America’s Black Billionaires: The Richest African Americans in 2019

Earlier this month, Forbes published its annual World’s Billionaires list, which ranks the richest people around the world based on the wealth they’ve accumulated using stock prices and exchange rates as of February 2019. By no surprise, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was named no. 1 due to his staggering $ 131 billion net worth. However, out of the 607 Americans featured on the list, just four were black. Here’s a list of the handful of African American billionaires.

David Steward

black billionaires

World Wide Technology Founder and Chairman David Steward

With a net worth of $ 3 billion, David Steward ranks as no. 745 on Forbes’ list of global billionaires. In 1990, Steward invested $ 250,000 that he earned from two auditing ventures to launch World Wide Technology (WWT), an IT provider that offers hardware and software products and services to large public and private customers in various sectors. Its clients include Citi, Verizon, and the U.S. government. Last year, WWT earned $ 11.2 billion in sales and was ranked as no. 1 on the BE100sBLACK ENTERPRISE’s annual list of top black-owned companies in the nation. The 67-year-old business tycoon also graced the cover of BLACK ENTERPRISE in June 2001.

Steward, the chairman and majority owner of WWT, grew up during segregation in a poor neighborhood in Missouri. His father worked as a mechanic, janitor, and trash collector to provide for him and his seven siblings.  

 


Oprah Winfrey

black billionaires

Oprah Winfrey (Flickr.com/photos/disneyabc)

The “Queen of All Media” has accumulated a massive net worth of $ 2.5 billion, according to Forbes, thanks in large part to her partnership with Weight Watchers. Back in 2015, Oprah Winfrey bought a 10% stake and became an ambassador for the company. By June 2018, her stake was estimated at $ 427 million. Winfrey also generates revenue through several business endeavors, including ownership of the cable network OWN, Harpo Films, a multi-year content partnership deal with Apple, and her iconic talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show.

 


Robert F. Smith

Vista Equity Robert F. Smith

Vista Equity founder, chairman, and CEO Robert F. Smith

Robert F. Smith is the founder, chairman, and chief executive of Vista Equity Partners. His company was recognized as the top private equity firm on the BE100s last year, generating $ 14 billion in capital. And, with a $ 5 billion net worth, he is currently the richest black person in the country.

Heralded as a private equity titan and Wall Street wiz, Smith started his early life out as a computer geek working in STEM before earning a degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University. He also attended Columbia Business School and ended up serving as co-chief of the investment banking division at Goldman Sachs. Smith founded Vista Equity Partners in 2000, which focuses on investing in technology companies.

In 2013, BE named the firm BE100s Financial Services Company of the Year and Smith as one of the Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street. Smith made a shrewd move in acquiring Sunquest Information Systems Inc., for a relative bargain price of $ 327 million–$ 200 million in equity and $ 127 million in debt.

In a recent transaction, a Vista Equity-acquired company, Marketo, was sold to Adobe for $ 4.7 billion.


Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan net worth

Michael Jordan (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Although considered the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan only made about $ 90 million during his stellar career in the NBA. However, thanks to lucrative endorsements, like his lifetime deal with Nike, and big investments, like his purchase of the Charlotte Hornets, he has amassed a $ 1.9 billion net worth.

 

 

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African American Economics: Real Facts

Black families are more confident about achieving the American Dream than the general population. However, African Americans fall short on executing life-changing measures such as accumulating wealth, being better prepared for retirement and building up savings. Here are a few facts (and advice) about African American economics:

Some 84% believe the American Dream means financial security; 78% in not living paycheck-to-paycheck; and 77% in owning a home.

Still, based on a new State of the American Family Study by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual), many African Americans don’t have tangible assets needed to make those goals happen now.

The study revealed a disconnect between African Americans’ financial situations and their hope toward the future. The report disclosed some pitfalls tied to African Americans’ personal finances including high debt, low savings and a lower likelihood of wide financial product ownership. In turn, the financial disparities and the wealth gap possibly explain why 31% surveyed are convinced the American Dream may be fading away.

Some key findings from the survey:

  • Outside of retirement accounts, only 37% of African Americans own wealth-building products such as stocks and mutual funds.
  • Only 35% believe they are doing a good job of preparing for retirement.
  • 33% have less than one month of funds saved for a crisis and less than 25% have amassed more than six months’ of emergency savings.
  • 58% are actively involved in educating their children on finances versus 48% of Caucasians. Forty-percent rely on family members for information

“The study shows African Americans want to improve their financial situations and are hopeful about the future,” said Evan Taylor, African American market director, MassMutual. “At the same time, it sheds light on the financial struggles and inequities that the African American community continues to battle. Those contradictions indicate a need for greater financial education and discipline for the whole family to achieve economic success. In fact, the biggest financial regret expressed by respondents was that they wished they had started saving and investing sooner.”

The State of the American Family survey consisted of 3,235 total interviews with Americans, including 482 African American respondents. The vast majority of these interviews (2,730) were conducted with men and women aged 25-64 with incomes equal to or greater than $ 50,000 and with dependents under age 26 for whom they are financially responsible. Respondents had to contribute at least 40% to decisions regarding financial matters in their household to qualify.

Shavon Roman, a financial adviser at Atlanta-based The Piedmont Group, shared how she overcame financial havoc. Her journey included becoming an entrepreneur in real estate and franchising, where she ended up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. To rebound, she created a debt reduction strategy and lived below her means. The result: Within five years she was debt free. “You can accomplish anything with a plan,” Roman says.

african american economics

Shavon Roman

Her experience with financial challenges—and now on the path to wealth-building—led Roman to help others professionally. Her clients at Piedmont mainly include women in their 30s and 40s, and pre-retirees working in corporate America. Piedmont is affiliated with Mass Mutual. She focuses on helping clients increase their net worth.

To help African Americans get on the right path to financial independence, Roman offers advice on the following:

  • Financial education: It’s imperative to have a savings and spending plan, allowing you to tell your money where to go and keep track of it. Consider working with banks that have online tools to monitor your spending and create budgets. Also, know your credit score. Roman says a helpful tool to do that is the “Credit Karma” app. If buying a home is an objective, look for a prime rate loan with a nonprofit homeownership organization like the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America.
  • Financial planning and execution: So what should African Americans do before investing in stocks or other asset classes like real estate or starting a new business? Roman’s first suggestion is to do your research. She advises knowing your risk tolerance, asking yourself if you can stomach a financial setback. Monitor the investment and its performance regularly. When it comes to achieving wealth-building goals, eliminate high-interest debt, reduce debt, and establish a savings fund.
  • Professional help as opposed to taking a do-it-yourself approach with finances: Seek advice from a financial professional equipped to help you establish and reach your financial goals. When looking for help with investment planning, retirement planning, or insurance purchases, partner with an expert. Check out their background, references, and makes sure they are licensed in the state they work in. A financial professional can guide you to the right solutions to help achieve wealth-building goals.

“As minorities, we have the ability to improve our economic positions using ideas that may seem so small,” Roman says. “My biggest lesson in life is that hope is not a plan. We have to put action with a plan and do the work. I did the work and I hope that my transparency inspires others.”

MassMutual also offered some “NEXT STEPS’’ to help black families secure their financial future:

MAKE FINANCIAL PLANNING A FAMILY PRIORITY. Teach the next generation about finances. Involving your children in discussions of family budgeting and monthly bills can help them understand what is involved in managing money.

PREPARE FOR THE UNEXPECTED. Protect your family with appropriate amounts of life insurance and disability income insurance. These precautions can provide a measure of security for your family should the unthinkable happen.

PAY DOWN DEBT. It’s a good idea to pay off the loans and credit cards with the highest interest rates first, then the smallest balances or the highest minimums. If you can make extra payments or pay more than the minimum, do so. This will reduce the total cost of the loan.

ESTABLISH SAVINGS. Open a separate savings account designated for your emergency fund and add to it every paycheck. Use automatic deposit so you don’t forget. As a rule of thumb, target 3 to 6 months of salary for your financial cushion.

PLAN FOR YOUR CHILDREN’S EDUCATION. Create a plan for how you will pay for college. In addition to your income, there are opportunities to pay for college including 529 plans, Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, student loans, permanent life insurance loans, financial aid, grants, and work-study programs.

SAVE FOR RETIREMENT. The amount of income needed to maintain a standard of living in retirement varies from person to person and family to family. Think about your current and future expenses to see if you are saving enough right now. If you’re not, or if you’re not sure, talk with a financial professional.

Visit this link to learn more details about the financial state of African Americans.

african american economics


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Ancestry.com Releases New Data For Those From the African Diaspora to Unearth More About Their Lineage

Genealogical website Ancestry.com, has released 94 new and updated communities so that African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans can learn more about their roots.

Communities are part of the AncestryDNA test, which lets people from the African diaspora explore their heritage and how their ancestors migrated.

One of the new communities focuses on Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina African Americans. As per Ancestry:

“Members with this community may have ancestors that were enslaved and working on rice plantations in South Carolina and Georgia. When cotton fields came to the area in the late 1700s, many enslaved African Americans were brought to work those fields. Following the Civil War, the Great Depression, and World War II, many South Carolinians followed rail lines up North to New York and Philadelphia. This group was one of many communities that were part of the Great Migration–which was the movement of millions of African Americans during the 1900s from the South to cities in the North and West.”

Ancestry.com

Another new AncestryDNA community centers on Louisiana Creoles and African Americans. Interestingly, Ancestry’s research finds that by 1940 more than 18% of African Americans in the Bay Area were from Louisiana.

Also expanded, are Caribbean communities, with historical information for those from Haiti, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and more. Here is an interesting tidbit from Ancestry research, “Afro-Caribbeans who moved to New York sometimes had difficulty adjusting to their new homes but by 1930 about one-third of New York’s black professionals, such as lawyers and doctors, were African Caribbeans.”

The update also has visuals and a timeline showing the migration of people from the African diaspora including a visual depicting the Great Migration—a mass exodus of African Americans fleeing the racism of the South to areas in the Northern and Western United States.

The company says the new data is based on its proprietary Genetic Communities technology. “With just the results of an AncestryDNA test, we can help unlock stories of the people and places that make up our customer’s recent family histories. These new insights, provided using our unique Genetic Communities technology, can reveal the roles and unique impact our customer’s ancestors played in history,” the company stated in a press release.

Ancestry.com faced criticism last year after a black customer discovered that his enslaved ancestors were referred to as “migrants” in his DNA search results.

“When zooming in on our African lineage from nations like Benin and the Ivory Coast, Ancestry.com suggested that our ancestors had arrived in the South during the ‘migration’ of the past few hundred years,” he wrote in a petition against the company.

Andrew M. says he was “shocked and offended” to read Ancestry’s characterization of his family history. “Migration implies choice,” he explained, and “that is most certainly not what happened to my African ancestors who came here in the hull of a ship like chattel only to be sold into slavery when they arrived.”

Ancestry.com issued an apology at the time. “We apologize for the language used on our website to describe the historic movements of people from one place to another,” said Nat Natarajan, Ancestry executive vice president of Product and Technology at the time. “We understand that not all of the movements of people through history—including Africans brought as slaves to the United States—were made voluntarily. We will make changes to ensure the language on our site more accurately describes these events in history.” The company also changed the language it used in reference to enslaved people on its site.

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South African Burger King Owner Dumps Dunkin’ Donuts

South African fans of U.S.-branded hot, glazed doughnuts with a gulp of coffee are about to see one well-known choice disappear.

The company that owns Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc.’s local Dunkin’ Donuts chain has applied for voluntary liquidation of the unit. South African leisure company Grand Parade Investments Ltd., which ran the stores as a franchisee since late 2016, is also closing down its Baskin-Robbins ice cream stores, another Dunkin’ chain.

The opening of Dunkin’ Donuts in South Africa followed other U.S. chains such as Yum! Brands Inc.’s Pizza Hut and Starbucks Corp. seeking to tap consumer demand for popular U.S. fast food. Grand Parade said in 2016 that it wanted to have 290 Dunkin’ stores in South Africa in 10 years, and purchased the rights to expand the brand into six more countries in the region. It now has 11 stores, all in the Cape Town area, according to its website, and five Baskin-Robbins locations.

Grand Parade made the decision after making a push to focus on its Burger King restaurants and an unsuccessful effort to sell the two unprofitable brands, the Cape Town-based company said Friday in a statement.

Grand Parade rose 1 percent to 2.89 rand as of 1:49 p.m in Johannesburg, paring its decline this year to 7.7 percent.

For consumers who still want a morning dose of American coffee and donuts, there’s still Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc., with 16 local stores spread across the Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban areas.

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The Importance of African American Wealth Management Advisers

Manhattan West Asset Management is an extremely diverse firm in the wealth management sector, existing in a world that is overwhelmingly white and male-dominated. The firm is made up of high character, highly-educated financial advisers with incredible backgrounds that previously reflect leadership roles at Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan among others. It currently has a mix of African American employees that hold executive roles, Latino American partners, and a list of high ranking women.

Although extremely impressive, this is not the norm. Stats that include this type of makeup are extremely low. According to the Center for Financial Planning Board  (CFP), less than 3.5% of all the 80,000 certified financial planners in the United States are black or Latino. So what is going on?

BLACK ENTERPRISE caught up with executive Justin McCurdy to find out what got him involved in wealth management and the importance of African American wealth management advisers as a career option for people of color.

Black Enterprise: How did you break into Wealth Management?

Justin McCurdy: I do not have the typical background of most wealth management professionals, but I believe that is why I am able to serve such a diverse client group. I came to the United States as an immigrant from Canada. My family moved from Jamaica to Canada before I was born in search of more opportunity. I won’t go too far into my personal life, but my background contributes to how unusual it is for me to be in my current role. My mother had me at a young age and we moved from apartment to apartment, city to city, before finally settling in Los Angeles when I was 11 years old.

I worked hard and was accepted at the University of Southern California. I financed my education through financial aid and the revenue earned from the youth sports organization I founded at the age of 18, which I still operate today. After about a dozen internships, I graduated and took a position as an advisor at Morgan Stanley. With no family connections, financing or an existing Rolodex, it was an uphill battle to build a client base. Fast forward 5 years and I am now at Manhattan West Asset Management holding a leadership role and realizing the abundant opportunities available when you’re willing to go after what you want in life.

What attracted you to wealth management?

My passion in educating those who did not come from backgrounds that gave them the skillset to properly manage wealth is what initially attracted me to the industry. I came from a traditional working-class family and although supportive, I was not exposed to wealth accumulation or preservation concepts. I worked extremely hard to educate myself and with the help of mentors I met through sports was able to develop a strong understanding of finance.  Ultimately, I want to use my knowledge to educate and empower those around me, with a special focus on those that might have encountered the same roadblocks as me along the way.

What types of clients do you advise?

My clients stem from all walks of life but I have a special emphasis on professional athletes and entertainers.

African American wealth management advisers

Justin McCurdy and client, retired NBA veteran, Ryan Gomes (Image: Instagram)

Why do you think there is such a drastic shortage of African-American Advisors?

It’s simply a matter of exposure. African American kids do not often see Financial Advisors of color, making it hard for them to envision themselves taking that career path.

Why is it beneficial for African-Americans to be involved in a career like this?

It’s my belief that the more African-American advisors there are, the more educated the black community will be about finance. This will only lead to more wealth accumulation and preservation within the community.  Living in such a unique time where people from all demographics/walks of life are acquiring wealth at sometimes rapid paces leads me to believe that professionals servicing them need to evolve and represent this newfound diversity as well.

Many African-American children have not had the opportunity to see successful Financial Advisors of color and that needs to change.  I want the upcoming generation to see wealth management as a viable career opportunity that embraces those willing to work hard for their clients. Class, background or socio-economic status should not be a factor.

 

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Nurse Alice: New Research Suggests Alzheimer’s Presents Differently in African Americans

Nearly 5.7 million people live with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. The disease, however, seemingly presents more problematic for African Americans. Studies show African Americans are twice as likely of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to whites. And while health, lifestyle, and socioeconomic factors contribute to our susceptibility for this disease (as well as others), more and more research is suggesting genetic differences could explain some of the disparity between African Americans and whites.

Research from the Department of Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine suggests Alzheimer’s disease may develop differently in blacks. That could possibly mean the way we diagnose and treat African Americans for Alzheimer’s may need to change as well and become race specific.

Much of what we know about Alzheimer’s disease is from research based on white people. Yet numerous studies have shown racial differences exist in African American genetics which influence how we respond to different diagnostic tests, medications, and treatments. And this isn’t new information. Differences in cardiovascular treatment and diabetes diagnosis for African Americans are well documented.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to degenerate and die. It’s the most common cause of dementia, causing changes in memory, speech, judgment, personality, and overall cognitive functioning. This steady decline in thinking, behaviorally and socially, disrupt a person’s ability to function independently.

While there is no definitive diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s, some of the biological hallmarks of the disease are abnormal amounts of protein plaques – amyloid Aβ42 and protein tau tangles that present throughout the brain. Its been thought that the higher your levels are, the higher risk you were for the disease. And because we know that to be true, companies have spent millions of dollars creating anti-tau medications and therapy to counter the disease.

In people with Alzheimer’s disease, tau proteins for unknown reasons collapse into twisted strands called tangles. These twisted strands keep the brain cells from getting nutrients and other essential supplies, and the cells eventually die.

 What Does This Mean for You?

In a research plot twist, researchers at Washington School of Medicine discovered that when they scanned the brains of participants for plaques – there wasn’t any significant differences between whites and blacks. However, when they performed lumbar punctures testing cerebral spinal fluid levels of tau proteins, the levels were much lower in African Americans. This debunks the theory that lower levels of tau proteins mean lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease. African Americans having lower levels of tau protein did not seem to have the same decreased risk as it did in their white counterparts. What this means is there is the potential for African Americans to still have the disease, but present with lower levels of tau proteins which may lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment for Alzheimer’s.

What’s Next?

So how do we properly and efficiently identify and treat Alzheimer’s disease in African Americans? Do we start with race specific thresholds for tau protein levels?…. maybe we need to.

While this question remains unanswered, it needs to be addressed sooner than later. But the only way to garner enough scientific information to do so is to gather more evidence. So while these findings are from a relatively small sample size (173 black participants) it is still worthy of a serious look because it comes from research done with African Americans. And last I checked – I was African American. So while some medical research can be generalized to different groups– it’s still not a one size fits all. If we have reason to believe race plays a role in how someone is diagnosed, and what medications and treatments work best for them – then we need to apply that information. This is one step closer to the goal of precision medicine, an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person. Ask your provider today whether they practice precision medicine. If not, you may want to consider changing to one that does.

 

 

 

 

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South African Fashion on Show at Zeitz MOCAA

South Africa’s fashion and art crowd descended upon Cape Town this week for the pre-opening party of contemporary art museum Zeitz MOCAA’s first fashion exhibition, “21 Years: Making Histories With South African Fashion Week.”
SA Fashion Week, founded by former model Lucilla Booyzen in 1997, marked the anniversary last October with a small exhibition shown during the presentation of the SAFW 2019 fall collections in the Johannesburg suburb of Sandton City. Booyzen chose 21 designers as a historical recap of the past 21 years of SA fashion, and planned a book to accompany the exhibit.
“When Erica de Greef, the senior fashion curator of Zeitz MOCAA, heard that I was going to do a book and an exhibition, she was incredibly excited, and she then planned to do an edited version of what I did in Johannesburg at Zeitz,” Booyzen recounted.
Curated by de Greef, the exhibition occupies two gallery spaces on the museum’s fourth level and features 21 ensembles from 21 designers, spanning different styles, multiple collections and various seasons, showcasing, in effect, a micro-history of South African fashion since 1997. On show are designers such as Clive Rundle, Amanda Laird Cherry and Loxion Kulca, alongside younger names such as Sindiso Khumalo, Thebe

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African American Art Galleries and Museums to Support for Black Solidarity Day

As the anticipated International African American Museum gears up for a grand opening in 2020, we couldn’t help but find out what other black-centric museums and exhibits around the country are worth checking out right now.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most intriguing and thought-provoking exhibits, some by African American artists, but all of them about African American life for African American viewers, whether they’re art enthusiasts, art geeks, or just simply looking to learn something new.

Soul of A Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Brooklyn Museum

This exhibit takes viewers through the most political and revolutionary period of American history. The more than 150 artworks displayed throughout the exhibition aim to address the unjust conditions that African American artists faced from 1963 to 1983, a time of political and social revolution.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 14, 2018-Feb. 3, 2019

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow, New York Historical Society Museum & Library

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow explores the struggles African Americans faced for full citizenship and racial equality. It is organized chronologically from the end of the Civil War to the end of World War I and highlights how African Americans advocated for their rights during that time. The exhibit opened in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 7, 2018-Mar. 3, 2019

Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past, African American Museum in Philadelphia

The exhibition features 35 large-scale photographs, as well as an installation and altarpiece by artist John E. Dowell, all aiming to “explore the dichotomy between the beauty of the plant and its inexorable link to the horrors of chattel slavery in the U.S.”

It also looks at the often overlooked history of slavery in the north.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 15, 2018-Jan. 21, 2019

Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture, National Museum of African American History & Culture at the Smithsonian

This special exhibition features the life of the media mogul, philanthropist, and actress and will also showcase her roles as a film producer; TV host, with her successful daytime talk show; and educator. Visitors will be able to explore Winfrey’s influence and the impact that she has on the world. The museum will feature artifacts from the very first Harpo Studios in Chicago and much more.

Find out more information, here.

June 2018-June 2019

AFreauX, Zucot Gallery

The exhibit features a group of African American artists who express their artwork through the gritty, colorful, and dynamic trends of the street art movements. In a press release on the exhibit, their collective artwork is described as, “a rebellious response” and a “departure from current trends,” speaking to the African American narrative and experience.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 22, 2018-Nov. 16, 2018

Think: A Tribute to the Queen of Soul, The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

With this exhibit, the Detroit museum plans to honor Aretha Franklin’s life and legacy. The exhibit will feature photographs— loaned by photographers to help honor the late Queen of Soul—showcasing her work and life.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 25, 2018-Jan. 21, 2019

Facing the Rising Sun Freedman’s Cemetery and The Souls of Black Folk, African American Museum, Dallas

The two exhibitions, “Facing the Rising Sun Freedman’s Cemetery” and “The Souls of Black Folk,” present two views of African American art in life and art in Dallas, Texas.

Visitors will get the chance to see and hear from people who knew about Freedman’s town, later known as North Dallas, through interactive video, historical documents, objects, and photographs.

Over 500 objects are on display in “The Souls of Black Folk” courtesy of the Billy R. Allen Folk Art Collection.

Visitors can also check out a few other exhibits housed in the museum, including, “Genesis: African American Artists,” which shows the work of 36 local Dallas artists.

Find out more information, here.

On-going

International African American Museum, South Carolina

The highly anticipated museum is set to open in 2020. The IAAM will explore the deep-rooted history of African Americans, presenting untold and under-told experiences and contributions of African Americans. The museum has so far received a variety of donations from companies such as BMW, Viacom, and BB&T and a $ 10 million donation from the Lilly Endowment. This museum is definitely one to keep on your radar.

Find out more information, here.

Opening in 2020

The North Carolina Roots of Artist Ernie Barnes, North Carolina Museum of History

The exhibition will showcase many original paintings and artifacts of artist and Durham native, Ernie Barnes. Barnes was known for his exquisite and unique style. His iconic “Sugar Shack” painting was featured on the hit show, Good Times. The painting also appeared on the Marvin Gaye I Want You album cover. According to the museum, he is the first professional American athlete to become a noted painter.

Find out more information, here.

June 2018- March 2019

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Award-Winning Film ‘Charcoal’ Heads to National Museum of African Art Smithsonian Institution

Francesca Andre combined her experiences with colorism and passion for storytelling into Charcoal, an award-winning film which puts the spotlight on healing from prejudice, discrimination, and preferential treatment based on the skin tone, facial features, and hair textures among people of the same race. Now, her short film is making its way to the National Museum of African Art Smithsonian Institution as part of Skin Deep exhibit: Colorism across the African diaspora.



Black Enterprise caught up with Andre to learn more about her inspiration behind the film and hopes for changing the conversation about beauty in the black community.

BE: What inspired you to produce a film about internal colorism? Can you describe your personal experiences with this topic?

I wanted to tell a story about healing, about women redefining their own beauty and taking back their power despite the pervasive effects of colorism. I wrote Charcoal as I recalled these painful experiences and events with colorism growing up in Haiti. I was made aware of my skin tone and hair texture at a very young age. I noticed that people with lighter skin were praised and considered beautiful compared to others with darker skin. My grandmother joked that I got my “bad hair” from my father’s side of the family because her side of the family had very long and curly hair. While these conversations were common and seemed normal at the time, they slowly begin to erode one’s self-esteem and self-worth. I realized that I had internalized these toxic beliefs in my teenage years throughout my adulthood, so I had to unlearn all these toxic misconceptions about beauty, hair, and its relation to one’s worth. I am happy to say that I now have a very healthy relationship with my skin and hair.

Francesca Andre

Francesca Andre

BE: In your experiences, what are the impacts of internalized colorism, particularly when it comes to getting ahead in your career or managing healthy relationships?

As a woman photographer working to become a cinematographer, racism and sexism are more of a detriment to my career than colorism. I also think my experiences with internal colorism provide an opportunity for me as a storyteller to reverse the effects by changing the light skin vs. dark skin narrative. Representation in film is important and is a powerful tool to bring attention to these issues.

BE: Charcoal spotlights the fact that beliefs about skin color are passed down in families. In prior interviews, you’ve said “Despite the #melaninpoppin and #blackgirlmagic hashtag movements meant to uplift all shades of blackness, there’s still work to be done. When it comes to colorism, what do you think we as a community need more of or less of?

We need to talk more about it. It’s dirty, it’s taboo and it’s destructive. Just because it’s not always right in your face doesn’t mean it’s not happening. These movements are great at bringing issues to light, but there are also many communities that are not aware of these conversations. Today there are very popular Internet figures in my community who are selling bleaching creams. As long as “light skin” continues to be the standard of beauty, women will continue to bleach their skin as a way to adapt and survive. However, if we celebrate every hue and hair texture, not just the 3C curly hair, we might be able to change minds and change the way that people perceive themselves and their beauty. America can take the lead in this plight.

BE: What are the top two messages you want people to take away from the film?

Healing takes time. These beliefs didn’t happen overnight and it will take time for you to unlearn the lies that you were taught and have internalized about the color of your skin, your hair texture, your voice, your existence as a woman of color. Self-love is a hell of a weapon! Use it, practice it, apply it, and pass it on to your friends, colleagues, and children. Break the cycle!

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