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NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 21: Singer and actor Harry Belafonte attends Amnesty International USA's 50th Annual Gathering at New York Marriott Brooklyn Bridge on March 21, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
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Organizers, Activists And More Honor Harry Belafonte At The Apollo Theater

The soon to be 90-year-old icon was honored for his humanitarian and Civil Rights work at the 10 year anniversary for the Gathering for Justice, Justice Ball.

In the dimly lit Apollo Theater, his copper skin glowed.

Dressed in a gray suit, white button down shirt and black tie, Harold George Belafonte Jr personified a life of service and courage at the ten year anniversary for the Gathering For Justice, Justice Ball. Having circled the sun for more than eight decades, Belafonte's resume of achievements--being the first solo artist to sell a million copies of his 1956 album Calypso--and his Rolodex of friends and mentors-- Martin Luther King Jr, James Baldwin and singer, actor, athlete and activist Paul Robeson--make our network of Twitter followers look like amateurs.

"I am truly blessed. In a few short months I will be 90," he said holding onto his cane. "It has been a life that has been filled with all sorts of incredible moments, but perhaps the greatest was that I not only had the opportunity to meet Paul Robeson, but to be embraced and encouraged by him."

The 89-year-old activist, along with political and public affairs strategist Alida Garcia and The Central Park Five were all on hand Monday night (November 9) to receive awards for their bravery and resilience, which coincidentally was also the 93rd birthday of actress Dorothy Dandridge, who starred opposite Belafonte in the films Bright Road, Island In The Sun and 1954's Carmen.

The 102-year-old venue underwent a glamorous transformation for the night's ball. Round banquet tables with gold chairs and black table cloth covered the Apollo floor, and while attendees, dressed in their floor-length gowns and suits ate and drank wine, statistics surrounding America's prison system flooded a projector behind them.

In April 2005, after a meeting with Nelson Mandela, Belafonte saw video footage online of a 5-year-old girl being handcuffed and arrested by three St. Petersburg police officers. Enraged, Belafonte organized a three-day retreat in Atlanta with the who's who of the movement to devise a plan and create an assignment to end the injustice, and while many were willing and passionate, Belafonte noticed his longtime friends didn't have the energy to fight anymore.

"They were already in the battle, but I got the feeling they weren't ready to go another round," he said.

It was then he focused his energy on the youth and founded the Gathering for Justice. Under his leadership and the tutelage of executive director Carmen Perez, the organization has committed itself to seeking justice for black and brown men and women effected by police brutality.

A group of men who know all too well about being victims of the police and the justice system are the Central Park Five. In 1989, Raymond Santana Jr., Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray and Kharey Wise were tried and convicted of the brutal rape and beating of a 28-year-old investment banker who went jogging in Central Park. The boys, who were just 14 and 15 years old at the time, were tried, convicted and served between six and 13 years in prison. Their convictions were later overturned when a serial rapist confessed to the crime.

Santana, Richardson and Salaam received their honor from two members of the Jersey Four, who in 1998 were shot in a van by a state trooper on the New Jersey turnpike, igniting one of the nation's largest racial profiling cases.

"I'm always humbled to be in front of folks, because back in 1989 and 1990, most people believed the lies being thrown at us," Salaam said.

Due to their wrongful convictions, The Central Park Five, dubbed by the press as the "Wolf Pack" were awarded $40 million in 2014. The men involved in the shooting on the New Jersey turnpike received $13 million.

"There's a price to be paid when you stand up against tyranny, when you stand up against oppression, when you stand up against greed, and that price to be paid can sometimes be cruel," Belafonte said.

With stellar performances from students, singer V Boseman, rappers Immortal Technique and Mysonne "The General" Linnen, the nights greatest tribute came from longtime friend, fellow activist and Academy-Award winner Sidney Poitier who congratulated Belafonte via a video message.

"Happy 10th anniversary, mighty friend."

Indeed. Mr. Belafonte. Cheers!

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Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ Is Expected To Make $64 Million Opening Weekend

Thanks to Us, Jordan Peele has another blockbuster on his hands. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the highly-anticipated horror flick starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, is expected to have a $64 million opening weekend at the domestic box office.

Peele’s sophomore horror film earned an impressive $7.4 million on Thursday (March 21) night previews, and is forecasted to take in about $27 million from Friday sales. The film is also on pace to knock Captain Marvel out of the No. 1 spot at the box office.

Once final numbers are tallied, Us will likely snatch the third-best opening weekend record for an R-rated horror film behind It, which brought in a whopping $123.4 million, followed by Halloween’s $76.2 million opening weekend last year.

Aside from rave reviews and a genius promo run that included simultaneous screenings in major media markets, Us earned a 95 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film, set in the mid-1980s centers around a family of four who set off on a vacation that finds them confronting some familiar faces.

Peele recently spoke to VIBE about casting Duke (our April 2019 cover star) in the role of patriarch, Gabe Wilson. “I have to have somebody voice what the audience was saying,” he said. “In the case of Get Out, it’s Rod, like, ‘How have you not left yet?’ [In Us], Winston is largely that voice. There’s one moment where Lupita [Nyong’o] takes a step into the unknown, where black people [will think], ‘I don’t know.’ But to have Winston say, ‘Aaaand she left. Your mother just walked out of the car.’ That’s all we need.”

Duke also opened up about the intricacies of his character. “His function isn’t to see through the veil. His function is to tell the absolute truth how he sees it,” explained the 32-year-old actor. “He’s sometimes there to say the things that other people don’t want to say, but he’s also there to make fun of things to keep it from not getting too heavy, even though it’s real. That was my job. [Peele] respected that. I like to lean into functions. If I’m going to be your antagonist, I’m gonna really push you. If I’m gonna be your clown, funny guy, I’m gonna do that.”

Click here to read VIBE’s April 2019 cover story.

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Cardi B Explains Why She Wants To Trademark “Okurrr”

Cardi B hopes to secure as many “bags” as possible. In response to backlash and burning questions surrounding her decision to file to trademark “okurrr,” the 26-year-old rapper took to social media Friday (March 22) to defend her latest money move.

Since people tend to ask Bardi to use what has become her signature catch phrase, she figured that it was time to cash in. “You think I ain’t gonna’ profit off this sh*t? B*tch white folks do it all the motherf**king time,” she said. “So you gon’ be mad at me ‘cuz I want to get some motherf**king money?

“While I’m still hear I’ma secure all the fucking bags,” Cardi continued before adding that there are a “lot of ways to get rich” in 2019.

The Bronx native caught heat for wanting to trademark the word because she wasn’t the first to say “okurrr.” Cardi already revealed that she started using it after she heard Khloe Kardashian saying it, but the word was originally popularized in drag culture -- most notably by Rupaul’s Drage Race contestant Laganja Estranja, in 2014.

However, Rupaul attributed the word to Broadway actress, Laura Bell Bundy, who used it in YouTube skits dating back to 2010. In the skits, Bundy pretends to be a hairdresser named “Shocantelle Brown.”

Although Bundy caught criticism for her little character, which was deemed racist, she typically gets credit for bringing “okrrr” (different spelling) to the internet a full decade before Cardi made it mainstream.

No matter the origin, it looks like Cardi will be the only one profiting off of “okurrr.”

 

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#CardiB on why she decided to trademark “Okurr”

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Kanye West, EMI Working Towards Private Settlement

Kanye West and EMI could be close to settling their legal drama. Each party filed documents requesting a stay of the case to “explore the potential for a resolution,” The Blast reports.

West sued EMI in an effort to “gain freedom” from his contract, and to own his publishing. In the lawsuit, ‘Ye argued that his contract ended in 2010 under California law, which bars entertainers from being tethered to an agreement for more than seven years. The multi-Grammy winner, who signed the deal back in 2003, also accused the company of slavery because the contract doesn’t allow him to retire.

“Even if the contract were not lopsided in EMI’s favor (it is), even if its terms valued Mr. West’s artistic contributions in line with the spectacular success he has achieved for EMI (they do not), and even if EMI had not underpaid Mr. West what it owes him (EMI has), he would be entitled to be set free from its bonds,” the lawsuit reads.

EMI hit back with a countersuit filed in New York, instead of California. The suit pointed out that the 41-year-old rapper signed multiple contract extensions, in addition to accepting millions in advances.

According to The Blast, West and EMI now feel that putting a hold on the legal proceedings will be beneficial to both sides “and the Court by enabling the parties to engage in meaningful discussions in an attempt to resolve this action without having to incur the burden and expense of litigation and motion practice.”

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