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Virginia Lawmakers Vote to Legalize Marijuana



The new legislation will legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, but not until 2024.

What We Know:

  • On January 1st, 2024, sales of recreational marijuana will start in Virginia. The new law will also decriminalize possession of up to an oz. (28.3 grams) of marijuana. Virginia will become the first Southern state to legalize marijuana and is the latest of 15 total states that currently allow recreational use. Before Virginia, New Jersey was the last state to join the legalization club. It joins Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts as the only east coast states that legalize marijuana. The legislation is now waiting for Democratic Governor Ralph Northam’s signature, who supports legalization.
  • Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, admits the state has taken an important step toward legalization. Only last year, Virginia has taken the first steps to legalization by making simple possession a civil penalty. The old law stated that minor possession could only be punishable by a fine of no more than $25.

“There’s still a lot of work ahead, but this bill will help to reinvest in our communities reduce inequities in our criminal justice system,” stated Yarmosky.

  • Yarmosky’s statement holds as the bill has plans to dedicate 30% of marijuana tax revenue to the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund. The largest portion of this revenue stream will go toward funding pre-k classrooms for at-risk kids. The bill will also include various stipulations such as help communities over-policed for marijuana crimes, fund scholarships, and low-or no-interest loans for qualified cannabis businesses.
  • The only question that remains is why the legislation was scheduled until 2024. It has been reported that the Senate wanted to move forward with legalizing marijuana possession this year, but House Democrats argued, “legalization without a legal market for marijuana could promote the growth of the black market.” It could also mean bad news for communities of color, who already have a tough time fairly navigating these laws. A study by the legislature’s research and watchdog agency found that in 2010-2019, black individuals’ average arrest rate for marijuana charges was 3.5x higher than white individuals’ arrest rate.

Lawmakers in Virginia are steadily and carefully creating new marijuana laws that also benefit communities previously wronged by outdated legislation.



Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black Alerts and the host of Boss Mornings and Unmuted Nation. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.


Halle Berry selected as ambassador for 25th American Black Film Fest



The Oscar-winner will also be screening her directorial debut film, ‘Bruised,’ at the virtual festival.

Halle Berry has been selected to be the ambassador of the annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF). The ABFF Ventures, LLC made the announcement that she will be taking part in the virtual festival, which runs from Nov. 3 to 28, per a press release.

The Oscar-winning actress is making a return to the ABFF after winning their inaugural Rising Star Award in 1997. Leading up to that year, she had appeared in a range of roles from Jungle Fever and Boomerang to Losing Isaiah and The Rich Man’s Wife.

Halle Berry thegrio.com
Halle Berry is shown in June 2019 at the U.S. premiere of “5B” at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Verizon Media)

Since her last appearance, she’s gone on to become one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood, winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for Monster’s Ball, and Emmy and Golden Globe for Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, and five NAACP Image Awards; the most recent was for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for Frankie & Alice.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to have Halle as the ABFF Festival Ambassador for our 25th anniversary year,” said Jeff Friday, CEO of Jeff Friday Media and Founder ABFF Ventures LLC. “When we met her in 1997, she was a talented emerging actor with a bright future. Today, she is an Academy Award-winner, cultural icon and inspiration to women of color across our industry and the world.â€� 

For this year’s ABFF, she will be armed with her directorial debut film, Bruised, in which Berry stars as a mixed martial arts fighter. Berry spoke about her optimism for the growing number of female directors in Hollywood in Variety.

Halle Berry thegrio.com
Halle Berry attends the 29th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 12, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

“I definitely feel like there’s a turning point,� Berry said. “I’m more encouraged that as women, we are feeling confident enough to tell our stories. And there is a place for us to tell our stories. For so long, our experiences have been told narratively through the guise of men.�

Bruised was originally premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and will make its national debut on Netflix on Nov. 24.

Aside from screening her first foray into filmmaking, Berry will be partaking in various ambassador-related functions and programs throughout the festival. This includes a one-on-one conversation in ABFF’s popular talk series, where she will discuss her three decades of work in film. Berry, who’s been a long-time supporter of the festival, expressed excitement about what the ABFF means for aspiring Black filmmakers.

“For 25 years this festival has consistently supported emerging Black filmmakers,â€� Berry said in the release. â€œI was honored to be recognized by ABFF early in my career and could not be prouder to return to the festival as its ambassador to help ABFF’s ongoing efforts to provide opportunities for emerging Black creators. I’m also thrilled to present my directorial debut BRUISED to the ABFF audience.â€� 

The festival will be available worldwide as it is 100 percent virtual, via the custom-built platform ABFF PLAY. This follows suit from the 2020 festival last August, which also screened its films online during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to its official website. The ABFF’s normal home each year has been in Miami, Florida.

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Sidney Starr discusses Darius McCrary dating rumors after video surfaces



McCrary has denied being in a relationship with the transgender Instagram model after a video of the two kissing went viral.

Transgender influencer Sidney Starr is speaking out about the online hysteria over her “friendship� with actor Darius McCrary

The rumors and speculation began after Starr posted a video of her and McCrary looking cozy together during a photoshoot. It didn’t take long for their respective social media followers to link them romantically. 

Starr was invited to The Real to set the record straight. 

“As you guys can see, it really, really, really hit us. It hit us hard. I don’t think neither I or Darius knew how hard that this was gonna hit,” Starr said. “Society was not ready for this at all.” 

Starr wants all inquiring minds to know that the friendship with McCrary is purely platonic. “He’s a very good friend of mine. That’s all I’mma say,â€� Starr added on The Real.

McCray has denied being in a relationship with Starr after a video went viral of the two kissing

The Real‘s hosts also brought up Starr’s Chingy scandal. Years ago, Starr started a rumor about dating the rapper, which he denied at the time, but which he also blames on losing a record deal that effectively killed his career. Chingy reportedly met Starr only once when she was a backup dancer for Ludacris. They took a photo together that became a huge talking point when it hit the internet.

In a 2014 interview with Vlad TV, Chingy opened up about how the rumor impacted his career. 

“I thought she was a fan. I thought it was a young lady who was a fan. She seemed pretty cool. I took the picture,� he said. 

“It goes to show you that that person who nobody knew had that much power to come and say one negative thing about me and a whole mass of people just instantly took to it. And they didn’t have not one piece of evidence. I lost a deal cause of that…It was so much bad publicity around it…I’ve never been through a sabotage situation like that. And it was so fabricated and false.�

Starr eventually apologized to Chingy in a videotaped message in which the Instagram model admitted to lying about their relationship.

“I met him as a fan because I was a backup dancer,� Starr said. “Chingy didn’t know anything about me. He didn’t know my background. He didn’t know I was transgender. I just need people to know that the things I said about Chingy weren’t true.�

“I’m only human. I come from a very scratchy past, but I will say this: I am all about positivity,” Starr said about the Chingy drama on The Real. “Ms. Starr is coming with nothing but love and positivity and I want everyone to know that just because I have a past with something like that does not mean I’m that same type of person now.”

AWXII - Day 2
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 29: Rapper Chingy speaks onstage at the How Emotions Predict The Virality of Videos panel presented by Virool during Advertising Week 2015 AWXII at the ADARA Stage at Times Center Hall on September 29, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/Getty Images for AWXII)

Watch Starr’s conversation with the hosts of The Real below.

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Kel Mitchell pens new faith-based book: ‘Blessed Mode’



The pastor’s forthcoming book offers a 90-day challenge to help readers build their faith in God.

Since the 1990s, Kel Mitchell has increased the laughter of audiences as an actor, producer and comedian. Today, as a pastor, he plans to increase people’s faith with his forthcoming book, Blessed Mode.

The two-time Emmy-nominee best known for his hit Nickelodeon comedy shows All That and Kenan and Kel, crafted the new book — with the subtitle “90 Days To Level Up Your Faith” — as a challenge for readers to increase their trust in God and place more focus on their blessings, according to a press release. Mitchell, a youth pastor at Spirit Food Christian Center just outside of Los Angeles, offers 90 different devotionals for readers, including:

•    Find freedom in God’s life-changing presence.
•    Experience God’s power through prayer.
•    Recognize God’s many gifts in your life.
•    Share the blessings you’ve received with others.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JUNE 09: Kel Mitchell, wife Asia Lee, and daughter Wisdom attend Nickelodeon’s screening of “All That” and “Good Burger” at the Chop Shop on June 09, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images for Nickelodeon )

Mitchell, 43, attributes the power of faith to bringing him back from the brink of self-destruction. As a youth, he rode high thanks to All That, the feature film spin-off Good Burger with frequent Nickelodeon castmate and current Saturday Night Live actor Kenan Thompson, and guest rap features with groups like Immature.

However, after his shows were cancelled and the phone calls from Hollywood slowed down, the Chicago native suffered through drug and alcohol addiction, as well as a crumbling marriage to first wife Tyisha Hampton, he revealed to BlackDoctor.org.

“I have been through so many ups and downs in my life,” Mitchell wrote in a blog post. “Suicidal, divorce, drug and alcohol usage, deep in sin, dealing with the lost of love ones to gang violence, debt, hurt, pain, vanity, lust, heartbreak, feeling LOST looking for answers. I have seen, felt and been in all types of sin and have been done wrong by others. I know how you feel.â€� 

Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports 2019 - Red Carpet
SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA – JULY 11: Kel Mitchell attends Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports 2019 at Barker Hangar on July 11, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Through faith, Mitchell was able to turn things around. He got remarried in 2012 and became an ordained pastor in 2019. That same year, he was the runner-up on season 28 of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars. Today, things couldn’t be better for him.

“I don’t let things frustrate or worry me anymore,� he said. “I don’t do that because I have peace in my heart. I have God.�

In addition to his youth pastor duties, Mitchell is now executive producer of Nickelodeon’s reboot of All That. With its original 171-episode run from 1994 to 2005, the sketch comedy show became Nickelodeon’s longest running live-action series. Mitchell also hosts the TV series Tails of Valor, which tells real life stories of people changed by service animals.

Blessed Mode hits bookshelves Dec. 14.

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