A Record Number Of Virginians Have Gotten Their Voting Rights Back, Governor Says

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Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said on Friday that he had restored voting rights to more people in his state than any other governor in American history.

McAuliffe’s office said in a statement the governor had restored voting rights to 156,000 eligible people. The previous record, set by the administration of former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (D) was 155,000.

Virginia is one of a handful of states where voting rights can only be restored by the governor or a court. Last year, McAuliffe signed an executive order restoring voting rights to 200,000 former felons, but the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that he could not issue such a broad blanket order. The court ruled that he could only restore the rights on a case-by-case basis, and McAuliffe pledged to restore the rights of the 200,000 people individually.

“Expanding democracy in Virginia has been my proudest achievement during my time as Governor,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “Over the course of the last year, I have had the privilege to meet with many of the men and women affected by this order, and their stories inspired us as we continued this fight against the hostile opponents of progress. The Virginians whose rights we have restored are our friends and neighbors.

“They are living in our communities, raising families, paying taxes, and sending their children to our schools. Restoring their voting rights once they have served their time does not pardon their crimes or restore their firearm rights, but it provides them with a meaningful second chance through full citizenship.”

“We are grateful for Governor McAuliffe’s leadership in expanding our democracy,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority, a progressive advocacy group in the state that has been lobbying for restoration rights for years. “Restoring these basic civil rights has profoundly transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Virginians who are able to more fully participate in their communities.”

A spokeswoman for former Florida Gov. Crist, who is now serving in Congress, said he wasn’t upset at all the record was broken.

“I know my boss would congratulate Governor McAuliffe on the work he’s doing in his state, as well,” said Erin Moffet, the spokeswoman.

Critics of felon disenfranchisement laws argue that they are a vestige of the Jim Crow South and that they disproportionately affect African-Americans. In 2014, The Sentencing Project, a policy reform campaign, estimated that one in five African-Americans were disenfranchised due to a felony conviction in the age of mass incarceration.

In Florida, the state Supreme Court recently signed off on language for a possible 2018 ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to automatically restore voting rights to former felons after they complete their sentences, probation or parole. Twenty-one percent of Florida’s African-American voting age population can’t vote because state law strips them of the right unless they get clemency from the governor.

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Ja Rule On Fyre Festival: 'NOT MY FAULT'

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For years, people have asked one question: Where is Ja? Finally, we know the answer: On Twitter and pointing his finger.

Following reports that his luxury music festival ― named the Fyre Festival and located on a “remote and private” island in the Bahamas ― had essentially descended into “Lord of the Flies”-like chaos, the hip-hop star released a statement over Twitter on Friday afternoon that somehow simultaneously took blame and assigned it elsewhere.

“We are working right now on getting everyone of the island SAFE that is my immediate concern…,” he wrote. “I will make a statement soon I’m heartbroken at this moment my partners and I wanted this to be an amazing event it was NOT A SCAM as everyone is reporting I don’t know how everything went so left but I’m working to make it right by making sure everyone is refunded… I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT… but I’m taking responsibility I’m deeply sorry to everyone who was inconvenienced by this…”

Festival organizers advertised the festival as a sort of luxury getaway on an island once belonging to former drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. They enlisted models like Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski to help promote the event. Bands like Major Lazer and Migos were scheduled to perform. And most important, tickets reportedly ran anywhere from $5,000 to $250,000.  

The reality did not quite fit the promotional images. Feral dogs were seen on the premises. At least some of the housing provided appeared to be “disaster relief tents,” many of which were not put together. The meals were things like slices of cheese on cold bread. Blink 182 backed out because the band was “not confident that we would have what we need to give you the quality of performance we always give you fans.” 

“So Fyre Fest is a complete disaster. Mass chaos. No organization. No one knows where to go. There are no villas, just a disaster tent city,” one attendee wrote on Twitter. 

We could explain more, but the situation is still kind of chaotic, so why don’t you just look at these photos instead?

By the way, a statement on the Fyre Festival webpage now reads:

Fyre Festival set out to provide a once-in-a-lifetime musical experience on the Islands of the Exumas.

Due to circumstances out of our control, the physical infrastructure was not in place on time and we are unable to fulfill on that vision safely and enjoyably for our guests. At this time, we are working tirelessly to get flights scheduled and get everyone off of Great Exuma and home safely as quickly as we can. We ask that guests currently on-island do not make their own arrangements to get to the airport as we are coordinating those plans. We are working to place everyone on complimentary charters back to Miami today; this process has commenced and the safety and comfort of our guests is our top priority.

The festival is being postponed until we can further assess if and when we are able to create the high- quality experience we envisioned.

We ask for everyone’s patience and cooperation during this difficult time as we work as quickly and safely as we can to remedy this unforeseeable situation. We will continue to provide regular updates via email to our guests and via our official social media channels as they become available.

-The Fyre Festival Team

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

The Unrelenting Fight For Black Lives 25 Years After The LA Riots

Alicia Garza was just 11 years old when riots erupted in the streets of Los Angeles 25 years ago ― but her memories of the events that unfolded are vivid.

Garza, who is one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter, was born and raised in the Bay Area and currently lives in Oakland, California. She credits the rebellion as one of the reasons why she has since committed her life’s work to the fight for justice for black Americans.

She remembers the video that captured four police officers violently beating Rodney King, a black man who was pulled over after a high-speed chase; the trial and the ultimate acquittal of all officers involved that prompted immediate outrage; the videos that showed L.A. in flames, stores set on fire and “shit hitting the fan”; the tensions between the city’s communities of color following the killing of Latasha Harlins, a black teen who was fatally shot by a Korean store owner just months before the riot; the images both of people helping each other and pushing back against the police; and, most distinctly, she remembers how black protesters were demonized for the anger they expressed in the aftermath of such a gross act of racial injustice.

“I remember all of the stories,” she told HuffPost in an interview this week. “I remember this went on for days; it changed the course of history.”

Saturday marks 25 years since one of the most profound and violent acts of protest in modern American history, which involved days of rebellion largely led by L.A.’s black residents. Fights broke out, buildings were burned, more than 50 people were killed, over 2,000 were injured and the city suffered $1 billion in property damages. The overarching narrative of the unrest is complex, with some people who say it was useless and destructive, while others believe the demonstration was to be expected considering the oppressive conditions black people lived under. 

Decades later, the conditions have not changed much: Police brutality against black Americans is rampant, and the relationship between cops and communities of color requires much more work. Cameras and social media have helped to rapidly amplify news of the police killings of black men and women and revolutionize the ways in which residents respond ― much of which is a result of efforts by Garza, along with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, who collectively birthed the Black Lives Matter movement.

“[Let’s] figure out together how to … build a strategy that helps us get us from where we are to where we deserve to be.”
Alicia Garza

As someone who has stood on the front lines of countless black-led protests, Garza understands the significance of the L.A. riot. But she also strongly believes that in order to understand the anger and rage that was displayed at the time, it is important that we unpack the circumstances that led to such levels of outrage ― as seen in L.A. and cases around the country ― and continue to identify ways to channel that outrage into more impactful and productive outcomes.

“We should be pissed off about people getting shot down in the street, we should be pissed off that police officers are abusing their power and raping poor black women, we should be pissed off that the murders of black trans women go completely unnoticed, unrecognized and uncared for ― and if we’re not pissed about that then we’re not human,” she said. “And at the same time, rage and anger is not sustainable, it is not a sustainable way to fuel a movement. Rage and anger can actually just burn you out and make you not able to keep fighting and that’s a larger consequence for our movement.”

“What’s important is that we are able to figure out how to channel the rage and anger ― not to get rid of it, but instead how to channel it into sustained resistance and really clear and sharp strategies that allow us to actually change our conditions,” Garza added. “I’m really an advocate of letting that anger and that rage fuel you into action and we then figure out together how to transform that into a vision for the world that we actually wanna live in and build a strategy that helps us get us from where we are to where we deserve to be.”

BLM has made promoting peace a central part of its mission while still acknowledging the pain, anger and frustration that comes with being black in America. The organization was founded in 2012 following the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Since then, countless black men and women have died at the hands of police, and BLM has grown in prominence and expanded its efforts to dismantle systemic racism.

King’s beating was unprecedented at the time in that it was one of the first instances where police brutality was captured on camera and shared publicly. Now, people anywhere can instantly access video footage of the police killings of black Americans like Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

But the fight for justice and liberation for black lives also requires an understanding that the experience of black people in America is not monolithic. L.A. itself has one of the highest populations of black immigrants, which includes a diverse community of Nigerians, Ethiopians, Afro-Mexicans, Afro-Latinx people and black Central Americans who identify as Garifuna, as well as people from Caribbean countries like Jamaica and Haiti, says Tia Oso, the national organizer for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. There are more than 2.1 million African immigrants in America alone (that number is steadily climbing), and BAJI ― where Tometi is the executive director ― fights for the racial, social and economic justice of all black immigrants.

“Just as African Americans, black immigrants face issues of racial discrimination and state violence,” Oso told HuffPost, noting the recent police killing of Zelalem Eshetu Ewnetu, who migrated from Ethiopia just eight years ago. “Systemic oppression hits black immigrants and African Americans at the same pressure points.”

Organizations like BLM and BAJI embrace the diversity among blackness and, now more than ever, deliberately seek to amplify the intersecting struggles people of color face in America. In doing so, these organizations are part of a long history of black-led liberation movements, and have learned valuable lessons from past activists ― and historic moments like the L.A. riots ― to apply in the future.

“The L.A. riots impacted black activism in a way that keeps the movement honest and accountable to the plight of people who are living on the margins, living in poverty, living under the most violent oppression,” Oso said, noting that California is home to the country’s deadliest police force. “The uprising in L.A., similar to the Black Panther shootout with LAPD in the ‘60s, shows us that, though we champion policy remedies and reforms to solve our issues, that sometimes conditions in our communities reach a boiling point. It reminds us that reforms are not enough, and that the system must be transformed.”

Transforming the system requires focusing on much more than just police brutality, and both BLM and BAJI have identified ways to better holistically combat several forms of injustice against black lives. Both organizations elevate the experiences of black people ― including those who identify as queer, women, immigrant, trans and disabled ― and help to tackle issues that disproportionately affect these communities, such as deportation, poverty and incarceration.

“We’ve always said Black Lives Matter is in a long tradition of resistance to violence against black people. In essence Black Lives Matter then is not a new idea, it’s instead an idea and a movement whose time had come,” Garza said.

And the timing could not be more pressing. With Donald Trump as president and a Justice Department led by Jeff Sessions, the stakes are higher and the consequences more dire for communities of color. 

“When you look at Jeff Sessions’ record and what he’s done in the last 100 days, what you see is that he’s moving an aggressive agenda, really quietly … to give police more power, more secrecy and more leniency, and we haven’t yet seen the impact of what that will do but we will soon,” she added. “My plea to all of us would be: We have to move quickly to stop that from happening because at the end of the day, when the police are allowed to be judge, jury and executioner, everybody loses.”

“Black Lives Matter then is not a new idea, it’s instead an idea and a movement whose time had come.”
Alicia Garza

Time and again, America has witnessed racial outrage.

“Whether it’s the Rodney King trials, the L.A. uprising or Hurricane Katrina, we have these flash points where the inner workings of America get laid bare for everyone to see,” Garza said. “That’s why I emphasize that anger and rage are important, [but] how do we channel that anger and rage into resilience and vision and strategy so that we don’t have to spend our lives being angry?”

Speaking out doesn’t necessarily mean doing it through street protests ― Garza said it can also mean using your resources, voice, power and position of privilege to denounce the treatment of marginalized groups and address racial issues before they fester and lead to unfavorable consequences. If there is a collective push to transform the way America functions, then there is greater potential for the progress we all hope to achieve.

“I’m somebody who believes protest is important, and I’m somebody who believes protest is not enough,” Garza said. “It’s also important to change culture, to change the way we understand what’s happening around us, to change social norms, to change our values ― and there’s a role for everybody to play in that.”

“Let’s explore what we can do to spend our lives changing the world and moving towards the world we actually want to live in,” she said, “as a resilience strategy, as a way to come back to ourselves, to be present in our bodies, to be present in our relationships with other people and to be present in the vision that we have for what the world can look like.”

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

Roger Goodell Thinks Marijuana Is 'Addictive' And Bad For NFL Players. He's Wrong.

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell thinks marijuana is “addictive” and generally bad for football players, and won’t change his stance until his advisers prove that it’s medically beneficial.

Goodell wouldn’t budge when questioned on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” Friday morning, claiming that he had the players’ safety in mind.

Listen, you’re ingesting smoke so that is not usually a very positive thing … it does have an addictive nature,” he said. “There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long-term. All of those things have to be considered.”

He’s long been criticized for his strict handling of marijuana use in the league. The NFL Player’s Association is down with dope as a tool for pain management, as are many NFL coaches. Heck, most of the nation is pretty lax about marijuana use these days. 

But Goodell is known to hand down extreme suspensions for any hint of THC in a player’s bloodstream. All the while, players are complaining that they’re being fed huge amounts of highly addictive prescription painkillers for pain management, according to Deadspin.

Research shows marijuana may be the least dangerous of recreational drugs, including tobacco and alcohol, and can be even less addictive than caffeine. Painkillers like Vicodin, meanwhile, are classified as potentially very habit-forming.

Apparently, Goodell needs his medical advisers to prove not only that weed isn’t that bad, but that it has medical benefits for football players. He told “Mike and Mike”:

We look at it from a medical standpoint. So if people feel that it has a medical benefit, the medical advisers have to tell you that. We have joint advisers, we also have independent advisers, both the NFLPA and the NFL, and we’ll sit down and talk about that. But we’ve been studying that through our advisers. To date, they haven’t said this is a change we think you should make that’s in the best interests of the health and safety of our players. If they do, we’re certainly going to consider that. But to date, they haven’t really said that.

The health and safety of NFL players has indeed been a topic of interest over the past few years, but not because of reefer. Traumatic brain injuries are a growing problem among players, and Goodell is consistently raked over the coals for his apparent inability to focus his attention on concussions and CTE.

But then again, weed.

To be fair, Goodell did open the floor for later discussion about marijuana, likely due to the fact that seemingly everyone else is on board.

“Medical marijuana is something that’s evolving,” he said, “and that’s something that at some point the medical advisers may say this is something you should consider.”

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'Get Out' Is The Year's First Oscar Contender

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It feels like Oscar season just ended, but “Get Out” is already getting into next year’s contest. 

Oscar campaigns typically rev up around Labor Day with the Telluride, Venice and Toronto film festivals, where many of the hopeful contenders premiere. That doesn’t prevent studios from planting awards-season seeds early, especially for movies that open in the first half of the year. With that in mind, it appears we have our first bid for the 2018 Oscars.

Universal Pictures will host a conversation with director Jordan Peele and a “garden party” at the studio lot to celebrate the May 9 release of “Get Out” on iTunes and Amazon, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Sources “insist” it’s not an awards ploy, but the guest list suggests otherwise: Members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which oversees the Golden Globes, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association, which puts on the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, are invited to the event, among others. 

Whether or not Universal intends it as such, this is a signature campaign move. A Q&A with a filmmaker in front of a hotshot voting body? Food and/or cocktails and/or whatever else this garden party will entail? These are the kinds of things that occur almost daily throughout November, December and January, when studios are actively chasing nominations. The only difference is that the “Get Out” shindig is divorced from the common awards-season calendar. 

But that, too, makes sense: It’s hard for films from the first quarter to make a splash nearly a year later when Academy voters are completing their ballots. The most recent Best Picture winner released before May was “The Silence of the Lambs,” which opened in January 1991. Conveniently, that’s also the last horror movie to garner the prize, which could leave Peele following in the prestigious footsteps of “Lambs” director Jonathan Demme, who died Wednesday

HuffPost reached out to two Universal reps to ask about the studio’s awards strategy, but we haven’t heard back. No matter what, there’s proof that Universal wants “Get Out” in the awards game: The studio rented out a Los Angeles theater in March to host two screenings ― one for Academy members and another for BAFTA folks. A week later, New York-based Academy members got a screening of their own at the Museum of Modern Art.

With fawning reviews, layered topicality and an unexpected $171 million in domestic grosses to its name, “Get Out” seems to have a keen chance of being remembered when Oscar season begins in earnest. Considering it doesn’t read as conventional awards fare, we did make an early argument that it’s the type of movie that should be feted. Onward!

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Prince's 'Purple Rain' To Be Reissued With 6 Previously Unreleased Tracks

After a Minnesota judge blocked the released of Prince’s posthumous EP, it looks like fans are getting their silver (er, purple?) lining. 

On Friday, NPG and Warner Bros. Records announced Prince’s iconic “Purple Rain” will be reissued June 23 with six previously unreleased tracks. Among them are remastered versions of “Possessed” and “Electric Intercourse,” the latter of which was just released on Spotify

NPG and Warner said Prince had worked on remastering the songs himself the year before his death, according to USA Today. 

The reissue, which will be available for preorder starting Friday, will also include an extended edition that comes with a full disc of B-sides and a DVD with a performance by Prince and the Revolution from 1985, USA Today reports. 

Just last week, producer and writer George Ian Boxill, who worked on new songs with Prince before his death, announced the release of a six-song EP titled “Deliverance.” Prince’s estate, however, promptly filed a lawsuit against Boxill for violating a confidentiality agreement and organizing the unauthorized sale of new music. A judge granted a temporary restraining order in the estate’s favor.

As of right now, the EP’s title track still appears to be available for purchase if you’re in the U.S., though the pre-order option for the EP has been removed. 

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Michelle Obama Surprises Ellen For 20th Anniversary Of Her Coming Out

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This is much more than “Puppy” love.

Twenty years ago, Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom character Ellen Morgan came out in “The Puppy Episode” of her show “Ellen.” DeGeneres also came out in real life.

The comedian celebrated the anniversary throughout her show on Friday, which included an appearance by Oprah, who played her therapist in the iconic episode. There was also a secret cameo.

Ellen was apparently left in the dark and announced there was a surprise message. A video showing former First Lady Michelle Obama came on screen.

“Congratulations on the 20th anniversary of announcing to the world who you really are. Time and again you have shown us what love really means. You are brave. You are kind,” said Obama, before joking, “You are a terrible person to go shopping with,” referencing an episode of DeGeneres’s talk show where the pair went to CVS.

Obama continued, “And I absolutely adore you. Congratulations again. Love you much.”

“Wow. I love you, too, Michelle,” said Ellen, who was smiling throughout the message.

The sweet moment seemed absolutely sincere, right down to Mrs. Obama criticism of DeGeneres’s shopping techniques. 

All the congrats, Ellen!

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LL Cool J Makes Plea For Michelle And Barack Obama To Do 'Lip Sync Battle'

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As host of Spike TV’s “Lip Sync Battle,” LL Cool J has seen his fair share of celebrities duke it out on the show. Among his favorites have been Mike Tyson, Shaquille O’Neal and Channing Tatum

But there are still a couple of big names he’d love to see on the hit series ― and these ones may surprise you.

“For some reason, for me, my dream battle is all the politicians. Like John McCain versus George W. Bush or Bill Clinton versus George W. Bush,” LL Cool J told HuffPost on Build Series.

He also noted how he’d love to see former President Barack Obama and his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, battle it out. 

“Obama versus Michelle would be amazing,” he said, before making a plea to the couple to join. After all, they have been spotted recently enjoying life outside the White House.

“Guys, you’re in private life now. Yachts. You’re having fun. Life is great. You’re watching this, you’re laughing. Come on and do the show! Can you imagine Obama doing Busta Rhymes?” LL Cool J said before breaking into Busta’s hit “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See.”  

He admits he’d feel too self-conscious if the Obamas took on one of his own hits. But when an audience member suggested the Obamas take on his 1996 hit “Doin’ It,” LL Cool J laughed just thinking about it, saying, “’Doin’ It’ would be crazy.” 

If the Obamas did end up ever gracing the “Lip Sync Battle” stage, they’d get the chance to pick their own songs to perform. 

“Most people assume they have to rehearse for weeks and weeks. But they don’t. We have a great choreographer. The celebrity would call up and say, ‘Hey, these are the songs I like.’ It’s up to them,” he said. “They choose their own songs. We can make suggestions to them if they want us to. But it’s up to them. Like, ‘I’d like to float on a chariot’ or ‘I’d like to ride a white horse.’ Whatever your idea is, we say, ‘OK.’ Then we tell the choreographer and she whips up a version of their idea. And they come and watch it. And they can jump in and learn the dance if they want, be a part of the dancing, or they can play the front and let the dancers do the back. So we make it easy … so they can have fun.”

Not only that, but LL Cool J says they have a great studio where the celebrities can hang out. Across three stages is an open bar, along with ice cream machines and expresso machines, and other fun treats. 

“It’s crazy,” he said. “It’s like a whole world out there.”

Not too shabby. Obamas, we hope you’re listening. 

“Lip Sync Battle,” now in its third season, airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on Spike. 

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13 Comics About Life In Your Late 20s That Tell It Like It Is

Teenage angst has nothing on “oh, crap, I’m almost 30 and I need to get my life together” angst. 

In her comics, Los Angeles-based illustrator Mo Welch depicts the struggle to “adult” and balance your work life with your personal life (or lack thereof): 

Me. #Blair #happystpattys

A post shared by Mo Welch (@momowelch) on Mar 17, 2017 at 5:27pm PDT

In an interview with HuffPost, Welch said she likes to explore how challenging it can be to follow your dreams while also knocking out traditional “adult” things, like buying a house or having kids.

“For instance, millennials are getting married later or not at all, having kids later or not at all, so we have the luxury of spending our time with ourselves ― but maybe luxury isn’t the right word considering I had cereal for dinner three nights in a row,” she joked. 

Check out more of Welch’s hilarious illustrations below and follow her on Instagram for new comics.

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Ellen Reunites With Oprah And Laura Dern To Remember 'The Puppy Episode'

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Ellen DeGeneres sat down with Oprah Winfrey and Laura Dern on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to remember that journey they took together two decades ago when they filmed “The Puppy Episode” ― an iconic moment in television history in which DeGeneres’ character, Ellen Morgan, famously came out as gay.

In an episode set to air on Friday, the three of them remembered how much blowback they dealt with as a result of participating in the episode. Winfrey said she received hate mail calling her her the N-word and telling her to “Go back to Africa.”  

“I misread that everybody was like us, that they were open-minded and that they were receptive and that they wanted people to just be who they are,” Winfrey admitted.

DeGeneres herself dealt with professional consequences that took years to recover from. “It was called ‘The Puppy Episode’ because we wanted to keep it a secret until it aired and because ‘Ellen Throws Her Career Away’ seemed too on the nose,” DeGeneres joked.

Laura Dern, who played Morgan’s romantic interest in the episode, has said in the past that she had trouble getting work for more than a year after the episode. But 20 years later, she says it was worth it.

“There’s no greater gift than being the person that was with you and looking in your eyes as you said those words [‘I am gay’],” she said. 

Twenty years on, DeGeneres also is able to offer a message of hope to all her viewers. “Obviously, we have come a long way in the past 20 years. Even when this show started, the network was very uncomfortable with me even talking about my sexuality or my relationship,” she said.

“Now, we’re here and I’ve done a whole show about the fact that I’m gay, so we have come a long way. But we still have a long way to go to make sure everybody has the right to be who they are.”

She then added, “And one way we can start, and I say it every single day, is to be kind to one another.”

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— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Source: HuffPost Black Voices