Here’s a Photo of Andre 3000 in the New Jimi Hendrix Biopic

Here's a Photo of Andre 3000 in the New Jimi Hendrix Biopic

The Toronto International Film Festival posted a new photo from Andre 3000’s portrayal of Jimi Hendrix in the upcoming biopic “All Is By My Side.” It’s set to premiere in Toronto in September.

Below, check out an interview with Andre in which he reveals just a little about what it was like to prepare for the role, including his lifelong battle to grow facial hair.

DOJ To Sue Texas Under Voting Rights Act ‘Bail-In’ Provision

DOJ To Sue Texas Under Voting Rights Act 'Bail-In' Provision

As we reported shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act’s Section Five, Texas could still face “preclearance” — federal review of election changes to ensure disenfranchisement won’t result —  under the Section Three “bail-in” provision. Both the voter ID and the redistricting laws Texas passed in 2011 were found by the Justice Department to have racially discriminatory effects, particularly on Latino-Americans. For the redistricting law, a federal court found discriminatory intent. 

The experts at Texas Redistricting & Election Law blog were the first to bring this to the public’s attention. But today U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is confirming before the Urban League National Conference in Philadelphia that the Justice Department will, in fact, follow through with suing Texas under Section Three to bring it back into preclearance supervision for its redistricting law.

From Holder’s prepared remarks for the Urban League:

In fact, just last year, a federal court noted the “vital function” the Voting Rights Act played in protecting African American voters who would have been disproportionately impacted by a photo ID law in South Carolina. It prompted the state to change the way its new voting statute will be implemented in future elections to eliminate what would have been a dramatic discriminatory effect. Another court cited the Voting Rights Act in blocking a Texas congressional redistricting map that would have discriminated against Latino voters. And in that ruling, the court noted that the parties “provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need, to address here.” …

And today I am announcing that the Justice Department will ask a federal court in Texas to subject the State of Texas to a preclearance regime similar to the one required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This request to “bail in” the state - and require it to obtain “pre-approval” from either the Department or a federal court before implementing future voting changes - is available under the Voting Rights Act when intentional voting discrimination is found.  Based on the evidence of intentional racial discrimination that was presented last year in the redistricting case, Texas v. Holder - as well as the history of pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities that the Supreme Court itself has recognized - we believe that the State of Texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices.

Read his full remarks here

Over at The Washington Post, former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that the Justice Department could also do the same  in North Carolina if they pass their photo voter ID law, which right now is being cast as having some of the worst restrictions in the nation. 

Holder said the lawsuit against Texas is the Justice Department’s “first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision,” but that using provisions like Section Three “are no substitute for legislation that must fill the void left by the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Texas Redistricting & Election Law blog explains what bailing in means as:

The statutory text of section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act says a court can order bail-in in a “proceeding instituted by the [United States] Attorney General or an aggrieved person” if it finds “that violations of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment justifying equitable relief have occurred within the territory of such State or political subdivision.” (emphasis added)

The Fourteenth Amendment gives all Americans equal protection under the law regardless of race, while the Fifteenth said African Americans could vote free of any race-based voting obstructions. The questions a federal court may ask to see if Texas’ redistricting laws violate those constitutional protections may be (again from Texas Redistricting & Election Law Blog):

Have the violations been persistent and repeated? Are they recent or distant in time? Are they the kinds of violations that likely would be prevented, in the future, by preclearance? Have they already been remedied by judicial decree or otherwise? How likely are they to reoccur? Do political developments, independent of this litigation, make reoccurence more or less likely?

As we reported last July, Texas’s Voting Rights Act violations have been persistent and repeated since they were brought under preclearance in the 1970s. A report from MALDEF found that, “Texas had far more Section 5 withdrawals, following the DOJ’s request for information to clarify the impact of a proposed voting change, than any other jurisdiction during the 1982-2005 time period. These withdrawals include at least 54 instances in which the state eliminated discriminatory voting changes after it became evident they would not be precleared by the DOJ.”

The redistricting law that Texas passed in 2011 was blocked by federal courts after racially discriminatory intent was found, but Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he was going to reinstate it immediately after the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision was handed down. 

But the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), along with the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus and the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, sued the State of Texas to block the redistricting law’s reinstatement because the new congressional lines diluted black and Latino votes. Holder had until tomorrow to decide if those plaintiffs had a case for bailing in Texas under Section Three. Today’s announcement shows he agrees, and that a new chapter in voting rights protection has begun, albeit compromised.   

Our Economy Needs More Action, Fewer Words From Obama

Our Economy Needs More Action, Fewer Words From Obama

Today in his home state of Illinois, President Obama returned to the topic that is Americans’ number one priority but where he’s struggled to make progress: the economy. With Black and Latino joblessness in double-digits and wealth for these communities at the lowest level ever, the President’s renewed attention to the nations’s economic health is welcome news for people of color.

In the Knox College address Obama laid out the challenges facing working families, echoing many of the same themes he put forth during the campaign. The talk centered on “four cornerstones for a strong middle class” namely infrastructure, education including college affordability, home ownership, and retirement savings. Specific details on each of these is available at the White House official website

But Obama’s challenge is not in framing what’s at stake for the American people. This is something he has long excelled at and has two election victories to prove it.  Rather it’s in dealing with a recalcitrant Congress which believes that their obstinacy will bend him to their will at every turn.   When it comes to the economy the Republicans continue to have their way.

The GOP successfully fought for sequestration which has held down job and economic growth this year.  The Republican Congress has preserved tax cuts for the rich and blocked the president’s proposals on transportation and education.  Moreover, the House GOP has vowed to cut back even more on Obama’s priority areas laid out today in 2014.

Today’s speech is the first in a series that Obama will give on the economy over the next couple of months. But these talks will collide with hard deadlines this fall.  On October 1, the US government will need a new budget or face a possible shutdown. In mid-November the country’s borrowing authority will run out and government operations could quickly grind to a halt.

The bottom line is that today’s speech was a heartfelt reiteration of the ideas that catapulted Obama to victory last year. But what the country still needs is in effective plan and political strategy to bring them about.

Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan in Talks for ‘Rocky’ Spin-Off

Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan in Talks for 'Rocky' Spin-Off

July has been an important month for director Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan. Their film, “Fruitvale Station,” made its nationwide debut to rave reviews. Now, riding the success of a first film together, the pair is reportedly in talks to direct and star in “Creed,” a spin-off of Sylvestor Stallone’s breakout hit “Rocky.”

From Deadline:

MGM is setting Ryan Coogler to direct Creed, and the studio is in early talks with Coogler’sFruitvale Station star Michael B. Jordan to play the grandson of Apollo Creed in a continuation of theRocky saga that Coogler is going to write with Aaron Covington. Sylvester Stallone will reprise Rocky Balboa as a retired fighter-turned-trainer. This comes in the wake of a strong summer platform opening for Fruitvale Station, the film that won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Awards at Sundance, and captured Prize Of The Future at the Cannes Film Festival, where Coogler and Jordan were the toast of the Croisette. Coogler intends for this to be his directorial follow-up to Fruitvale Station so the intention is to make it happen quickly.

The intention is for Jordan to play the grandson of Apollo Creed (played in the early movies by Carl Weathers). Raised in an upper-crust home thanks to the ring riches earned by his grandfather, the young man doesn’t have to box and his family doesn’t want him to. Yet, he has the natural instinct and gifts and potential that made his grandfather the heavyweight champion until Rocky Balboa took his crown in 1979′s Rocky II. Creed’s grandson needs a mentor and turns to Balboa, who is out of boxing completely and not eager to return.

Coogler reportedly intends to dive deep into the mythology of the first three “Rocky” films and move the story forward from there.

This Infographic Shows One Reason Why California’s Community Colleges Are in Trouble

This Infographic Shows One Reason Why California's Community Colleges Are in Trouble

City College of San Francisco, one of the nation’s largest community colleges, is on the brink of closure. And, according to an infographic from California Watch, tightened budgets across the state could cost thousands more low-income and students of color their chance to break into the middle class. 

Watch the Trailer for the Film Adaptation of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’

Watch the Trailer for the Film Adaptation of 'Half of a Yellow Sun'

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s award-winning novel “Half of a Yellow” sun is headed to the big screen. So far, it’s being described as an epic love story of four people caught up in the tumult of war in Nigeria. The film’s stars include Thandi Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and the director is Nigerian novelist and playwright Biyi Bandele. It looks fantastic. 

New York City’s Anti-Ice Cream Truck Exists For A Very Good Reason

New York City's Anti-Ice Cream Truck Exists For A Very Good Reason

But what they hate even more? Skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity.

Sydney Brownstone explains at Fast Company:

In 2007, Ohio State University and Indiana University researchers analyzed 5,380 elementary schoolkids’ body mass indexes across the country and found that BMI grew more than twice as rapidly over the summer months. Public health experts have hypothesized that summer vacation means kids spend more time in front of the TV with more snacks than they would consume in school, and low-income communities without access to safe parks and healthier foods are especially at risk.

With these inequalities in mind, the Food Bank for New York City has dispatched an “anti-ice cream” truck targeted at teens in the summer months. Their “Change One Thing” outreach campaign will be popping up at parks, pools, and sports fields in Harlem, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, encouraging teens to change just one habit—even if it means swapping one soda for a bottle of water.

It’s important to point out that black children are at greater risk than others to develop health problems because of obesity. 

76-Year-Old White Man Gets Life Term for Murder of 13-Year-Old Black Boy

76-Year-Old White Man Gets Life Term for Murder of 13-Year-Old Black Boy

Many are still reeling from George Zimmerman’s acquittal. But in Milwaukee, at least there’s this:

A 76-year-old Milwaukee man who fatally shot his unarmed teenage neighbor was sentenced to life in prison Monday, days after telling the court he killed the boy for justice because he believed he stole his shotguns.

John Henry Spooner’s home had been burglarized two days before the May 2012 shooting, and he suspected 13-year-old Darius Simmons as the thief. So he confronted the teen, demanded that he return the guns and then shot him in the chest in front of his mother when he denied stealing anything.

Spooner’s own home surveillance cameras captured the shooting, and prosecutors aired the footage in court.

A jury found Spooner guilty of first-degree intentional homicide last week, a conviction carrying a mandatory life sentence. The judge could have allowed for the possibility of parole after 20 years, but rejected that option, citing Spooner’s lack of remorse and desire to also kill the teen’s brother.

It’s also worth pointing out that Simmons’ mother witnessed the shooting and was initially detained by police as her son lay dying. The Huffington Post points out that, much like in the Zimmerman case, race was almost never mentioned. But apparently this guy was beyond reproach. 

Spike Lee Wants to Raise $1.25 Million on Kickstarter For a New Film

Spike Lee Wants to Raise $1.25 Million on Kickstarter For a New Film

Legendary filmmaker Spike Lee is asking for your help to make his next feature film. Lee launched a Kickstarter campaign on Monday with the goal of raising more than $1 million dollars. 

“The only way to insure, as an indepdendent filmmaker, that your vision gets on screen is when you bring the money to the table,” he said in a Kickstarter video.

So far, Lee’s Kickstarter campaign is doing extrordinarily well, raising more than $90,000 in a little over a day. Lee explains more on his Kickstarter page:

I have a different vision of what Cinema can be, a different vision of what some under-served Audiences might want to see. That is why I am here on KICKSTARTER, to raise the Funds for The New Spike Lee Joint, to get this BAD BOY financed. Nothing in Life is Free and if you want something you got to pay for it. If you have liked any of my Films in the past, this is the price it costs to see another one (which can be less than the cost of one Movie Ticket). We feel the different levels on contributions make it affordable for everyone to GET DOWN FOR THE CAUSE.

The campaign ends on Wednesday, August 21. 

A Seattle ‘Boylesque’ Troup Did Their Version of Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’

A Seattle 'Boylesque' Troup Did Their Version of Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines'

Yay for folks who think criticially about gender. From Mod Carousel:

It’s our opinion that most attempts to show female objectification in the media by swapping the genders serve more to ridicule the male body than to highlight the extent to which women get objectified and does everyone a disservice. We made this video specifically to show a spectrum of sexuality as well as present both women and men in a positive light, one where objectifying men is more than alright and where women can be strong and sexy without negative repercussions.

(H/T Jezebel)

From Federal Prison, Lauryn Hill Thanks Supporters

From Federal Prison, Lauryn Hill Thanks Supporters

A message from Ms. Lauryn Hill, from Tumblr:

“I have known since very young to look for the purpose and lesson in everything, including the trials.  Although it has taken some adjustment, I cannot deny the favor I have encountered while in here, and general warm reception from a community of people who despite their circumstances, have found unique ways to make the best of them.  Thank you for the letters of concern and well wishes that I receive in the mail every day.  Although I may not be able to write everyone back, please know that they have been received, read, acknowledged, and appreciated. With Love back, MLH”

Hill also thanks a number of fans by name for their encouragement.


TAGS: Lauryn Hill

A Justice for Trayvon Toolkit for White Allies

A Justice for Trayvon Toolkit for White Allies

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a network of white racial justice activists, has put out a Justice for Trayvon Action Kit (PDF) that has a variety of concrete things people can do—some quick, some more involved, some more policy change oriented, others more oriented toward cultural change. It’s a really great resource to get informed and involved locally, and includes a list of short (tweeting), medium (donating to a racial justice group), and long-term actions (joining a local organization). Check out the entire toolkit.

Rep. John Lewis Debuts His New Graphic Novel at Comic-Con

Rep. John Lewis Debuts His New Graphic Novel at Comic-Con

Fans flock to Comic-Con each year to see costumed superheroes walk among glammed up gods. This year, civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis was a top attraction at the 2013 Comic-Con International comic book convention in San Diego to promote his new graphic novel “March,” which tells the story of his role in the civil rights marches and demonstrations he helped lead as a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee activist in the 1960s. (Read more about those protests here.)

According to Roll Call’s “Heard on the Hill” blog, Lewis received a “hero’s welcome” at the convention, where he gave a presentation on the book project. More 100 people camped out in anticipation of his talk and he was “swarmed by supporters” at the moment of his arrival. 

Said Warren Rojas at Roll Call:

Activists pressed him about how to restore Voting Rights Act protections that the Supreme Court recently struck down. Frustrated parents fished for guidance about justice for Trayvon Martin, the African-American teen killed in Sanford, Fla., by acquitted gunman George Zimmerman. Admirers swooped in for chummy pictures, pumping the stoic politician’s hand while praising his “courage,” “determination” and “character.”

Lewis co-authored “March” with his congressional aide Andrew Aydin, whose college dissertation was based on a comic book that proved instrumental among 1960s civil rights activists. In 1958, an organization called the Fellowship on Reconciliation produced “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story,” a 16-page comic book that illustrated the work and achievements of the Montgomery, Ala. bus boycott and the nonviolent methods of King and his fellow civil rights activists. 


The comic book moved 200,000 copies, which was impressive —  that would placed it among the top 30 highest-selling comic books in the nation in 1960. It also “apparently sparked the imagination of budding activist Lewis,” reports Roll Call. 

Now Lewis is helping write his own comic series — “March” is a three-volume set — that he hopes young people will read and then pass “it on to other members of their family or to their students,” he told Rojas.

At last week’s Senate hearings on the Voting Rights Act, where Lewis testified, Sen. Patrick Leahy recognized “March,” showing his signed copy and telling the audience that he’d be giving copies to all five of his grandchildren. 

Melissa Harris-Perry Wears Tampon Earrings on MSNBC

Melissa Harris-Perry Wears Tampon Earrings on MSNBC

From Mediaite:

On her MSNBC show Sunday morning, Melissa Harris-Perry brought attention to Texas’ recently-passed abortion regulations—and the burnt orange-clad demonstrators who had fought their passage—in her own way: with a pair of homemade tampon earrings.

“My producer Lorena made for me last week some tampon earrings,” Harris-Perry said as she put on the jewelry. “The Texas state legislature said that you couldn’t bring tampons in, when these women were going to, in fact, stand up for their own reproductive rights.”

Some folks on Twitter weren’t impressed. But it’s safe to say that Harris-Perry made her point.

People Wanna Buy Kanye West’s $120 Plain White ‘Hip-Hop’ T-Shirts

Because an album featuring God isn’t enough, Kanye West is still out to prove to the world that his genius knows no bounds. West recently teamed up with high-end brand A.P.C. to release an all-white “hip-hop” t-shirt costs that $120. And, like all things Yeezus, the shirts are actually a hit and quickly sold out last week.

Behold, art:


For those of you who are absolutely bummed that you won’t be able to spend most of your Con-Ed money on the Yeezus empire, Target’s also selling much more reasonably priced knock-offs.

TAGS: Kanye West

Transgender Actress Laverne Cox: ‘Orange is the New Black’ is a Big Deal

Transgender Actress Laverne Cox: 'Orange is the New Black' is a Big Deal

I tried, and mostly failed, to watch Netflix’s much talked about new comedy-drama “Orange is the New Black” over the weekend. The show, based on a real life story, follows a WASP’y Connecticut white woman who’s sentenced to spend 15 months in prison on drug charges stemming from her rebellious post-college days.

I’m still very early into the show, but so far I just don’t think it’s all that funny. I felt the same way about “Weeds”, another show that was created by Jengi Kohan.* I get that I’m supposed to be laughing at the irony of white folks in black situations, but to what end? Both shows seem to traffic in tired racial tropes. Sometimes, that’s fine (see: the first two seasons of “Arrested Development”). But so far, I’m just not moved.

One bright spot in “Orange is the New Black” is Laverne Cox, who brings viewers one of the first developed transgender characters on mainstream(ing) television. Here’s an interview she did earlier this month.

*Post has been updated since publication.

Jay Z and Beyoncé: The Latest Artists to Speak Out for Trayvon

Jay Z and Beyoncé: The Latest Artists to Speak Out for Trayvon

Days after she made a fan catch the Holy Ghost at one of her concerts, Beyoncé joined husband Jay Z in New York City to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman’s murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin. The two attended a rally with Martin’s family, led by Al Sharpton.

“Jay Z and Beyoncé said they didn’t want to speak and they didn’t come for a photo op,” Sharpton told the crowd of thousands on behalf of the celebrity couple. “Jay Z told me, ‘I’m a father. Beyoncé is a mother.’ We all feel the pain and apprehension—the laws must protect everybody, or it doesn’t protect anybody. We do not come from hate, we come from love of children,” Sharpton continued.

The stars are just the latest big-name entertainers to come out in support of Martin’s family. OkayPlayer had a roundup of reactions to the verdict:


Tavis Smiley Slams Obama’s Trayvon Remarks: ‘You Can’t Lead From Behind’ On Race

President Obama made news last Friday when he unexpectedly addressed Trayvon Martin’s murder and the role of race in America. “Trayvon Martin could’ve been me 35 years ago,” the president said in a rare moment in which the nation’s first black commander-in-chief directly addressed race. The Washington Post even went as far as to dub it a “remarkably personal speech.”

But some of black America isn’t impressed. Over the weekend, PBS host Tavis Smiley went on “Meet the Press” and said that Obama was “pushed to that podium.”

I appreciate and applaud the fact that the president did finally show up. But this town has been spinning a story that’s not altogether true. He did not walk to the podium for an impromptu address to the nation; he was pushed to that podium. A week of protest outside the White House, pressure building on him inside the White House pushed him to that podium. So I’m glad he finally arrived.

But when he left the podium, he still had not answered the most important question, that Keynesian question, where do we go from here? That question this morning remains unanswered, at least from the perspective of the president. And the bottom line is this is not Libya, this is America. On this issue, you cannot lead from behind.

Smiley also took to Twitter after the president’s remarks, calling his race “mild” and his words “weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid.”


Obama: Trayvon ‘Could’ve Been Me 35 Years Ago’

Obama: Trayvon 'Could've Been Me 35 Years Ago'

President Obama made a surprise visit at the daily White House press briefing today to make statements following the Zimmerman trial verdict. Obama mentioned last year that Trayvon Martin could have been his son. Today he claimed, “Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could’ve been me 35 years ago.”

At times, Obama appeared to be addressing white Americans looking for explainations about the massive rallies, vigils, and marches that have erupted since the verdict. “When you think about why in the African-American community, at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here,” he said. “It’s important to recognize the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and history that doesn’t go away.”

The president’s remarks also included some suggestions on moving forward—recalling his work as a state Senator: 

Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, I think it would be productive for the Justice Department, governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists. 

When I was in Illinois, I passed racial profiling legislation, and it actually did just two simple things.  One, it collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped.  But the other thing was it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potential racial bias and ways to further professionalize what they were doing. 

You can read Obama’s entire remarks on the White House website. 

Asiana Airlines Won’t Sue Bay Area News TV, After All

Asiana Airlines Won't Sue Bay Area News TV, After All

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Asiana Airlines has dropped its threat to sue a local TV station for an on-air gaffe identifying the pilots in this month’s plane crash by racially offensive names, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The South Korean airline had said it would sue KTVU-TV after the station misidentified the four pilots aboard Asiana Flight 214 when it crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6.

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