Amiri Baraka, 1934-2014

Amiri Baraka, 1934-2014

Amiri Baraka died today. He was an controversial writer, and is heavily associated with the civil rights and black arts* movements. He is probably best known for his poetry, and was New Jersey’s poet laureate in 2002 and 2003. But Baraka also wrote music criticism and was a prolific playwright. His brilliant play, “Dutchman,” premiered in 1964 and received an Obie Award. Baraka, who was born Everett LeRio Jones, was also a professor who taught at various universities, including Yale and Columbia. 

It’s impossible to find any one piece of work that illustrates the depth of Baraka’s work, but this video, in which Baraka reads “Dope,” gives us an idea of how Baraka was able to connect race, Christianity, economics, and domestic and foreign policy in a historical framework. 

Baraka was hospitalized in December. He died today at the age of 79. 

*Post has been updated since publication.

Outkast, Arcade Fire Headline This Year’s Coachella Line-Up

Outkast, Arcade Fire Headline This Year's Coachella Line-Up

The full line-up for the annual Coachella Music Festival in Indio, Calif. was released on Thursday. Take a look and get excited!


Artist Re-Imagines Hit Black Pop Culture Posters

Artist Re-Imagines Hit Black Pop Culture Posters

Meet Xavier Payne, a 25-year-old graphic designer from Nashville whose re-imagined black pop culture posters were recently highlighted by Afropunk. You can see more of Xavier’s work on Tumblr.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill


Erykah Badu


Poetic Justice


Watch This Woman’s Inspiring Time-Lapse Video of 100 Days at the Gym

Watch This Woman's Inspiring Time-Lapse Video of 100 Days at the Gym

Meet Lakeisha, a Bay Area-based woman who made this incredibly inspiring video of her journey at the gym to lose more than 70 pounds. What’s great about the video is that it’s not just a vain attempt to lose weight and look slimmer, but a glimpse into one woman’s journey toward more self-confidence.

The effort was part of Give It 100, an initiative that challenges participants to try something new for 100 days and make videos of themselves doing it. Another one of my personal faves: the woman who learned how to dance

TAGS: health Video

Omaha Police Union Posts Online Video of Swearing African-American Toddler

Omaha Police Union Posts Online Video of Swearing African-American Toddler

CNN is reporting disturbing video of a diapered African-American toddler swearing, and being sworn at, by at least three persons who are off-camera. It’s not clear from the video whether the off-camera voices belong to adults or teens. Though authorities found no evidence of a crime in the video, child protective services has taken the unusual step of removing the infant and three other children from the home, citing unexplained “safety concerns.” 

The police union, the Omaha Nebraska Police Officers Association, has come under fire for initially posting the video, which also did not blur the child’s face, on its site. They say their attempt at social uplift has been misunderstood:

“…we have an obligation to share it to continue to educate the law abiding public about the terrible cycle of violence and thuggery that some young innocent children find themselves helplessly trapped in.”

Right. Because that’s how law enforcement helps small children.

Will any real parent—in this video or at the Omaha Nebraska Police Officers Association—please step up?

(h/t CNN)

Teju Cole did Something Brilliant on Twitter

Teju Cole did Something Brilliant on Twitter

Teju Cole just told a short story in a whole new way. Cole, whose current Twitter bio asks, “We who?” retweeted 35 users to tell a story that begins with a narrator seeing “a man on the ground”:

We soon learn that others are there:

The scene is solemn:

Part of the genius here is that Cole is weaving together many voices to tell one story—which good storytelling always aims to do. And Cole does so on a medium that is best known for hastags, yet he doesn’t use one to here. One also has to read from the bottom up in order to understand its meaning.

By defamiliarizing  something that might otherwise read as an everyday story on an everyday medium, he adds an incredible amount of depth to the way the reader discerns it. In a word, it’s brilliant. 

Want to read the whole story? Head over to @tejucole

Gov. Christie Celebrates Newly Signed New Jersey DREAM Act

Gov. Christie Celebrates Newly Signed New Jersey DREAM Act

On Tuesday New Jersey Governor and rumored GOP presidential hopeful Chris Christie publicly celebrated the enactment of his state’s DREAM Act. The law will give students who’ve grown up and gone to high school in the state the right to pay in-state college tuition, regardless of their immigration status. Christie quietly signed the bill into law late last month, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported, and on Tuesday signed a copy.

“You are an inspiration to us,” Christie said in his address to New Jersey students this morning at the signing ceremony. “In you we see all that the future of our country can be. In you we see the infinite possibilities that exist in a human mind that’s challenged and taught and maximized. In you, most importantly, we see the infinite possibilities of the human spirit.”

New Jersey wasn’t alone in its movement on tuition equity for undocumented students. In 2013, the Garden State joined Colorado, Minnesota and Oregon, which passed similar bills. Over a dozen states now have similar laws on their books, which are instrumental in allowing undocumented students to continue their education. Because undocumented students are ineligible for federal student aid or grants, they must pay out of pocket for their higher education. But unless states proactively extend tuition equity to undocumented residents, those students are considered out-of-state students, and have to pay the tuition to match. In-state undergards at Rutgers University, for example, pay $13,499, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported. Out-of-state students pay $27,523.

There are two basic versions of laws which grant in-state tuition to undocumented students: one that extends in-state tuition equity to students regardless of their immigration status, and another which does that as well as offer state financial aid eligibility to undocumented students. Christie got New Jersey lawmakers to strip the financial aid eligibilty portion from the New Jersey law before agreeing to sign the bill. 

New Jersey immigrant advocates have attempted to pass versions of the bill in prior legislative sessions, and during a similar effort in 2011 Christie said he’d veto any such tuition equity measure. But with the 2016 presidential elections looming and the growing importance of the Latino and immigrant vote, things have clearly changed in Christie’s calculus.

You Can Add the Tupac Shakur Musical to Your Calendar

You Can Add the Tupac Shakur Musical to Your Calendar

“Holler If You Hear Me,” a new musical that’s inspired by the life and work of rapper Tupac Shakur, will begin performances on Broadway at the Palace Theater in New York City on May 26 and officially open on June 19.

More from the New York Times:

The musical, which was developed in closed-door workshops, will open on Broadway without an out-of-town tryout run. It has a script by Todd Kreidler, who wrote a new stage version of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” that opened last month in Washington. The director is Kenny Leon, a Tony Award nominee for the 2010 revival of “Fences.” Casting and other production details will be announced later.

Among the producers of “Holler if Ya Hear Me” is Afeni Shakur, Tupac Shakur’s mother; Eric L. Gold, a television producer (“The Wayans Bros.”); and Shin Chun-soo, a prominent theater producer in South Korea.

The show will feature some of the rapper’s most beloved songs, including “Keep Ya Head Up,” “California Love” and, of course, “Holler If You Hear Me.”

‘Saturday Night Live’ Adds Two Black Female Writers

'Saturday Night Live' Adds Two Black Female Writers

Not only is “Saturday Night Live” adding Sasheer Zamata as its new black actress, but it’s also tapped two black female writers to join the show. The Hollywood Reporter notes that LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones will join the line up soon. Both were discovered during the sketch show’s recent auditions.

From THR:

Jones, a stand-up actress-comedian who was a finalist for the new castmember spot, has performed at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, has guest-starred in comedies including The League, Sullivan & Son and written and appeared on Def Comedy Jam and 1st Amendment Stand Up. She’s performed at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal as well as the Aspen Comedy Festival. In 2011, her comedy special Problem Child was broadcast on Showtime. Jones is repped by Integral Entertainment and Pierce Law Group.

Actress-comedian Tookes, meanwhile, is a former news reporter from Florida who has performed at iO West. 

Here’s Tookes’ character reel:

Federal School Discipline Guidelines: How to Stop Racial Discrimination In the Classroom

Federal School Discipline Guidelines: How to Stop Racial Discrimination In the Classroom

This morning the Departments of Education and Justice issued new guidelines which lay out for educators their legal obligations to refrain from racially discriminating agaisnt students with their school discipline policies and explain how they can do their jobs without engaging in discriminatory practices. The guidelines are the product of a joint federal initiative between the two agencies to address school discipline issues, and more to the point, the school-to-prison pipeline. 

School discipline is a powerful tool which can have a deep impact on students’ educational futures. But there are many ways to go about it, and too often school discipline in the form of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions shuts students out of school and discourages them from staying on track, the Departments of Justice and Education have argued. “In 2011 alone, more than 3 million public school students, and over 100,000 students were expelled, leading to our students losing hundreds of thousands of instructional time,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says in the package’s introductory video. What’s more, school discipline is often disproportionately applied, with black students receiving harsher treatment than their white peers. Black students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as their white student counterparts to be expelled or suspended. And in a massive national survey, black students made up 15 percent of those tracked, but 35 percent of students who’d been suspended, and 44 percent of those who’d been suspended multiple times. The disparities, the federal government explains, aren’t because black students are more likely to misbehave than white students, suggesting that punishment is meted out unequally. 

In their guidance, the Departments of Justice and Education explain their rubrics for how they gauge whether or not a school is breaking the law with its school discipline practices. Racial discrimination can take several forms—it can be explicit and written into policy, but far more likely is going to involve “selective” application of a “facially neutral” policy. Second, the agencies delve into alternatives to harsh punishment and zero-tolerance policies. Most is so basic it hurts to have to see it spelled out with the force of federal law behind it: support students, make classrooms inclusive environments, draw up written policies and procedures for dealing with misbehaving students, involve parents. 

School discipline reform advocates have hailed the new guidelines as much-needed and helpful resources for educators and families. Deborah Vagins, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU, called the guidance “groundbreaking.” “This guidance makes it crystal clear for schools what their obligations are under our civil rights laws and provides examples of best practices so that they can easily implement positive alternative practices,” Vagins said in a statement.

Read the federal guidance in full here.

Photo of Black Dad Styling Daughter’s Hair Goes Viral

Photo of Black Dad Styling Daughter's Hair Goes Viral

You may have seen this photo of a black dad styling his daughter’s hair with a toddler strapped to his chest. It’s gone viral in the past week as an example of good, and all too rare, forms of black fatherhood. Yahoo! Shine got in touch with the man at the center of the photo, Doyin Richards, 39, and got the back story.

Richards originally posted the photo on his website back in October with the title, “I Have a Dream: That People Will View a Picture Like This and Not Think It’s a Big Deal.” He’d taken it after his wife challenged him to do their 6-year-old daughter’s hair without leaving  their infant on her own. Richards not only did it, but took a picture as proof. He later reposted the photo last month and the photo was eventually picked up by the fatherhood blog The Good Men Project. Yahoo! Shine explains what happened next: 

In a matter of hours, the photo went viral, quickly amassing nearly 5,000 shares, 3,000 comments, and 190,000 likes, along with a slew of mean-spirited remarks, such as “He probably rented those kids. They don’t even look like him,” and “I would bet anything that you’re a deadbeat.”

Believe it or not, Richards actually faced a fair amount of criticism over the photo with detractors calling him a deadbeat who was using children to get attention.

Although to Richards, the photo is simply an accurate reflection of his daily life, he understands the scrutiny — to a degree. “The picture stirs emotion for a few reasons,” Richards tells Yahoo Shine. “The media doesn’t portray fathers as caregivers. We’re seen as bumbling fools trying to figure out parenthood, or macho men pushing their kids into the NFL. The other issue is that there’s a stereotype that black fathers are deadbeats.” 

Read more over at Yahoo! Shine


TAGS: fatherhood

Singer Lesedi Lo-Fi Speaks Out About Homeless Youth From Experience

Singer Lesedi Lo-Fi Speaks Out About Homeless Youth From Experience

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how talented and formerly homeless 20-year-old singer Lesedi caught the ear of a renowned record producer. His debut album, “Street Faces,” centers on the plight of homeless youth and hits stores on March 11.

(h/t Afropunk)

Get this Philadelphia Man a Good Job

Get this Philadelphia Man a Good Job

Cab driver Abu Bakarr Saccoh says he loves his job but he clearly loves accounting more. The 43-year-old immigrant from Sierra Leone has spent the last year and a half advertising his resume in the passenger cabin of his cab in the hopes of landing an accounting position.

Saccoh appears to be qualified. His resume includes a bachelor’s in accounting and finance from the University of Sierra Leone and in the U.S., a master’s in accounting and controllership from Strayer University in Pennsylvania.

The bold job search method hasn’t yet led to a job. But Saccoh says it’s yielded plenty of advice and encouragement from passengers.

“I wake up every morning thinking I’m gonna hit my defining moment today, you know,” he tells his local NBC station. “I am very, very hopeful that the opportunity will come at any moment; maybe from someone who gets in my cab.”

(h/t NBC10 Philadelphia)

Debo Adegbile Faces Senate For Justice Department Civil Rights Post

Debo Adegbile Faces Senate For Justice Department Civil Rights Post

Debo Adegbile, the former NAACP LDF attorney who defended the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court last summer, will sit before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning (Can be viewed online at 10 a.m.) to take questions about his ability to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. His support from the social justice advocacy community is strong going in: Yesterday, 75 civil rights organizations joined The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in a letter to the Senate committee urging them to confirm him. 

From the letter:

“Mr. Adegbile is exceptionally qualified to lead the Civil Rights Division at this time in history.  As the nation’s chief law enforcement officer on civil rights issues, he would bring a depth and breadth of understanding of federal civil rights laws, and their enforcement and application.  He has litigated cases across civil rights subject areas, from voting rights to fair housing to employment discrimination to equal educational opportunity. He has practiced law at all levels, from the trial court to the Supreme Court, and has appeared in courts throughout the country.”

While the confirmation process has been made smoother by new rules that call for a simple majority vote (51 ayes) in the Senate for approval, as opposed to the 60-aye hurdle previously needed, Adegbile is certain to face opposition from conservative Senators. Some on the right are making hay out of the fact that Adegbile represented former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1981. But civil rights advocates who’ve worked with Adegbile for years are making the case that he represents the American story, having overcome poverty and homelessness as a child to become one of the top lawyers in the country. It doesn’t hurt that Adegbile began touching kids’ hearts when he had a reoccurring role as one of the children on “Sesame Street.”


Adegbile continues to work in schools from junior high to college as a mentor and teacher on constitutional law and civics.  

Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement said in a statement, “I have litigated both with and against Debo and have heard him argue in the Supreme Court. I have always found him to be a formidable advocate of the highest intellect, skills and integrity.”

Laverne Cox Remembers Islan Nettles While Schooling Katie Couric

Laverne Cox Remembers Islan Nettles While Schooling Katie Couric

Model Carmen Carrera and actress Laverne Cox appeared on the Katie Couric show this week talk about being transgender women in the entertainment industry. Over the course of two segments, both Carrera and Cox completely shut down Couric’s attempts to objectify transgender women’s bodies by focusing on their physical transitions. 

First, here’s Carrera, who talks about how focusing on physical transitions distracts entirely from the lived realities of transgender folks (skip ahead to about the 2:50 mark):

Cox followed suit, citing the lived domination that transgender communities face in everything from housing to employment and physical safety. During the segment, Cox also cites the case of Islan Nettles, the 21-year-old transgender woman who was beaten to death in Harlem last summer (Skip ahead to the 2:25 mark):

Mindy Kaling Is Very Happy With Her ‘Elle’ Magazine Cover

Mindy Kaling Is Very Happy With Her 'Elle' Magazine Cover

Mindy Kaling took to Twitter today to respond to critics who bashed her recent “Elle” cover. The cover features a close-up shot of the actress and writer’s upper body instead of the standard full-body, which some critics have blasted as racist and fat phobic. Kaling, however, disagrees:


You Can Stream Del The Funky Homosapien’s New Album For Free

You Can Stream Del The Funky Homosapien's New Album For Free

Hip-hop heads, rejoice!

Longtime Bay Area emcee Del The Funky Homosapien dropped a free LP called “Iller Than Most” just after the near year. Listen to it here:

(h/t Okayplayer)

TAGS: hip hop

LA Sheriff Baca Resigns Amid Explosive Scandals

LA Sheriff Baca Resigns Amid Explosive Scandals

Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca announced his resignation at a press conference Tuesday. He stated he will not seek reelection in November, and that he will step down from his post at the end of January. The sheriff gave what he called some “personal and private” reasons, but will mostly be stepping down because of a “negative perception this upcoming campaign has brought on” his department. Baca appeared to be fighting tears during his initial announcement. 

Baca leaves the department amid during a time of widespread controversy in a massive jail system. Baca’s department has helped detain and deport a record number of immigrants—the majority of whom were not accused of any violent crime. The sheriff’s department was also the target of a federal investigation. Grand jury indictments resulting from that investigation reveal serious abuse at L.A.’s Men’s Central Jail and the Twin Towers Correctional Facility.

The documents allege not only excessive force and intimidation against inmates and their visitors—including broken bones—but serious corruption as well. Nevertheless, the sheriff states that his is “the safest large jail in the country.”

On Monday, Sheriff Baca agreed to an oversight commission, that he stated “would serve to further develop law enforcement skills regarding Constitutional policing, procedural justice, civil rights, and human rights as a whole.” That was a big change of course for Baca, who has long said that his department was free of any institutional problems—despite allegations about abuse and corruption for decades from former inmates and their supporters.

Just last month, Baca insisted the 18 grand jury indictments represented some bad apples, but weren’t evident of a crisis in his department as a whole. Those statements in support of his deputies were echoed during today’s press conference, during which time he also floated possible new candidates for election.

Baca first assumed office in December 1998. He is recommending jails chief Terri McDonald “[hold] the fort” until November’s election. 

Indian Grandmother Wins Marathon Barefoot, In Sari

Indian Grandmother Wins Marathon Barefoot, In Sari

So this is awesome. Lata Bhagwan Kare, a grandmother from Pimpli, India (who, depending on what you read is either 61 or 66 years old)  won the nearby Baramati marathon to cap off 2013. But what makes her win even more impressive is that she did it while running barefoot and wearing a nauvari (a Maharashtrian sari). From Yahoo! News India:

Kare revealed that she felt a little nervous standing at the start line - “I felt a little awkward, as all the other participants were staring at my dress. That also made me a little nervous. However, when the race began and I started overtaking them one by one, I gained my energy. While running I was talking to myself and telling that I want to win this race and I did it.”

Kare, in fact, did not start the race barefoot; she initially ran with her slippers on. But she did away with them a few metres into the race, when one of them slipped out from under her foot and she decided to abandon the other one.

Organizer Sachin Satav said on this surprising development, “We never expected a participant like Kare to be the winner of the race. It was pleasant surprise. We were extremely happy while handing over the trophy to Kare.”

h/t Angry Asian Man via Yahoo! News India.

‘Awkward Black Girl’ Issa Rae Named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30

'Awkward Black Girl' Issa Rae Named to Forbes' 30 Under 30

Looks like 2014 is turning out to be just as good as 2013 for Issa Rae. The 28-year-old comedian and writer was just named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. Last year was a huge one for Rae as she teamed up with ABC’s Shonda Rhimes and was cast as Nina Simone in an upcoming Lorraine Hansberry biopic. She’s also writing a new show for HBO and working on a book. 

Yeah, her grind is real.

TAGS: Issa Rae
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