SIDNEY POITIER

"There is a pervasive narrative that even now, in 2017, seeks to undermine the necessity, potential, and positive realities of Black men. It is one that has never sat right with me, personally and as part of the ICON MANN collective, because life experience and daily examples set by many great Black men -like you- tell me otherwise. Everyday there is an acute awareness of your grace, integrity, passion, pride, strength of character, and purpose. I am reminded of this each time I think of the legendary Sidney Poitier. 

Much has been written about Mr. Poitier's more than 70 years in entertainment as an Actor, Director, Best-selling Author, the first Black man to win an Academy Award, Diplomat, global Humanitarian, and the list goes on. What has never been explored is the very reality of how his being and journey to these accomplishments have inspired an immeasurable amount of men--Black, White and beyond. 

All to often the most obvious, isn't so obvious. Giving collective tribute to our greats, such as Mr. Poitier, while they are able to receive them being one such example. Thankfully, Lexus Automotive and EBONY shared our passion and provided the support to get us started on the initial phase of this most meaningful road. Over the course of the coming year as we move forward with the full-length documentary on Mr. Sidney Poitier, know that our vision will continually be guided by this handsome collective. 

We are all the torchbearers of our history and as such we come together in an ICON MANN Salute to the 90th year of the legendary Mr. Sidney Poitier. May it inspire you to not only document the legend in your life, but share with us how you honor him.

Peace and continued blessings,

Tamara N. Houston (Founder) + Blair Underwood
Executive Producers
ICON MANN "

FATHERHOOD IS...

He is one half of the single greatest influence of your life. Independent of if your father was absent or present, bad or good, how you reconcile that experience instructs who you are to self, in relationships, and in life.  

Within the constructs of ICON MANN, I am able to meet some of the most engaging and successful men across industries. And yes, while their professional titles, awarded accomplishments, and monetary merits are impressive, what astounds me most about them is how utterly phenomenal they are as husbands, boyfriends, partners, sons, friends, and fathers. So when it came time to think about how ICON MANN would observe Father’s Day 2016, I didn’t have to look far. We decided to ask some questions and our men provided the answers: 

JAY ELLIS, star of the new HBO series Insecure, pays wonderful tribute to his father and Little Debbie™ swiss rolls. AARON WALTON, Co-CEO of Walton Isaacson, shares what three generations of Black male inspiration looks like on any given day. CHRIS BROWN, Grammy Award® winning singer, songwriter, and Artist, speaks about stepping into the greatest and most desired role of his life: fatherhood. JEFF RUSH, Private Wealth Manager, addresses the necessity of finding the home vs. work balance and planning for family. POOCH HALL, star of Showtime series Ray Donovan, inspires with insight on the toughest and most joyous journey of his life. CAMERON MITCHELL, Agent at CAA, who says a lot on any given day to clients and executives, but his most important words are always, ‘I love you’ to his kids. BLAIR UNDERWOOD, star of ABC’s Agents of the S.H.I.E.L.D, whose love of quality drive time, inspired by his father, has become a family tradition. 

Their stories are not the same, and the lessons from them are lasting. My guess is that you will be inspired. Thank you to each of these fathers, like BRAD JOHNSON, Restaurateur, whose focus is to be present in the lives of their children. ICON MANN salutes you. Happy Father’s Day, now go and watch the NBA Playoffs! You’ve earned it!! 

#WatchOutForThoseTwitterFingers

Iconically, 

Tamara 

WHAT MAKES A LEADER

4/11/16

When did running for President of the United States become akin to WWE's Wrestlemania, with reputable news networks readily compromising their brand integrity for tabloid sound bites all for the sake of ratings? If the past seven years have taught us anything it is that the casualties will always be the working class; that the road to recovery is long and near impossible when we turn a blind eye, and don't use our constitutional rights to make politicians be accountable representatives of the people instead of special interests groups and big banks. On January 20, 2009, when PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA became the 44th President of the United States, he inherited a myriad of problems, each more grave than the next in matters of practicality, but none more great, in my humble opinion, than that of restoring HOPE and CONFIDENCE to the American people and the international community. 

George Washington Carver said, "Where there is no hope, there is no vision," and there are few more poignant truths. 

Years prior, I remember seeing then Senator Obama speak in support of now Secretary of State John Kerry's Presidential run and, like many in the audience, was moved to tears. For the first time since our great country began its systematic failure of the American people, someone was speaking about VISION and HOPE with AUTHENTICITY. His words were impassioned and they made my heart soar, causing the emboldened thought, "just maybe we, as a handsome collective, can actually climb out of this mess."  Now nearing the end of his undeniably successful reign as President of the United States, and looking at the field of candidates seeking to replace him, it is only fitting that we explore the virtues of LEADERSHIP head on. For when our future books are written, President Barack Hussein Obama will indeed be crystalized as one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. But, is he the only one?

Retired Four Star General COLIN POWELL has been the nearly mythical giant of great character that has always had the ability to disrupt the whole system of party lines, yet seems less than interested in taking on the professional and personal repercussions. Knowing that our inquiry was not a new one, ICON MANN dug into the vaults to see what TIME had to say about it in 1995 when they asked, 'Will He Run?'

The ability to positively affect a societal change, thankfully, is not reserved for politicians. Within this month's SPEAKERBOX section we feature three men of significant means and notoriety who are outliers of change: SEAN 'DIDDY' COMBS, KOBE BRYANT and STEVE HARVEY. Each are investing in the youth's future via educational advancement and mentorship. This month's CULTURE section focuses on the disruptive power of leadership music with its tribute to A Tribe Called Quests's PHIFE DAWG, and the disruptive essence of art with super producer SWIZZ BEATZ, and late Malian photographer SEYDOU KEITA. 

In paying respects to Phife, ICON MANN man OMARI HARDWICK, star of the hit show POWER, pens a deeply personal poem to his friend while JAMES LOPEZ, entertainment industry executive and former music man, curates the essential playlist in celebration of the man/the group that informed a whole generation of brothers. Thank you each of you!

Iconiclly,

Tamara N. Houston

 

AFRICA: HOW BEAUTIFUL SHE IS!

3/13/16

 There is a Renaissance birthing in the Black consciousness of the 21st century Negro who is unencumbered by borders and labels. It is as bold in pride and dignity as it is in the wealth of awareness that He Is The Answer. I see this daily in the men who make up ICON MANN as well as those who inspire the counter-conversation to the single dimensionality that media and society continue to put forth of him.  These men have money, yes. They have power, yes, but they also have an X-factor: something that is untouchable and not for sale. You see it in the way they walk, the way they conduct themselves, and the way they are reshaping the world around them. These men, I believe, are in full possession of their true north—Africa, and she is undeniable.   

“I am not African because I was born in Africa. I am African because Africa was born in me.” The great Ghanaian leader and Pan-African Nationalist Kwame Nkrumah said these words more than fifty years ago, and I believe they are as true now as they were then. 

When thinking about what sort of dynamic men to frame this week’s content around, we determined it best to shine the light on the men whose connection, citizenship, and countenance is boldly associated with the inspired perception change being shined on the world’s most important emerging continental market: Africa. Multi-Billionaires, like ALIKO DANGOTE and PATRICE MOTSEPE, have joined the ranks of Warren Buffett, Bill & Melinda Gates, Richard Branson, and Mark Zuckerberg in pledging in their lifetime to give away a lion’s share of their hard earned fortunes to transformational charities dedicated to the eradication of poverty and advancement of living standards. For those of you whose iPad is filled with issues of Forbes, FT.com, and The Economist, you know them well for what they have amassed and the businesses they have built. However, do you know the cost or the potential of their empires? 

 SANUSI LAMIDO SANUSI, Emir of Kano does.  He is second most powerful political figure in Nigeria. As former Governor the Central Bank of Nigeria, he exposed a $20 billion corruption under the country’s former president Good Luck Jonathan—or as we like to say in his failure to protect more than 267 girls, which sparked #BringBackOurGirls, from terrorists—Good Riddance Jonathan. For that, he is one of TIMES Most Powerful People on Earth!

Power, it is said, is an illumination—like someone turned on a light in the darkness to create and foster potential. Super Producer and Grammy nominated artist AKON in partnership with THIONE NIANG and SAMBA BATHILY are bringing solar power to nearly 600 million people in various countries in rural Africa and Latin America with AKON LIGHTING AFRICA. Together they are providing the ‘hand up’ that renowned Savile Row Tailor OZWALD BOATENG OBE spoke of in the formation of his MADE IN AFRICA foundation, which was co-founded with CHRIS CLEVERLY, and has resulted in the C.A.R.E, an urban development of 3500 living spaces in Kampala Uganda. Helming the development is renowned architect DAVID ADJAYE whose firm Adjaye Associates is completing its work in the US on the National Museum of African American History and Culture. 

 These men of great measure and purpose, whose living narrative is straight forward and steeped in heritage larger than material possession, are exactly the kind that protagonist that Nigerian novelist and scholar CHINUA ACHEBE would have penned. They are the men that inspire our focus this month on AFRICA—how beautiful she is! 

 Iconically, 

 Tamara N. Houston 

THE OSCARS

2.14.16

How many times have we said that we as a diaspora of handsome and beautiful blackness, are not a monolith; despite the protestations that seeks to categorize us as such? In the past few weeks my industry, Hollywood, has been embroiled in a scandal #OscarsSoWhite due a lack of nominations for undeniably deserving performances by Idris Elba for Beats of No Nation, and David Oyelowo forSelma; 2016 and 2015; respectively. Both performances –for different measure- were indeed worthy of nominations, yet when the ballots were read neither were announced, and that coupled with some other noticeable omissions brought the town to a boiling point over a little gold statue. But why? Why does Oscar matter so darn much to people? Can it be as simple (hence monolith) as people of color are seeking the validation from an all-encompassing Hollywood body that is #SoWhite? Or is it something more; are these men (and women) seeking the holy grail of acting achievement, for their lives work of dedication, study, and sacrifice to the profession they hold in high esteem?

As a fan of movies, and the craft I believe that it is the later, because when a performance is great you forget the name of the actor you are watching, and what you may think you know about him from all the tabloids and social media chatter. All you see is this character he has painstakingly deconstructed to reassemble captured on camera, and his performance can quicken the very air you breathe long after the end credits have rolled. Ah hello, Denzel Washingtonanyone? Who can forget the masterful execution of the one tear brimming his eyes, and falling, as he stood defiantly in Glory -for which he won the Oscar in 1989; or his portrayal of Detective Alonzo “King Kong ain’t got nothing on me” Harris in Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day, winning him a second Oscar some ten years later in 19999?

Immersing oneself into such characters does not come easy. There are emotional, physical, and oftentimes mental demands on the actor that is required for such a performance. As a result when they know, and the critics have agreed that his performance for that year is among the best in show, it is quite a blow to be omitted –especially when opportunity is low, and the nominating field can bare it. Each year nearly 100 films are made of which seven, on average, helmed by Black people receive the major distribution to support a theatrical release –requirement for awards consideration. Of those seven, maybe one in a calendar year is an awards contender (story, direction, acting, composition). That is less than one percent! Why is that? Why are there so few films being made? Shouldn’t these elements be corrected in order to flood the market with awards contenders helmed by people of color?

Black men are seeking to have the opportunity to do character driven-well developed cinematic work that is ultimately recognized as the ‘best’ performance of the year, respective to their field. They are not seeking to be given this hard earned-well honed award based on the color of their skin, no they want it because they worked hard, and earned it. Yet when the scales are tipped so heavily away from that very opportunity to do so it is difficult, and frustrating. And if our collective vantage point is focused solely on the lack, then surely we will deny ourselves, the opportunity of seeing the very best!

Well, there is great news. I have saved you the research of identifying our very best of Black men to have been awarded the Academy Award in its history 87 years of existence. In all, inclusive of above and below the line, there are twenty-six reasons to be clear we seeking a handout, but a acknowledgement of the hand up.

We start with James Baskett. Heard of him? Probably not. Mr. Basket, first Black man to win and Academy Award, was awarded an Academy Special Award forSong of the South (1948). Willie D. Burton, and Russell Williams II, heard of them? Probably not. They are kings of Sound Mixing and have both won 2 Oscar each –Willie for Bird (1998), and Dreamgirls (2006), and Williams for Glory(1990) and Dances With Wolves (1991). Burton is such bad-ass that he has been nominated an additional five times! Don’t even get me started on Quincy Delight Jones, who has been nominated seven times!!

To re-purpose Biggie Smalls “Kick in the door waving the four four,” I look forward to Idris Elba, David Oyelowo, Djimon Hounsou (already nominated twice prior), Chiwetel Ejifor, Sam Jackson, Wesley Snipes, Michael B. Jordan, Nate Parker, John Boyega and many others being undeniable and lauded. For I know that these are men of such courage and passion that they will not be deterred, if anything the omission of the past two years will just make them grind harder, having the entire industry bow down –only to rise and salute. In the interim allow us to give you 26 days of our men I their well-earned Academy shine.

By greatest measure,

Tamara N. Houston

ICON MANN