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Swizz Beatz and Music Unites Launch Power of One Music-Versity Series in NYC

Swizz Beatz is using his passion for music to empower New York City students.

Partnering up with Music Unites--a non-profit organization that helps fund music programs in inner-city schools--the Grammy Award-winning producer hosted the kick-start event of a series of music workshops entitled Power of One Music-Versity: Bronx Edition at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Jan. 17. Rallying for the addition of the arts in at-risk cities, Swizz has helped fund The Bronx Charter School of the Arts and has devoted his time to Music Unites endeavors.

"I think that a lot of people just don't understand creativity. I feel that music is a global language and I know that more kids can express themselves through art better than they can academically," he told VIBE. "Like with my son, he was going through a little bit of problems in school, then I put him in a college program for building video games--which is 10 times harder than the courses he was taking--and he came out an A student."

The Music Unites Music-Versity program showcased the talents of students in schools that have benefited from the organization's efforts, including Bronx Charter and the Women's Academy of Excellence. Students ranging from elementary to middle school grades performed various musical numbers including a guitar ensemble, a drum line, dance and a chorus. Enacting the mantra "The sky is not the limit, it's just the view," student ambassadors Candace Lee Camacho and Kyle Alfred also did a special performance of MU's theme song. Music Unites founder and director Michelle Edgar pointed to the importance of music as well as the program for students.

"There's an even greater need for the work we're doing where we provide free after-school programs in the schools because there is no support system right now," she said. "Our Bronx students never had a music education program. They never even had an after-school program. They don't even have a proper auditorium to have these programs.

Swizz Beatz also sat down with Billboard's editorial director Bill Werde for an intimate interview at the Music-Versity program to discuss his childhood connection to music and his early career. Chronicling everything from his early life in the South Bronx to his early days as a DJ in Atlanta, the producer encouraged the audience of students and pointed to music as a constant outlet in the midst of his struggles.

"I was facing certain problems getting to school and it was turning into certain altercations," he told Werde. "But even with the negativity I was facing, I'd always go right back to creating, whether it was art, whether it was music, and that's how I would vent my frustrations rather than going out there and doing something that's going to get me in more trouble."

Swizz also spoke on the incarnation of his fame with the Ruff Ryders. Recalling his need to prove himself as a viable producer among his family-run label, Swizz Beatz pointed out that his success had not come easy, and reminisced on the day he realized the level of his clout.

"You know, I never did music for money. I did music to hear myself in the club, and to hear my creation on the radio. For instance, when "Stop, Drop" came out, I was on 125th Street...and every car was playing the Ruff Ryders anthem," he said to Werde. "I thought I was able to retire right there. My job was done in my mind. It was like 'Wow, everybody can appreciate my work,' and it took me so long to get there. And that was in '98. So hearing every car driving pass, playing your song, that was my Grammy."

Swizz expressed to Werde that he hopes to make Music Unites a global effort to help fund music programs for children all over the world. He also talked with VIBE about his upcoming art gallery to showcase his own talents in the visual arts, as well as endorse some new faces.

"I'm working on my first exhibit now. I'm taking my time with it because it needs to be right. I'm also featuring a couple of new up-and-coming artists, painters and photographers because I feel like if I can use my announcement of my first show to also introduce new artists that people would never hear about, then that justifies me doing my show," he said. "Instead of me keeping my art a personal thing, we can use it to save lives, change lives and inspire."

For more info on Music Unites, visit its official website here.

Photo Credit: Martin Roe

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Netflix Pledges To Invest $100 Million Into Black Owned-Banks And Black Communities

As part of their “commitment to racial equality,” Netflix has pledged to invest $100 million into Black communities to help build economic opportunity.

"Going forward, Netflix is going to allocate two percent of our cash holdings - initially up to $100 million - into financial institutions and organizations that directly support Black communities in the U.S.,” Aaron Mitchell, director of talent and acquisition,  and Shannon Alwyn, treasury director, announced in a blog post on Tuesday (June 30).

The company will move $25 million into a newly established Black Economic Development Initiative managed by Local Initiative Support Corporation, a nonprofit community development financial organization that assists underserved communities. LISC will invest the money into “Black financial institutions serving low and moderate-income communities and Black community development corporations in the U.S.”

Additionally, Netflix plans to make a $10 million “transformational deposit” into Hope Credit Union to help boost “economic opportunity” in Black communities in the Deep South.

“This capital will fuel social mobility and opportunity in the low- and moderate-income communities these groups serve,” the company added. “We plan to redirect even more of our cash to Black-led and focused institutions as we grow, and we hope others will do the same.”

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August Alsina Stands By Comments About Jada Pinkett Smith

August Alsina isn’t done speaking up. The singer took to Instagram on Friday (July 3) to clarify a few things about his bombshell interview with Angela Yee.

“The journey to freedom is a deeply complex, tricky, and turbulent road to tow; yet very necessary,” begins the lengthy post.

The 27-year-old New Orleans native also spoke about oppression, and affirms his commitment to “transparency” and “truth,” no matter how hard things get. “Truth & Transparency makes us uncomfortable, yes, but I can’t apologize for that. A tower of truth can never fall, only a tower of lies can do that. My truth is MY truth, & [it's] mine to own. There is no right or wrong here, it simply just IS.”

Towards the end of the post, Alsina appears to directly address Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith. “My heart has no malice or hate toward anyone on this planet. I just simply want the chains off & I’m willing to DIE getting there. The gift of freedom is yours to have, God promises us that, but only if you’re willing & God is not a man that HE should lie.. & I’m His SON, so neither would I.

“With that being said,” he continued. “I should also say that, no one was side swiped by any conversation, everyone got courtesy calls time in advance. Wishing Everyone Big Love!”

The Smiths have denied Alsina’s claims that he had an affair with Jada with Will's permission. On Thursday (July 2), Jada announced that she will be booking herself on Red Table Talk, presumably to address the rumors.

Read Alsina's full Instagram post below.

 

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God said, We may grow weary and tired fighting in the fire, but we shall NOT be burned! The journey to freedom is a deeply complex, tricky, and turbulent road to tow; yet very necessary. Oppression comes in so many forms these days, beginning w/ physical slavery and bondage to the white man, then passed down generational programming that manifest into mental enslavement. Slaves to an idea, slaves to an image, slaves to a code of conduct, slaves to a picture you’ve created in your mind.. even if it contains many falsities.. & anything that differentiates from your “idea” & “image” feels like an attack. & I get it; not only do i get it but I’m also sorry you feel that way, BUT, The only attack here is against the invisible walls of silent societal construct and “code” we place upon each other & upon ourselves hidden behind the desires of others approval & acceptance; another form of slavery & bondage that blocks one’s truest self from showing & spirit flow. Be blocked and stuck for what? Live silent, pressed down crippled in fear for who ? Adversary is but a gift given to you to flourish. We are surround by so much disharmony in this external world, so it is my forever job to do whatever’s necessary to reach the gift of harmony within myself. Truth & Transparency makes us uncomfortable, yes, but i can’t apologize for that. A tower of truth can never fall, only a tower of lies can do that. My truth is MY truth, & its mine to own. There is no right or wrong here, it simply just IS. & I make room and have acceptance for your thoughts and opinions, regardless if I agree or not, you have that freedom to feel WHATEVER it is u feel because when you’re at TRUE peace, all of the noise and chatter becomes that of a whisper. My heart has no malice or hate toward anyone on this planet. I just simply want the chains off & I’m willing to DIE getting there. The gift of freedom is yours to have, God promises us that, but only if you’re willing. &God is not a man that HE should lie.. & I’m His SON, so neither would I. 🙏🏽 W/ that being said i should also say that, no one was side swiped by any conversation, everyone got courtesy calls time in advance. Wishing Everyone Big Love!

A post shared by Yungin' (@augustalsina) on Jul 3, 2020 at 1:12pm PDT

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Jay Z’s Team Roc Demands Arrest Of Milwaukee Cop Who Killed 3 People

Team Roc, the social justice sector under Jay Z’s Roc Nation imprint, is demanding the arrest and prosecution of a Milwaukee cop who shot and killed three people of color, including a Black teenage boy, over the last five years.

The organization took out a full-page ad in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Thursday (July 2), calling for the arrest of Officer Joseph Mensah. “Let us start off with a simple question,” reads the letter addressed to Milwaukee County D.A. John Chisolm.“How many more people must die at the hands of Officer Joseph Mensah? Since joining the Wauwatosa Police Department in 2015, Mensah has shot and killed three men of color — Alvin Cole, Antonio Gonzales and Jay Anderson — with an excessive total of NINETEEN fired shots. His actions demonstrate an utter disregard for the lives of these young men.”

The letter goes on to state that the police department’s failure to enforce body cameras, and “failure to preserve video evidence” has impeded numerous investigations. “We are calling for your office to prosecute Mensah to ensure that he never kills anyone again, and to immediately outfit all of our police officers with body cameras. It is your responsibility to do the right thing, hold Mensah accountable for his actions and protect Wauwatosa citizens from further tragedy.”

Cole, the youngest of the shooting victims, was killed in February. Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber claims that the 17 year old fired a gun at officers “before the police officer fired theirs.”

Gonzales, 29, was killed in July 2015, because he refused to drop a sword. At the time, police were responding to a 911 call placed by a homeowner who claimed Gonzales was intoxicated and behaving erratically.

Anderson, a 25-year-old father, was shot and killed while sitting in his car at about 3 a.m. on June 23, 2016. Mensah claimed that Anderson reached for a gun as he approached the vehicle. Prosecutors decided that Mensah acted in self defense, but have since agreed to review the case.

“I would like to see him do some time for the killings he has done,” Anderson's mother said of Mensah. “It is not norma to kill three people. He is a murderer."

Read Team Roc's full letter below.

JAY-Z's Team Roc calls for the prosecution of police officer who has killed 3 men of color

The social justice sector of Roc Nation wrote an open letter in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to Milwaukee DA @DAJohnChisholm,calling for the firing & prosecution of officer Joseph Mensah pic.twitter.com/RvDfh7jSCV

— JAY-Z Daily (@JAY_Z_Daily) July 2, 2020

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