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Floella Benjamin Reflects On Her Career In Advocacy On Children’s TV

Floella Benjamin is a children’s TV presenter who’s used her career to advocate for children of all ages and backgrounds. Benjamin originally was a presenter on ‘Play School’ – a children’s program in the UK – before she began her own production company.

Mason Jar Outdoor Lights

Outdoor Projects To Liven Up Your Yard This Summer

Being stuck at home, many individuals have found themselves finally checking off every home project they’ve had on their lists for months now. Beyond that, many are beginning to get creative in the ways they decide to renovate and redo their living spaces. Now that we’re in the middle of summer with not a lot of places to go, many are looking to their own outdoor spaces to create an environment of summer fun during a global pandemic. So what are some fun projects you can do yourself this summer from home?

One of the most timeless ways to keep children entertained outdoors is chalk. Beyond just drawing in the driveway, creating an actual board/wall for your kids to draw on while standing up can be even more engaging. If your outdoor space has a blank wall space, consider painting over it with some chalkboard paint to make “drawing on the walls” an afternoon activity as opposed to a punishable offense. 

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Repurposing old things into new decorative pieces is one of the most creative projects you can do for your space. For example, turn old wine bottles into makeshift tiki torches by adding some scented oil and a wick down the bottle. Using citronella oil specifically will also help keep mosquitoes away. 

Repurposing an old bookshelf or dresser can be used as a vertical pallet garden for hanging plants. Stain the furniture to match your outdoor space and buy plants with long leaves/vines that will droop down and overlap one another to give your yard a real jungle feel. 

Older bookshelves and dressers can also be used for their intended purpose in an outdoor setting as well. This is another great yard addition if you have kids and not a large garage space. Buy a set of cheap plastic bins that can easily slide onto the shelves and store whatever outdoor toys or tools you may need!

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If you wanted to get a little creative with the way your specific address number is displayed in your front yard, consider making some customizable flower buckets. Steel buckets are the best material to use for painting your numbers directly onto the buckets. If your address is “453”, make a bucket for each number, however, if you have a single digit address, make a bucket for the house number and street name. For example, if your address was 5 Main Street, you could have a bucket for 5, main, and street. 

Mason jars are one of the most popular items to use for sprucing up a space because there’s so many possibilities! One of the most popular being filling them with twinkly lights at night to give the illusion of fairy dust jars. You could put any sort of battery operated light inside of the jars to give an ethereal glow to any area. Some like to buy multi-colored T-candle lights to put inside of them for random pops of color throughout their yard, and others attach rope to the top so they can hang the lights all throughout. 

Have an old outdoor rug that’s in good condition but just isn’t your style anymore? Change it up! Instead of buying a whole new rug, which can be extremely expensive, buy some fabric safe paint, painters tape, and create your own geometric design by taping off random lines and making shapes. Make sure to do this either in a garage or on a very sunny day to ensure your rug has enough time to dry. Wait until the next day, peel the tape, and boom! You have a whole new statement piece at the center of your whole space. 

MTV

MTV To Hold Socially Distanced VMAs At Barclays Center

The coronavirus pandemic has truly shut down the entertainment industry indefinitely. Television and movie studios have halted production on all projects, Broadway/major theater productions have been closed, and all major award shows cancelled; at least until now. This week BET managed to show the world that not only were award shows still possible in a virtual context, but could also be extremely successful. Now, other major shows are inspired to provide some entertainment to the nation while it endures such a difficult time. 

MTV’s annual Video Music Award show typically takes place the last week of August every year. A few weeks ago it was predicted that the VMAs would likely be either cancelled or digital, but recently, the city of New York announced that the show would be doing neither.

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Instead, the VMAs will be returning to New York City’s Barclays Center this August, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. In a news conference this week Cuomo claimed that the show would bring together music fans worldwide like it always does, and pay homage to the strength, spirit, and resilience of NYC and its residents. 

The show will also provide performances from artists in remote locations throughout all five boroughs of the city. Bruce Gillmer, the president of music, music talent, programming and events for ViacomCBS Media Networks, which produces the show, recently made a statement reacting to the news. 

“We’re elated to bring the 2020 ‘VMAs back to NYC, the cultural mecca of the world where music and entertainment are woven into the DNA.”

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Like most industries that have begun to reopen throughout the country, the VMA’s is going to have to endure some major adjustments in order to properly navigate hosting a whole award show during a global pandemic. MTV made a recent statement in which they claimed that the health and safety of all “artists, fans, industry, staff, and partners is of the utmost importance.” 

“Among the measures all parties involved have aligned to include extensive social distancing procedures, meaningful capacity limitations, the virtualization of components where possible, and limited capacity or no audience.”

MTV also claimed that the show’s producers and Barclays Center management has been closely working with state and local officials during the past few weeks and will continue to do so until the actual date of the show to ensure that all proper precautions are taken/followed. 

The VMAs will be the first event that the Barclays Center is hosting since the Covid-19 pandemic initially hit New York City. The center is ecstatic to be back in the game and has stated that they’re  “proud of the impact it will have on our Brooklyn community through the creation of local jobs,” referring to the hiring of additional employees to assist with the event, as well as local surrounding small businesses seeing an increase in foot traffic. 

MTV, Barclays, the state of New York, and all local/state officials will be working tirelessly for the next two months in anticipation of the show and ensuring it runs as smoothly and safely as possible.

Disneyland Sign

Disneyland Will Delay Reopening Amid Rising Covid-19 Numbers

Disneyland is among the many parks and establishments throughout the US that are shutting down again after making plans to reopen by the end of July. Initially Disneyland was projecting to reopen on July 17th, now, California, Florida, and countless other states are seeing major spikes in new Covid-19 cases which is prompting many state governments to reinstate lockdown procedures. 

In a statement posted to Disneyland’s social media platforms, the company announced that the state of California won’t issue any theme park reopening guidelines until sometime after July 4th, however, their priorities lie more in getting the case numbers down before they think about opening up amusement parks or any other major businesses for that matter. 

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 “Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials.”

Disney continued to claim that they would be working with California officials closely in the coming weeks so that they can issue more concrete plans for a potential reopening this summer. Walt Disney World in Florida is still projecting to reopen by the end of July despite Florida being one of the many states with record-breaking single-day case numbers. Florida is especially under close observation, as the state is projected to be the next epicenter for the virus’ second-wave; much like New York City was during the initial wave of infections. 

The Downtown Disney District is still planning on reopening on July 9th, according to the statement. The reopening of this district follows the same guidelines as all other restaurants and retail openings in the state of California. For Disney World in Florida, the company is planning to reopen the first of several major theme park attractions on July 11th, however, they will need to continue to be in contact with Florida’s state government everyday in regards to new case numbers. 

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Both parks have lost millions of dollars in revenue since initially closing back in March, however, as a multi-billion dollar corporation, this hasn’t made a major economic impact for Disney. When the parks reopen, whenever that may be, visitors will also have to be prepared to abide by very strict health and safety/social distancing procedures while in the park. These measures will include wearing a mask at all times, remaining six feet apart from everyone by following markers on the ground, and character meet and greets will likely not be happening. Visitors will also be required to get their temperature checked prior to entering. 

Some attractions and events will remain shut down indefinitely until this pandemic comes to a more concrete close. Most parades and playgrounds will likely remain shutdown for the time being, and visitors will not be able to travel among multiple parks per day. 

Despite all of these health and safety measures, thousands of American citizens have signed a petition urging Disney to remain fully closed until “COVID-19 cases are no longer rising and no longer posing risk of spreading this disease to our working cast/team members, their families, and our theme park guests.” 

Florida is one of the most infected states in America currently with over 103,000 cases total. Union leaders representing around 17,000 Disneyland employees have also written a letter to the Governor arguing that it is unsafe and irresponsible to reopen the park, and more than 40,000 individuals signed a petition that came from them as well which called the companies plan to reopen “greedy.”

Another major point of contention has been the argument that even if Disney does fully reopen with every single health and safety procedure imaginable, are families really going to be willing to spend the money on a Disney ticket if they have to wear a mask and likely wait even longer for the limited rides that are available? Only time will tell if Disney will even be able to follow through with any of these plans, as we know, this virus is unpredictable, so anything can happen between now and July.

HuLu App

Hulu’s “Love, Victor” Takes The Message From “Love, Simon” Even Further

Hulu is celebrating Pride Month this week with the release of their much anticipated “Love, Simon” television spin-off program titled “Love, Victor”. The show itself directly follows up on the 2018 movie, which was the first gay teen romantic comedy produced by a major Hollywood studio.

The movie originally focused on the coming out story of Simon Spier, who’s a white middle-class teenage boy. With the Hulu series, production wanted to shift the focus to continue to follow the coming out story of a young teenage boy developing his sexuality, however, this time they’re following Victor Salazar, a Latino working-class teenager with a religious family.

“I don’t feel that anyone is 100 percent straight or 100 percent wherever you lie on the scale. I feel like sexuality is not necessarily fluid. It’s more like a spectrum. And so finding out where you lie on that is important,” says actor Michael Cimino, who plays Victor.

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Both the movie and television show take place in the same high school in Atlanta, Georgia. The storyline of the show is meant to take place a few years after the movie, and viewers will watch as Victor corresponds with Simon via text and email; just like how Simon communicated with “Blue” in the movie. His conversations with Simon are meant to cover your basic coming-of-age questions as Victor navigates figuring out his sexuality, love, and being a teenager in general.

Cimino himself is Puerto Rican and Italian, and claims that growing up in between those two cultures gave him a much deeper understanding of his character and the trials he faces coping with his sexuality and identity as a Latino as well. http://gty.im/1177776085 is the actress who plays Victor’s mom, Isabel, in the series and she’s both Puerto Rican and Irish. She also has claimed that growing up with these two cultures prepared her to play the role of the religious mother to a gay son.

“It can be difficult, because sometimes you’re not enough for one culture. And you’re not enough for the other culture. I’m not white enough for my white friends. I’m not Puerto Rican enough for my Puerto Rican friends. So who am I? What’s my place? And where do I belong,” says Ortiz.

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Ana Ortiz speaking at the 23rd Annual Human Rights Campaign National Dinner

One of the main conflicts the show aims to emphasize is Victor’s struggle to accept his competing identities as an individual in the LGBT+, Latino, and Catholic community. This is the reality for many Americans, in fact, a research study recently concluded that over 22 million Americans have multiracial roots/identities. So producers wanted those individuals to feel especially seen within this show.

When discussing channeling a Catholic mother with conservative ideals, Ortiz explained that she really had to “dig into and to deal with the religiosity in the character. I was raised Catholic. I consider myself Catholic, but I am also a progressive. I constantly am battling between my Catholicism and my beliefs. It’s a difficult fight within my own self.”

The release of “Love, Victor” couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time either. Not only is it Pride Month, but this week the Supreme Court decided that LGBT+ individuals were protected from being fired based on their identity. Cimino believes that sexuality and identity are lifelong journeys, and hopes the show exemplifies a positive message of progression and authenticity within America and how they view LGBT+ individuals.

Twitter App

Twitter Deletes 170,000 Accounts Linked To Spreading Misinformation About Covid-19

Twitter has announced this week that they have deleted over 170,000 accounts that have been tied to a Chinese state-linked operation that purposefully spread misinformation regarding Covid-19, the protests and politics in Hong Kong, as well as other current political issues worldwide. 

Twitter described around 25,000 of these accounts as the “core network” of the operation, meaning they were the bigger accounts with more followings. The other 150,000 accounts were used to amplify the messages tweeted by the core network. This would entail either Retweeting, liking, sharing, quote-tweeting, or emphasizing the original tweet so it can continue to spread around the platform. 

“In general, this entire network was involved in a range of manipulative and coordinated activities. They were Tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP), while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong,” the company wrote in a blog post.

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Twitter continued on in their statement to state that these particular accounts were also linked to a Chinese state-backed operation that took place last year in order to spread misinformation about the Hong Kong protests specifically. The accounts from last year’s operation have since been taken down, but the resurgence of these new accounts regarding all things Covid-19 has caused the same issue to re-emerge. 

The Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) recently performed an analysis of all these accounts in order to determine which ones were spreading the false information pertaining to Covid-19. This made it easier to find, target, and delete the accounts, analysts claim that these accounts have been working since the beginning of this pandemic back in March. 

The main content that was being spread on these accounts focused heavily on praising China’s initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and while most of the accounts had less than 10 followers and no biographies, the SIO concluded they had tweeted hundreds of thousands of times (around 350,000 to be more specific). 

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“Narratives around COVID-19 primarily praise China’s response to the virus, and occasionally contrast China’s response against that of the U.S. government or Taiwan’s response, or use the presence of the virus as a means to attack Hong Kong activists. The English-language content included pointed reiterations of the claim that China – not Taiwan – had a superior response to containing coronavirus,” the SIO wrote in its analysis.

Some of the accounts that Twitter shut down this week were also tied to Russian and Turkish state-linked misinformation efforts. Within the ~170,000 accounts around 1,000 of them were Russian bot accounts linked to state-backed political propaganda advertisers in Russia. 7,300 of the accounts were linked to Turkey’s government and were primarily praising Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

The Russian and Turkish accounts were found to have collectively tweeted over 40 million times before Twitter took them down. Twitter also announced in their blog post that they would be hosting a conference later this summer to  “bring experts, industry, and government together to discuss opportunities for further collaboration around removing deceptive state-backed social media campaigns.”

For accurate information regarding the coronavirus, one should never trust what they see on social media. Instead, go to the CDC’s website and get the information directly from the source.

Cop Car

‘Live P.D.’ Cancelled Amid Worldwide Protests Against Police Brutality

Television network A&E has announced this week that they will be cancelling their hit-series Live P.D. in wake of George Floyd’s death and the political unrest in this country regarding police brutality against black Americans.

The series itself was already on hiatus amid the covid-19 pandemic, like many other television series that are unable to film due to health concerns. Now, the network announced that the hiatus would remain permanent out of respect to their black viewers.

“This is a critical time in our nation’s history and we have made the decision to cease production on Live PD. Going forward, we will determine if there is a clear pathway to tell the stories of both the community and the police officers whose role it is to serve them. And with that, we will be meeting with community and civil rights leaders as well as police departments,” the network said in a statement.

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The cancellation decision was made by A&E and MGM’s Big Fish Entertainment, which is the production company that has always produced the series. Live P.D. isn’t the only reality-police television series getting the boot amid these worldwide protests against racism. The announcement of Live P.D.’s cancellation came just one day after the Paramount Network announced that they would be cancelling Cops; the show originally aired in 1989.

Initially, the plan was going to be to keep Live P.D. in its hiatus until they could have extended conversations with the community, police, and fans on the best way to keep the show alive while still respecting the protesters fighting for basic human rights across the nation. Ultimately, the network and production decided a complete cancellation was the only way.

This decision came after members of production realized there was no way to continue the show in its current form especially when protesters, politicians, and celebrities with massive platforms are all calling for a complete overhaul of the police system.

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Live P.D. has always been controversial, as black viewers often felt it purposefully demonized individuals of color while praising the officers for their aggressive means of arrest. More specifically, in March of 2019 Javier Ambler was murdered during a police stop which has been allegedly captured by the crew of Live P.D.; the video has since been destroyed.

That incident, however, barely impacted the network or show. In fact, before these nationwide protests began two weeks ago, A&E had actually renewed the series for another 160 episodes. This makes sense, as Live P.D. was cable’s #1 show on Fridays and Saturdays in 2019, and actually boosted the network ratings so much that A&E became one of the leading cable networks.

During the pandemic especially, the show received a massive spike in viewership, along with many other cable television programs. The show was receiving about 3 million viewers every weekend.

The host of the show, Dan Abrams, took to Twitter to express his disappointment in the decision to cancel, as he genuinely believed the network would be able to work out a solution. However, Abrams and fans were left disappointed. The future of all other police related television shows are still up in the air, but after Cops, which has been on for three decades, was cancelled, many programs aren’t so confident. Like all things pandemic related, only time will tell what the future holds for authoritative related television programming.

Police

‘The Daily Show With Trevor Noah’ Returns With A Passionate Message About Police Brutality

Trevor Noah has joined a slew of other late night hosts who have begun using their daily platform to speak up against the current injustices America is facing as it endures two major pandemics: the coronavirus and racism.

Comedian

Comedian Alice Fraser Offers Some Positivity During A Worldwide Pandemic

Fraser typically lives in London and was preparing for a huge festival tour that was meant to begin in Australia this past March and end at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August, however, due to public health concerns the events/tour has been cancelled.

Racial Equality

Celebrities Use Blackout Tuesday To Protest Racial Inequality In Entertainment Industry

Amid the multiple Black Lives Matter protests currently occurring in all 50 states, many celebrities have begun using their platforms to speak out against police brutality, racism, and justice for black people in this country who have been abused by the system for the color of their skin. Multiple celebrities are publicly donating and sharing links with their followers as a means of spreading awareness, while others are telling their followers what not to do if they really want to contribute towards the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Most recently, musicians specifically led a call for constructive responses to George Floyd’s death after speaking up against a movement that flooded Instagram feeds with black squares and no real useful information. The social media “event” was titled by the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday, which would be posted under a photo of a black screen. The blank images took over feeds and individuals quickly realized how counterproductive the movement actually was. 

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Originally, the movement was started by Jamila Thomas, a senior director of marketing at Atlantic Records, and Brianna Agyemand, a former Atlantic executive, “in observance of the long-standing racism and inequality that exists from the boardroom to the boulevard” under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. 

However, individuals quickly misconstrued the original meaning and began posting the black screens with other hashtags having to do with the movement; such as #BLM, #BlackLivesMatter, etc. This caused all of those hashtag pages to be filled with useless black screens when previously it was filled with useful information and resources to help those fighting for racial equality right now. 

Artists like Lizzo, Lil Nas X, and Kehlani were quick to call out how unproductive and useless it was to post black screens, essentially “silencing” the entire movement for a day. 

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“I just really think this is the time to push as hard as ever, I don’t think the movement has ever been this powerful. We don’t need to slow it down by posting nothing. We need to spread info and be as loud as ever. What if we posted donation and petitions links on Instagram all at the same time instead of pitch-black images,” Nas X tweeted. 

“Please don’t use the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter because it is flooding the hashtag search,” Lizzo, who’s from Minneapolis herself, said in an Instagram video.

“While I do appreciate the idea … don’t y’all think getting off our form of communicating with each other, sharing info, seeing news … for a whole day … in the middle of a war on us … is kinda dangerous? By all means don’t spend. But we need each other on HERE. Anything could go down wit no ability to warn each other/help each other,” California singer Kehlani tweeted. 

Kehlani also continued to bring up the original meaning behind the movement and how the hashtag is really meant to be #TheShowMustBePaused. Thomas and Agyemang then responded by discussing how the music industry itself is a multi-billion dollar industry that has consistently “profited from black art. The mission is to hold the industry at large, including major corporations and their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles, and successes of black people, accountable.” 

Other musicians joined the movement through donation and, including R&B/Hip-Hop star The Weeknd, who recently donated half a million dollars to various organizations fighting for racial equality. Celebrities with a large platform have been called on by their fans, but also their fellow musicians, actors, directors, etc. If you have a voice, now’s the time to use it. 

If you want to know more about the Black Lives Matter movement and how you can directly help from home, click here for access to dozens of petitions, donation pages, and fundraising efforts specifically for those fighting for racial equality right now.