Word has hit the Internet streets that Saturday Night Live recently hosted special — some folks are saying "secret!" — auditions for black women to add to its cast.
Things are moving fast: Bill Carter of The New York Times reports that Lorne Michaels, SNL creator and executive producer, said he was committed to finding a black actress by January.
The tryouts follow a sputtering of criticism over the absence of a black actress on SNL since Maya Rudolph left in 2007. Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharaoh, two of the show's black cast members, had previously lamented its lack of black women. Thompson, who said he was no longer going to dress in drag, came in for particular criticism after telling TV Guide that SNL auditions never turn up any black comediennes who were ready for the job.
Kerry Washington appeared on SNL in November after this debacle, opening with in a sketch in which she portrayed, like, a whole lot of black women. That drew this on-screen acknowledgement from the producers:
"The Producers at Saturday Night Live would like to apologize to Kerry Washington for the number of black women she will be asked to play tonight. We made these requests only because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent and also because "SNL" does not currently have a black woman in the cast. As for the latter reason, we agree that this is not an ideal situation, and look forward to rectifying it in the near future ... unless, of course, we fall in love with another white guy first."
So which of these women might we see gracing the tee-vee in the future Saturday nights? Several women tweeted that they were at the auditions; you can see some of their YouTube material below. Deadline has circulated the names of several more SNL potentials. Feel verrrry free to hop into the comments and share more links to your favorite skits, clips and what-have-yous from black female performers you think should be on the show.
Dennis played Janay on the BET series The Game and graduated from Howard University with a theater degree. She was also in Blue Mountain State, The Underground and Bring It On II: A Fight To The Finish.
She was Peaches in Tracks. She's also an active YouTuber, and works with performer Torrei Hart to make videos for PrettyFunnyFish. Shepherd's a prolific Viner, as seen in the above delightfully random compilation.
Haddish is a stand-up comedian, actress and dancer. She has appeared on It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, My Name Is Early, Janky Promoters and Meet The Spartans.
She plays Imunique in Love That Girl! and was the character Cookie in LearningTown. Webb has also appeared on ER and State of Mind.
Dungey is best known for the her video series Ask A Slave.
Four adults, including the city's schools superintendent, pleaded not guilty on Friday to several charges stemming from the aftermath of the notorious rape 2012 rape of a teenage girl by high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio.
Steubenville's WTOV-TV reports that:
— "Steubenville City Schools Superintendent Michael McVey pleaded not guilty to the five counts against him: Tampering with evidence, two counts of obstructing justice, falsification and obstructing official business."
— Matthew Belardine, a former volunteer football coach, pleaded not guilty to four counts: "allowing underage drinking, obstructing official business, falsification and contributing to delinquency of a minor."
— Lynnett Gorman, principal of West Elementary School, pleaded not guilty to "failure to report child abuse or neglect while acting in official capacity in a school district." As you'll see below, the charge against her relates to a second alleged rape of a girl — not directly to the infamous case that became headline news across the nation.
— Seth Fluharty, an assistant wrestling coach and special education teacher, pleaded not guilty to a charge of failing to report child abuse or neglect.
Two other adults, Steubenville City Schools technology director William Rhinaman and his daughter Hannah, previously pleaded not guilty to charges including obstructing justice (William Rhinaman) and receiving stolen property (Hannah Rhinaman).
The case involving the football players, as we've previously written, became national news after some of the boys who were involved posted pictures of the victim and accounts of what they had done on social media. That triggered an online campaign to press local authorities to investigate and prosecute. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's office took over the case.
Last March, two boys were found guilty of rape.
The investigation into the rape and the alleged efforts by the school officials to either cover up what happened or interfere with authorities' efforts to identify those responsible, led to evidence of "a second rape during another drunken teen party four months before the one that drew worldwide scrutiny," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes.
According to the newspaper, "the charge against elementary school principal Lynnett Gorman, and at least some of the counts against Mr. McVey, involve their response to an April 2012 incident in which a 14-year-old girl said she was raped by a group of baseball players at a coach's house. ... No suspects were ever named. A law enforcement source said the girl later recanted and said the sex was consensual. The indictments of Ms. Gorman and Mr. McVey refer to specific actions regarding how they handled the initial allegation."
Well, look what showed up on our doorstep.
The Western Hemisphere has an unwelcome visitor: a painful tropical illness called chikungunya fever.
And it doesn't look like the hard-to-say illness is leaving anytime soon. (You can hear how to pronounce it here.)
After being a problem in Africa and southern Asia for decades, the chikungunya virus has made its way to the Caribbean, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
The virus cropped up in the French part of St. Martin in October. Since then, it has infected at least two people, WHO said. About twenty more cases are likely.
"This is the first time that locally acquired transmission of chikungunya has been detected in the WHO Americas Region," the agency said in a statement.
Global health researchers have been predicting the mosquito-borne illness would come our way sooner rather than later.
The chikungunya virus attacks the joints, and causes fever, headaches and arthritis symptoms. The disease usually goes away after a few days. But sometimes the joint pain can last for weeks, even months.
In fact, the muscle and joint pain are infamous and give the disease its name. Chikungunya roughly translates to "that which bends up" in the Makonde language, describing the stooped posture of a person infected with the virus.
There are no treatments or vaccines for chikungunya. But fatalitis are rare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. And once you've been infected, you're likely to have lifelong immunity.
The only way to prevent it is to stay away from its source — the Aedes mosquitoes.
Since scientists first discovered chikungunya in Tanzania in 1955, the virus has hung out primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. But in 2006, a giant outbreak in India sickened more than a million people. One infected man hopped on a plane and brought the virus to Italy.
Chikungunya established a foothold in the country and spread to nearly 200 people. And it turned out, it also brought another unpleasant surprise to Europe: a fresh way to spread around communities.
Up to that point, scientists had thought the virus was only transmitted by Aedes aegypti — a mosquito that prefers warm, tropical climates. But in Italy, the virus was spreading by the Asian tiger mosquito, an insect that can tolerant more temperate environments. Further research found that, indeed, the virus had mutated and gained the ability to spread through the tiger mosquito, A. albopictus.
That adaptation could spell trouble for the U.S. Both A. aegypti and A. albopictus are found in the southern U.S. The tiger mosquito has a much broader range and thrives as far north as Chicago.