Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

ASPiRE aims high. ASPiRE, a partnership of UP TV and basketball legend-turned-entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson, has unveiled its programming slate for the second half of 2014 into 2015. The ambitious development roster showcases the network’s ongoing commitment to presenting positive African-American images to its viewers while building on growth achieved during the year to date.

 “We are proud to announce our upcoming slate of programming for 2014-2015 and primed to take the network to the next level,” says ASPiRE General Manager Paul Butler.  “For an upscale and professional African-American audience, ASPiRE’s programming offers a balanced mix of movies, music, sports and lifestyle, talk, documentaries and sitcoms that honor our past, celebrate our now and introduce our next.  We hope that our viewers will continue to be entertained, informed, inspired and socially engaged with us wherever they may be moving forward.”

“Our advertisers and partners know that ASPiRE connects them to viewers looking for relevant and relatable images of positive Black culture on TV,” adds Ty Johnson, VP, multicultural sales & development, ASPiRE.  “With ASPiRE Chairman and CEO Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson’s long history of connecting brands to the community, our viewers have embraced the impact we’re having and difference we’re making with positive entertainment for African-American families and urban professionals.  We anticipate another great year of continued growth as we celebrate the groundbreaking achievements and game changing contributions African-Americans continue to make to popular culture.”

Highlights of ASPiRE’s original programming schedule include:


exhale (Season Two)Premieres Wednesday, May 7 at 8 p.m. EDT
With a unique mix of bold humor, sincerity and insight, journalist and media maven Angela Burt-Murray; actress and comedian Erin Jackson; director, writer and actress Issa Rae; blogger, author and TV anchor Rene Syler; and actress Malinda Williams return to provide a fresh in-depth perspective on topics that are relevant and evergreen in the lives of African-American women.  The five hosts from different generations, fields and backgrounds get real about family, relationships, career, money, faith and other matters of interest to modern women.  This season, some of the topics include “What Is Love?,” African-Americans and the criminal justice system, and “Childhood Health & Wellness” with guests such as Laila Ali (Favela, All in with Lalia Ali), Boris Kodjoe (Baggage Claim, Soul Food) and Nicole Ari Parker (Revolution, Soul Food), Judge Greg Mathis, comedienne Niecy Nash (Getting On, American Dad!), Tracee Ellis Ross (Bad Girls, Girlfriends) and more.  Executive produced by Lynne Robinson and Black Robin Media.

 ABFF Independent (Season Three) – Sneak-Preview on Friday, June 20 at 8 p.m. EDT, Season Premieres Fall 2014
Hosted by actor Omari Hardwick (Sparkle, Dark Blue), ASPiRE’s acclaimed weekly, two-hour original series presents the best independent shorts, feature films and documentaries from emerging black artists.  This year, ABFF (, June 19-22, 2014) will be held in New York City for the first time ever.  ASPiRE will be at the Festival hosting a “Pitch Suite” where young filmmakers can meet with ASPiRE executives to pitch their films to get into the next season of ABFF Independent. ABFF Independent is executive produced by Jeff Friday, and Sean Joell Johnson and Ralph Scott of LeftCenter Entertainment, Inc.

Black College Quiz – Currently Airs on Mondays at 7:30 p.m. EDT
Spotlighting the academics of HBCUs, Black College Quiz is a game show that tests the knowledge of students.  Topics range of pop-culture to African-American History.  The series is hosted by “Nephew Tommy” from The Steve Harvey Morning Show.  Produced by Central City Productions (CCP).


Closure – Premieres Fall 2014
A documentary about a trans-racial adoptee, Angela Tucker, who finds her birth mother, and meets the rest of a family who didn’t know she existed, including her birth father.   A story about identity, the complexities of trans-racial adoption, and most importantly, Closure.  Directed by Angela’s husband Bryan Tucker.

The Wayman Tisdale Story – Premieres Fall 2014
The Wayman Tisdale Story is a feature length documentary celebrating the life and legacy of Wayman Tisdale, a three-time All-American, Gold Medal Olympian, former NBA star and world renowned Jazz musician who lost his two-year battle with bone cancer in May of 2009.  Directed by Brian Schodorf.


HBCU Sports – Premieres Fall 2014
For the second year, ASPiRE will broadcast live six football games and 12 Men’s and Women’s basketball games, including the Women’s Championship Game in 2015.  Steeped in history, legacy and tradition, these games are the essence of the HBCU game-day experience.  From the intense overall competition on the field to the unique HBCU tailgating environment and bands battling during the half, these rivalries resonate with fans and alumni nationwide.

Inside the Game – Premieres Fall 2014
Moving into its 18th year, Inside the Game is the nation’s longest-running sports highlights TV show devoted exclusively to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).  Hosted by ESPN host/analyst/producer Stan Lewter, the weekly series provides viewers with football and basketball highlights, plus interviews and features on and off the field from HBCU institutions, including the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC), Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and independent schools.  The series is produced by Urban Sports & Entertainment Group.


ASPiRE produces several original vignette series, including:

A vignette series that profiles young African-Americans doing the expected and the unexpected.  In their own words, they tell their stories, describe their motivations and inspirations, and share who they ASPiRE to be.  To date, ASPiRE has produced more than 80 profiles of young African-Americans from all walks of life and disciplines.

On the Reel
A vignette series that brings viewers behind-the-scenes of our original series tapings, live music concerts, film festivals and award shows.  Vignettes also feature industry conferences, corporate events and community events that are sponsored and supported by partners, such as Nationwide (CIAA Tournament), Colgate (Colgate Women’s Games) and Johnson & Johnson (“Stay Fit” Health & Wellness Event).

On the Yard
This vignette series visits annual HBCU battle-of-the-band competitions, football classics, homecoming parades/pageants, alumni reunions, tailgates and fraternity/sorority step shows to spotlight these signature events and cultural celebrations.  Produced by Urban Sports & Entertainment Group.


Magic in the Making
A series of quarterly specials hosted by ASPiRE Chairman and CEO Magic Johnson as he sits down one-on-one with the newsmakers of today and tomorrow in sports, entertainment, business, politics and philanthropy.  The conversations will be candid, personal, entertaining and intimate.   Guests will come from the diverse mix of friends and colleagues from Magic’s inner circle.  Produced by Rivet Entertainment.

Magic Johnson HBCU All-Star Invitational
A special HBCU All Star Basketball Game in the vein of the McDonald’s All American Game for high school ballers.  Partnered with Urban Sports & Entertainment Group.

Change Makers
A half-hour documentary series that takes a look at today’s top celebrities, their contributions, how they impact and uplift their community while exploring social and health issues affecting millions worldwide.  Rapper, entrepreneur and actor Ludacris (Fast & Furious 6, “Being Mary Jane”) will be one of the celebrities featured.  Produced by Swirl Films.

Game Time
A HBCU version of the popular College Game Day studio and college campus show.  Produced by Urban Sports & Entertainment Group.

UNCF Next Generation
Partnering with UNCF and their groundbreaking campaign, “A Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Waste,” host Laurence Fishburne (Man of Steel, Hannibal) follows the real-life journey of students from different backgrounds, circumstances and areas of interests as they pursue the dream of a college education.

The Graduates
This new reality series highlights the journey of five recent HBCU alumni after they graduate college and move to New York to pursue their dreams and aspirations.   Produced by Randolph Sturrup of RDS Entertainment.


ASPiRE to Change The Game is the network’s pro-social campaign to raise awareness and engagement on the critical issues facing the next generation.   ASPiRE works with corporate and community partners to bring awareness to five “categories of community concern” for the next generation of African-Americans:  Education, Health & Wellness, Economic Empowerment, Social Justice and Community Impact.  To date, the network has already worked with a number of community and corporate partners, including UNCF, Colgate and The Billion Dollar Roundtable.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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