Cal State L.A. Students Push for Ethnic Studies Requirement

Another showdown is brewing over ethnic studies, this time at California State University, Los Angeles, where students are demanding that the administration add an ethnic studies requirement to the school’s general education curriculum.

On Tuesday, 75 students showed up to an Academic Senate meeting to make their demands public, arguing that the courses are an important part of developing critical thinking skills in an increasingly multicultural society.

“College students who take an ethnic studies class can go out and uplift their community,” Jelani Hendrix, a 23-year-old Pan-African studies major, told the Los Angeles Times. “They can show that all of us are more alike than different.”

But ethnic studies programs throughout the California State University system, and the country, face tremendous hurdles as universities slash budgets and the programs suffer from dwindling enrollment. Cal State Long Beach recently moved to reduce the status of its Africana Studies program and a group of faculty from across the 23-campus Cal State system have advocated for a moratorium on proposed changes.

“General education requirements should be open to all departments and programs,” said Gretchen Peterson, chairwoman of the Cal State LA sociology department told the Times. “Ethnic studies should be integrated throughout the curriculum.”

The 55-member academic senate, which includes students and college deans, rejected a similar ethnic studies requirement last month. It’s expected to take up the issue again next week.

In the video below, students and faculty speak out at a press conference in Los Angeles. 

Chicana College Student Claims Police Assaulted Her in Hospital

Chicana College Student Claims Police Assaulted Her in Hospital

In March of 2012, Aloni Bonilla was pulled over by a local police officer for suspicion of driving under the influence. After police escorted her to the hospital for a blood sample after a breathalyzer at the scene found traces of alcohol in her system. What happened next, which Bonilla chronicled in a video she posted to YouTube last year, is the now the subject of an appeal before the L.A. County Superior Court. Here’s more from Jorge Rivas at Fusion:

Bonilla claims the 20-minute video uploaded to the video sharing site shows the officer using excessive force and contradicts statements made in the police report. She took the officer to court to dispute the charges in the police report that Bonilla says the video proves are false.

The officer contends that Bonilla waved her arms around and approached him to try to head butt him. The video shows the CHP officer pushing Bonilla against the wall and then forcing her to the floor. He then pins Bonilla down with his knee.

Bonilla ended up with a black eye from hitting a wall-mounted medical device, according to court documents. Today, she has five slipped discs in her spine and neck she says were a result from the altercation with the officer.

Bonilla, who at the time was a math major at Cal State Los Angeles, was charged with and convicted of vandalism, resisting arrest and failure to provide a driver’s license. She’s appealing her conviction and the judges who heard her case are expected to make a decision in the next two weeks. 

Watch Now: Jordan Davis Murder Trial Live

Watch Now: Jordan Davis Murder Trial Live

Accused murderer, Michael Dunn is currently being cross-examined by a Florida prosecutor. Follow this link to watch live. Add your Tweets to hashtag #DunnTrial.

Michael Dunn is accused of shooting and killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis a day after Thanksgiving in 2012, at a Jacksonville gas station. The shooting following an argument in which Dunn complained about loud hip-hop music coming from Davis’s friend’s car.

E.J. Johnson Brings His Bold Black Masculinity to the Wendy Williams Show

E.J. Johnson Brings His Bold Black Masculinity to the Wendy Williams Show

It’s been a while since we heard from 21-year-old fashionista E.J. Johnson, NBA legend Magic Johnson’s son. E.J.’s coming out story, coupled with the fact that he has his parents’ very public support and his bold approach to black masculinity, has been one part of the conversation about LGBT folks in the sports world. On Monday, E.J. was a guest on Wendy Williams show, where he talked about coming out, accessorizing, and obsessing over Lupita Nyong’o’s fashion tastes. 

The Revolutionary Workout That Every Black Body in America Needs

The Revolutionary Workout That Every Black Body in America Needs

Tired of the same old workout routine? Is Nike Training club just not cutting it for you anymore? Then try Andia Winslow and Monique Walton’s new Legacy Workout, which boasts Tuskeegee crunches, Shirley (Chisholm and Jackson) pushups, and house cleaner/child rearer ab rolls. 

The Legacy Workout is dedicated to the memory of bodies of work. Of bodies at work. And at play. Of minds committed to mining greatness, to combating injustice, to insuring a future for future bodies, and minds. The Legacy Workout is dedicated to legacy makers past, present and future. The black body. The celestial body. The empowered human body, in motion. 

This is not trivial. This is tribute. Each movement reflects a person, a people, or a point in time — an era. Because they dreamed us, because they dreamed of a better place for us —and for themselves— we owe them. We owe it to ourselves to do/be better. To be caretakers of our bodies without which we cannot persist; we cease to exist. Infinity is our limit.

Let the history of black bodies in America be all the inspiration that your daily workout needs.

(h/t Ava DuVernay

Obama to Announce Young Men of Color Initiative

Obama to Announce Young Men of Color Initiative

UPDATE 02/13/2014 AT 5:00PM EST — The White House postponed today’s announcement of the “My Brother’s Keeper,” initiative because of the snowstorm. A new date has not yet been made public.

So that thing for young men of color the president quickly mentioned in one line during his State of the Union speech? It’s almost here. This Thursday, Pres. Obama plans to announce, “My Brother’s Keeper.” The Washington Post describes it as a national initiative that will bring foundations and companies together, “to test a range of strategies,” to support young men of color. The new initiative will be accompanied by, “a more vigorous evaluation of what policies work best.”

Look for more details, including cost and scope, on Thursday. In the run-up to that announcement, a Chicago program, Becoming a Man, is being promoted as a White House-approved model intervention program. 

It is unusual, notes the WP, for this president to focus attention on a relatively narrow demographic group.

Live Chat: What’s Next for White Privilege?

“White privilege.” The term has become so popular over the past few years that our crack team of editors and writers at Colorlines have begun to wonder if its frequent use has lessened its impact. Has the saying, “Check your privilege” outlived its usefulness? And once those who benefit from racial privilege have acknowledged it, what are some practical next steps they can implement to level the playing field and make greater strides toward racial and social justice? 

At 12:30 p.m., host Aura Bogado (@aurabogado) will discuss these questions and others with a knowledgeable panel of activists and educators, including:

Watch live and join us on Twitter to weigh in with your own questions and comments, using the hashtag #whiteprivilegechat

Congress Members Keep Pressure on Washington, DC NFL Team

Congress Members Keep Pressure on Washington, DC NFL Team

Some members of Congress are again pressing the National Football League to support a name change for the Washington, DC NFL team. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in response, it says, to a January 31 press conference in which he called the team name an “honor” for Native Americans.

The letter makes a point of bringing up the NFL’s tax-exempt status.  According to The New York Times, Cantell in an interview Sunday, said, “lawmakers would “definitely” examine the N.F.L.’s tax-exempt status and other ways to pressure the league. “You’re getting a tax break for educational purposes, but you’re still embracing a name that people see as a slur and encouraging it,” [she] said.

Cantwell chairs the Indian Affairs Committee and Cole is a member of the Native American Caucus. Ten members of Congress sent Goodell a similar letter last May.

How Does It Feel to Be a Black Student at UCLA Law School? [Video]

How Does It Feel to Be a Black Student at UCLA Law School? [Video]

Just 33 of roughly 1,100 students at UCLA’s School of Law are black. In a video released today, some of those students spoke about how it affects their daily experience. They speak on what it feels like to sometimes be the only black person in a classroom, and to be extremely visible and yet so isolated. This is just some of what students had to say:

“I get here and I’m one of three black students in my section and I’m told that’s impressive. I get here and I’m told I’m one of 11 black students in my class and that that’s impressive. And I wasn’t impressed.”

“I feel my classmates’ eyes on me, particularly if we’re discussing something that brings race, and especially race and gender, into play. It’s so far from being a safe space that it almost feels like staying at home would be better for my mental health, for myself, than being in class.”

“I’ve never felt the burden before to have to represent my community until I came to law school, and it’s not a good feeling to have.”

Last fall, black undergrads at UCLA made a video of their own decrying the racial demographics at the school. 

This Is Not Laurence Fishburne

But don’t tell that to KTLA reporter Sam Rubin, who embarrassingly confused Samuel L. Jackson with Laurence Fishburne. Jackson’s response, though, was perfect:

“You’re as crazy as the people on Twitter. I am not Laurence Fishburne! We don’t all look alike! We may all be black and famous, but we don’t all look alike. You’re the entertainment reporter for this station and you don’t know the difference between me and Laurence Fishburne? There must be a very short line for your job. Oh, HELL NO. Really? Really? I’m the other guy. The other one. What’s in your wallet?”

Watch it below.

The 1491s Parody the Problematic Song ‘Cherokee’

The 1491s Parody the Problematic Song 'Cherokee'

In 1987, a Swedish heavy metal band named Europe released a single named “Cherokee,” which charted in the US at number 72. The song itself is rather bizarre, and its accompanying video is filled with some pretty basic misunderstandings of history.

Fast-forward 27 years, and the 1491s (performing as the group Turdle Island) are back with a “Cherokee” video parody, which is just as ridiculous—but much funnier—than the original.

Meet Muslim Figure Skater Zahra Lari, Who Performs in Hijab

Meet Muslim Figure Skater Zahra Lari, Who Performs in Hijab

Zahra Lari is an 18-year-old figure skater from the United Arab Emirates who’s known to the folks back home as the “Ice Princess.” This year, she’s already making headlines at the Winter Olympics in Sochi for performing in hijab. In the above video, she explains how she came to figure skating and she approaches being a role model to Muslim women. 

TAGS: Olympics Sochi

Alice Walker Talks Legacy in New PBS Documentary

Alice Walker Talks Legacy in New PBS Documentary

Pratibha Parmar’s new documentary on Alice Walker called “Beauty in Truth” debuted on PBS last week. It’s the first project of its kind to explore Walker’s legacy as a pioneering black womanist writer, and it’s just on time, as Walker celebrated her 70th birthday on February 9.

Parmar told the Daily Beast why it’s so important to capture Walker’s legacy for younger audiences.

There are many reasons why many young people don’t know who Alice Walker is. There’s a deliberate erasure of women history-makers, particularly woman who have been outspoken, and Alice has always been outspoken on so many different issues. There’s also a shocking gender and racial bias in the teaching of history and literature, so that the white male literary canon is always at the top of the reading lists. Unless there are educators who have an awareness and commitment to ensuring that women and especially women of color are represented in their reading lists, the default will always be the white male canon.

So far, the film has gotten great reviews, with the Los Angeles Times noting that, “the praise is more than due, and it isn’t often we get to spend time with a person of such conviction under whose hands words bloom with both beauty and power. But then there really isn’t another person like this. There’s only Alice Walker.”

To see a list of screenings, visit the film’s website.

How Michael Sam’s Coming Out Impacts Every Sports Fan

How Michael Sam's Coming Out Impacts Every Sports Fan

Michael Sam, a top-rated college football player at the University of Missouri and a highly regarded pro prospect, came out of the closet in an exclusive interview with the New York Times over the weekend. It’s a huge deal in the macho world of men’s college sports, and a big step for Sam, who made the announcement weeks before the NFL scouting combine. The move will likely make him the first openly gay active NFL player since Dave Kopay in 1975.

Sam, who was born the seventh of eight children and has known he was gay since the start of his college career, says that he’s received overwhelming support from both his family and his teammates, many of whom knew that he had dated a man on the university’s swim team. But a difficult road lies ahead in the NFL.

From the Times:

“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” said Mr. Sam, who also spoke with ESPN on Sunday. “I just want to own my truth.”

But the N.F.L. presents the potential for unusual challenges. In the past year or so, it has been embroiled in controversies ranging from antigay statements from players to reports that scouts asked at least one prospective player if he liked girls. Recently, Chris Kluwe, a punter, said that he was subject to homophobic language from coaches and pushed out of a job with the Minnesota Vikings because he vocally supported same-sex marriage laws. And last week, Jonathan Vilma, a New Orleans Saints linebacker, said in an interview with NFL Network that he did not want a gay teammate.

Outsports published the behind-the-scenes story of how Sam decided to come out publicly. With the NBA’s Jason Collins and the WNBA’s Brittney Griner paving the way, there’s long been talk of an NFL player coming out of the closet. The tricky part, according to league sources, was finding the right player whose story could resonate with the public. Last month, Sam would up being that guy. And here’s how:

The story had the potential to be the biggest sports story of the year. This wasn’t an active player on the Denver Broncos coming out that affected one team — this was a player who could be drafted by any of the 32 teams. It affected the entire nation, every locker room, every front office, every sports talk show, every sports blog. It would also be a story that resonated throughout the year: later this month at the Combine, next month at Missouri’s Pro Day, in May at the NFL Draft, then again this summer at OTAs, training camp and in September when the NFL season starts. The story would be a marathon, but the timing of the first step was crucial.

It’s a must-read

What to Remember on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, an important reminder of the unique challenges facing the black community in its fight against HIV/AIDS. African-Americans only account or 12 percent of the U.S. population, but make up 47 percent of all of the country’s new HIV infections. Approximately one in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime, as well as one in 32 black women. Today, the Centers for Disease Control released new data on what’s called the “HIV care continuum” showing that among blacks who had been diagnosed with HIV:

* 75 percent were linked to care.

* 48 percent stayed in care.

* 46 percent were prescribed antiretroviral therapy.

* 35 percent achieved viral suppression (i.e., the virus is under control at a level that helps keep people healthy and reduces the changes of transmitting the virus to others).

* Black males had lower levels of care and viral suppression than black females, and those who were younger (under 25) had lower levels than those who were older.

That data paints yet another bleak picture but, as Kali Lindsey writes at The Grio, there’s reason to hope:

Since the beginning of 2014, health insurance programs expanded under the ACA are prohibited from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions, and certain preventive services must now be provided at no cost to the beneficiary, including routine HIV screening. Historically, many people with HIV have been prevented from accessing healthcare services that we now know remain vital for those with HIV and beneficial overall to public health.  Studies have shown initiating HIV treatment as early as possible is in the best interest of those living with HIV, but it also has the added public health benefit of reducing transmission rates if viral suppression can be achieved and sustained.  This is why it is so important that, under the ACA, all plans must provide treatment to people who are HIV positive.

Last year, released a compelling infographic illustrating the multiple risk factors at play in black communities struggling with high HIV infection rates.


New Platform Aims to Show That Life Hacking Isn’t Just for White Men

New Platform Aims to Show That Life Hacking Isn't Just for White Men

The term “life hacking” is everywhere these days. It can mean everything from simple tricks to make your everyday life easier to, supposedly, getting everything you’ve ever wanted by breaking life’s unspoken rules. But as Jen Dziura writes over at Medium, race and gender often determine who’s allowed to break which rules, and too often, “life hacking” becomes another term for “white privilege.”

Brioxy hopes to change all of that. It’s a life design platform — first a website, followed by a mobile app — specifically for young people of color from the Brown Boi Project’s B. Cole. According to its Indiegogo campaign, which ends today, it’ll help those young folks answer questions like:

How do I figure out the right path to the career I want? How do I use science to build my willpower and make things happen? How do I mobilize others to help me pursue my dreams? What are the biggest social media traps? Tired of being pigeon holed around your race or gender—redefine the landscape on your terms. Authenticity and success are possible.

The Indiegogo campaign is trying to raise $25,000 to help build the website, app, and host gatherings on college campuses. Read more about it.

Infographic: Alternatives to School Closures

Infographic: Alternatives to School Closures Infographic

From Detroit to Chicago, Philadelphia to New Orleans, school closures are the reform du jour. Whether the crisis is the onslaught of market-based reforms like in New Orleans and Philadelphia, or unprecedented budget cuts, also in Philly—school districts have been turning to mass closures in recent years. The reforms destabilize neighborhoods and remove crucial community supports for the most vulnerable kids, advocates say. And it’s as yet unclear whether mass school closures and the charter system produce the kinds of educational dividends they promise. 

Check out the Schott Foundation’s Opportunity to Learn campaign infographic in full on the OTL site. (PDF)

Catch up on the Feminism’s Twitter War Debate

Catch up on the Feminism's Twitter War Debate

Repercussions are still unfolding from last week’s cover story in The Nation, “Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars.” Many thought it unfairly targeted a few popular online women of color—but the battle lines don’t break that neatly along the race line. Catch up on the debate and the latest with yesterday’s “Tell Me More” segment, featuring writer Michelle Goldberg and her article’s representative “mean girl,” Mikki Kendall. Later, Kendall started the #LessToxicFeminism hashtag on Twitter, which inspired hundreds of replies over a 15-hour period. Check it out and per Kendall’s original direction, add your understanding of how less toxic feminism would work.

Today, fresh discussion continues. Jennifer Pan, in Jacobin Magazine, looks at the unpaid labor of producing social media and says:

“…it should similarly concern us that that black women and other women of color could likely have the monopoly on doing the hard work of social justice organizing on Twitter without remuneration, sometimes literally for hours a day.”

Matt Bruenig often blogs about class and he goes further with Pan’s focus on opportunities for remuneration, or lack thereof. It’s “overdetermined,” he writes, that poor kids will not make it into media jobs. They’re locked out not only by unpaid internships, but by a lack of credentials. So when it comes to platform and big microphones, rich kids stay winning.

What’s your take?

Keystone XL Sorta, Kinda Has a Job for You

Keystone XL Sorta, Kinda Has a Job for You

This week the State Department opened a public comment period on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil daily from the Canadian tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast for refining. Critics say that the project threatens Native communities, while supporters argue that it’ll bring much-needed jobs (For more on this, be sure to read my colleague Brentin Mock’s piece that looks at whether Keystone XL will, in fact, produce good jobs.)

Now, the folks at Movement Generation’s Justice and Ecology Project based in Richmond, Calif.—home to the perpetually troubled Chevron Richmond Refinery—have released their own parody of what a Keystone XL job might look like for someone from the community.

Jordan Davis Murder Trial Begins in Fla. Today

Jordan Davis Murder Trial Begins in Fla. Today

Opening statements in the murder trial of a 47-year-old white man, accused of killing a 17-year-old black boy in Florida, began at noon today. Follow this link to watch live. A day after Thanksgiving in 2012, Michael Dunn allegedly shot Jordan Davis at a Jacksonville gas station following an argument in which Dunn complained about loud hip-hop music coming from Davis’s friend’s car.

In a New York Times short documentary film this week, filmmaker Orlando Bagwell looks at a key similarity between Davis and Trayvon Martin: “Stand your ground” laws. Bagwell says Davis’s story:

“…provides insights into the larger question of whether these laws, which encourage handguns in public places and shooting in the name of self-defense, ultimately make us safer and more civilized. Is this the society we hope to leave to our children?”

(h/t The Florida Times-Union)

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