Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” is a certified box office director, and now the director is reportedly turning his attention to his next project: a biopic of pioneering African-American entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. According to Showbiz 411, Daniels is trying to get HBO’s interest with the project.
During an interview with The New Yorker, Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared to backtrack—albeit awkwardly—on remarks he previously made about stop and frisk:
Earlier this summer, on his weekly radio show, Bloomberg said, “I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.” An uproar ensued. When I spoke to Bloomberg, he conceded, “If I had a son who was stopped, I might feel differently about it, but nevertheless. Maybe I was inelegant, but I don’t think anybody thinks I am anything but—I hope not, anyway—supportive of trying to help all people. With my own money as well as time, thank you very much. I’ve spent twelve years of my life doing this.”
Well, not too long afterwards, a parody account that imagines Leroy Bloomberg as the current mayor’s black son, began sending tongue-in-cheek tweets:
I got stopped by a cop once. It was the scariest 40 secs of my life until the cop realized my dad was @MikeBloomberg. Then I got ice cream.— Leroy Bloomberg (@bloombergs_son) August 19, 2013
My Dad doesn’t like to claim me in public. It’s a lot harder to be shitty to Negroes if everyone knows you’re related to one. #StopAndFrisk— Leroy Bloomberg (@bloombergs_son) August 19, 2013
Russell Simmons is still in damage control mode over the Harriet Tubman sex tape that was released on his ADD Youtube Channel. Simmons recently sat down to talk about the fallout. In it, he talks about everything from how it “broke his heart” to hear that black women were so disturbed by the video to what it might take for Spike Lee to “make a decent movie.”
But Simmons dropped an even bigger bombshell on Twitter when he wrote that he’s been speaking with Tubman’s direct descendants, who have not only accepted his apology but reportedly want to work with Simmons to develop a documentary on Tubman’s life.
Kanye West has (sort of) launched a new creative agency named after his late mother, Donda. Though, in true Kanye West-style, the details of the agency are pretty mysterious. Clover Hope uncovered a little bit of it over at VIBE.
On DONDA’s mission:
In January 2012, West laid out a series of tweets, highlighting his plan to create a firm with more than 22 departments staffed by a bevy of experts in divergent fields. He name-checked everything from architects, video game developers and nutritionists to doctors, lawyers and what he called “app guys,” plotting to house them under DONDA.
His master plan reads like a stream-of-consciousness riff that becomes an epically ambitious screed (think Jerry Maguire’s infamous manifesto). There will be summer school programs with filmmaker Spike Jonze! An overhaul of the prison system! Nutritional consultation on achieving energy balance! Amusement parks! West tweeted: “We want to create, advertise and produce products driven equally by emotional want and utilitarian need.”
On the DONDA portfolio:
The DONDA-designed cover for I Am Not a Human Being 2 spotlights a lone butterfly on a black background. And instead of a cliché mean-mug close-up, 2 Chainz’s Based on a T.R.U. Story features two chains draped over a black backdrop. Some say the DONDA design style currently on display is a brilliant respite from hip-hop’s often-aggressive literalism. Some say it’s basic. “Because hip-hop has been so literal, esoteric things excite people. But it doesn’t mean that it’s good,” says Joseph Buckingham, aka Joe Buck, a graphic designer whose album artwork includes the classic De La Soul Is Dead cover. “That seems to be the trend now, to just be beyond hip-hop. Kanye plays that game well.”
On starting DONDA:
In February 2012, four months after the lukewarm reception to his women’s collection, West started work on the first official DONDA endeavor—the Cruel Summer short. He commissioned three design firms and a post-production company and scored funding from the Doha Film Institute in the Gulf state of Qatar, where the film was shot. The team spent four months constructing an unprecedented seven-screen display and a white tented pyramid to contain it.
On filling Steve Jobs’ shoes:
West’s ambition to succeed Apple is clearly a stretch. But he may have the ultimate business consultant in Steve Wozniak, who cofounded the iconic tech brand with Jobs. They met this year and discussed Kanye’s top-secret plans. When contacted for comment on DONDA, Wozniak stated via e-mail: “I have opinions about it, but they would be personal between myself and Mr. West.”
Joannah “Josie” Molina Macaraeg’s father, Milton Molina, is currently in deportation proceedings, stemming from a non-violent DUI offense for which he’s already served his community service sentence. He’s got a pending notice to appear before an immigration judge, which might result in him being deported to El Salvador—a country where Molina has witness horrific violence, including up-close assassinations.
Milton Molina is a father to three U.S.-born children, and all three depend on him for financial support. His 11-year-old, Josie, chose to attend an event over the weekend where her representative, Scott Desjarlais (R-Tenn.), was speaking on immigration, to question what he would do to help her father stay at home with her—and the whole exchange was captured on video.
Desjarlais essentially responded that the child’s father should be deported, and was met with wild cheer from anti-immigrant supporters. As Huff-Po pointed out, the representative specifically said the nation has laws that need to be followed—although he himself hasn’t always done so: Desjarlais, who’s a doctor, was fined for conducting sexual affairs with his patients. Despite professing to be anti-abortion, he also encouraged one of the women he had an affair with to have an abortion.
Josie’s mother, Megan Macaraeg, meanwhile, feels overwhelmed by the response she’s seen since the video started going viral over the weekend. She explains that it’s very hard for her daughter to even attend public functions, but that Josie did so because she doesn’t want her father to be deported. And although Josie confronted a Republican, the family takes issue with both parties.
“We have to target both parties in Congress,” said Macaraeg by phone from Tennessee, “as long as Obama remains deporter-in-chief.”
Meet Jacolby Satterwhite, a South Carolina-born, New York City-based artist whose work revolves around “virtual voguing.”
Plenty of people went to go see Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” over the weekend, but only one mostly black audience in Silver Spring, Maryland reported doing so under the intimidating gaze of heavily armed police officers.
The police presence caught many moviegoers off guard. “They had on what looked to me like bullet-proof vests, sidearms, a badge sewn into their shirts. They looked serious,” Alan Hanson told ABC News.
Silver Spring’s Regal Theater has since been accused of racial profiling since the police presence was reportedly limited to Lee Daniels’ “The Butler,” which features a predominately African-American cast.
Regal Entertainment Group routinely employs security personnel to ensure the safety of all of our guests and staff. When a theatre experiences sold out showings of any feature, security will assist with crowd control and guest assistance throughout the facility, including auditoriums.
This weekend our Majestic theatre experienced a tremendous guest response to the feature ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’ such that additional showtimes were added to meet our guests demands.
At no time last night did local management receive any guest complaints or concerns about our security or staff, who worked diligently to meet all of our guests needs.
To the extent any guests were disappointed with their experience, we welcome the opportunity to address their concerns and provide them the best entertainment experience possible in their future visits to our theatres.
The film was a hit in its opening weekend at the box office, taking in $25 million in North American theaters, according to the New York Times.
Over the weekend, The Washington Post presented a preview of President Obama’s speech at the upcoming 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which they report will strongly emphasize economic inequality problems, even more so than racial inequality. Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told Washington Post reporter Zachary Goldfarb that Obama “wants to create opportunity and to make sure the level playing field is ready for everybody.”
Some activists who represent the interests of black communities have accused Obama of not addressing race more forcefully in the public eye — and not enough specifically on how to solve the impacts of racism on African Americans specifically. The Obama administration is pushing for reforms in prison sentencing for drug-related crimes, which overwhelmingly impact young black men and women. But news radio host Tavis Smiley, who reports on African-American issues and has been a sharp critic of Obama, wrote for CNN.com this weekend that those reforms took too long.
Even in the Obama era, although President Obama initially campaigned on a one-to-one ratio in this area of sentencing, what he signed into law in 2010 was 18-to-1,” wrote Smiley. “Better, but not nearly good enough.”
Activists like Al Sharpton have been more sympathetic to Obama, in what he can and can’t address as President of the United States. In the Washington Post article, Sharpton told Goldfarb, “Those critics of Obama who want him to lead the movement are not studying history. If this becomes an Obama-led movement, we’d be caught in bickering and the whole obstruction and gridlock in Washington.”
The August 28, 1963 march focused on both race and economics. It was coordinated in part by A. Philip Randolph who organized around race and labor discrimination. One of the speakers at that march was Walter Reuther, the president of the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, which was a chapter of the AFL-CIO labor union. Whitney Young, executive director of the jobs-focused National Urban League, was also a speaker.
William Julius Wilson, the Harvard scholar on race and class who wrote the book “The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy,” said in the Washington Post that he “strongly believes” that Obama is aware of the impact of economic discrimination on race. He told Goldfarb that opportunities for upward mobility in America are “especially acute for low-skilled black males,” many of whom “turn to crime and end up in prison, which further marginalizes them and decreases their employment opportunities.”
In the ever-expanding landscape of new media and digital storytelling, the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and Youth Speaks teamed up on a new project that combines spoken word poetry and investigative reporting. Based in the Bay Area, the Off-Page Project launched this month, and aims to be “a multimedia platform for young people to investigate the issues and stories that would otherwise be silenced.”
Through this project, young poets work closely with journalists and staff at CIR to explore issues such as bankruptcy in Stockton, Calif., and sexual assault among migrant farmworkers. The project participants become investigative digital poets, taking an art form most often seen on stage and combining it with cutting-edge news reporting and video documentary. The result is jarring and powerful.
In the inaugural video “Whispers from the Fields,” 19-year-old Monica Mendoza takes on the challenging issue of sexual violence among migrant women farmworkers. Mendoza lyrically imagines the fear and anguish these women experience, putting herself in their shoes as they struggle with the guilt and frustration of remaining silent. An estimated 56,000 women are currently involved in agricultural production in the U.S., and much of the sexual assault they experience goes unreported.
Perhaps best known for the Brave New Voices slam poetry festival, Youth Speaks overwhelmingly serves youth of color, and this project lifts up their often unheard voices.
“I hope the Off/Page Project provides an additional platform from which young people of color across America can work with investigative journalists to tell their own stories and be documentarians for themselves and their community, and really illustrate how storytelling can be a tool for social change,” José Vadi, the project’s director, says by email. “Stories from the border, reservations, unincorporated communities — we want to investigate it all and have young people at the center of a movement driven by sourced storytelling.”
Three years ago, Sandra Elizabeth Borja Armeo gave birth to a baby, and she named him Barack—ostensibly in honor of Barack Obama. Sometime later, she made the decision to visit her dying mother in Mexico. While there, she was trafficked before escaping and filing charges against her persecutors.
Finally free from some of the trauma she survived, Borja Armeo decided to come back to reunite with her US-born son, Barack, but was halted by Border Patrol and placed at an immigration detention center in Texas. The irony of the case, of course, lies in the fact that President Obama’s administration has deported more immigrants than any other.
Her partner, Juan Jose Mangandi, is a well-known day laborer, activist, and theater director. He was also a rider on Undocubus last summer. Now, #Not1More is organizing to urge immigration officials to release Borja Armeo.
If that sounds unlikely, just remember that it wouldn’t be the first time an undocumented immigrant left the US, only to come back, be placed in detention, and then reunited with their families and communities at home.
A Phili cheesesteak restaurant did the right thing and changed its name recently, from “Chink’s Steaks” to “Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop.” Never ones to let a good deed go unpunished, racists have steadily attacked the establishment—bombarding Joe’s Facebook page, organizing a boycott, and going as far as to vandalize the restaurant itself.
That’s why 18 Million Rising is organizing a massive eat-in at Joe’s this Saturday. They’re asking members and friends to celebrate owner Joe Groh’s decision to change his restaurant’s name by patronizing the joint. The action starts Saturday at 1pm local time, when guests will be lining up outside of Joe’s, hungry for cheesesteaks, sodas, and justice!
Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice and a lead activist who helped pressure the FCC to lower the cost of interstate prison phone calls, published an op-ed on The Hill this week praising the commission’s actions:
Thanks to the new rules, these kickbacks will no longer be considered the “cost of doing business,” and “fair compensation” laws that previously only applied to phone companies will require that carriers consider consumer affordability. As a result, prices will now range from 10 to 30 cents a minute.
This vote doesn’t just ease the financial burden on families of incarcerated loved ones. Research demonstrates that keeping families connected reduces the return rate to prison, is fiscally responsible, strengthens families and keeps communities safer. Our country’s incarcerated population is serving their time, but they have legal right to affordably communicate with their loved ones.
The Commission voted last week to lower the cost of interstate prison phone rates thanks in large part to a decades-long campaign to bring attention to the issue by inmates, their families, and their allies.
Looks like the new Spike Lee joint is happening after all thanks to Kickstarter. On Thursday, the acclaimed director surpassed his $1.2 million fundraising goal and as of noon on Friday, more than 5,300 backers have donated more than $1.3 million.
Lee has vigoriously defended his right to fundraise the money through Kickstater, even though some critics claim that a director of his stature could raise enough money through traditional Hollywood channels of financing.
So far, Lee’s upcoming film is only known as “The Newest Hottest Spike Lee Joint.”
For more, visit Lee’s Kickstarter page.
Artur Davis, the black former congressman whose political career tumbled after a disastrous, center-right campaign for Alabama governor, is advocating for voting rights restoration for former felony offenders. Davis disappeared from the limelight after he was trounced in the 2010 gubernatorial Alabama Democratic primary race, only to emerge later as a cheerleader for voter ID laws, which many elections experts say are an infringement of voting rights.
But in an interview with Dave Weigel at Slate, Davis not only offered support for rights restoration for ex-felons, but he also had some choice words for his pro-voter ID colleagues.
On former felon voting rights, Davis told Weigel:
“Republicans should be aligned with the movement to restore voting rights to nonviolent released felons as long as they are complying with conditions of supervised release. …No conservative ought to have a principled objection to an ex-felon being able to earn his way back into being a full-fledged citizen.”
On voter ID, Davis said:
“The voter ID movement has been damaged by extremists who argue that Obama somehow stole both elections, or clowns like the Pennsylvania legislator who bragged with no evidence to support the notion that a voter ID law would kill Democrats in Pennsylvania.”
On the ex-felon voting rights restoration front, state Sen. Elbert Guillory, the black Louisiana state legislator who was over-pleased with the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act gutting, also pledged support, according to Weigel.
It’s not surprising that Davis supports rights restoration. He currently resides in Virginia, where Republican Party leaders have been trending in this direction, particularly Gov. Bob McDonnell, who has pledged to restore the rights of all former non-violent felony offenders on a case-by-case basis. Davis is expected to run for Congress from Virginia, so he could be simply toeing the party line there.
As for his criticism of those “extremists who argue that Obama somehow stole both elections,” it should be noted that Davis has spent plenty of time in the company of those extremists. Last year, he served as speaker and panelist for events orchestrated by anti-voting rights extremists True the Vote and Judicial Watch, both of which believe Obama won due to voter fraud. Judicial Watch head Tom Fritton claims that Obama won with the help of fraudulent votes from a “food stamp army” and “illegal aliens” — comments made in Davis’ presence without his objection.
Donald Glover’s got a new project out, and it’s neither an album nor a TV show. Instead, it’s a film project called “Look Around” that plays on continuous live loop and features appearances from Flying Lotus, Trinidad James, and Chance the Rapper. Glover hasn’t said much in the way of introducing the project, except “the new site isn’t meant for mobile devices. i want you to be home to explore it.”
Robin Thicke, along with producer Pharrell Williams and rapper T.I., have filed suit against deceased singer’s Marvin Gaye’s family in an effort to protect their summer hit song, “Blurred Lines,” which many have said bares too close of a resemblance to Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up.”
In filing the suit, the trio said that while they have “the utmost respect for and admiration of Marvin Gaye, Funkadelic and their musical legacies,” they must “reluctantly file this action in the face of multiple adverse claims from alleged successors in interest to those artists.”
The Hollywood Reporter broke the news late Thursday night, and here’s some of the blow-by-blow of the copyright battle:
The suit claims the Gaye family is alleging that “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” “feel” or “sound” the same, and that the “Gaye defendants are claiming ownership of an entire genre, as opposed to a specific work.”
As for Funkadelic, there’s said to be claimed similarity between Thicke’s hit and Funakedlic’s “Sexy Ways.”
“But there are no similarities between plaintiffs’ composition and those the claimants allege they own, other than commonplace musical elements,” states the lawsuit. “Plaintiffs created a hit and did it without copying anyone else’s composition.
“Blurred Lines” is currently in its tenth week atop the Billboard Hot 100. For comparison’s sake, listen to both songs:
Remember when Attorney General Eric Holder said that we can’t just “incarcerate out way to becoming a safer nation”? Well, he’s got some interesting backup.
Before Holder made his formal announcement, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) board approved mock legislation that allows judges discretion for otherwise mandatory minimum sentences. Now, correctional officers want minimum sentencing reform, too.
The American Correctional Association—which, according to its website, “is the oldest and largest international correctional association in the world”—passed a motion supporting mandatory minimum sentencing reform. The resolution reads, in part:
“[T]he use of statutory “safety valves” helps to reduce both prison and jail crowding and corrections costs, in turn making prisons safer and more rehabilitative, preserving limited resources for the most violent and dangerous offenders, and ensuring continued funding of other important law enforcement and crime reduction programs.”
The resolution doesn’t point out, however, how “violent and dangerous offenders” are defined—and there’s no indication that any conservative groups are moving toward abolishing prisons any time soon.
The youth organizers of the Dream Defenders civil rights collective stood their ground and slept on the grounds of the Florida state capitol building for a full month in response to the “not guilty” verdict for George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin. That chapter is now drawing to a close, they announced today. They are now embarking on new actions across the state to draw attention to unjust policies that the youth leaders say made Trayvon’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal possible: Stand Your Ground laws, school-to-prison pipeline policies and racial profiling. The Defenders begin their new journey today by marching to Gov. Rick Scott’s home to deliver an “eviction notice.”
Former NAACP chairman Julian Bond was present with the Dream Defenders as they made the announcement and he said the youth activists were “ending a protest because [they] are starting a movement.”
“We came here to the capitol because we wanted what we all deserve—a seat at the table,” said Dream Defenders director Phillip Agnew at a press conference this afternoon, “and we said we were willing to stay here until our work was done.”
Their work will continue, said Agnew, but instead of staging sit-ins, teach-ins and making demands from the capitol building, the youth activists will be taking the fight back to their communities. In the meanwhile, the Dream Defenders can list a number of accomplishments in their 31-day stand-in that will probably send a bunch of Tea Party activists back to the drawing board.
- The Defenders called for state legislative hearings on Stand Your Ground laws, and were originally denied their request, but then Speaker of the House Will Weatherford called for a subcommittee to host hearings in the fall. “We look forward to having that debate because we know that Stand Your Ground don’t have a ground to stand on,” said Agnew.
- They’ve secured meetings with the heads of the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to discuss “zero tolerance” school policies.
- They authored a bill “Trayvon’s Law,” which the youth organizers will help state senators workshop through briefings and conferences.
- In addition to having that bill filed, they triggered a legislative poll, a head count to see where legislators stand today on the issue so the organizers know who to target.
- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has agreed to discuss racial profiling policies, where Defenders will have the opportunity to bring experts in the field to testify before the department.
Beyond that, the Defenders have initiated a massive voter registration drive, drawn celebrities from Talib Kweli to Jesse Jackson to the movement, and earned the attention of mainstream media outlets from The New York Times to MSNBC.
“This is the last time I’m going to sleep on any floor,” said Agnew. “Now the real work begins. Our work has grown too big for these halls.”
Anthony Stokes has a chance at a heart transplant now that doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta will put him on the wait list, reversing last week’s decision to keep him off the list because of “non-compliance.” The hospital has yet to comment on why Stokes was found “non-compliant,” saying only that they “follow very specific criteria in determining eligibility” for transplants and that they would be working “closely with the family.”
Stokes’s mother Melencia Hamilton told CNN the doctors said their decision was partly based on her son’s poor grades in school and juvenile criminal record. He also has tattoos and wears an ankle bracelet, allegedly from an incident where he was defending his younger brother. According to a spokesman for the family, Stokes will be put at the top of the list because his condition is so severe.
Supporters came together this week to bring attention to Stoke’s case, creating an online petition to pressure the hospital. His family is thrilled by the hospital’s decision, but it could be 3—4 months before Stokes receives the transplant that could save his life.