East New Yorkers Charge Tourists $20 to See Banksy’s Art in Their ‘Hood

East New Yorkers Charge Tourists $20 to See Banksy's Art in Their 'Hood

Banksy has been spreading his brand of subversive street art around Brooklyn these days, and some savvy residents are using it as an opportunity to make some cash. Gothamist brought us the story on Thursday of a group of East New Yorkers who are charging tourists $20 to see Banksy’s work in their neighborhood. It’s a pretty genius move considering the fact that the artist’s work is sprouting up in some of the most impoverished areas of Brooklyn. As one resident says in the video, “I’m trying to get some bread. This is my ‘hood.”

One woman told  Gothamist:

“They have been guarding it for a while drinking heavily, so who knows. They are pretty angry about how many white people are coming here. Side note, I have some cred here because I work close to that spot. The general feeling is that nobody cares about this neighborhood and now that they have something of value they should benefit. […] They reported that several yellow cabs have pulled up with people wanting to get a look. They are firm about the $20 fee and tried to warn me when I left about the crews from the area projects robbing people who look like they don’t belong. They wouldn’t let me take a picture, but were happy to let me take a nice long look while blocking some others who had not paid.”

(h/t Gothamist)

ACLU Calls for Investigation of ‘Roving’ Border Patrols

ACLU Calls for Investigation of 'Roving' Border Patrols

In a letter filed Thursday with the Department of Homeland Security, the ACLU of Arizona is calling for an investigation of “roving” border patrols, which have been cited as far 60 miles north of the Mexico border. The order comes just two weeks after the ACLU won a settlement in Seattle, Wash. over roving patrols, and two days after Arizona police used pepper spray to break up an impromptu immigration rally in Tucson involving the Border Patrol. 

In their letter they outline a number of abuses allegedly perpetrated by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in Arizona: 

  • Pulling a citizen over as she was driving her young children home from school, threatening her with a Taser and leaving her with a flat tire on the side of a dirt road;
  • Stopping a citizen who was driving on Tohono O’odham land and then dragging her out of her vehicle and detaining her for over an hour without reason;
  • Causing hundreds of dollars in damage to a citizen’s car while he was visiting the Fort Bowie National Historic Site in southeastern Arizona;
  • Pulling over and questioning a man, while holding automatic weapons, on his family’s property 60 miles north of the border for over an hour in front of his relatives; and
  • Stopping and wrenching a citizen from her car, then groping and holding her in handcuffs without explanation until local police intervened.

In light of the Seattle settlement, CBP is now required to have “reasonable suspicion of violating the law,” before pulling someone over in that state. 

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Sentenced to Serve 28 Years in Prison

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Sentenced to Serve 28 Years in Prison

The former mayor blamed for driving Detroit to bankruptcy was sentenced to 28 years in prison by a federal judge on Thursday, convicted of 24 counts including tax crimes, bribery, extortion, and racketeering. Kwame Kilpatrick was ordered to serve the maximum recommended sentence, which is one of the toughest ever imposed for a public official. 

Prior to sentencing, Kilpatrick spoke out in his defense, saying he deeply regretted his actions, particularly hurting his family, and taking advantage of his power while Detroit citizens were struggling. And while Kilpatrick is bearing the brunt of Detroit’s recent political and financial troubles, which include being $18 billion in debt, some say he has been made a scapegoat for larger local corruption issues.

Four Panels on Race and Gender at NYC Comic Con

Four Panels on Race and Gender at NYC Comic Con

If you’re looking for conversations on race, gender, or sexuality in comics and fandom, Racialicious has a handy guide for this year’s NYC Comic Con convention. Starting Thursday you can attend panels titled, “LGBT and Allies in Comics,” “Representations in Geek Media,” “Geeks of Color Assemble!: Minorities in Fandom,” or “Women of Marvel.” And if you can’t make it, they’ll also be live-tweeting the event. Unfortunately, only four out of 334 panels and screenings address race or gender, which seems in keeping with the industry’s attitude towards these issue.  

(h/t Racialicious)

Florida Senate Looks to Revise ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law

Florida Senate Looks to Revise 'Stand Your Ground' Law

On Tuesday the Florida Senate approved a bill to make amend the state’s “Stand Your Ground,” law, which many see as primarily responsible for George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin murder trial. Among the amendments are regulations that law enforcement will instruct neighborhood watch participants not to pursue suspects. The amendments also clarify language that agressors cannot use “Stand Your Ground” as a defense. But considering the broad legislative support for the law, it seems unlikely these amendments will ultimately be adopted. 

And while the Senate is looking to amend, others are moving to repeal. In August, the Dream Defenders introduced “Trayvon’s Law,” and State Rep. Alan Williams refiled an earlier petition to overturn the law, saying reforming the legislation is not enough. A recent study showed that homicide rates increase in states where “Stand Your Ground” are used, and that those who use the law as a defense more often acquitted when the victim is black.

Confrontation With Arizona Border Patrol Turns Violent

Confrontation With Arizona Border Patrol Turns Violent

A routine traffic stop in Tucson, Ariz., became an immigration protest on Tuesday night, and then turned violent. Local law enforcement pulled over a driver for a missing license plate light, and called Border Patrol after they suspected the diver and his passenger were undocumented immigrants.  A crowd gathered shortly after the driver and passenger were detained, and more than 100 people made a circle around the Border Patrol vehicle in order to prevent it from leaving.

According to eyewitnesses, the demonstrators were then sprayed in the face with pepper spray and shot at with rubber bullets when they wouldn’t move away from the vehicle. Border Patrol took the two immigrants into custody, and also allegedly arrested at least one demonstrator.  Immigration advocates held a press conference today in Tucson and are calling for Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor to step down. Police say they were following regulations set by Arizona S.B. 2010. 

Shutdown Update: In North Carolina, 50,000 Go Without WIC

Shutdown Update: In North Carolina, 50,000 Go Without WIC

As the government shutdown enters its ninth day, news from across the country shows the growing strain caused by it. According to the Center for American Progress’ Thinkprogress news blog, 50,000 kids under age five and their moms in North Carolina will go without food assistance this month. Due to the federal government’s closed doors, only eight out of 10 of that state’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) recipients got their benefits this month. That left the remainder to try to figure out what to do on their own. Despite reports last week that emergency money would float the nationwide WIC program, help is clearly arriving too late for some. 

But the tough news doesn’t end there.

Thinkprogress, also reports that the local government of Washington DC will run out of money on Sunday. This means that without Congressional action, parts of the city’s public safety, education, transportation and health systems will begin grinding to a halt for DC’s 600,000 residents next week. That’s because approval for the capital’s independent budget is wrapped up in the federal budgeting process.

And, as Politico lays out , just yesterday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had to recall critical workers in order to handle a salmonella outbreak in 18 states. More than 70 percent of that agency is furloughed due to the shutdown.

All of this underscores that with each passing day, the shutdown’s toll on the nation’s most vulnerable grows higher.

Hip-Hop Meets Science at a High School in the Bronx

Hip-Hop Meets Science at a High School in the Bronx

Columbia professor Chris Emdin is piloting an innovative approach to science curriculum at Bronx Compass High School. Emdin’s research focuses on race and inequality in the classroom, and he’s carved out a particular specialty in building creative and culturally engaging science curricula. Here’s his TED Talk from 2012:

André Leon Talley Talks Racial Diversity in the Fashion World

André Leon Talley Talks Racial Diversity in the Fashion World

Fashion world icon Andre Leon Talley sat down for a quick interview with the Daily Beast and touched on racism in the fashion world:

Now that fashion month is winding down, do you think there has been any progress with the issue of racism on the runways? How are you continuing your work towards improving this problem?

We, the Black Coalition, have made great strides. Valentino opened its show in Pariswith a black model, Malaika Firth. There are still houses that need educating, but it’s not my place to name them here. What we have witnessed is a great new moment in the impact of the international letters sent by the Diversity and Balance Coalition. In Milan, Phillip Plein did an all-black cabine and went even further — making the ultimate commitment — by booking all black models for his spring 2014 ad campaign.

Talley’s comments come after a scathing letter was published accusing the fashion world’s biggest designer’s of racism. Part of the letter read:

Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches design houses consistently use one or no models of color. No matter the intention, the result is racism. Not accepting another based on the color of their skin is clearly beyond ‘aesthetic’ when it is consistent with the designer’s brand. Whether it’s the decision of the designer, stylist or casting director, that decision to use basically all white models, reveals a trait that is unbecoming to modern society. It can no longer be accepted, nor confused by the use of the Asian model.

And clearly, Talley was keeping score. 

Obama Picks Yellen to Chair the Fed

Obama Picks Yellen to Chair the Fed

In a historic move, President Obama will nominate Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve, or the Fed, as it is commonly known. Yellen will chair the nation’s central bank and one of the most important economic institutions in the world. Currently serving in the number two spot as the Fed’s Vice Chair, Yellen will be the first woman to head the institution. Given her focus on making the economy work for average Americans, progressives campaigned hard for her to succeed present Chair Ben Bernanke when he leaves office at the end of the year. 

The Fed sets the amount of money in circulation, which helps determine how large our economy can get and how fast it can grow. The Fed has two principle responsibilities: to ensure that any economic expansion is sustainable, and to foster full unemployment. It also plays a pivotal role in the regulation of Wall Street.

Massachusetts Senator and economic advocate Elizabeth Warren recently told MSNBC that Janet Yellen would “make a terrific Federal Reserve Chair.” A key reason is that since she joined the Fed’s Board of Governors in 2010, Yellen has long argued that job creation, over other important Fed goals, should be a top priority. 

Yellen’s two principal rivals for the post, former Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, and former head of the National Economic council, Larry Summers, were seen to be less amenable to this view. Geithner and Summers were chief architects of the “too big to fail” financial system that led to the 2008 economic crisis and subsequent recession.

Though Yellen’s path to Wednesday’s nomination was not always certain, many struggling in today’s economy will likely welcome it. The Senate will begin hearings on Yellen’s nomination in the next few weeks. 

Miley Cyrus Joins The Roots, Jimmy Fallon on ‘We Can’t Stop’ Remix

Miley Cyrus Joins The Roots, Jimmy Fallon on 'We Can't Stop' Remix

At least she’s not twerking again.

(h/t Buzzfeed)

Black Lesbian Minister Becomes Dean of Vanderbilt’s Divinity School

Black Lesbian Minister Becomes Dean of Vanderbilt's Divinity School

Vanderbilt Divinity School in Tennessee has appointed an openly gay woman to be its next dean. Emilie Townes, an ordained American Baptist who previously held administrative positions at Yale, is being described by the school as a “pioneering scholar in the field of womanist theology.”

“I am excited about becoming part of this slice of God’s cloud of witnesses as we shape ourselves into being responsive to holding traditions and the future together,” Townes said during her convocation address. “Not out of a sense that traditions are static but with an appreciation for the fact that they are dynamic and actually morph and change, though slowly at times. And also not out of a sense that the future is some magic potion that allows us to neglect the work we must do today.”

Townes’ partner, Laurel Schneider, also joined the Vanderbilt Divinity School’s faculty this year.

Though Townes’ appointment was announced last December, news of it has recently stirred debate within the Christian Press. From the Christian News Network:

Despite VDS’ liberal educational standards, not all seminaries and divinity schools endorse homosexuality. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says that those who promote Scriptural sanctioning of homosexuality must resort to “feats of exotic biblical interpretation worthy of the most agile circus contortionist.”

“We should not be surprised … that apologists for the homosexual agenda have arisen even within the world of biblical scholarship,” Mohler writes in an article titled Homosexuality and the Bible. “Biblical scholars are themselves a very mixed group, with some defending the authority of Scripture and others bent on deconstructing the biblical text. The battle lines on this issue are immediately apparent.”

For Townes, the criticism isn’t new. In a Huffington Post column “Gay Marriage and Religion: What Marriage Means to Me”, she writes the following about her own ceremony:

Folks approach gay marriage from a variety of perspectives — moral, theological, social, political. As a Christian social ethicist with womanist leanings, I am clear that the Bible says precious little about same sex relationships, though it appears to have a bit more to say about acts but even that is muddled. I am also clear that although God judges our acts, God does so out of love and mercy and would much rather spend holy time applauding our attempts at humanity than smiting our behavior. The acceptance of gay marriage (even gays who do not believe in marriage) was evident at our ceremony — both of our families, a variety of racial ethnic groups and nationalities, differing sexualities, same sex couples who are married — some with children, others not, children, traditional nuclear families, the list went on and on. The sanctuary and the dinner and dancing that followed was one of joy and celebration — not so much for us as a same-sex couple, but because of our love for one another and trying to share that with others. Politically, it is disheartening to see out love, care, compassion and commitment to one another be made into a political football by the right and the left. The bottom line for me is not “gay marriage” but “marriage.” When folks, whoever they may be, find that the only word that expresses the commitment they make to one another is marriage — we should celebrate this and give them all the support we can for it is no small thing to live out vows that are marked by “forever.” 

(h/t Elixher)


TAGS: Religion

TLC Releases New Song ‘Meant To Be’ Ahead of VH1 Biopic

TLC Releases New Song 'Meant To Be' Ahead of VH1 Biopic

TLC’s getting ready to drop a new album called “20” to coincide with an upcoming biopic that will air on VH1 on October 15. In order to get fans ready, the group dropped a new single, “Meant To Be,” on Monday. The track was written by Ne-Yo and is reminiscent of songs like “Fanmail” from their earlier work. Take a listen.

(h/t Okayplayer)


Aziz Ansari Learns How to Eat a Pineapple Bun in Hong Kong

Aziz Ansari Learns How to Eat a Pineapple Bun in Hong Kong

Here’s a clip of comedian Aziz Ansari hanging out with food blogger Nicole Fung in Hong Kong as part of Esquire’s new travelogue show “The Getaway.”

(h/t Angry Asian Man)

Lawmakers Among the 200 Arrested at Immigration Rally

Lawmakers Among the 200 Arrested at Immigration Rally

Following a national day of action for immigration reform this weekend, several thousand demonstrators gathered in the nation’s capital on Tuesday with the goal of putting pressure on Congress to take action on immigration reform. 

Eight lawmakers were arrested at Tuesday’s rally on the National Mall: Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Al Green (D-Texas), Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.),  Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and John Lewis (D-Ga.).  All eight blocked traffic in an act of civil disobedience, and were detained by law enforcement along with at least 200 other demonstrators.

Rep. John Lewis, who was an influential leader during the Civil Rights Movement, said via Twitter that this was his 45th arrest.

The rally was allowed to go on despite the National Mall being closed due to the ongoing government shutdown, which makes passing an immigration reform bill this year seem increasingly unlikely.  But Tuesday’s rally seems to indicate that advocates and lawmakers alike are not giving up the struggle.

Five SCOTUS Cases Worth Watching

Five SCOTUS Cases Worth Watching

After a U.S. Supreme Court summer session this year that will go down in history for controversial decisions that gutted voting rights, affirmed marriage equality and kinda did nothing for affirmative action, the court begins anew this week. This session doesn’t include the kind of high-stakes, hypertension-inducing cases involving civil rights as the last one, but there are some interesting petitions this fall that people of color might want to follow in their feeds over the next few months.

1. #CampaignFinance | Shaun McCutcheon, et al. v. Federal Election Commission: This case, heard yesterday, has been billed as the sequel to Citizens United, the SCOTUS case four years ago that counted corporations as people with free speech rights and thus removed restrictions on how much they could donate to political action committees during elections. Citizens United resulted in corporations and wealthy individuals giving copiously to political campaigns last year. With McCutcheon, what’s at stake is whether limits on contributions made directly to candidates, political parties and committees are constitutional. If the court decides they are not, then we may see elections straight sold to the highest bidder, making a mockery of “one woman/man, one vote.” 

2. #AffirmativeAction | Bill Schuette Attorney General of Michigan v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN): Though SCOTUS didn’t really decide definitively on affirmative action’s legal merits this summer, they’ll have another stab at it next week. Under Schuette, the court will decide if Michigan violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause when it amended its state constitution to ban race-based affirmative action in public universities. It’s a different case than the previous one, Fisher, which was about a white woman challenging a university policy that she believed discriminated against her because of her race. Schuette focuses on whether equal protection rights were violated when race-based university admissions decisions were shifted from the university to the state.

3. #ReproductiveJustice | McCullen v. Coakley: This case is about a Massachusetts law that creates a 35-foot “buffer zone” around women’s health clinics where protestors are forbidden. The buffer zones protect clinic workers and patients from aggressive anti-choice activists. The court already upheld a similar law in Colorado in 2000, saying buffer zones strike a balance between free speech and those who don’t want that kind of speech shouted in their face as they approach a clinic. But the party advocating to get rid of the buffers want that 2000 decision overturned as well as the Massachusetts law. The SCOTUS that upheld the buffer zone law in Colorado is a quite different one reviewing the case this fall.

4. #HousingDiscrimination | Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action: In this case, SCOTUS will consider whether the department of Housing and Urban Development’s fair housing policy on “disparate impact” is constitutional. (Disparate impact focuses on the discriminatory results of a policy as opposed to intentional discrimination.) But this case has broader implications for civil rights laws in general. Whether we’re dealing with housing, voting rights, labor laws or environmental justice, much of the strength undergirding civil rights protections in these areas lies in the disparate impact clause. Meaning, if people of color are losing work, housing, ballot access or protection from pollution due to a law, they don’t have to prove that lawmakers discriminated on purpose when devising the law. They only need to prove that the effects of a law have led to discriminatory results. Some of the SCOTUS judges, including Chief Justice John Roberts, don’t like disparate impacts, so this will be one worth observing.

5. #NativeRights | Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community: This case will determine whether a state (in this instance, Michigan) can sue a Native tribe or nation (in this case, the Bay Mills Indian Community) for operating an off-reservation casino. A lower court ruled that tribal sovereign immunity remains in effect even when a tribe operates a casino off of federal trust land, but the state is arguing that tribal sovereign immunity doesn’t apply. The Supreme Court will be deciding whether the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act makes it so that the state cannot sue the tribe. Additionally, the Supreme Court is also being asked to directly weigh in on—and perhaps cut away at—the question of tribal sovereignty immunity.

Watch California Youth Respond to Trayvon, Oscar, and Israel

Watch California Youth Respond to Trayvon, Oscar, and Israel

In a city that was previously named among the most dangerous in the nation, young people in Richmond, California often grapple with violence in their community. The organization RYSE formed as a way to help those young people cope with the violence surrounding them in their schools and neighborhoods.  In a recently released video, young men of color from that community respond to the deaths of three other young men of color as part of their Street Literature project: 

Street Literature is the result of young folks coming together to share the impact that the deaths of individuals such as Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and  Israel Hernández have had on them. Tired of being ignored, silenced, judged, and criminalized, these youth decided to voice their thoughts on how they are viewed and treated in our larger society. 

Watch an NYPD Officer Speak Out Against Stop-and-Frisk

Watch an NYPD Officer Speak Out Against Stop-and-Frisk

NYPD officer Adhyl Polanco has made a name for himself as one of the few police officers brave enough to publicly come out against the department’s Stop-and-Frisk policy. In this video, Polanco talks in detail about what drove his opposition.

(h/t Where I Am Going)

New Web Series Explores Latinos in the Bronx

New Web Series Explores Latinos in the Bronx

It seems every week a new web series comes out, a format that seems to be growing in popularity and leading to successful projects like Issa Rae’s breakout “Awkward Black Girl,” the Bushwick, Brooklyn dramedy “East Willy B,” and the wildly funny “Ask a Slave.”  The upsurge in new web-based programs, particularly those being produced by people of color, even inspired an event called Black, Brown and Digital this spring.  

Last month producer Adel L. Morales launched “Pushing Dreams,” a web series that follows a group of interconnected Latinos in the Bronx dealing with unemployment, racism, alcoholism, relationships and other issues. Characters include a Latina lesbian couple—one of whom just lost her job and the other who has served time in prison, and the cast includes Selenis Leyva—who plays Gloria on “Orange is the New Black.” The fourth episode of the series was released yesterday, and follows the gritty day-to-day of people struggling to make ends meet. 

Campaign Aims to End High Rates for Prison Phone Calls

Campaign Aims to End High Rates for Prison Phone Calls

Earlier this year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled in favor of lowering collect call rates for prison inmates, and capping the cost of calls at 25 cents per minute. In some states a phone call can cost as much as $1.13 per minute, which often puts a financial strain on inmates’ families trying to remain in contact with their loved ones. 

The ACLU, Beyond Bars and The Nation* launched a new campaign last week aimed at putting pressure on Global-Tel-Link, one of two large companies that control 80 percent of the prison collect call industry.  The FCC’s ruling is expected to take effect 120 days after the August 9 ruling, but phone company executives have already challenged the decision.

In their campaign video, 9-year-old Kenny Davis from Nashville, Tennessee talks about how he misses his dad, who’s currently incarcerated, and wishes he could talk to him every week. His mother, LaTonya Davis, says they can’t make the four-hour commute very often, and the phone calls are too expensive for her as a single parent.

*Post has been updated since publication


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