Johnny Depp Made Honorary Member of Comanche Nation

johnny-depp-hon2.jpgWhen producer Jerry Bruckheimer released a photo of Johnny Depp in costume as Tonto for this summer’s upcoming blockbuster The Lone Ranger they both received a lot of criticism for what many called an exaggerated and inaccurate rendition of the Comanche Indian he’s suppose to play. But now, as of last week, Depp is an honorary member of the Comanche tribe.

Comanche Nation tribal member LaDonna Harris told CBS she had read in interviews that Depp identified himself as being part Native American, so she thought it would be fun to adopt him - a tradition she says is common in Comanche culture. Harris got the go ahead from her sons and then proceeded to contact Depp through a friend who is working as a cultural consultant on the upcoming film.

On May 16th, the tribal chairman presented Depp with a proclamation at Harris’ Albuquerque home. She said the Comanche adoption tradition means she now considers Depp her son.

Some people are still feeing uneasy about the Depp’s portrayal of an American Indian on film.

“It’s really complicated for me,” Adrienne Keene, a Cherokee writer who blogs under Native Appropriations told E Online. Harris is “very well respected in Indian country. But my reaction is mixed, because I feel like others will say the adoption excuses Johnny from any sort of criticism for his portrayal of Tonto.”

The Comanche Nation is based in Lawton, Okla. About half of its 15,000 members live in southwestern Oklahoma.

Depp identifies in real life as part Cherokee and Creek Indian, based on a Kentucky great-grandmother’s ancestry.

SEIU Pushes for Health Care for Transgender Workers

On Tuesday, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) passed a resolution that recommends locals now bargain for trans-inclusive heath care in contracts. SEIU has more than 2.1 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico that are part of the service industry, including janitors, the security guards, and health care professionals.

The Bilerico Project’s Bil Browning has more details on the vote:

During yesterday’s gathering the delegates passed a resolution that the many SEIU locals bargain for trans-inclusive heath care as part of their contracts. The SEIU International offices already offer trans-inclusive health care benefits to employees.

I went to watch as the delegates debated the issue and came away incredibly impressed. While I expected there to be push back on the measure, instead it was brought to the floor and the delegates were allowed 40 minutes to debate. Every single person who got up to speak was in favor of the resolution; no one spoke in opposition. It easily passed.

Michelle Obama Has Candid Chat About Approval Ratings with Jon Stewart

First Lady Michelle Obama stopped by “The Daily Show” Tuesday night, not only to promote her new book on gardening and eating right, but to chat candidly with Jon Stewart about how her approval rating is higher than President Obama.

“You have an approval rating that’s like 85-90%,” Stewart told the First Lady. “You’re ice cream!”

“I’m vegetables,” Mrs. Obama corrected.

Obama Awards Highest Honor to Toni Morrison, Dolores Huerta [Photos]

Obama Awards Highest Honor to Toni Morrison, Dolores Huerta [Photos]

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the Nation’s highest civilian honor—to 13 individuals who have made meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. This year’s recipients include cultural icons like Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison, as well as Dolores Huerta, who cofounded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez.

At the ceremony held Tuesday, the President said:

Together, the honorees on this stage, and the ones who couldn’t be here, have moved us with their words; they have inspired us with their actions. They’ve enriched our lives and they’ve changed our lives for the better. Some of them are household names; others have labored quietly out of the public eye. Most of them may never fully appreciate the difference they’ve made or the influence that they’ve had, but that’s where our job comes in. It’s our job to help let them know how extraordinary their impact has been on our lives. And so today we present this amazing group with one more accolade for a life well led, and that’s the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Ex-Rutgers Student Dharun Ravi Convicted of Spying on Roommate Apologizes, Heads for Jail Thursday

Ex-Rutgers Student Dharun Ravi Convicted of Spying on Roommate Apologizes, Heads for Jail Thursday

Former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi convicted of using a webcam to spy on his male roommate kissing another man just days before the roommate committed suicide publicly apologized on Tuesday for the first time.

Dharun Ravi said in a statement issued through his lawyer he was sorry for what he called his “thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices.”

TAGS: Dharun Ravi

Arson Attack Suspected in New Orleans Women’s Clinic Fire

Arson Attack Suspected in New Orleans Women's Clinic Fire

A New Orleans health center with a focus on community health education and outreach for women and transgender people was destroyed in a suspicious fire early Friday morning. The Women With A Vision office’s worst damage was concentrated in room where the group stored all of the resources they use to educate their community and the organization’s leaders are calling it a hate crime.

According to the Women With A Vision website their mission is to improve the lives of marginalized women, their families, and communities by addressing the social conditions that hinder their health and well-being. Deon Haywood, executive director of Women With a Vision told the Times Picayune her clients are people who are the least likely to be helped by other groups — poor, often homeless, working in the sex trade, and previously incarcerated.

Haywood went on to point out their Mid-City office is often the first stop for women just released from Orleans Parish Prison.

“They really help the people no one else will,” Bill Quigley, an attorney for the organization told the Times Picayune. He described it as a hate crime.

Quiqley pointed out a laptop computer and a television were stolen but many other items were left behind that would likely have been taken if the motive were purely robbery. Quigley described the event to the Times Picayne as a hate crime.


New Video Attack Stokes Sex-Selective Abortion Panic

New Video Attack Stokes Sex-Selective Abortion Panic

On Tuesday, anti-abortion activist Lila Rose’s group Live Action released a highly edited “undercover sting” video that claims Planned Parenthood is facilitating gender selective abortions.

Live Action claims U.S. census data and national vital statistics illustrate sex-selection is a growing problem in the United States but MediaMatters points out Centers for Disease Control data from 2008 that says 91.4% of abortions were performed before the 13th week of pregnancy, before gender is identifiable.

‘Awkward Black Girl’ Season 2 to Premiere on Pharrell Williams’ YouTube

'Awkward Black Girl' Season 2 to Premiere on Pharrell Williams' YouTube

The second season premiere of the highly acclaimed series”Awkward Black Girl” premieres on June 14th, 2012.

There aren’t too many details about the partnership but the series that has historically been posted on to creator Issa Rae’s YouTube channel will now move to Pharell Williams’ i am OTHER YouTube channel.

i am OTHER’s manifesto: > Brought to you by Pharrell Williams, i am OTHER is a new channel and cultural movement dedicated to Thinkers, Innovators and Outcasts—in short, OTHERS. Our programs explore the pursuit of individuality, the defiance of expectations, and the arrival of a new class of visionaries. Be one of us. Be OTHER.

Calif. School District Bans Mexican Slur Used to Bully Indigenous

Calif. School District Bans Mexican Slur Used to Bully Indigenous

Located about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Oxnard boasts some of the richest agricultural land in the state and a result, a large number of immigrant farmworkers. Last week the Oxnard School District unanimously passed a resolution prohibiting derogatory terms used by Latinos against indigenous Mexicans.

The district denounced the terms “Oaxaquita,” which translates to “little Oaxacan,” and “indito,” or “little Indian” referring to the indigenous people from Mexico’s Oaxaca state.

A 2008 USDA report estimated that up to 30 percent of California’s farmworkers are from an Indigenous-speaking town or village in Mexico. Local organizers in Ventura County—where Oxnard is located—tell the LA Times there is an estimated 20,000 indigenous Mexicans in the county, many of them Mixtec from the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero.

Texas Judge Throws Working High School Student in Jail

Texas Judge Throws Working High School Student in Jail

Last Wednesday a Texas judge arrested a 17-year-old teen for missing school. But Houston’s KHOU covered the story, shared some more context and it turns the young woman is actually an extraordinary student who works tireslessly to support two siblings.

Dianne Tran says her parents divorced and left Houston “out of the blue” leaving her to support an older brother at Texas A&M University and a baby sister who lives with relatives. Tran currently lives with one of her employers—she has a full time job at a dry cleaners, works at a vineyard on weekends and goes to high school.

Rahm Emmanuel Takes Woman’s Phone - To Give Her a Job Reference

Rahm Emmanuel Takes Woman's Phone - To Give Her a Job Reference

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on the train on his way back from a press conference when he realized he was sitting next to a woman who was on a telephone interview. He surprised her with an on the spot job reference.

TAGS: Chicago Jobs

Asian Americans Suffer Most from Long-Term Unemployment

Share of unemployed who have been unemployed 27 weeks or more, by race and ethnicity, 2010-2011asian-unemployment.png (EPI)

For the past two years, Asian Americans have had the highest share of unemployed workers who were unemployed long term (for more than half a year) when compared with white, black, and Latino workers—despite having higher education levels than these other racial/ethnic groups. The new study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) also found highly educated Asian Americans continue to have a higher overall unemployment rate than similarly educated whites.

The new data show that 2011 was largely a continuation of the Asian American unemployment situation from 2010. 

EPI’s latest study is a supplement to the previously released “Unfairly Disadvantaged?” report that presented 2011 the most up-to-date yearly unemployment data available for Asian American workers.

To read the complete report visit the Economic Policy Institute’s website.

Will Smith is A Riot Grrrl

Will Smith is A Riot Grrrl

You might actually want to go see “Men in Black 3” after you read Will Smith describing why he lets his daughter do anything she wants with her hair.

Parade Magazine asks Smith about Willow hair:

“We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”

Is Glee’s Only Black Cast Member Amber Riley Leaving the Show?

Is Glee's Only Black Cast Member Amber Riley Leaving the Show?

Two weeks ago Amber Riley who plays Mercedes Jones on “Glee” caused a ruckus online when she bid farewell to the whole Glee family. Now she’s changing her story and saying that’s actually not what she was trying to say.

“Just closed a chapter in my life, the only thing I’ve known day in and day out for three years. I’m going to miss the whole Glee family, seeing them everyday! I have so many brothers and sisters now,” Riley wrote on Twitter to her 680,000 followers. “But I am looking forward to a much needed and deserved summer vacation! SCHOOL’S OUT Glee Kids! Let’s play!” she went on to say.

Does that sound like a heartfelt emotional goodbye to you? Her comments to Entertainment Weekly also sounded like her glass was half empty.

“All I know is I’ve been told that I’m a senior and I am graduating,’ Amber told Entertainment Weekly before the Twitter scandal. “If it is my last season, it is what it is. I’ve been given a really great platform to do other things that I love. I’m happy at the place where I am.”

Riley’s tweet about needing a “much needed” summer vacation made a lot of sense to fans of the show because just days before Riley fainted on a red carpet and blamed exhaustion. Industry insiders and those close to the production regularly make comments about the alleged seven day schedules for Glee cast members that include recording songs, acting and practicing dance routines.

Soon after Riley made her comments on Twitter the L.A. Times ran to Fox for a statement but they would neither confirm or deny whether Riley, the only African American regular member of the cast, was leaving the show.

Now Riley is saying it’s all a big misunderstanding

“I was not confirming I was leaving the show. Just stating that I would miss being in the classroom everyday with the cast and that would be changing,” Riley wrote on Twitter recently.

Sounds like she was playing hard to get her contract figured it out though, no? Or like there is a lot more to this story?

Amazon Ditches the Conservative Public Policy Group ALEC

Amazon Ditches the Conservative Public Policy Group ALEC

On Thursday, online retailer Amazon announced at its shareholder meeting that it will cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the right-wing policy group that has worked to suppress the black vote. The announcement came as ColorOfChange, the nation’s largest black online civil rights organization, tried to deliver more than 500,000 petition signatures to the annual meeting.

In response to a shareholder’s question, general counsel Michelle Wilson said Amazon has decided not to renew its membership with ALEC.

“This year, we’ve decided not to renew with ALEC, and it’s because of positions they’ve taken not related to our business,” Wilson said, according to the Seattle Times. 

Thursday’s “announcement marks a major victory for hundreds of thousands of people nationwide who have said they believe in transparency and know that ALEC threatens the ability for everyday people to participate fully in democracy,” ColorOfChange Executive Director Rashad Robinson told “In deciding to part ways with ALEC, Amazon has acknowledged that it can’t in good conscience market its services to Black communities while at the same time handing over customers’ dollars to a right-wing think tank that has worked to suppress the Black vote.”

New Orleans Becomes Largest U.S. City Without Daily Newspaper

Advanced Publications, the group that publishes New Orleans’ Times-Picayune newspaper, announced Thursday it would scale back its printed edition to three days a week and shift its emphasis to online coverage. Similar cost cutting measures are happening across the country but New Orleans will become the largest city without a daily newspaper and many residents still don’t have internet at home.

The cuts come after the paper saw a steep drop in circulation. In 2005, before Hurricane Katrina, the paper had a daily circulation of 261,000; in March of this year, the circulation was 132,000.

According to a 2010 report from the Kaiser Foundation, 36 percent of residents in New Orleans do not have Internet access at home.

The New York Times points out a similar cost-cutting initiatives were recently announced in Alabama — The Birmingham News, The Press-Register of Mobile and The Huntsville Times. They, too, will print only three days a week and undergo staff cuts.

Canadian and Alaskan Indians Show Shell Execs Why Tar Sands Are So Bad

Canadian and Alaskan Indians Show Shell Execs Why Tar Sands Are So Bad

On Tuesday an indigenous delegation from Canada and Alaska presented Shell’s Chairman and Board with a report detailing the human and ecological rights violations they say the company’s operations have brought to their communities. Shell’s Chairman was provided with a copy of “Risking Ruin: Shell’s dangerous developments in the Tar Sands, Arctic and Nigeria,” a report that looks at how Shell’s operations in Canada’s Alberta Tar Sands, Alaska’s Arctic Ocean, Ontario’s Aamjiwnaang First Nation and Africa’s Niger Delta are “destructive.”

The indigenous representatives presented the human and ecological rights violations report to Shell’s Chairman but he declined to address the issue.

“Shell has failed to address our concerns in Canada’s tar sands by not meeting environmental standards, past agreements and refusing to address their impacts to our constitutionally protected treaty rights,” Eriel Deranger, spokesperson and member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, said in a statement. “Shell’s current projects are contributing to the destruction of our traditional territory including vital watersheds and eco-systems. Now they propose to expand projects further degrading our lands and impairing our ability to practice our constitutionally protected rights to hunt, fish, trap and gather in the region.”

Shell has been operating in Alberta’s tar sands since 2003 and now accounts for approximately 20% of overall operations in the region.

To read the “Risking Ruin: Shell’s dangerous developments in the Tar Sands, Arctic and Nigeria” report visit

Four George Zimmerman Witnesses Change Their Stories

Prosecutors released evidence last week that the Sanford Police Department collected on the night of Feb. 26 when George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin. This week attorneys from both sides are asking the court to keep evidence private.

The evidence released last week included news that four key witnesses made major changes in what they say they saw and heard the night Zimmerman fatally shot Martin. Three witnesses changed their stories in ways that may damage Zimmerman. The fourth witness abandoned her initial story, that she saw one person chasing another and now says she saw a single figure running.

It’s unclear how the evidence will affect the case but the Orlando Sentinel has detailed accounts of the witness statements available for further reading.

But today, one week after the evidence was released, both sides in the Trayvon Martin murder case want some evidence kept private until trial.

According to the Washington Post, prosecutors and Zimmerman’s attorneys asked a judge to keep statements Zimmerman gave detectives and the names and addresses of witnesses from being publicly released.

Black Churches Welcome New Latino Communities

Black Churches Welcome New Latino Communities

Between 1970 and 1990 the South LA area went from 80% black and 9% Latino to 50.3% black and 44% Latino. Today, Latinos account for about two-thirds of the residents in the neighborhood and the black churches in the area are being forced to adapt to the changing community.

Churches like the Second Baptist Church, the host of several N.A.A.C.P. conventions and speeches by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, are now part of neighborhoods that are only about 10% black. According to a New York Times story published last month many of the members that could walk to the church now have to listen to the Sunday service on local radio or travel an hour to attend service. And as gas prices continue to rise some black churches have been left with just a dozen members who attend Sunday service.

There’s a Story Behind the Little Boy Who Had a Special Oval Office Moment

There's a Story Behind the Little Boy Who Had a Special Oval Office Moment

In May 2009, 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia was visiting the White House with his father, a former Marine who was leaving his 2-year stint working for the National Security Council as part of the White House staff. The father asked to take a family photo with the president and before they left the Oval Office Jacob had a question for the President.

“I want to know if my hair is just like yours,” Jacob asked Obama, so quietly that the president asked him to repeat his question.

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