Book of ‘Black Quotations’ Offers New Way to Look Back at History

Book of 'Black Quotations' Offers New Way to Look Back at History

In a long overdue adaptation of the classic Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, Retha Powers offers an epic compendium of quotes by and about black people. Ranging from ”Go shorty, it’s your birthday” (50 Cent) to “You dance because you have to,” (Katherine Dunham), the book spans more than a century of black thought and writing through poetry, literature, speeches, and song lyrics.

Bartletts_FULL_112613.jpgPublished in 1855, the original Barlett’s did not include black writers until its 14th edition in 1968. This new version includes an introduction by Henry Louis Gates who describes it asthe finest thought produced by writers throughout the African Diaspora.”

Gene Demby at NPR’s Code Switch blog shares his thoughts on how this book might offer a new way to explore the history and evolution of black culture in the U.S.

The middle of the 20th century finds all kinds of people thinking thoughtful and urgent things about The State of Black People. (It’s always good to be reminded that Fannie Lou Hamer was a badass.) And then — boom — Ray Charles is singing about the woman across town that he’s creeping with. The tenor of the quotes changes as the book moves forward in time. So does their form. Scripture gives way to abolitionist entreaties; lyrics from soul music give way to hip-hop’s staccato cadences. It all seems a little random, but there’s serendipity in stumbling onto something juicy in that randomness.

(h/t NPR Code Switch)

Touching Photographs From an Asian Artist Reconciling Displacement

Touching Photographs From an Asian Artist Reconciling Displacement

Pimprae Hiranprueck, who goes by Nancy, barely spoke English when she left Thailand for the U.S. at age 13. And while she now calls the U.S. home, for many years she’s struggled to reconcile missing her home country, and the family she left behind. As a way of coping and investigating the layers of emotions she felt about her estrangement, and her imminent return to Thailand, she produced “Intersecting the Parallels,” a photography project where inserts herself into landscapes and family photographs. In a recent interview in Slate, Hiranprueck says the project enabled her to, “reacquaint myself with friends and family and to create new memories.” Read more on her website


Pimprae_Hiranprueck2_112613.pngPimprae_Hiranprueck3_112613.jpgPimprae_Hiranprueck1_112613.jpgPimprae_Hiranprueck5_112613.jpg(h/t Slate)

Obama Looking to Curb Political Activity of Shadowy Social Welfare Nonprofits

Obama Looking to Curb Political Activity of Shadowy Social Welfare Nonprofits

Today, the IRS announced that it will be issuing new guidance on the kinds of campaign-related political activity that social welfare nonprofits (501c4) can engage. This comes after a year of controversy where Tea Party groups camouflaged as “social welfare” organizations have cried foul against the IRS, accusing the tax agency of delaying or denying their tax-exempt status applications for partisan reasons. Organizations with 501c4 status historically have been able to support or endorse candidates running for office so long as that activity doesn’t make up a substantial amount of the nonprofit’s overall agenda. But what constitutes “substantial amount” has been vague, and as a result billionaire activists — many of them on the extreme conservative side, like the Koch Brothers — have taken advantage of that ambiguity by setting up shadowy 501c4s that in recent elections have collected millions in “dark money” for their favored candidates, or against candidates they oppose. Donors who contribute to 501c4s do not have to disclose their identity. 

But new IRS rules plan to demystify what “subtantial amount” means and clarify what exactly 501c4s can and can’t do when it comes to elections. According to this wire from the Wall Street Journal, the IRS and Deparmtent of Treasury are seeking to define “social welfare” by excluding “candidate-related political activity.” What is included in “candidate-related political activity” [from WSJ]:

  • Communications
    • Communications that expressly advocate for a clearly identified political candidate or candidates of a political party.
    • Communications that are made within 60 days of a general election (or within 30 days of a primary election) and clearly identify a candidate or political party.
    • Communications expenditures that must be reported to the Federal Election Commission.
  • Grants and Contributions
    • Any contribution that is recognized under campaign finance law as a reportable contribution.
    • Grants to section 527 political organizations and other tax-exempt organizations that conduct candidate-related political activities (note that a grantor can rely on a written certification from a grantee stating that it does not engage in, and will not use grant funds for, candidate-related political activity).
  • Activities Closely Related to Elections or Candidates
    • Voter registration drives and “get-out-the-vote” drives.
    • Distribution of any material prepared by or on behalf of a candidate or by a section 527 political organization.
    • Preparation or distribution of voter guides that refer to candidates (or, in a general election, to political parties).
    • Holding an event within 60 days of a general election (or within 30 days of a primary election) at which a candidate appears as part of the program.

Treasury and IRS are seeking public comment on their proposed new guidelines, but if the above definitions hold up, it seems it will set tough limits on what 501c4s can do close to elections. Many of the organizations affected by these new guidelines are those that have propped up Tea Party candidates: Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, which spent over $70 million in elections activity last year — and likely much more than that if you count the grants it issued to other nonprofits that performed elections-related work. Also impacted will be organizations like the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, the Koch Bros.-funded Americans for Prosperity, and the anti-marriage equality Focus on the Family Action. Non-conservative nonprofits like League of Women Voters might also be impacted, though.

Ultimately, this is about checking organizations that have been abusing their tax-exempt status to ride for candidates in violation of IRS policies. 

“This proposed guidance is a first critical step toward creating clear-cut definitions of political activity by tax-exempt social welfare organizations,” said Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark J. Mazur in a statement. “We are committed to getting this right before issuing final guidance that may affect a broad group of organizations. It will take time to work through the regulatory process and carefully consider all public feedback as we strive to ensure that the standards for tax-exemption are clear and can be applied consistently.”

Former San Francisco Mayor Criticizes ‘White-Male-Dominated’ Techies For ‘Class Warfare’

Former San Francisco Mayor Criticizes 'White-Male-Dominated' Techies For 'Class Warfare'

San Francisco’s increasing number of evictions have made national news this week. On Monday, the New York Times ran a piece on the “backlash by the Bay” that got lots of attention, and now former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown has taken up the issue in a recent column for the San Francsico Chronicle. At issue are the tax breaks — which could cost $55 million — that city leaders offered Twitter to move into downtown. Here’s Brown:

There’s a war brewing in the streets of San Francisco, and a lot of people could get caught up in it if the tech world doesn’t start changing its self-centered culture.

Every day in every way, from rising rents to rising prices at restaurants to its private buses, the tech world is becoming an object of scorn. It’s only a matter of time before the techies’ youthful lustre fades, and they’re seen as just another extension of Wall Street.

And when that happens, tenant advocates, community activists, labor unions and Occupy types are going to start asking why we’re giving away the city to all these white-male-dominated businesses that don’t even hire locals.

We’ve covered a handful of those evictions here at Colorlines, notably those of the Lee and Yañez families from their longtime homes in the city’s Chinatown and Mission District. At the heart of many of these evictions is what’s known as the Ellis Act, a local law that’s been used to push longtime tenants out of rent controlled apartments. California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is pushing for legislation that could revise the law and make it harder for landlords to evict people from their homes, according to CBS Local News in San Francisco.

Watch WNBA Star Brittney Griner Show Off Her ‘Lesbian Tattoo’

Watch WNBA Star Brittney Griner Show Off Her 'Lesbian Tattoo'

WNBA star Brittney Griner is the focus of a new segment on AOL’s new original series “My Ink” and the openly gay baller took a minute to show off what she calls her “lesbian tattoo.” The moment’s at about the 1:45 mark in the above video.

(h/t Elixher)

UCLA Will Investigate Black Judge’s Complaint of Excessive Force

UCLA Will Investigate Black Judge's Complaint of Excessive Force

UCLA announced late Monday that it will open an internal probe into claims made by David Cunningham III, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, who alleged that UCLA campus police used excessive force when they stopped him Saturday morning as he was exiting a gym parking lot in Westwood. It’s safe to say Cunningham, who is black, knows the definition and gravity of such claims—he’s also a former president of the Los Angeles Police Commission. 

Cunningham had just paid a parking lot fee and was leaving an L.A. Fitness gym Saturday morning when campus police pulled him over for not wearing a seat belt.

The stop unfolded badly, according to Cunningham’s complaint, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Officer Kevin Dodd asked to see his driver’s license. Cunningham handed them his wallet, then the officers requested registration and insurance.

When Cunningham reached for his glove box to retrieve the documents, an officer “yelled at me not to move,” he said in the complaint. “I became irritated and told him that I need to look for the paper.”

A prescription pill bottle rolled out of the glove compartment, prompting the officer to ask if he was carrying drugs. Douglas said the medicine was for high blood pressure.

Cunningham couldn’t find his registration and insurance paperwork in the glove compartment and told officers he thought it was in the trunk. 

“When I got out of the car to search my trunk, Officer Dodd shoved me against my car, told me I was under arrest for resisting and locked me in the back seat,” Cunningham wrote in the complaint.

Cunningham, 60, said the officers shoved him against his car, handcuffed him, locked him in the back of their police cruiser and told him he was being detained for resisting arrest.

Cunningham was later released. He limited his complaints to excessive force but his attorney Carl Douglas asked the broader, and perhaps more pertinent question: “Do you think this would have happened if he was a white judge?”

In a statement issued late Monday, CBS reported UCLA said, “During the course of the traffic stop, police officers instructed the driver to stay inside the vehicle and returned to their patrol car to run a routine license and registration check. Despite these instructions, the driver left the vehicle — an escalating behavior that can place officers at risk. The driver stood in the roadway and refused instructions to get back in his car. As a result, the driver was temporarily handcuffed. He was released at the scene shortly thereafter with a citation for failing to wear a seat belt.”

Should James Franco Have Lip-Synced the N-Word in ‘Bound 2’ Parody?

Should James Franco Have Lip-Synced the N-Word in 'Bound 2' Parody?

James Franco and Seth Rogen’s parody of Kanye West’s “Bound 2” video is universally funny. But it’s hard not to take pause at the very begining when Franco, doing a frame-by-frame impersonation of West, lip-syncs the n-word twice.

It’s a word that defintely would have earned Franco, who’s white, tons of criticism if he’d actually said it in his own voice. Context is very important, of course, and that’s where this one gets tricky. For some general background on the public conversation around the n-word, here’s Ta-Nehisi Coates in a recent guest column at the New York Times:

A few summers ago one of my best friends invited me up to what he affectionately called his “white-trash cabin” in the Adirondacks. This was not how I described the outing to my family. Two of my Jewish acquaintances once joked that I’d “make a good Jew.” My retort was not, “Yeah, I certainly am good with money.” Gay men sometimes laughingly refer to one another as “faggots.” My wife and her friends sometimes, when having a good time, will refer to one another with the word “bitch.” I am certain that should I decide to join in, I would invite the same hard conversation that would greet me, should I ever call my father Billy.

In this instance, does the context make it okay? For more, check out the Maynard Institute’s recent collection of white writers who’ve joined the n-word debate

Fall in Love With The Younger Lovers’ New Video ‘Hey Now’

Fall in Love With The Younger Lovers' New Video 'Hey Now'

Meet The Younger Lovers, a recording project of openly queer Bay Area songwriter Brontez Purnell. It’s an adorable first look at the new album “Sugar In My Pocket,” which drops on December 10.

(h/t MTV)

Washington DC’s NFL Team ‘Honored’ Navajo Code Talkers on Monday

Washington DC's NFL Team 'Honored' Navajo Code Talkers on Monday

What do you do if your NFL franchise takes center stage on Monday Night Football? If you’re Dan Snyder, owner of Washington DC’s NFL football team, you use it another moment to troll your critics. Snyder has already steadfastly refused to concede to calls to change his team’s patently racist name. But during last night’s Monday Night Football matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, the team “honored” Navajo Code Talkers who developed and memorized a secret code based on their native languages to help American forces during World War II.

Snyder has maintained that his team’s name is not racist but, in fact, a tribute to Native Americans. This was obviously a move to try to push that point even further. But no amount of spin can change the fact that the name is downright racist. 

Watch the video over at Deadspin.

Obama’s Speech Disrupted by Undocumented Student Calling to Halt Deportations

Obama's Speech Disrupted by Undocumented Student Calling to Halt Deportations

President Obama was in San Francisco’s Chinatown today, where he once again addressed immigration reform. Although Obama has long called for one comprehensive immigration reform bill, he’s now saying that he’s open to moving forward on piecemeal legislation. He made clear that reform is crucial, and that he’s willing to listen if there are any better ideas moving forward. The president covered familiar talking points about immigration—until 24-year-old Ju Hong disrupted him.

Obama compared a series of immigration reform bills to a Thanksgiving turkey—one that has different parts but is still whole. As he kept with the Thanksgiving and family dinner theme, Hong stood up, and began to question the president on his deportation record. Obama turned around and listened for a few seconds as more people joined in the disruption, screaming for the president to halt deportations. Obama’s administration has deported nearly two million people to date—a record for any president.

Speaking by phone to Colorlines directly after disrupting the speech, Hong explained that he took Obama’s words about being open to better ideas to heart. “He said he’s willing to listen to ideas, and here’s my idea: the president can use his executive power to halt the deportations of undocumented family members,” said Hong. “He has that power, but isn’t willing to use it.”

Hong was also upset that the president referenced Thanksgiving as a time when families can come together for dinner. “As a matter of fact, I cannot see my family this Thanksgiving because we’re separated—they’re in South Korea and I’m here and can’t leave because of my status,” he said. Hong added that he supports immigration reform, but that Obama has the power to halt deportations without legislation.

Although security attempted to escort Hong out, the president stopped them, saying he wanted Hong to stay in the audience. The president then condescendingly responded to Hong, claiming that yelling was an easy thing to do, but that using democratic processes to pass legislation is much harder. Obama also claimed it would be illegal for him to halt deportations. The president has already provided relief for different classes of undocumented immigrants however, most famously for young people.  

Adelanto Immigrant Detention Facility Under the Microscope

Adelanto Immigrant Detention Facility Under the Microscope

Today, three young women locked themselves to the gates outside of the Adelanto Detention facility in California. It is the largest (1,200 beds) and newest facility in California, and was recently scrutinized in a report from the Detention Watch Network, which exposed extensive use of solitary confinement as punishment, and inadequate mental health services. The facility was also highlighted by photojournalist John Moore in a New York Times article published today, accompanied by a series of compelling photographs.

According to the NDLON, the young women—who are locked to the gates using bike locks—are acting on behalf of three fathers currently being detained at Adelanto, and to “protest unjust deportations and the inhumane treatment of inmates inside.” They were joined at the facility by other immigration reform advocates. Just before 4:00pm, the three young women appear to have been taken into custody.

Walmart Strikes Spread to Miami Ahead of Black Friday Protests

Walmart Strikes Spread to Miami Ahead of Black Friday Protests

Today, workers at a Walmart store in Miami went on strike. They held a 7 a.m. protest this morning and will follow up with a 4 p.m. protest this afternoon. The action is part of the steady buildup toward Black Friday actions set for the day after Thanksgiving. Walmart workers with the non-union worker organization OUR Walmart have been calling for better wages and an end to retaliation for those who speak out. This year’s Black Friday will be the second Thanksgiving shopping holiday that OUR Walmart plans to impact with its strikes and protests. Organizers announced last week that the retail giant can expect protests at 1,500 store locations this year.

In the last three weeks workers at Los Angeles, Sacramento, Seattle, Dayton, Cincinnati, Dallas, Chicago and Pittsburgh Walmart stores have gone on strike. In Florida, Miami’s striking workers were joined for a 7a.m. protest this morning by workers from Walmart’s Tampa store who went on strike this weekend. 

Jaime Martinez, a Tampa Walmart store employee who works night shifts on maintenance, was one of them. “We went to Miami to let people know how the Walmart associates are being treated,” Martinez told Colorlines. “A lot of them are being treated unfairly.”

Martinez said he went on strike because he was sick of the treatment he received after almost 16 years at his job. He recalled an incident from earlier this year in September when he had to be admitted to the hospital for a ruptured appendix. “I called Walmart, and let them know that I’m not going to be able to return to work right away.” When he did make it back, he found out that while he was hospitalized he’d been written up for being absent at work. Enough writeups and Martinez could lose his job. “That was a slap in my face,” Martinez said. 

Martinez said about seven workers from the Tampa Walmart where he works went on strike, and estimated that some 50 people took part in this morning’s protest. 

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. 




* 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”.)

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