Kendrick Lamar made an appearance on ‘Chelsea Lately’ this week and talked about everything from the VMAs (he was “shocked” by Miley Cyrus’ foam finger) to his much talked about verse of Big Sean’s “Control” earlier this summer. What it all boils down to? He’s a competitive dude.
Today New Orleans residents commemorated the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with events around the city, remembering the more than 1,800 people who died and the destruction it caused. The hurricane that devastated the city eight years ago continues to be a daily reality for those still living there.
But the Associated Press reports that 80 percent of the pre-storm population has returned to the city, and new business development is on the rise. New Orleans appears to be on the rebound and residents who chose to stay or have returned are working hard to revitalize the city.
Current residents of one of the hardest-hit areas in the Lower Ninth Ward have been struggling with lack of access to grocery stores, and responded by creating a network of community gardens to provide residents with fresh produce.
And young people in New Orleans now have a say in how their education system is rebuilt thanks to Kids Rethink New Orleans project.
Storytelling and community building continue to be important tools for helping residents cope with the past and rebuild their lives. One of projects to emerge in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is the “Land of Opportunity,” a film project that developed an interactive platform for Katrina survivors to share their experiences. The project is teaming up with Sandy Storyline, a documentary project focusing on Hurricane Sandy in New York, to build ties between these recovery efforts.
These are just a few of the projects in the works to bring back “The Big Easy.” It’s clear there’s still work to be done, but the people of New Orleans seem strongly committed to creating innovative models for rebuilding their beloved city.
Those walking off the job across the country are asking that the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour, as well as for the right to form unions. That wage is the same-dollar equivalent to the 1963 March on Washington’s call for a $2 per hour minimum wage.
Troublingly, five decades after the original march the grandchildren of those who participated are protesting for the same goal: essential economic fairness.
The problem is that the current minimum wage of $7.25 is a driving force behind the fact that one out of three Americans who work don’t earn enough to live. At minimum wage an employee earns only $15,000 a year. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, that’s the poverty level for a worker with one child.
And the minimum wage is a racial justice issue as well. Four out of 10 of those who hold these jobs are people of color. A report by the Restaurant Opportunities Center found that three million people of color could be lifted out of poverty if the minimum wage were increased even to $10 an hour.
That’s why thousands are protesting in front of fast food restaurants such as McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s today and retailers including Dollar Tree, Sears and Macy’s. Given that the fact that dining and retail combined generate almost $5 trillion in economic activity, perhaps their time has come.
Either way, today’s effort shows that the fight for economic justice marches on. Updates to their efforts can be followed at Twitter #829strike.
People attending the “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony yesterday, featuring President Obama, were expecting to hear from Philip Agnew, executive director of the Dream Defenders in Florida, and Sofia Campos, chairperson of the immigrant rights youth-led organization United We Dream. Both names were listed on the ceremony’s program. But as Agnew was about to take the stage, he was told that he could not speak. Campos was also told she could not speak.
Talk about civil rights action interrupted, the Dream Defenders camped out in the Florida capitol building in Tallahassee for a full month in protest of the George Zimmerman verdict, and to demand new laws that would dismantle school-to-prison pipelines, racial profiling and Stand Your Ground gun laws. Campos, 24, is helping lead a movement demanding humane immigrant rights reform, which has called out Obama on his record-setting deportations.
Agnew is now calling for people to publish their own dream speeches on video and post them on Twitter and Facebook. The Dream Defenders are releasing today a video of the speech Agnew was going to deliver at the ceremony yesterday.
“This is about more than the speech,” said Agnew. “It’s about the voices of hundreds of thousands of people across the country that have been silenced for too long. Our generation’s dreams have been deferred for too long. While the words spoken amidst the pillars of the Lincoln Memorial yesterday may have reverberated throughout the nation, the actions, energy and love of the rising generation will resound in history books for centuries to come, like those of giants before us.”
… It’s offensive to black culture and black women who’ve been twerking for years. Every time we do something, people want to snatch it and run with it and put their name on it. And they still don’t even have the moves down yet. Just get me and Miley together so I could give her ass some lessons.
In addition to joining the chorus of voices condemning her for appropriating black culture, Freedia criticizes Cyrus’s overall technique and says she isn’t twerking, but (incorrectly) doing another dance move called “exercising.”
Freedia is coming out with a new song in response to growing twerk-fest titled “Twerk It,” which explores the roots of twerk vocabulary. When asked what advice she would have given Cyrus before VMA performance, Freedia responded: “Don’t do it.”
A few seconds after civil rights legend, graphic novel superhero and congressman Rep. John Lewis was announced to take the podium at the “Let Freedom Ring” closing ceremony of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, he was interrupted. The Obamas had walked in, and the announcer took the moment from Lewis to recognize this. After the First Family was seated at the Lincoln Memorial, Lewis was given his mic back.
Lewis was one of nearly 50 speakers, performers and dignitaries participating in the ceremony, which drew thousands to the National Mall amidst showers that occasionally sprinkled the audience. It felt almost as if the rains sometimes dampened the mood as well.
When Lewis spoke, he had little of the fire that was in him Saturday at the “Realize the Dream” march. It was a subdued speech delivered calmly and made no reference to the speech he gave 50 years ago. Instead of roaring about the need to fight for voting rights, as he did Saturday, he chimed about unity—a running theme through all the speakers.
“It doesn’t matter whether they’re black or white, Latino, Asian- American or Native American, whether we or gay or straight,” said Lewis. “We are one people, we are one family, we are all living in the same house, not just the American house, but the the world house.”
Maybe the rain or Obama’s entrance doused his flame, or Lewis was intentionally striking a solemn note in deference to honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights leaders who made the 1963 march happen. On Saturday he grieved heavily and charged passionately that the U.S. Supreme Court and Republicans had reversed a lot of civil rights gains. Yesterday, he touched on that, but was more resolute about the progress that had been made, even challenging anyone who disputed that to “walk in my shoes.”
“This moment in our history has been a long time coming, but a change has come,” said Lewis.
When Obama later got up to speak, it sounded as if the POTUS thought that Lewis’s “a change has come,” was about him. (Read more about Obama’s speech from Imara Jones today.)
If some were expecting “The Blueprint” or even “Reasonable Doubt” from Obama, at best what they got was “Magna Carta Holy Grail”— a less-than-magniloquent treatise on his own come-up. The key civil rights point Obama made in his speech — “Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislatures changed and Congress changed and, yes, eventually the White House changed” — could have been shortened to a Jay lyric: “My presence is your present.”
And yet he made sure that the beneficiaries of King’s dream hadn’t gotten too comfortable. Said Obama:
“We must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks had joined the ranks of millionaires; it was whether this country would admit all people who were willing to work hard, regardless of race, into the ranks of a middle-class life.”
Obama’s speech wasn’t, as rapper Keith Murray would say, the most beautifulest thing in the world, but it accomplished what Obama has been setting out to accomplish from the beginning: staying the middle-road course in effort to appeal to the liberals and conservatives among all races in the spirit of perfecting the union. Whether his legacy will reflect a victory on this as an honorable effort or flat failure won’t be determined for decades.
Overall, the beauty of the ceremony was in the total roster of characters representing labor, education, civil rights, gay and lesbian groups and government. Even movie stars and entertainers were on hand. The day was hosted by actor Hill Harper and journalist Soledad O’Brien. Forrest Whitaker, who starred in the White House-based movie “The Butler,” spoke, as did his co-star Oprah Winfrey. Jamie Foxx, better known as Django over the past year, challenged his fellow celebrities to “step up.”
One group that wasn’t visible were environmentalists, which was disappointing given the shared history between the environmental and civil rights movement. At the commemoration NAACP president Ben Jealous told me that when his organization began strategizing around how to fight voter suppression at the state level he realized that they needed “a winning coalition that’s as big and as broad as it takes,” to be successful.
“The first groups to come running were Sierra Club and Greenpeace because they recognized that those most likely to vote to protect the environment were black, brown and young voters and that’s exactly who voter suppression laws were targeted at,” said Jealous.
Given that yesterday’s ceremony came on the eve of the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and amidst rebuilding efforts from Hurricane Sandy, the organizers might have been keen to point out the connections between climate change and civil rights.
Yesterday’s ceremony was officially billed a “call to action,” but if there was such a call it was hardly recognized. Foxx did remind remind the crowd of how Harry Belafonte paid King’s bail money and took care of Coretta Scott King’s bills until she died (perhaps oversharing on that last point). But action today has come mostly from groups like Power Shift, the Dream Defenders in Florida, Rev. William Barber and “Moral Mondays” protestors in North Carolina, and thousands of other youth from L.A. to Chicago to New York who’ve been calling out the powers that be on Stand Your Ground laws, school-to-prison pipelines and climate change. They are King’s dream realized. They have as much claim to the change that has come as Obama has. But yesterday, as much as the ceremony was about the civil rights generation who started all of this, the leaders of today seemed relegated to the status of a dream deferred, or rather a dream interrupted.
Post has been updated since publication.
A promising young filmmaker and author, Vanessa Libertad Garcia’s untimely death is just coming to light for many in the entertainment industry. She took her life on August 17, and in what seems a growing trend posted her suicide note online, saying goodbye to her family and friends on her personal website. Citing a lifetime struggle with depression and self-hate, her heartbreaking final letter suggests other factors that drove her to take her life such as body image, family relations, sexuality, substance abuse, and pressure to succeed.
The daughter of Cuban immigrants, Garcia was born and raised in Los Angeles. She was an out lesbian, and her queer Latina identity inspired much of her work. Already she had amassed an impressive portfolio, including being an associate producer for the award-winning PBS series “Maid in America” about women domestic workers and self-publishing a book of poems and short-stories titled ”The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive.”
There has been an outpouring of condolences and support from friends and colleagues over the past week. Garcia left a number of projects behind, including an upcoming book of poetry called “Bloody Fucking Hell” and the film “Good Mourning Lucille” set for screening in January 2014, as well as a script for a new project titled “Dear Dios.” Garcia’s tragically short life speaks to the experiences of many young queer people and immigrants, who so often struggle with identity and mental health.
It just won’t stop.
On August 28, 1955—eight years before the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—Emmett Till was murdered in Money, Miss. for allegedly flirting with a white store clerk, Carolyn Bryant.
Bryant’s husband, Roy, and his half brother J. W. Milam kidnapped the 14-year-old Chicagoan from his great uncle’s home and beat him, shot him in the head, tied his body to a large metal cotton gin fan with barbed wire and dropped him into the Tallahatchie River. Three days later the teenager’s bloated, mutilated body was pulled from the river.
Till’s mother, Mamie, insisted on an open-casket funeral for her only son so that the world might see the brutality he suffered. Two black publications, Jet and The Chicago Defender, ran pictures of Till’s casket.
Despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt, the two white men who killed Emmett Till were acquitted by an all-white jury. They went on to sell the story of murdering the teenager to Look magazine for $4,000.
The horrific death of Emmett Till is largely credited with intensifying the push for black voter registration in Mississippi and serving as a catalyst for the civil rights movement in general.
Managers of an apartment building in suburban New York have routinely discriminated against prospective African-American renters, according to a lawsuit filed this week in federal district court. The lawsuit was brought by the group ERASE Racism and the Fair Housing Justice Center.
Both groups jointly funded a 2012 investigation that included sending several teams of comparably qualified African-American and white testers posing as prospecrtive renters to inquire about apartments at the 74-unit Town House Apartments in the Village of Mineola, a predominately white community in Nassau County. The lawsuit alleges that an “Apartment for Rent” sign appeared at the building’s entrance, but the building superintendent discouraged black renters from applying by not showing available apartments, quoting higher rents, or suggesting that black applicants would have to be added to a non-existent waiting list.
Sound illegal? That’s exactly the point. The suit alleges that the apartment building’s actions constitute racial discrimination, and that’s in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
“This lawsuit is about more than just people being kept out of a suburban apartment building,” says Kimiki Hibson, executtive director of the Fair Housing Justice Center.” It is about African Americans being shut out of a community with high-performing schools, good jobs, and many other amenities. It’s an injustice that serves as a painful reminder, on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, that much work must still be done to ensure equal treatment and fair housing.”
For more, visit ERASE’s website.
Since 2001 the New York Police Department has been secretly designating entire mosques as terrorism sites, enabling them to monitor both religious leaders and average people attending services. These revelations come from Associated Press reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman who will publish their findings in the upcoming book “Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America.”
Based on previously unpublished CIA, FBI, and NYPD files and interviews, these investigative reporters found evidence of a vast network of undercover NYPD “mosque crawlers” who gathered extensive information about people’s personal lives and political and religious beliefs.
The AP reports that the NYPD has opened dozens of “terrorism enterprise investigations” or TEI’s, which often went on for many years without any criminal charges filed.
This news comes as a federal judge ruled that another NYPD surveillance and racial profiling tool, Stop-and-Frisk, violates people’s civil rights and requires major changes. The NYPD recently requested the judge’s ruling be held pending appeal, and could have the ruling frozen by a higher court.
Ready to feel really old?
It’s been 21 years since TLC’s debut album “Ooooooohhh…on the TLC Tip” was released.
But now there will be somewhere to properly place your nostalgia. The group’s surviving members, T-Boz and Chilli, are working with VH1 to release a new film that chronicles their turbulent rise to fame in the early 1990’s. It’s due out in October, but you can watch the trailer now.
Mourners gathered in Harlem on Thursday night to remember Islan Nettles, the 21-year-old transgender woman who was beaten to death last week. Nettles was walking with friends on August 17 when she was confronted by a group of men. Once the men realized that Nettles and her friends were transgender, they verbally and physically assaulted them. The attack happened one block away from a local police station.
Nettles died days later at Harlem Hospital after she was declared brain dead.
Thursday’s vigil was organized by Nettles’ mother, Delores Nettles, and several New York City LGBT organizations, including Harlem Pride, Gay Men of African Descent, and NYC Black Pride. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and several City Councilmen were also involved. Some of the city’s mayoral candidates, including Christine Quinn, Anthony Weinger, and Bill de Blasio, also attended.
“My baby can’t come back, my baby can’t go to school or to work like she wanted to, and it’s not fair,” Delores Nettles told the crowd. See images from Thursday’s vigil after the jump.
ABC News seems pretty obsessed with twerking—or what passes for twerking. In a rather bizarre attempt to explain twerking to its audience today, ABC didn’t reach out to experts like Big Freedia, but to a white doctor in Montgomery, Alabama:
Twerking is such a complex, technical subject, only a Ph.D. researcher can explain how the body does what it does to make it happen.
Twerking is a combination movement involving a deep squat and a pelvic tilt, Michelle Olson, a professor of exercise science and a certified strength and conditioning coach at Auburn University in Montgomery, Ala., explained.
“You take a wide stance with your legs turned out at 10 and 2 so your hips are externally rotated,” she said. “Then you pulse up and down as you thrust the pelvis bone forward and back.”
Dr. Olson concluded that people over the age of 25 shouldn’t twerk. (Yes, really.)
The online business magazine Fast Company released a monochromatic list yesterday of the 25 Smartest Women to follow on Twitter. While the list offers a sprinkling of women of color, it largely features white women. Salon posted the exact same list a short while later.
While we don’t want to disavow the smartness of any women tweeters, the Colorlines.com team came up with a more diverse grouping. Got more for us? Tell us who you follow!
Kimberly Bryant, Biotech Engineer and Founder of Black Girls Code.
Laverne Cox, star of Orange is the New Black and transgender rights activist.
Maria Hinojosa, multimedia journalist and founder of the Futuro Media Group.
Mariame Kaba, violence and prison reform advocate, writer, and founder of Project NIA.
Carolyn Edgar, ‘lawyer, writer, and single mom.’
Lauren Chief Elk, activist for violence against Native American women, co-founder of Save Wiyabi Project.
Favianna Rodriguez, artist, social justice activist, and community organizer.
Tayari Jones, author of “Silver Sparrow,” “Leaving Atlanta,” and “The Untelling.”
Goldie Taylor, author, journalist, and “marathon running grandmother.”
Prerna Lal, DREAMer, writer, and immigration and queer rights activist.
Anthea Butler, author, professor at University of Pennsylvania, and media commentator.
Michele Norris, author, host and correspondent for NPR.
Trudy Hamilton, writer, culture critic, and “blackademic.”
Melissa Harris-Perry, Tulane professor, host of the Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC and columnist for The Nation.
Carlita Peligrosa, feminist and “Talk Like Sex” columnist for Ebony.com.
Chadwick Boseman is known to many as the star of last year’s contrversial hit him “42”, which chronicled Jackie Robinson’s first year integrating Major League Baseball. Now the actor is working on a new project of another black icon: James Brown.
The film will reportedly focus on Brown’s path from an impoverished childhood in Georgia to his rise as The Godfather of Soul.
Brown’s story is far from simple, as Sean Flynn brilliantly detailed in his 2008 GQ piece. Here’s the short version: “When James Brown died on Christmas Day 2006, he left behind a fortune worth tens, maybe hundreds, of millions of dollars. The problem is, he also left behind fourteen children, sixteen grandchildren, eight mothers of his children, several mistresses, thirty lawyers, a former manager, an aging dancer, a longtime valet, and a sister who’s really not a sister but calls herself the Godsister of Soul anyway. All of whom want a piece of his legacy.”
HBO’s new Muhammad Ali film screened successfully at Cannes this year, and will be making its U.S. debut on October 5, 8/7c. Check out the trailer below. The film takes place in 1967, the year the boxer refused to report for military duty in Vietnam, and chronicles Ali’s biggest opponent: the U.S. government.
Paul was a sneakerhead who was in love with a woman, Hazel. So what better way to do a marriage proposal than with a pair of shoes?
Despite this week’s events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, it’s really difficult to find video from the march’s most memorable event: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. As Dustin Volz pointed out at The Atlantic, it’s nearly impossible to find the speech online.
But a new project hopes to keep the speech’s legacy alive. “Freedom’s Ring” is an animated look at King’s dream. According to creator Evan Bissell, “It highlights a lot of the context of the time, attempting to create a new way to engage with a more complex version of that speech than is usually taught or remembered.”