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NAJEE’S NOTES: A little love for Matthew Cherry’s ‘Hair Love’

My family and I had the opportunity to join the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, under the leadership of its Los Angeles president Pastor William Smart, at Sony Pictures Aug. 12 for a day full of activities for the youth and a special advance screening of a short film titled “Hair Love,” which is playing in front of “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” from Sony Pictures Animation and Rovio Animation.

“Hair Love” is a heartfelt animated short film that centers around the relationship between an African-American father, his daughter Zuri, and the most daunting task a father could ever come across – doing his daughter’s hair.

The short film, a passion project from Matthew A. Cherry, was very moving. As the father of an 11-year-old daughter, I immediately identified with the father in the movie.

There have been times when her mother is traveling on business that I have had to do everything from cooking to helping with homework and making sure her braids looked presentable for school.

“Hair Love,” without question, will garner its share of nominations for best short film once awards season in Hollywood begins later this year.

Directed by Cherry (executive producer of the “BlacKkKlansman”), Everett Downing Jr. (animator, “Up,” “WALL·E”), and Bruce W. Smith (creator, “The Proud Family,” animator, “The Princess and the Frog”), “Hair Love” is a collaboration with Sony Pictures Animation that was launched as a Kickstarter campaign in 2017 with a fundraising goal of $75,000.

Strong support led to the campaign amassing nearly $300,000, making it the most highly funded short film campaign in Kickstarter history.

My daughter Jurnee and I had a chance to meet Cherry as he signed a copy of his picture book for her titled “Hair Love,” which was released by Kokila Books/Penguin Random House on May 14 and became a New York Times bestseller.

Jurnee was mesmerized immediately as she turned the pages of the illustrated book and loved the short film as well. Cherry has become a new hero in my daughter’s life and I was bit jealous. I’m used to being the only male hero in my daughter’s life, but the book and short film will capture the hearts and minds of us all.

“To see this project go from a Kickstarter campaign to the big screen is truly a dream come true,” Cherry said. “I couldn’t be more excited for ‘Hair Love’ to be playing with ‘The Angry Birds Movie 2’ in front of a wide audience and for the world to see our touching story about a black father trying to figure out how to do his daughter’s hair for the very first time.”

“Hair Love” features the voice of Issa Rae (“Insecure”) as the young girl’s mother. The short is produced by Karen Rupert Toliver, Stacey Newton, Monica A. Young, Matthew A. Cherry, and Lion Forge Animation’s David Steward II and Carl Reed. Peter Ramsey (“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”) and Frank Abney (animator, “Toy Story 4”) serve as executive producers.

The short’s co-executive producers include Jordan Peele, Andrew Hawkins, Harrison Barnes, Yara and Keri Shahidi. The short’s associate producers include N’Dambi Gillespie, Gabrielle Union-Wade and Dwyane Wade, Gabourey Sidibe, Stephanie Fredric and Claude Kelly.

To see such a diverse array of investors fund “Hair Love” demonstrates they believed in Cherry and his vision. Oddly enough Cherry is a former NFL football player who played with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinatti Bengals, Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens. After initially working as a production assistant after his NFL career ended he also began directing music videos and now is an accomplished film director, writer, producer and NYTimes best-selling author.

Cherry has the proven talent to make it big in Hollywood. My daughter and our entire family is rooting for him to continue to succeed with the success of “Hair Love the best is yet to come for Cherry.

Aug. 15 marked the birthday of Nipsey Hussle and I led a coalition of South Los Angeles religious and community leaders and friends of Nipsey by remembering him with the release of blue and white balloons and a prayer in his memory.

On Aug. 14 I met with a witness who contacted me recently about the female getaway driver involved in the shooting of Hussle. My witness came forward and met with the LAPD detectives with information the getaway driver knew Holder had planned on killing an innocent person and she helped him hideout.

The getaway driver, who is also the girlfriend of Eric Holder who is currently awaiting trial for allegedly killing Hussle, should never have been granted immunity by District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office. 

Nipsey once stated that “If they kill me, y’all better ride for me.” We will continue to do so until we get justice for Nipsey. Until then, the marathon continues.

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