What’s the real reason why Black celebs are still so angry with Will Smith?

For as long as I can remember, Will Smith has been the “nice guy”. The 53-year-old actor has spent the last three decades crafting himself into the perfect image of the ever-pleasant, non-threatening Black man.

From curse-free rap lyrics to his tender, nuanced portrayals of complicated characters, Smith has been a darling of mainstream Hollywood for a very long time. And prior to the last few years, he was one of a few celebrities who had made it to the peak of their careers virtually scandal-free. In him, white Hollywood found a Black man who was equal parts insanely talented and widely marketable, according to their standards of propriety and respectability.

Sadly, that respectability factor isn’t just desirable, it has long been crucial to the success of many Black actors over the years. So when British-American actor of Nigerian descent David Oyelowo wrote a guest column in the Hollywood Reporter last week suggesting that Smith’s actions – he slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has alopecia – could “have a negative effect on the ongoing push for inclusion” in Hollywood, I wasn’t surprised that he was willing to throw his colleague under the bus like that.

“The moment I slowly realized the nature of what had just occurred on the stage at the Dolby Theater,” he wrote, “I was confronted by the same rising anxiety all Black people feel when the face that flashes up on the news after a crime is reported, is a Black one. You find yourself thinking, ‘What does this mean for us?’ ‘What does that mean for me?’”

As a Black person, I can confirm that when I see a Black face on my TV screen in relation to a crime, my first thought is not what it means for me or how it makes me look.

And in expressing his anxieties over what this would mean for our collective image as Black people, the Selma star placed years of white supremacist stereotyping squarely on Smith’s back. It’s a trap that many highly visible Black men have fallen into; being blamed for actions have historically been over-scrutinized, demonized and criminalized by whiteness, depriving us of the fullness of our humanity.

Oyelowo’s piece also describes an incident after the Oscars in which he was confronted by an older white man who had “relish in his demeanor” as he stated that Smith “should have been dragged right out of there”.

So if I’ve got this straight, that person’s blatant prejudice is somehow Smith’s fault? Give me a break. Oyelowo’s reflection conveniently ignores the centuries of racism that have engendered an interaction like this, and instead focuses on the conduct of the Black people who are being subjected to this racial bias.

But make no mistake, the actor’s desire for Smith to perform gentility for whiteness is something that many Black men like him have intentionally relied on for years in order to enter into, and remain a part of predominantly white spaces. Statements like his reek of a desperation to protect that fragile dynamic, rather than confront the systems that make pandering to whiteness necessary in the first place.

Sadly, as we saw in the aftermath of the Oscar’s, being an “exception” to the Black stereotype certainly doesn’t shield you from racism and abuse when you are seen to step out of line. Where is the grace for Will Smith? Where is the forgiveness? Where was the nuanced consideration for the fact that his wife was just humiliated in front of the world over an illness that she has no control over?

None of the backlash against Smith took into account his history in the industry, and all the goodwill he’d built up over the years.

All it took was one small mistake – one I might add, he has apologised and been thoroughly punished for – for him to be labelled violent, and become a pariah among the very people who claimed to love him all these years.

If this doesn’t signal to Black celebrities that chasing white approval is a wholly empty, draining and fruitless endeavor, then I simply don’t know what will.


Falconer Native Receives Another Grammy Award

Randy Merrill is no stranger to Grammys, but that doesn’t make his latest award any less sweet.

Merril, a former resident of Falconer and Sterling Sound senior engineer, said he was very pleased to have been recognized in this way for his work on Silk Sonic’s song, “Leave The Door Open.”

“An exceptional amount of work went into the making of this record, so I’m very thankful to have won this award,” Merrill said. “I’m so grateful to regularly work with many talented artists, producers, engineers and label executives.”

Merrill attended Falconer Central School and graduated in 1992. He continued his education at Jamestown Community College, followed by his attendance at the State University of New York at Fredonia. During that time, he said he was involved in various music programs at each educational institution.

“Some remarkable teachers I credit as influences are David Kerzner and Dr. Kay Stonefelt (SUNY Fredonia), Michael Kelly at JCC, and Ralph Rasmussen, Ann Marie Mogenhan, and Russ Germaine (FCS),” he said. “I developed an interest in recording in high school and started taking studio classes at JCC. At SUNY Fredonia, I majored in Sound Recording Technology.”

After graduating from SUNY Fredonia, Merrill took a job at the Eastman School of Music where he worked in the recording department.

“In 1999, I moved to New York City and pieced together work as an assistant, engineer, and studio maintenance technician,” he said. “I shifted lanes and moved into the specialty of mastering in 2006. I worked at Scott Hull Mastering from 2006 to 2013, then moved to Sterling Sound where I now work. At the beginning of my time at Sterling, I assisted the legendary engineer, Tom Coyne, until his passing in 2017. I have worked as a senior engineer at Sterling since then.”

Over his career, Merrill has been nominated 15 times for a Grammy award, taking home six: two for Album of the Year, two for Record of the Year and two for Best Engineered (Non-classical).

“There are only six categories where a mastering engineer can win a Grammy. Those categories are Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Historical Album, Best Immersive Audio Album, Best Engineered (Non-Classical), and Best Engineered (Classical),” he said. “I have also contributed to other Grammy-winning projects in categories for which I do not personally win the award. This year those include Best Pop Vocal Album (Sour by Olivia Rodrigo), and Best Rock Album (Medicine At Midnight by Foo Fighters).”

Merrill said he is thankful for his experiences and the opportunities he’s had over the years to make these awards possible.

“I’d like to say that I’m grateful to God for the opportunities and skills I’ve been given, and for the relationships I’ve been fortunate to have had since the beginning of this journey,” he said.

Merrill also said he’d like to remind people that success is not often instantaneous — sometimes it takes some time to find your passion and be recognized for it.

“I was fortunate to have worked in the recording field in some manner since college, but it wasn’t until I discovered a love for the specific area of mastering that things started to click,” he said. “By that point, I had worked in studios for almost 10 years before finding what it is I truly love to do. Not only that, but I also didn’t work on a hit record until I was 41 years old. So, I say these things to young people so that they don’t become discouraged if they don’t know what to pursue in life or think they should have ‘made it’ already but haven’t. Sometimes it takes time to figure out what you’re meant to do, and time for it to come to fruition.”

TV Show

Netflix gets ready to launch Exploding Kittens TV show and game

Exploding Kittens is coming to Netflix — as both a TV show and a game.

The upcoming television show will be an adult animated comedy, where God and the Devil are sent to Earth in the form of chonky house cats. The show will hit Netflix in 2023 and features the voice talents of Tom Ellis (Lucifer), Abraham Lim (The Boys), Lucy Liu (Elementary), Ally Maki (Toy Story 4), Mark Proksch (What We Do In The Shadows) and Sasheer Zamata (Woke).

Meanwhile, the upcoming Exploding Kittens — The Game mobile game will launch on Netflix in May. It’ll basically be a mobile version of the card game, with two new cards exclusive to the Netflix version: Radar, which reveals the location of the Exploding Kitten closest to the top of the deck, and Flip Flop, which reverses the order of the deck. There are plans to integrate elements of the animated show into the game.

Netflix Games is not to be confused with the streaming service’s on-platform interactive specials. The games are available via the Netflix app and free to play for all Netflix subscribers, and include games like Stranger Things: 1984 and Shooting Hoops.

Exploding Kittens is currently available as a physical card game, as well as a mobile game on iOS and Android and a game on Nintendo Switch. The mobile game will still be available to download for $1.99 on app stores when the Netflix game arrives.

Correction (April 19): A previous version of this article stated that there was a Netflix Games app, instead of an option for games on the existing Netflix mobile app. We’ve edited the article to reflect this.


Kevin Bacon Joins Netflix’s ‘Leave the World Behind’

Kevin Bacon and Farrah Mackenzie have joined Netflix’s “Leave the World Behind,” joining Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke and Myha’la Herrold in the film based on the bestselling novel by Rumaan Alam.

The story revolves around a couple vacationing in a rental house on Long Island, who are surprised when the homeowners arrive bearing news of a mysterious blackout.

Sam Esmail writes and directs, and the Obamas’ production Higher Ground recently came on as an executive producer. The novel was a finalist for the National Book Award.

‘High Noon,’ Gary Cooper to Be Honored at USC

USC’s School of Cinematic Arts is partnering with the Gary Cooper estate for the 70th anniversary of Oscar-nominated Western “High Noon.” On Sunday, April 24, events will include a special screening and panel, book signing and opening of the Gary Cooper Exhibition.

The exhibition will feature Cooper’s Oscars, personal and film fashion, photos with family and friends including Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso and more. The exhibition will be on display in the School of Cinematic Arts lobby to Sept. 30.


Challenge to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s re-election bid can proceed, judge rules

The lawsuit seeks to disqualify the Georgia Republican from running, alleging she played a role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

A federal judge in Georgia is allowing a lawsuit challenging Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s qualifications to run for re-election to move forward.

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg on Monday denied the Georgia Republican’s request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to block the suit. Free Speech for People, an election and campaign finance reform organization, filed the lawsuit last month on behalf of a group of the state’s voters, alleging Greene facilitated the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Pointing to the 14th Amendment’s prohibition on anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from running for federal or state office, the suit alleges Greene is ineligible to run because she engaged in obstructing the transfer of presidential power, in part through her rhetoric challenging the election results.

Greene sought to derail the effort with her own lawsuit this month, saying she “vigorously denies that she ‘aided and engaged in insurrection to obstruct the peaceful transfer of presidential power.’”

Greene also argued that the litigation would not be resolved in time for the primary election on May 24.

Totenberg, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, wrote that after “a thorough analysis of the evidentiary and legal issues presented in this complex matter involving unsettled questions of law, the court finds plaintiff has not carried her heavy burden to establish a strong likelihood of success on the legal merits in this case.”

The ruling will allow a state administrative judge to hear the challenge against Greene on Friday.

Greene’s office and her attorney did not immediately return requests for comment Tuesday.

“It’s rare for any conspirator, let alone a member of Congress, to publicly admit that the goals of their actions are preventing a peaceful transfer of power and the death of the president-elect and Speaker of the House, but that’s exactly what Marjorie Taylor Greene did,” Free Speech For People’s legal director, Ron Fein, said in a statement. “The Constitution disqualifies from public office any elected officials who aided the insurrection, and we look forward to asking Representative Greene about her involvement under oath.”

The group filed a similar challenge on behalf of voters against Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C, which a federal judge in that state blocked last month.