The 44 Percent: Stephen A. Smith, Edwidge Danticat, Andre 3000’s new album

Creating your own journey can be a daunting task. ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith did just that in building out his career after making a name for himself in Philadelphia. As Black people in America, forging our own paths comes natural to us. Whether we work in media, or the arts, maintaining our sense of identity is integral to who we are.

Michael Butler
Michael Butler

I grew up listening to rapper Andre “Andre 3000” Benjamin. I remember the soulfulness of his OutKast albums and how mesmerizing the video for “Elevators (Me And You)“ was when it came on MTV in Panama. Many people wish his new surprise album coming out Friday featured him rapping, but he felt it was more important to create what he wanted.

Whether Andre 3000 creates an instrumental album featuring him playing his beloved flute or one with him dropping hot 16-bar verses, I will forever respect the way in which he creates his own path as a Black artist in America.


‘I’ll never make that mistake again.’ Stephen A. Smith shares wisdom at Black Professional Summit:

C. Isaiah Smalls II reported on the recent Black Professional Summit at the Seminole Hard Rock Cafe & Casino to get insights from ESPN media personality Stephen A. Smith, a Black man that inspired his journalism career.

Smith may be known for being outspoken and no one can doubt his work ethic and passion for his work.

Many people forget that Stephen A. Smith was fired from the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2009.

Granted, it’s a rather minor blip in a career that includes being the face of ESPN, a New York Times bestselling author and even a recurring character on “General Hospital.” And although Smith was eventually reinstated after a lengthy arbitration, the experience taught him a valuable lesson: the power of language.

“When you speak their language, whoever they are,” Smith said to the hundreds gathered inside the spacious ballroom near Hollywood, Florida, “they have no choice but to accept it because it’s a language they promote.”

And just who is they?

“Whoever the hell has the money,” he quipped.

Award-winning author Edwidge Danticat on life in Haiti, Miami and the stories that made her:

Haitian author Edwidge Danticat will read from her latest work, “My Mommy Medicine,” at noon Sunday at the festival. Here, she is signing her children’s book, “Mama’s Nightingale,” at last year’s festival.
Haitian author Edwidge Danticat will read from her latest work, “My Mommy Medicine,” at noon Sunday at the festival. Here, she is signing her children’s book, “Mama’s Nightingale,” at last year’s festival.

Miami native Edwidge Danticat has succeeded as an author and voice for other Haitian Americans like her. As an honoree at the 40th Miami Book Fair, she took time to speak with WLRN about her storytelling journey.

It’s hard to think of a more distinctive Miami voice than that of the author Edwidge Danticat.

Whether we’re talking about writing or culture, no one’s name comes up more often in conversation than Danticat’s among the Sundial team.

Danticat stands at the intersection of both. Whether she’s writing nonfiction or novels or children’s books, her voice rings with a unique sound — Haiti’s, where she was born and the diaspora’s in Miami.

Her many books help us understand the connection between the two.

As an immigrant and minority, Danticat said she doesn’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that the burden of representing every nuance of a culture should fall on one particular perspective.


Tech Spark AI raises $1.4 million to create ChatGPT alternative; translates books into AAVE, from TechCrunch:

Tech founder Tamar Huggins created an alternative to AI product ChatGPT with her 13-year-old daughter Talia Grant. It translates content into language such as African American Vernacular English that Generation Z members can better understand.

Artificial intelligence company Tech Spark AI announced on Wednesday a $1.4 million pre-seed round to build out a new generative AI platform called Spark Plug. The round was led by TD Bank, with participation from Salesforce, Canada’s government and NBA Canada.

Tech Spark AI is based in Toronto and was founded by Tamar Huggins eight years ago to develop school curricula for Black and brown students across North America. This eventually led to the idea of creating a more personalized experience for students.

She created the product with her 13-year-old daughter, Talia Grant. It seeks to be a Black-owned alternative to current AI search platforms, mainly ChatGPT. Spark Plug has partnered with educational institutions in the U.S. and Canada, with a particular focus on schools within underserved Black and brown communities.


André 3000 on His New Album and Life After Outkast: The GQ Video Cover Story

OutKast co-founder Andre 3000 is lauded as one of the best rappers to ever pick up a mic. His music has been a staple of my childhood and remained incredible throughout my life.

Despite his commercial and critical success, he has stayed away from the limelight over nearly two decades. His new album comes out Friday and has captivated fans. The catch? He will be playing the flute and not rapping. This GQ story goes into the mind of the creative genius.

When André 3000 was a kid, he used to get on his knees and recite what he called the Rapper’s Prayer, which was what it sounds like it was: Lord, we just want to be good rappers. Then he grew up a little and, with his friend Big Boi, who used to kneel and pray beside him, formed OutKast.

OutKast turned out to be more than good—the group was great, among the greatest of all time. This year, the duo’s fifth album, 2003’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, was certified platinum for the 13th time, making it the best-selling rap album in history.

André has been wrestling with the consequences of that childhood prayer ever since it was answered. “That’s life: You want what you want until you don’t want it,” he says, laughing a little. “I don’t regret any of that, but it’s kind of like now that I’m at a certain level, I miss certain things about normalcy.”

Where does “The 44 Percent” name come from? Click here to find out how Miami history influenced the newsletter’s title.