92nd Academy Awards - Steve Martin, left, and Chris Rock

Steve Martin, left, and Chris Rock speak at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. — AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant‘s funeral services have been held and the public memorial services have been finalized. The Bryant family held the funeral for the NBA legend and his rising basketball star daughter last Friday in a small private ceremony. The family has announced the public memorial will be Monday, Feb. 24 at the Staples Center with special invited guests and the other seating will be first come first serve as a ticketed event. Word is security will be shutting down the streets leading up to the event as was done with the Michael Jackson memorial. At press time, the networks haven’t yet announced coverage, but definitely expect the service to be streamed. The memorial date 2-24-20 is significant because 2 was Gianna’s number, 24 was Kobe’s number and 20 is the number of years Bryant played in the NBA.

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The Essence Festival has been announced. The legendary magazine is celebrating 50 years in publication. It’s annual New Orleans celebration, which is now Essence’s signature, returns for the Fourth of July. Patti LaBelle, Janet Jackson, Janelle Monae, Bruno Mars, Raphael Saadiq, Summer Walker, Jidenna and Tamia will all take to the main stage with more acts to come. The Essence Festival will run July 1-5, 2020.

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Jussie Smollett has been indicted on six counts of disorderly conduct by a special prosecutor. This stems from the alleged racial and anti-gay attack Smollett reported happening to him in January 2019. Police quickly announced that they were charging Smollett for staging a hoax, and as a result it cost him his role on his series “Empire.” A deal was worked out where charges were by the dropped, Smollett forfeited his bail and did community service in Chicago for Jesse Jackson‘s Rainbow/Push Coalition. A judge then appointed a special prosecutor to look into why the State Attorney’s Office dropped charges and to charge Smollett if warranted. That’s what happened and Smollett’s defense team vows to fight the charges all the way.

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The Oscar buzz wasn’t so much with awards as it was reactions. First, with no host, comedians Steve Martin and Chris Rock teamed up for an opening monologue. They even joked about the reason why there’s no host … Twitter! Next, there was a win for the African American produced animated short “Hair Love,” the story of an African-American dad’s attempt to style his daughter’s hair for the first time. Former NFL player turned writer/director/producer Matthew Cherry and his producing partner Karen Rupert Toliver took home the honors. The duo dedicated their win to Kobe Bryant, who also won in the same award in 2018, making him the first African American to win in that category. Then there was Brad Pitt‘s win. That was to be expected as was the presenter being last year’s Best Supporting Actress winner Regina King. What wasn’t expected was the two-handed face grab, double kiss at the beginning and end of his speech. Now folks always are talking Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie when it comes to Brad. But, don’t forget there was a time with Robin Givens back in the day. Anywho, Regina and Brad broke the internet on an otherwise relaxed Oscar affair. Ratings came back and the show continues to struggle honoring pictures that aren’t necessarily mainstream.

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NBA star Dwyane Wade goes public about his 12-year-old who now identifies as female. Wade and his wife Gabrielle Union had already publicly been supporting the 12-year-old at gay pride parades and the like, and now Wade confirmed to Ellen DeGeneres the child is transgender. Born Zion but now identifying as Zaya, Union, Wade and big brother Zaire have all taken to social media with words of love and support for Zaya Wade.

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Meanwhile, in more Gabrielle Union news, published reports say she’s planning on suing Simon Cowell for smoking on the set. Cowell is a judge and executive producer on “America’s Got Talent,” and Union was fired from the show. Word got out of racist and sexist behavior allegations on the set. The state of California is among the most progressive states in the country with anti-smoking laws. This applies particularly to employers and endangering their workers with tobacco products. Any lawsuit at this point could be hazardous to the producers’ pocketbooks. That’s because in a deposition lawyers would be able to ask about the smoking and any other misbehavior on the set with Cowell under oath. Where will this go next? Hmmmm!

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Actress/singer/dancer/choreographer Paula Kelly has died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A star of stage and the big and small screens, her movies included Trouble Man (as Cleo), Uptown Saturday Night (as Leggy Peggy), Drop Squad (As Aunt Tilly) and Jo Jo Dancer Your Life Is Calling (as Satin Doll). Her television work included guest shots on Trapper John, M.D., Good Times and The Golden Girls and the TV movies Run For The Dream: The Gail Devers Story and Once Upon A Time We Were Colored. Kelly earned two Emmy nominations as the original Public Defender (Liz Williams) in Night Court and for her role as “Theresa” in the TV movie The Women Of Brewster Place with Oprah Winfrey. Kelly was 77.

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Toni Smith has passed away. She’s best known as the vocalist in Tom Browne‘s classic Funkin’ For Jamaica. Her vocals became so identified with the song that she was often mistaken for Chaka Khan in that particular performance. Smith had a long career. Born and raised in the Bronx (New York), she began singing at the age of 6, and at 12 joined her first band known as The Lindell Experience. Her work with a host of bands led to a recording career stretching from the early 80s right into 2007. She and trumpeter Browne combined their songwriting skills for the songs Martha and Funkin’ For Jamaica on Brown’s album Love Approached, which was certified gold.

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Congratulations to our WDAS-FM Women Of Excellence: Bumi Fernandez West, CEO of the Odunde Festival; NBC 10 Anchor Tracy Davidson, weekday mornings 4 a.m. to 7 a.m.; Anita T. Conner, Managing Partner of Anita T. Conner & Associates; Tiffany Tavarez, vice president of Community Relations, Wells Fargo; and Catherine Hicks, Publisher of The Philadelphia Sunday Sun. Check out wdasfm.com for all the details and the announcements for our WDAS-FM 2020 Women Of Excellence festivities.

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The NAACP Image Awards 2020 will honor Rihanna with the President’s Award. The NAACP released a statement that the singer/songwriter/entrepreneur is being honored for her special achievement and distinguished public service. The heritage civil rights organization is also honoring Rihanna’s philanthropy and commitment to justice. Meanwhile, Angela Bassett, Anthony Anderson, Regina King and Tracee Ellis Ross are among those with multiple nominations. “The Neighborhood” and “black-ish” have multiple TV comedy nominations and “Queen Sugar” and “Godfather Of Harlem” have multiple TV drama nominations. Multiple film nods went to “Us”, “Queen & Slim,” “Harriet” and “Dolemite Is My Name” including one for our hometown native Da’Vine Joy Randolph (“Dolemite Is My Name”). Beyoncé, Lizzo and H.E.R. lead the music nominations. The 51st Annual NAACP Image Awards airs Saturday, Feb. 22 on BET.

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My favorite documentary show “UnSung” is returning Feb. 23 to TV One. UnSung follows some of our favorite performers who don’t get the credit they deserve for their work and how impactful it’s been. The show takes us behind the scenes to show us what happened with those artists and both sides of their journey. This season features Al Jarreau, Roxanne Shante, Goodie Mob, Christopher Williams, Betty Wright and our own Billy Paul. “UnSung” premieres with Dru Hill at 10 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 23 on TV One.

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If you would like more info please email me at PattyJackson@iHeartMedia.com or check me out with my midday reports at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. during the day.

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