Is Running For Office In Florida

Since Trayvon Martin's murder in 2012, Sybrina Fulton has dedicated her life to preserving her son's legacy. Now, Fulton is taking it one step further as she's announced she's running for office in Florida.

“Since 2012, I have advocated tirelessly to empower our communities and make them safer,” Fulton said to The Miami Herald. “But the work is not done. I am proud to announce that I will run to represent District 1 on the county commission.”

"Our county must continue moving forward so our families are safe from violence, can afford to live in Miami-Dade, and have access to good paying jobs,” she continued. “I am ready to take on these issues and many others in county government.”

Fulton will run against Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez during the 2020 election, a seat which will be vacated by Commissioner Barbara Jordan in the same year.

Fulton, alongside Trayvon's father Tracy, found themselves the focus of media attention in 2012 when 17-year-old Trayvon was racially profiled, followed and shot by self-appointed neighborhood watchmen George Zimmerman.

Unarmed Trayvon was staying with his father in central Florida when on the night of Feb 26, he went to a local convenience store and crossed paths with Zimmerman.

Zimmerman was taken into custody by police that night but later released. It would months later in April when Zimmerman was formally arrested and charged. On July 13, 2013,  Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges.

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