By Victoria Horsford
Billionaire/philanthropist Robert Smith was commencement speaker at Morehouse College on May 19 when he announced that he would pay for student loans for the entire Class of 2019 for about 400 men, a gift which translates to about $40 million. He created 400 debt-free Black men who can launch careers or grad school without worry. Morehouse, often referenced as the Black Harvard, is America’s only Black male HBCU, a school full of Talented Tenths! According to a NY Times piece, “Student Debt: Who Owes and How Much,” published after Smith’s gift, which says, “Recent Black college graduates owe about $8000 more than their white peers, according to a Brookings Institution study.” Essay continues, “Four years after graduation, Blacks owe an average of $53,000, almost twice as much as whites. HBCU students are more likely to take out loans for their studies because their parents have less wealth than white parents. Some loans originate with the federal government.
Robert Smith founded Vista Equity Partners in 2000, which focuses exclusively on investments in software companies. He has degrees from Cornell and Columbia Universities in engineering and business, respectively. America’s richest Black man, his net worth is estimated at $4.4 billion. He pledged $50 million to Cornell in 2016 and $40 million to the United Negro College Fund that year. Is it possible for Black American parents to clone philanthropist Robert Smith?
THE WEEK IN REVIEW
It’s hard not to link life-threatening, possibly catastrophic tornado activity, severe flooding, weather patterns and back-to-back violent storms with America’s derelict energy and conservation policies. The violent weather patterns emerge in Middle America then spreads like a virus to the coastal areas. Weather phenom is as great a threat to national security as any military opponent. Global warming is a reality that eludes the American central government bureaucracy. Weather damage to the nation’s environment is far greater than any military threat or budget. Is America’s real enemy the carbon footprint?
2020 UPDATES: NY Mayor Bill de Blasio formally announced that he is a 2020 presidential hopeful, joining 22 other Democratic hopefuls in a claustrophobic field. Hizzoner spent more than 24 days outside NY in 2019 in pre-prexy campaign mode, visiting South Carolina, Iowa and Nevada. Will he be in New York City long enough to address our measles health crisis, the city budget with scores of moving parts, due by June 30? …… Remember Michael Wolff’s 2018 best-seller book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” He has finished its sequel which is titled, “SIEGE: Trump Under Fire,” and begins with President Trump’s second year and ends with the Mueller Report which goes on sale June 4…… Book version of the Mueller Report tops the NY Times best-seller list in hardcover and paperback. Political pundits and pollsters reveal that Americans are no longer interested in the Mueller investigation. Who is lying?!
TALK OF THE TOWN/NYC
Bronx Democrat Jose Serrano, 75, announced that this is his last session in Congress owing to health problems. He has been in Congress since 1990. Local electeds are eagerly eyeing his seat, people like Assemblyman Michael Blake, City Councilmen Ritchie Torres and Ruben Diaz, Sr., who is under steady attacks by Democrats who urge him to resign from the Council for making veiled threats about his expulsion.
ALBANY: NYS Assembly will review passage of bills to curb the reach of President Trump’s pardon powers for NY prosecutors and a bill that would give Congressional Democrats access to Trump’s NYS tax returns……NYS GOP Chairman Ed Cox steps down after a 10-year reign. Wonder if 2018 GOP election results influenced the Cox exit. P.S. message to NYS Republicans: Please break with tradition and bolster financial support for your highly qualified Black candidates who are consistently dissed re: financial support during the primary and election seasons.
FILM: The 26th Annual New York African Film Festival (AFF), co-presented by Film at Lincoln Center and AFF, in association with BAM and Maysles Cinema, runs from May 23 to June 9 at the festival partners’ venues in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The festival will showcase more than 65 narrative and documentary features and shorts by filmmakers from 30 countries in Africa and the Diaspora. The festival opens at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on 5/23 with “SEW THE WINTER TO MY SKIN,” which recounts the life of Black South African John Kepe, a Robin Hood type who outwits colonizers in the 1950s. “HERO,” the feature film about Trinidadian-born Ulric Cross, a WWII war hero, opens the festival phase at Film at Lincoln Center on May 30.
NYAFF founder and Sierra Leone-born, African culture ambassador Mahen Bonetti responds to questions about the festival’s Brooklyn opening saying, “The festival commemorates many milestones in the lives of African peoples: the 25th Anniversary of genocide in Rwanda, the 50th Anniversary of the FESPACO Film Festival and the 100th Anniversary of the 1st Pan-African Congress, reflections of advocates for change and innovation, something akin to today’s artists and change agents in Brooklyn.” [Visit: Africanfilmny.org for full festival schedule]
FASHION: Register for the Harlem Fashion Week Bus Tour, “HOW CAN I GET MY DESIGNS IN A BOUTIQUE,” for fashion professionals on May 25 from 11 am to 3 pm. The Harlem Fashion Week producers, Yvonne Jewnell and Tandra Birkett, have curated this insider tour to Harlem’s most prestigious and successful fashion boutiques/houses. Chartered bus departs from the National Black Theatre, located at 2031 Fifth Avenue, Harlem. Registration necessary. [Visit: HarlemFW.com to qualify for pre-tour discount]
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s Class of 2019 includes 34 Black women, the largest Black distaff class in West Point’s 217-year history. And its September 2019 class will include even more Black women. West Point’s first class of women graduates was in 1980. More than 950 cadets will receive their commission as Army second lieutenants during the March 25 graduation ceremony.
The third sign of the zodiac, represented by Gemini twins, begins May 21. Birthday greetings to all GEMINIS in our midst, especially Curtis Archer, CEO, Harlem Community Development Corporation; Sherry Bronfman, philanthropist; Londel Davis, Sr., restauranteur; Cecelia Davidson, EHTP; Dr. Howard Dodson; Nikki Giovanni, professor/poet; Lou Gossett, Jr., actor; Ronald Grant; Bishop T.D. Jakes; Gladys Knight; Donna Walker Kuhne, publicist/blogger; Patti LaBelle; Lionel Richie; Edgar Ridley, thought leader and author of “The Golden Apple: Changing the Structure of Civilization;” Kai Sidberry; fine arts photog Ming Smith; Pierre Thiam, Teranga Restaurant; and Donald Trump.
MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND
A Memorial Day Weekend Concert, “the 369 Experience,” featuring the music of James Reese Europe, performed by band members representing more than 10 HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), will be held on Saturday, May 25, 7-8:30pm at Marcus Garvey Park, Mt. Morris Park West, between 120th-124th Streets, Harlem. Open to the public, the concert is a celebration of the Harlem Renaissance Centennial and the Harlem Hellfighters.