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Lee defends free speech in Venezuela
CARACAS, Venezuela < AP) - Filmmaker Spike Lee champi
oned a free press Friday during a visit to Venezuela, where broad
casters are under pressure to avoid criticizing President Hugo
Chavez's leftist government
The director didn't directly refer to the dispute in Venezuela,
but he said there are "no circumstances" under which news media
.1 JJ l :i I
SIKIU1U UC M1CIICCU
Visiting to screen his 1989 film "Do
The Right Thing" and meet with fans to
discuss race relations, his career and the
late Michael Jackson, Lee said he is "a
firm believer in freedom of speech."
"It's my opinion that there are no cir
cumstances where the media should be
shut down," he said to loud applause. "I'm
not talking about any country specifically,
Many of his films make bold state
ments about race relations in the United
States, and 20 years after the release of
"Do The Right Thing," a film about a race riot in Brooklyn, the
message still rings strong.
"The United States has made great leaps in race relations - the
biggest one being the election of President Barack Obama," Lee
said. ' 1
But there is still a way to go. he added, citing shootings by New
York City police officers involving blacks, including the May
death of a black undercover cop killed by a white officer.
Lee also reminisced about making the music video "They
Don't Care About Us" with Michael Jackson in Brazil. In the
video, the "King of Pop" performs in a Rio de Janeiro shantytown
as the Brazilian group Olodum beats drums in the background.
"I'm one of the billions of people who miss him dearly," Lee
Apartments accused of racial bias
CLANTON,Ala. (AP) - The Justice Department is suing the
owner and two employees of a 72-unit apartment complex in
Clanton for allegedly discriminating against blacks when renting
The lawsuit announced claims Kenneth R. "Ken" Scott and
Frankie L. Roberson told white individuals posing as renters that a
major selling point of Rolling Oaks Apartments was the lack of
black tenants and that the apartments had adopted policies intend
ed to discourage blacks from applying. Owner Chandi Biswas is
also named in the suit.
An attorney for Biswas, Anthony Bush, said Thursday his
client strongly denies the accusations. He said that 10 percent of
the tenants are African- American.
The complaint is based on evidence collected during the
Justice Department's Fair Housing Testing Program, where people
acting a*renter? gather information about discriminatory practices.
BET co-founder backs a Republican
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A billionaire co-founder of the
Black Entertainment Television network and an influential
Democratic donor endorsed Republican Bob McDonnell for gov
Sheila Johnson, of The Plains, Va., was the second-largest indi
vidual donor to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine
and a benefactor of prominent Democrats,
including Sens. Mark Warner and Jim
Webb, appeared with McDonnell in
"I have been a lifelong Democrat and
I'm still a Democrat," she said in a tele
phone interview with The Associated
Johnson , who lives in Virginia, said she
favors McDonnell over his Democratic
opponent, R. Creigh Deeds, because she
thinks the Republicans can turn around the
state's ailing economy.
"From the beginning. Bob McDonnell has been very con
cerned about the economy," she said. "He has really laid out a
roadmap for solving these problems."
Johnson and her ex-husband, Robert Johnson, founded BET
and sold it in 2000 to Viacom for $3 billion. She was a supporter
last year of Barack Obama in the presidential race, as was Kaine.
Writer Harris dies
LOS ANGELES (AP) - E. Lynn Harris, a pioneer of gay
black fiction and a literary entrepreneur who rose from self
publishing to best-selling status, has died, his publicist said last
Friday. He was 54.
Publicist Laura Gilmore said Harris died last Thursday
nignt arter oeing siricKen ai me rcnmsuia
Hotel in Beverly Hills. A cause of death
had not been determined, but some
reports suggest he had a heart attack.
Gilmore said Harris, who lived in
Atlanta, fell ill on a train to Los Angeles
a few days ago and blacked out for a few
minutes, but seemed fine after that. An
autopsy was to be performed this week.
An improbable and inspirational suc
cess story. Harris worked for a decade as
an IBM executive before taking up writ
ing, selling the novel "Invisible Life"
from his car as he visited salons and
oeauiy pariors arouna Atlanta. ne naa unpreceaeniea success
for an openly gay black author and his strength as a romance
writer led some to call him the "male Terry McMillan."
He went on to mainstream success with works such as the
novel "Love of My Own" and the memoir "What Becomes of
the Brokenhearted." Harris published. 1 1 novels, 10 of which
were on The New York Times best-seller list. There are over
four million copies of his books in print, according to his pub
The Chronicle (USPS 067-910) was established by Ernest H.
Pitt and Ndubisi Egemonye in 1974 and is published every
Thursday by Winston-Salem Chronicle Publishing Co. Inc., 617
N. Liberty Street, Winston-Salem, N.C. 27101. Periodicals
aid at Winston-Salem, N.C. Annual subscription price
IPOSTMASTER: Send address changes to:
The Chronicle, P.O. Box 1636
Winston-Salem, NC 27102-1636
Local man's play about
Nina Simone is reborn
BY LAYLA FARMKR
Winston-Salem native Cheyenne
Covington believes in second chances.
Covington, a 1993 alumnus of
Carver High School, produced his first
play, "The High Priestess." a tribute to
the late songstress and activist Nina
Simone. five years ago.
"I've always loved Nina Simone. 1
wanted to share that - 1 wanted to share
my knowledge of her and her music,"
"The High Priestess," a one- woman
show, which Covington wrote, directed
-and produced, provides an introspective
look into the life and legacy of Simone.
"We see her as an aged jazz artist,
reminiscing on her life," he explained.
"It's all in voice over; we hear her
thoughts as she's going around the stage
looking back on her life."1
He had high hopes for the produc
tion when it first debuted, but life got in
the way. Covington, who suffers from
the gastrointestinal illness Crohn's dis
ease, fell ill not long after the play was
first staged. The curtain has bees down~
on the show since then.
Now, Covington, 35, says his illness
is under control, and he's ready for a
."do-over.'" Covington will take "The
High Priestess" back to its original
venue. The Werehouse, on Aug. 7. Local
songbird Melva Houston will reprise her
role as Simone.
Covington was working as an actor
when he credits Nathan Ross Freeman,
an award winning local script writer,
filmmaker and spoken word educator,
with getting him interested in writing
Freeman, who regards himself as
more of a colleague than a mentor to
Covington, praised the budding play
wright for his linguistic prowess.
"(Covington has an) extraordinary
work ethic, an extremely dedicated
brother," Freeman said. "He always has
an idea; he always has a vision... he's a
visionary; people are born visionaries -
that's not something that's acquired."
Houston, a Mt. Airy resident, was
the inspiration for the play, Covington
says. ? .
The two met at a local jazz cafe
where Houston was performing a Nina
Simone piece. ?
"Melva sang 'My Baby Just Cares
for Me,"' Covington related. "And that
whole concept (of writing the play) just
flooded me right there."
Covington approached Houston after
the set, and learned that she too had an
affinity for Simone, a North Carolina
native who died in France in 2003 at age
"She was just as much of a fan of
Nina as I was," he said. "We both had a
passion for the music and what Nina
did. It was just a perfect match."
jSimone's music, which often had a
message of social change, is featured
prominently in the show, which
Covington says has an uplifting mes
"I think it's going to give people a
sense of accomplishment. They're
going to see the journey that Nina took
... and the airier
ence that she
made back then,
to where we are
gives me joy,
knowing that peo
ple are going to
rejoice in that
as a people."
The play was
the National Black Theatre Festival,
Covington says, because the festival
afforded a prime opportunity to reach a
broad cross-section of theater buffs, but
it is in no way meant to be competition
for the festival, which he has whole
heartedly supported as a fan and a vol
Freeman, who saw the play's debut,
says he is excited to see how it has
evolved over time.
"It's an important show because it
celebrates one of our jazz vocalists and
a national landmark," he commented.
"...This project has been an emotional
tie that grounds (Covington), no matter
where he goes, he has this as a center-,
piece... I'm just anxious to see how it
Covington hopes to schedule per
formances at other local venues in the
"The High Priestess" will open
Friday, Aug. 7 at 9 p.m. at the
Werehouse, 211 E. Third St. For more
information, call (336) 722-3016.
Tickets are $20 each.
six positions v
CHRONICLE STAFF REPORT
In response to a $10.6
million budget shortfall for
the 2009-10 and 2010-11 fis
cal years, North Carolina
A&T State University
announced this week the
elimination of 71.25 total
positions this fiscal year,
most them (65.25) are posi
r e n t 1 y
will be let
go as a
Supervisors talked one
on-one with employees
affected and provided them
with the state mandated 30
day notice prior to their Aug.
27 layoff. The Division of
Human Resources also coun
seled employees and
explained how A&T will
work aggressively to rede
ploy affected employees into
comparable positions within
The intended outcome of
this internal matching of
comparable positions (simi
lar jobs/similar salaries) is to
identify and offer available
job openings in areas of the
campus experiencing growth
due to grants and research.
A&T's Division of Human
Resources is offering various
resources for those affected,
such as redeployment sup
port, health insurance, and
other support resources.
All hiring for A&T has
been suspended except for
positions that provide direct
classroom instruction as well
as positions critical to law
enforcement, health care and
1 | 8 O O ) f e d - i n r o
AM of ||ov?inm?nl information
or# (u*? tj click .Of coM avwr?y
Throe Golden Rings by Vandom Hirmant
DELTA ARTS CENTER
2611 New Walkertown Road, Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Dining at the Delta Arts Center
Late Night Jazz Dinners
with Vocalist Chris Murrell
Sophisticated Soul Food, Cash Bar and
Free Transportation from Campbell Center, Route 1 Bus
August 6 & 7, 10 p.m. - 1 o.m.
Reservations: (336) 722-2625 or deita26110tjeitsocfth.net