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Report: Sundance Film Festival Director John Cooper to Step Down after 11-year run

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Photo by Marc Leibowitz | Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Institute announced today that John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, will move into a newly-created Emeritus Director role following the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. 2020 will mark his 30th Sundance Film Festival, and his 11th year as Festival Director.

The new role will focus on special projects and overseeing the 40th anniversary of the Sundance Institute to be celebrated in 2021. The search for a new Director for the Sundance Film Festival will be led by the Institute’s CEO, Keri Putnam.

During his tenure to date, Cooper has kept the Festival vital and competitive with the growing independent film community and industry. Signature achievements in the Festival’s programming include the creation of the Short Film section and competition, as well as the Documentary Premiere, NEXT and New Frontier sections. His cultivation of the global independent film community, including helming Sundance Film Festival: London and Sundance Film Festival: Hong Kong, have helped build and reinforce the Institute’s year round global presence.

His community-building efforts included creating the Sundance Industry Office and the youth-focused Sundance Ignite Program, as well as early development of the Arthouse Convergence, all the while building systems and staff to handle a growing volume of submissions.

Said Cooper in a press release sent to NDLYSS, “This journey has been exhilarating. I’ve been lucky to find my perfect job. l always had the founding principles, passed down by Robert Redford, to guide me. I attribute any success I have had to being part of an amazing staff (past and present) who strive together to help storytellers follow their dreams and launch careers. I’ve got such confidence and pride in the team, and am excited by all that the future holds. I look forward to remaining a part of this fantastic organization in my new role, and creating a seamless transition for new Festival leadership.” 

Putnam said, “Cooper’s contributions are immeasurably large and he will be missed in this role…but then again, he will be right down the hall in this new capacity. He’ll lend his vision and experience to key projects, as we build towards our 40th anniversary celebration and look ahead to the coming decades of supporting independent creativity.”

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Still think racism is a myth? Watch two Trump supporters deface ‘Black Lives Matter’ street mural

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Authorities are reportedly in search for a man and woman who defaced the “Black Lives Matter” mural painted on a downtown Martinez street on Sunday (June 5).

A YouTube video was captured of the vandalism incident along with a photo and description of their truck.

According to a release from police chief Chief Manjit Sappal office, community members had obtained a permit from the city to paint “Black Lives Matter” on Court Street in downtown on July 4.

“The community spent a considerable amount of time painting this mural only to have the suspects destroy it by dumping and rolling paint over part of the message,” the release said.

Upon the completion of the mural, community organizers left the area. It was then that an unidentified white male and white female arrived.

While the male made “All Lives Matter” comments to a group of frustrated onlookers the woman began covering the mural’s yellow letters with black paint while yelling, “this is not happening in my town.” The couple came with the intent to vandalize the mural with several cans of paint and a roller.

The case is currently under investigation and if any members of the public can identify the male and female involved in this incident please call the Dispatch Center at 925-372-3440 with the information

“The city of Martinez values tolerance and the damage to the mural was divisive and hurtful. Please help us identify those that are responsible for this crime, so they can be held accountable for their actions,” the release said.

“What happened yesterday to deface that mural was hostility in an ugly form,” city councilwoman Noralea Gipner said Sunday morning on social media. “Permission was given to put that there but permission was not given to deface it.”

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Will Essence Communications regain its “essence?” Richelieu Dennis steps down as CEO

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(Richelieu Dennis) Bennett Raglin/Getty Images For SheaMoisture

Richelieu Dennis has reportedly stepped down as CEO of Essence Communications following claims from former and current female staffers that the Sundial Brands co-founder, 49, is the primary culprit behind the publishing company’s toxic work culture. 

The courageous women boldly penned a benumbing essay under the byline Black Female Anonymous via Medium.com on Sunday (June 28) detailing a chilling account of Dennis’ ongoing abuse of power, including sexual harassment, intimidation, colorism, and classism.

The authors intently demanded the resignation of Essence‘s board members whom they also accuse of contributing to the unbearable working conditions. 

Essence: “We demand the immediate resignation of Chief Executive Officer Richelieu Dennis, Essence Ventures board member and former Essence Communications CEO Michelle Ebanks, Chief Operating Officer Joy Collins Profet, and Chief Content Officer Moana Luu.”

The essay described the atmosphere under CEOs Dennis and Ebanks as a “surface-level commitment to Black women” and that Dennis is “driven by greed and a debaucherous sexual appetite”. 

The now-former CEO allegedly has “a history of sleeping with women on the Sundial staff, (the parent company of Shea Moisture he sold to Unilever in 2017) and for the women who don’t seemingly consent, he openly sexually harasses them at private company events.” Staffers expressed their fears of filing complaints on his inexcusable behavior due to his spouse (Martha Dennis) leading the company’s human resources department which they have called a “conflict of interest.”

On Monday (June 29), Essence Communications promptly released a statement denying all accusations.

However, on Tuesday (June 30), Essence Communications released a follow-up response stating Dennis will be stepping down as CEO.

“Out of an abundance of caution and an unwavering commitment to transparency, ESSENCE is in the process of hiring law firms and other independent external experts to assess and review the company’s policies and practices and conduct comprehensive employee interviews,” the statement reads.

Dennis, who founded Shea Moisture products, purchased Essence magazine from TIME magazine in 2018.

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New Stimulus Package proposed by House Dems would pay Americans $2,000 a month

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 Photo illustration via iStock

Succeeding President Donald Trump green-lighting the historic $2 trillion stimulus package, House Democrats are now proposing a new bill to keep the financial ball rolling for American families plagued with hardship amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On Tuesday (April 14), the Emergency Money for the People Act was introduced, aiming to provide Americans 16 and older a $2,000 stimulus check each month for the next six months. It was introduced by Rep. Tim Ryan and Rep. Ro Khanna and has 17 other Democratic co-sponsors, per  Business Insider, including Rep. Barbara Lee.

“The economic impact of this virus is unprecedented for our country. As millions of Americans file for unemployment week over week, we have to work quickly to patch the dam – and that means putting cash in the hands of hard-working families,” Ryan said in a press release. “Many Ohioans are just receiving – or about to receive – the first cash payment we passed in the CARES Act. Now it’s time for Congress to get to work on the next step to provide relief for those who have been hardest hit in this pandemic.”

Currently, the CARES Act provides one-time cash payouts to qualifying Americans. That includes singles with an adjusted gross income up to $99,000 and couples up to $198,000 with payments being reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds with restrictions on dependents over the age of 16. Under the Emergency Money for the People Act, all Americans over the age of 16 who make less than $130,000 and married couples making less than $260,000 would receive a stimulus check. It also extends payouts to those who were excluded from the CARES Act, such as college students and adults with disabilities who are still claimed as a dependent.

Singles earning less than $130,000 would receive at least $2,000 per month, with married couples receiving at least $4,000 per month. Qualifying families would receive $500 per child for up to three children. Deliverable via direct deposit, check, or mobile apps such as Venmo, the payments would be guaranteed for at least six months or continue longer until the employment to population ratio for people ages 16 and older is above 60 percent.

“A one-time, twelve hundred dollar check isn’t going to cut it,” Khanna said of the current stimulus plan. “Americans need sustained cash infusions for the duration of this crisis in order to come out on the other side alive, healthy, and ready to get back to work. Members on both sides of the aisle are finally coming together around the idea of sending money out to people. Rep. Ryan and I are urging leadership to include this bill in the fourth COVID relief package to truly support the American working class.”

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