Colorlines

NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Feminist Selfies Took Over Twitter And It Was Awesome

Feminist Selfies Took Over Twitter And It Was Awesome

Even though Frida Kahlo had the selfie game on lock decades ago, their usefulness has been called into question in recent months. The most popular critique is that they epitmoize the self-indulgence at the heart of our social media-driven culture. But here’s another way to look at them: they’re opportunities to celebrate people whose bodies aren’t usually seen in the mainstream. As Hyperallergic put it: “The selfie is an aesthetic with radical potential for bringing visibility to people and bodies that are othered.”

The whole thing started when folks objected to Jezebel’s claim that all selfies were a cry for help. Jamie Nesbitt Golden (@thewayoftheid) and Kate Averett (@convergecollidestarted the #feministselfie hashtag took off on Twitter and Hyperallergic pulled out a few examples of people’s radical use of selfies. 

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* This post has been updated. 

Macklemore’s Trayvon Martin Tribute Matters — Here’s Why

Macklemore's Trayvon Martin Tribute Matters -- Here's Why

Macklemore couldn’t attend the American Music Awards in person, but he accepted an award over satellite from where he was stationed in Miami. He used his moment in the spotlight to memorialize Trayvon Martin and highlight the problem of racial profiling. 

Here’s text from his speech:

Now that I’m sitting here in front of millions of people, I’d like to address something extremely important to me. I was talking to my friend before the show and he reminded me of a great Martin Luther King quote. He said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ And due to the fact that we are in Florida tonight accepting this award, I want to acknowledge Trayvon Martin and the hundreds and hundreds of kids each year that are dying due to racial profiling and the violence that follows it. This is really happening. These are our friends, our neighbors, our peers, and our fans, and it’s time that we look out for the youth and fight against racism and the laws that protect it.

It’s inspiring to see an artist who’s mindful of his influence and willing to put his politics front and center. And it matters because, despite what you think about his music, people are listening. 

Web Series ‘The Peculiar Kind’ Tackles LGBT Homeless Youth

Web Series 'The Peculiar Kind' Tackles LGBT Homeless Youth

If you haven’t already checked out The Peculiar Kind, I strongly encouraged you to do so. The web series, in its second season, is basically set up as a series of candid conversations between queer women of color on issues ranging from sex to community-building. This latest episode addresses LGBT youth homelessness and features current and formerly homeless LGBT folks along with advocates who are working on the issue. Check it out.

(h/t ElixHer)

Did Nina Simone’s Daughter Steal Charitable Funds From Singer’s Estate?

Did Nina Simone's Daughter Steal Charitable Funds From Singer's Estate?

Lisa Simone Kelly, the only child of the late singer Nina Simone, is in the hot seat. The California Attorney General is accusing her of stealing more than $2 million from her mother’s estate, money that was specifically earmarked to help build schools in impoverished communties in South Africa, Liberia and Ghana.

TMZ broke the news late last week:

The A.G. claims the most flagrant violation is funneling $1.5 mil to Lisa’s personal company … something her mom never approved.

We’ve learned the A.G. pressured Lisa into resigning as trustee and is now demanding an accounting of funds — which could result in criminal action.


Kelly, who’s also a singer, has publicly been very protective of her mother’s legacy and image. She made news earlier this year when she addressed the controversy surrounding the lighter skinned Zoe Saldana’s casting in an upcoming Nina Simone biopic. Obviously, details in this story are still pending. 

TAGS: Nina Simone

‘Young Lakota’ to Premiere Tonight on PBS, Follows Abortion on the Rez

'Young Lakota' to Premiere Tonight on PBS, Follows Abortion on the Rez

“Young Lakota,” a film about how South Dakota’s anti-abortion battle has played out on the Pine Ridge reservation, will make its national debut tonight on PBS’ Independent Lens series at 10pm EST.

More than just political commentary, the film follows the personal journeys of two young Native Americans who grapple with decisions about their own reproductive health.

Here’s more from Christina Rose at Indian Country:

The documentary is the centerpiece of the filmmaker’s reproductive justice campaign. From 2006 to 2008, women’s rights were front and center when South Dakota sought to outlaw abortion. Cecelia Fire Thunder, the first woman tribal president in Pine Ridge, moved to establish a women’s clinic on the reservation, and it have included the right to choose.

Fire Thunder was ultimately impeached for her unyielding position that all women deserve to make their own decisions about their personal choices. The film covers her impeachment and the effect it had on the 21-year-old Clifford twins. Their friend Brandon Ferguson, a young father, begins the film as a journalist covering the impeachment, but clearly is at odds with his feelings about abortion and friendships are tested. The impeachment had a direct affect on the lives of all three, who begin to question traditions that are brought to the fore.

Read more at Indian Country. And if you can’t tune in tonight, you’re in luck. It’s set to be available for streaming on PBS’ website through the week. Also, here’s an update from one of the film’s kick-ass stars, Sunny Clifford

Watch Aloe Blacc’s New Video for ‘Love Is the Answer’

Watch Aloe Blacc's New Video for 'Love Is the Answer'

Here’s Aloe Blacc’s visual treatment for his new song, “Love is the Answer,” a track that was produced by Pharrell. Blacc made his mark as an emcee is Los Angeles’s underground scene before  re-imagining himself as a singer over the last decade or so. His next album, “Lift Your Spirit”, is due out next year.

(h/t Okayplayer)

TAGS: Aloe Blacc

Kids Write Letters to Congress Asking For Immigration Reform

Kids Write Letters to Congress Asking For Immigration Reform

As Congress remains at a stalemate over passage of some measure of immigration reform, either piecemeal or comprehensive, the numbers of youth left alone in the U.S. because their parents are deported or detained is on the rise. The women-centered immigration advocacy group We Belong Together is organizing a holiday letter-writing campaign fueled by the young voices. With crayons and magic markers, kids and teens affected by failed immigration policies are asking Congress to keep their families together, and move forward with reform. 

Katy Perry Performs in Racist Geisha Costume at the AMA’s

Katy Perry Performs in Racist Geisha Costume at the AMA's

Remember when Katy Perry said she wanted to skin Japanese people and “wear them like Versace?” Looks like she’s getting one step closer. The singer made headlines at last night’s American Music Award’s when she and her back-up dancers performed her hit song “Unconditional” in full Geisha regalia. 

Ravi Chandara sums up why the costume was racist over at Psychology Today:

If you don’t think Katy Perry was racist—let me ask you, what if she had performed in blackface?  Perhaps a costume isn’t the same as changing skin color to you, but it is agonizingly close for me—I remember Mickey Rooney in buckteeth for his role as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; Jonathan Pryce in Yellowface in Miss Saigon; Gwen Stefani in her Harajuku phase.  Every Halloween brings up the same issues.  As I pointed out in my article, this kind of “costume” is a way of acting out a power relationship. “Whites have historically held power. Therefore Katy Perry has the right to use Japanese culture.”  Racism is defined as prejudice plus power—I think Katy Perry’s performance meets the criteria for a racist performance.  (An article by Jeff Yang linked below points out that her song, Unconditional, itself fits into the stereotype of the submissive, man pleasing Asian woman - the fantasized “geisha”.)

Read more

Arizona Ethnic Studies Ban Appealed

Arizona Ethnic Studies Ban Appealed

The Arizona ethnic studies saga may have a new chapter. A group of students and parents have appealed the March decision to uphold the ban with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing the ban violates First and 14th amendments and goes against recommendations from educators and experts.

The ban has been the source of fierce debate, with many arguing it discriminates against the dominant ethnic group in the region, and hinders academic growth. About 60 percent of students in Tuscon, Ariz. are Latino, and like Latino students in other states have some of the largest high school dropout rates in the country. An independent study in 2011 actually recommended Mexican-American studies courses at the center of this debate be expanded in the region, but instead the school district removed the curriculum altogether, and even attempted to ban certain books.

(h/t HuffPo Latino Voices

Arcade Fire’s New Video Looks at Love and Loss in a Latino Family

Arcade Fire's New Video Looks at Love and Loss in a Latino Family

Indie rock band Arcade Fire has a new video out that focuses on a Latino family that’s been torn apart after the death of its martriarch. It’s a touching portrayal of love and loss. 

(h/t Buzzfeed)

Laverne Cox is on the Cover of Vibe Vixen

Laverne Cox is on the Cover of Vibe Vixen

Laverne Cox is the new cover girl of Vibe Vixen Magazine and she opened up about her difficult childhood in Alabama. Here’s a snippet:

What can you tell us about your worst experience with bullying?
When I grew up in Alabama, I was called a sissy, a fag and kids basically wanted to beat me up every day. There was a time in middle school when some kids hit my brother and I with drumsticks and a parent from the school saw it. We knew we could never tell our mother because she would blame us and question why we weren’t fighting back, but the principal called her. It was really awful and painful.

How supportive was your twin brother through the transitioning process? 
He’s amazing. It’s never been an issue for him. He loves me and wants me to be happy. He gets it. He’s a musician with a beautiful voice and an absolutely wonderful performer.

Who has your transition been the hardest on?
My mom had a weird adjustment period with it. A lot of it was just educating her. It took years to get her to use the right pronouns. Anytime there is surgery and hormones, it freaked her out a bit, but I wouldn’t say it was hard on her or anyone. Before I started the medications and surgical procedures, I didn’t have people in my life that would have a problem. For the people that know me, this wasn’t a weird thing. It wasn’t like this was out of the blue. They always knew who I was. I’m really the same person.

Read more over at Vibe Vixen

Black Man Repeatedly Arrested and Jailed for ‘Trespassing’ at His Workplace

Black Man Repeatedly Arrested and Jailed for 'Trespassing' at His Workplace

In an extreme new case of a man getting arrested for walking while black in Florida, the Miami Herald today published an investigation into the case of Earl Sampson, a black convenience store employee who’s been stopped-and-frisked 258 times by Miami Gardens Police in the past four years. Sampson, 28, has been searched at least 100 times often during work hours, arrested 62 times, and jailed 56 times. His most serious charge is for possession of marijuana, but most other charges are for trespassing—in and around the store where he is employed. 

Alex Saleh, the owner of 207 Quickstop where Sampson works, says he’s not the only black employee who’s been harassed by police. In a series of disturbing videos captured by 15 security cameras Saleh had installed (to catch police, not people attempting to steal), among other things you see police walking into the convenience store multiple times to take workers into custody (seemingly without warning) and slam a customer to the ground.

Miami Gardens Police officers appear to be acting under a new “zero-tolerance” program intended to take a hard-line approach to stopping crime in a neighborhood that has an increasing homicide rate, and is home to mostly black residents. Saleh signed on to participate initially, but says he didn’t realize the extent to which police officers would go to enforce, and regrets having signed on. 

Saleh, whose store is tucked between a public park and working-class neighborhoods, contends that Miami Gardens police officers have repeatedly used racial slurs to refer to his customers and treat most of them like they are hardened criminals.

“Police line them up and tell them to put their hands against the wall. I started asking myself ‘Is this normal?’ I just kept thinking police can’t do this,” Saleh said.

Last year, Saleh, armed with a cache of videos, filed an internal affairs complaint about the arrests at his store. From that point, he said, police officers became even more aggressive.

One evening, shortly after he had complained a second time, a squadron of six uniformed Miami Gardens police officers marched into the store, he says. They lined up, shoulder to shoulder, their arms crossed in front of them, blocking two grocery aisles.

“Can I help you?” Saleh recalls asking. It was an entire police detail, known as the department’s Rapid Action Deployment (RAD) squad, whom he had come to know from their frequent arrest sweeps. One went to use the restroom, and five of them stood silently for a full 10 minutes. Then they all marched out.

Saleh is in the process of filing a federal civil rights lawsuit on Sampson’s behalf.

Read the full story at the Miami Herald.

The Chicago Reader Has a Comic on How to Survive a Shooting

The Chicago Reader Has a Comic on How to Survive a Shooting

There’s no step-by-step guide on how to deal the violent loss of a loved one. But in a place like Chicago, a city that’s been ravaged by hundreds of homicides over the past several years, people are sharing their coping strategies. Darryl Holliday and E.N. Rodriguez teamed up to produce a comic for the Chicago Reader that traces the real-life ordeal of Nortasha Stingley, who’ 19-year-old daughter Marissa was shot and killed earlier this year.

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Read the full comic over at the Chicago Reader

How Race Shaped the Senate Filibustering Games

How Race Shaped the Senate Filibustering Games

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lowered a procedural hurdle that Republicans used as a firewall against some of President Obama’s recent nominees to key federal posts. By changing rules regarding Senate filibusters, now a simple majority of 51 votes are needed to move a nominee through confirmation as opposed to the 60 needed before Thursday.

An example of how this filibustering game played out recently came when Obama appointed Rep. Mel Watt, an African-American congressman from North Carolina, to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Republicans banded together to ensure the 60-vote threshold couldn’t be met, hence blocking the nomination. There has been fear that Republicans would do the same to Obama’s nominee Debo Adegbile for head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. 

Democrats currently have a 53-45 edge over Republicans, with two independents to boot. For Democrats to breach the 60-vote filibuster wall, they would need the two independents and at least five Republicans to vote with them.

Now, with the 51-vote simple majority rule in play, Democrats can overcome the filibuster easily, as will Republicans if they ever become the Senate majority. This rule only applies to presidential nominees, though, and not those for the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s not a stretch to say that Republican obstructionism with Obama’s nominees have been racially discriminatory, whether consciously or not. Besides Watt, there was a filibuster this week of the African-American judge Robert L. Wilkins to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Of 13 of Obama’s judicial nominees who’ve been blocked or sidelined, seven are African-Americans, one is Asian-American and one is Native-American, as reported in Huffington Post

In Roll Call, Rep. G. K. Butterfield of North Carolina and the Congressional Black Caucus, said that of Republicans’ recent nominee blocks, race is “not the controlling point but it’s a factor, no question about it,” while New York’s Rep. Charles B, Rangel said that a racist motive “goes without saying.”

According to the Congressional Black Caucus, 82 of Obama’s nominees have been filibustered compared to 86 filibustered under all of the pre-Obama U.S. presidents in total. That doesn’t factor in those who under Republican obstruction threats withdrew their names from consideration, like National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Rice was on the short list to succeed Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State until Republicans committed themselves to blocking her. 

President Obama high-fived the Senate yesterday for their game-changer, as did a number of high-profile civil rights advocates concerned with how people of color have been denied seats under the old rules. 

Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, also co-signed the Senate rules change, saying filibustering has “interfered with President Obama’s praiseworthy efforts to diversify the federal bench with women, people of color, and lawyers from a broad range of practice experience.”

Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina said there is historical precedence for changing filibuster rules from the 1960s, when the vote threshold was lowered, allowing for civil rights legislation to finally pass through.

President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated 50 years ago today, found difficulty pushing civil rights bills through the U.S. House because back then the head of the House Rules Committee could simply refuse to pass them. In the early ’60s, the House was dominated by Southern segregationists who stood in the way of civil rights legislation the way Republicans try to stand in the way of healthcare legislation today. Kennedy helped change those House rules, which led, finally, to the passage of stronger civil rights protections through Congress. 

Students Charged with Hate Crimes Against Black Student at San Jose State

Students Charged with Hate Crimes Against Black Student at San Jose State

San Jose State students Colin Warren, Joseph Bomgardner and Logan Beaschler have been charged with a hate crime for bullying and harassing their black roommate. The black male student, who is a 17-year-old freshman and has not yet been named, alleges his roommates gave him the nickname “Three-fifths,” and later referred to him as “Fraction.” Warren, Bomgardner, and Logan have been accused of tormenting and ridiculing him continuously in a number of ways, including:

  • Outfitted the shared dorm room suite with a Confederate flag
  • Barricaded the claustrophobic student in his room
  • Wrote “nigger” on a dry-erase board in the living room
  • Put a U-shaped bike lock around his neck and then told him they lost the key
  • Tried the bike lock trick again a few weeks later
  • Put up Nazi symbols and pictures of Hitler in the dorm
  • Drew pictures of pentagrams to alarm the Christian student

The student says he was terrified of his roommates, locked his doors at night, and was afraid to report their actions. School administrators and other students at San Jose State have come out in support of the student, and hosted a rally on Thursday to raise awareness. 

(h/t Gawker

Pharrell’s New 24-Hour Music Video ‘Happy’ Is Exactly What Your Friday Needs

Pharrell's New 24-Hour Music Video 'Happy' Is Exactly What Your Friday Needs

Pharrell Williams has released the world’s first 24-hour music video and it’s so good. Seriously, watch it. Entertainment Weekly has two great reasons to love the video, which looks like it’s been shot around some of Los Angeles’s most iconic places:

1.) The song, “Happy” (which comes from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack), rules. It’s absolutely perfect for listening to on repeat—groovy and gorgeous. It’s like that Daft Punk album from this year, if that Daft Punk album were something everyone could enjoy.

2.) The dancers! Many of them are sexy, yes, in a young, athletic, L.A., I’ll-do-anything-for-high-concept-entertainment  sort of way (there are men as well as women, although in my viewing I seemed to happen on more women). But almost as importantly, they are infectiously upbeat and enthusiastic. You might even hate them a little bit, if people much more lithe and contented than you are tend to inspire that. But if you are in the right frame of mind you’ll just want to squeeze them to pieces. (There are famous people in it, too, including Pharrell himself in multiple iterations, but the anonymous people are the best.)

Watch the video at 24hoursofhappy.com.

Alabama’s ‘Scottsboro Boys’ Receive Pardon 80 Years After Arrests

Alabama's 'Scottsboro Boys' Receive Pardon 80 Years After Arrests

Eighty years after nine black teenage boys were arrested and falsely accussed of raping two white girls in Scottsboro, Alabama in 1931, they have all finally been given posthumous pardons by the state’s parole board.

The parole board was unanimous in its decision in the case that came to symbolize racism in the Deep South. All but one of the defendents served lengthy prison sentences and the last surviving defendent died in 1989.

The boys who were arrested were: Olen Montgomery, 17; Clarence Norris, 19; Haywood Patterson, 18; Ozie Powell, 16; Willie Roberson, 16; Charlie Weems, 16; Eugene Williams, 13; and brothers Andy, 19, and Roy Wright, 13.

From the Associated Press:

The founder of the Scottsboro Boys Museum in Scottsboro, Shelia Washington, said the pardons “give the history books a new ending — not guilty.”

The Scottsboro Boys case became a symbol of the tragedies wrought by racial injustice. Their appeals resulted in U.S. Supreme Court rulings that criminal defendants are entitled to effective counsel and that blacks can’t be systematically excluded from criminal juries.

The case inspired songs, books and films. A Broadway musical was staged in 2010, the same year a museum dedicated to the case opened in Scottsboro.

Five of the men’s convictions were overturned in 1937 after one of the alleged victims recanted her story. One defendant, Clarence Norris, received a pardon before his death in 1976. At the time, he was the only Scottsboro Boy known to be alive. Nothing was done for the others because state law did not permit posthumous pardons.

Read more about the case at the AP.

Vitamin D Deficiency Often Misdiagnosed Among Black People

Vitamin D Deficiency Often Misdiagnosed Among Black People

For years health care providers have been sounding the alarm on low vitamin D levels among black folks, equating the deficiency to a “hidden epidemic” that could be connected to elevated cancer rates and other health problems.  But according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors may have been misdiagnosing many black patients with vitamin D deficiency, due to genetic differences in blood types between white and black people. The blood test most commonly used to determine this particular vitamin deficiency doesn’t account for a unique protein found among many black people, and researchers say this genetic traits can be traced back to African ancestors.

(h/t NPR Health

Ava DuVernay’s Directorial Debut of ‘Scandal’ Airs Tonight

Ava DuVernay's Directorial Debut of 'Scandal' Airs Tonight

Independent filmmaker Ava DuVernay, whose film “Middle of Nowhere” captured audiences in 2012, will make her directorial debut of ABC’s “Scandal” tonight. DuVernay shared her excitment with fans Thursday morning on Facebook: 

I could say what’s going on here… but I’d get thrown in the B613 hole. So, just watch this Thursday! The next episode of SCANDAL is entitled “Vermont is For Lovers Too” and is directed by yours truly. Hope anyone who tunes in enjoys! Xoxo.

Scandal will be broadcast tonight at 10 p.m.

(h/t The Grio)

‘Catch an Illegal’ Game Thwarted, Becomes Immigration Reform Rally

'Catch an Illegal' Game Thwarted, Becomes Immigration Reform Rally

The proposed “Catch an Illegal” game, which was organized by a conservative student group at UT Austin to “spark debate about illegal immigration,” was instead replaced by an immigration reform rally. It appears their plans backfired after college administrators cancelled the event, and approximately 500 students joined a large demonstration on Wednesday. 

Among the attendees was actress American Ferrera, whose husband is a UT Austin alum. She says she was horrified by the intent behind the game, where immigrants were supposed to be hunted down and turned in for a $25 giftcard bounty, and came out to support students who she said were being intimidated by fear tactics. 

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