Meet Megan Piphus Peace, Sesame Street’s First Black Woman Puppeteer
Sesame Street is still making history despite having been on the air for 53 years. In 2020, the acclaimed children’s show hired its very first Black woman puppeteer. Megan Piphus Peace officially started her stint in September 2021 when she began voicing the character of Gabrielle, a 6-year-old Black girl, as reported by Revolt.
Prior to starting her new job, Peace had no idea she was making history on Sesame Street. “I would have cried like a baby on the 123 steps if they had told me beforehand,” she told Because Of Them We Can. “The sets of Sesame Street are like walking into a fantasy. To be there is really something.”
The 29-year-old first learned about puppetry when she was 10 during a conference with her Vacation Bible School teacher in Illinois. She could immediately relate to some of her favorite TV shows such as Sesame Street and Lamb Chop’s Play Along. Her mother supported her love for the art by providing her VHS tapes where she could learn puppetry. In elementary school was when Peace started performing and found her passion for entertainment.
At just 15 years old, she was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, marking the beginning of a successful career in puppetry and the first of many TV appearances. She performed on America’s Got Talent and also appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, according to Because Of Them We Can.
“What I consider the magic of ventriloquism is getting to share that experience with someone else and have them believe that our conversations are real,” Peace told the outlet. “I realized what an impact the writing could have on the audience, and that every age could learn something from the show. From then on, my goal was to have a theme… woven into every performance.”
Peace attended college at Vanderbilt University, where she became known as the “Vanderbilt Ventriloquist.” After graduating with a master’s in finance, she started a career in real estate. She kept practicing her passion for puppeteering by performing on TV shows. In 2019, she worked with the University of Cincinnati on a musical series teaching children financial literacy. Her work made her win two Emmys – one for best composition and one for best children’s short.
Actress Nichelle Nichols, ‘Star Trek’s’ trail blazing Uhura, dies at 89
Nichelle Nichols, whose portrayal of starship communications officer Lieutenant Uhura in the 1960s sci-fi TV series “Star Trek” and subsequent movies broke color barriers and helped redefine roles for Black actors, has died at age 89, her family said.
Nichols, whose fans included Martin Luther King Jr. and a young Barack Obama, “succumbed to natural causes and passed away” on Saturday night, her son, Kyle Johnson, wrote on Facebook.
“Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from and draw inspiration,” Johnson wrote.
The series, which became a pop culture phenomenon, shattered stereotypes common on U.S. television at the time by casting Black and minority actors in high-profile roles on the show.
In 1968 she and “Star Trek” star William Shatner broke a cultural barrier when they engaged in U.S. television’s first interracial kiss.
She had planned to quit “Star Trek” after one season, but King, the 1960s civil rights leader, convinced her to stay because it was so revolutionary to have a Black woman playing an important senior crew member at a time when Black people were fighting for equality in American society.
Nichols also helped break color barriers at NASA, whose leaders were “Star Trek” fans. After she criticized the space agency for failing to pick qualified women and minorities as astronauts, it hired Nichols in the 1970s to help in recruiting.
Her efforts helped attract, among others, the first woman U.S. astronaut, Sally Ride; the first Black woman astronaut, Mae Jemison; and the first Black NASA chief, Charlie Bolden.
Nichols “symbolized to so many what was possible” and “inspired generations to reach for the stars,” NASA said on Twitter.
Nichols’ portrayal of the competent, level-headed Uhura also helped inspire future Black actors, including Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg. Nichols recalled Goldberg telling her of watching “Star Trek” as a 9-year-old, seeing her playing Uhura, and yelling out to her mother: “Come quick! There’s a Black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!'”
Robert Wynn Award for NAIC/BetterInvesting Club Leadership
Prosperous and enduring investment clubs frequently have a very important trait in common: tireless leaders dedicated to promoting investment education. These determined leaders are the heartbeat of their clubs, inspiring and empowering their club’s members to reach their financial goals. They do much more than simply run the club’s meetings – they strive to lift up all members. They preach the BetterInvesting core principles and time-tested methodology. Ultimately, the finest leaders encourage club members to learn the Online Stock Tools Suite, often through fun and unique educational programming.
To recognize these exceptional club leaders, NAIC/BetterInvesting CEO Ken Zendel established the Robert Wynn Award for NAIC/BetterInvesting Club Leadership in 2022. Inspired by Robert (Bob) Wynn, the award honors his financial literacy efforts and passion for investment education.
During the past four decades, Wynn has promoted the benefits of investment club membership on a nearly daily basis. He is dedicated to the empowerment of those in underserved communities, knowing that investment club membership can be life changing. The creation of more than 30 Wisconsin-based investment clubs is one of the many results from Wynn’s initiatives. As stated, when he was awarded the George A. Nicholson Jr. Distinguished Service Award in Investment Education, Wynn is “best characterized by his dedication to programs that have introduced everyday Americans, including our youth, to sound principles of building wealth and managing personal finances.”
BetterInvesting will recognize club leaders who exemplify his leadership, while guiding a BetterInvesting club; leaders who go above and beyond as advocates of BetterInvesting by facilitating investment education at a grass roots level, and by doing so, further the mission of BetterInvesting.
The award may be presented annually and to more than one recipient. Any BetterInvesting club member is eligible to be nominated for the award. Outstanding nominees should demonstrate innovative and enduring club leadership techniques, as well as successful recruitment and retention of new members.
To lean more or to nominate a club leader for the Wynn Award for NAIC/BetterInvesting Club Leadership, please email your nomination to ClubLeaderAward@betterinvesting.org.
Black News Channel is now theGrio
It’s official: Black News Channel is now theGrio. After the acquisition last month of Black News Channel by Allen Media Group, which owns theGrio, Byron Allen’s company hopes to mark a bold new era for Black-owned media.
The programming transition from Black News Channel to theGrio occurred Aug. 1.
A trusted source of news for the Black community for nearly a decade, the online brand will officially pivot to television. According to Comscore, in two of the last three months, theGrio was ranked the number one Black/African American targeted news site.
In June, the site was among the Top 50 general news sites in the nation. With over 7.4 million average visitors per month, theGrio’s reporting and commentary are delivered by top award-winning journalists, including April Ryan, Michael Harriot, Marc Lamont Hill, Touré and Natasha Alford.
“This is the ultimate destination for the world’s best talent and content,” said Byron Allen, the proud founder, chairman and CEO of Allen Media Group. “Unfiltered African American voices are more needed today than ever before, and theGrio is one-thousand percent committed to amplifying our perspectives and culture worldwide.”
With Allen’s acquisition of Black News Channel, theGrio will build upon an Allen Media Group goal of targeting Black audiences everywhere they consume information and over-index: On and via cable, over the air, streaming, mobile, social media, podcasts, websites and via in-person events.
TheGrio Channel will deliver news as it happens, as well as award-winning movies, sports, lifestyle programs and classic TV shows focused on the African American community. Per the channel’s statement, “we will provide Black history and honor achievements all through the Black cultural perspective.”
A new dictionary will document the lexicon of African American English
Black Americans have long contributed to the ways in which the English language is used, and now a new research project aims to compile the first Oxford Dictionary of African American English.
“Finally we will have a space that recognizes our language in a way that encompasses all the people within African American language communities,” said Sonja Lanehart, a linguistics professor at the University of Arizona who grew up in the South.
“If we look at some present words, we can think of something like woke and hip, cool, bad meaning good.”
The research project is a collaboration between Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and Oxford University Press, with Lanehart among the advising editors.
Although there have been projects like this in the past, Lanehart said none had attempted to focus on African American language varieties at this magnitude.
“It will be much more expansive and inclusive of the language as opposed to [just] some words here and there,” she said. And instead of just defining or spelling the words, the project will also provide some historical context.
“The etymology of a word and the history of the word is extremely important … in understanding how a language has developed, evolved, and who’s been a part of it,” Lanehart said.
Supported in part by grants from the Mellon and Wagner foundations, the project is one of the most well-funded efforts of its kind. Researchers will pull from documents including flyers, books, and newspapers. They will also draw from music, oral histories, and most notably for Lanehart – social media.
This Enslaved Black Engineer Offered His Invention to Purchase His Freedom
As an enslaved engineer, Benjamin Bradley (Bordley) was denied the chance to patent his invention of the primary steam engine highly effective sufficient to run a battle ship. Finally, he offered his engine to realize his freedom, propelling ahead a lifetime of ingenuity and creativity as certainly one of many neglected Black inventors.
Born into slavery within the early 1830s in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, Benjamin Bordley allegedly realized to learn and write from his grasp’s kids. Later in life, white authors would go on to incorrectly write his final identify as “Bradley”, an error that was continued by historians to at the present time, in keeping with the African American registry, a non-profit that archives tradition and contributions from Black People.
In the meantime, it wasn’t till he was introduced in to work at a printing workplace at age 16 that his engineering prowess grew to become recognized. Utilizing only a gun barrel, pewter, spherical metal, and different supplies at his disposal, the curious inventive constructed a steam engine, impressing his slaveholder, John T. Hammond and launching a legacy for different Black inventors to comply with.
Intrigued by the talents of a younger, enslaved teen, Hammond enlisted Bradley to assist out on the Division of Pure and Experimental Philosophy on the Naval Academy at Annapolis. Whereas many of the cash he earned went to Hammond, the slaveholder allowed Bradley to maintain $5 a month for himself.
Whereas on the Academy, Benjamin Bradley (Bordley) helped arrange science experiments involving chemical gases. He additionally continued to construct steam engines, promoting one mannequin to “midshipmen.” Utilizing the cash he earned from promoting his engine and from working on the Academy, Bradley went on to develop the primary steam engine massive sufficient to energy the primary “cutter of a sloop-of-war” that might exceed speeds of 16 knots, a tremendous accomplishment on the time.
Once more, he offered this new and improved mannequin to a classmate, which gave him the proceeds he wanted to develop an engine for the primary steam-powered warship. Regardless of his accomplishment, U.S. legal guidelines stopping enslaved Africans from proudly owning patents meant Black inventors like Benjamin Bradley (Bordley) would by no means obtain the credit score he deserved, a report from the American Bar Affiliation reveals. But, that didn’t cease him from utilizing his saved funds and cash he gained by means of promoting his invention to buy his freedom for roughly $1,000.
Remembering Geoffrey Wallace
University of Wisconsin-Madison
La Follette School professor Geoffrey Wallace passed away unexpectedly on July 16. Wallace’s contributions to the La Follette School were extensive and extraordinary.
In addition to his brilliant research and teaching on race, inequality, and poverty, Wallace has been a leader in the transformational changes occurring at the La Follette School. Particularly noteworthy was his service as the Kohl Chair of Undergraduate Policy Instruction, where he guided the design and delivery the school’s first undergraduate certificate programs.
As an economist, Wallace studied issues related to labor, marriage, and the family, especially entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Wallace identified disparities in ability to accumulate resources for retirement, a precarious time for many older Americans. He found that retirees face rather low probabilities of experiencing health shocks early in retirement, but racial minorities, retirees with low levels of education, and people who retired on Social Security Disability Insurance are at substantial risk for shocks to physical and cognitive health. In 2018, Wallace received the Jerry and Mary Cotter Faculty Fellowship for his research on cognitive impairment among older people in the United States and the implications for household wealth.
Originally from Milwaukee, Wallace received his doctorate in economics from Northwestern University and joined the UW–Madison faculty in 2000. Wallace led an active life, and loved playing soccer with his team, the Husky Lads. He also played golf in the Middleton golf league and enjoyed cycling around Dane County. He is survived by his wife, two sons, and many other loving family members.
A memorial service for Wallace will be held at a later date, and he will be honored at the La Follette School’s 2023 Alumni & Friends Reception. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his honor to Millennium Soccer Club of Madison or Neighborhood House of Milwaukee.
Bill Russell, basketball legend with record 11 NBA titles, dies at 88
Bill Russell, one of basketball’s legendary players, has died at age 88. The announcement was posted on his verified Twitter account.
Russell won more NBA titles than any player in history. All eleven were with the Boston Celtics. As a five-time league MVP, he changed the game, making shot-blocking a key component on defense. And he was a Black athlete who spoke out against racial injustice when it was not as common as it is today.
To understand this man and superlative athlete, it helps to remember a parent’s lesson.
One day when Bill Russell was 9, he was outside his apartment in the projects in Oakland, Calif. Five boys ran by and one slapped him in the face. He and his mother went looking for the group, and when they found them, young Bill expected mom justice. Instead, Katie Russell said: Fight them, one at a time. He won two, lost three. In a 2013 interview for the Civil Rights History Project, Russell said his mother’s message to her teary son changed his life.
“And she says, ‘Don’t cry,’ ” Russell said. ” ‘You did what you’re supposed to do. [It] doesn’t matter whether you won or lost. [What matters is] you stood up for yourself. And that’s what you must always do.’ “
Russell certainly did on the basketball court — where he blossomed late but ended up revolutionizing the game.
By 1963, in this NBA Finals game, Russell was a shot-blocking menace, which represented a sea change in the game.
The adage always had been: No good defensive player leaves his feet. In the 1950s, his coach at the University of San Francisco believed that. But Russell didn’t. He was also a track and field high jumper, and it seemed perfectly reasonable to try to elevate in basketball as well.