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NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

In Los Angeles, 87 Percent of Public School Libraries Lack a Librarian

In Los Angeles, 87 Percent of Public School Libraries Lack a Librarian

What’s a school library without a librarian? For many Los Angeles public school students, it’s a locked room they can’t enter. New figures reported by KPCC this morning show that nearly half of Los Angeles public school libraries have no trained staffers to run them, and 87 percent of school libraries lack a credentialed librarian.

KPCC reports:

In a district of 768 schools libraries, there are only 98 librarians to teach students how to find information, select a text or coordinate reading programs. Even adding library aides to the mix, 332 school libraries do not have staff.

Without librarians or library aides, many principals have been forced to keep libraries locked or run them illegally with parent volunteers or other school site staff. California law does not allow fill-ins for trained library staff.

The figures come on the heels of the district’s decision to double down on its investment in iPads—the district set aside another $115 million to expand its iPad initiative across the district. The initial iPad rollout has already cost $1 billion. Los Angeles isn’t alone in slashing its school libraries. In Philadelphia, the Bay Area, Oregon, Illinois and New York, when money gets tight—or priorities shift—school libraries are usually on the list of early eliminations.

Is White Still Right?

Is White Still Right?

Lightening dark spots is one thing but the supposed before-after transformation attributed to new skin lightening cream, “Whitenicious,” is shocking. And according to Nigerian-Cameroonian singer Dencia, her new milk-white look is helping to move product. “Whitenicious just sold out. Wow, restocking and will have more products by January 10th…,” says a Tweet sent on January 6, what appears to be the day of the product’s debut. 

Either folks from Nigeria to Brooklyn are fed up with their lifetime supply of Ambi, or Dencia is a smart marketer. Whatever the business strategy, the singer’s new appearance sparks a still very necessary conversation about skin color, attractiveness and upward mobility. A Nigerian-American explains the popularity of skin lighteners in Nigeria this way:

“There’s a different treatment and desirability factor in Africa for lighter skinned women, well beyond what we experience in the US,” he tells Clutch. “It’s an epidemic. You can’t walk a day in the streets of Lagos without seeing someone who has/is bleached. The possible benefits (more respect, increased desirability to men) outweigh the consequences, especially in a male-dominated society where women’s “independence” is frowned upon….”

But it’s not just Nigeria, India or the Caribbean where this conversation strikes gold. According to a new small study from San Francisco State University, “educated” black men are remembered as appearing lighter-skinned than they actually are. Researchers ran two pictorial experiments with 125 college student in one, 35 in the other. Both groups participated for college credit. Findings suggest to researchers that, “Black individuals who defy social stereotypes might not challenge social norms sufficiently but rather may be remembered as lighter, perpetuating status quo beliefs.”

(h/t Jezebel and Clutch)

‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘20 Feet From Stardom’ Among This Year’s Oscar Nominations

'12 Years a Slave,' '20 Feet From Stardom' Among This Year's Oscar Nominations

The awards season continues to be kind to “12 Years a Slave.” The film is nominated for a best picture award and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o are up for best actor and best supporting actress awards, respectively. Director Steve McQueen is also up for a best director award.

Also of note: “20 Feet From Stardom,” Morgan Neville’s excellent documentary about backup singers, is up for a best documentary award. And Jeremy Scahill’s “Dirty Wars” is also up for an award in the same category.

Despite “12 Years a Slave’s” presence on this year’s awards circuit, Hollywood’s biggest stage is still overwhelmingly white. My colleague Stacia L. Brown recently wrote over at Salon that people of color are still often snubbed when it comes to actually winning in the big categories.

See the full Oscar nod list over at the Los Angeles Times.

Justin Bieber Faces Possible Deportation for Egging Crimes

Justin Bieber Faces Possible Deportation for Egging Crimes

It doesn’t take much to become deportable. Just ask Justin Bieber. The pop star, who’s facing felony charges for allegedly egging his neighbor’s Calabasas, Calif., mansion to the tune of $20,000 in damage, could face deportation if convicted. The damage from Bieber’s alleged vandalism exceeded $400, which makes it a felony—and felony convictions become deportable offenses, Fox News reported.

Of course a decent attorney, which Bieber can certainly afford, will try to get his charges dropped or lowered to a misdemeanor. Bieber also happens to live in California, which limits immigration enforcement’s involvement with the criminal justice system thanks to the TRUST Act, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in October. The law should limit the numbers of those who are swept into deportation proceedings as a result of a brush with the law.

But it’s worth keeping in mind that non-citizen U.S. residents have been deported for much less than what Bieber’s being accused of here. Getting caught with a blunt, peeing in public, accidentally identifying oneself as a citizen instead of a permanent resident—these are the kinds of extremely minor infractions which the U.S. has used as catalysts to deport hundreds of thousands of non-citizens and undocumented immigrants every year. In fact, the vast majority of those the U.S. has deported in recent years have no criminal record, and among those who were deported for committing a crime, the vast majority of those convictions were for non-violent offenses. So good luck, Bieber!

(h/t @prernaplal)

Kanye West Sues Amazon Over ‘Coinye West’ Currency

Kanye West Sues Amazon Over 'Coinye West' Currency

Kanye West is angry again, but this time he’s got good reason. Amazon’s part of the new fad of digital currency (aka “cryptocurrency”) and there was a strand of it going around named “Coinye West.” 

West has filed has accussed the online retailer of trademark infringement. According to The Hollywood Reporter:

The hip-hop artist has filed a lawsuit, looking to hold liable those who have tendered the digital money. If he wins the lawsuit alleging publicity rights and trademark violations, he could get some cold, hard cash — a.k.a. the Benjamins (no disrespect intended to Mr. Franklin).

[snip]

In his complaint filed in New York federal court, West says that consumers are likely to mistakenly believe that he is the source of the cryptocurrency. The lawsuit provides examples of tweets like the one fromChristopher Hudson, who wrote, “Move over #Bitcoin, @kanyewest now has his own cryptocurrency called @CoinyeWest.”

The hardest part for West and his legal team will be identifying the anonymous consumers who have exchanged “Coinye” currency. But the suit alleges that Amazon is encouraging and contributing to websites’ use of “Coinye.”

 

Study: AP Computer Science Test-takers Overwhelmingly Male, White

Study: AP Computer Science Test-takers Overwhelmingly Male, White

A new national study of 2013 AP Computer Science test takers found that it’s not just the professional tech world that’s an overwhelmingly white and male arena. The tech education pipeline is the same as well. In eight U.S. states, not one Latino student took 2013’s AP Computer Science exam, and zero black students took the exam in 11 states. Meanwhile zero female students took the test in three U.S. states. Altogether, it meant that in Mississippi and Montana, not a single female, black or Latino student took the exam. The figures come from a study released in December by Barbara Ericson, the director of computing research and a senior researcher at Georgia Tech University.

“We were not surprised by Barbara Ericson’s findings because unfortunately, computing courses have historically been dominated by white, male students,” the College Board told Education Week. Our dominant culture sells technology and science as a white and male pursuit, it’s true. But the flipside is that high-level science and computing courses—the kind which encourage students not just to do their homework on iPads but to understand how computers work in the first place—are typically not pitched as girl-friendly, or even offered in the underresourced schools where students of color are concentrated. 

The distribution is only ever so slowly improving, but for black students in particular, it’s worsening. In 2006, girls were 17 percent of AP Computer Science exam takers and made up 18.5 percent of the students taking the 2013 test. Black students were less than 5 percent of 2006’s AP Computer Science exam takers and just 3.6 of those who took the exam last year. Latino students were 7.6 percent in 2006, and 8.1 percent of 2013’s test-takers. In 2006 Asian-American students were a fifth of the national test-taking pool and last year they were 28.6 percent. White students were 58 percent of the 2006 test-takers and 54 percent of the test-taking pool. 

(h/t Education Week)

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Perform ‘Can’t Hold Us’ on NYC Bus

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Perform 'Can't Hold Us' on NYC Bus

Let the Grammy promos begin. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the Seattle-based MC and producer combo behind the 2013 smash hit Grammy-nominated album “The Heist,” brought their signature style to an unconventional New York Cityl location: a bus. Check out the video and let us know what you think.

(Via The Hollywood Reporter)

‘The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975’ is Coming to You in Book Format

'The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975' is Coming to You in Book Format

“The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975,” the powerful 2011 documentary by Sweedish filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson that used archival footage of America’s black power movement, is coming to audiences in book format. It features a preface written by Danny Glover and new work from Angela Davis.

Haymarket Books will publish the project on February 4. It will include historical speeches and interviews with some of the era’s most important figures, including Stokely Carmicheal (Kwame Ture), Angela Davis, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, and Huey P. Newton along with contemporary commentary from today’s prominent black artists like Talib Kweli and Erykah Badu.

You can pre-order your copy on Amazon.

(h/t Shadow and Act)

Filmmaker Raises Funds for ‘NAMI,’ a Story About Her Mother’s Mourning

Filmmaker Raises Funds for 'NAMI,' a Story About Her Mother's Mourning

Masami Kawai is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker who has created a role that only her mother, who is a Japanese immigrant, can play—and she’s raising $10,000 to do it. But the film, which was inspired by Kawai’s mother following the death of her father, is aiming to do a lot more:

“For me, this stands as an important representation of a character that usually goes unnoticed in our society. Sometimes we see older immigrant women as grandmas or workers, but rarely do they get to be a protagonist with their own struggles and triumphs. It’s important to me to create nuanced immigrant characters for the screen.”

Kawai originally set her fundraising goal to produce the film, called NAMI, at $7,000. When supporters hit that mark, she stretched it to $10,000 to help with costs for post-production and festival submissions. With just 15 hours to go at press time, Kawai needs to raise just $580 to make this film a reality.

Court Rules Against Open Internet, Strikes Down Net Neutrality

Court Rules Against Open Internet, Strikes Down Net Neutrality

So much for an open Internet. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled against the Federal Communications Commisssion’s (FCC) mandates that internet service providers treat all online traffic equally. The FCC had originally voted in favor of these rules, known as net neutrality, back in 2010.

From USA Today:

Supporters of Net Neutrality took some good away from the decision, noting that it established the FCC’s power to create Internet rules. “In some respects, no one got what they wanted out of this decision, and confusion over the proper role of the FCC is greater than ever,” said Public Knowledge senior vice president Harold Feld in a statement. The consumer interest group intervened on the FCC’s side in the case.

Still, open Internet advocates lamented the court’s decision a step toward turning the internet into a pay-for-play model like cable television. It should also be pointed out that the FCC’s original deicision back in 2010 wasn’t perfect becaue it was largely silent on mobile web traffic, which is fast becoming the way that most users get online. But it was something.

“The compromised Open Internet Order struck down today left much to be desired, but it was a step toward maintaining Internet users’ freedom to go where they wanted, when they wanted, and communicate freely online,” said Craig Aaron, CEO and President of Free Press, in a press release issued Tuesday. “Now, just as Verizon promised it would in court, the biggest broadband providers will race to turn the open and vibrant Web into something that looks like cable TV. They’ll establish fast lanes for the few giant companies that can afford to pay exorbitant tolls and reserve the slow lanes for everyone else.”

Janelle Monáe Performs on Sesame Street

Janelle Monáe Performs on Sesame Street Play

Check out a behind-the-scenes look at Janelle Monáe’s upcoming appearance on Sesame Street.

(Okayplayer)

Dr. Dre Teams Up With AT&T to Beat Spotify, Pandora

Dr. Dre Teams Up With AT&T to Beat Spotify, Pandora

Dr. Dre isn’t satisfied with conquering the world of designer headphones. On January 21, his company will release a new product called Beats Music to compete with Spotify and Pandora. Bloomberg Media points out that Beats isn’t all that different from Pandora, which both rely on human curators to make customized playlists for users. But here’s what sets Beats apart:

Beats has a secret weapon, however, that its chief executive officer announced over the weekend: a deal with AT&T to offer free trial subscriptions as well as a “family plan” for up to five users. Those who like their service will get their monthly Beats Music fee bundled into their wireless bills. According to Billboard, AT&T sees the service as a way to upsell higher-end data plans to customers who suddenly need to stream more and more content.

Combined with the celebrity endorsements and an advertising blitz — Beats Music bought a spot to run during the Super Bowl — the service may be able to use its AT&T connection to attract some new customers and build momentum for its alternative platform. That may not be enough to make any money, however. According to an analyst cited by Bloomberg News, streaming-music services need 5 to 10 million paying subscribers to break even after licensing fees.

Read  more over at Bloomberg.

After wrestling the technology away from a smaller company, Dr. Dre and music mogul Jimmy Iovine turned Beats into one of the most popular music-related brands in the world largely by associating them with high profile athletes like LeBron James. During these NFL playoffs, you’d be hard pressed to see 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick or Seahawks rival Russell Wilson go through pre-game warm-ups or post-game interviews without a customized pair of beats headphones around their necks. ESPN The Magazine detailed this relationship last year and it looks like that’s just the beginning. 

Why Are Conservatives Hating On Obama’s Navigators?

Why Are Conservatives Hating On Obama's Navigators?

Conservatives have been acting messy about an Affordable Care Act program that trains local residents to find uninsured people in their communities and connect them with ACA resources. The program, called “Champions for Coverage,” has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the NAACP to train and hire so-called navigators who are tasked primarily with helping people of very little income sign up for Medicaid and other ACA benefits. There are over 100 organizations spread across most of the states with this program.

Sounds innocent, right? But since it was launched in August, Republicans at both the state and federal level have tried to peg it as some stealth conspiracy that violates people’s privacy by collecting personal information on potential enrollees.

News reports swirled over the weekend about how the state insurance regulator in Texas is proposing strict rules on the navigator program that would add another 40 hours of trainings to the 20 to 30 hours already mandatory, would cause trainees to have to pay at least $800 to sign up for the work, and would also subject them to a criminal background check and fingerprinting process. This is a far more onerous security check than imposed on a similar navigator program in Texas, but for Medicare (retirees) benefits.

In November, Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio proposed legislation that would require a credit check on top of a criminal background check for navigator applicants. And in December, Rep. Darrel Issa, chairman of the investigative House oversight committee, held a hearing in Dallas that fueled more conspiracy theories around the navigators. All that for a job that’s about just going out to help get people insured?

As navigators sign people up for Obamacare, they may enter people’s information into the Healthcare.gov portal, when they’re not getting them on the phone with a government representative through the ACA hotline. But the navigators don’t keep people’s personal information on file themselves, as Center for Public Policy Priorities senior policy analyst Stacey Pogue explained to the San Antonio Express-News. 

In an op-ed U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius wrote that those who have opposed Obamacare from the beginning are now trying to “stifle, intimidate and impugn” the navigator program. Among the navigators are organizations like the American Medical Association and the National Partnership for Women and Families. It’d be interesting to see if conservatives would be attacking the program the same if it wasn’t aiding civil rights organizations like the NAACP.

Where the New Jobs Are in 2014

Where the New Jobs Are in 2014

North Carolina, where President Obama will speak about the economy on Wednesday, ranks 11th for job growth in 2014. Texas and California lead nationwide, according to new analysis from Moody’s, the global economic forecasting firm.

While Obama is expected to highlight manufacturing during tomorrow’s N.C. State University appearance, construction, healthcare and retail are where the new jobs are—especially out west and in the south. See how your state fares on Stateline.

New Obamacare Enrollee Gender and Age Numbers Released

New Obamacare Enrollee Gender and Age Numbers Released

While the federal government won’t can’t yet release the numbers of Affordable Care Act enrollees broken down by race, this afternoon they provided the gender and age demographics of those who’ve signed up. Highlights from the new report:

  • Nearly 2.2 million (2,153,421) people selected Marketplace plans from Oct. 1 through Dec. 28, 2013
    • These signups in the state and federal marketplaces represent a nearly five-fold increase from October-November, including nearly 1.8 million (1,788,739) people who selected a plan in December (compared with the previous two-month cumulative total of 364,682 through Nov. 30, 2013).
  • Of the almost 2.2. million:
  • 54 percent are female and 46 percent are male;
  • 30 percent are age 34 and under;
  • 24 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34;
  • 79 percent selected a plan with Financial Assistance.

The report also shows that 60 percent of those who’ve grabbed insurance under Obamacare selected the “Silver” plans, as opposed to “Bronze,” “Gold” or “Platinum” plans, all of which correspond to the quality of the care and the out-of-pocket costs one will incur. The “Silver” plans are basically the iPhone 4 of insurance, compared to the iPhone 3 (Bronze), iPhone 5 (Gold) or that iPhone 5s that literally comes in a platinum case signed by Diddy.

As for the youth numbers, they are well below the 40 percent target that the White House set, as explained by Sarah Kliff over at Wonkblog. We still need that racial data on Obamacare insurance, though, and hopefully when it comes out, we won’t find that African-Americans are least likely to have it … like with the iPhone.  

 

Beyoncé Lights the Way for All Her Single Ladies

Beyoncé Lights the Way for All Her Single Ladies

Because of her latest proclamation, lots of folks are again trying to figure out Yoncé’s brand of feminism. While that scintillating debate happens however, Bey does her “Single Ladies” a solid and points the way to a fascinating new survey about the needs and wants of ordinary women of color. One eye-opening highlight: Women of color overwhelmingly want society to adapt to the realities of contemporary family structures.  

Nearly 9 in 10 African American women—87 percent—and more than three quarters of Latina women—76 percent—agree with the statement, “Government should set a goal of helping society adapt to the reality of single-parent families and use its resources to help children and mothers succeed regardless of their family status.” 

The survey of 3,500 Americans by the Center for American Progress is noteworthy because it oversamples for African American and Latina views. Check it out, as well as its companion, the third annual Shriver Report about the state of all American women. That’s where you’ll find Bey’s essay, “Gender Equality is a Myth!”

Watch This Toddler Meet Her Dad’s Identical Twin for the First Time

Watch This Toddler Meet Her Dad's Identical Twin for the First Time

Here’s your daily dose of cuteness. 

TAGS: Kids Video

Questlove Reflects on Amiri Baraka’s Legacy

Questlove Reflects on Amiri Baraka's Legacy

Over at the New York Times, Questlove reflects on Amiri Baraka’s constant quest to merge culture and social change.

When he wrote “Blues People” and “Milneburg,” the apogee of American music was bebop. When I read “Blues People” and “Milneburg,” it was hip-hop. But Mr. Baraka was onto something. People sniffing around art that’s trying to change society, and then dabbing on the scent of that art so that they, too, can seem like they’re part of the solution — that’s as much of a danger as it’s ever been.

The Roots recorded with Mr. Baraka once. It was for our “Phrenology” album, in 2002, which was titled for the absurd, discredited science of taking a measure of a man’s character by feeling his head. The album was also about racial profiling, social Darwinism, and hip-hop itself: If you’re a hip-hop head, what can you expect from the world, and what can the world expect from you?

It’s an important tribute from a contemporary black artist who’s grappling with the legacy of another. Read the rest over at the Times.

Watch Video of CeCe McDonald’s Release From Prison

Watch Video of CeCe McDonald's Release From Prison Play

CeCe McDonald, a transgender woman who spent 41 months in prison after stabbing a man who attacked her, has finally been freed from prison. Here’s video that we obtained of McDonald walking from the prison alongside a small group of supporters, including actress Laverne Cox.

Where is the Racial Data on Obamacare Enrollees?

Where is the Racial Data on Obamacare Enrollees?

So, here’s what we know about those who’ve enrolled for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act: As of December 31, over two million people have signed up through the market exchanges, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

This is a huge improvement over the 106,000 who enrolled in the first month the state and federal marketplaces were opened for business, somewhat in haste, in October. 

This progress is credited mostly to the Obama administration’s dogged attempts to fix the many problems with Healthcare.gov, the primary web portal for health insurance shopping. But there are still many unresolved issues with the website, along with those created by each state for purchasing plans.

But while the number of enrollees are increasing, what we don’t know is how many Africa-Americans, Latinos Asians and Native Americans now have plans. We know that there are millions of uninsured black Americans who qualify for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and other forms of financial assistance, but we don’t know how many of them have been able to actually benefit from them.

When asked for this data, an HHS spokesperson said that this aggregation hadn’t been done yet.

“For our first two reports, we shared metrics which provided the most accurate snapshot available of Marketplace enrollment-related activity. We will provide additional metrics when we are able to do so,” said HHS’s Sherice Perry Dillard by email.

Asked for a timeline on when the racial breakdowns might be available, Dillard couldn’t say, but pointed out that applicants are not obligated to include their race or ethnicity when signing up.

The racial checkbox is voluntary on most, if not all applications. It seems that the government agency could track or collect racial data on those enrollees who at least chose to disclose their race. With over 30 percent of Latinos, almost 21 percent of African-Americans and 18.1 percent of Asian-Americans uninsured, compared to a 11.7 percent uninsurance rate for white Americans, the federal government might want to follow these figures. 

It’s also important to have this information publicly available for advocates who’ve been fighting for better access to adequate healthcare for years. I interviewed with Anita Johnson at KPFA’s “Hard Knock Radio” about this issue in November.  She told me that many uninsured black people in her Oakland and Bay area neighborhoods weren’t reaping the benefits of Obamacare. This is a shame because California is often touted as the state with one of the best functioning Obamacare websites. Racial data would help us determine who the sites are best functioning for. 

TAGS: Obamacare
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