- Created on 07 May 2013
NEWARK, N.J. — Grammy-winning singer Lauryn Hill stood in federal court Monday and compared her experience in the music business to the slavery her ancestors endured before a judge sentenced her to three months in prison for failing to pay about $1 million in taxes over the past decade.
"I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them," Hill said before U.S. Magistrate Madeline Cox Arleo. "I had an economic system imposed on me."
Hill, who started singing with the Fugees as a teenager in the 1990s before releasing her multiplatinum 1998 album "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill," pleaded guilty last year to failing to pay taxes on more than $1.8 million earned from 2005 to 2007. Monday's sentencing also took into account unpaid state and federal taxes in 2008 and 2009 that brought the total earnings to about $2.3 million.
Despite having paid more than $900,000 in the past several days, Hill still owes interest and penalties, the U.S. attorney's office said.
In a forceful but controlled statement to the judge punctuated by occasional raps with her first on the podium, Hill described how she failed to pay taxes during a period when she'd dropped out of the music business to protect herself and her children, who now number six.
She said the treatment she received while she was in the entertainment business led to her decision to leave it.
"There were veiled threats, there was blacklisting," she said, without giving specifics. "I was told, 'That's how it goes, it comes with the territory.' I came to be perceived as a cash cow and not a person. When people capitalize on a persona, they forget there is a person in there."
In addition to serving three months in prison, Hill must pay a $60,000 fine. After she is released from prison, she will be under parole supervision for a year, the first three months of which will be spent under home confinement.
The 37-year-old South Orange resident had faced a maximum sentence of one year each on three counts of failing to file taxes. Her attorney had sought probation, arguing that Hill's charitable works, her family circumstances and the fact she paid back the taxes she owed should merit consideration.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Moser acknowledged Hill's creative talent and work on behalf of impoverished children but called Hill's explanation for her actions "a parade of excuses centering around her feeling put upon" that don't exempt her from her responsibilities.
"She wasn't interested in all those years in paying what she owed," Moser told the judge.
At the time of her arrest last year, Hill wrote a criticism rejecting pop culture's "climate of hostility, false entitlement, manipulation, racial prejudice, sexism and ageism."
"Over-commercialization and its resulting restrictions and limitations can be very damaging and distorting to the inherent nature of the individual," Hill wrote. "I did not deliberately abandon my fans, nor did I deliberately abandon any responsibilities, but I did however put my safety, health and freedom and the freedom, safety and health of my family first over all other material concerns! I also embraced my right to resist a system intentionally opposing my right to whole and integral survival."
Hill is to report to prison by July 8. It's not clear where she'll serve her sentence. She didn't comment after the sentencing.
She said in a recent post online that she has signed a recording contract with Sony.
"She is looking forward to putting her case behind her and getting back to her music and creating again," attorney Nathan Hochman said.
- Created on 03 May 2013
NEW YORK — Saxophonist-composer Wayne Shorter is a triple winner in the 2013 Jazz Awards presented by the Jazz Journalists Association.
Shorter was a member of Miles Davis' legendary mid-1960s quintet and co-founded the fusion band Weather Report. He won awards for lifetime achievement in jazz, top soprano saxophonist and best small ensemble.
Veteran trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith has been recognized as jazz musician of the year and best trumpeter. Smith's civil rights-themed composition "Ten Freedom Summers" was a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist.
The JJA said in an announcement Wednesday the Album of the Year award went to newcomer Ryan Truesdell, for "Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans." His Gil Evans Project band was chosen
- Created on 02 May 2013
“In The Hive,” a film based on a true story, is the latest project produced and directed by Chicagoan Robert Townsend. It is also notable as the last performance by fellow Chicagoan Michael Clarke Duncan but the impact of the film reaches across the country in the midst of inner city desperation and teen violence.
At first glance some might attempt to write this film off as a preachy melodrama but “In the Hive” is captivating film with dramatic moments and magnetic performances from new and established faces that keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
“The Hive” is an actual alternative school for at-risk teens, boys who have been kicked out of other schools and no school will accept them due to behavior or learning issues. “The Hive” is their last chance.
The film centers around a young man, Xtra Keys, who is raised in an environment of destructive behavior and through tough love from the Hive staff seeks to make different choices even while his home life fights against the change. The role of Xtra is played by Jonathan “Lil J” McDaniel, a name and face to look out for in the future. I assumed he was a new actor but young audiences will know him as the boyfriend from the Disney hit television series “That’s So Raven.”
In the early stages of the film he is so convincingly menacing you would assume that was all he could offer but as we move along in the story he is equally sensitive in trying to keep his dysfunctional family together.
His mother, played by Vivica Fox, is a desperate woman who uses her body to leverage their survival, desperately chasing men “for a few dollars” or an opportunity. There is a scene where she comes into the trailer where they live drunk with her new “boyfriend.” When the boyfriend leaves for the bathroom she attempts to have a normal conversation with her son about his day but is constantly interrupted by a sexually suggestive conversation yelled from the bathroom by the boyfriend of the moment. The scene is powerful.
Most of the young men in the film are believable, including a good performance by Percy Daggs III who portrays a charismatic drug dealer attempting to charm his way thru life while ignoring the pain of his home life. The always scene-stealing Loretta Devine is tough and loving as Ms. Inez, the founder of the Hive who gives Xtra a humorous lesson in spelling profanity after he defaces school property.
The stand out performance is by the now-deceased Michael Clarke Duncan. Most films featured Duncan only for his menacing size but in this role we see a multi-dimensional character who is unafraid to show he cares about the kids but willing to step to them when they get out of line. This is his best and most complete work on film.
“In The Hive” is a good film but this is a movie that parents and teens can equally enjoy and most importantly it’s a film teenagers will go to school talking about to their friends and that is what good movies are truly supposed to do.
- Created on 02 May 2013
There is a lot of controversy connected to the unauthorized Nina Simone biopic movie due out later this year. Simone was an internationally renowned singer, songwriter and pianist in the ‘60s and ‘70s. She used her music to not only entertain but to speak out against racial and social injustice.
Many of your favorite singers today name Simone as a major influence. A movie regarding her life is long overdue.
The controversy surrounds actress Zoe Saldana being chosen for the lead role of Nina Simone. Many people have argued that she is not Black and/or not dark. According to her industry bio, Saldana’s father is Dominican and her mother is Puerto Rican. It is inarguable that Simone faced issues, which she described numerously, based on her skin color throughout her life and career.
Saldana is a fine actress, and has played a leading role in several high profile films: “Columbiana,” “Avatar” and “Star Trek.” Seemingly Hollywood has given Saldana the stamp of approval. She gives the Nina Simone movie currency and international market value with the mass movie-going audience of 18-34 year olds. As a producer, looking at the selection solely from a business standpoint, this is a great choice. Also as an actress who has been given a great challenge, Saldana will throw herself into the role and do a great job in it with the exception of one uncontrollable detail: She is not a dark skinned actress.
Normally this should not be an issue, except in this particular instance Simone was a woman who defined herself and saw the world attempting to define her in negative ways by her dark skin and full lips - neither of which Saldana possesses. It would be like making a movie about Shaquille O’Neal and having “Diff’rent Strokes” star Gary Coleman portray him in the movie. Here is a man defined by his prodigious size represented in a film by a man known for his diminutive stature. This portrayal gives no context to the essence or struggle of the man in his life.
This selection is less a slight to Simone and more a condemnation of the Hollywood movie system. The harsh reality is there is no dark skinned actress in the United States that has mass box office appeal to “open” this film. This speaks to a greater concern of dark skinned women being seen as attractive and marketable. When examined historically there has never been a dark skinned woman marketed as a sex symbol in movies or music. Think Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Halle Berry, Vanessa Williams, Beyonce, never.
This unauthorized bio has producers with credits such as “8 Mile” and “Get Rich or Die Trying.” A name of note here is Jimmy Iovine, president of Interscope Records. Interscope first came to prominence in the urban market with Dr. Dre, Snoop, Tupac and Suge Knight, known as Death Row Records. Enough said here on cultural sensitivity.
The film is going forward will be critically reviewed - including by this writer - as to the quality of the film, which clearly can’t be done at this point. The producers are entitled to their selection and again the hang up is on one particular film as opposed to the greater issue.
Those concerned should be finding a way to express the fullness of beauty in the spectrum of Black women so another dark skinned girl doesn’t grow up fighting the same demons. That would most likely bring a smile to Simone’s face and make her proud.
- Created on 02 May 2013
Chicago native Chef Josh Marks stands tall in the culinary arts world. Being over seven feet tall, he towers over everyone in the room but it is his food that has everyone looking up these days.
If you’re a fan of the television reality show “Master Chef,” you remember Marks and his Rocky-like rise on the culinary program. He auditioned for the show in Chicago simply because he was in town for his sister’s birthday, then he got voted off in the middle of the competition. He later earned his way back on the show and then his climatic final “cook off” landed him a second place finish.
Not only was Josh praised for his ability to create masterpiece, one-of-kind dishes, but his humility and willingness to absorb comments and critiques earned him numerous praise from the judges. I caught up with Josh to find out more about him.
Chicago Defender: When did you first start cooking?
Josh Marks: I really first started really cooking in my sophomore year of college. You’re living on your own and you have to eat so that's where it started for me.
CD: What was the first dish you prepared that let you know you had a gift for cooking?
JM: It’s not the most glamorous of dishes but it was chili. Once I was able to master some of the flavor aspects of cooking, that’s when I knew I was ready to go to the next level.
CD: What’s the one thing people don’t know about reality shows from the behind the scenes.
JM: It’s being sequestered or away from people, your family and friends for an extended period of time, in my case almost two months.
CD: What did you learn from being on “Master Chef”?
JM: I learned so much about the business of food. From working on food trucks to cooking for hundreds of people. I got a crash course in all the elements of the business. Most people would have to go years to put all that information together. I got it in a couple of months.
CD: You became the national spokesperson for Real Men Cook, a longstanding event held on Father’s Day. When did you first hear about it and how did you get involved?
JM: I attended Real Men Cook events when I was a high school student at Dunbar (Vocational High School). I was impressed with seeing men cooking and serving the community and the impact that it had. Once I had the exposure of “Master Chef “I knew my next move would be something where I could help people through food so it was a natural for me to become involved with Real Men Cook.
CD: What have you being doing since the show?
JM: I came back to Chicago to be announced as the spokesperson for Real Men Cook and prepared a meal for over 50 people at Macy’s that won praises. That was huge for me to be able to get back to Chicago and share my cooking with people there. I was also in Chicago as one of the main celebrity chefs for the “Chicago Best of Food and Wine” show.
CD: What’s next for you?
JM: I’m coming back to Chicago to meet with investors to open my cooking school, growing my commitment to Real Men Cook, and I have a line of seasonings that I am marketing. I really want to help people and change lives. Television is another avenue I want to explore more as I have seen how it reaches people.
CD: What’s the message you most want to leave people with?
JM: Everyone has a gift and talent in life. People assume because I’m seven feet tall that basketball would be mine but I found my love and passion and it’s food. Food is the one art form that can bring people together – even the most uncommon people. Everyone can enjoy a good meal and once you have people sitting down together the possibilities of bringing them together is endless.