Priah Ferguson—An inspiration to young Black girls

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THE COURIER’S MERECEDES J. WILLIAMS interviews Priah Ferguson, left, who plays Erica Sinclair on the Netflix show “Stranger Things.”

There’s clearly no age requirement for Black Girl Magic. In recent months, we have seen a 14-year-old movie producer (Marsai Martin) and a 94-year-old icon grace the cover of Time magazine (Cicely Tyson). Now, to join the ranks and sprinkle her own magic around the world is 12-year-old Priah Ferguson.

The breakout Netfl ix star is on the verge of appear-ing in her second season on the hit show, “Stranger Things,” which will be released on Independence Day. On June 21 here in Pittsburgh, I had a chance to sit down with Ferguson and chat about some things we can expect from her in the near future.

Ferguson also threw out the first pitch at PNC Park, where the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the San Diego Padres, 2-1. Ferguson might have been a good luck charm because the Bucs went on to sweep the three-game series.

On a press tour for the third season of the science fi ction thriller, Ferguson says viewers “can expect a bigger role” from her character, Erica Sinclair. This season, Ferguson de-clares that Erica and her group of friends are “on a mission.”

Ferguson, who has also appeared in the Em-my-award winning series “Atlanta,” prepared for this role. From listening to ‘80s music to rummag-ing through her grand-mother’s photo albums, she got a pulse of what it means to be a kid 35 years ago. “I have a little bit of Erica in me,” she said.

Read more at the New Pittsburgh Courier, Priah Ferguson—An inspiration to young Black girls (Merecedes’ column July 3)

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Queen of Katwe Passes

Queen of Katwe is the colorful true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.  The film stars Golden Globe® nominee David Oyelowo, Oscar® winner and Tony Award® nominee Lupita Nyong’o and newcomer Madina Nalwanga.

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Disney’s  QUEEN OF KATWE will be showing Monday, September 19 at 7 PM at Cinemark Robinson Township. Immediately following the screening, there will be a live satellite Q&A with Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, and director Mira Nair.  Please comment below with favorite movie set in Africa.  Disney Channel’s The Color of Friendship (2000) would have to be my favorite!

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

 

Creed Passes

Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) never knew his famous father, boxing champion Apollo Creed, who died before Adonis was born. However, boxing is in his blood, so he seeks out Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and asks the retired champ to be his trainer. Rocky sees much of Apollo in Adonis, and agrees to mentor him, even as he battles an opponent deadlier than any in the ring. With Rocky’s help, Adonis soon gets a title shot, but whether he has the true heart of a fighter remains to be seen.

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Rocky returns to Pittsburgh for an advanced screening on Wednesday. November 18 at 7:30 PM at AMC Waterfront 22.  Please comment below with your favorite boxing movie.  I’ll start with mine– The Hurricane (1999).

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

Mayweather vs. Maidana 2 Passes

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Fathom Events, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Mayweather Promotions, Golden Boy Promotions and Showtime bring you the highly anticipated rematch between eleven-time world champion Floyd “Money” Mayweather and the dangerous, power-punching Marcos “El Chino” Maidana. After their thrilling fight earlier this year, which left sports fans clamoring for more, the two prizefighters will face each other again when Mayhem: Mayweather vs. Maidana 2 is broadcast LIVE from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to select movie theaters nationwide on Saturday, September 13th at 8:00 p.m.

This exciting rematch will undoubtedly test the skill and will of both fighters in this electrifying showdown that is set to finish that which was started the first time they met. Despite the brutal nature of their first meeting, Mayweather has chosen to give Maidana a chance to redeem himself and rightfully earn a victory against the undefeated champion by facing off in a rematch that is sure to bring mayhem to the ring!

Don’t miss it LIVE and on the Big Screen – where every seat is ringside!

I have tickets for the fight’s LIVE showing at Cinemark Robinson Twp.  If you’d like a pair of tickets, please comment below with your favorite boxing movie.  In true MSQ tradition, I’ll start with mine: The Hurricane (1999)

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

Draft Day

“Sometimes the correct path is the tortured one!” –Ali Parker (Jennifer Garner)

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Although the Pittsburgh Steelers reign as the only NFL team with six Super Bowl championships, one of our biggest rivalries, the Cleveland Browns, cleaned up nicely for Draft Day. The sport comedy stars Kevin Costner as Sonny Weaver, Jr., General Manager for the Browns who makes the 2014 Draft Day a crazy once when he makes a few risky deals. Draft Day’s other first round acting picks are Frank Langella, Sam Elliott, Terry Crews, Denis Leary, Josh Pence, with a special appearance from Sean “Diddy” Combs.

Die hard Steelers fans please do not fret because there were a few Steel City plugs. And yes, the movie production company could have easily made the movie about Blitzburgh. But according to many reports, even the Buffalo Bills were kicked to the curb because Ohio has cheaper production costs, so it was either the Browns or the Bengals.

Draft Day’s imagery was on point; clear, crisp, and colorful. If the deep, bright orange from the Browns franchise did not stand out, the cool spilt screens whenever two characters were talking would have done it. Of course Draft Day for NFL team executives means that you are constantly on the phone bartering and sweet-talking. So when these phone conversations occur the actors spill over into the other set or screen. Granting, it’s difficult to describe, but it was pretty impressive and innovative.

Draft Day Spilt Screen

If you were not truly inspired last year with Chadwick Boseman’s performance legendary baseballer Jackie Robinson in 42, then you are delusional. Nonetheless, Boseman inspiringly plays another athlete, Vontae Mack, in Draft Day. Mack is a humble yet effective Southern defensive football player who is fighting for his spot on the Browns’ roster. Boseman, along with other young Black actors like Michael B. Jordan, Jaden Smith, and Tristan Wilds, have hit the movie scene with a vengeance, displaying strength and great appeal.

I love Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner together. They were like the underdog couple. Rightfully, women are supposed to meet a nice guy, get to know him, get married, have children, and live happily ever after. Realistically, it does not always work out like that. In Draft Day that is exactly what happened with Sonny Weaver and Ali Parker. Between work ethics around fraternizing and personal grief, the biggest task is for the two to come to a common understanding about their relationship. Costner is a charming as he was in The Bodyguard (1992), and Garner has proven herself as the adorable girl from around the corner.

4 STARS: An awesome football and family story about a smaller city built on tradition and sports similar to Pittsburgh.

Draft Day 2

Grudge Match

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Warner Brothers Pictures has been on a consistent roll in 2013 with great movies like Gravity, Prisoners, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but the movie production company fell short with boxing movie, Grudge Match. Pittsburgh retired boxing rivalries Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro) and Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) settle their 30-year grudge with one last fight.

Funny man Kevin Hart also stars in the movie as the modern day Don King, Dante Slate, Jr., who sets up and promotes the long awaited fight. No matter the role, Kevin Hart always seems to plays Kevin Hart. I think we have put Kevin Hart in this funny box and now it is almost impossible for him to get out. In Grudge Match, he was trying really hard to be funny. And while I chuckled at some of his redundancy, I also wonder how great he’d be in a more serious role.

The most disappointing part of the movie is that although it claimed to be based in the Steel City, the movie was actually filmed in New Orleans. A real Pittsburgher, like myself, can not be easily fooled. The movie has a couple of quick still shots of Downtown Pittsburgh and the steel mills. Other than that, it’s clear that Grudge Match was no where near here.

I’m predicting a box office flop. The movie isn’t great and Grudge Match will be up against some other great contenders on Christmas Day. Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a New York stock broker, is a raunchy and high speed story about a wealthy lifestyle that leads to Wall Street corruption, mob association and federal indictment.

Also coming out on December 25th is the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Director Ben Stiller stars as Walter Mitty, a LIFE magazine employee who’s facing being laid off as the magazine suspends it’s hard copies issues and goes completely digital. Walter Mitty’s spacey imagination causes him to zone out and after an unforeseen circumstance, he must come back to reality. Ben Stiller is serious yet still laughable. The movie is different, cool and can be enjoyed by the entire family.

2 STARS: I expected more from Grudge Match, but nothing was exciting about two old rivalries boxing in their 60s.

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42 (4.11.13)

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42 is the only number in Major League Baseball that has been retired. No other major league baseball player can bare that number. This clause alone speaks volumes to impact that Jackie Robinson and his wife, Rachel, had on the league. Even after his death in 1956, Rachel Robinson kept her late husband’s legacy alive through the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

On April 8th, the kids and I were simply amazed by his story. Any person who has even scratched the surface of African American History, knows Jackie Robinson was the first African American to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball. But at times, his strength, his self-control, and overall knowledge of baseball are overlooked with the title.

“You give me a uniform, you give me a number on my back, and I’ll give you the guts.”
Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), MLB executive, was convinced that professional baseball was ready for a Black player. He wanted someone who was strong enough to endure the backlash, name calling, and ridicule. But he also wanted someone just as strong enough to ignore. There’s a scene where Phillies GM Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) spewed racial slurs at Jackie Robinson every time he went up to bat. Chapman taunted him with words like “monkey”, “nigger”, and “Bojangles”. Mr. Rickey, as he was often referred to in the movie, reassured Jackie that Chapman’s ignorance only made fans sympathize more with his struggle. Before agreeing to sign the contract, Jackie Robinson reassured Mr. Rickey that although he would be tested, he would be strong enough to refrain from retaliations or rebuttals.

“Don’t get carried away, Mr. Rickey, that’s still a nigger out there!”
Mr. Rickey caught major slack when he insisted on acquiring an African American baseball player. One of the coaches quickly displayed his feeling towards Jackie Robinson when he reminded his superior that newest member of the team was just a “nigger.” Even quicker, Mr. Rickey dismissed his comments and reassured the coach that everyone must become familiar with Jackie Robinson’s presence on the roster and overcome any racial prejudice that they possess in order to accept him on the team. Racism, undoubtedly, was the biggest topic of the movie. It reminds us that Jackie Robinson forced baseball athletes, executives, and fans in 1947 to question the validity of their hatred towards African Americans. Posing questions like…How do I support the game I love when it uplifts the people I hate? Is it acceptable to allow African Americans play amongst their White counterparts in baseball? Does my hatred for others dictate my behaviors, even if means ruining something I enjoy? It seems as if the movie answers these questions. Of course not all racist Baseball lovers became non-racist after 1947, but Jackie Robinson’s presence generated those questions which are relevance enough.

“Your enemy will come out with force and you can’t meet him on his own ground.”
Jackie Robinson faced many enemies, some even on his own team. Players that did not want to share the locker room with him. Baseball managers that did not want to share the mound with him. Fans that did not want see the Brooklyn Dodgers with a Black man on the bench. None of those stipulations stopped Jackie Robinson from establishing himself as one of the best baseball players of all time. In complete silence, he was able to perplex pitchers with his swift feet, amaze little White boys with mound rituals, and stun the world with unpredictable game statistics. It’s clear that Jackie Robinson did NOT meet the enemy on their own ground Instead, he created the playing field and raised the bar in baseball.

“God built me to last”
It’s clear that strength is the minimum requirement you must have in order to break a color barrier with any major entity. Jackie Robinson, in many different instances in the movie, he would say: “GOD BUILT ME TO LAST.” This constant phrase is not only reassurance for a young Black man from Cairo, Georgia but also to his friends and family who were concerned about his safety. The statement means Jackie Robinson, no matter what the adversary, can overcome the hurdle or difference. Regardless of your religious affiliation, if you declare that the highest power you proclaim has created you to endure any and every thing, then only solidifies your endurance and perseverance. (I think I have a new catch phrase!)

The cast was incredible! Harrison Ford reminds you that the acting profession is ageless. 42 introduces you to some bright, beautiful Black faces like Chadwick Boseman, Nicole Beharie, and Andre Holland. The movie hit an immediate hometown soft spot with its many references to Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Pirates, a baseball organization founded in 1887, was an arch revival of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Pirates Pitcher threw pitches aiming at Jackie Robinson’s head. Of course certain parts of the movies were embellished for production, but Jackie Robinson was hit in the head with fast moving baseballs. (That’s would have been my last day as a major league baseball player)

My favorite Pittsburgh connection was Wendell Smith, former Pittsburgh Courier sports reporter. There are always those hometown stories that don’t get as much publicity as the Jackie Robinson stories. But, Wendell Smith, an African American reporter, was not allowed to sit in the Whites Only press box. Smith was the first African American reporter to join the Baseball Writers Association of America. He was influential in Mr. Rickey’s decision to sign Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers. Wendell Smith also traveled with Jackie Robinson his first two years in the league because segregation laws would not allow either to stay in hotels.

5 STARS: This is not just African-American History…this is AMERICAN HISTORY! The movie brought to life the Major League Baseball in 1947 and its biggest glory of breaking the color line in baseball. Jackie Robinson forever changed the game!!!

42 “hits” theatres tomorrow, April 12th! Check it out!

42-JR

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