March 24, 2015


Mississippi Man Found Hanging From Tree

PHOTO: Otis Byrd is seen in this undated handout photo.

Mississippi authorities and the FBI are trying to determine whether an African-American man found hanging from a tree in Claiborne County committed suicide or was the victim of a brutal homicide.

Authorities believe the man is Otis Byrd, 54, a convicted murderer out of prison on parole, but an autopsy is being performed to confirm the identity and cause of death.

“We got a young man that died and we’re going to determine how he died and if someone did that, that person will be brought to justice and he will be punished for that,” said Claiborne County Sheriff Marvin Lucas.

Byrd was last seen March 2 and, within days, his family filed a missing person report with the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office. The FBI and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation were then asked to help, the FBI said in a statement. The man’s body was found about a half-mile from Byrd’s home.

As a precaution, the FBI has opened a preliminary civil rights investigation, focusing on whether Byrd’s race may have played a role in his death. Lucas said his family was unaware of any threats made against him.

Earlier Thursday, the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office and the Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks conducted a ground search for Byrd.


March 24, 2015



March 9, 2015

The Guardian Winner of the Pulitzer prize

Bloody Sunday veterans in Selma, Alabama, 50 years on – video

Edmund Pettus bridge, Selma




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Selma 50th anniversary
Bloody Sunday veterans in Selma, Alabama, 50 years on – video
In 1965, sheriff deputies attacked non-violent civil rights protesters in Selma, Alabama, sparking nationwide outrage. Now known as Bloody Sunday, the event was pivotal in the struggle to secure African American voting rights. To mark the 50th anniversary of the attack, thousands of supporters, local Selma residents and President Barack Obama poured into the small Alabama city this past weekend to remember the historic events

Mae Ryan, Source: Guardian


January 14, 2015



December 8, 2014




Monday, December 08, 2014



My 200% support for all my Sistas that wear and carry proudly their natural hair…
— with Lori Danley and 7 others.
Going back to our “roots”
How Black women all over the world are going natural..
  • You and 7 others like this.
  • Mary T. Jefferies When I was in lower level School, the Caucasion students would tease me about my hair. I told my Mother when I came home from School.My beautiful Mother sat down with me laughing and said”Baby, your hair states who you are. It’s part of your heritage. Your hair strong and kinky because your Ancestors are from Africa a Continent with many country’s full of your people with original hair just like yours because we are from the original people with strong hair. That straight limp weak hair you see on their heads is not the original hair. They are an extension on of us. Remember that we come from original people. You remember what I’m telling you are teach this to your children so that they can teach to their children. The Library is our information center we should go often and take our children because what we need to know will not be taught in the schools .
  • Princess Oyeyinka Oluwa @Mary T. Jefferies…you nailed it. Pple of my culture even question why I have locks on my hair? I tell them it’s the style I chose to wear my hair natural. My children know the reason is becos I need to maintain my Africaness. And my 9 year old daughter with curly and kinky hair cannot understand why I dress her hair with real sheer butter and unrefined coconut oil to enhance her curls. Teach your children how to be proud of their hair. And they will never go astray.
  • Princess Oyeyinka Oluwa Yep. I am nappy haired and proud.
  • Ta’Seti Efuntola-Osunlade We are the Mothers and Fathers of Humanity! Whites, Asians, Native Americans … all have Black African Ancestors! Their ancestors too had wooly hair!


November 13, 2014



The (Mis)Use of Kiswahili in Western popular culture

October 10, 2014 — That Kiswahili words and phrases sometimes crop up in western pop culture is not surprising; it is, after all, the most widely spoken African language on the continent. But every so often its use leaves native speakers a little puzzled.

Michael Jackson was made a prince of the Anyi people 1992 in Krinjabo, Cote d’Ivoire, in 1992, but his relationship with the continent began long before that. His use of Kiswahili in a song called “Liberian Girl” was a little odd though.

Michael Jackson was made a prince of the Anyi people 1992 in Krinjabo, Cote d’Ivoire, in 1992, but his relationship with the continent began long before that. His use of Kiswahili in a song called “Liberian Girl” was a little odd though.

Kiswahili is a language spoken by more than 100 million people, predominantly in several states of East Africa. The language also has a significant presence in major cities of Europe, the United States of America and the Gulf states where African Diaspora communities are found. As a result of its global reach and millions of speakers the language pervades the lives of many across the globe and is never far away, even if not realised. For example it is taught in several universities around the world, and many media stations such as the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Deutsche Welle, Radio Moscow International and Radio Japan International all have programmes in Kiswahili.
In the United States the African American holiday Kwanzaa takes it names from the Kiswahili phrase ‘matunda ya kwanza’ meaning ‘the first fruits of the harvest’; ‘kwanza’ is the Kiswahili word for first. If you’re English, American or Canadian you may have also found yourself shouting out a Kiswahili word when playing the popular wooden block game Jenga; Jenga being the Kiswahili root word for build. In western popular culture Kiswahili has found itself in film, television and music. Sometimes its been used in short snippets, while other times complete monologues of characters have been in Kiswahili. However while its use is apparent the correct use of the language has not always been so.
Hakuna Matata
Disney’s 1994 animated feature The Lion King is perhaps the most popular western film featuring Kiswahili. The film tells the story of a lion cub and future king named Simba. The film is full of Kiswahili words and phrases. The main character ‘Simba’ means lion (in Shona it means strength or power) and the friendly Baboon called Rafiki means friend. There are also many songs in kiswahiki in the film. One of which is when Rafiki sings to Simba ‘Asante sana squash banana, Wewe nugu mimi hapana’, which is Kiswahili for ‘Thank you very much, squash banana, you’re a baboon and I’m not.’


October 28, 2014



October 24, 2014

Robert Lee (dentist)
Robert Edward Lee (13 May 1920 – 5 July 2010) was a naturalised Ghanaian dentist.[1][2] Born in South Carolina to an African-American family, he studied dentistry in Tennessee and then in 1956 emigrated to Ghana with his wife Sara, also a dentist.[3] They were the first black dentists in the country.[4] In the 1970s, Lee became involved with a campaign to refurbish forts on the coast of Ghana as monuments to the Atlantic slave trade.[5] He lived in Ghana until his death.[6]

Early life
Lee was born in Summerville, South Carolina, to parents Samuel Eugene and Emily Holmes Lee. He had seven elder siblings and four younger ones.[1][7] His father was a barber, but from that humble start Lee’s siblings all went on to a variety of successes in business, engineering, medicine, and other careers.[7] Lee did his undergraduate degree at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he became acquainted with both future Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah and future fellow American emigrant to Ghana W. E. B. Du Bois.[8] Lee went on to Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, where in 1945 he received his degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery. He married classmate Sara Archie that same year.[1][9] The couple moved to New York City together for their residencies in dentistry, where they had two children: Robert Lowry Lee and Jeffrey Randall Lee.[1][9]

Lee also served in the United States Army Medical Corps beginning in 1950 during the Korean War, in which capacity he was assigned to Camp Stewart in Georgia, near Savannah.[9] Lee recounted that, as an officer, he was better-treated than black civilians in Georgia, and for example was never the target of racial violence from police. However, he avoided stopping at restaurants or gas stations on highways, and left the base only with a specific destination in mind where he knew people, or to visit his mother who by then was living in Charleston, South Carolina, rather than going out “on the town”.[10]

Emigration to Ghana
Lee first visited Ghana in 1953, hoping to learn more about his classmate Nkrumah’s homeland and see if he could make a contribution to its development. He moved to Accra with his family in 1956.[1] Other Lincoln University classmates and many other African Americans followed him in the years thereafter as well, bringing their skills and educations and hoping they could be of use to the newly independent country.[3] During Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to Ghana to attend the independence ceremonies in 1957, Lee and fellow African-American émigré Bill Sutherland organised a dinner for him, at which Julius Nyerere was a guest.[11] He became known as the “elder statesman” of the African-American community of Ghana, as well as the country’s “unofficial ambassador” to new African-American arrivals who had come in search of their roots.[12]

As Lee later recounted to an American National Public Radio interviewer, his emigration from the United States was not driven by despair or abandonment of the African-American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, but rather attraction to the enthusiasm shown by Ghanaians and their confidence “that they were going to be able to jettison colonial rule” and build up their country.[2][13] Another major impetus was his desire to raise his children in, as he put it, “an environment that is not set up to make him hate himself”, where “there isn’t even any antiwhite feeling” and they “could grow up freer in their outlook on the world”.[14][15]

Integration into local society
Despite Nkrumah’s enthusiasm for the African diaspora’s involvement in Ghana, African Americans who moved to the country faced various challenges, with some accused of being the “fifth column” of American imperialism, and others finding it difficult to bridge the gap between their own identities and their new experience of living in Ghana.[16] However, Lee maintained his enthusiasm for the country; he stated that learning the languages of Ghana was one of the means he used to reduce the distance between himself and his Ghanaian hosts.[16] Along with his wife, he naturalised as a Ghanaian citizen in 1963, renouncing his United States citizenship in the process.[17]

After the overthrow of Nkrumah in 1966, many African Americans left the country entirely, but Lee remained, refusing to let himself become cynical about the country’s future.[3] With regards to those who chose to go home after just a short stint in the country, Lee stated to novelist Caryl Phillips, “The States has let them down in some way and they expect Africa to solve their problems for them. Africa isn’t ready to do that. And maybe they’re not ready for Africa. The States has got problems but it’s their home. Hell, they’re Americans.”[18]

When Lee moved to Accra, there was only one other dentist in the city, a Lebanese expatriate; Lee quickly put his skills to work by opening up his own dental clinic, using equipment he had brought with him from the U.S. and hanging his New York State dental licence on the wall.[3] His wife, also a dentist, started the country’s first dental teaching clinic.[19] Lee credited some the progress made by Ghanaian women in dentistry to his wife, stating that of the 50-odd Africans who had opened dental practices in Accra by four decades lader, half were women.[3]

Fort Amsterdam restoration
In the 1970s, Lee was active in the African Descendants Association Foundation (ADAF), which among other activities began efforts in 1971 to lease Fort Amsterdam at Abandze to preserve as a historical monument.[20] Lee saw Ghana’s slave forts as a symbol and a reminder of his own personal connection to the African continent, as well as that of all other African Americans.[8] As the descendant of a former slave who had come back to Africa, he felt he had a historical duty to work towards the rebuilding of the fortress. ADAF raised funds for the restoration through a variety of activities, including a memorial service for Louis Armstrong, whose ancestors might have come from the fort’s vicinity.[21] Out of the total of US$50,000 sought for the project, by early 1972 Lee and his colleagues had raised about one-fifth of the amount. He stated that he wanted the fort to become “the focal point of the unity of Africans and Western black men. This fort and dungeons will symbolize our long struggle for real freedom, justice, and progress.”[20] However, as time went on Lee’s attempts to raise funds from the United States proved to be less successful than hoped; despite promises by celebrities such as Isaac Hayes and Dionne Warwick, in the end there was little further enthusiasm among African Americans for his efforts.[22]

ADAF’s work surrounding the fortress brought them in conflict with the Ghanaian government, which was trying to raise funds from UNESCO to restore a variety of historical monuments in the country, and worried that ADAF’s emphasis on European involvement in the Atlantic slave trade would be offputting to potential foreign donors. Indeed, the Dutch embassy remonstrated against ADAF’s involvement and complained that the focus on slavery excluded other aspects of the Dutch–Ghanaian trading relationship; the plaque presented by the city of Amsterdam refers only to “the memory of historic ties between Ghana and the Netherlands”. As a result, on 5 February 1973 the Ghanaian government broke ADAF’s lease on Fort Amsterdam and ordered Lee that “any activities should cease forthwith”. Further negotiations failed to produce results acceptable to either side, and in the end the remainder of the funds that Lee had raised were donated to the Du Bois Centre.[23]

However, despite this setback, Lee continued to remain attached to the forts and to speak out against what he saw as their misuse. In a 1994 lecture entitled “On the Meaning of Slave Forts and Castles of Ghana” at a conference on the restoration of forts in Elmina and other areas, he described the forts as “sacred spaces” and condemned tourism officials who would see them converted into discothèques or hotels.[24]

Execution of son
Lee’s son Robert, more commonly known by his day name Kojo, attended the Achimota School, where he befriended the young Jerry Rawlings. The two would later join the Ghana Air Force, where Kojo attained the rank of flight lieutenant. After Kojo’s discharge, he opened a golf course, restaurant, and bar in Accra.[25] After Rawlings’ second coup in 1981 which established the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), Kojo was at first suspicious of his old friend, and did not speak to him for three months, but eventually accepted the call back to service that the government extended to all discharged soldiers.[14][26] On the evening of 28 October 1983, Kojo went out on patrol with two comrades in the Labadi neighbourhood of Accra to enforce curfew after reports of looting. While on patrol, he shot and killed neighbourhood resident Peter Atsu Bieboo, a fellow Ghana Armed Forces member on his way to buy kenkey with his brother.[27][28] As a result, Kojo was tried for murder.[29] A fellow prisoner stated that Kojo was at first confident that he would be released, but instead he was found guilty, and executed on 29 September 1984.[14][30]

Rawlings was targeted by allegations that he showed favouritism towards friends caught up in the legal system, allegations which even the executions of his friends such as Kojo failed to silence.[31] Even after the executions of Lee and Rawlings’ other close friend Joachim Amartey Quaye, rumours claimed that the executions had not actually been carried out; Riad Hozaifeh later testified to the National Reconciliation Commission that the PNDC then instructed him to film future executions for documentary purposes.[32] Lee’s wife also died soon after their son’s death.[14] Lee’s other son Jeffrey moved back to the United States, where he joined the United States Agency for International Development and later served a stint in Ghana before returning to Virginia;[1][33] Lee would later describe him as “an African learning how to be an American”.[34] However, Lee himself chose to remain in Ghana. In the aftermath, he stated, “Everyone thinks I should be angry, I should be this or I should be that … I just know that living in this society, where I am living now, I feel better. I feel like a person.”[14]

Later activities
Lee would go on to set up a student hostel programme and guest house, hoping to provide inexpensive accommodation for international students from other parts of Africa. He also invested in a variety of other projects, including a farm and a driving range.[1] He retired from his dental practice in 2002.[19] In 2007, he donated photographs of Kwame Nkrumah that he had taken in his days at Lincoln University to the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in preparation for the country’s Golden Jubilee celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of independence.[35] In his aging years, he continued to pay attention to developments in the United States, in particular Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and subsequent election in 2008. During Obama’s presidential visit to Ghana in 2009, he stated that he was happy to see that the United States was making progress, but felt that “Ghana had made progress long before the United States”.[2] The University of Ghana-Legon awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2008 to recognise his distinguished contribution to public service, making him the second American to whom they had granted such a degree, after W. E. B. Du Bois.[1][36]

Death and funeral
Lee died at his home in Labone, Accra, on 5 July 2010. He was survived by his son Jeffrey Randall Lee, his daughter-in-law Naa Ofeibia Sakwamante Lee (the widow of his other son Robert Lowry Lee), four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.[1] Lee was laid in state and then given a funeral service at the Du Bois Centre in Accra on 24 July 2010.[6]

^ a b c d e f g h i “Dr. Robert Lee passes on”. Ghana Business News. 2010-07-13. Retrieved 2012-11-03.
^ a b c Asante, Elizabeth K. (2010-07-07). “Dentist Championed African-American community in Ghana”. Ghana Web. Retrieved 2012-11-03.
^ a b c d e Ludden, Jennifer (1997-08-07). “Black American Couple Finds Home in Ghana”. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2012-11-03.
^ Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008, p. 36. ^ Gaines 2006, p. 245
^ a b “President Mills informed of death and funeral of Dr. Robert Lee”. Modern Ghana. 2010-07-20. Retrieved 2012-11-03.
^ a b “Ghana honors man with Summerville roots”. Summerville Journal-Scene. 2010-07-29. Retrieved 2012-11-03. ^ a b Schramm 2010, p. 82
^ a b c Campbell 2007, p. 282
^ Dunbar 1968, p. 73–74
^ Gaines 2006, p. 82
^ Raboteau, Emily (2012-11-05). “Daughters of Obama”. Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics. Retrieved 2014-01-29. ^ Schramm 2010, p. 68
^ a b c d e Campbell 2007, p. 312
^ Dunbar 1968, p. 81
^ a b Schramm 2010, p. 70
^ Warren & MacGonagle 2012, p. 94
^ Phillips, p. 184
^ a b Mwakikagile 2007, p. 44
^ a b “A Shrine To Slaves: Black Americans restore Ghana’s old Fort Amsterdam”. Ebony. January 1972. Retrieved 2012-11-03.. Includes a photograph of Lee. ^ Schramm 2010, p. 83
^ Richards 2007, p. 106
^ Schramm 2010, p. 84–85
^ Holsey 2008, p. 165
^ “Journalist Examines Circumstances Behind Lee, Addy Executions”. Sub-Saharan African Report. Foreign Broadcast Information Service. 1984-11-07. Retrieved 2013-12-24. ^ Adjei 1994, p. 132
^ Shillington 1992, p. 242
^ Adjei 1994, p. 133
^ The people vrs Flt.-Lt. Robert Kojo Lee (Public tribunals of Ghana, Accra, case no. 75/83). OCLC 14868105.
^ “Friend of Ghana’s leader executed”. The Sydney Morning Herald. 1984-10-02. Retrieved 2014-01-29. ^ Shillington 1992, p. 244
^ “I Filed Executions – Riad Admits”. Ghana REview. 2003-03-24. Retrieved 2013-12-21.
^ “Ghana welcomes with open arms: African-Americans who’ve moved there say life is good”. Detroit Free Press. 1996-06-23. Retrieved 2014-01-29. ^ Phillips 2009, p. 181
^ “Kwame Nkrumah’s photos donated”. Modern Ghana. 2007-02-17. Retrieved 2012-11-03.
^ “UG to confer degrees on CJ, Ibn Chambas, others”. Modern Ghana. 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2012-11-03. References
Adjei, Mike (1994-02-15). Death and Pain: Rawlings’ Ghana – the Inside Story. Black Line. ISBN 9781854210364.
Campbell, James (2007-04-24). Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787-2005. Penguin. ISBN 9781440649417.
Dunbar, Ernest, ed. (1968). “Dr. Robert E. Lee”. The Black Expatriates: A Study of American Negroes in Exile. E. P. Dutton. OCLC 339537.
Gaines, Kevin Kelly (2006). American Africans in Ghana: Black Expatriates and the Civil Rights Era. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807830086.
Holsey, Bayo (June 2008). Routes of Remembrance: Refashioning the Slave Trade in Ghana. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226349756.
Mwakikagile, Godfrey (January 2007). Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities. Dar es Salaam: New Africa Press. ISBN 9780980253450. Phillips, Caryl (2009). The Atlantic Sound. Random House. ISBN 9780307481740.
Richards, Sandra L. (May 2007). “What Is To Be Remembered? Tourism to Ghana’s Slave Castle-Dungeons”. In Reinelt, Janelle G.; Roach, Joseph. Critical Theory and Performance. ISBN 9780472068869.
Schramm, Katharina (September 2010). African Homecoming: Pan-African Ideology and Contested Heritage. Left Coast Press. ISBN 9781598745146.
Shillington, Kevin (1992-02-07). Ghana and the Rawlings Factor. Macmillan. ISBN 9780333568453.
Warren, Kim; MacGonagle, Elizabeth (September 2012). “‘How much for Kunta Kinte?!': Sites of Memory and Diasporan Encounters in West Africa”. In Van Beek, Walter; Schmitt, Annette. African Hosts and Their Guests: Cultural Dynamics of Tourism. Boydell and Brewer. ISBN 9781847010490. Further reading


October 7, 2014

amerikkka #1
*BLACK HISTORY FACT* Jesse Washington a teenage African American farmhand was lynched on this date in 1916 in what became known as The Waco Horror. Washington was accused of raping and murdering his employer’s wife after she was found dead. Law enforcement interrogated Jesse Washington, eventually obtaining a confession. Washington was tried for murder in Waco, Texas, in a courtroom filled with furious locals. He entered a guilty plea and was quickly sentenced to receive capital punishment. After his sentence was pronounced, he was dragged out of the court by observers and lynched in front of city hall. Over 10,000 spectators, including city officials and police, gathered to watch the attack. Members of the mob castrated Washington, cut off his fingers, and hung him over a bonfire. He was repeatedly lowered and raised over the fire to delay his death. After the fire was
extinguished, Jesse Washington’s charred torso was dragged through the town and parts of his body were sold as souvenirs. A professional photographer took pictures as the event unfolded, providing rare photographs of a lynching in progress. The pictures were printed and sold as postcards in Waco, Texas. Although the lynching was supported by many Waco residents, it was condemned by newspapers around the United States. #JoeMadison #SiriusXM #UrbanView #Lynching
#BlackHistory SiriusXM Urban View
Joe Madison – “The Black Eagle”


Jesse Washington a teenage African American farmhand was lynched on this date in 1916 in what became known as The Waco Horror. Washington was accused of raping and murdering his employer’s wife after she was found dead. Law enforcement interrogated Jesse
Washington, eventually obtaining a confession. Washington was tried for murder in Waco, Texas, in a courtroom filled with furious locals. He entered a guilty plea and was quickly sentenced to receive capital punishment. After his sentence was pronounced, he was dragged out of the court by observers and lynched in front of city hall. Over 10,000 spectators, including city officials and police, gathered to watch the attack. Members of the mob castrated Washington, cut off his fingers, and hung him over a bonfire. He was repeatedly lowered and raised over the fire to delay his death. After the fire was
extinguished, Jesse Washington’s charred torso was dragged through the town and parts of his body were sold as souvenirs. A
professional photographer took pictures as the event unfolded, providing rare photographs of a lynching in progress. The pictures were printed and sold as postcards in Waco, Texas. Although
the lynching was supported by many Waco residents, it was condemned by newspapers around
the United States. ‪#‎JoeMadison‬ ‪#‎SiriusXM‬ ‪#‎UrbanView‬ ‪#‎Lynching‬ ‪#‎BlackHistory‬ SiriusXM Urban View


June 23, 2014

a_3x-verticallupita-nyongo-vogue-cofrom Lupita Nyong’o on Winning the Oscar, Becoming the Face of Lancôme, and Her First Cover of Vogue by Hamish Bowles | photographed by Mikael Jansson 34 Lupita Nyong’o first Vogue cover Photographed by Mikael Jansson, Vogue, July 2014 » SEE THE SLIDESHOW « In little more than a year, Lupita Nyong’o has made the leap from serious student to Oscar-winning actress and head-turning fashion star. Hamish Bowles catches up with Hollywood’s newest golden girl. Marrakech in May is unseasonably tagine-hot. Hapless tourists are being felled by sunstroke merely from sauntering across the city’s pulsing medina square, which is all but abandoned by the native food and trinket traders, snake-charmers, and storytellers who will throng it in the desert cool of evening. But in the oasis sanctuary of the Ksar Char-Bagh, all is balmy dolce far niente. A luxe spa hostelry built in imitation of a castle-like fort in the middle of the Palmeraie, it has crenellated towers that hide a private dipping pool and afford views down to a central marbled courtyard modeled on Granada’s Moorish Alhambra, and across the palm groves to the distant Atlas Mountains. Guests are lounging poolside in the shade of an allée of date palms, seemingly oblivious of the Academy Award–winning deity in their midst, who is the focus of the Vogue cover shoot in full fluster around them. Lupita Nyong’o is cucumber-cool, as beautiful and hieratic as an ancient Egyptian statue of a cat goddess, dressed in Prada’s magenta Deco-print dress licked with silver that is dazzling against her luminous skin. Lupita instinctively falls into graceful attitudes; she can’t help herself. “She knows the camera, she knows her angles,” notes an approving Phyllis Posnick, Vogue’s Executive Fashion Editor, who, it should be noted, does not suffer fools gladly but is in some kind of awe of this particular subject. It is easy to see why. Lupita, 31, is as preternaturally poised as a prewar debutante, with a carefully modulated, cut-crystal accent and a quaint use of English to match. When she discusses one of the most harrowing scenes in the infinitely harrowing 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen’s magisterial movie in which she made her unforgettable screen debut as the tormented slave girl Patsey, she describes her character, delicately, as being “completely disrobed.” See Lupita Nyong’o’s best red carpet looks. At the BAFTAs at London’s Royal Opera House in February, I happened to follow Lupita’s blindingly flash-lit entrance on the red carpet as she artfully manipulated the emerald-green organza Dior ball gown billowing around her. There was nothing in this swanlike apparition to suggest how stressful the relentless awards-show circuit can be. “Still waters run deep,” she explains with an enigmatic smile. In all, Lupita attended 60-some promotional events during a grueling five-month odyssey that began with the Toronto Film Festival in early September 2013 (where she first blazoned the promise of fashion stardom in Prada’s white jersey goddess dress, trellised with golden sequins). Small wonder that The New York Times’s Guy Trebay noted the “military precision” with which her management and stylists approached the campaign to conquer the red carpet and burn Lupita’s image into the collective consciousness—garnering her, among other things, a lucrative contract with Lancôme. (As Isabella Rossellini, the international face of the brand for more than a decade, beginning in 1983, describes it, “Having this contract is winning the lottery” and provided her with “the freedom to make only the films that I liked and not the films I didn’t.”) Lupita appreciates the fact that Lancôme’s brand ambassadors, who currently include Julia Roberts, Kate Winslet, and Penélope Cruz, “are very different, unique women—it’s not about conforming to an already established idea of what is beautiful, and I like that.” In her meetings with the beauty house’s executives, she echoed powerful sentiments she expressed in a speech earlier in the year at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon. “I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful,” she told the audience that day, and described the sensation of having a flower bloom inside her when the Sudanese-born Alek Wek appeared on the modeling scene in the mid-nineties. Over dinner at Le Tobsil, a spice-colored riad restaurant in the medina, she tells me, “I felt how valuable and vital such representation is.” As we are serenaded by the hypnotic chant of the Gnawa musicians in the adjoining courtyard, I suggest to Lupita that she must have had a completely surreal year. “Indeed I did,” she says, laughing. “It just feels like the entertainment industry exploded into my life. People who seemed so distant all of a sudden were right in front of me and recognizing me—before I recognized them!” Her first real intimation that her life was changing—probably forever—came after the SAG Awards in January, when she arrived late one night at the airport and was mobbed by paparazzi. “For a split second I looked behind me to see who they were flashing at—and it was me!” she remembers. “That was, I think, the beginning of the end of my anonymity.” Though, as she recalls with a laugh, she lived for three years as a student in pants and a sweatshirt, Lupita has always enjoyed fashion. Growing up in Kenya, she designed many of her own clothes “because it was cheaper than buying retail,” including her own prom dress when she graduated from the all-boys high school she attended in Nairobi—girls were accepted only in two advanced-placement classes. “It was a velvet miniskirt with a matching little top and an iridescent silver translucent fabric that flowed to the ground,” she remembers. “It was kind of ridiculous, but it was fabulous at the time.” Lupita realized that she needed a more considered approach to her fashion choices as she prepared for the formidable season of appearances for 12 Years a Slave. She had worked with and befriended Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary) on Non-Stop (a rollicking suspense vehicle for Liam Neeson that was released two days before the Academy Awards, with Lupita—in what more than one critic described as a meager role—as a flight attendant alongside Dockery). Dockery introduced her to her stylist, Micaela Erlanger, a protégée of the late Annabel Tollman, who helped shape the red-carpet personas of Scarlett Johansson and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, among others. Lupita arrived for their first meeting armed with a Pinterest board of fashion ideas that appealed to her: “Bold color, interesting print, interesting silhouette—simple but architectural and feminine,” Erlanger remembers. “Elegance, but with a sense of humor.” The pair proceeded to meet for “epic six-hour fittings,” says Lupita. “It’s a job; it’s work, you know!” she tells me. “We’d just try, try, try, try, try, try, try. At first it was very daunting, but I ended up really having fun with it.” Their choices have run the gamut from Christopher Kane and Sacai to custom Prada and Chanel Haute Couture. Most times, she adds, “especially for the bigger awards, the dress let me know it was going to be worn. It’s quite scary when you fall in love with a dress, because it’s nothing to do with your brain. It’s like a gut reaction.” The caped scarlet Ralph Lauren gown for the Golden Globes was a case in point: “We got goose bumps,” remembers Erlanger of that fitting. “I told her, ‘This is going to be a game-changer.’ And it was.” Lupita was cast in Miu Miu’s spring campaign alongside Elizabeth Olsen, Elle Fanning, and Bella Heathcote, and attended the label’s fashion show in Paris, dressed in a collared burgundy sweater under the sort of stiff little coat that Britain’s royal children have traditionally worn—the prim Good Girl foil to her front-row neighbor, Rihanna, who was working an eighties banjee-girl look in a runway-fresh Prada shearling coat, a plunging décolleté, and a Cleopatra bob. As for Lupita’s short crop, which she has worn since she was nineteen, hairstylists Ted Gibson, Larry Sims, and Vernon François have worked such iterations as a two-pronged Mohawk, a Grace Jones flat-top crew cut, a widow’s peak, and a Gumby. The bold and adventurous makeup choices she makes with Nick Barose, meanwhile, annex beauty as a virtual accessory to her wardrobe. “You spend so much time with your glam squad,” says Lupita. “Their energy is the last thing you experience before you leave the hotel room—and they make it fun and light and manageable.” Before she embarked on her fashion marathon, “everyone said, ‘Brace yourself, Lupita! Keep a granola bar in that clutch of yours!’ ” she confides. “I didn’t really understand what they meant, and it was only once it was past that I realized that my body had been holding on by a thread to get through this very intense experience. Nothing can prepare you for awards season,” she continues. “The red carpet feels like a war zone, except you cannot fly or fight; you just have to stand there and take it.” She considers for a moment. “I hope they don’t make that the big quote!” she says, laughing. “Because that would be sad! Tell them not to do that!” It is understandable that Lupita would hesitate to trivialize the idea of internecine strife. Her current beau, the Somali-born rapper K’naan, has a preternatural serenity of his own that belies a childhood of unimaginable ferocity in his civil war–torn homeland, when he saw playmates die. (He fled with his family to Toronto, where, like so many of his disenchanted, rootless compatriots, he turned to a life of petty crime before reinventing himself through music, achieving global recognition when he adapted the lyrics of his anthemic “Wavin’ Flag” to become Coke’s official 2010 FIFA World Cup song.) Lupita’s childhood, though privileged, was hardly settled. Her father, Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, a political-science professor, opposed the government of Daniel arap Moi, whose turbulent presidency lasted 24 years. Nyong’o’s brother “disappeared,” and Nyong’o was eventually self-exiled to Mexico, where Lupita was born in 1983. (Her name, in the symbolic Luo tradition, is a play on the word luo itself, which means “to follow,” and Peter is her father’s name, so that run together they suggest “I followed Peter to Mexico.” Lupita also speaks Swahili.) The family eventually returned to Nairobi, where her father continued to face intermittent persecution by the system, which changed with the election of Mwai Kibaki in 2002. He is currently a senator in the Kenyan parliament. He is also, let it be noted, an actor manqué, with a passion for Shakespeare, instilling in his daughter, along with her five siblings, an appetite for performance since childhood. “My family is very close-knit,” she explains. “My aunt, who was an actor herself, would get all us children together to write and perform plays. I loved manipulating my parents’ emotions.” When her mother, Dorothy, cried out at the tragic denouement of one of the plays, Lupita remembers “feeling very powerful.” They are clearly close; Dorothy has often accompanied her to awards shows, as have her siblings, including her acting-mad little brother, Peter. In Morocco, hearing that Dorothy fretted that her daughter wasn’t eating enough, Lupita spelled out I Love You with her Ksar Char-Bagh breakfast fruit and sent it to her as a charming freeze-frame iPhone video on Mother’s Day. At fourteen, Lupita secured her first legitimate role, playing Juliet with the Phoenix Players, Nairobi’s “vibrant semiprofessional theater,” and experienced the same thrill when the performance brought the audience to tears at the end. “That was when I realized that I really loved this thing called playacting.” Lupita’s father has a master’s degree and a doctorate from the University of Chicago, and, like many middle-class Kenyans, Lupita was expected to continue her higher education abroad. So in 2003, at the age of 20, she began taking classes in film and African studies at Hampshire College in Massachusetts—an experience that she found to be “a major culture shock” after her self-described “very conservative” schooling in Kenya. “I felt like I needed rules,” she says, “but in the end, it taught me that I am very self-motivated—I can make my own rules!” While at Hampshire, Lupita went home to Kenya and managed to finagle herself into working on the set of The Constant Gardener, which was shooting there. She met its star Ralph Fiennes and confided in him her passion to act. He firmly told her not to pursue it as a career unless it was something “I couldn’t live without”—advice that, as she admits, “gave me pause.” In Kenya, as she notes, acting “wasn’t a viable career path; it’s not necessarily seen as a prestigious profession.” Expectations ran high: Her cousin Isis Nyong’o (a former VP and managing director of the African operations of InMobi, the independent mobile advertising network) has been cited by Forbes as one of Africa’s most successful women. After undergraduate studies, Lupita returned home to Kenya, and she experienced something of an existential crisis before having “this vivid image of myself at 60, looking back at my life and really regretting that I hadn’t tried to be an actor. That was the dawn that I needed to start pursuing this.” She applied to Yale; if it didn’t work out, she would return to production. She had already written, directed, and produced a documentary for her Hampshire thesis project: In My Genes, about a friend’s experience living with albinism in Kenya, where the condition is considered a bad omen and those born with it are subject to discrimination—and worse (“I traveled all those thousands of miles just to learn about my next-door neighbor!” says Lupita). Without a theater library in Nairobi, Lupita reverted to her Juliet, and to high school pieces to perform for her Yale application, which involved auditioning on one day and waiting to hear whether you were going to be called back a month later. During the interview, she was asked when she was planning to return to Kenya. “After callbacks,” she replied. “They laughed, but it was true. I had to make that call, and that was of course very scary and presumptuous, but I was not going to sell myself short.” Lupita was accepted but delayed her arrival to appear in Shuga, the groundbreaking Kenyan soap opera that was produced by the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, in collaboration with the Kenyan government, intended to promote “responsible sexual behavior and tolerance.” (It was aired in 46 African countries and subsequently in over sixteen more around the world.) When she finally arrived at Yale, among so many dedicated students, the experience was revelatory, even if the schedule was unforgiving—“In one day you’re playing five different characters,” and between class and rehearsals she was often studying from 9:00 in the morning until 1:00 the following morning. But even so, as she prepared for her final-semester showcases (presented in New York and Los Angeles to a packed house of agents, managers, producers, and casting directors), she was also working on an audition tape for the role of Patsey. By his account, Steve McQueen had already seen “thousands” of actresses for the role, but when he saw that tape, as he told Vogue, “It was like looking for a piece of glass on a sandy beach and finding a jewel. . . . She has this aura about her.” Working with his cinematographer, Sean Bobbitt (“They are like tango dancers,” notes Lupita), and filming her scenes in an almost documentary way, McQueen (who won Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize in 1999 as a video artist) potently captured that aura onscreen. “I was really nervous about seeing myself in 12 Years a Slave,” says Lupita, “because it had been such a profound experience in all ways. I remember it being one of the most joyful times in my life—and also one of the most sorrowful. I didn’t want my experience to be a vain one. But I will say that when I watched it, my heartstrings were pulled so tight for Solomon that I couldn’t go into the ego trip. I cried—I mean, I was inconsolable. I wept for an hour after the movie.” Lupita’s tears were the beginning of a journey that led to her Academy Award. “I had already gotten the nomination, which was truly, truly astounding, and enough,” she remembers. “Even in my dreams of being an actor, my dream was not in the celebrity. My dream was in the work that I wanted to do.” When her name was read out, the experience was, as she recalls, “very confusing, very numbing. I was just repeating my name in my head, so I didn’t know whether I had said my name or they had said my name! And then my little brother screamed, and time was suspended and it was just noise in my head.” As Lupita gathered those voluminous silk georgette pleats of her custom Prada skirts, she remembers that all she could think was “Don’t fall on those stairs” because, as she drolly explains, “it’s not cute if you follow Jennifer Lawrence—it’s not cute if you’re the second one!” “People are still filling me in on what happened after,” she adds. “My mother says I cried during the speech; I don’t believe her.” Those waters do indeed run deep: She was memorably poised, her acceptance speech a model of erudition. “When I look down at this golden statue,” she said, “may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” So it was that Lupita appeared to spring into our lives fully formed, both as a consummate movie actress receiving her profession’s highest honor and as an intriguing fashion star and superlative beauty icon. She is quick to note that her “red carpet” self “is just one aspect of me; it doesn’t represent the entirety of me, which I am at peace with.” She keeps her private life just that. “The safest thing is when I’m indoors in my world,” she says, which for the moment is an apartment in Brooklyn. When she isn’t cooking at home (“I like to cook whole fish. And I make some mean salads”), she is enjoying the borough’s unpretentious restaurants and bars. The complicated question of how to follow Lupita’s dream debut is one that has clearly been exercising the actress and her management, who recently confirmed that she will be providing the voice for Raksha in Disney’s live-action/CGI hybrid revisiting of The Jungle Book. The news that she’d also been cast alongside Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, and Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie in J. J. Abrams’s Star Wars: Episode VII, out Christmas 2015, meanwhile, sent the Internet into a collective frenzy. “I’m going to a galaxy far, far away,” Lupita told me with a laugh as the announcement was made in early June. In the meantime, she says, “I’m really hungry to get back onstage. It flexes muscles that you need to do the more subtle film work.” She is particularly keen on the writing of the actor-playwright Danai Gurira and loves her plays Eclipsed, about the Liberian civil war, and The Convert, set in southern Africa, about the birth of Christianity on the continent. Like her boyfriend, K’naan, she is very engaged by the myriad issues confronting their homelands. She recently signed on to both coproduce—in partnership with Brad Pitt’s Plan B and two other partners—and star in an adaptation of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s acclaimed novel about the African immigrant experience, Americanah. “The book blew me away,” she tells me. “This was a project I wanted to work on, and I pursued it with all my being. It’s an unabashedly romantic book, really inspiring and uplifting. I found myself in her pages.” On top of all that, she has a yen for some more Shakespeare. “I thought I’d had my fill at Yale, but . . . oh, boy, I guess there’s nothing like the Bard!” she says, laughing. “I absolutely adore Twelfth Night.” She adds that in the future, Cleopatra and “Lady M” are top of her wish list. As a child watching Star Wars for the first time, Lupita was intrigued by R2-D2 and C-3PO. “They just resonated with me,” she says. “Being able to convey emotions with just a few digital sounds—it speaks of good storytelling.” That storytelling is still holding her in thrall. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to be working in these fantastical realms,” she says. “They’re worlds away from 12 Years a Slave, that’s for sure—but that kind of diversity is what dreams are made of.” For more from Vogue, download the digital edition from iTunes, Kindle, Nook Color, and Next Issue. 1 June 19, 2014 6:00a.m. Summer Style Made Easy From the best beach accessories to the new crop of swimwear designers making waves right now, here, everything you need to know for a stylish summer. View Now 2 Discussions by marie6gaillard I had boycotted the magazine but now I will buy this issue asap. Lupita is absolutely stunning and talented. Now this is fashion. Excellent choice! Posted 6/19/2014 3:56:44pm Reply Approve Report by nucubidze-1997 Hello! I am Mariam Nucubidze! 16 Years! Eager to stars work in Vogue.(The assistant of Anna Wintour)..I am Very enthusiastic and creative.I Love Writing.I have created a television program Project %u201ETeen%u201C(I have a patented).I love news and new Ideas.I have Ideas About in your Magazine.I know the psychology of the people and wishes.But I dont live in the USA.I am from Georgia.(Georgia is a country,not a state.The capital -Tbilisi) If you Hire me for work and a chance for me to ensure my arrival in America.Thank You for your attention.(Write me this email( or call me on phone ( 995 555 107 817)) P.S (If you read my letter,Tell her that I love and am a fan of Anna) Posted 6/21/2014 1:46:20am Reply Approve Report


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