11-Year-old Sebastian de la Cruz Is the Best San Antonio Spurs Fan Ever

The San Antonio Spurs handed an epic beat down to the Miami Heat last night in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.  But that hasn’t been the only talk around South Texas. Instead, critics lashed out at the Spurs organization for inviting an Sebastian De La Cruz, an 11-year-old Mexican-American, to sing the national anthem before the game. 

He can sing, right? Right. But some NBA fans were outraged that the Spurs would have a Latino boy sing the national anthem.

Latino Rebels captured some of the backlash on Twitter:

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TAGS: NBA finals

Feds Reveal Widespread Housing Bias But Refuse to Stop It

Feds Reveal Widespread Housing Bias But Refuse to Stop It

A new report commissioned by the Department of Housing and Urban Development revealed yesterday that prospective renters or home buyers of color are significantly less likely to be shown units compared to white home seekers.  The results of the study, conducted by the Urban Institute with a $9 million grant from HUD, are fairly unsurprising—discrimination is present everywhere and housing is no exception.

But as ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones reports, HUD has no plans to do anything to stop the practices revealed in the new study. Hannah-Jones writes:

[T]he more startling thing may be what HUD intends to do with its findings. …[T]he federal agency has no plans to use these tests to actually enforce the law and punish the offenders.

Once a decade for the last 40 years, HUD has produced a massive survey to reveal the pervasive discrimination that, year after year, exists in America’s housing marketplace. But as ProPublica reported late last year, HUD as a policy refuses to invest the same kinds of time, resources and techniques in prosecuting those guilty of the very discrimination its expensive studies uncover. Instead, HUD outsources testing used to find and punish discriminatory landlords to dozens of small, poorly funded fair housing groups scattered across the country.

And Congress has shown little appetite for forcing HUD to do more meaningful enforcement. A bill that would create a national testing enforcement program at HUD is expected to soon die in committee for the third time.

The Urban Institute conducted 8,000 tests in 28 cities by sending testers of color and white testers with otherwise equal qualifications to realtors to inquire about apartments and homes. The report found that black, Asian and Latinos borrowers are less likely to be shown houses or apartments. That means folks of color have fewer options for where to live, are forced to spend more time and money looking for a home, and end up stuck in neighborhoods some may hope to leave.

As the author of the Urban Institute report said in a video that accompanies the report, “discrimination in housing contributes to the persistence of broader inequalities in housing, in home ownership, in neighborhoods, access to education, wealth building. So where we live really matters.”

ProPublica’s previous investigation revealed that HUD has consistently refused to act affirmatively to stop these practices despite clear legal, decades-old prohibitions against racial discrimination in housing.

Parents of Biracial Cheerios Girl Say They Were ‘Excited’ About Negative Comments

Parents of Biracial Cheerios Girl Say They Were 'Excited' About Negative Comments

Six-year-old Grace Colbert, star of the Cheerios commercial, and her parents, visited MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts to share their take on the racist backlash the ad received soon after it premiered.

“Being part of a biracial family, it’s just the reality,” Christopher Colbert, the father of the six-year-old Grace, told MSNBC on Tuesday. “We’re also part of the face of America.”

Colbert added that he was “excited” about the reactions to the commercial, both good and bad.

“Being a biracial family is just a reality. We’re also a part of the face of America, and so America just needs to see that this is just a way of life and that this is just the way life is today,” Colbert said during the interview. “I wasn’t upset or anything I was pretty much really excited to have this type of reaction so we could see where we still stand in America.”

The six-year-old actress’ mother, Janet Colbert, said that her daughter thought all the attention the commercial was getting must have been because of her great smile.

According to Census data, among opposite-sex married couples, one in 10 (5.4 million couples) are interracial, a 28% jump since 2000. In 2010, 18% of heterosexual unmarried couples were of different races (1.2 million couples) and 21% of same-sex couples (133,477 couples) were mixed.

The number of mixed-race babies has also climbed over the past decade. More than 7 percent of the 3.5 million children born in the year before the 2010 Census were of two or more races, up from barely 5 percent a decade earlier.

Yasiel Puig Breaks Dodgers Merchandise Sales Record

Yasiel Puig Breaks Dodgers Merchandise Sales Record

Los Angeles Dodgers rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig became the National League Player of the Week shortly after his first game in Major League Baseball. And that’s not the only record he’s breaking. 

L.A. Times has the details:

The Dodgers sold more Puig-related merchandise from Thursday to Sunday than they had ever sold of any player over a four-day period — more than even Manny Ramirez, Fernando Valenzuela or Hideo Nomo, according to a team spokesperson.

The team sold approximately 3,000 units of Puig-related merchandise in that four-day window, including 1,600 t-shirts ($28), 400 “Viva Puig” t-shirts ($28) and 600 jerseys ($225 for the authentic version, $110 for the replica ones).

In his first week in the Major Leagues, Puig led baseball with 27 total bases and was tied for the Major League lead with four home runs. His .964 slugging percentage was second-best in the Majors and was the top mark among National Leaguers. The 22-year-old native of Cienfuegos, Cuba also ranked among league leaders with a .464 (13-for-28) batting average (2nd), 10 RBI (3rd), 13 hits (3rd), and a .483 on-base percentage (7th).  

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed the Cuban defector to a seven-year, $42 million contract last summer.


Are States Delaying Voter ID Enactment to Duck Federal Racial Review?

Are States Delaying Voter ID Enactment to Duck Federal Racial Review?

In March, Virginia passed a strict photo voter ID law that won’t go into effect until 2014. It’s the second voter ID law they’ve passed in as many years — the first one enacted last year only after a review by the federal government made sure that it would not disenfranchise voters of color, even by mistake. The U.S. Department of Justice reviewed and cleared it just in time for the November elections last year. The much stricter version of Virginia’s voter ID law passed this year may not enjoy the same federal scrutiny given its 2014 start date. Reason being, if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that Section 5 is invalid — and a ruling is expected within weeks — then the voter ID law would go into effect regardless of its impact on people. Over 870,000 Virginians, mostly people of color, may lack the appropriate ID to vote, according to a letter sent from the ACLU to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell asking him to veto the new voter ID law. 

So, it has to be asked: Is Virginia holding the new law to escape racial discrimination review? It’s tough to think of Virginia in that context given its governor just went through the trouble of lifting voting bans on citizens formerly incarcerated for nonviolent felon charges. But if those who’ve left prison are unable to get government ID or a driver’s license — not uncommon for many formerly incarcerated, as pointed out by the Legal Action Center, due to missing vital documents like birth certificates — then they may suffer disenfranchisement under the new law next year anyway.

Virginia isn’t the only state holding back on passed election legislation. A report from the Brennan Center for Justice, “If Section 5 Falls: New Voting Implications,” shows that many states have voter ID and other election laws on ice, and could quickly thaw them out for implementation immediately upon a SCOTUS ruling killing Section 5. It is not a foregone conclusion that SCOTUS will do this, but Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have all indicated that they want to strike it

The Brennan report points to the Section 5-covered Alabama, which provides two examples similar to Virginia:

  • In 2011, Alabama passed a law that requires residents to submit proof of their citizenship to register. The state submitted this law for review last year, but then withdrew it a month ago, after the Justice Department requested more information.
  • The state also passed a voter ID law in 2011 that, like Virginia’s, isn’t slated to go into effect until 2014, and has not been submitted for federal review.

Laughlin McDonald, a veteran voting rights attorney and leader of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, told Brennan he believed Alabama’s withdrawal of the proof-of-citizenship law might be “motivated by a desire to avoid an objection in the short-term,” and the hope that the Supreme Court would ultimately remove the Section 5 review as a barrier.

“There are experts in the field and on the ground who are very concerned that certain [election law] changes that are anticipated are being stalled in moving forward for section five preclearance and the concern is that it is being done with the hopes of section five not being a barrier in the future,” said Myrna Perez, deputy director for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program and co-author of the report, in a call with Colorlines this morning.  

There are other consequences, unintended or maybe intended, if Section 5 is deleted from the Voting Rights Act, according to the report.

There are election laws recently blocked under Section Five that could be revived if it’s struck and with no heavy lifting. “Of particular concern are those election changes that could be resuscitated with little delay and little public notice.” Changes to polling place locations and for assistance for voters with limited English could be changed without a vote or new legislation. But there is some legislation that has been blocked that have remained on the books, even while not enforced. They could be dialed up immediately in some places.

And then there’s the election legislation waiting in the wings in states like North Carolina, another Section 5 state that is looking to impose a strict voter ID requirement, cut early voting and disenfranchise those convicted of felonies. The bills have not become law yet, but it’s possible that the Republicans who voted for them are awaiting the SCOTUS decision so perhaps they won’t have to submit them for review. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s attorney general Roy Cooper has filed an amicus brief asking that SCOTUS keep Section Five in tact.

Thousands have come out in North Carolina’s state capital to protest these laws and others that would cause low-income and middle-class families there to suffer. Many of them have been jailed. These are the Section 5 headwinds the Supreme Court Justices will fly 

Death Row Inmates Sue Louisiana Facility for Cruel and Unusual Heat Conditions

Death Row Inmates Sue Louisiana Facility for Cruel and Unusual Heat Conditions

The heat in Louisiana has been unbearable the past few summers. So imagine what it’s been like for inmates of the “prison capital of the world” where sun heat turns prison facilities into something like ovens. 

Three inmates at the Angola Louisiana State Penitentiary in Louisiana are suing the state’s department of public safety and corrections for failing to provide relief for those suffering on death row in cells that trap heat indexed as high as 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Inmates spend 23 hours a day in these cells with little ventilation. An investigation by the Advocacy Center into death row prison conditions found that it gets so hot that prisoners sometimes sleep on the floor where it’s somewhat cooler, suffering fire ant bites in the process. The inmates’ requests for relief have been rejected by the prison officials. 

The Promise of Justice Initiative is suing on behalf of Elzie Ball, who is 60 years old and is a diabetic, Nathaniel Code, who is 57 years old and has hepatitis, and James Magee, 35 with depression. Because of their conditions they are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Heat is the number one weather-related killer according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, killing more people yearly on average than floods, tornadoes and hurricanes combined.

“The conditions on death row at Angola are horrifying, and a fundamental violation of Constitutional protections,” said Mercedes Montagnes, Promise of Justice Initiative lawyer and lead attorney on the lawsuit. “There is no question that the lack of climate control puts these men in a dangerous situation. Because they are confined to these block cells, their ability to take any step to maintain their health is severely limited.”

While visiting areas of the prison are air-conditioned, the cells get little more than fans that blow hot air around. The metal bars and cinder block walls of the cells meanwhile become too hot to touch. The lawsuit is asking that the temperature be controlled so that the heat index doesn’t exceed 88 degrees and that ice water be distributed to the inmates on a regular basis. 

Climate change may exacerbate these conditions if proper mitigation isn’t achieved. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, cities in North America that regularly experience heatwaves — and virtually all of Louisiana would qualify — “are expected to be further challenged by an increased number, intensity and duration of heat waves during the course of the century, with potential for adverse health impacts.”

The IPCC’s special report “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation” states that “It is virtually certain that increases in the frequency and magnitude of warm daily temperature extremes and decreases in cold extremes will occur in the 21st century at the global scale. … a 1-in-20 year hottest day is likely to become a 1-in-2 year event by the end of the 21st century in most regions, except in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, where it islikely to become a 1-in-5 year event.”

Meanwhile, 2012 was the United States’ warmest year on record, by “a wide margin.” Not providing air conditioning certainly feels cruel during these unusually hot seasons.

EEOC Lawsuit: BMW and Dollar General’s Background Checks Discriminate Against Black Workers

EEOC Lawsuit: BMW and Dollar General's Background Checks Discriminate Against Black Workers

Today the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed lawsuits against two companies, BMW and Dollar General, for allegedly discriminating against workers and job applicants who’d had interactions with the criminal justice system. The EEOC lawsuits charge that both companies’ practices had a disparate impact on black workers. 

Dollar General, the nation’s largest small-box discount retailer, makes job offers contingent on applicants’ first clearing a criminal background check. One worker filed a complaint with the EEOC after she was fired because of a felony which showed up erroneously in a convictions report on her. Even when she cleared her name with the company they would not give her back her job, EEOC says.

And a BMW manufacturing facility in South Carolina kept an exclusionary policy which barred employees and employees of subcontractors from entering a facility if they had certain criminal convictions, EEOC says. They held onto the policy when it came time to transition workers from a phased-out contractor, even though those workers had already cleared the contractor’s background checks. Workers, even longtime employees, who didn’t clear the new checks lost their jobs and could not get them back, according to the EEOC.

Poll: People Have Never Liked Affirmative Action Less Than They Do Now

Poll: People Have Never Liked Affirmative Action Less Than They Do Now

At one time, a majority of people in the U.S.—a full 61 percent—supported affirmative action. That day is long gone. Today, support for affirmative action is at record lows, with just 45 percent of people in the U.S. saying that such programs are necessary today, according to a new poll conducted by NBC

Since 1991 when those lofty highs were recorded, support for affirmative action has been on a steady decline. One reason is that affirmative action is a divisive tactic which inspires endless, exhausting debate. The other is that many people think there’s less need for racial remediation programs like affirmative action these days, what with our black president and all. 

But people of different races have differing opinions; 56 percent of whites oppose affirmative action but support among people of color is quite strong. Eighty percent of black respondents support affirmative action, along with 60 percent of Latinos.

The poll comes amidst tense anticipation ahead of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Fisher v. Texas, the latest challenge to race-conscious admissions policies in higher education. 

Immigration Debate Begins While Advocates Demand Obama Halt Deportations

Immigration Debate Begins While Advocates Demand Obama Halt Deportations

As the full Senate prepares to begin debate today on the sweeping immigration reform bill, President Obama gave a speech from the White House urging Congress to pass the legislation. Focusing on the economic benefits of reform and trumpeting his administration’s significant expansion of deportation and border enforcement, Obama said that Congress has no excuse not to pass the bill.

“If you’re actually serious and sincere about fixing a broken system, this is the vehicle to do it,” Obama said. “There is no good reason to engage in procedural games.”

But immigration advocates say that the President must take a leading part in the move toward immigration justice by slowing deportations, which have separated hundreds of thousands of families and left communities riddled with holes.

A group of Congresspeople and immigrants with the support of nearly 500 organizations will deliver a letter to the President tomorrow morning calling on his administration to stop removing immigrants at the current rate of over 400,000 each year. “The best way to open a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is for you to immediately suspend deportations,” the letter reads, “at a bare minimum, for those who would eventually be eligible for the Senate bill’s legalization program. ”

In his speech, the President said his deportation policies, which have removed historic numbers of people each year, have worked. “Today deportation of criminals is at its highest level ever,” he said.

Advocates are not having it: “There continues to be a wide distance between the President’s rhetoric and his record,” said Pablo Alvarado, the director of the national Day Laborer Network, said in a statement. “To close the gap, the President must cease the 1,100 daily deportations he currently oversees.”

In his speech, Obama also responded to Republican calls for more border security saying, as he often has, that the border is now more secure than ever. “We made border security a top priority,” the President said, adding that his administration doubled the number of agents on the border. 

The Senate immigration bill, which supporters say can pass with more than 60 votes, is expected to face significant challenges from Republicans who will introduce amendments to harden border enforcement provisions and make the path to citizenship more difficult, especially for low-income immigrants.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican from Florida, who helped draft the legislation in the spring as a member of a bipartisan Gang of Eight Senators, has said recently that the current bill will become law as written. Rubio, along with Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma are threatening to introduce an amendment to give Congress power to draft and certify a border enforcement plan that the administration would then need to implement.  Currently, the bill requires that the Department of Homeland Security implement new border enforcement measures before those on a path to citizenship can move ahead. The congressionally drafted plan could result in even more build up of armed agents and technology on the US-Mexico border. Advocates say the region can’t sustain more militarization. But other members of the Gang of Eight Senate group, including New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer, have said they are open to considering the proposal.  

Another amendment, from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., would expand border enforcement to require that border patrol apprehend at least 90 percent of attempted crossers before any undocumented immigrant can gain a green card.  The amendment could derail the path to citizenship entirely since the 90 percent goal is by most accounts unattainable.  Senate Majority Leady Harry Reid called the amendment a “poison pill.” Another amendment from Sen. Paul Rand, R-KY., would require that Congress to stage a vote each year on the progress of border security.

Other Republicans will propose amendments to make it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship by increasing costs.  Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, plans to introduce an amendment that will require unauthorized immigrants to pay all unpaid back taxes from the entire period since arriving in the US. The bill already requires significant tax payments by applicants to the provisional path to citizenship. Though many undocumented immigrants now pay taxes, those who have not always paid income and other taxes may find the requirement impossible to meet, especially for those who’ve been in the country for decades.

While the Senate is expected to pass legislation in the next month, the fate of immigration reform in the House is less clear. House Speaker John Boehner said on “Good Morning America” today that he’s confident the House will pass a bill. “I think, no question, by the end of the year we could have a bill. No question,” he said.  But for immigration advocates who say immigration enforcement has already reached an extreme, the bill’s likely rightward drift to gain Republican support in the House raises concerns about what the law will ultimately mean for non-citizens.

Seven Surprising Facts About Asian-American and Middle Eastern Boys

Seven Surprising Facts About Asian-American and Middle Eastern Boys

new report released Monday by Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy takes a rare look at an often overlooked subgroup of young people: Asian American, Pacific Islander and AMEMSA boys and young men. AMEMSA stands for Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian—it’s a handy acronym worth remembering in a post-Sept. 11 U.S. context, where members of these communities often have overlapping experiences, but more typically, are seen as indistinguishable from each other.

So what ought we know about the boys and young men of these communities? Some of the facts may surprise you—and to the extent that they do, serve to highlight the grave misunderstandings the wider public has of Asian-American and AMEMSA communities broadly. Misunderstandings abound in part because of a stubborn model minority myth that suggests that all Asian Americans are wealthy, high-achieving and well-educated. The reality is far from that blanket picture. The U.S. Census Bureau’s own “Asian” category now encompasses 23 different Asian subgroups, all of whom have vastly different migration histories and cultural backgrounds. Some Asians came to the U.S. as refugees of war in the 1970s, some as laborers in the 19th century, some as newly recruited engineers to the tech industry. With all that difference and with no unifying linguistic or cultural binder, Asians are a truly difficult community to categorize. 

So what about those facts?

Judge: George Zimmerman May Not Be Called a “Vigilante” During Juror Questioning

Judge: George Zimmerman May Not Be Called a

Today, 16 months after Trayvon Martin was murdered, his killer George Zimmerman finally went on trial. And the first thing his lawyers did was try to delay the trial even further. Florida Circuit Judge Debra Nelson put the kibosh on that right away, the Detroit Free Press reported, but did rule that the prosecution is barred from using the words “profiled,” “vigilante,” “wannabe cop,” and “self-appointed neighborhood watch captain” during questioning of potential jurors. Those words were deemed “inflammatory,” the paper reported.

And then jury selection process began. Some 100 potential jurors showed up today after 500 summons were sent out. For more on what to expect during this trial, read Eric Mann’s account here.

The Detroit Free Press streamed the proceedings live today. Juror questioning will begin again tomorrow.

Big Freedia’s ‘Queen of Bounce’ Reality TV Show to Launch This Fall

Big Freedia's 'Queen of Bounce' Reality TV Show to Launch This Fall

The world will be able to take a closer look at New Orleans-based emcee Big Freedia. The reigning bounce music diva’s new reality show, “Queen of Bounce,” will premiere this fall on Wednesday, September 18 on Fuse TV. The show will follow Freedia and other bounce artists, including Katey Red, Sissy Nobby, and Mr. Ghetto.

More from the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

“Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce” is one of three new music-focused programs on Fuse debuting this year. On July 24, the network premieres “G-Thing,” a show that follows Italian-American rapper G-Fella and his family as they try to launch an independent record label, and “Insane Clown Posse Theater.” The latter is a program featuring the infamous clown-faced rappers Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope: the show includes the pair’s commentary on new music videos and pop culture phenomena as well as comedy sketches and interviews with special guests. “Insane Clown Posse Theater” previously was available as an online series; this summer, it graduates to the TV screen.

Earlier this year Pitchfork released an intriguing 27-minute documentary on Big Freedia. Check it out if you haven’t already. Seems like it’s just a taste of what’s to come this September. 


Fight Begins to Save Country’s Oldest Black Bookstore

Fight Begins to Save Country's Oldest Black Bookstore

The foreclosure crisis has devastated black families and businesses across the country, including the country’s oldest black bookstore. Marcus Bookstore, a landmark San Francisco black -owned business that opened in 1960 and survived the razing of the city’s historic African-American Fillmore district, is on the brink of closure. And now a fierce battle has started to save it.

Chris Roberts at the San Francisco Examiner has the story in detail:

“We’re not asking for a handout,” said Gregory Johnson, who with his wife, Karen run the bookstore. “It would be one thing if we didn’t have the money,” Karen Johnson added, as they sat in the bookstore’s incense-scented ground-floor space, indoor plants adding to the cool refuge from an unseasonably hot afternoon. “But we do. We have the money and The City behind us.”

The trouble at Marcus Books began in 2006. Like so many other people during the real estate boom, the family took out a loan in order to pay expenses, Karen Johnson said during an interview at the bookstore Friday.

And like so many others, the loan — $950,000, with fixed monthly payments but a high 10 percent interest rate — turned out to be “predatory,” she said. Monthly payments on the building ballooned to about $10,000, according to Dr. Mary Ann Jones, executive director of Westside Community Services.

The family has contacted the office of Attorney General Kamala Harris, which is investigating the loan’s legitimacy, according to attorney Julian Davis. But in the meantime, a last-minute effort by the Johnsons to buy the property from creditors missed a deadline.

Family members have started a petition on to asking the building’s new owners to “save the legacy of Marcus Books and keep the country’s oldest black-owned Bookstore in San Francisco.” See the petition on

Jasmine Johnson, granddaughter of the store’s founders, wrote a powerful piece on the challenges facing black-owned bookstores for last year when Harlem’s Hue-Man closed its doors:

The challenges black bookstores face are no romance. Advancing technology and digitization are increasingly central to the book-buying market; a desire for immediate ownership (even though it is technically only licensing) and quick-click purchasing has made brick-and-mortar stores synonymous with the slow, aging, and nostalgic. “For me, closing was a complete no-brainer,” Allen says. “The rent was going to go up, but even if I could have negotiated the same rent, I wouldn’t have done it. The market is costly, the space is inadequate, the vision is backward. This is 10-years-back; we need a 20-years-forward vision.”


Hue-Man is the stuff that community is made of—a space where we interact with others through the mutual valuation of literacy. The generosity found there characterizes many independent black businesses. They give as far as their means can stretch. Kindness often makes more acute the gaps in inventory. Regardless, we get to know us better by being there.

Read the entire piece.

TAGS: books

Cicely Tyson Made History at Last Night’s Tony Awards

Cicely Tyson Made History at Last Night's Tony Awards

After a 30 year absence from Broadway, Cicely Tyson became the oldest person to win an award for her starring role as Miss Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful. Rod McCullom noted that received the “longest standing ovation of the night”, reported The New York Times. Watch her acceptance speech in the video above.

The Times also notes that black actors had a huge night at the Tonys in general last night:

…at a time when only 15 to 20 percent of actors on Broadway are black, half of the major acting awards went to African-Americans. Cicely Tyson, at age 88, won her first Tony for best actress in a play as a neglected mother in “The Trip to Bountiful”; Patina Miller, best actress in a musical as the Leading Player in “Pippin;” Mr. Porter, best actor in a musical as the drag queen Lola in “Kinky Boots”; and Courtney B. Vance, best featured actor in a play as a newspaper editor in “Lucky Guy.”

Read more at Rod 2.0 and at the New York Times.

Ryan Coogler and Octavia Spencer Talk About Spending Time With Oscar Grant’s Family

Ryan Coogler and Octavia Spencer Talk About Spending Time With Oscar Grant's Family

Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station” is about a month away from hitting theaters nationwide in the United States. The film, a Sundance favorite, has already gotten rave reviews based on its gripping portrayal of the last day of Oscar Grant’s life before he was gunned down by former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. That’s not an easy talk for any filmmaker, but Coogler, the film’s writer and diretor, and Spencer, who plays Grant’s mother Wanda, were able to prepare for their roles by speaking with surviving members of Grant’s family. Watch them talk about the experience in the interview that’s above.

Cory Booker Close to Officially Announcing Senate Run

Cory Booker Close to Officially Announcing Senate Run

Politico is reporting that Newark mayor Cory Booker will run for U.S. Senate, with an official announcement slated for tomorrow. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced a special election to replace deceased Sen. Frank Lautenberg scheduled for October, with a primary in August — a surprise since his options were to hold a special election on the day of the November general election or appoint someone immediately as a placeholder until the November 2014 Senate elections.

Political commentators are saying that Christie decided against holding a special election this November because he’s up for re-election himself, and having someone like Booker on the ticket could drive up black votes for the Democratic Party ticket, boosting the chances of their pick for governor Barbara Buono. Meanwhile, Christie could have just appointed someone from his own Republican Party. But holding an early special election allows Booker to run for the Senate seat without threatening Christie’s re-election chances — though having two elections so close will reportedly cost the state’s taxpayers millions of dollars

Meanwhile, PAC Plus, a D.C.-based Super PAC devoted to supporting progressive candidates of color, tells Buzzfeed that they plan to raise and spend as much as $2 million to get Booker elected for Senate. The campaign is simply called “Help Cory Win.”

“Here we are talking about the post-Obama world, and where the Obama coalition is going to go,” PAC Plus founder Steve Phillips told BuzzFeed. Phillips also is chair of Power PAC, a political action committee based out of San Francisco. “We think that Cory is one of the people who is best positioned to advance that movement.”

If Booker wins, he’ll become the ninth African American to serve in the Senate and could potentially bring the total number of African Americans serving in the Senate to two.

Andra Gillespie, author of the book The New Black Politician: Cory Booker, Newark and Post-Racial America, says that would be both “remakable and sad,” because, “by 2013, you’d hope that we’d have more than just two black Senators,” given African Americans are 13 percent of the population.

Gillespie believes that as a senator, a lot of the criticism he’s sustained lately, like being out of touch with city and defending Wall St. moochers like Bain Capital, will “fall away,” given the Senate is a different environment than the mayor’s office.

Says Gillespie, “What irritated people about him locally won’t be amplified as much in the Senate race. Doesn’t mean it won’t be used against him, but I think people will be far less likely to not use the ‘he’s-not-black-enough’ charge as he runs for Senate.”

SF Giants’ Sergio Romo Records Video in Support of Immigration Reform

SF Giants' Sergio Romo Records Video in Support of Immigration Reform

San Francisco Giants pitcher Sergio Romo has recorded a video in support of immigration reform. The video appears on Major League Baseball’s YouTube channel.

“I’m first-generation Mexican-American. Both of my parents were born in Mexico,” he says in the video. “My dad always spoke of the American dream as a man hard working, earning his keep, being able to take care of his family in a respectful manner.”

Romo, a first-generation Mexican-American, created the video in partnership with The Dream is Now campaign that is pushing Congress to pass the DREAM Act. The Dream is Now is spearheaded by the Emerson Collective which was founded by Laurene Jobs and Davis Guggenheim.

“When I hear of a student being undocumented, I take it as a kid going to school, just trying to learn to do better so I don’t find anything negative in that,” says Romo, who was born in California. Two million undocumented people “deserve a chance to live their dream and we will all win if they do.”

Real Life Black Hair Exhibit You Can Touch in NYC’s Union Square

Real Life Black Hair Exhibit You Can Touch in NYC's Union Square

Just imagine, an interactive public art exhibit where everyone can “explore the tactile fascination with black hair by” touching real life black hair on real life black women. 

The organizers of the event from describe the event as: “an interactive public art exhibit, dubbed You Can Touch My Hair, where strangers from all walks of life will have the welcomed opportunity to touch various textures of black hair.”

The exhibit took place Thursday evening and will take place once again on Saturday, June 6 from 2 to 4pm in NYC’s Union Square Park. For more information visit 

North Carolina Repeals Its Racial Justice Act

North Carolina Repeals Its Racial Justice Act

Showing proof of systemic racial bias will no longer be an option to spare North Carolina death-row inmates from execution. On Wednesday the North Carolina legislature repealed its Racial Justice Act, the only law of its kind of the nation, which allowed death-row inmates to appeal their cases if they could show that racial bias played a role in their sentencing.

Racial justice advocates have said that the law, which has undergone revisions, is a necessary and important tool which acknowledged the reality of well-documented systemic racial discrimination and racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system. But critics argued that the law is more troublesome than it’s worth, and has been exploited by people who are using it as an indirect way to halt executions around the state. Since its passage, critics pointed out, the Racial Justice Act has been invoked by all but two death-row inmates, including those who are white. 

Kentucky, too, has a Racial Justice Act, but it is not retroactive. Defendants may only invoke the law prior to trial. In that way, North Carolina’s law was singularly unique. Since it was enacted in 2009, the law has been plagued by controversy and repeal efforts. This week, those voices won.

“It’s incredibly sad,” Rep. Rick Glazier, a supporter of the law, told the New York Times. “If you can’t face up to your history and make sure it’s not repeated, it lends itself to being repeated.”

Colorado Joins Parade of States Granting Driver’s Licenses to the Undocumented

Colorado Joins Parade of States Granting Driver's Licenses to the Undocumented

On Wednesday Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper made Colorado the eighth state in the nation to extend driver’s license eligibility to undocumented immigrants, Reuters reported.

Colorado’s law requires that applicants show identification from their home country, proof of residence in Colorado and a state income tax return, and they must be renewed every three years.

Driver’s licenses for the undocumented are a heated issue—as is just about any kind of right undocumented immigrants could have—but lawmakers have increasingly observed that it’s not even so much an issue of immigrant rights as it is primarily one of public safety. Immigrant rights advocates in New Mexico have defended their state’s driver’s license law by showing that extending driver’s license access decreases the number of uninsured drivers on the road, and increases the likelihood that people report accidents, pay fines and speak to authorities.

It’s been a big year for undocumented immigrants and driver’s licenses. Just last week the Connecticut state Senate passed its own driver’s license bill, which Gov. Daniel Malloy has pledged to sign. In recent weeks Oregon and Nevada passed their own laws, as well. 

The Colorado law will go into effect on August 1, 2014.

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