CHICAGO: TBT News Update

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TOP NEWS: Indie comedy “White People Money” is exactly the laughs the world needs. Chicago-based production company, 1555Filmworks, will release its latest project, “White People Money”, on digital and video on demand 4.23. 2021. The film stars Drew Sidora (Step Up, CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story) and Barton Fitzpatrick (The Chi) as a couple living in the hood on the Southside of Chicago who wins a billion dollars and attempts to hide it from greedy friends, family, and strangers alike, while still trying to enjoy their newfound wealthy status. Aaron D. Spears (The Bold and the Beautiful, Being Mary Jane) also stars.

This is the 15th released film for Writer/Director Mark Harris, who is known for dealing with tough subjects and sometimes controversial ideas in his work. Harris’ last film in theaters was 2014’s Black Coffee starring Darrin Dewitt Henson (Soul Food, Stomp the Yard) and Gabrielle Dennis (The Game, Rosewood), which had a limited release on six screens. His team is working to expand the distribution of this project to at least 600 screens. For more information, contact A Mark Harris Company at markharrisfilms@gmail.com. CLICK link to view the trailor: https://youtu.be/fHTH-b2gcnk. – Content Curated By MG Media

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TBTNEWS HEADLINE

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Mr. James Gibson

Who is James Gibson?

Exonerated Chicago police torture survivor reflects on identity, faith, and reentry after 29 years in prison. James Gibson, one of the hundreds of Black Chicagoans who allege were tortured by former Chicago police Cmdr. John Burge and his “Midnight Crew.”

Gibson, now 54, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1991 for the fatal shooting of an insurance agent and a car mechanic two years earlier at a South Side Chicago garage. Gibson has maintained his innocence since then. He says that he was beaten, until he falsely confessed to the crime, by Chicago detectives working under Burge, an infamous former police commander accused of torturing or overseeing abuse of more than 100 people from the 1970s to the 1990s, most of them Black men.

“Mayor Lori Lightfoot has failed to acknowledge the trauma inflicted by Jon Burge and the Midnight Crew on Black men in Chicago. Gibson spent 30 years in maximum security prisons for crimes he did not commit and now attorneys for the City of Chicago are denying the actions of Burge and members of the Chicago Police Department. Recently, the Invisible Institute and Flint Taylor released a digital archive documenting the Chicago Torture Machine. How much more evidence does the Mayor need to evaluate the merits of the Gibson case?” civil rights attorney Andrew M. Stroth.

In April 2019, a state appellate court panel vacated Gibson’s conviction and prosecutors dismissed the charges against him. Gibson is a free man. But his journey isn’t over. He’s suing the City of Chicago for his wrongful conviction and adjusting to life outside prison after nearly 30 years behind bars. Who is James Gibson? I’m still trying to figure that out. For 29 years, four months, and seven days, I was treated like just a name and number. I didn’t have an opportunity to become who my mother planned for me to be or who I had planned to become. I was 23 when I was taken away from my family. Before that, I had plans to return to college in Texas and marry my girlfriend, who was pregnant with my child.

During my incarceration, my mother told me I was coming home eventually but that I’d have to fight a long time. I was then told by a correctional officer one day that I no longer had a first name. That did something to me, especially since I was already in prison for a crime I didn’t commit. I made up my mind that I couldn’t sit inside a cell for the rest of my life and not try to bring this issue to the courts. I had to become a fighter, a survivor, and a protector of my peace and sanity.

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As I walked the prison yards, galleries, and law libraries across the state of Illinois, I became what is called a jailhouse lawyer and adviser. I spent more than half of my time practicing criminal law, drafting motions and court pleadings, and advocating for other peers and their families. I never had time to watch television, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, the Bears, the Cubs, the White Sox.

I spent my time reading law books, legal abstracts, law review articles, and identifying attorneys to call in the Sullivan’s Law Directory. I spent my time reading, writing, and fighting for my freedom. When I started praying in 2005, I realized that there is truly a God who still comes down and speaks to his people. We never know what circumstances will arise to test our faith. Every day, my faith was tested—in the depths of the Cook County Jail, the Joliet Correctional Center, Menard Correctional Center, and the Pontiac Correctional Center. But during this journey, I never knew who I was because all I did was fight and fight every day for my freedom.

That didn’t leave me much time to think about my identity or who I was to become. I became numb; I didn’t have time to feel. All I knew how to do was get up every day, thank God, and fight for my freedom. For almost 30 years, I stood in the gap at a prison cell door wondering when I would have my day in court. Since I’ve been finally cleared and given all my rights back as a United States citizen, I have chosen to follow in a long line of social justice activists by working to reform the criminal justice system and help others wrongfully convicted.

The Chicago police union is trying to put its members on the state’s torture inquiry commission: Two bills introduced by Republicans in the state legislature are “a smack in the face,” says one torture survivor. Unfortunately, my mother, who died while I was still locked up, wasn’t alive to see me come home after nearly three decades behind bars. I’ve been trying to reintegrate into the family I have left. Where do I go from here? How can my story serve as a testimony to our Almighty God and the power of prayer?

Here is what I do know. I am more than a number and more than my fight. I am a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a brother, an uncle, a survivor, and a God-fearing man who has a mountain of faith. And I’m finally free. The number of defendants seeking review of their claims that they were tortured into confessing now numbers more than 500. Absent more resources to review the cases, It could be decades before those claims are resolved. More wait to have cases resolved.

Editor’s Note: For more stories about Chicago police torture survivors and to learn more about Chicago’s history of police torture, visit the Invisible Institutes’ new Chicago Police Torture Archive. – Content Curated By Invisible Institute

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Lori Lightfoot

TBTNEWS ALERTS

After spearheading a years-long process to gain federal approvals supporting the Obama Presidential Center, the review is now complete, passing a major milestone for the Center’s future in Chicago. To support this, the city and its multiple agencies will move forward with capital investment projects in the surrounding communities.

“With this final step in the review, Chicago is now officially the home of the presidential center for our country’s first Black president,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “The Obama Presidential Center and nearby capital improvement projects will undoubtedly distinguish our city’s historic South Side as a world-class economic and cultural hub. Through opportunities, residents in the surrounding communities, will have long-overdue access to much-needed, sustainable, and good-paying jobs and other neighborhood resources.”

The Barack Obama Foundation is expected to start construction of the OPC in the second half of this year. “The Obama Presidential Center is a catalyst for development and investment in the south side neighborhoods around Jackson Park,” said Ald. Leslie Hairston, 5th Ward. “In addition to the public library, activity center, and green space, the capital investment will improve traffic and attract additional investment.”

The plan, approved by the City Council in 2018, will create more than five acres of new green space. The following roadway improvements are designed to handle existing and future traffic demand and improve connectivity in and around Jackson Park and the surrounding neighborhoods. These roadway improvements are funded through $174 million in funds programmed by the State of Illinois. The Obama Foundation donated up to $3.5 million to cover the cost of construction of the multi-purpose artificial turf field for the track and field facility.

The City’s Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF) will also begin offering grants up to $150,000 for workplace improvement projects in portions of greater Woodlawn this month. Applications are open now at www.chicago.gov/sbif and are due by Wednesday, March 3. Additional opportunities for SBIF financing in the area will follow in 2022 and 2023 as a part of the grant program’s three-year, $60 million funding plan. – Content Curated By MG Media

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Illinois to Host Virtual Hemp Summit

The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) will host a virtual Hemp Summit Tuesday, February 23. The free online event will take place from 9 am to noon with presentations from growers, processors, university researchers, industry stakeholders, and IDOA staff.

“We have had two solid hemp growing seasons here in Illinois, with many takeaways from those who have weathered the challenges that come in the infant stages of an industry,” said IDOA Division Manager, David Lakeman. “To have a venue where farmers, processors, and others involved in the industry can share what works and what doesn’t is invaluable.”

The Summit’s agenda is structured to optimize the distribution of information and limit repetition during the three-hour event. Topics on the agenda include the 2020 growing season, best practices, and lessons learned. Information on the panelists will be available prior to the event. The 2021 Hemp Summit is free, but registration is required. Registered attendees will be emailed a link to the event. For more information, contact Krista Lisser at 217.670.9283.

You can register here: https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/agr/Plants/Pages/Hemp-Summit-Registration.aspx. – Content Curated By MG Media

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CELEBRITY TRAFFIC

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Twyler celebrates her power in God with Sonya Tompkins

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Twyler Jenkins with one of her trusted ally and client, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jr. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Twyler Jenkins!

“I MADE IT! HELLO, 50! I AM FIERCE, GOD-FEARING, AND FABULOUS! Thanking God and praising Him for 50 GOOD years around the sun! Who wouldn’t serve a God like this? What a mighty God we serve! Won’t He do it! Glory! I hope you can feel my spirit soar in Him today! Can’t NOBODY do me like Jesus! God is therefore I Am! My only birthday wish is to see you tonight anytime between 7-9 pm on Zoom. Oh how I wish we could be together and we will soon. Until then, meet me on Zoom!” Meeting ID Code: 878 9003 8609Passcode: 964573#50andfabulous #50thbirthday #50feelsgood #partywithapurpose #iamthatwomanmovement #twylerjenkins #iamthatwomanretreat

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TBTNEWS PROFILE

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Yene Damtew at her salon Aesthetics

Stylist Slaying Michelle Obama’s Hair

She’s definitely a hairstylist to watch. The two questions people ask hairstylist and salon owner Yene Damtew (what it’s like working with the Obamas) and how she got interested in hair? And the answer is pretty simple: her mother.

“On Sundays, my mother and I would go to church, but when she was getting ready, she would put these rollers in her hair. At the time, I didn’t realize they were hot rollers. She would put them in and hop in the shower. When she emerged, her hair would be all full, bouncy, and fluffy. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure it out. I was like, ‘What is going on with these plastic things in your hair?’ That’s when I thought, OK, maybe this is something I am interested in.” Damtew started following her passion for hair when she entered the seventh grade.

“One of my very first mentors, Eve, who was about seven years older than me, used to braid my hair,” she explains. “I used to watch her and practice on my brother.” Under Eve’s tutelage, Damtew got so good that people in her neighborhood began to take notice around Orange Country, California. “I started doing everyone’s hair — I did football players other kids and my high school classmates.” At 16, she decided to go to cosmetology school, attending classes daily from 7:00 to 11:45 a.m. and cosmetology school four times a week from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. “The agreement [with my parents] was as long as I kept my grades up and still planned on attending college, they would pay for cosmetology school.”

Those familiar with part of Damtew’s story know that she worked side by side with the self-proclaimed former HOTUS (Hairstylist of the United States), Johnny Wright. But not many know how they met or how she got her most prestigious client yet: Mrs. Michelle Obama. “I met him through my brother who worked in Hollywood [at the time]. I was looking for a mentor. I was finishing up cosmetology school, and one of the projects I had to complete was interviewing a stylist [whose career] I’d either want to mimic or shadow.” Her brother introduced her to Wright, who suggested Damtew stop by his salon.

“We met, and it was one of those things where Johnny was just kind of like, ‘Are you good?’ I was like, ‘Um, yeah?’ No one had asked me that before. He said, ‘Well, if you’re good, we can tag-team and work together,” she recalls. Little did Damtew know that her introduction to Wright would lead her to one of the most recognized women in the world, Mrs. Obama. When Wright got the call to relocate to D.C. in order to work with the then FLOTUS, he asked Damtew to come with him. At first, she worked with the first daughters, Malia and Sasha before starting to color Mrs. Obama’s hair.

“It’s been the most humbling experience,” she shares. “I would’ve never imagined that doing hair would’ve allowed me the opportunity to travel and to be a part of moments in history that will never come again.” But getting a dream job like this doesn’t come without sacrifice — Damtew had to leave California for Washington, D.C., which was a major adjustment for the young stylist. “I was only 21 when I moved to D.C., and I had never lived on my own,” she recalls. In addition to assisting Wright with the Obamas, Damtew was slowly racking up private clients at her residence and even at the back of a local beauty supply store. “It allowed me the flexibility to tend to other clients and Mrs. Obama. Working on multiple clients allowed me to refine my craft.”

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Yene & Michelle on the book tour

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Yene with client in her salon, Aesthetics

Becoming, Michelle’s book, which has sold over 3 million copies since its release. And Mrs. O. looks good — really good on the cover. “Yene has been with me through so much over the years, from the most formal state ceremonies to gymnasiums full of school children,” Obama tells Allure. “That’s what I love about her — she makes me feel beautiful and confident, no matter the setting.” In addition to the book tour, Obama nabbed the cover of Essence magazine, rocking her natural hair in all its textured glory.

“[The Essence cover] is obviously a very big moment for me. One, because it’s not a look you publicly see her with, though she does go back and forth between natural and straight styles, it’s rare you see someone so high-ranking that comfortable with themselves. Second, it was almost like her ‘coming out’ in tandem with her memoir release. In the book, she talks about being unapologetic in who she is. I think part of that, as a woman of color, is to wear your hair in natural styles,” says Damtew.

Another memorable moment for the hairstylist was at the 2016 Democratic National Convention when Mrs. Obama gave her iconic speech including the catchphrase “When they go low, we go high.” “I loved how beautiful her [hair] color looked in that speech. I think that it matches her skin tone perfectly,” Damtew explains. She also cites Obama’s Elle cover and the 2017 ESPY Awards as standout looks. But though the styles do change, Obama knows that whatever Damtew does, she’s going to look gorgeous. “With Yene on my team, I know I’ll never need to worry about my hair,” Michelle says.

Last year, Damtew conquered another goal — opening her own salon, Aesthetics. “I have a two-chair boutique salon in South Arlington, about 10 minutes right outside of D.C.,” she says. “It’s very cozy and comfortable. Bright colors, pastels, a lot of openness: It’s not your typical salon or what you would experience a salon to be.” Limited waiting time. “I think that there is a big stigma in black hair culture that when you go to the salon, you should expect to wait hours and hours. My salon team makes sure that we get clients in the chair within 10 minutes of their appointment time.”

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