5 Takeaways From Pitchfork’s Epic Janelle Monáe Story

5 Takeaways From Pitchfork's Epic Janelle Monáe Story

With Janelle Monáe’s sophomore album “The Electric Lady” due out on September 10, Pitchfork offers a sneak preview of what fans can expect. The story itself is pretty a pretty epic accomplishment of multimedia journalism and includes a digital stream of the new album. But here are some of the most interesting facts I picked up from it:

Monáe and her Wondaland Arts Society Take An Almost Scientific Approach to Art

The house is decked out for creative purposes in a highly studied way, as if someone has been reading up on Prince’s Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota, or Jack White’s Third Man Headquarters in Nashville. Monáe has another home to herself in the Atlanta area, but she sleeps, eats, and breathes Wondaland when she’s in work mode.

She tested the new album out at some Atlanta-area strip clubs.

At one point, they brought early versions of tracks to Atlanta’s fabled strip clubs to see what the women there could dance to—a somewhat surprising move considering Monáe’s android-obsessed subject matter is light years away from the champagne room.

Despite her loyal fanbase, Monáe hasn’t quite taken off — yet.

On one hand, she’s got Prince making the case that she should be on stage at the biggest annual televised celebration of black music. On the other hand, she kind of needs Prince to make the case that she should be on stage at the biggest annual televised celebration of black music. It is sometimes easier to like the idea of her—a whirling, twirling, fantastical funk robot in a tux, a firecracker of a live performer, a young woman who runs her own tight creative ship—than it is to forge a natural connection with her music and persona. With The Electric Lady, she has a chance to change that.

George Lucas is a big fan.

Star Wars mastermind George Lucas flew Monáe out to his Skywalker Ranch in California to give an intimate performance on the property.

Therapy is a really important part of her life.

“I didn’t like the idea of therapy at first,” she continues. “In the black community, nobody goes to therapy. You go to your pastor or you go to the Bible. There’s a stigma.” Monáe, who grew up in a devout Christian family, still says grace before meals. “But I think God blesses us with brains to find medicine, to find cures, and I don’t believe in not using that. Therapists are there to listen.”

‘City of God - 10 Years Later’ May Be Playing Near You Soon

'City of God - 10 Years Later' May Be Playing Near You Soon

It’s been more than ten years since “City of God” made its international debut and became a smashing success. The feature film, based on a 1997 novel by Paulo Lins, tells the story of the rise of organized crime in the country and became an classic in the United States, where it earned four Oscar nominations.

Now there’s a new documentary out that details what the film’s actors have been up to for the past decade. “City of God - Ten Years Later” was recently one of 20 films selected for Premiere Brazil 2013, a traveling screening that begins in Rio de Janiero and includes at least one stop in New York City. The festival in Rio will take place September 26 to October 10; details on a U.S. screening haven’t been released yet.

(h/t Shadow and Act)

Three Indigenous Women Represent at New York Couture Fashion Week

Three Indigenous Women Represent at New York Couture Fashion Week

While Native American themes have become popular in the fashion world, Native American designers have often been left out of the spotlight. In an effort to change this sad state of fashion affairs, three Native designers will be spotlight three designers this Friday: internationally acclaimed Sho Sho Esquiro, Lyn Kay Peters of Ringing Bell Robes, and Linda Lavallee of Cree Nisga’a Clothing.

The show will take place this Friday at the New Yorker hotel in Manhattan. According to its Facebook page, the event will celebrate “self-taught First Nation fashion designers who are sure to bring global awareness of this highly neglected and untapped resource of rich traditional talent.”

Esquiro talked about her 2013 collection with the Native American fashion blog Beyond Buckskin earlier this year and noted that in addition to drawing from indigenous cultures, she was also inspired by Frida Khalo and Day of the Dead. Here’s a video that features some of her designs on the runway back in 2012:

More photos from Esquiro’s collection:



Walmart Employees Stage Nationwide Protest

Walmart Employees Stage Nationwide Protest

Walmart employees nationwide are expected to join demonstrations today in downtown Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and 13 other U.S. cities in protest of continued low wages and employee terminations. Organized by the union-backed group Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), the demonstrations come after Walmart failed to address the group’s Labor Day deadline to make a public commitment to a $25,000 minimum annual salary for full-time employees, and reinstating employees who were recently fired after going on strike. 

Walmart employees have been involved in multiple demonstrations since November, including a walkout in June and organized civil disobedience at the store’s Washington D.C. headquarters in August.  At least 20 employees have been fired and 80 more have received disciplinary actions. OUR Walmart organizers have also aligned with recent fast food worker strikes against low wages. 

Santa Barbara Yoga Studio Hosts ‘Ghetto Fabulous’ Class

Santa Barbara Yoga Studio Hosts 'Ghetto Fabulous' Class

Santa Barbara, California’s Power of Your Om Yoga Studio decided to host a “Ghetto Fabulous” class recently. According to Jezebel, students were instructed to wear conrows, snapbacks hats, and heavy lip liner along with their lululemon leggins. The flyer for the class dubbed it “A Ghetto Fabulous Yoga Event: Namaste With Attitude.” (NWA, get it?) There’s even more ugliness on the studio’s Facebook page.



TAGS: Racism Yoga

Aziz Ansari Is Sick of Hearing Your Outdated Indian Jokes

Aziz Ansari Is Sick of Hearing Your Outdated Indian Jokes

Comedy Central aired its Roast of James Franco this week in whch comedians stepped up to poke fun at the actor. And since it’s a mainstream comedy show, the sets included plenty of racist so-called humor.

Leave it to Aziz Ansari to call them out. The comedian used his time at the mic to call out all of the night’s racism and homophobia. “Those stereotypes are so outdated. My God,” Ansari said. “There’s more Indian dudes doing sitcoms than there are running 7-11s. We are straight up snatching roles from white actors. My last three roles were Randy, Chet and Tom.”

(h/t Angry Asian Man)

Florida Voter Registration Fraud Investigation Comes Up Empty

Florida Voter Registration Fraud Investigation Comes Up Empty

An investigation into voter registration fraud in Florida—groups like ACORN registering “Mickey Mouse” to vote—has surfaced no proof of its existence, except on the part of some GOP operatives. Florida’s Secretary of State spurred the state’s Department of Law Enforcement to research registration fraud, a project that ended up roping in Florida New Majority, a progressive organization that advocates for expanding democratic participation and was instrumental in registering scores of people of color last year. The investigation found nothing on Florida New Majority, according to The Tampa Bay Times. But it did net fraud from Strategic Allied Consultants, a GOP contractor that made headlines last year when its owner Nathan Sproul was caught red-handed falsifying registration forms. As for any other registration fraud from Democrats, Independents, the Obama campaign, ACORN or any other group Republicans accused of dirty registration tactics, the investigation turned up none. 

In 2011, Florida Republican state legislators passed pitiless voter participation rules that criminally punished registration drive conductors if they failed to turn over voter registration forms to the government within 48 hours.  Before 2011, groups conducting registration drives had up to 10 days to turn in forms, so the new rules threatened to leave inauspicious effects on elections volunteers from Florida’s black churches, NAACP chapters and the League of Women Voters. Republicans claimed this was needed because registration fraud was rampant, even alleging that people disqualified from voting due to felony convictions were voting from jail. A federal court overturned the stifling registration rules last June. 

Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Rick Scott appeared to see Republican errors in their new voting rights rules and walked back policies like early voting cuts-also passed in the name of voter fraud, but which disproportionately hampered voters of color. The investigation from Florida’s Law Enforcement Department proves that the restrictive elections laws were based on myths. 

Today in Twitter Racism: ‘WhyDoBlackPeople’

Today in Twitter Racism: 'WhyDoBlackPeople'

Last week the Twitterverse produced a delightful response to a conspicuously colorblind list of smart women by Fast Company, with thousands of tweets coming out in support of SmartBlackWomenOfTwitterSmartLatinaWomenOfTwitter, and SmartAAPIWomenOfTwitter

Today an incredibly unsmart hashtag is trending, and some Twitter users are wrapped up in a contest to see who can be the most racist. #WhyDoBlackPeople started trending this morning, after being ignited by Hunter Moore with this prompt:  

And the hashtag seems to be giving people a platform to share their most racist curiosities.

But it seems some twitter users are already reclaiming the topic, asking more provocative questions.

What’s your take on this hashtag? Which posts are the best or worst you’ve seen?

‘Pier Kids: The Life’ Shines Light on LGBT Homeless Youth

'Pier Kids: The Life' Shines Light on LGBT Homeless Youth

Take a look at this sneak peek of Elegance Bratton’s documentary film “Pier Kids: The Life.” New York City’s homeless population has risen dramatically in recent years to more than 50,000, and it’s estimated that 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBT. The Pier has long been a home — albeit a contested one — for queer youth of color. And this new film sheds some light on their struggles.

(h/t Huffington Post

TAGS: homeless LGBTQ

UCLA Student Body Drops the I-Word

UCLA Student Body Drops the I-Word

Here’s some happy news to start the school year. Last week, the Undergraduate Students Association at the University of California, Los Angeles unanimously passed a proposition to endorse our Drop the i-word campaign and stop using the term “illegal immigrant.”

The college newspaper the Daily Bruin reports that the decision was made, in part, as a sign of respect to the school’s undocumented students. It’s an important move, especially in light of Janet Napolitano’s move from the Department of Homeland Security to head the University of California.

(h/t Huffington Post)

Ask a Slave: An (Actually Funny!) Web Series

Ask a Slave: An (Actually Funny!) Web Series

Black filmmaker Azie Dungey stars in a new comedy series on YouTube called “Ask a Slave.” The show, which premiered on Labor Day and airs episodes each Sunday, is actually pretty funny. Take notes, Russell Simmons. 

TAGS: slavery

Watch Rebel Diaz’s New Immigration Anthem

Watch Rebel Diaz's New Immigration Anthem

The Bronx trio Rebel Diaz first performed at an immigration rally in 2008, and in their brilliant new single “I’m an Alien” they keep insisting that people drop the I-word. Check out this video from their debut album “Radical Dilemma.” 

(h/t Latino Rebels)

Inside Out 11M Public Art Project Hits Miami

Inside Out 11M Public Art Project Hits Miami

After winning the 2011 TED Prize, French street artist JR launched the Inside Out Project with the goal of creating a global participatory art project with the “potential to change the world.”  Each installment of Inside Out is site-specific, addressing current issues in that country such as LGBT rights in Germany, and orphans with HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

Inside_Out_Miami_090313.jpgThe U.S. installment of the project, titled “Inside Out 11 M,” launched this summer and draws attention to the 11 million undocumented immigrants who remain in legal limbo awaiting comprehensive immigration reform.  Since July, a mobile photo booth has been traveling the country capturing individual portraits, which are then transformed into public art installations. Inside Out mirrors JR’s signature style of larger than life black-and-white photograph wheat paste posters that often take up entire buildings or are placed in unexpected locations. 

The project completed its Miami Beach installment over the weekend on the Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College, which once served as an immigration processing point for refugees fleeing Cuba.  More than 600 people showed up to participate in the Miami edition in solidarity with immigrant rights. 

The mobile photo booth will continue traveling to cities across the U.S. through the end of September. 

Spanish Language Film Breaks Box Office Records

Spanish Language Film Breaks Box Office Records

Instrucciones no incluidas” was a big hit this Labor Day weekend. The Spanish language film, known as “Instructions Not Included” in English, came in fifth and raked in a whooping $10 million in sales—despite the fact it only premiered in 347 theaters. For comparison, “The Butler” brought in double the amount of ticket sales this holiday weekend, but played in nearly 3,330 theaters.

If you haven’t yet heard about “Instructions Not Included,” Jorge Rivas over at Fusion will explain why—along with a review that’s worth the read.  

Thirty Eight Brilliant and Underrated Queer Black Musicians

Thirty Eight Brilliant and Underrated Queer Black Musicians

The Internet’s still responding to Talib Kweli’s assertion that in order to really confront homophobia in hip-hop, there just needs to be a “rapper who’s better than everybody else.” has a slideshow of 38 queer black musicians and it includes: Sylvester, Billy Strayhorn, Josephine Baker, Frankie Knuckles, Frank Ocean, and Bessie Smith. It’s a long list that includes classics and contemporaries. Check it out.

A Devastatingly Good Read on San Francisco’s Gentrification

A Devastatingly Good Read on San Francisco's Gentrification

In case you missed it: Occasional contributor Jasmine Elizabeth Johnson published a beautiful essay on Gawker over the weekend called “Dear Khary: An Autobiography of Gentrification.” In it, she writes a letter to her slain brother about how their hometown’s changed over the past two decades. Here’s a snippet:

Marcus Books is the only thing that looks like you, Khary. No longer written into the news as tragedy, Fillmore lives in travel magazines and on Yelp. And isn’t that a good thing?, people who don’t know me ask. How good could it feel knowing that one will never be able to live where one grew up? How empowering can your brother’s death be as a yardstick for how positively far the neighborhood has come?

It’s a truly moving meditation of love and loss, so do go read the entire piece over at Gawker.

Watch Santogold Play a Secret Agent Sex Worker on Adult Swim

Watch Santogold Play a Secret Agent Sex Worker on Adult Swim

Santogold is a woman of many talents: singing, production and now, apparently, acting. Here’s video of her playing a secret agent sex worker on the Adult Swim show “NTSF: SD: SUV::.”

(h/t Afropunk)

Anthony Weiner Brought a Jamaican Accent to This Year’s West Indian Day Parade

Anthony Weiner Brought a Jamaican Accent to This Year's West Indian Day Parade

Disgraced former congressman and current mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner made an appearance at this year’s West Indian Day Parade in New York City. He tried, and failed miserably, to fit in.

(h/t Buzzfeed)

White Supremacist Aims to Create Colony in North Dakota Small Town

White Supremacist Aims to Create Colony in North Dakota Small Town

Residents of Leith, North Dakota were alarmed to learn about Paul Craig Cobb’s plans to create a white supremacist haven in their small, peaceful town. Cobb, a well-known white supremacist, moved to Leith last year and has bought up more than a dozen properties since 2011. The New York Times reports his goal is to create a white power colony in Leith, and he has already transferred ownership of some of those properties to other known white supremacists. 

Bobby Harper, the sole black resident of Leith, lives just one block away from Cobb—who allegedly referred to Harper’s wife Sherrill as a “filthy race-mixing white woman” in an online forum. The current population of Leith is 24 people, and residents are very concerned about Cobb’s activities. Some have even tried to buy back their properties in an effort to block his plans. 

(h/t New York Times)

Alabama Republican Wants to Ban Toni Morrison’s ‘The Bluest Eye’

Alabama Republican Wants to Ban Toni Morrison's 'The Bluest Eye'

Sigh. This again, from The Atlantic Wire:

Bowing to Tea Party pressure, Alabama State Senator Bill Holtzclaw said this week that he thinks The Bluest Eye, Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison’s novel about a little black girl who wishes for blue eyes, should be banned in schools. He only made this statement after GOP members criticized him for opposing a repeal of the federal Common Core standards. The Bluest Eye is on the 11th grade reading list for the Common Core, a set of standards that has been adapted by more than 40 states.  

Hotzclaw told the Alabama Media Group, “The book is just completely objectionable, from language to the content.” 

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