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SNL Finally Giving Obama Role to Black Cast Member

SNL Finally Giving Obama Role to Black Cast Member

In an interview with the New York Times, Lorne Michaels, the longtime producer of Saturday Night Live, announced he’s taking the role of President Obama away from Fred Armisen, (who’s Venezuelan, German and Japanese) and giving it to Jay Pharoah, who’s African American and who actually does a good Obama impression (unlike Fred.)

Here’s the snippet from Michaels’ interview with the New York Times:

Fred Armisen has been the show’s President Obama since 2008, but Mr. Michaels said he would be relying on Jay Pharoah, who joined the cast in 2010.

“Jay has been doing Obama in his act this summer, and Jay is coming into his own,” Mr. Michaels said. “I just thought it might be time to shake it up.”

Watch Pharoah showing David Letterman his Obama impression below.

Tracy Reese, Designer of Mrs. Obama’s DNC Dress, Shows at Fashion Week

Tracy Reese, Designer of Mrs. Obama's DNC Dress, Shows at Fashion Week

Designer Tracy Reese’s name has been in the headlines since First Lady Michelle Obama wore her dress on the first night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Reese showed her latest collection at New York Fashion Week on Sunday and she’s back in the news with mostly positive reviews.

Reese, 48, is not new to fashion or New York Fashion Week. Before launching her own label in 1998, she was the head of the Women’s Portfolio for Perry Ellis.

The first lady has worn Reese’s designs about 15 times publicly, the designer told Reuters.

Check out her latest collection below.

Samuel Jackson’s New Ad: ‘Wake the F—k Up and Vote for Obama’

Samuel Jackson's New Ad: 'Wake the F--k Up and Vote for Obama'

The New York Post is reporting actor Samuel L. Jackson is filming a new political ad campaign in support of President Obama’s re-election campaign. And if the reports are true, the commercial is said to be filled with wonderful, colorful language.

The Post reports the ad will be similar to Jackson’s last viral video “Go the Fuck to Sleep,” in which the actor reads from a children’s book written by Adam Mansbach.

The NY Post has more details on who’s behind the ad:

It’s paid for by the Jewish Council for Education and Research Super PAC — which earlier this summer aired an ad of comedian Sarah Silverman offering “free lesbian sex” to billionaire Sheldon Adelson if he stopped supporting GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

Mansbach is said to also be writing the script for the new commercial expected to go live on YouTube on Sept. 24.

Chicago Pastor Takes on Clint Eastwood’s Invisible Chair, Racism [Video]

Chicago Pastor Takes on Clint Eastwood's Invisible Chair, Racism [Video]

On Sunday, September 2nd, Rev. Otis Moss III, the pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL (where Rev. Jeremiah Wright was formally the pastor) took on invisible racism. Perhaps taking some inspiration from Clint Eastwood’s Republican National Convention invisible chair stunt Rev. Moss touches on history, the upcoming election, and voter suppression.

The Trinity United Church of Christ has launched a Change.org petition urging supporters to sign on to the campaign to end the “invisible racism that leads to Voter Photo ID laws that suppress the democratic rights of the elderly, people of color and the poor.”

D.C. Launches First Ever Transgender Respect Ad Campaign

D.C. Launches First Ever Transgender Respect Ad Campaign

The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) has launched a groundbreaking Transgender and Gender Identity Respect Campaign that advocates are calling the first government-funded campaign focused exclusively on the betterment of transgender and gender non-conforming people.

The five campaign ads feature actual community members, and will appear citywide on bus shelters in the fall and winter of 2012.

“This District is committed to ensuring that all people are protected from discrimination, and that includes discrimination against the transgender and gender-non-conforming communities,” said Mayor Vincent C. Gray in a statement. “This landmark campaign from the Office of Human Rights is an important piece of a larger effort by my administration to ensure all residents have equal access to employment, housing and public services and accommodations regardless of gender identity or expression.”

D.C. residents and visitors who see an ad are encouraged to photograph it and post to social media using the hashtag #TransRespect, in hopes the campaign’s mission expands beyond D.C.

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A Drone Show On Capitol Hill


On my way to a briefing on Capitol Hill yesterday I stumbled upon a lively scene in a foyer at the Rayburn House Office Building. A bunch of beefy guys in suits or polo shirts or military garb were gathered around tables at the “Unmanned Systems Caucus Technology & Science Fair,” which was not a science fair like the kind I remember. This science fair, organized by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, was actually a drone show and on tables around the room sat some very fancy, very tiny flying things. The toys were mostly military devices that the company representatives said they’re now marketing to cops and civilians. Table hands from companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and RP Flight Systems told me they’d come to show the hottest new drones, robots and mini blimps to House members and staffers. They were there at the invitation of the above mentioned caucus, which notes on it’s website:

The mission of the U.S. House Unmanned Systems Caucus is to educate members of Congress and the public on the strategic, tactical, and scientific value of unmanned systems; actively support further development and acquisition of more systems, and to more effectively engage the civilian aviation community on unmanned system use and safety.

A rep from RP Flight Systems explained that his companies drones helped put out fires. But across the room a man in camo who looked just out of combat showed me his drone for cops.

Looks like the war came home, drones and all.

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TAGS: Drones

Obama Talks Race, Calls Himself a ‘Mixed Kid From Hawaii’

Obama Talks Race, Calls Himself a 'Mixed Kid From Hawaii'

Lately it’s been a rare occurrence when President Obama talks race but at a campaign stop in Colorado Wednesday he mentioned it and even identified himself as mixed-raced.

“Education was a gateway for opportunity for me, let’s face it, as a mixed kid from Hawaii born to a single-mom, it’s not likely to become President of the United States,” Obama told supporters at a campaign stop Golden, CO.

The President was delivering a speech on how education can be a gateway of opportunity.

“A little black girl from the south side of Chicago, who’s mom is a secretary and dad is a blue collar worker, is not likely to become First Lady of the United States but it happens because she got a great education,” the President went on to say.

While the comments may seem ordinary they’re not. The last time the President addressed race was at the height of the Trayvon Martin media coverage in March and he didn’t actually use the words “race” or “black,” instead he went with “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

More recently. Colorlines.com’s economic justice blogger Imara Jones pointed out President Obama didn’t mention race in his Democratic National Convention speech even though the he has a plan to end the Depression-level unemployment amongst black and Latinos.

Jones says Obama is going to have to start mentioning race if he wants those groups to come out to the polls and vote come November.

“The bottom line is that in order to remain in the White House, the president needs to give this community [Latinos] a reason to show up at the polls. The number one issue for Latinos, like all Americans, is jobs and the economy.”

L.A. Residents Call Cash Thrown By Robbers During Chase ‘Stimulus Package’

L.A. Residents Call Cash Thrown By Robbers During Chase 'Stimulus Package'

Two suspected bank robbers that led Los Angeles police in a high speed car chase Wednesday threw fistfuls of cash out of the window as they were being pursued. Footage from news helicopters showed the suspects driving a black Volvo SUV and throwing dollar bills out the window as neighborhood residents ran out to pick up the cash.

“It’s our neighborhood stimulus package!” resident Diane Dorsey told the Los Angeles Times as she watched the mayhem from her front yard at the corner of Kansas and Vernon avenues.

The Huffington Post also points out a nearby resident called the local NBC affiliate to express similar “stimulus” gratitude.

“I’m just so glad this person came to throw this money in the ‘hood, basically,” said the An unidentified 23-year-old resident who called in to KNBC”. “You usually see robbers and they take their stuff and they leave. But this guy came over and tried to help us out … So It’s more like all of us are supporting the robbers and the cops.”

A Santa Fe Springs reporter also tweeted similar reports.

The South L.A. neighborhood, where the suspected bank robbers were finally apprehended, is one of the top three neighborhoods in LA County with the highest rates of foreclosures. According to the most recent records, 33% of the predominantly black and Latino residents in the 90037 neighborhood make less than $15,000 a year.

But according to the latest Census data released Wednesday there a lot more people who need a stimulus too. The poverty level is at the highest level it’s been in two decades with people of color, youth, and women are being hit hardest.

Statue Honoring KKK Grand Wizard Planned on Alabama Public Land

Statue Honoring KKK Grand Wizard Planned on Alabama Public Land

A group in Selma, Ala. known as the Friends of Forrest are renovating a monument honoring Civil War Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest who was the first “Grand Wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan. The City Council approved renovation is stirring controversy because some say the statue sits on public land.

Forrest, a slave owner and a slave trader, was tapped to be the Ku Klux Klan’s first Grand Wizard - or supreme leader, the KKK’s highest position — at a meeting in April 1867, according to Anti-Defamation League.

The memorial is being repaired after the bust of Gen. Forrest was stolen in March from the 7-foot-tall granite monument it rested upon at a cemetery in Selma, reported The Birmingham News.

“I was outraged and ashamed to learn that Selma’s city council is sitting idly by as a local neo-Confederate group expands a public monument to a founder of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest,” wrote Malika Fortier, who started a petition on Change.org urging the Selma city council to stop the current plans to expand the monument.

TAGS: Salem ]KKK

Poverty Stuck at Highest Level in Almost Two Decades

Poverty Stuck at Highest Level in Almost Two Decades

According to Census Bureau data released this morning, after three years of climbing, the nation’s overall poverty rate has plateaued at 15.1 percent.

With almost 50 million Americans unable to make ends meet, poverty remains stuck at the highest level in almost two decades. Official poverty for a family of four is defined as $23,021 and at $11,484 for an individual.

These record-levels of poverty point to an unending harsh situation for too many. But for people of color, youth, and women, the data is even more dire.

  1. Close to 1 out of three blacks, and one out of four Latinos, is poor.

  2. Poverty falls hardest children. One out of five in poverty is below the age of 18, double the rate for those over 65.

  3. The poverty rate for women is 20 percent higher than that of men.

These numbers underscore the need to get our economy back on track, increase economic opportunities for young people, and the urgency for race, age, and gender-specific policies to turn things things around.

The report did include one bright spot. It seems as if President Obama’s health care law might be bearing fruit. Close to 1.5 million more people have health insurance.

TAGS: Poverty

Chris Brown Reps Say New Tattoo is Mexican ‘Dia De Los Muertos’ Sugar Skull, Not Rihanna

We’ll keep this post short since there are more pressing news stories than Chris Brown’s neck tattoos. But just in case you were wondering, his representatives have denied allegations that his new neck tattoo of a woman’s face with strange markings on it was an homage to his ex-girlfriend Rihanna.

“His tattoo is a sugar skull [associated with the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead] and a MAC cosmetics design he saw,” Brown’s rep told the good people at TMZ. “It is not Rihanna or an abused woman as erroneously reported.”

Obama Approves ‘Small Group’ of 72k Deferred Action Applications

Obama Approves 'Small Group' of 72k Deferred Action Applications

The Obama administration has received an estimated 72,000 Deferred Action applications from young undocumented immigrants seeking to avoid deportation and get a work permit since the program started Aug. 15. The Homeland Security Department said Tuesday that a “small group” of applications has been approved and those immigrants are being notified this week about the decision, according to the Associated Press.

“Following a thorough, individualized case review, USCIS has now begun notifying individuals of the determination on their deferral requests,” DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard said in a statement to the AP. He said about 72,000 applications have been received since the program’s Aug. 15 start.

The department would not provide a specific number of just how many applications were approved.

In order to be granted the two-year protection from deportation, young undocumented immigrants have to pay a $465 application fee, pass background checks and offer up biometric data, as well as clear other paperwork hurdles.

DHS told the AP “background checks, including finger prints checks, are being conducted on each immigrant before an application can be approved.” The average wait time for approval is expected to be about four months to six months.

“President Obama’s announcement brings peace and relief to many DREAMers,” Lorella Praeli, a member of the United We Dream network, told Colorlines.com last month. “It is one step in the right direction after years of work that will allow students to apply their professional degrees and know that they need not fear deportation, that they will be able to continue living as Americans in the only country they call home.”

ICE has pledged to keep the information that DREAMers provide in their applications confidential and away from the enforcement side of the Department of Homeland Security unless the applicant commits fraud by lying on their applications, or if applicants have serious criminal records.

Junot Díaz Nearly Causes a Riot at New York City Book Signing

Junot Díaz Nearly Causes a Riot at New York City Book Signing

The fourth floor of Union Square’s Barnes and Noble was packed with fans who arrived hours in advance of Junot Díaz’s 7 p.m. appearance on the day his new book was released. Bookstore workers, who declined to give their names, told Colorlines.com that more than 400 chairs were set up to host anxious audience members, and then allowed a standing room only crowd to join those lucky enough to get seats—up to 1,000 people in total by one estimate. Workers then enlisted the help of the New York Police Department to begin managing some 200 people who showed up between about 6 and 7 p.m. to hear Díaz present his new book, “This is How You Lose Her.”


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Fans waited in two disorganized lines on the third floor, only to hear that they wouldn’t gain entry to Díaz’s talk and book-signing. As Díaz made his way through the third floor, he greeted friends and strangers who were not able to get a seat, and quickly made his way up the escalator as disappointed admirers looked on. Those who didn’t get a fourth floor spot were visibly disappointed, and as some tried to make their way up the escalator, NYPD officers stopped them. The last time the bookstore’s fourth floor was filled to capacity was during Tina Fey’s reading almost a year-and-a-half ago. 

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If you want to guarantee a spot to see and hear Díaz, he’ll be the keynote speaker at Facing Race, which takes place in Baltimore November 15-17. Díaz will join a vast group of people who work and report on racial justice issues at the conference, organized by Colorlines.com publisher, the Applied Research Center. 



Comedy Central’s ‘Indecision’ Meets Undocubus

Comedy Central’s ‘Indecision’ caught up with the Undocubus riders who traveled from Arizona to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC to urge the Obama administration to stop criminalizing immigrant communities.

Colorlines.com’s Aura Bogado traveled with Undocubus the week before the Democratic National Convention—from Knoxville, Tennessee to Charlotte, North Carolina—to report for Colorlines.com and The Nation. In her reporter’s notebook below she remembers what it was like to “witness a modern-day ride for freedom and justice.”

New Video Aims to Mobilize Rural Native Youth to Register to Vote

New Video Aims to Mobilize Rural Native Youth to Register to Vote

66 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives who were eligible to register to vote in 2008 did so. The other 34 percent—more than one million people—did not. There’s a concerted effort to register Native voters in 2012, and make an big impact on Election Day.

Meet Voting Rights Watch’s newest community journalist, Hillary Abe. He works for College Horizons, a national non-profit focused on facilitating the higher education of Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian youth. Hillary is also an accomplished videographer, and aspiring filmmaker. He recently shot and directed a short video in Northern Arizona geared towards mobilizing rural Native youth to vote. Check out and share his video, and expect to see more from him about the Native vote this election season.



Listen to 1-Minute of Missy Elliott’s New Song ‘9th Inning’

After taking a few years off rapper Missy Elliott is making a comeback with her 7th solo album.

Missy Elliott says it all in the first line of the song ‘9th Inning’ previewed above: “Now I’m in the 9th inning, thought I fell off, I ain’t quite finish.”

The song also features rhymes by the man who produced the beats, Timbaland.

Junot Díaz Returns to Short Stories in ‘This Is How You Lose Her’

Junot Díaz Returns to Short Stories in 'This Is How You Lose Her'

Dominican American Pulitzer Prize-Winning author Junot Díaz released his latest book today. “This Is How You Lose Her” follows the story of protagonist Yunior’s downward spiral after his fiancée finds out he’s cheated on her.

“When I finished my first book, Drown, I realized that the theme of infidelity, which runs through the book, needed sort of a much more upfront presentation, and I concocted this project. It just really interested me,” Díaz told NPR’s Steve Inskeep. “But you know, sometimes you chart out a course and you think it’s going to be an afternoon walk, and you realize it takes you half your life.”

NPR has an in-depth interview with Díaz that focuses on his process writing “This Is How You Lose Her.” In the excerpt below Díaz tells NPR’s Inskeep about how he was taught to view women:

“I grew up in a world, [a] very New Jersey, American, Dominican, immigrant, African-American, Latino world. And, you know, I went to school and it was basically the same. I went to college; it was basically the same, where largely I wasn’t really encouraged to imagine women as fully human. I was in fact pretty much — by the larger culture, by the local culture, by people around me, by people on TV — encouraged to imagine women as something slightly inferior to men. And so I think that a lot of guys, part of our journey is wrestling with, coming to face, our limited imagina[tion] and growing in a way that allows us not only to imagine women as fully human, but to imagine the things that we do to women — that we often do blithely, without thinking, we just sort of shrug off — as actually deeply troubling and as hurting another human being. And this seems like the simplest thing. A lot of people are like, ‘Really, that’s like a huge leap of knowledge, of the imagination?’ But for a lot of guys, that is.”

Díaz, who is known for his bold, nuanced depiction of immigrants and people of color, will be the keynote speaker the Facing Race conference taking place November 15-17 in Baltimore. Facing Race, the largest national, multi-racial gathering of leaders, educators, journalists, and activists on racial justice is organized by Colorlines.com’s publisher the Applied Research Center.

If you want to learn more about Díaz check out his guest DJ mixtape on NPR that includes the likes of Calle 13, Ana Tijoux, Kinky and openly gay rapper Le1f.

Univision: ‘Everything’ Changed for Immigrants After 9/11

Univision: 'Everything' Changed for Immigrants After 9/11

Univision anchor Maria Elena Salinas remembers covering the events of September 11, 2001.

“If there is one thing I remember from the week it’s all the people that were being interviewed that would take a moment to show a picture—regardless of what was being asked from them—they showed a picture of a loved one [asking] ‘have you seen my brother, have you seen my mother, have you seen my sister, have you seen my wife?’ It was one after another,” Salinas says in the video above.

Salinas goes on to say that for Latinos and immigration in general, “everything’ has changed since 9/11.

(h/t Univision News via Pocho)

Obama on Nicki Minaj: ‘She Likes to Play Different Characters’

Obama on Nicki Minaj: 'She Likes to Play Different Characters'

Last week, Jorge Rivas reported on the parts of the internet caught up by a Nicki Minaj line on Lil Wayne’s new Dedication 4 mixtape: “I’m a Republican, voting for Mitt Romney / You lazy bitches are fucking up the economy…”

While most folks assumed Minaj, who often raps from the point of view of different assumed personas, was just engaging in artistic license, some folks thought she was making a real confession of her politics. (Not sure where these folks were when Jay-Z and Nas released “Black Republican” in 2007.)

This morning, Obama was asked about the lyric in a phone interview Orlando hiphop station Power 95.3’s The Obie And Lil Shawn Morning Show. You can listen to Obama’s answer above, in which he explains that he and Michelle aren’t old yet, and that they try to keep their iPods current and in touch with popular culture.

But the real magic happens when the President of the United States has to explain Nicki Minaj’s ouvre to the nation. “I’m not sure that’s actually what happened,” said Obama. “She likes to play different characters, you know, so I don’t know what was going on there.” Not sure if President Carter ever had to expound on David Bowie’s Thin White Duke period.

Minaj confirmed on Twitter that she was, you know, rapping:

And in case you’re concerned that Obama is too cool, just listen to how he dad-splains Minaj’s guest verse as “a little rap.”

Why You Should Be Very Afraid of This Year’s Ballot Bullies

Why You Should Be Very Afraid of This Year's Ballot Bullies

The scrutinization of True the Vote, and their voter-stalking Tea Party co-signers across the nation, is growing. Today, Common Cause and Demos released a report called “Bullies at the Ballot Box” that raises awareness about groups who determined to challenge voters at the polls, even at risk of intimidating voters away from the polls. Says the report:

As we approach the 2012 elections, every indication is that we will see an unprecedented use of voter challenges. Organizers of True the Vote claim their goal is to train one million poll watchers to challenge and confront other Americans as they go to the polls in November. They say they want to make the experience of voting ‘like driving and seeing the police following you.’ There is a real danger that voters will face overzealous volunteers who take the law into their own hands to target voters they deem suspect. But there is no place for bullies at the ballot box.

Colorlines readers may recognize that “police following you” line from our Voting Rights Watch 2012 reporting on the group True the Vote, which you can read here.

The “Ballot Bullies” report examines laws around challenging voters in ten states, looking namely at how well or bad voters are protected from pre-Election Day voter registration challenges that can lead to reckless purging, voter caging, being challenged at the polls on Election Day, and the behavior of obnoxious poll watchers. According to the report Florida and Pennsylvania have some of the worst voter protection laws, says the report, yet these are pivotal states that hold tremendous sway in the upcoming presidential elections. True the Vote has a substantial presence in Florida and has pressed hard for Gov. Rick Scott’s reckless purging program there.

People of color in particular should be most wary of these groups:

“With comments about the ‘illegal alien vote’ and ‘the food stamp army,’ King Street Patriots and their allies have created a climate of fear that voter fraud is rampant in minority precincts and used that fear to justify their discriminatory targeting of poll-watching efforts - again, without evidence to support the targeting.”

The King Street Patriots is the Houston-based Tea Party group that gave birth to True the Vote and it’s spawn of poll harassers around the U.S.

This report follows another released by the Brennan Center for Justice last week, “Voter Challengers,” which delves deep into the racial history and politics behind poll watching in America.

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