Thursday, June 30, 2011

Black Music Month: Celebs Reveal Favorite R&B Group

by darlene donloe

    June is Black Music Month and what better time to celebrate its rich history.
For centuries, Black musicians, singers, writers and producers have made incredible contributions to the music industry.
    This is the month set aside to pay homage to all those individuals who, through their music, have made us smile, laugh, cry, dance, tap our feet, clap our hands and swivel our hips.
    I caught up with some celebrities and asked them, “Who is your favorite R&B group of all time?”

KEM – I gotta say The Gap Band

DEREK LUKE – (Hawthorne) New Edition

LANCE GROSS – (House of Payne) Jodeci

HAROLD WHEELER – (Dancing With the Stars) Earth Wind & Fire

DEBBIE ALLEN – (Fame/Twist) Temptations/Supremes

TEVIN CAMPBELL – (R&B artist) The Temptations

KAREN MALINA WHITE – (Cosby/Malcolm & Eddie) The Isley Brothers

BLAIR UNDERWOOD – (The Event) The Jacksons

ISAIAH MUSTAFA – (Old Spice/Madea) The Jacksons, that’s easy. I know everything there is to know about the Jacksons.

LORETTA DEVINE – (Grey’s Anatomy/Jumping the Broom) I don’t have a group, but I like Beyonce, Ledisi and Adele

TASHA SMITH – (Jumping the Broom) The Isley Bros.

POOCH  HALL – (The Game) New Edition

PAULA PATTON – (Jumping the Broom) Supremes

MALIK YOBA – (Alphas/Why Did I Get Married Too?) The Commodores with Lionel Richie

TESSA THOMPSON - (For Colored Girls) James Brown & The JBs

NICOLE ARI PARKER – (Soul Food/ 35 & Ticking) Commodores and Boyz II Men

DAWNN LEWIS – (A Different World) Earth Wind & Fire

CLIFTON POWELL – (Ray/Norbit) Temptations and Delfonics

SALLY RICHARDSON WHITFIELD – (I Am Legend/I Will Follow/Eureka) Earth Wind & Fire

DONDRE WHITFIELD – (35 & Ticking/Two Can Play That Game) Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5

VANESSA WILLIAMS – (Soul Food) Michael Jackson and Earth Wind and Fire

GBENGA AKINNAGBE - (The Good Wife, Nurse Jackie) – Mint Condition

ROGER GUENVEUR SMITH - (Juan and John/Mooz-Lum) Bob Marley and the Wailers

QASIM BASIR - (Mooz-Lum director) Boyz II Men

DORIAN MISSICK - (The Cape) Earth, Wind & Fire

JB SMOOVE - (Hall Pass)  Jodeci

KYM WHITLEY - (I Love You, Man/Along Came Polly) Surface

VIVICA FOX -  (Kill Bill, Vol. 1/Independence Day) Jodeci

AVANT - (R&B singer) The Temptations. They know what it took to sell that brand. My uncle got me turned on to music.

JENIFER LEWIS - (Strong Medicine/The Princess and the Frog)  The O’Jays or Spinners.  The songs were great. Everything is great about them.  They had the colors and the levels.  The songs struck your soul. Mighty Love and Sadie, Stairway to Heaven. Whoo!

NATE PARKER - (The Great Debaters/The Secret Life of Bees) New Edition

JAMES EARL JELKS - (The Break of Noon) I’m a Charlie Wilson fan, so The Gap Band. Burn Rubber is something else.

Darlene Donloe is a seasoned entertainment and travel journalist whose work has appeared in People, Ebony, Essence, Black Meetings & Tourism, LA Watts Times, Los Angeles Sentinel, EMMY, The Hollywood Reporter, Rhythm & Business, Billboard, Grammy, CYH, and more.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


By Darlene Donloe

Anyone who is a fan of gospel will “Rejoice and Shout” about the documentary of the same name.
Don McGlynn’s gospel film, which opened in New York on June 3 and is set to open in Los Angeles June 24, takes an inside look at the art form that boasts the genre’s superstars like Mahalia Jackson, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Yolanda Adams, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Dixie Hummingbirds, BeBe and Cece Winans, The Staples Singers, Andrae Crouch and more.
The Staples Singers

McGlynn takes a chronological look at gospel that is impressive, interesting and entertaining.
The film showcases the evolution of Gospel through its many musical styles including the integration of blues and swint, the emergence of soul and the blending of rap and hip hop.
The archival footage alone is worth the price of admission.
The documentary, produced by Joe Lauro, features Smokey Robinson, Crouch, Mavis Staples, Ira Tucker, Marie Knight, Willa Ward, Ira Tucker Jr., Anthonly Heilbut, Bill Carpenter, Jacquie Gayles Webb, The Selvy Family and Darrel Petties.
Mavis Staples

I caught up with McGlynn to talk about the documentary.
DD: Why did you want to do this documentary?
DM: It was a go project. It was about Magnolia Pictures asking me, ‘would you do this for us? We have the money’.  It was crazy. It almost never happens that way.
DD: This documentary looks like it took a lot of time to research.
DM: I actually worked on this for five years. I finally got it to where I wanted it to be. It took five months of nothing but research. It was a massive project. It was 1 ½ years of interviews. It took six months of tweaking and two years of editing.  There were 3,000 edits. How can you take a huge project and edit it down?
Marie Knight

DD: When you were handed this film, what was your vision? Or did they give you their vision?
DM: Magnolia wanted to make this movie. They said, ‘We want you to do this gospel film.’ I said, ‘OK.’ They said, ‘It has to be two hours long.’ Ok!  And throw in some stars. Ok!
DD: What did you know about gospel music before taking on this project?
DM: I had a pretty good familiarization. When I did research it was feeling in the gap before 1980. The intensity of it and the archival footage is uplifting. This music is powerful.
Mahalia Jackson

DD: This is a powerful doc.
DM: This movie provokes all kinds of emotions. Part of my job was finding clips that would do that.
DD: What is the most surprising thing you learned?
DM: I’m so proud. One day I was listening to Crossing the River Jordan. I wondered why they were singing about this. These two communities have this struggle. What I learned is - there is a strong connection between African Americans and the Old Testament.
DD: One of the best parts of the documentary is the fact that we actually hear a lot of music.
DM: Two things are essential. It’s a music film. Lets hear the music. They believe in God. These are actively passionate Christians.
Clara Ward

DD: Was there anyone you wanted for the film, but was unable to get?
DM:  Aretha agreed to do it, then changed her mind.
DD: You went old school as well as contemporary.
DM:  I wanted to balance it. We’re covering 200 years. I wanted to be positive.
DD: While doing this doc, was there one moment that stood out?
DM: There were lots of them. Probably 50-100 of them. But, I remember, there was a woman who was speaking in tongues. I couldn’t shake that image.
DD: What effected you the most?
DM: When I would meet Smokey [Robinson] and saw his outlook on life – he voiced my personal concerns in the movie. These people were just good Christians.
DD: The archival footage is incredible.
DM: Joe Lauro has all this great gospel footage.
DD:  You talked about having a lot of footage. Will there be a ‘Rejoice and Shout’ 2, 3, or 4?
DM: I wouldn’t mind. However, this was difficult.
DD: What is your hope for the film?
DM: I hope we screen it for church groups.
DD: Do you believe in God?
DM: I believe in God and always have. I should go to church more.
The Blind Boys of Mississippi

Other artists in the film include: The Utica Quartet, The Dinwiddie Colored Quartet, The Golden Gate Quartet, The Swan Silvertones, The Clara Ward Singers, The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Reverend James Cleveland and The Edwin Hawkins Singers.
“Rejoice and Shout” is presented by Magnolia Pictures and is a Deep River Films Production.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


DVD Hits Stores June 14th
From Codeblack Entertainment

By Darlene Donloe

The movie, Mooz-Lum, hit selected theaters across the country this past February and since then has taken on a life of its own, enjoying a huge following on social media sites like Facebook.

The film, directed by neophyte Qasim Basir, stars Evan Ross, Nia Long, Roger Guenveur Smith, Dorian Missick and Danny Glover. It was released on DVD June 14.

Pulled between his strict Muslim upbringing by his father (Roger Guenever Smith) and the normal social life he's never had, Tariq Mahdi (Evan Ross) enters college in a state of confusion. New relationships with Muslims and non-Muslims alike challenges his already shaken ideals, and the estrangement with his mother (Nia Long) and sister troubles him. Slowly, he begins to find himself with the help of new friends, family and mentors, but when the attacks of 9/11 happen without warning, he is forced to face the past and make the biggest decisions of his life.

I caught up with Basir (the director) to talk about Mooz-Lum’s controversial subject matter and the making of the film. 

Qasim Basir

DD: I understand that you grew up Muslim. Is this totally autobiographical?

QB: It definitely has been dramatized for the screen. For the most part it’s true. Days and times have been changed. The situations are pretty much true.

DD: Was it hard or more cathartic to write?

QB: It was both. Anyone who reaches back and deals with things in their past and childhood, I think, have issues and I certainly did. At the end of the day, it turned out to be one of the most therapeutic things I’ve ever done. I dealt with some things I didn’t realize were still affecting me.

DD: Like what?

QB: I can’t really give away too much of the film. But, there are things that happened to the young man when he went to a certain school. And, those things happened to me in real life. They are things I tucked away and didn’t really deal with until the writing of this screenplay. Dealing with the incident it showed me how it’s dealing with some of my personality traits today. It’s hard to say without giving the movie away.

DD: Why did you write this? You wanted to say what?

QB: I wrote it for a few reasons. One, there is an unbalanced media portrayal and has been for the last decade about Muslims. I needed to tell a story a little more accurate. I wanted to give a voice to a group of people who have pretty much been trampled on. And, number two, I wanted people who haven’t seen this side of the story – I wanted them to have a human experience with Muslims instead of this demonized version of extremists blowing things up. I wanted them to see a family that loves and feels and has happiness. Hopefully, it could open their minds a little more.

Nia Long and Evan Ross star in "Mooz-Lum"
DD: What, in your opinion, is the biggest misconception about the Muslim faith?

QB: The fact, the idea that Islam represents something violent. There are certain people that do certain things in the name of Islam, which they have basically hijacked the religion. It’s such a small population in the grand scheme of things. But those are the ones that have gotten the attention. I was born and raised Muslim and I’ve never heard of that stuff. Everyone I’ve ever known who is Muslim is a compassionate and good person. Obviously there are some people that have done bad things, but that’s not because of Islam. That’s what I was trying to show in this film. It’s the people who take things into their own hands.

DD: I’ve noticed that when someone who is Baptist does something, the whole faith is not demonized. However, when someone is Muslim, the entire faith is looked down upon.

QB: I don’t take the accountability away from the Muslims who do these things. The fault is with them. They do things in the name of Islam, which is why people feel a certain way about it. We have to acknowledge that some people do these things in the name of Islam. Is it right, absolutely not! The fact is that Muslim people are effected by terrorists all the time. When these people blow up stuff, they blow up Muslims too. And, if something goes down here, Muslim people are afraid too and they don’t want to be hurt too. And, they’re trying to protect their families as well. This whole separation thing has to be fixed because right now there is this idea of us being ‘the other’ and people have to get rid of that.

DD: Talk about the feedback you’re getting about the movie.

QB: It’s been wonderful so far. It’s been great. I couldn’t ask for a better reception than what we’ve been getting. Look on our Facebook page –, the movie. There is a tab that says reviews. Most of them are really good. I’m really happy right now.

DD: After the recent death of Osama Bin Laden, I’m sure you’ve had some very interesting conversations.

QB: Yeah, The crazy part about that, I was in the United Kingdom when that happened. I was there for about a week and a half. It had died down by the time I got back. The people I’m around are very open-minded and very enlightened about the world and issues. I didn’t get too much of the feared conversations.  It’s hard to say. I did have a couple where people didn’t believe it and stuff like that, but it wasn’t anything crazy.

DD: Lets talk more about the movie. How long to write and get it on screen?

QB: Initially, I wrote the first draft in a month. Anyone who knows about writing knows the first draft doesn’t really mean much. Draft after draft for about a year and a half, two years. We started shooting the end of 2009. 2010 was about getting it done - editing, music and then started showing it at the Urbanworld Film Festival. It won for best narrative feature. There were a few more festivals like the one in Chicago International Film Festival and the Cairo International film festival. Then we opened in theaters in February. I’m saying this all casually like it was easy, but none of it really was. It’s been a journey, but a good one. I learned a lot.

DD: The casting is fabulous. Nia Long, Evan Ross, Roger Guenveur Smith. Were Nia and Roger supposed to represent your parents?

Roger Guenveur Smith
QB: Nia and Roger, those characters were modeled after my parents. People have this idea about Muslim women – like they are weak. But, my mother and the women I’ve known have always been strong. Roger’s character and Nia’s character were modeled after my parents. Roger’s character is modeled after my father.  The sister was modeled after my three sisters. It was a blessing working with these actors.