Janelle Monáe will be appearing with Ed Norton on the upcoming Halloween edition of Saturday Night Live. Here’s a sneak peek.
In an article published this week on Colorlines, we showed that New York City’s Silicon Alley, the burgeoning East Coast counterpoint to California’s Silicon Valley, continues to be a predominantly white, male industry. We know that people of color are the fastest growing users of everything from smartphones to social media, but they still don’t have a seat at the table when it comes to technology development. Black techies in New York told us they’d long struggled with lack of access to technology careers, which exposed deep-rooted structural issues that block people of color from education, networks, and access to start-up capital needed to create an equitable industry.
And if we needed more proof, an article published yesterday on Business Insider gives a glimpse at the faces of New York tech industry entrepreneurs who are doing “cool things.” Of the 100 people featured, a scant few are people of color. In a city as ethnically and racially diverse, and with the tech sector emerging as the second largest job sector in the city, the lack of racial equity is particularly troubling.
Junot Díaz is teaming up with award-winning graphic novelist Jaime Hernandez to release a deluxe illustrated version of his best-selling short story collection “This Is How You Lose Her.” The release is set to hit bookstores on October 31 and will feature full-page illustrations.
“Honestly, I am over-the-moon giddy,” Diaz told Comic Riffs this week. “I’ve got to tell you, I have never been the kind of person who [marvels] at his own work. I’m never over-the-top happy [about it]. I don’t even have parties … or go out for drinks with friends [when a new book of mine comes out].
Hernandez is known, along with his brothers Gilbert and Mario, as the co-creator of the long-running independent comic “Love and Rockets,” which follows a group of Latina teenagers in the California punk scene.
Díaz talked to the Washington Post about being inspired by Hernandez’s work early on in his writing career. “I discovered ‘Love and Rockets’ in 1987, while I was living in Jersey, during my first year of university [Rutgers],” Díaz said. “What’s sort of important to me is that Jaime and his brother Gilberto have been at the forefront of representing the U.S.-Latino and the Latino experience in a profound and human and complicated way. Back when everyone else was creating shows, these guys were talking about young, bisexual punk-rock girls from Oxnard. That’s the universe I [recognized].”
Hernandez said he had reservations about doing the project. “It was a little frustrating because this was his book,” he told The Post. “When doing something for someone else, I babysit it for a while.” As he read, he made mental sketches; sometimes, he even made physical ones in the margins, “so I wouldn’t forget a certain detail.” (Sometimes, he even had to backtrack; he envisioned Flaca as Latina till Diaz’s reveal that she’s white.)
(Above: Hernandez’s illustration of Alma from “This Is How You Lose Her.” (JUNOT DIAZ & JAIME HERNANDEZ - Riverhead Books )
Atlanta filmmaker Chase Simmons recently produced the documentary “Dear Dad,” which explores the lives of eight gay men of color and their experiences coming out to their fathers. In an interview with HuffPost Live, Simmons says he used the documentary to come out as gay to his own father, and discussed the themes of black masculinity, religion and the challenges faced by single mothers.
Yolo Akili, author of ‘Gay Men’s Sexism and Women’s Bodies,’ discusses what he believes makes it difficult for black men to be openly gay.
“When you’re, particularly, African-American, because of the history of slavery and the history of race in this country, that masculinity is more rigid. So when you come out as a queer person, there’s a way in which historically that’s not connected with blackness or black masculinity. Black masculinity is rigged hard, tough—not what’s typically associated with gayness like vulnerability ad softness It’s hard to circumvent those stereotypes.”
Others interviewed agreed that the stigma around black masculinity made them afraid to come out, and most described parents knowing they were gay but choosing not to discuss the topic. Simmons says he hopes the film will help people heal from negative experiences they’ve had expressing their sexuality within the black community.
(h/t HuffPost Live)
This week over 100 children’s book authors and illustrators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reconsider his testing-driven education reform agenda. The list of signers includes Dr. Maya Angelou and children’s book authors and illustrators like Judy Blume, Judith Viorst and Donald and Nina Crews.
Organized by testing reform advocacy group FairTest, the signers collectively told Obama:
We are alarmed at the negative impact of excessive school testing mandates, including your Administration’s own initiatives, on children’s love of reading and literature. Recent policy changes by your Administration have not lowered the stakes. On the contrary, requirements to evaluate teachers based on student test scores impose more standardized exams and crowd out exploration.
Teachers, parents and students agree with British author Philip Pullman who said, “We are creating a generation that hates reading and feels nothing but hostility for literature.” Students spend time on test practice instead of perusing books. Too many schools devote their library budgets to test-prep materials, depriving students of access to real literature. Without this access, children also lack exposure to our country’s rich cultural range.
Indeed, the hallmark of Obama’s education reform agenda has been his aggressive expansion of test-based accountability measures. Under Obama, tests now matter more. Standardized tests can determine whether school doors stay open, a student’s future educational options, and even whether a teacher may keep her job. In response to new state standards and the testing barrage, lawmakers, parents, educators and students around the country have spoken out against overtesting with legislation, boycotts, and protests.
Which leaves just one question. President Obama, are you really going to ignore Maya Angelou?
Over the past year more than 300 abortion restriction bills have been introduced in states across the nation. Among them are bans on post 20-week abortions that have been approved in 12 states, most recently in Texas where a lawsuit was just filed to block the new legislation. This week the ACLU published a comic created by artist Jen Sorensen that illustrates the tactics used by legislators to get these laws passed. Check out the full illustration below.
On November 5, “Degrassi: The Next Generation” star Andrea Lewis will launch a new web series called “Black Actress” that promises to explore the challenges of being a black actress in a field that continues to lack diverse roles for women of color.
In a recent interview on Oprah’s Next Chapter, actress Viola Davis shared her thoughts on being a black women in the entertaining industry. “We’re in crisis mode as black actresses. Not in the sheer number of roles that are offered, but in the quality of roles,” she says. “When you only have two or three categories for black actresses, it’s a natural instinct. If you throw a piece of cheese into a room full of rats, they’re going to claw at each other.”
Those sentiments seem to resonate with Lewis. In a teaser scene from the series released yesterday, two black actresses are auditioning for the role of a woman named Beatrice in “12 Years a Slave,” who is described as being “very dark-skinned.” The two then get into a playful, albeit profound, debate about whether one of them, who has lighter skin, is right for the part. In the end the part goes to one infamous white so-called “twerker,” and the following conversation exposes the ongoing tensions among black actresses on skin color and competitiveness spurred by lacking roles.
The show, which is co-produced by Issa Rae, is will premier on her YouTube channel.
On Tuesday night Gum Gee Lee, Poon Heung Lee and their daughter removed the last of their belongings from the San Francisco apartment they’d lived in for over 30 years. Their eviction made final, the family had no choice but to leave their home despite weeks of protest from community groups which drew attention from city council members and sympathy from Mayor Ed Lee.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported:
The couple, who lived in the two-bedroom unit with their mentally disabled daughter for 34 years, silently loaded a few belongings into a friend’s car just after 8 p.m. and drove away. Relatives and community volunteers worked until after 11 p.m. moving the family’s furniture and other belongings to a storage center.
Building owner Matthew Miller’s attorney, Jeff Woo, said Miller “had great sympathy for the Lees … and we wish them well.” But he said it was impractical to leave the building as is. Recently upgraded tenant-in-common units in the area regularly sell for upward of $1 million apiece.
The Lee family were the last remaining tenants of an old eight-unit building which the new building’s owner plans to remodel and turn into luxury condos. Under California law, Miller had the right to evict the family. Elderly, living on a fixed income and responsible for the care of a daughter dependent on San Francisco health services oriented toward Asian immigrants, the Lees never had many options.
The Lees’ fight to stay in their home became a symbol of the angry clash between Silicon Valley’s new monied class and longtime, lower-income Bay Area residents who are being pushed out of their homes and businesses.
Even with the $22,000 relocation fees they’ll be receiving from Miller, they’ve still yet to find a permanent place to live. “We thought we’d live here until we passed away,” Gum Gee Lee told the San Francisco Chronicle. “And now this. It is all so sad.”
Students at a Fort Worth, Texas elementary school say a music teacher called the class stupid and then separated black and white students. Speaking to a CBS 11 News reporter, parent Sandra Lee, whose child attends Hazel Harvey Peace Elementary School, said her daughter explained to her that the music teacher then told the black students, “I know where y’all are from,” adding that he could somehow tell that the black children don’t “get punished at home.” Some students also say they were made to leave the classroom.
Parents say that school administrators never informed them about the incident involving the teacher last Friday—who remains anonymous. Lee approached administrators on Monday, and was told they were looking into what happened.
(h/t Black Media Scoop)
Many pundits have surmised that race played a significant role in why Republicans allowed the federal government to shutdown over whether to fund Obamacare. Our own Imara Jones explored the racial impacts of the shutdown pointing out that people of color constituted a larger portion of the federal workforce than the general workforce, He also argued: “As the parts of the government affected by the shutdown disproportionately impact economic opportunity programs for the working poor, historically marginalized communities are likely to the feel the effects of a shutdown acutely as time goes on.”
This week, Brown University political scientist Michael Tesler took a stab at quantifying just how much race was a factor in the actual decisions of lawmakers to let the government shutter. By utlizing the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study and the Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project, which in combination surveyed almost 100,000 people on levels of racial resentment, Tesler was able to make a convincing case that some pro-shutdown Republicans may have been motivated by racism. The House members who represent districts with high levels of racial resentment were the least likely to vote for a deal that would have averted a shutdown, according to his study.
Even after controlling for things like partisanship, ideology and religion, Tesler found the same results. Alternately, high racial resentment levels per district did not stop those districts’ representatives from voting to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act. Tesler’s conclusion: “It appears, then, that the relationship between district-level racial resentment and the shutdown vote was not merely politics as usual.”
Check the graph below, where the vertical axis shows the probability that a Republican House member voted to end the shutdown, while the horizontal axis shows the level of racial resentment found in congressional districts. It’s the bottom, right corner of the graph you want to pay attention to, showing low probability of voting to end the shut down and high levels of racial resentment.
Most parents cherish the time that their young children spend napping. But Queenie Liao, an artist and mother of three young boys, decided to put herself to work. Liao created a series of photos that imagine her baby’s dreams and then brings them to life. The artist used stuffed animals and household materials to stage the photos. Check ‘em out.
(h/t Bored Panda)
The YouTube Video Awards are coming up on November 3 and they’re sort of a big deal. The video service has long been a place to discover new, often unsigned, artists such as Justin Bieber. But for artists of color, YouTube has been as especially important venue to share and distribute new music and videos. The awards show promises to be a kind of Netflix-like party-crasher to the business of traditional awards by using data gathered over the past 12 months to determine nominees.
But when those nominations were finally released, they looked very similar to other awards shows with artists like Miley Cyrus, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and Macklemore nominated for top spots (see the full list of nominations here). At least two prominent black artists — Flying Lotus and Tyler, the Creator — have spoken up publicly to say that the awards don’t do enough to showcase innovative artists who don’t have major labels backing their work. Tyler, who is ironically slated to perform at the awards ceremony at New York City’s Pier 36, took to Twitter to rail against the awards’ focus on what he called “teeny bopper shit.”
Flying Lotus also took his complaints to Twitter. “If it’s all about hits sure I get it but let’s be fair. YouTube award nominations clearly don’t care about cutting edge/innovation. They had an opportunity to shine a light on all the artists that they helped to gain notoriety just to shit on them for uber famous acts. No disrespect to the nominees yadda yadda.”
(h/t Consequence of Sound)
TV on the Radio frontman Tunde Adebimpe sat down for the latest installment of Rookie Magazine’s “Ask a Grown Man” column in which he responds to a teenager’s question about how to ask a cutie out. When Jennifer from Minneapolis asks if a friend who made her a mixtape is in love with her, Adebimpe responds, “”Well… if he actually made you a cassette tape, and played songs and recorded them onto a physical cassette tape, then he is absolutely and completely in love with you. Because who does that?” Seriously.
Dressed in a blue hoodie and carrying a toy rifle, 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot and killed by two Sonoma County Deputies yesterday on his way home from school in Santa Rosa, Calif. The case is still under investigation, but in press conference following the shooting the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department said only one Deputy fired his weapon at least one time, though people in a nearby neighborhood say they heard as many as seven shots fired.
Deputies say they shouted at the boy to put down his weapon, which they mistakenly thought was a genuine AK-47 assault rifle, and that instead of doing so Lopez turned toward them. Their names have not yet been released, but both have both been put on temporary paid leave.
Family and friends brought flowers and stuffed animals to the site where he was killed, which was just one third of a mile away from his house, and the superintendant of his school district released a statement saying Lopez was a good student who well-liked by schoolmates and members of his basketball team. It’s beyond tragic to hear of yet another incident where a young man of color, again unarmed, again walking in his neighborhood, becomes the victim of excessive force. Sonoma County is not far away from Oakland, Calif. where Oscar Grant was shot and killed by police in 2009, and it begs the question what it will take for police and average citizens alike in the U.S. to stop and think before using deadly force.
Ohio University’s Students Teaching About Racism (STARS) is out with another reminder to not be a racist idiot this Halloween. The students began making posters with the slogan “We’re a culture, not a costume” as a public awareness tactic to draw attention to degrading and racist Halloween costumes back in 2011 and followed up last year with another set of reminders.
On Tuesday evening the Tucson Unified School District’s governing board rescinded a 2012 ban of seven books taught in the district’s now-shuttered Mexican-American Studies program, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
The books were banned universally across the district, and were still available in school libraries, Tucson Weekly reported. Teachers who taught under the Mexican-American studies banner were barred from teaching from the books, which were boxed up and removed from those teachers’ classrooms.
Now they’ll have the option of bringing them back. The books are:
• “Critical Race Theory” by Richard Delgado
• “500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures” edited by Elizabeth Martinez
• “Message to Aztlan” by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales
• “Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement” by Arturo Rosales
• “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos” by Rodolfo Acuña
• “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire
• “Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years” by Bill Bigelow.
The decision came after a 3-2 board vote. The two “no” votes came from Mark Stegeman and Michael Hicks, the board’s two white men. Board members Adelita Grijalva, Cam Juarez and Kristel Ann Foster voted in favor of dropping the book ban.
This post has been updated since publication.
In 17 U.S. states, the majority of public school students are low-income. But the poverty isn’t distributed evenly across the country, according to a new report from Southern Education Foundation. Thirteen of the states are in the South, and the other four are in the West.
The situation is dire. Researchers measure the landscape by the numbers of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, a rough proxy for gauging poverty. Students are eligible for free or reduced meals if their family household income is 185 percent beneath the poverty threshold. In 2011, a student from a single-parent home with an annual income of $26,956 or less would qualify for free or reduced lunch. In Mississippi, 71 percent of public school students qualify for free and reduced lunch. In New Mexico it’s 68 percent; in California 54; in Texas it’s 50 percent.
The recession that began in 2008 certainly exacerbated trends, but childhood poverty is a problem much older than the recession. Between 2001 and 2011, the numbers of children in public schools who classified as low-income grew 32 percent, or by some 5.7 million kids. As a result, by 2011 low-income students made up nearly half of all public school students.
While 30 percent of white students attend schools where the majority of students are low-income, 68 percent of Latino students attend schools classified as such. And 72 percent of black public school students go to schools where the majority of students are low-income.
A new video takes a look inside the California Department of Corrections’ practice of solitary confinement, which inmates staged a hunger strike in response to earlier this year.
“Solitary confinement has been in the news for months now,” says Colorlines alum Jorge Rivas who’s doing big things over at Fusion, the English-language joint venture between ABC News and Univision that launches on October 28. “First there was the hunger strike that 30,000 California inmates participated in to call attention to indefinite solitary confinement. Most recently a women hung herself and the latest is the U.N. rapporteur is speaking out against the conditions and wants access to the prisons.”
Macklemore’s “Same Love” has been one of the most popular tracks of the year for its embrace of same-sex marriage. But when openly queer rapper Angel Haze decided to do a remix of the song, she admittedly “freaked out” because it hit so close to home.
She raps, “At age 13 my mother knew I wasn’t straight/ She didn’t understand but she had so much to say/ She sat me on the couch, looked me straight in my face/ She said, ‘You’ll burn in hell or probably die of AIDS,” and she closes with the declaration: “No, I’m not gay/ No, I’m not straight/ And I sure as hell am not bisexual/ Damn it, I am who I am when I am it.”
Haze later told her followers on Twitter, “I’ve been struggling with myself a bit and like, I don’t know. If you guys would like to hear it. I would like for you to.”
Spike Lee’s 1989 film, “Do the Right Thing,” has been ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 American films of all time. It’s hard to believe that it was released 25 years ago, but the director and cast recently got together for a “Good Morning America” special to talk about its impact throughout the years.
In the clip from Shadow & Act’s Tambay Obensen, Lee says that there’s a Broadway musical of “Do the Right Thing” in the works.