Area in East New York Renamed ‘African Burial Ground’

Area in East New York Renamed 'African Burial Ground'

When it was unveiled in 2010, the African Burial Ground Visitor Center in Manhattan’s Lower East Side became a significant monument to New York’s history of slavery, and it continues to commemorate those buried in the Ground Zero Slave Graves. That same year, the remains of previously enslaved people were also discovered in Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood. A group of advocates officially unveiled “African Burial Ground Square” this week on the site of the New Lots African Burial Ground, in honor of those forgotten African slaves. Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron, who was part of the renaming initiative, says the effort was also a way to replace street names that honor Dutch colonists with one that speaks to the legacy of slavery. According to New York’s Amsterdam News, there are 70 streets in New York named after former slave owners.

In addition to the square’s renaming, Schenck Playground in the square will also be given an “Afrocentric” renovation, which will include artifacts and a monument that will tell the story of the burial ground, along with new lights and equipment.

(h/t Amsterdam News)

San Francisco Activists Block Deportation Bus

San Francisco Activists Block Deportation Bus

Some 100 people—many of them undocumented youth—blocked a deportation bus Thursday evening outside immigration headquarters in San Francisco. For the next two hours or so, about 20 people placed themselves in front of and in back of the bus. Many of those involved recently attended a convergence in Arizona, which included trainings and civil disobedience actions, including the blocking of another deportation bus. 

Federal immigration police told demonstrators that they would face felony charges if they didn’t clear the way—but activists held their ground. They were eventually escorted away from the bus, which was packed with immigrants preparing to be deported or heading to detention centers, and the bus took off.

It’s likely that demonstrators will hold similar actions in various cities in the coming days, as they demand President Obama halt record-setting deportations.  

M.I.A.’s New Track ‘Y.A.L.A’ is a Dedication to Second Chances

M.I.A.'s New Track 'Y.A.L.A' is a Dedication to Second Chances

M.I.A.’s new album, “Matangi,” drops on November 5, and to help build hype for her third LP, the singer released a preview to a track called “Y.A.L.A” (You Always Live Again) in response to the YOLO (You Only Live Once) credo that’s been around for a few years.  The singer wrote on Twitter this week, “If you only live once why we keep doing the same shit?”


(h/t Afropunk)


Juana Villegas Receives Settlement After Immigrant Detention Abuse

Juana Villegas Receives Settlement After Immigrant Detention Abuse

A five-year legal battle is finally over for Juana Villegas, an immigrant who was forced to give birth shackled to hospital bed while being detained by Davidson County police in 2008. That summer, Villegas was pulled over in Nashville, Tenn., for “reckless driving.”  She was nine months pregnant, but instead of being given a traffic citation she was taken into custody and then detained after police discovered she was undocumented, because federal authorities had given county police the right to enforce immigration policies. Villegas then gave birth to her son in prison, was shackled to a bed throughout her labor, and prevented from seeing her newborn son for two days after.

She has been awarded $490,000 in the settlement by a council representing both the city of Nashville and Davidson County. She has also been given the opportunity to apply for a U visa, which are made available to immigrants who have been victims of crimes in the U.S.  A federal judge in Tennessee ruled in Villegas’ favor in 2011, but city officials have spent the last two years disputing the amount of damages she should receive. Because of this case, Davidson county no longer restrains women who are giving birth while incarcerated.

Biggie Too Fat, Misogynist and Criminal for Brooklyn Honor

Biggie Too Fat, Misogynist and Criminal for Brooklyn Honor

It’s been 16 years since Biggie Smalls’ death, but his memory is still alive and well in his hometown of Brooklyn. Passing cars still blast his music and murals dedicated to his short life seem to pop up every year or so. But there will not be any Brooklyn streets named after the slain hip-hop icon — at least not for now.

Several members of a local community board in Clinton Hill — where Biggie grew up — objected to the idea of re-naming St. James Place and Fulton Street “Christopher Wallace Way” after the rapper’s birthname. Lucy Koteen, one of the board members, said that she “looked up the rapper’s history” and was disturbed by what she found.

“He started selling drugs at 12, he was a school dropout at 17, he was arrested for drugs and weapons charge, he was arrested for parole violations, he was arrested in North Carolina for crack cocaine, in 1996 he was again arrested for assault, he had a violent death and physically the man is not exactly a role model for youth,” she said. “I don’t see how this guy was a role model and frankly it offends me.”

Ken Lowy, another board member and the owner of a local cinema, added that Wallace referred to women with derogatory names in his music. 

Councilwoman Letitia James, who’s locked into a battle for the city’s public advocate, has yet to issue a letter of support for the petition, which is necessary for it to move forward. 

LeRoy McCarthy, the 45-year-old man who started the effort to rename the street after the rapper, said that “board members should not hold Wallace’s physical appearance nor how he died against him.”

“There are many artists that share stories in a vernacular that their audiences understand,” said McCarthy in response to the complaint about misogynistic lyrics.  “Biggie used the language from the streets he grew up in to convey what he wanted to say.”

It’s worth noting that Clinton Hill has been in the midst of intense gentrification for several years and there aren’t as many men who physically look like him left in the neighborhood. Case in point: his old apartment at 226 St. James place was recently on sale for $750,000.

(h/t DNA Info)

Black and Latino Families are Hardest Hit by Housing ‘Income Segregation’

Black and Latino Families are Hardest Hit by Housing 'Income Segregation'

In 1970, 65 percent of U.S. families lived in middle-income neighborhoods. By 2009 that number had dropped to 42 percent. A recent study from researchers at Cornell University and Stanford University says middle-income neighborhoods are disappearing as it’s becoming more common for people to live in either extreme. The researchers use the term “income segregation,” which “denotes the extent to which families of different incomes live in different neighborhoods.” 

From 1970-2009, the percentage of people living in the poorest neighborhoods increased from eight percent to 18 percent, and those living in the wealthiest neighborhoods increased from seven percent to 15 percent. Strikingly, the divide is much greater for black and Latino families. Increases in housing inequality appear to have spiked in 2000 and have continued to make a sharp upward climb, only recently leveling off in 2009.   


This data follows similar reports that income inequality is growing nationwide, and is having a multitude of negative  effects, including decreased life expectancy and education opportunities, and stifling the nation’s economic growth. The dangers of income inequality are so extreme that economist Robert Shiller—who was among the three to win the Nobel Prize for economics and also predicted technology and housing market bubble bursts—says it’s the most important challenge this country faces.

Morehouse Alum Jeh Johnson Tapped to Head Homeland Security

Morehouse Alum Jeh Johnson Tapped to Head Homeland Security

Those of us who were concerned that President Obama might tap New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly, aka the P. Diddy of stop-and-frisk policies, as the next head of Homeland Security can rest easy. The Daily Beast is reporting that soon Obama will announce former Defense Department general counsel Jeh Johnson as the new Department of Homeland Security chief secretary. From The Beast:

Johnson, a well-known and trusted figure in the Obama White House, was a central player in many of the administration’s most sensitive national security and counterterrorism policies, including the ramping up of the drone program, the revival of military commissions to try suspected terrorists, and the repeal of the Defense Department’s ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces.

Johnson’s experience dealing with counterterrorism and cyber-security threats will comfort many on Capitol Hill. He is less versed in the areas of disaster relief and immigration enforcement, also key elements of the DHS mission. Still, administration officials do not expect the nomination to be especially polarizing and are hopeful Johnson will receive a relatively warm reception in Congress.

Civil liberty groups will probably take issue with his role in the controversial drone program. It also won’t be very comforting for coastal communities and many Latino Americans that he “is less versed in the areas of disaster relief and immigration enforcement,” as reported in The Daily Beast. 

Johnson, who is an African American, is a graduate of Columbia Law School, and attended the HBCU Morehouse College for his undergrad. His father is the civil rights activist and sociologist Dr. Charles Johnson, also the first black president of the HBCU Fisk University in Tennessee. Before this Johnson practiced at a private law firm in New York and once served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the state in addition to his role in the Department of Defense.

A couple of years ago, Johnson caused a lot of head-scratching when he said in a speech that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have condoned today’s wars. “He would recognize that we live in a complicated world,” said Johnson, “and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack.”

We’ll see how he explains that in the Senate confirmations. 

Is an Increasingly Multicultural America Changing the Way We Eat?

Is an Increasingly Multicultural America Changing the Way We Eat?

So-called “ethnic” foods are more available than they’ve ever been (remember Rhianna’s ubiquitous coconut water ads), and experts say this reflects the shifting taste buds of an increasingly multicultural U.S.  Marie Callender, once famous for frozen chicken pot pies, now makes chipotle shrimp street tacos, and Campbell’s soup has turned up the flavor on its classic tomato soup with lemongrass

Latino foods in particular are dominating the market. According to an Associated Press report, salsa beat out ketchup as the No. 1 condiment in the U.S., and tortillas are outselling chips and burger and hotdog buns. Asian foods are a close second, reflecting the largest growing immigrant communities in the U.S.  Food companies seem surprised by what they can get away with flavor-wise, but overall it seems like a positive shift in the American palate. In a recent New York Times report, which also highlighted the growing popularity of Mexican Jaritos soda, a representative from Frito Lay says eating patterns are changing as well, and people are grazing or eating throughout the day more often.

Perhaps it’s silly to try to distinguish a uniquely American cuisine since, after all, pizza is commonly considered American. But this food trend certainly highlights the expanding Latino population in the U.S., and suggests that the growing Latino consumer base has the power to shift markets. 

Really Racist Video Proclaims White Girl’s Love of Chinese Food

Really Racist Video Proclaims White Girl's Love of Chinese Food

The Asian Girlz video from a few months back was bad enough. But now we have Alison Gold’s song and video called “Chinese Food.” It features a black rapper dressed up as a panda bear and Gold wearing what’s supposed to be traditional Chinese garb. Disgusted yet?

But who exactly is Alison Gold? It’s hard to really tell. She’s got a Twitter account and the single is for sale on iTunes

TAGS: Racists

Imara Jones Discusses What’s Next for Government in #ShutdownChat2

When the government shutdown began, Colorlines engaged its Twitter community in a chat with Imara Jones about its worries, ideas and expectations for the impact and resolution. As the shutdown ended today, we reprised our discussion with Imara using the hashtag #shutdownchat2. The results were enlightening, as followers weighed in on everything from the impact of race in the shutdown and the racially coded langage used for public assistance to the various ways in which individuals were affected by loss of pay and services.

Here’s the Storify:

TAGS: Reader Forum

Obama Sets Priorities for Remainder of 2013

Obama Sets Priorities for Remainder of 2013

After Congress finally put a badly needed end to the government shutdown, President Obama laid out his immediate priorities moving forward. Speaking from the White House Thursday morning, the president says he wants to tackle the budget, immigration reform, and the farm bill:

“Those are three specific things that would make a huge difference in our economy right now.  And we could get them done by the end of the year if our focus is on what’s good for the American people. And that’s just the big stuff.  There are all kinds of other things that we could be doing that don’t get as much attention.”

It’s a very tall order. The next round of debt and budget negotiations may prove difficult if Republicans dig their heels in once more—which could result in another government shutdown in the next few months. But Obama cautioned against the “process of creating a budget as an ideological exercise.”

The Senate has already passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill—but time will tell whether the House will move forward on it. The farm bill has been stalled for a year. 

Sexy Female Video Game Avatars Can Negatively Affect Women

Sexy Female Video Game Avatars Can Negatively Affect Women

A new study from Stanford University says that hyper-sexualized female avatars, or characters taken on in video games, can have a number of harmful effects on women. Media critics like Anita Sarkeesian, creator of Feminist Frequency, have long decried common female video game tropes—such as the “damsel in distress”—that promote negative representations of women as passive, sexual objects in need of rescue. But this new study further investigates the effect those same representations have when women take on a persona. 

According to the study, women who took on the person of a sexy female avatar in a video game were more likely to objectify themselves  and were more accepting of rape myths in real life. These same effects were increased if the avatar resembled them. Eighty six women aged 18 to 40 were part of the study, and researchers say their findings confirmed what is known as the Proteus Effect, whereby people take on attitudes and behaviors they experience in virtual environments such as video games. There are numerous studies on the effects of videos games in particular on young people, but this one gives new insight into how some games can contribute to rape culture. 

Watch Idris Elba Play Nelson Mandela in New Film

Watch Idris Elba Play Nelson Mandela in New Film

Tambay Obenson over at Shadow and Act recently uploaded a YouTube clip of Idris Elba’s performance as Nelson Mandela in the upcoming biopic “Long Walk to Freedom.” The film opens in the United States on November 29. 

Poll: Majority See Why Washington DC NFL Team’s Name is Offensive

Poll: Majority See Why Washington DC NFL Team's Name is Offensive

The Oneida Indian Nation commissioned a poll to prove what’s increasingly becoming clear: a majority of people can see why the Washington D.C. NFL team’s name is offensive.

According to the poll, 59 percent of adults surveyed in the Washington region think that American Indians would have a right to feel offended if called “redskin.” 

Th poll also found that 55 percent of adults in the region would not support the team any less if the club finally decided to change its name. The NFL and the Oneidas will meet in coming weeks and 77 percent of survey respondents said that team owner Daniel Snyder should attend.

(h/t USA Today)

Prince Is Having a Pajama Dance Party At His House This Weekend

Prince Is Having a Pajama Dance Party At His House This Weekend

Prince continues to show off his excellent sense of humor. In an effort to plug his new single, “Breakfast Can Wait,” the iconic singer is hosting a pajama dance party at his Paisley Park home in Minnesota this weekend.  

The event/concert has been officially dubbed “The Breakfast Experience Pajama Dance Party” and kicks off at 2 am on October 19. The event is open to the public with a $50 donation, though it’s not clear what those proceeds go to. Also, you gotta dress to impress. 



(h/t Consequence of Sound)

TAGS: Prince

Listen to Angel Haze Freestyle Over Drake’s ‘Worst Behavior’

Listen to Angel Haze Freestyle Over Drake's 'Worst Behavior'

Angel Haze is on a mission to kick 30 freestyles over 30 days, and she’s off to a great start. She’s also done great takes on Kanye’s “Black Skinhead” and Jay Z’s “Tom Ford.” It’s a great prelude to her upcoming album, “Dirty Gold,” which is set to be released at some point next year.

(h/t Stereogum)

UCLA Study Finds Link Between TV Diversity and Higher Ratings

UCLA Study Finds Link Between TV Diversity and Higher Ratings

The bottom line tends to drive—or justify—so much of Hollywood decisionmaking. So the latest study from the UCLA Bunche Center for African American Studies should be required reading. 

Researchers found that in the 2011 through 2012 season, cable television shows like “The Closer” and “Falling Skies,” with at least a third of their casts who were people of color had the highest ratings. The lowest performing shows, meanwhile, had casts that were more than 90 percent white. And the same held for broadcast television. Television shows whose casts were 40 to 50 percent people of color performed the best in median household ratings. 

“It’s clear that people are watching shows that reflect and relate to their own experiences,” Darnell Hunt, a UCLA professor and author of the study, said in a statement.

But viewing habits aside, Hollywood is embarrasingly out of touch with the demographic reality of the country. People of color are over 36 percent of the U.S. population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. But you wouldn’t know it from TV, where people of color are the leads in just 11 percent of broadcast television shows and 15 percent of cable shows, UCLA researchers found. 

Read the study in full here.

(h/t Take Two)

Obama Says He’ll Be Pushing for Immigration Reform Vote

Obama Says He'll Be Pushing for Immigration Reform Vote

During an exclusive interview with Univision yesterday, President Obama focused on the economy—but he also made some surprising remarks about immigration. Reporter Claudia Botero asked the president about moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform, and Obama answered that he will be pushing the House to vote: 

“Well, keep in mind this is not just a Latino issue. This is an American issue. We know our economy will grow faster if immigration reform passes. We know businesses will do better if immigration reform passes. We know that the deficits will be reduced if immigration reform passes; because people coming out of the shadows, paying more taxes, growing, the growth accelerating, all that brings down the deficit, so this is important to everybody.

And we had a very strong Democratic and Republican vote in the Senate. The only thing right now that’s holding it back is again, Speaker Boehner not willing to call the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives. So we’re going to have to get through this crisis that was unnecessary, that was created because of the obsession of a small faction of the Republican Party on the Affordable Care Act.

Once that’s done, you know, the day after I’m going to be pushing to say, call a vote on immigration reform. And if I have to join with other advocates and continue to speak out on that, and keep pushing, I’m going to do so because I think it’s really important for the country. And now is the time to do it.”

It appears the partial government shutdown may finally be coming to a close, which means that Obama may start pushing the House for a vote on immigration in the next day or two.

For more about what the president said, you can read the interview transcript (which largely focuses on the economy) in full in English—or watch bits of the interview, presented mostly in English. 

Affirmative Action Prospects Dim After Schuette

Affirmative Action Prospects Dim After Schuette

The prospects for the pro-affirmative action plaintiffs in Tuesday’s Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action Supreme Court case were never terribly promising. And the oral arguments yesterday did little to challenge that notion. 

Schuette concerns the constiutionality of Proposal 2, a 2006 Michigan state ballot initiative which banned affirmative action in public education, hiring and contracting. The law, pro-affirmative action plaintiffs argued, violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by singling out people of color and those who want diverse college campuses and putting the political process further out of reach for them and them alone. 

The conservative wing of the Supreme Court wasn’t much convinced. Justices Roberts, Alito and Scalia were openly hostile toward the case against Proposal 2. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action attorney’s Shanta Driver asked in her opening argument that the Supreme Court, “bring the 14th Amendment back to its original purpose and meaning, which is to protect minority rights against majority, which did not occur in this case,” before Justice Scalia cut her off.

JUSTICE SCALIA: My goodness, I thought we’ve — we’ve held that the 14th Amendment protects all 
races. I mean, that was the argument in the early years, that it protected only — only the blacks. But I thought we rejected that. You — you say now that we have to proceed as though its purpose is not to protect whites, only to protect minorities?

Highest Minimum Wage Set by Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians

Highest Minimum Wage Set by Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians

Despite the ongoing effects of a federal sequestration, a partial federal government shutdown, and a looming debt default, the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians is raising its minimum wage. The Jackson Rancheria operates a resort, which includes a casino, hotel and several restaurants about an hour south of Sacramento. It already pays many of its 1,135 workers more than $10 per hour. Workers also already earn pretty excellent benefits, including medical, dental and vision and life insurance, along with on-site childcare, paid holidays, and a generous retirement plan. 

But starting soon, the minimum wage will be bumped up to $10.60 per hour—that’s higher than any local, state or tribal government minimum wage within the United States. The highest minimum wage within the U.S. currently is offered by the City of San Francisco, at $10.55 per hour.

The wage hike will cost the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians an estimated $5 million per year, and comes at a time when the U.S. federal government is having a hard time keeping up with its own bills—and to its obligations to Natives. Tribal Chairman Adam Dalton was quoted in a press release as saying:

“While the federal government struggles with a government shutdown our Tribe has invested its resources cautiously and kept a balanced budget. Now we are able to share the results of those decisions with our hardworking employees.”

The wage increase kicks in in January.

(h/t Native News Network)

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