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Joseph_Jackson_Cannes_2014Joe Jackson died following a battle with pancreatic cancer early in the morning on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. He was 89 years old.

Joe Jackson was the patriarch and manager of the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. Though Jermaine Jackson stated that Joe “kept [them] off the streets,” Joe was a notoriously harsh taskmaster and was accused of emotionally and physically abusing his children. In 2003, Joe effectively confirmed those rumors while attempting to deny them. In a BBC interview, Joe stated that he “whipped [Michael] with a switch and a belt…[but] I never beat him. You beat someone with a stick.” He also supposedly insisted that his children refer to him as “Joseph” instead of “Dad” or “Father.”

The fraught history between father and children may be part of why Janet and Michael cut professional ties with Joseph in 1986 and 1983 respectively. While he did not manage their later careers, Joe was the one who launched the entertainment careers of his children.  Joe negotiated the contract between the Jackson 5 and Epic Records, and he financed Janet’s demo that secured her deal with A&M Records.

Joe brought the Jackson 5 into the spotlight by honing their talent with daily practices run with an iron fist. He claimed that he “didn’t want [the kids] to be soft” in a “tough neighborhood where other kids were in gangs and getting into drugs.” Instead of joining gangs, his children catapulted into the entertainment world with the Jackson 5 group, Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson all achieving superstardom. Joe’s harsh demeanor, however, tainted his relationship with his children for the rest of his life. In 2013, Joe suffered four strokes, but when he “was in the hospital recovering, only two people in [his] family traveled all the way to see [him.]” His visitors were his “baby girl,” Janet, and her daughter Brandi.

Janet Jackson described her father as “incredible” and claimed that he “drove [her] to be the best.” Unfortunately, Joe had a contentious relationship, at best, with several of his other children. Despite that, Joe was adamant that he had no regrets about his life. “Not at all,” he said in 2014. “I don’t live that way.”

4100754943_5aa550ec50Dorothy Cotton, a civil rights leader who worked with Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., has passed away at the age of 88. She had been battling illness recently and died in her retirement home in Ithaca, New York on Sunday, June 10, 2018.

Cotton first met King in 1960 when he was preaching at her church in Virginia. From there, the two began working to organize peaceful protests in conjunction with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Cotton became one of the few women in high-level positions in the SCLC and served as educational director.

Cotton said that many people both today and during the civil rights movement are unaware how much work was done behind the scenes of those famous peaceful protests. “They couldn’t really know about it because it was not something we could publicize,” said Cotton. Publicity, she pointed out, would have led to those who preferred the status quo shutting down those who worked to organize the protests.

In addition to helping organize protests, Cotton took a keen interest in education. That interest would lead her to become an unsung hero for the civil rights movement. Cotton led the Citizen Education Program which was described as helping “ordinary people identify what was intolerable in their circumstances, envision the change they desired, learn their civil rights [and] prepare for democratic engagement.” This involved, in part, teaching Southern blacks how to organize their communities, increase voter registration and stand up for their constitutional rights.

The Citizen Education Program is rarely discussed, however, in part because it was deliberately kept in the background during the civil rights movement. Cotton said that her work was left unpublicized because the program “would have been shut down [for] teaching all those old black folk that they are citizens.”

Dorothy Cotton’s program grew organically as those who attended her classes went on to teach citizenship classes of their own.

In addition to growing her own program outward, Cotton has been credited as helping hold the Southern Christian Leadership Conference together. “Bevel, Hosea [Williams], Jesse [Jackson] could do great things,” said historian David J. Garrow, “they were repeatedly extremely difficult for [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] to manage. King didn’t like having to deal with difficult situations, and both Dorothy and Andy Young were the real interpersonal glue that held things together and gave King emotional support.” Garrow further remarked “in the last five years of his life, no one was closer or more emotionally supportive of Dr. King than Dorothy.”

Xernona Clayton, King’s office manager in Atlanta, said that Dorothy “had such a calming influence in her personality…She had a personality that would lend itself to people listening to her.”

Cotton left no immediate survivors, but there is no shortage of people who remember how she touched their lives and gave them back the power they always should have possessed.

kate-spade_credit-Everett-Collection-ShutterstockKate Spade was found dead in her apartment on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. Her death is believed to be a suicide, but few details are currently available.

Spade was born on December 24, 1962, under the name Katherine Brosnahan. She worked for a time as the accessories editor of “Mademoiselle” magazine, but she found the handbags of the era to be over-accessorized. Spade wanted a “functional bag that was sophisticated and had some style,” but none existed. In 1993, Spade teamed up with the man who would later become her husband, Andy Spade, and a friend named Elyce Arons to found her own company. Originally, the company was named after all three founders, but it was Spade’s name that came to be associated with the handbags.

After Spade’s first show, she wanted to give her products a little something extra. For that reason, she moved the inside label to the outside of the bag. The simple change created a brand identity and started a trend among handbags that would continue for years.

Kate Spade bags were an instant hit with career women, and the successes of the handbags would later spread to young girls as a form of a status symbol. The modern, sleek look of the bags combined with bold colors created pieces that were beloved by celebrities as well as career women. The bags rapidly found a niche as preppy but functional accessories.

Kate Spade became the face of the brand, and her success paved the way for other female designers such as Tory Burch and Jenna Lyons. Joe Zee, the former creative director of “Elle” and former fashion director of “W,” said that Spade “knew what the fashion world needed before [it] did. Kate just did what she felt was right, regardless of what the industry would think.”

The Kate Spade brand exploded and was renamed Kate Spade & Co. There are now more than 140 Kate Spade New York retail shops and outlets across America and more than 175 stores internationally. Kate Spade herself was a two time winner of the CFDA International Award and has been hailed as a fashion visionary. She is survived by her husband, Andy Spade; her daughter, Frances Beatrix Spade; her brother-in-law, David Spade; and her niece, Rachel Bosnahan.

Margot_KidderThe world said goodbye to the actress who played one of the most well-known roles to grace the silver screen. Margot Kidder, who is famous for playing the Man of Steel’s love interest Lois Lane in “Superman,” died in her Montana home on Sunday, May 13, 2018. The police received an anonymous call reporting that Kidder was not breathing, but the actress was dead by the time police arrived. The cause of her death is still unknown, but foul play is not suspected at this time.

Kidder found fame when she starred opposite Christopher Reeve in the 1978 movie “Superman,” and she reprised her role for the three sequels:  “Superman II” in 1980, “Superman III” in 1983, and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” in 1987. Despite her notoriety for playing the Man of Steel’s leading lady, Kidder had made her professional acting debut nearly a decade earlier with the Canadian film “The Best Damn Fiddler from Calbogie to Kaladar” and the TV series “Wojeck.”

The role of Lois Lane catapulted Kidder to stardom, but she actually believed that the film would be a failure. “Nothing prepares anyone for that sudden thing of being world famous,” she said. “It was such a shock. It wasn’t something I really liked or something I was very good at. I didn’t realize how good the movie was until I had seen it at the premier in Washington.”

Fame, however, did not stop Kidder from having her own struggles. She battled bipolar disease for years and suffered three failed marriages. For a brief time in 1996, the world famous actress was homeless. Eventually, Kidder pulled herself back up and became a vocal advocate for mental health though she bristled at the words “mental illness.” “They are a stigma,” Kidder stated, “and [the words] recall times when it was thought those with a disorder were possessed by the Devil. I hope someone can come up with new words.”

Tributes have poured in for the actress as her death caught many off guard, but Kidder’s friends and family have said that she was acutely aware of her mortality toward the end of her life. “She was close to Carrie Fisher,” said Kidder’s longtime friend Cara Wilder. “There was a lot of death in her life lately, and she felt the weight of that. We had a close friend pass away a week ago. I talked to her on Friday, and she said that was hard to process. She said, ‘I think there’s going to be a lot more death like that happening.’”

Sadly, the actress was not wrong. At the age of 69, she joined the ranks of the talented actors and actresses that have died in the last few years, among them Carrie Fisher and Alan Rickman. Still, the actress lives on in the minds of innumerable fans, not just as a superhero’s love interest, but as a brave woman who helped speak out about mental health and inspire many.