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Dorothy Hong

Mavis Staples Takes You There In New HBO Documentary 'Mavis!'

In the Jessica Edwards film Mavis, viewers go behind the scenes with one of music's most robust and hearty voices, Mavis Staples.

Mavis' voice isn't Sunday morning. It's not easy like a spring breeze or a walk in the park at sunset. Mavis' voice is hearty, robust, sometimes scratchy and always potent, and while our parents may know of the importance and musical necessity it is to have The Staple Singers in their iTunes playlist, Jessica Edwards HBO documentary Mavis! introduces the spunky and charming singer to the Snapchat generation, proving she had keys way before Khaled.

Mavis! tells the story of the humble beginnings of the Staple Singers family band led by Roebuck "Pops" Staples with Mavis as the lead. Pops guitar playing was a mixture of gospel and blues, which at the time was musically frowned upon. The family began singing in church and started making a name for themselves, which led to other gigs at churches across the south. After a brief meeting with a young Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Pops returned to the group and said "If he can preach it, we can sing it," which later spawned the band's first freedom song, "Why Am I Treated So Bad?" and ushered the group into the Civil Right's movement.

With commentary from Chuck D, Bonnie Raitt, co-owner of Stax Records Al Bell and the late Julian Bond, director Jessica Edwards supplements Mavis' greatness not only with footage of the group's early days on tour, but through fellow musicians who site Mavis' as the powerhouse vocalist she is.

"I love and respected Aretha, I still do, but she was no Mavis Staples," Bell said.

While the early sounds of the Staple Singers brought many who attended the documentary's early screening back to simpler times, it's Mavis' authentic charm and hilarity that keeps the film close to your heart. With her loyal sister Yvonne by her side, Mavis simply delights without even trying. Whether it be unabashedly fixing her honey blond wig while the cameras rolled, talking about smooching Bob Dylan in her younger days, or cuttin' a rug with her new knees while on stage back home in Chicago, Mavis doesn't know how to be anything other than Mavis.

"I'm not as frisky as I used to be, although I feel like it," she says with a mischievous grin.

And then it happened.

The boom of the drums. The recognizable guitar rift, and her deep, voice came through as Edwards documents the first time Mavis performed "I'll Take You There." The Staple Singers had veered off from their traditional Gospel roots, and received the ire from the church community disappointed with their secular ways, but let Mavis tell it, once the song skyrocketed to number one, everyone couldn't resist.

"The church people were dancing to it, they weren't foolin' me." Mavis said.

Mavis! is feel good, like Christmas morning feel good. On a lousy Monday with an entire week of work ahead of you, on an extra day of the year no less, Mavis's smile, good heart and soul-stirring voice is the boost you need to make it to Friday. Yeah, Mavis takes you there, and at 71 year old, it doesn't look like she has any plans to stop anytime soon.

MAVIS! debuts Monday, Feb. 29, exclusively on HBO.

 

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‘Boyz N The Hood’ And ‘You Got Served’ Actress Esther Scott Dies At Age 66

Esther Scott, the actress who appeared in Boyz n the Hood, Beverly Hills 90210, Full House, You Got Served and more, has passed away at age 66.

Scott died last Friday (Feb. 14), days after suffering an apparent heart attack. Her death was first reported on Tuesday (Feb. 18) by TMZ.

According to the site, Scott was found unconscious in her Santa Monica, Calif. home last Tuesday (Feb. 11) and remained hospitalized for several days before passing away on Valentine's Day surrounded by friends and family.

"She loved what she did. She would get stopped on the street often and people would recognize her -- but they didn't know her name," Scott's sister told the website. "Hopefully now people will remember her name, her work and the contributions she gave to the entertainment industry."

The Queens native began her career as a voice actress in the ‘80s series StarWars: Ewoks. Scott’s first credited feature film role was as grandmother to the character Tisha (played by Leonette Scott) in Boyz n the Hood.

Scott worked steadily throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s, following up her appearance in Boyz n the Hood with roles in Encino Man, Don Juan DeMarco, Illegal Blue, Species, The Craft, and Out to Sea.

Scott found success in both TV and film appearing as a judge in Austin Powers in Goldmember, a grandmother in You Got Served, as well as roles in Dreamgirls, Transformers, Gangster Squad, and The Birth of a Nation, The Steve Harvey Show, Party of Five, Ellen, Hart of Dixie, and Sister, Sister.

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Malcolm X’s Assassination To Be Reinvestigated After Docuseries Raises Questions

A documentary on Malcolm X’s assassination has prompted authorities to reexamine the case. In Who Killed Malcolm X? historian Abdur-Rahman Muhammad explores the many questions surrounding the death of one of history’s most pivotal figures. The six-part series originally aired on Fusion but has been gaining popularity since appearing on Netflix.

This February will mark the 55-year anniversary of Malcolm’s murder. The former Nation of Islam leader, who left the organization and changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was gunned down inside Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965. Three members of the NOI, Mujahid Abdul Halim, Muhammad Abdul Aziz and Khalil Islam, were convicted for the murder and sentenced to life in prison.

As noted by the Innocence Project, Aziz and Islam always maintained their innocence, while Halim confessed to partaking in the fatal shooting. In 1966, Halim testified that Aziz and Islam had “nothing to do” with the murder. In 1978, Halim identified four other men as co-conspirators. His confession was supported by FBI documents obtained by civil rights lawyer William Kunstler. Prosecutors in the original trial claimed to have been unaware of the documents and New York State Supreme Court Judge Harold Rothwax ultimately rejected a motion to vacate Aziz and Islam’s convictions. Rothwax died in 1997.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has since met with representatives from the Innocence Project “and associated counsel regarding the matter,” a spokesperson for the DA’s office said in an emailed statement, per NPR.

Although Islam died in 2009, Aziz, now 81, continues to fight to clear his name. He was freed on parole in 1985. The Innocence Project joined forces with civil rights attorney David Shanies to re-investigate Azis’s conviction. “We are grateful that District Attorney Vance quickly agreed to conduct a review of the conviction of Muhammad Aziz. Given the historical importance of this case and the fact that our client is 81 years old, we are especially encouraged that Mr. Vance has assigned two highly respected prosecutors, Peter Casolaro and Charles King, to work on this re-investigation,” the Innocence Project and Shanies said in a joint statement. “We look forward to working cooperatively with them to see that justice is done.”

Casolaro worked on the case of the Exonerated Five and King is a member of the Conviction Integrity Program of the New York County District Attorney’s Office.

As noted by the Innocence Project, there was no physical evidence linking Aziz or Islam to Malcolm’s murder. In fact, Aziz wasn’t even at the venue. The day of the murder, Aziz had returned home after being treated for a leg injury. He heard about Malcolm's assassination while listening to the radio that day, and has doctors and witnesses, to corroborate his story.

Watch the trailer for Who Killed Malcolm X? below.

 

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Ava DuVernay Named Director Of Nipsey Hussle Documentary For Netflix

Ava DuVernay's next cinematic feat will center on a hometown legend. According to Deadline, the acclaimed director will lead a documentary on Nipsey Hussle for streaming giant Netflix.

The announcement was made on Monday (Feb. 10), two weeks since DuVernay presented a musical tribute to the late rapper at the 52nd annual Grammy Awards. Hussle won two gramophones that evening: Best Rap Performance and Best Rap/Sung Performance.

In tribute to his birthday on August 15, the Emmy-award winning director shared a message on Twitter that expressed her gratitude for the interactions they had. "Grateful that he existed. Grateful we walked this vast earth at the same time," she wrote. "In the same city. Grateful that our paths crossed. Grateful for the work and wisdom he gave us."

For Nipsey. Ermias. Son. Brother. Partner. Friend. Artist. Champion. Grateful that he existed. Grateful we walked this vast earth at the same time. In the same city. Grateful that our paths crossed. Grateful for the work and wisdom he gave us. We miss you. Happy Birthday, Nip. xo pic.twitter.com/cNEZHUhiao

— Ava DuVernay (@ava) August 15, 2019

On March 31, 2019, Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, was fatally shot outside of his Marathon Clothing store in Los Angeles. His death rattled various communities and prompted supporters and new fans to take a look back at this trajectory within music and entrepreneurship.

According to Billboard, other streaming services in the mix included Apple and Amazon. Alongside Hussle's family, the entrepreneur's Marathon Films will also helm production duties.

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