The Harlem Children’s Zone, American Values Institute, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement host a community town hall discussion to kick off Black Male: Re-Imagined -- a national summit to address the negative perceptions and associations of black men and boys in American society. The town hall conversation will feature an intergenerational group of artists who live at the intersection of culture and social change, who will explore questions such as:
What role does art and culture play in advancing social justice?
Does the desire for social change drive what we see in culture or do cultural shifts bring about social change?
How does media impact the way we see each other and ourselves?
What role can media influencers like Sean "Diddy" Combs and Kanye West play in transforming and challenging the misperceptions of black youth and our own self-image?
Our hope is that this rich dialogue will empower black youth to use art and culture to transform self-images and empower communities to create change.
Ann Beeson, a distinguished human rights advocate and litigator, joined the Open Society Institute in June 2007 as the director of U.S. Programs. She is working on the most acute challenges to open society in the United States, including race discrimination in the criminal justice system and immigration and national security policies that threaten human rights.
Prior to joining OSI, Beeson was associate legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. At the ACLU, she spearheaded groundbreaking initiatives to stop the erosion of civil liberties in the name of national security and to expand the use of international human rights strategies in the areas of immigrants' rights, women's rights, and racial justice.
Beeson has argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court. In August 2006, she won an important ruling on behalf of prominent journalists, scholars, and attorneys challenging the National Security Agency's illegal surveillance of Americans without a warrant.
In June 2007, Beeson was named one of the 50 most influential women lawyers in America by the National Law Journal, and was also featured as one of American Lawyer magazine's 50 rising legal stars under the age of 45. She has published essays in two books, Liberty Under Attack and The War on Our Freedoms.
Beeson graduated from Emory University School of Law, where she was editor-in-chief of the Emory Law Journal. She is a Texas native, and holds a master's degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Texas.
Nick Cannon, 30 years old, is a successful, multi-faceted entertainer: film star, comedian, musician, writer and executive producer of his very own hit TV shows.
Cannonâ€™s recent work: In 2008, Nick hosted the Teen Choice Awards for FBC and was the host/DJ for ABCâ€™s highly successful Presidential Inaugural Neighborhood Ball. NBC also recently tapped Nick to serve as the host for the new season of their hit show, â€œAmericaâ€™s Got Talentâ€ in 2010 following a successful stint as their host in 2009 which helped them draw in record breaking viewership.
Cannonâ€™s other film credits include Sundance Film Festival featured films â€œWeapons,â€ â€œAmerican Son,â€ and his most recent role in the psychological thriller, â€œThe Killing Room.â€ He now has his own multi-media company called NCredible Entertainment, which has several TV shows and films in development in addition to serving as the Chairman of TeenNick, Nickelodeonâ€™s new television network aimed at the teen audience.
Jordan Coleman is a young man on a mission. At 15-years-old, he's a filmmaker, actor, author, education activist, honor roll student and athlete. He was recently named one the 25 Most Influential People in Our Children's Lives by Children's Health magazine. Jordanâ€™s photo and story is currently featured on 40 million bags of Doritos after becoming a finalist for the 2009 Do Something Award. He is the 2010 Prudential Spirit of Community Award recipient and won $10,000 on MTVâ€™s Americaâ€™s Best Dance Crew Champions of Charity episode which recognized five amazing kids.
Jordan has been featured on CNN's Young People Who Rock series, Teen Kids News and in numerous media outlets for his documentary Say It Loud! which explores the importance of education for African-American boys. Jordan wrote, directed and produced the film when he was 12. For three years, Jordan was the voice of Tyrone the Moose on Nickelodeon's Emmy Award winning animated series "The Backyardigans." He used earnings from his cartoon gig to make Say It Loud!
Jordan Colemanâ€™s second film Payinâ€™ The Price is a cautionary tale about teen dating violence. Jordan was inspired to tackle this issue after the Chris Brown and Rhianna â€œdomestic violence incident.â€
Jordan is the son of Award-Winning Journalist Chrisena Coleman and New York State Senator Eric Adams. He has received dozens of awards and commendations from local, state and national politicians, including United States President Barack Obama and United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Lupe Fiasco is an American rapper, artist, producer and CEO of 1st and 15th Entertainment. He rose to fame in 2006 following the success of his critically acclaimed debut album, Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor. He also performs as the frontman of Post Punk band Japanese Cartoon under his real name.
Since 1963, John Oâ€™Neal has been a leader in the field of artists working in community. His work as a writer, performer and director has taken him to audiences throughout North America, Europe and Africa. He is the founder and artistic director of Junebug Productions, the organizational successor to the Free Southern Theater of which Oâ€™Neal which he co-founded. Oâ€™Neal was a Field Secretary of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and worked as an organizer with the United Church of Christ Committee for Racial Justice. Oâ€™Neal has authored twelve plays, several essays and poetry. He has numerous credits and has toured as Junebug Jabbo Jones, a character created by people involved in SNCC to symbolize the wisdom of common people. Since 1999, Oâ€™Nealâ€™s main work has revolved around The Color Line Project, a community-based story collection project about the Civil Rights Movement.
USA Today recently named Russell Simmons one of the "Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 25 Years," calling him a "hip-hop pioneer" for his groundbreaking vision that has influenced music, fashion, finance, television and film, as well as the face of modern philanthropy. From creating his seminal Def Jam Recordings in 1984, to the 2007 publishing of his New York Times best-seller Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success, Russell is recognized globally for his influence and entrepreneurial approach to both business and philanthropy.
Giving back is of primary importance to him in all aspects of life and as Chairman and CEO of Rush Communications, he has consistently leveraged his influence in the recording industry, fashion, television, financial services, and jewelry sectors to give back. A devoted yogi and social activist, Russell also leads the non-profit division of his empire, Rush Community Affairs, and its ongoing commitment to empowering at-risk youth through education, the arts, and social engagement and was instrumental in the recent overturning of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Russell also serves as UN Goodwill Ambassador For The Permanent Memorial To Honor The Victims Of Slavery and The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
Rapper Lupe Fiasco comments on the state of education in the black community, and also stresses the importance of challenging the youth. "We have to understand that education isn't just in a school, right, education is a life long process," says Fiasco.