Walter Mason Jr., who passed away on Feb. 28, was a tremendous contributor to the arts in Las Vegas. A celebration of his life was held recently at the West Las Vegas Arts Center, where he logged countless hours as a volunteer — mentoring young people, and producing and directing stage productions for first-time actors.
Mason spent his entire career in the entertainment industry as an actor, director and producer. Rooted firmly as a creative force in the theatrical world, he traveled the world to deliver award-winning performances in such productions as “Othello,” “The Tempest,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Purlie,” “Victorious,” “Golden Boy,” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Born January 26, 1926 in Detroit, Mason (pictured here receiving an honor from Broadway in the Hood founder Torrey Russell) was passionate about helping youth in the community and sharing his artistic gifts.
DISPATCH FROM L.A.
Vanessa Bell Calloway is the center of attention at her star-studded 60th birthday celebration.
Actress Vanessa Bell Calloway turned 60 in March, and celebrated with a star-studded birthday gala and comedy show at Regency West in the Leimert Park section of Los Angeles. The celebration was hosted by Sherri Shepherd and guests included Star Jones, Debbie Allen, Kym Whitley, Vivica Fox, Cedric The Entertainer, Magic Johnson, Tina Knowles Lawson, Glynn Turman and many more. Crossing an item off her bucket list, Calloway brought the house down with a stand-up comedy set — then proceeded to close the show with a full split.
Photos by Gina Walker
Eva Martin, who owns and operates several McDonald’s restaurants, is committed to giving back to Las Vegas through community engagement and scholarships that help young people take flight toward higher education. Here, she shares tips on how to best communicate with the people who we can influence in our daily lives.
Be a responsive community engagement leader. Broaden your goodwill in the community by staying abreast of neighborhood activities and current affairs. Respond to positive calls that have a direct impact on people in need. Share positive ideas with powers-that-be who can promote and support uplifting change.
Advance skills to bring value to the community. There’s one mantra that applies to everyone: “Education is the key.” Educate yourself on skills that will contribute to your community. Empower yourself to identify voids and fulfill them.
There are many groups in Las Vegas that are doing fantastic work to lift up people in the community. Identify organizations that are in line with your passion for uplifting humanity. As you give back in partnership with others, you will ultimately receive the greatest gifts.
Have a front row seat in the life of your community. Knowledge is very important. Stay up-to-date on issues and events that affect your community. What affects one might affect all. Be a good listener. Take the time to listen while in conversation with others who are sharing their points of view. Everyone is worthy of a listening ear.
Embrace the community with love and an open heart. You can bring value to a community by understanding what people truly value. Approach your community with love and an open heart and others will appreciate the respect you give.
We sometimes find ourselves in a whirlwind created by the hustle, bustle, and demands of everyday life — trying desperately to please others while putting our own needs on hold.
Spring reminds us that flowers bloom with life thanks to nourishment from the sun, water and soil. As the beauty attracts our eyes, it reminds us that we all need fulfillment in order to prosper.
Many times we look to others to keep up the momentum we need, but there will always be times when we have to fill our own empty cup. Restoration, we learn, is accompanied by exploration.
In those moments we have to rediscover the source of our own light. And that will not always be pouring ourselves into work or other projects that cause us to fulfill someone else’s expectations. When we find ourselves doing much too much, it’s time to examine our motivations. What is motivating you to go overboard with your daily activities? Is there a mandate to keep pushing when there is no pulling you up?
As we meditate on our experiences and all that is required to maintain certain luxuries, we must be mindful of what we truly value in life. Those things that are most important are those things that are most important place in your cup and all else are sprinkles around them. Self-management over one’s life is crucial, because other selfish forces will commandeer your existence if they are allowed to do so.
“Much too, much” can be regulated to bring purpose and joy when you are maintaining positive momentum. That regulation ultimately results in peace.
7. America’s value system is being eroded by the obscene amount being paid to professional athletes. Athletes’ contribution to a better America is grossly out of balance when compared to others who provide meaningful services. For instance, if an athlete is making $20 million a year, this equates to 13.3 teachers working for 30 years at an average of $50,000 a year.
6. There are no longer any consequences for politicians who habitually lie to the public. By allowing this to occur during a campaign for the highest office in America, can anyone tell what truths we can now hold as self-evident in the good old United States?
5. It is grossly unfair for Congress to pay themselves $179,000/year, yet oppose an increase in the minimum wage, currently at $7.25/hour or $14,790 a year for 2,040 hours of work. Even more revealing: since 2001, Congress has worked an average of 139 days a year or a total of 1,112 hours — thus lining their pockets to the tune of $168.30/hour.
4. Regardless of the circumstances, there are no criminal charges against police officers in upwards of 95% of the cases where they use deadly force. In these cases, not only is lady justice blind, she is deaf and dumb, too.
3. How can our country ask young people to risk death in the prime of their lives, only to be neglected once they leave the military and return home? There can be no more glaring example of this neglect than to note over 50% of the homeless population of America is comprised of veterans.
2. Bigotry and sexism are so rampant that Americans were willing to vote for the most vulgar man to ever run for President over a highly qualified woman. WTF?
1. The most dignified man to serve as in the Oval Office since Eisenhower, Barack Obama, has been succeeded by the most debauched man to ever serve as President.
Dear readers, please save this column. I predict that the person who has been sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America will not finish out his term. Also, America will become the laughingstock of the world. The first signs of his demise will be evidenced by the number of cabinet members who have to resign.
BY CAPUCINE HOLMES
South Point Hotel and Casino was the site of a historic gathering on a recent Tuesday, as people from across America came together for a rare taste of Brandye — the outstanding singing trio comprised of Donna Davis Sadler, Cynthia Douglas, and Pamela Vincent, reuniting after several decades.
Brandye have made over 4,000 records by singing background for such acclaimed artists as Aretha Franklin, Bob Hope, Peabo Bryson, Johnny Taylor, James Brown, Funkadelic, Millie Jackson, Isaac Hayes, Bobby Womack, Bob Seger, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, The Dramatics, Lattimore, David Ruffin, Denise LaSalle, Phillipe Wynn and many others.
The trio met during their high school years. A love of music created a bond of sisterhood. And the sisterhood of music keeps their bond strong today.
In Hollywood, Brandye is known for their distinctive sound on motion picture soundtracks and national commercials. For example, they can be heard alongside Aretha Franklin on a rendition of “Someday We’ll All Be Free” that is featured on the soundtrack of Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X.”
Among those in attendance to witness the Brandye reunion: Grammy-winning producer Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, who is Sadler’s son-in-law — married to her daughter, Ashley Joi. He is known worldwide for his work with artists ranging from Usher to Justin Bieber, and will no doubt be one of the creative forces behind Brandye’s imminent comeback and transition from vinyl to iTunes download.
BY YVETTE WILLIAMS
It is clear over the past two legislative sessions that Nevadans wants an equitable education system. The work of Clark County School District and Nevada Department of Education supports these efforts, and clearly with the new Every Student Succeeds Act the federal government now provides Nevada with more opportunities to succeed. However, there is one huge problem: African-American students continue to be marginalized under a funding formula that doesn’t address their needs and the needs of those students least proficient in the State.
While committee members discuss the education needs of students during the 79th legislative session, it’s been clearly established through years of testimony, backed up with data and reports, that overall African-American students are struggling the most in Nevada. Data shows that African-American students’ proficiency rates are the lowest in the State by race/ethnicity. There’s been a long history of this disparity without a plan to address the gap, although education advocates have pushed for systemic change. The Every Child Succeed Act (ESSA) passed by Congress mandates that states use federal dollars in their state plans to address the needs of students with the greatest disparities by sub-group.
Finally, a solution to the funding dilemma. States and Districts can now provide funding to sub-groups least proficient, and in fact are required to do so. What does that mean for the African-American sub-group? Funding! So what’s the problem, you ask. State legislators decide how the money is distributed based on a funding formula. The proposed funding formula being considered are as follows:
1) ELL or English Language Learners (only second language learners), 2) FRL or Free and Reduced Lunch (low income), 3) IEP or Individual Education Plans (special needs), 4) G.A.T.E. or Gifted And Talented Education. Clearly, you can see there is absolutely NO consideration given to students least proficient as required by ESSA. This should be an outrage to everyone concerned about education. Clark County Black Caucus is joined by the NAACP Las Vegas Chapter and teachers in the classrooms (Clark County Education Association) advocating for education equity.
Currently, the equity allocation model legislators are considering does not address the needs of these students. We know not all students in poverty are least proficient. But when we look at the data for FRL students by ethnicity, our African-American sub-group rates in the lowest 25% statewide followed closely by Native Americans. This mandate also helps to address the needs of students in our rural communities. In the current proposed plan, we do acknowledge our most “gifted” students and long term ELL students, while leaving our least proficient sub-groups invisible under FRL. Do we value some students more than others in Nevada? Contact your state representative (http://mapserve1.leg.state.nv.us/whoRU/) and ask them to support our least proficient students by recognizing them in the new funding formula for education.
We believe that SB178 has the potential to provide students with a more equitable education in Nevada. Having student funding follow the child is critical if they are to receive the resources and tools needed to be successful. The current categorical funding leaves thousands of students out that may qualify. Yet, without an additional funding category for our least proficient students they will continue to be marginalized and left out of the new Nevada Plan currently under construction. If that happens, I shudder to think what their future will hold in the next decade.
Yvette Williams is a community advocate and Chair/Founder of the Clark County Black Caucus, a non-partisan community organization driven 100% by volunteer members registered to vote. Follow her Blog at www.YvetteBWilliams.com and on twitter @YvetteBWilliams or contact her at ClarkCountyBlackCaucus@gmail.com for more information.