pop circumstance impactLike Kool-Aid and hot combs, Ebony and Jet have been fixtures in African American households for decades. As a little girl I dreamed of my mocha almond skin appearing on the cover of Ebony, and I got my weekly fix of black news from Jet. So this week when I received an email that’s been making its rounds through the black community pleading for people to subscribe to both publications, I was surprised by my own apathy. Are Ebony and Jet still worth saving? To be honest, I traded in Ebony for Essence, and Jet for TheRoot.com a long time ago. So as with all moral conundrums, I took to the Internet to see what the bloggers were saying and found that many people share my guilt-ridden lack of enthusiasm about the possible shuttering of these historic publications.

To its credit, Johnson Publishing, the company that puts out both magazines, has employed thousands of minorities since Ebony started back in 1945 (Jet came later in 1951). I’d hate to see this company crumble, particularly in a time when black communities are experiencing an increased need for employment. However, as new outlets have popped up on the black media landscape, Johnson Publishing hasn’t been able to keep up with the evolution of an increasingly digital industry. The new EbonyJet.com features compelling content, but is it enough? We do hope they’ll get it together over there and turn this financial hurdle into an opportunity for reinvention. Especially now in the age of the Obamas, African Americans are hungry for strong media offerings that reflect how they are living right now.

Too Human for ‘Real Housewives’?

It seems like the motto over at the Bravo television network is “if it worked once, do it again … and again, and again.” Since the success of The Real Housewives of Orange County, the network has continued to roll out different versions of the show featuring women in New York, Atlanta, and most recently in New Jersey. Now, rumors are circulating that Bravo is scouting for candidates for a new Real Housewives cast in Washington, D.C. We’re not banking on them picking the most quality women in town, especially after they booted DeShawn Snow from the Atlanta edition for being “too human for a circus show.” (Snow, by the way, is a Baptist minister pursuing her Master of Divinity degree from Regent University.) But with D.C.’s high minority population, along with the political spirit of the town, let’s hope they choose a few women who can restore some dignity to the title of housewife. What’s more, since it will be set in the Obamas’ new stomping grounds, wouldn’t it be nice to see some women running things Michelle Obama-style, with class and maybe a fist-bump thrown in for good measure?

And the Winner Is … Y’Anna Crawley

We were so caught up in the hoopla over the American Idol finale last week that we didn’t get a chance to congratulate Y’Anna Crawley, the winner of BET’s Sunday Best. Crawley is a single mother of two from Washington, D.C., who quit her job nine years ago to pursue her passion for music. After much hard work, her dream has finally come true. Following her big win, Crawley said, “I feel like I have been preparing for this moment my entire life. Through the ups and downs and highs and lows, God has truly been faithful and I owe it all to Him.” The first single on her debut album will be “The Promise,” which she performed to close out the season finale of Sunday Best. To check out Crawley’s vocal skills, watch below or visit BET.com for more videos of her performances on the show.

Kirk Franklin Knows You’re Sick of Him

After years making audiences clap their hands and stomp their feet, Kirk Franklin — who, by the way, also hosted BET’s Sunday Best — is taking a much-needed hiatus from music. In an interview with the Gospel Music Channel, Franklin says, “I kind of think people are a little tired of me right now. […] It’s time for me to shut up for a minute.” The popular artist, who brought gospel to the mainstream music scene back in 1997 with the release of “Stomp” from God’s Property, will also put the breaks on plans with Lionsgate to film his life story in a movie called Church Boy. Franklin does plan to continue his youth program, known as The Takeover, helping kids in Los Angeles recapture “the hearts, minds, and souls of youth for the glory of God.” After a decade of nonstop activity, we’re glad he’s taking a break from music — but we sure hope he doesn’t burn himself out doing it. Even in the midst of this hiatus, Franklin is scheduled to shoot a TV pilot, go on a concert tour, and finish up his book for Penguin called The Blueprint. Sure doesn’t sound like laying low to us.

Ashanti Slips into Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers

Ashanti will be easing on down the yellow brick road in New York this summer when she stars as Dorothy in the upcoming Off-Broadway revival of The Wiz. Back in the 1970s, the film version of this classic urban musical, which is based on The Wizard of Oz, was a who’s who of Motown talent, with a 33-year-old Diana Ross playing Dorothy opposite a 19-year-old Michael Jackson (as the Scarecrow). The contemporary cast probably won’t be as thrilling but should provide solid performances. Comic actor Orlando Jones (Drumline) plays the Wiz and Tichina Arnold (of Martin and Everybody Hates Chris) plays the evil Evillene. Since news of the show’s casting broke, people have been skeptical of Ashanti’s vocal ability. However, after delivering an impressive performance of the musical’s classic song “Home” at a preview event in New York City, people are beginning to think she can pull it off. Coincidentally, Ashanti also starred as Dorothy in the 2005 made-for-TV movie The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz.

From Hollywood to Homeless

Azharuddin Ismail, the 10-year-old child star from Slumdog Millionaire, lost his home last Thursday when Indian officials bulldozed his shanty in the slums of Mumbai. Officials say the boy’s home and nearly 30 others located nearby were illegally constructed. After video footage circulated in the media showing the young boy crying in the rubble that used to be his home, Slumdog director Danny Boyle flew to Mumbai and secured housing for both Ismail and Rubina Ali, the young girl who played Latika in the film. While Boyle was under no contractual obligation to provide aid to the families, the public disgust at the studio’s failure to assist the actors following Slumdog‘s $326 million earnings indicates that perhaps a moral contract exists between filmmakers and the communities impacted by the creation of their movies. Though it should be noted that last month Danny Boyle and producer Christian Colson donated nearly $800,000 to a non-profit organization to support a program for children living in the slums of central Mumbai, that amount doesn’t come close to the film’s gross profit. What do you think? Do Slumdog‘s creators owe Mumbai anything?

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