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From far and wide, Beyonce brings excitement to HBCU culture

When Beyonce paid tribute to historically black colleges at Coachella, the singer's grand performance reignited interest in the marching band culture and created shockwaves of excitement to students attending those schools.

From far and wide, some HBCU students are saying Beyonce's routine was the main topic on their campus this week — even over finals. The singer's high-energy festival set over the weekend involved a black college marching band, dance troupes and step teams along with her singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing," known as the national black anthem.

"It's what everyone has been talking about. All my friends were gushing over it," said Cierra Johnson, 22, a senior at Clark Atlanta University. The journalism major watched Beyonce's performance online with her friends (though the superstar's second performance this weekend at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival will not be streamed for fans).

"It shows that our culture is appreciated," she added. "I was happy to see black people unite to do great work. It has the power to inspire a lot of African-American students who want to go to an HBCU to experience that culture."

Beyonce is also helping people get there. She announced Monday she plans to donate $100,000 to four black universities — $25,000 each to Tuskegee University, Bethune-Cookman University, Xavier University of Louisiana and Wilberforce University.

One student from each school will receive a scholarship for the 2018-2019 academic year through Beyonce's BeyGOOD initiative.

"She's getting the message out there that HBCUs are vital," Xavier president C. Reynold Verret said. "She's an important messenger to our community. It's important that these young African-American students and even the parents of the young women and men know that HBCUs are out here doing excellent work. They should be looking at these schools."

Xavier students Kamry Thomas, Kai Wilson, Leah Tiller and Tashely Drake, are planning on applying for the scholarship. Each believes Beyonce's performance will help boost HBCU enrollment.

"People on Twitter, on social media, they are like they're going to an HBCU next semester," said Wilson, a mass communication major.

Thomas said: "I really didn't think a lot of people knew about Xavier, but they did and they're going to."

Even Beyonce's mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, said in an Instagram post she was initially afraid that the predominantly white audience at Coachella, set in Indio Valley, California, would be confused by the black culture references.

But in the post, Knowles-Lawson said she found comfort after her superstar daughter told her: "I have a responsibility to do what's best for the world and not what is most popular."

Clark Atlanta senior Darrius Newton was glad the singer used that platform, making him feel proud that he attends an HBCU. He called her show "well thought out."

"It really shows what happens at HBCUs," said Newton, 22, who is majoring in business and administration with a concentration in marketing.

"I really felt like I was at someone's probate show or a football game," he said. "She didn't make it all about her. She really spotlighted a lot of the dancers and the instrument players. I really appreciated that."

It's not the first time Beyonce has included an HBCU band or dancers in her routine. She performed with Southern University's Dancing Dolls during the 2013 Super Bowl halftime show.

"I'm happy that she put marching bands on a bigger stage, because we deserve that," said James Oliver, band director of the Mighty Marching Hornets at Alabama State University. "We have been looked over for so many years. There are so many talented students and band members. We have to do more, and I'm going to make sure we do."

Over the years, other HBCU marching bands have appeared with some of the biggest names in music. Florida A&M's Marching 100 performed with Prince for his spectacular Super Bowl halftime show in 2007. Southern University's Dancing Dolls squad accompanied Madonna at Super Bowl 46.

Bethune-Cookman marching band director Donovan Wells hopes others can follow Beyonce's lead.

"One year at Texas, athletic boosters raised $70 million for football, but most HBCUs don't have $70 million annually in their budget or endowment. As far as what she has done, I hope she can inspire other people to give and continue to move the needle."

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Associated Press writer Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans contributed to this report.

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Follow Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MrLandrum31

Reality television show crew cleared in airport bomb scare

Prosecutors have dismissed all charges against a television crew accused of creating a false public alarm when one of its devices prompted a bomb alert at one of the New York area's three major airports.

New Jersey prosecutors announced the decision Friday. Acting Essex County prosecutor Robert Laurino says his office couldn't prove the nine people charged intended to commit a criminal act.

The creators of the CNBC reality show "Staten Island Hustle" say the crew was shooting an episode about a vacuum device used to compress luggage when it prompted the alert Jan. 18 at Newark Liberty International Airport.

The Transportation Security Administration says parts of the gadget were "indicators of an improvised explosive device."

"Staten Island Hustle" documents a group of investors searching for unconventional products.

Springsteen 'Born to Run' manuscript heads to summer auction

Bruce Springsteen's songwriting scrawl is born to make bucks.

Sotheby's said Friday that it will auction a handwritten working manuscript of "Born to Run" in June.

The presale estimate for the single sheet of notebook paper with 30 lines of writing is $200,000 to $300,000.

It will be offered in a books and manuscripts online auction from June 18 to June 28. It also will be exhibited in New York during that period. It's being sold by an unidentified American collector.

Sotheby's says many of the lines in this 1974 version are "apparently unpublished and unrecorded," though the chorus is "nearly perfected."

The artist tried out phrases, set off in parenthesis, with notes in the margin. His penmanship is adorned with curly-topped T's.

The Oak Ridge Boys attending Barbara Bush funeral

Country and gospel vocal quartet The Oak Ridge Boys are will attend the private funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush.

The group made the announcement Friday. Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban are lifelong friends of the Bush family, starting in 1982, when former President George H.W. Bush was vice president to Ronald Reagan.

>> Read more trending news 

Barbara Bush died Tuesday at age 92. Family spokesman Jim McGrath said earlier that week that Bush would no longer seek medical treatment and would “instead focus in comfort care.”

Related: Former first lady Barbara Bush dead at 92

“The Oaks and their wives have been the guests of President and Mrs. Bush at their homes in Kennebunkport and Houston, or on one of the numerous occasions where the Bushes have attended the Oaks’ shows, most often at the Opera House in Galveston, Texas,” the group said in a news release.

“They have also been guests at and/or performed at the White House at the behest of the Bushes. During President Bush’s re-election campaign, the group traveled on Air Force One with the First Couple.”

The public can pay respects to Bush Friday at St. Martin’s Church in Houston, where she lays in repose from noon to midnight.

Prince's Death Two Years Later: Our Writers Answer Five Lingering Questions

On the second anniversary of Prince's death, our writers look at his music, legacy and the 365 Prince Songs in a Year series.

Continue reading…

Swedish musician Avicii dead at 28

Swedish DJ Avicii was found dead Friday in Oman, his publicist confirmed. He was 28.

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Avicii, DJ-producer who performed around the world, dies

Avicii, the Grammy-nominated electronic dance DJ who performed sold-out concerts for feverish fans around the world and also had massive success on U.S. pop radio, died Friday. He was 28.

Publicist Diana Baron said in a statement that the Swedish performer, born Tim Bergling, was found dead in Muscat, Oman.

"It is with profound sorrow that we announce the loss of Tim Bergling, also known as Avicii," the statement read. "The family is devastated and we ask everyone to please respect their need for privacy in this difficult time. No further statements will be given."

No more details about the death were provided. Oman police and state media had no immediate report late Friday night on the artist's death.

Avicii was an international pop star, performing his well-known electronic dance songs around the world for die-hard fans, sometimes hundreds of thousands at music festivals, where he was the headline act. His popular sound even sent him to the top of the charts and landed onto U.S. radio: His most recognized song, the country-dance mashup "Wake Me Up," was a multi-platinum success and peaked at No. 4 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. On the dance charts, he had seven Top 10 hits.

But in 2016, the performer announced he was retiring from the road. He continued to produce songs and albums.

Avicii was part of the wave of DJ-producers, like David Guetta, Calvin Harris and Swedish House Mafia, who broke out on the scene as lead performers in their own right, earning international hits, fame, awards and more like typical pop stars.

Avicii earned his first Grammy nomination at the 2012 show — for a collaboration with Guetta. It was around the time he gained more fame for the Etta James-sampled dance jam, "Le7els," which reached No. 1 in Sweden.

He continued to collaborate with more high-profile acts, producing Madonna's "Devil Pray" and the Coldplay hits, "A Sky Full of Stars" and "Hymn for the Weekend." He was even part of Mike Posner's megahit "I Took a Pill in Ibiza," which featured the lyrics: "I took a pill in Ibiza/To show Avicii I was cool." The song was based off Posner's true story at an Avicii concert in Ibiza.

Avicii built a strong musical and personal friendship with Nile Rodgers, who called Avicii his "little brother" in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday.

"I'm shocked because I don't know medically what happened, but I can just say as a person, as a friend, and more importantly, as a musician, Tim was one of the greatest, natural melody writers I've ever worked with, and I've worked with some of the most brilliant musicians on this planet," Rodgers said.

Avicii had in the past suffered acute pancreatitis, in part due to excessive drinking. After having his gallbladder and appendix removed in 2014, he canceled a series of shows in attempt to recover.

"It's been a very crazy journey. I started producing when I was 16. I started touring when I was 18. From that point on, I just jumped into 100 percent," Avicii told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016. "When I look back on my life, I think: whoa, did I do that? It was the best time of my life in a sense. It came with a price - a lot of stress a lot of anxiety for me - but it was the best journey of my life."

Rodgers said his last performance with Avicii — about three years ago — upset him because of Avicii's drinking.

"It was a little bit sad to me because he had promised me he would stop drinking, and when I saw him he was drunk that night. And I was like, 'Whoa. Dude. C'mon. What are you doing? What's going on? You said that that was done,'" Rodgers recalled. "We did a show and I was a little upset. I didn't even stick around for his performance because it was breaking my heart. But we still had a great time. It was wonderful — we were that close."

Last year, Avicii posted this message on his website, promising to keep creating: "The next stage will be all about my love of making music to you guys. It is the beginning of something new."

Fans and members of the music community mourned his death on social media Friday.

"Something really horrible happened. We lost a friend with such a beautiful heart and the world lost an incredibly talented musician," Guetta wrote on Instagram. "Thank you for your beautiful melodies, the time we shared in the studio, playing together as djs or just enjoying life as friends. RIP @avicii."

Calvin Harris called Avicii "a beautiful soul, passionate and extremely talented with so much more to do." Ellie Goulding wrote that Avicii "inspired so many of us. Wish I could have said that to you in person."

Sweden's Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia , who knew Avicii from playing at their wedding, said they were saddened by his death.

"We are grateful that we got to know him and admired him as an artist and the great person he was. He made our wedding unforgettable with his amazing music. Our warmest thoughts go to his family," they said in a joint statement.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called the lost star "one of Sweden's biggest musicians".

Avicii, a two-time Grammy nominee, won two MTV Europe Music Awards and one Billboard Music Award. His death comes just days after he was nominated for a 2018 Billboard Music Award for top dance/electronic album for his EP "Avicii (01)."

Avicii is the subject of the 2017 Levan Tsikurishvil documentary "Avicii: True Stories."

Muscat, where Avicii died, is the capital of the sultanate on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula. It is a popular vacation destination on the Arabian Sea.

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AP writers Mark Kennedy, Jon Gambrell and David Keyton contributed to this report.

Royal Wedding: Everything to know before Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle

On May 19, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will marry in Windsor, England, in a ceremony that will be low-key only by royal standards.

For the millions of commoners expected to watch on TV, some aspects of the nuptials may seem as odd or over-the-top as the more highbrowed guests’ headgear.

>> Read more trending news 

This guide covers everything anyone’s ever wanted to know about the big event.  

The happy couple: Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales, 33, is the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger son of Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales. He’s fifth in line to the throne -- Charles is first -- but the order will change when his sister-in-law Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, gives birth to her third child

Related: Meghan Markle: 7 things to know

Rachel Meghan Markle of California, 36, is the only child of Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland, who are divorced. She co-starred for seven seasons on “Suits” on USA Network. One day after the royal engagement announcement on Nov. 27, 2017, the cable network made it official Markle wouldn’t be back for season 8. Her last appearance, in the two-hour season finale, airs April 25.

The “I Do” date and time: The ceremony begins at noon local time on May 19. That’s 7 a.m. EST in the U.S. After the ceremony, the newlyweds will take a carriage ride through the town of Windsor, then head back to Windsor Castle.

The venue: St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. A royal residence some 20 miles west of London, Windsor Castle is where Queen Elizabeth spends most weekends. It’s the largest inhabited castle in the world.

The chapel, which was built in the 14th century, is where some other royals have wed. In 2005, Harry’s dad and stepmom, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles were married in a civil service in the town of Windsor, then had a prayer service at St. George’s Chapel. It seats 800 people.

Related: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle engaged: What to know

Many royals are buried in the chapel as well. Most infamously, perhaps, King Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, his third of six wives, lie there for eternity.

Will it be on TV?: Nothing’s been officially announced yet, but two things are beyond certain about this wedding: The queen will have the best seat in the house and it will be televised and live-streamed. 

Nothing brings in tourists and other business like TV coverage of a fancy wedding. When Harry’s brother, Prince William, married Kate Middleton in 2011, it was shown live on TV in over 180 countries and streamed online. YouTube alone had 72 million livestream views. 

The reception: All guests invited to the actual ceremony will attend a luncheon afterward hosted by the queen at St. George’s Hall. The traditional wedding cake for royal weddings is fruitcake.

Related: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle seek charity donations over wedding gifts

People reported that, according to a March 20 statement from Kensington Palace, Harry and Meghan are said to be going rogue and having a lemon elderflower cake with buttercream icing. After that, will be a reception that night for an even more select guest list of 200 people that Prince Charles is throwing at Frogmore House, another royal residence about a half-mile from Windsor Castle. 

The wedding party: The Brits do this differently, generally favoring little kids as bridesmaids/flower girls and page boys instead of adult attendants. In past royal weddings, this has led to memorable incidents, like a 4-year-old Prince William playing with his straw boater hat and talking away during the 1986 nuptials of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. Right now, William’s own kids, Prince George and Princess Charlotte are considered a done deal for Harry’s wedding party. So is the 4-year-old daughter of Markle’s Canadian stylist and close friend, Jessica Mulroney.

You can bet on everything in the U.K.when it comes to this wedding and William is getting top odds to be his brother’s best man. Plus, oddsmaker William Hill is reportedly taking bets on how William will wear his hair on the big day.

Who’s invited: Six hundred invitations to the ceremony have gone out. Count on all the immediate royal relations, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, Uncle Prince Andrew and his daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, plus various dukes and duchesses and major and minor European royalty. 

Then there are some celebrity friends of the bride -- tennis star Serena Williams) and groom -- singers James Blunt and, if you believe the tabloids, Rihanna -- who should make the cut. Also, the Spice Girls may or may not be there. Mel B, aka Scary Spice, has said they will be, but when asked about it by “Late Late Show” host James Corden, Posh Spice Victoria Beckham  stammered, “I don’t know.”

Related: See Prince Harry, Meghan Markle’s official wedding invitation

Additionally, 2,640 members of the public have been invited inside the grounds of Windsor Castle to watch the arrival and departure of the wedding party and guests. Included are 100 schoolchildren, 600-plus people who live and work around Windsor Castle, plus others from charities, nonprofits and other causes important to the couple.

Who’s not invited: Besides you and me? President Donald Trump. And he’s in good company. British Prime Minister Theresa May isn’t invited either. In fact,  no U.S. or world political leaders have been invited, according to Kensington Palace (home base and official representative of Harry and William). “It has been decided that an official list of political leaders — both UK and international — is not required for Prince Harry and Ms. Markle’s wedding,” the palace explained in that lovely, do forgive us sort of British way. Royal officials won’t say if good FOH (Friends of Harry) Barack and Michelle Obama, were invited, but it’s known they’re not going.

What about Fergie? That would be Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York and friend of Harry’s late mother, Diana. The fun-loving redhead fell out of favor with the royal family after her 1996 divorce from Prince Andrew. In a very public dis, she was left off the guest list for William and Kate’s 2011 wedding.

British tabloid the Sun quoted an unnamed source who said she won’t be there because Harry supposedly couldn’t trust her to “keep her mouth shut and respect their privacy.” People reported Harry had “pushed for” Fergie to be invited because he’s very close to her daughters, Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice. 

What about Meghan’s family? Though long divorced, Markle’s parents released a joint statement of joy over her engagement and it’s said both will be at the wedding. In fact, Thomas Markle, an Emmy-winning lighting director, is expected to give his daughter away.

Related: Who are Meghan Markle’s family members, Prince Harry’s future in-laws?

After that, things get a bit sticky. Proving that the royals don’t have a monopoly on family issues, Meghan’s two older half siblings from her dad’s first marriage reportedly aren’t invited -- and at least one of them isn’t happy about it. Her half sister, Samantha Grant, has reportedly claimed Meghan is “inviting 2000 complete strangers” to the wedding rather than family and even blasted Harry about it with a “Time to man up!” tweet. Grant’s reportedly writing a book about Markle. Trevor Engelson, an American movie and TV producer and Markle’s ex-husband, is said by some British newspapers to be developing a show about an American divorcee who moves to England to marry a prince.

Meghan’s wedding dress: Despite her convention-flouting penchant for wearing pants at some royal engagements, it’s expected that Markle will wear a dress. The design is top-secret, but the designers mentioned most often as front-runners to create it are Erdem Moralioglu, Ralph & Russo and Alexander McQueen. All three are London-based and McQueen designed Kate Middleton’s royal wedding gown. With it being the U.K., spectators can bet on the dress. However, sometimes British bookmakers have periodically suspended betting as a lot of money pours in on one particular designer.

Harry’s duds: Most likely a uniform.  Harry served in the British Army for 10 years, doing two tours in Afghanistan and rising to the rank of captain. In 2014, he launched Invictus Games, an annual Paralympic-style sporting event for injured servicemen and women In December, he was appointed Captain General Royal Marines, taking over the important ceremonial role after 64 years from his grandfather, Prince Phillip.

What everyone else will wear: For men, the invitation specifies “dress uniform, morning coat or lounge suit.” For the ladies, it’s “day dress with hat.” Many women will sport fascinators, lightweight headpieces decorated with feathers, flowers and beads, among other items. They are worn for formal occasions. 

Royal Wedding Souvenirs : Shops in London already have royal wedding mugs, tea towels, decorative objects and the like for sale.

Paul Rodgers Announces Release Date for 'Free Spirit' Live CD/DVD

Paul Rodgers has settled on a summer release date for his upcoming live album and concert film, 'Free Spirit – Celebrating the Music of Free.'

Continue reading…

'Scandal' cast participates in live reading of final episode

Kerry Washington hopes that when people look back on "Scandal," they remember the show as courageous and bold.

The woman who made the character Olivia Pope a household name spoke about the ABC series' impact as it aired its final episode after seven seasons on Thursday. While most fans were watching on TV, a few lucky ones were able to watch Washington, Tony Goldwyn, Bellamy Young and other cast members do a live reading of the show at El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles. The special event was a benefit for The Actors Fund charity.

During the reading, the death of one of the series' original characters was revealed.

Washington says she didn't know about the death until shortly before the episode was shot last March.

"Shocked, shocked, shocked!" Washington said of her reaction to it. "And also grateful that up until the end that our writers just are going for it, that they're swinging for homers up until the end, that they are not holding back, that they are ready to do bold storytelling until the very final episode ends. So, I felt really shocked and excited and grateful for their courage."

Washington added: "I hope that we're remembered for being courageous and bold and kind to each other."

In the finale's 43 minutes, virtually each major character's story got a wrap, a twist or a new direction — no small feat, considering the show's sizable ensemble of actors.

Among them: Joe Morton, who, in 2014, won a Primetime Emmy Award for his portrayal of Ronan "Eli" Pope, the Washington character's once-mysterious father.

Morton discussed the show's historical significance.

"Well, its largest legacy, of course, is Kerry Washington: the first female to be the lead in a drama in 45 years," said Morton. (With the 2012 debut of "Scandal," Washington became the first African-American female lead in a network drama since Teresa Graves in "Get Christie Love!", which aired from 1974-75.) "So, that's huge."

There was also the groundbreaking use of Twitter to live tweet episodes.

"Kerry thought of it and got Shonda (Rhimes) to tell us, so that she didn't seem all bossy-pants," recalled Bellamy Young. "But she could see the future, that people wanted an interactive experience. They don't want a passive experience. They want to be a part of things. And it made it appointment TV again. We're a bunch of theater kids, this cast, so it made it very much like doing a play again."

SPOILER ALERT

In the finale's final minutes, the long-estranged lovers played by Washington and Goldwyn meet in the street, say "Hi," and then the action immediately cuts away to two young black girls passing portraits of U.S. presidents hanging in the National Gallery, only to stop, look up and discover a portrait of Olivia Pope.

"I think people will be talking about the very end," Goldwyn said. "And they'll be going, 'What does that mean?' She (Rhimes) really leaves you something to think about and to chew on in the last image of the show."

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