Gilbert Baker created the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag. Here’s what his creation stood for.

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Today’s Google Doodle commemorates Baker’s 66th birthday — and the flag that made him famous.

This Friday’s Google Doodle is honoring Gilbert Baker’s 66th birthday.

Baker is someone most people likely aren’t familiar with, even though they’ve probably seen his work many, many times — particularly in the next 28 days as the world celebrates LGBTQ Pride Month. He invented the rainbow flag.

Google’s timing is notable: Not only is it LGBTQ Pride Month, but Baker died earlier this year, on March 31.

So how did Baker come up with the flag, and what does it mean, anyway?

The flag was meant to replace an earlier symbol for gay people with horrific roots: the pink triangle. This was the symbol that the Nazis used to mark people who were sent to concentration camps for their homosexuality and other supposed sexual deviancy.

The pink triangle has been used by some LGBTQ organizations, such as Act Up (which was founded during the early HIV/AIDS crisis), in an attempt to reclaim it from its terrible origins.

But not everyone is comfortable with it. “It came from the Nazis. It was put on us,” Baker told In the Life Media in 2009. “It had a really horrible, negative origin about murder and [the] Holocaust.”

So Baker, who taught himself how to sew (in part so he could dress like David Bowie), came up with the Rainbow Flag in 1978.

As Clive Moore wrote in Sunshine and Rainbows: Development of Gay and Lesbian Culture in Queensland, “Bright colors have always been forms of gay identification, particularly green, yellow, pink, lavender and purple.” Baker latched onto this history to create a new symbol in the Rainbow Flag.

Continue onto Vox to read more about Baker and what the flag represents.

Rapper Residente partners with scientists to create music with brain patterns

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Rapper Residente sitting on couch dresed in black and baseball cap

Grammy-winning rapper Residente has some new collaborators on his upcoming album: scientists. The Puerto Rican performer said he studied intensely with professors at Yale University and New York University to read brain patterns in worms, mice, monkeys, fruit flies and even hitmaker Bad Bunny to create his second solo project.

“(The album is) going to be about everything that I have inside of my head … because of that I kept brainstorming and I said, ‘Oh I have to study my brain, and then I have to study other people’s brains, and then I have to study animals’ brains,'” he said.

Daniel Alfonso Colón-Ramos, an associate professor of neuroscience at Yale, said Residente spent days at the school doing research.

“We were joking that we should give him a diploma,” said Colón-Ramos.

On campus, they used electroencephalogram (EEG) tests on worms to track and record brain wave patterns.

“Without harming the animals we can actually see as the animal is thinking, as it’s moving, as it’s exploring its environment, we can see individual cells talking into each other. It turns out when these cells, when these neurons talk to each other they’re using rhythms to communicate — we call it rhythms of activity. But, at the end of the day, those rhythms can be turned into music,” Colón-Ramos said.

The untitled album will be released in November. Residente, born René Juan Pérez Joglar, worked with Suzanne Dikker, a senior research scientist in NYU’s Department of Psychology, to use EEG tests on himself and Bad Bunny to produce the album’s first single, “Bellacoso.”

Continue on to NBC News to read the complete article.

40th College Television Awards Submission Period Begins Sept. 5

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College Television Awards logo

The Television Academy Foundation Awards Ceremony Celebrates Student-Produced Programs From Colleges Nationwide. The submission period for the Television Academy Foundation’s 40th College Television Awards is Sept. 5 through Oct. 3, 2019.

Each year hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students, representing colleges and universities nationwide, submit their media projects to television’s most prestigious student competition—the Television Academy Foundation’s College Television Awards.

The College Television Awards honors achievement in student-produced programs and will feature stars from today’s top television shows presenting awards to winners at the red-carpet awards ceremony.

Emulating the Emmy® Awards selection process, entries for the College Television Awards are judged by Television Academy members. Top honors and a $3,000 cash prize will be presented to winning teams in eight categories: drama, comedy, animation, nonfiction, promotional, news, sports and variety. The College Television Awards also includes two additional, donor-supported, categories: the Seymour Bricker Humanitarian Award and the Loreen Arbus Focus on Disability Scholarship.

In addition to the awards ceremony, the nominees will take part in a three-day television summit hosted by the Television Academy Foundation. The summit, designed to enhance professional development, will feature panel discussions, studio tours and networking opportunities with industry executives and Academy members.

The College Television Awards often serves as an entry point for a career in television for nominees and winners. Past alumni have worked as editors, writers, producers and other positions on programs including Ray Donovan, The Handmaid’s Tale, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, CBS This Morning, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Grey’s Anatomy, 60 Minutes, Empire and many more.

For additional information, visit TelevisionAcademy.com/CTA.

To read the complete article continue on to The Patch.

See Cardi B & Chance The Rapper In The Trailer For Netflix’s New Hip-Hop Competition Series

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Cardi B, Chance the Rapper and TI sitting in chais onstage

Netflix recently premiered the first teaser for the new hip-hop competition show, Rhythm + Flow, during Cardi B’s set at Philadelphia’s Made In America festival.

The trailer shows Cardi, Chance The Rapper, and T.I. as judges on the series. “Creativity doesn’t have blueprints,” Chance says in the new clip. Cardi adds, “It’s gonna be litty.”

The first four episodes of the three-week, 10-episode series hits Netflix on 10/9.

These Rhythm + Flow audition episodes will take place in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Atlanta. On 10/16, three more episodes will be released, featuring cyphers, rap battles, and music videos.

The final three episodes, premiering 10/23, will focus on samples, collaborations, and declaring “the next hip-hop sensation.”

Continue on to Stereogum to read the complete article

WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge Unveils New Origami Exhibit with STEM Focus

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Young girl proudly holding an origami that she made

WonderWorks, located in Pigeon Forge, is adding more fun and educational opportunities. The new feature will have an origami exhibit that has an education focus on math (STEM).

The STEM exhibit will introduce people to how math is related to the art of origami. The new exhibit is available to the public that began on August 25, 2019, and is included with the regular admission price.

“The origami exhibit just adds another element to help us achieve our core objectives as a company,” says Ed Shaffer, general manager for WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge. “We always strive to make sure our guests have fun and make memories to cherish, but we also hope they learn a little something along the way.”

The origami exhibit is education-focused, providing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning opportunities. Origami, which originated in Japan, is the art of folding paper in a sequence to get a particular shape. What many people don’t realize is that origami has a strong connection with math and can help kids understand math concepts better. This is because origami designs contain complex geometric patterns, angles, and shapes. Origami is believed to help improve student’s skills, by strengthening their understanding of geometry, fractions, and improving problem solving skills.

The origami exhibit will be a new addition to the Gallery of Wonders, which currently also offers a series of optical illusion artwork pieces that will adorn the attractions  second floor. The artwork pieces contain hidden objects, riddles, and will challenge people. Optical illusions trick the eye and give people a chance to explore different perspectives.

“Educational value is a big part of our attraction. With a constant stream of school groups and field trips of all kinds, we are always looking for ways to engage the students and assist our teachers in making the most out of their visit with us, ”added Shaffer.

WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge offers 35,000 square feet of “edu-tainment” opportunities, billing itself as an amusement park for the mind. They offer over 100 hands-on exhibits covering natural disasters, space discovery, an imagination lab, a physical challenge zone, a far out art gallery, and a light and sound zone. WonderWorks is open daily from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. For more information, log onto their site: wonderworksonline.com/pigeon-forge/.

About WonderWorks

WonderWorks, a science focused indoor amusement park, combines education and entertainment. With over 100 hands-on exhibits – there is something unique and challenging for all ages. Feel the power of 71mph hurricane–force winds in the Hurricane Shack. Make huge, life–sized bubbles in the Bubble Lab. Get the NASA treatment in our Astronaut Training Gyro and experience zero gravity. Nail it by lying on the death–defying Bed of Nails. Conquer your fear of heights on our indoor Glow-In-The-Dark Ropes Course. WonderWorks is also home to Wonders of Magic, starring Terry Evanswood, the award-winning and longest running performer in Pigeon Forge. WonderWorks hosts birthday parties and special events seasonally. Open daily from 9 a.m. until midnight. wonderworksonline.com/pigeon-forge

Rosa Parks and Sally Ride get their very own Barbie dolls

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Barbies Sally Ride and Rosa Parks

Children everywhere are going to get the chance to have two historical female role models as part of their play sets.

Mattel is honoring Rosa Parks and Sally Ride with their very own Barbie dolls. Rosa Parks was an American activist known as the Mother of the Modern Civil Rights Movement and Sally Ride was the first American woman — and youngest American — to fly in space.

“Both Sally Ride and Rosa Parks made the world better for future generations of girls,” a Mattel spokesperson told CNN. “By celebrating their achievements with dolls made in their likeness, we hope girls will be inspired to pursue their dreams.”

It’s only fitting that these two new Barbies debuted on Women’s Equality Day.

“Women’s Equality Day celebrates the hard-won achievement of Rosa Parks and Sally Ride Barbie dollswomen’s suffrage and pays tribute to the trailblazers who paved the way for future generations,” the Mattel spokesperson said.

According to Mattel, research has shown that starting at the age of five, many girls are less likely than boys to view their own gender as smart and begin to lose confidence in their own competence — this is coined the “Dream Gap.” Showing girls more role models, historical and present, and telling their stories can help close that gap.

Both dolls are available for purchase.

Continue on to CNN News to read the complete article.

Alcatraz East Crime Museum to Display Alcatraz Island-Themed Prison Artwork

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Al Capone by Kleb Koss 2016

Each year, tourists visiting San Francisco make the journey across the water to the must-see Alcatraz Island. Since it’s closing in 1963, the former federal penitentiary continues to intrigue people of all ages, and likewise, there is a huge fascination with the artwork of prison artists.

This summer, the two subjects are being brought together at Alcatraz East Crime Museum. The new temporary exhibit, called “Alcatraz Art Escape,” will feature artwork inspired by Alcatraz Island and created by incarcerated artists. The exhibit opens to the public on August 23, 2019 and will run through the spring of 2020.

“Our visitors are always interested in learning more about Alcatraz, so this will be a unique way to combine that with giving them a glimpse of the beautiful artwork created by prisoners from around the country,” explains Rachael Penman, director of artifacts and exhibits at Alcatraz East Crime Museum. “We’re excited to share the work of these artists who have discovered amazing talents they didn’t know they had and are doing what they can to give back to the community. Both crime history enthusiasts and art lovers will want to be sure to see this exhibit.”

Alcatraz East Crime Museum has teamed up with the California-based P.A.T.H. (Prison Arts Touching Hearts) to make these artworks available to the public. The organization focuses on providing a platform and voice for incarcerated artists. Their efforts help to support prison art rehabilitation programs and provide opportunities for artists to sell their work to support community causes. The exhibit will also include some never displayed Alcatraz artifacts from the museum’s collection. These objects include handcuffs from Alcatraz, a guard’s ID and prisoner roster pamphlet with handwritten notes, Al Capone’s rosary, and rare artwork made by an inmate while incarcerated at Alcatraz.

There will be a media day held on August 22. Members of the media are invited to visit the museum and experience the new exhibit before it opens to the public the following day. Artwork from this exhibit was first displayed in the Band Practice Room at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, run today by the National Park Service, in 2017. Each piece focuses on a theme surrounding Alcatraz Island’s history and its past as federal penitentiary.

“I’m thrilled to be able to bring the artwork of these incarcerated artists to Tennessee and share their work with a different audience far from California,” says Leslie Lakes, director of P.A.T.H. “Alcatraz was Bill G. Baker Pen and ink portrait by Jeremy Hammill -such an inspiration to these artists, so it seemed very appropriate to bring this exhibit to Alcatraz East Crime Museum.”

Alcatraz Island, often referred to as “The Rock,” was known as U.S. Penitentiary Alcatraz from 1934-1963. During the time it was a federal prison, Alcatraz housed notorious criminals such as Al Capone, James “Whitey” Bulger, “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Robert Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz.” The former prison opened to the public in 1973 and in 1986 was designated a National Historic Landmark. Each year, over 1 million visitors tour the prison.

Other new displays this summer include one of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award trophies awarded to the survivors of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Alexis Alvarado was among 140 survivors who appeared onstage to receive the honor at the 2018 ESPY Awards for their bravery in speaking out against Nassar’s years of sextual abuse. The ESPY will only be on view through Labor Day.

There are additional new artifacts that have recently been added to the museum, including:

  • A collection of pieces from sketch artist Michael W. Streed, known as SketchCop. Throughout his career, Streed has used his skills to both catch criminals, as well as identify remains.
  • Items have been added to the museum’s section on mass shootings, including those at the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Festival, Columbine High School, and Aurora Theater. New items include a backpack and school planner of a survivor of Columbine, as well as items preserved from the memorials for Las Vegas victims.

The museum is always adding to its collection and has a star-studded panel of experts who make up the Advisory Board, including those in law enforcement, collectors, a medical examiner, crime scene investigators, and others. The board includes Jim Willett, a retired prison warden, Anthony Rivera, a combat veteran and Navy SEAL chief, and Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., who is best known for the Casey Anthony trial. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: alcatrazeast.com.

About Alcatraz East

Alcatraz East is the most arresting crime museum in the United States. Guests of all ages can encounter a unique journey into the history of American crime, crime solving, and our justice system. Through interactive exhibits and original artifacts, Alcatraz East is an entertaining and educational experience for all ages – so much fun it’s a crime! This family attraction is located at the entrance of The Island, located at 2757 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN. General admission tickets are $14.95 for children, $24.95 for adults. Group ticket sales are available. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the last ticket sold 60 minutes before closing. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: alcatrazeast.com.

About P.A.T.H.

P.A.T.H. (Prison Arts Touching Hearts) is designed to provide a platform for a much needed voice and validation to incarcerated artists – those in the shadows and largely hidden to the public eye, while providing them with a vehicle to give back to the community in a meaningful and powerful way – through their art! P.A.T.H. is a MarinLink fiscally sponsored 501 (c) 3 Non-Profit Project. For more information visit: prisonartstouchinghearts.org/.

WonderWorks Orlando Takes Magic Comedy Dinner Show to New Heights

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WonderWorks magician using flamethrower props on stage at dinner show

Those visiting Orlando who love magic will not want to miss The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show at WonderWorks. The indoor amusement park is taking the long-running magic comedy show to a whole new level, by using technology to create more interaction with the audience.

While previously only a small group of people would get the interactive experience, the new technology allows the whole audience become part of the show.  Plus, world-renowned magician Tony Brent will be thrilling crowds with more magic, and a straightjacket reenactment.

“Our fans loved the magic comedy show before, but now it’s going to be even more interactive and exciting,” explains Brian Wayne, general manager of WonderWorks Orlando. “This is a show that all ages can enjoy. It’s funny, it’s magical, and it’s an amazing experience for all who attend.”

The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show will be adding the new close up experience starting the last week of June 2019. The new elements will include mind-bending magic that the whole family will enjoy. The magic in the show will become more “magical” and make the show an even more amazing experience for all. Additional new elements for the dinner show include:

  • There will be three shows per day all month of July 2019, including at 4 pm, 6 pm, and 8 pm.
  • Tony Brent will reenact the famous and legendary feat by the world’s most famous magician, Harry Houdini, dating back to the early 1900’s. He will present the “Straightjacket Escape,” giving the audience a full view of the escape.
  • Dinner show guests can enjoy a delicious meal of unlimited hand-tossed pizza that is made fresh in-house, as well as salad, dessert, and unlimited drinks, including beer and wine.

“This is going to be an exciting time to see the magic comedy dinner show,” added Wayne. “Combining great food with a world-class magic show is going to give people a one-of-a-kind experience. We look forward to seeing the smilesWonderWorks magician onstage with young boy from audience involved in his magic act and good vibes this show creates for all who attend.”

Tony Brent is the star and producer of The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show, which is the longest running magic dinner show in the world. His show combines magic tricks, comedy, audience participation, and more. The show was named “One of America’s Ten Best Magic Shows” by the Travel Channel.

WonderWorks in Orlando is an adventure that tourists and locals both enjoy. The indoor amusement park is open 365 days per year from 9:00 a.m. until midnight. WonderWorks features a glow-in-the-dark ropes course, laser tag, 4D XD motion theater, magic comedy dinner show, and the Wonder Zones, which include interactive exhibits on natural disasters, space discovery, light and sound zone, imagination lab, far out art gallery, and a physical challenge zone. With over 35,000 square feet of “edu-tainment,” the attraction combines education and entertainment with over 100 hands-on exhibits. To get more information or purchase tickets, visit the site at: wonderworksonline.com/orlando/.

About WonderWorks

WonderWorks the upside-down adventure is a science-focused indoor amusement park for the mind that holds something unique and interesting for visitors of all ages. Guests enter through an upside-down lobby with the ceiling at their feet and the ground above their head and must pass through an inversion tunnel to be turned right side up. There are three floors of nonstop “edu-tainment,” with over 100 hands-on and interactive exhibits that serve a STEM educational purpose to challenge the mind and spark the imagination. WonderWorks Orlando is also home to The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show. WonderWorks has locations in Orlando, Pigeon Forge, Myrtle Beach, Panama City Beach, and Syracuse. For more information, visit the site wonderworksonline.com/orlando/.

Is AI the Next Great Art Movement?

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AI image with two computer simulated brains facing each other and art in the background

For decades now, computers have been used to automate routine and tedious tasks. But what lay outside the ability of computers was to simulate the human intelligence and, even beyond that, artistic creativity.

Technology has evolved to the point that artificial intelligence (AI) can now “learn” from an artist, recognizing elements of the art created by that person and then creating its own. What, then, is the meaning of art? In 2018, the first AI-created art work—originally projected to sell for $7,000–$10,000—was sold for $442,500. Since then, many artists have started exploring the creative potential that AI can bring to the world.

Sougwen Chung: Machine-Generated Art

Chinese-born Sougwen Chung is an internationally renowned multi-disciplinary artist, who uses hand-drawn and technologically reproduced marks to address theSougwen is painting on a canvas draped table with a small robot on the table closeness between person-to-person and person-to-machine communication. A former research fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, she is also a current Artist in Residence at Bell Labs and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. Sougwen is one of the pioneering artists of her generation—her art challenges the imagination through its minimalist yet dramatic form. The former Artist in Residence at Google has explored innovative ways to utilize virtual reality as a medium for storytelling and rapid prototyping. Sougwen’s art speaks of movement and change and reflects images of nature in a truly modern setting.

Source: sougwen.com, viridianartists.com and voanews.com

What it Takes to be a Successful Woman in the Field of Architecture

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Gretchen Callejas poses for a headshot in an outdoor setting

By Gretchen Callejas

Frank Lloyd Wright. I.M. Pei. Those are the familiar names of two of America’s best-known architects.

Wright’s distinct prairie-style homes dot the American landscape while Pei’s large but elegantly designed urban buildings and complexes are among the world’s most famous architectural works. Pei’s projects, among others, include the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the controversial glass pyramid in Paris’ Louvre Museum courtyard.

But have you heard of Julia Morgan, who designed California’s famous Hearst Castle?

Or trailblazers such as Marion Mahony Griffin, the first woman to be officially licensed as an architect, and Zaha Hadid, the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize?

It isn’t surprising if you haven’t. According to a January 2019 article in ThoughtCo., which listed 20 famous female architects, the role that women have played in architecture and design often go under the radar.

While architecture has been a male-dominated field, that is not the case at Felder & Associates, where I have worked since its inception in 2012. We have four women and three men on staff. The forward-thinking leadership of the firm’s managing principal, Brian Felder, has played an extraordinary part in making our workplace a gender free oasis in an otherwise industry-wide testosterone-filled desert.

Why is architecture, like so many other professions, such a tough profession for women to crack?

According to a 2016 article in the Los Angeles Times, only 18 percent of licensed practitioners are women although they make up nearly half of U.S. architecture school graduates. This disparity sometimes is referred to as “the missing 32 percent.” Unfortunately, females leave the field in disturbingly high numbers after they’re confronted with lower salaries, given fewer career-building opportunities or find a lack of mentors, who champion for them.

Full-time female architects earn 20 percent less than their male counterparts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Plus, architecture’s history as a male-dominated profession has contributed to an all-consuming workplace culture that leaves little flexibility for women expected to balance work and family. According to the Times article, 75 percent of female survey respondents had experienced sexual discrimination on the job, and 83 percent believed having a child would hurt their careers.

My personal observations and experiences have confirmed some of these disparities, but I consider myself lucky.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to maintain a successful professional career while balancing family because I have a husband who shares responsibilities and encouragement. Without his support, it would be more challenging to continue with a professional career.

And while I have quite a few female friends who are architects, I have never worked for a woman nor had a strong female mentor. Contractors and clients often assume I need to ask my male boss for help in understanding construction, codes or a design issue. When I approach a problem with the same assertiveness as a male architect, I’m sometimes labeled with the “B”-word.

Since I was a kid, I dreamed of designing buildings before I knew what that encompassed. And now as an adult would I encourage young girls to enter architecture? Absolutely. I would tell young women (and men) entering the field that determination and passion go a long way. You will be successful if you work hard, tune out the negativity and chase your goals with perseverance. If you want to be an Architect, then go be one.

I finally believe that I am in a position to give them a hand. I’ve been around enough to help guide them and try to be the mentor I never had. I’m pleased we have two young women working with us at Felder & Associates. Alma Johnson and Cathryn Sinclair graduated with architectural degrees from the Savannah College of Art and Design last year and are interning with us as project associates.

Sinclair says she believes the playing field is more level than ever before but there is always room for improvement.

“I hope to continue to see the gap close,” she says.

For Johnson, success is based on how hard you work.

“Now, the gender gap does exist, but I think that the world is evolving on a more modern idea of a woman in the workplace. I don’t see gender. I see what skill sets I need to acquire to be as successful as the candidate next to me,” Johnson says.

I hope their perspectives will remain true and their positivity high after spending 15 years or so in the industry. I suspect they will reflect on their early days as a time when they had to deal with an old and outdated set of standards.

One thing I know for certain. They are in a wonderful setting to avoid bias and discrimination working at Felder & Associates. We are, thankfully, treated equally regardless of our gender, and we treat one another with mutual respect and understanding.

My hope for young women in architecture is that they will continue to mentor the next generations of women architects, have equal opportunities and respect. One day we will be as well-known as Frank Lloyd Wright and I.M. Pei.

Gretchen Callejas is a project architect at Felder & Associates, where she specializes in historic preservation, adaptive reuse, small scale commercial architecture and high-end residential design. She is also LEED-accredited from the U.S. Green Building Council. Callejas earned Bachelor of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design from Ball State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Historic Preservation from Savannah College of Art and Design.

Citations:

  1. Craven, Jackie (2019, January). 20 Famous Women Architects. ThoughtCo. Retrieved from: https://www.thoughtco.com/famous-female-architects-177890
  2. Stratigakos, Despina (2016, April). Why is the world of architecture so male-dominated? LA Times. Retrieved from: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-stratigakos-missing-women-architects-20160421-story.html
  3. Newman, Caroline (2019, January). Three Generations Of Female Architects Seek To Bring More Women Into The Profession. UVA Today. Retrieved from: https://news.virginia.edu/content/3-generations-female-architects-seek-bring-more-women-profession

 

 

Common Name, Uncommon Path

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Common seated at the panel at the Black Caucus

By Jovane Marie

With a career spanning almost three decades, Common’s journey in the spotlight has been anything but.

Along the way, he’s gained an ever-expanding list of titles and credits that run the gamut: rapper, artist, father, actor, activist, model, author, designer, philanthropist, Microsoft ambassador, and Academy Award winner, to name a few.

But if you’re thinking that’s enough to satisfy this modern-day Renaissance Man, you’re wrong. “I revel in the fact that in being all of these things, I don’t have to choose,” said the multi-hyphenate talent. “I want to do and be more…what I’ve accomplished so far is great, but there is always more to achieve.”

Voice of the Future
Common might’ve had his start in the music industry, but he’s no stranger to the world of STEM. In fact, he’s had a long-standing relationship with tech behemoth Microsoft dating all the way back to 2008, when the two partnered to launch Softwear (a play on “software”), a retro clothing line of T-shirts featuring MS-DOS (an operating system) font. Six years later, that partnership was re-birthed as the tech giant searched for a spokesperson to helm its first Super Bowl commercial. Common sent in a tape explaining why he wanted to lend his voice, and the rest—they say—is history. Since the inaugural commercial in 2014, the artist has lent his voice to a multitude of commercials, shorts, and presentations touting the importance of advancing technology and the infinite possibilities created by Microsoft’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

“Technology is possibility, adaptability, and capability,” he muses in one spot. “It’s not about changing what came before—it’s about creating what comes next. Right now, we have more power at our fingertips than entire generations that came before us…the question is, what will we do with it?”

Actor to Activist
Common’s firm footing in the entertainment industry might sound like a full-time endeavor, but he has consciously created the time and space to enrich and advocate for the causes he believes in. “The truth is, you don’t have to be an actor, or an athlete, or an influencer to make a difference,” he said in a recent interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Ernie Suggs. “All you have to do is have a desire the make the world a better place. Every human being can do it, and I have a desire to do my part.”

L to R-Lamar Johnson, Sabrina Carpenter, Russell Hornsby, Amandla Stenberg, Algee Smith and Common attend The Hate U Give New York Screening at Paris Theatre
L to R-Lamar Johnson, Sabrina Carpenter, Russell Hornsby, Amandla Stenberg, Algee Smith and Common attend “The Hate U Give” New York Screening at Paris Theatre.

This desire has manifested into fervent action focused on increasing and championing diversity and mentoring youth in the inner-cities of his home state, among other things.

In January, he delivered the closing keynote at the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion conference, a gathering of more than 250 Chief Human Resource Officers (CHRO) and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officers (CDO) from an array of Fortune 500 companies on a mission to provide tangible, ready-to-implement strategies to encourage and increase diversity and inclusion both internally and within their local communities.

“My interest in promoting diversity was rooted in my looking in these communities and seeing certain people not having access to the same opportunities,” said the ardent advocator. “The undeniable fact is that we need to see more women and POC [people of color] in positions of power—same for different beliefs and those in the LGBTQ+ community.” “We have to figure out ways to increase the diversity, and that starts with a conversation. For me, I love being in a position where I can be a part of the paradigm shift and contribute to that conversation.”

Common performs onstage during OZY Fest
Common performs onstage during OZY Fest 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park in New York City.

Speaking to C-suite leaders about diversity isn’t the only way Common is lending his voice to the diversity conversation. In 2018, after African-American business partners Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were racially profiled in a Starbucks—causing national outrage—the chain subsequently closed 8,000 stores for a day to conduct anti-bias training. The voice they heard in those videos, stressing the importance of anti-discrimination and inclusivity? Take a guess. The art of the give-back has further manifested into the creation of the Common Ground Foundation, an organization dedicated to reach and impact inner-city youth in Chicago through mentorship and college-preparation programs. For more than a decade, the foundation has intimately focused on nutrition, healthy living, financial living, character development, and creative expression—even holding youth leadership conferences and summer camps. With more than $230,000 in scholarships awarded, a 100 percent graduation rate among participants, a 99 percent college attendance rate, and more than 2,500 collective hours of community service provided to the community, the organization has earned the distinction of an impactful labor of love.

Common with classroom full of school children.
Common visits NYC elementary school for Back-To-School fundraising with Burlington Stores and AdoptAClassroom. JAMIE MCCARTHY/GETTY IMAGES

“I started the Common Ground Foundation because I wanted to help,” said the philanthropist. “I think making a difference in the lives of others is life’s greatest purpose, and I always believed that of we started with the youth, we’d be planting the seeds for our future to blossom.”

A Tale of Common Sense
Common, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn to an educator mother and youth counselor father, was raised in the Calumet Heights neighborhood of Chicago, where his foray into the world of music developed and thrived. Talented and precocious, he was writing lyrics by age 12, and at 15, formed a rap trio—C.D.R.—with two high school friends. Far from just an after-school hobby, the group served as an industry incubator, not only building his proficiency in writing, producing and performing, but also aiding in his personal branding as an artist.

“C.D.R. represented so much in my life, and it was the birthplace of a lot of artistic firsts,” remembered Common. “That acronym was a revolving door of different meanings—it mainly stood for Corey, Deon, Rashid [our names], but on other days, it was Compact Disc Recorder, or Recording Def Rhymes. We were learning how to record, making demos, writing songs, performing—just trying to figure ourselves out and do our thing.” Influenced by hip-hop’s titans of the time, including LL Cool J, Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, NWA, and Rakim, C.D.R. went on to gain a footing in the industry, having their songs played on the University of Chicago’s local radio station and opening concerts for Big Daddy Kane, Eazy-E, and Too Short.

Upon graduation, Common enrolled at Florida A&M University under a scholarship, where he majored in business administration. His artistic streak remained uninterrupted, however, and in 1991, after being featured in The Source magazine’s Unsigned Hype column, he left A&M to sign with Relativity Records. It was under this label that he released his first album, “Can I Borrow a Dollar?”, using the moniker Common Sense. The album was an underground success, and laid the groundwork (as well as a growing fanbase) for his subsequent albums and collaborations. To date, Common has won more than 20 awards from various distinguished award bodies for his lyrics, albums and performances, including a 2015 Academy Award for his and singer John Legend’s original song “Glory” (from the Selma soundtrack), three Grammys, four BET Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy. He has also garnered over 40 nominations in the music industry.

More than Music
Had Common been content to produce records, pull awards, and perform his hits for dedicated fans around the world, that might’ve been the end of the story. But, true to his character, he always had his sights set for more—much more. He began making his mark in the film and television industry in the early 2000s, often making cameos as himself and later evolving into more complex roles in well-known films, such as American Gangster (starring Denzel Washington), Wanted, Just Wright, Suicide Squad, Selma (as activist James Bevel), and installments of the John Wick franchise, to name a few. His constantly growing acting portfolio, which currently includes more than 40 films, supports a long-term goal to eventually become one of the great actors of our time.

Common standing posing with his childrens book
Common with his children’s book, “I Like You but I Love Me”.

“I’m still working to get to where I want to be, and I’m always working to get to the next level,” he said. “The majority of roles I want, they’re looking at other actors for. But I’m always going to fight to prove myself.” As he works tirelessly to widen his range and nab multifaceted roles, Common is also focused on another goal: helping amplify the creative voices of others through his nearly five-year-old production company, Freedom Road Productions. To date, he has executive produced Showtime’s popular drama The Chi (created by screenwriter Lena Waithe, the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series), and last year, signed a deal to develop and produce new television series with Lionsgate TV.

On the Horizon
Common’s career in the spotlight has diverged into many paths during its three-decade journey, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Add to that his impactful work in mentorship, advocacy, and diversity, and a bevy of new projects within all of these fields, and it’s safe to say that he may never stop. Next up is his second book, Let Love Have the Last Word, a personal anthology exploring the core tenets of love to help others give and receive love to live better lives and build stronger communities. Following on the heels of his New York Times best-selling memoir, One Day It’ll All Make Sense, the book is sure to be a page-turner.

On the film front, the actor will feature or star in three upcoming films: The Informer, The Kitchen, and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Several TV series in collaboration with Lionsgate are also in the works. Simply put, Common wants to expand his experience, provide opportunities for others, and inspire.

“I want to live my passions, help others do the same, and make the world a better place, as much as I can,” he said. “This—all of this—inspires me to work harder and do more.”