Census Releases New Poverty Stats

Census Releases New Poverty Stats

The U.S. Census Bureau released the latest set of data on national trends in income levels, poverty, and health insurance today. For the first time in five years, neither median household income nor poverty levels increased.

But health insurance rates did change. The number of uninsured people decreased significantly, but remains highest among Hispanics, followed by black people and Asians. Overall, the decrease was most significant among those under age 19, and those aged 18-25. According to Bureau representatives, this shift is due to an increase in Medicare and Medicaid coverage. 

But while changes in poverty and income rates remained constant, race continues to be a defining factor in wage and poverty disparities. Black and Hispanic communities have the highest levels of poverty, at 27 and 25 percent respectively, followed by Asian and white communities. And although poverty rates among Asians remain at 11 percent, Asians also have the highest median income, which some have pointed out skews perceptions of the existence of poverty in Asian communities. 

Women continue to earn about 23 percent less than men, although that gap has been steadily decreasing over the last several decades. And as with last year, poverty rates are highest for children under 18 at 22 percent. 

On Thursday, the Census Bureau will be releasing information from the American Community Survey, which, combined with the information released today, will give a fuller picture of regional differences, family relationships, and employment. 

That Time Mary J. Blige and Lauryn Hill Went on Queen Latifah’s Show

That Time Mary J. Blige and Lauryn Hill Went on Queen Latifah's Show

Queen Latifah’s new talk show debuted Monday on CBS. It’s Latifah’s most recent run at daytime success; her first talk show made its run in 1999. This time things will be different, she says, because the show is her top priority. “The first time around [in 1999], it wasn’t my number-one passion, which then was to become a great actor and producer,” Latifah told Glamour in an interview in which she also spoke about the injustice she felt after George Zimmerman was acquitted of Trayvon Martin’s murder. “Now I’ve accomplished a lot of goals; I’m ready to be stable and look at starting a family.”

No word yet on how Latifah will tackle race on the show, but she’s certainly not shy about talking publicly about racism in America.

Latifah kicked off the new show with John Travolta and Willow Smith. A couple of other fun facts: her DJ is MC Lyte and Lenny Kravitz designed her set, which she’s nicknamed “Big Sexy.” She says that her dream guests are the Obamas (“Their daughters are getting older now, hitting puberty; I’d want to ask what it was like having “the talk,” she told Glamour). But since the Queen is, well, the Queen, it’s worth taking a look back at that first show nearly 15 years ago, and a pretty classic performance by Mary J. Blige and Lauryn Hill.

Web Tool Helps Those Eligible to Apply for Citizenship

Web Tool Helps Those Eligible to Apply for Citizenship

Today is Citizenship Day, a day that marks the adoption of the Constitution and celebrates U.S. citizenship. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, some 8.5 million green card holders are currently eligible for citizenship. Yet many don’t apply. The process can be cumbersome and costly—but a new web tool seeks to make it easier.

The New Americans Campaign has created a database called Zip to Citizenship, which lists nearly 800 organizations that help with citizenship applications in every state. Green card holders simply enter their zip code and are then directed to a page of organizations that help with the process at little to no cost. 

Nigerian Poet Chris Abani, Andrew Dosunmu Involved in New Fela Kuti Film

Nigerian Poet Chris Abani, Andrew Dosunmu Involved in New Fela Kuti Film

Focus Features is developing a film based on the life of Nigerian multi-instrumentalist musician Fela Kuti and already, Andrew Dosunmu has been tapped to direct the project. Nigerian writer Chris Abani is also involved in the project, reportedly having written the latest drafts of the screenplay.

Both men are Nigerian natives. Dosunmu’s most recent film was “Mother of George” and his 1999 documentary “Hot Irons” won the award for best film at FESPACO, Africa’s largest film festival.

Abani, meanwhile, is a noted poet and novelist who’s currently based in Southern California. His first collection of poetry, “Kalakuta Republic”, was based on his experiences as a political prisoner in Nigeria.

The new film is based on Michael Beal’s 2000 book “Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon.”

(h/t The Hollywood Reporter)

TAGS: Fela Kuti

Documenting the Mixed-Blood Dust Bowl Experience

Documenting the Mixed-Blood Dust Bowl Experience

Allison Hedge Coke says that when her father, R.L. HedgeCoke, saw Ken Burn’s “The Dust Bowl,” he was saddened that the documentary focused on the white experience. Hedge Coke’s family is mixed, and includes Huron and Metis descendants. During the Great Depression, mixed-blood people were, indeed, caught up in torrential dust storms, forcing their migrations west. But the Okies, as these folks came to be called, are rarely thought of as anything other than white.

Hedge Coke is now setting out to change that. She’s raising money to document and tell the story of mixed-blood Okies through her own father, who’s now 91-years-old. Today’s her last day to raise money for her film, titled “Red Bowl”—she’s about $4,000 shy if her $20,000 goal. 

KOKUMO’s Gorgeous ‘There Will Come A Day’ Will Melt Your Heart

KOKUMO's Gorgeous 'There Will Come A Day' Will Melt Your Heart

The fallout surrounding DJ Mister Cee’s very public grappling with his sexuality has opened up an important conversation about the invisibility of transgender women and the shaming of the men who date them. Over at Black Girl Dangerous, we meet KOKUMO, a transgender singer who was raised on Chicago’s South Side and has a beautiful new song out called “There Will Come A Day” about one woman’s fear of coming out to a new lover.

In an interview with BGD’s Mia McKenzie, KOKUMO says the following: “I propose cis black people put down their bibles and pick up their trans children. That book can’t die of AIDS, assault, or loneliness. But we will. We have.”

Read the entire interview over at Black Girl Dangerous

Charis Books Teams Up with Freedom U to Get Undocumented Students Textbooks

Charis Books Teams Up with Freedom U to Get Undocumented Students Textbooks

After the state of Georgia banned certain immigrant students from attaining higher education in 2010, a group of academics got together to ensure that any undocumented student have access to a college-level classes. According to its mission, Freedom University was founded, in part, because “Separate and unequal access to higher education contravenes this country’s most cherished principles of equity and justice for all.” 

But honoring that principle in a clandestine setting isn’t cheap. Freedom University’s professors volunteer their time—as do the people who provide transportation and other critical support. But textbooks aren’t free. That’s why the school’s teamed up with an Atlanta-based feminist bookstore, named Charis Books. Supporters can now purchase books so that undocumented students can read and learn from titles like Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” and Gloria Anzaldúa’s “Borderlands/La Frontera.” Supporters are asked to pick up books from an online storefront, and include messages for the students in them.

In an email today, Charis Books’ Sara Luce Look wrote that so far, about 10 people have participated in the book program. Freedom University students need about 20 more of each book (that’s around 80 books total) to meet their goal to help make college-level classes available to all. 

Paula Deen Got a 10-Minute Standing Ovation This Weekend

Paula Deen Got a 10-Minute Standing Ovation This Weekend

In her first public appearance since being outed as a discriminatory employer who occasionally used the n-word, Paula Deen got a 10 minute standing ovation at the Metro Cooking and Entertaining show in Houston over the weekend.

Deen told her fans: “”These are tears of joy, y’all. This is my first time out in three months. … The one place I wanted to make my first step out was in Texas. You are forgiving folks with hearts as big as your state. We all experience pain in some way but pain is also a good thing because it makes you grow.”

TAGS: Paula Deen

Pharrell Defends ‘Blurred Lines’ Suit

Pharrell Defends 'Blurred Lines' Suit

The “Blurred Lines” saga continues.

It’s been weeks since Robin Thicke and Pharrell preemptively filed suit against Marvin Gaye’s estate to protect their summer hit “Blurred Lines” from copyright infringement. Many listeners have noted the similarity between Thicke’s song, which features Pharrell, and Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up.” Pharrell disagrees.

“I’m a huge fan of Marvin Gaye. He is a genius. He is the patriarch,” Pharrell said recently, according to the Huffington Post

“If you read music, all you have to do is read the sheet music. It’s completely different,” he said on the red carpet during an event for the Calvin Klein Collection during New York Fashion Week.

Is the NFL Blacklisting Kerry Rhodes Because He Might Be Gay?

Is the NFL Blacklisting Kerry Rhodes Because He Might Be Gay?

Free agent safety Kerry Rhodes was pretty much outed during the offseason, a fact that Deadspin blogger Drew Magary thinks is a big reason why he’s still out of a job. It’s a shame, Magary writes, because Rhodes is a really good football player:

This is a league that pays endless lip service to the idea that the best players play, regardless of skin color, politics, religion, whatever. If Rhodes’s sexuality is a nonissue for teams, then what else is wrong with him? What other explanation is there? Did his fucking legs fall off? There’s no indication that Rhodes is no longer interested in playing football. As recently as July, Rhodes said four teams were pursuing him. He has yet to file retirement papers. As a nine-year vet, Rhodes would be entitled to a league minimum of $840,000 under the current CBA: not cheap but not exorbitant. There’s no indication he is sitting around, expecting someone to hand him $30 million in guarantees. This is the NFL. If you’re on your couch and the league calls and offers you a job for the minimum, you go. Ask Brandon Jacobs.

It should be noted that Rhodes has insisted that he’s not gay. But if he remains jobless because of the rumors — along with the NBA’s out and proud Jason Collins, it would seriously question the idea that America’s male professional sports leagues are ready for an openly gay athlete. 

Russell Simmons: ‘I’ve Done More For Blacks in Fashion and Gay Rights’ Than André Leon Talley’

Russell Simmons: 'I've Done More For Blacks in Fashion and Gay Rights' Than André Leon Talley'

You may have heard of André Leon Talley. As a contributing editor at fashion bible “Vogue”, he’s Anna Wintour’s right-hand man who’s been a front-row fixture at fashion shows in New York, London, and Paris for nearly three decades. 

During New York Fashion Week, Talley told The Grio that Russell Simmons had no business sitting in the front row at some of this year’s most highly anticipated fashion shows after his Harriet Tubman sextape fiasco

“I don’t think Russell Simmons should be seated on anybody’s front row this week after having done that disgusting Harriet Tubman sex tape,” Tally said. “He is a man of great achievement. He is a great philanthropist — why would he think it would be an honorable thing to do? He said he thought it was funny. That is not funny, it is outrageously disrespectful to the legacy and history of Harriet Tubman and to the struggle.”

Late last week, Simmons responded in a Twitter rant in which he says that his track record in the fashion world speaks for itself.


New Miss America Faces Harsh Racism

New Miss America Faces Harsh Racism

What could have been a celebration of a historic moment turned into an opportunity for many people to express racist attitudes. Nina Davuluri became the first ever Miss America of Indian descent, and it sparked a flurry of activity online. Davuluri, who is Miss New York and an aspiring physician, became the subject of fierce racist and xenophobic comments, much of which stemmed from people thinking she is Arab. 


Davuluri has brushed off the comments, saying she will rise about them, and is proud to have won. 

(h/t BuzzFeed)

HBO’s ‘Girls’ May Be About to Welcome Its First Black Girl Character

HBO's 'Girls' May Be About to Welcome Its First Black Girl Character

Actress Danielle Brooks made waves with her role on the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” Now, according to an interview in EBONY, Brooks says that her next project will be a role on the HBO hit series “Girls.”

The show, created by 20-something writer and actress Lena Dunham, has already taken a ton of criticism for its lack of racial diversity. Donald Glover made an appearance in its second season, but the show has so far been without a black female character.

Brooks says that’s about to change.  EBONY asked what was next on her plate, and the actress responded: “Of course you’re going to get to see a lot of Taystee [on ‘Orange is the New Black”] in season two and I just shot an episode of ‘Girls’ for HBO. I will be the first Black woman to be on ‘Girls,’ so that’s exciting for me. Other than that I just don’t know. I’m hoping Melissa McCarthy will hit a sister up.”

(h/t Shadow and Act)

Latino Novel Banned in Arizona Public School

Latino Novel Banned in Arizona Public School

Arizona public schools are becoming notorious for censoring Latino literature.  This time, it’s Cristina García’s critically acclaimed book “Dreaming in Cuban,” which explores themes of exile, politics and family after the 1959 Cuban Revolution. The book has been banned at a Sierra Vista, Ariz., high school because a parent complained about sexually explicit content in the book. 

Dreaming_in_Cuban_091613.jpegThis book’s banning is the latest in what appears to be a statewide pattern of censorship. In 2010 the Arizona legislature voted to ban any courses that “promote ethnic solidarity, foster racial resentment, or encourage the overthrow of the United States,” which led Tucson public schools to do away with an experimental Mexican-American Studies curriculum. Earlier this year, the Tucson Unified School District approved a list of “culturally relevant” books for the upcoming term, which conspicuously excluded any literature written by Mexican Americans (even though Arizona’s Latino population is overwhelmingly Mexican). 

According to the book’s author, and the American Library Association, this book has never been banned before. 

Watch Julie Chen Talk about Racism and Getting Eyelid Surgery

Watch Julie Chen Talk about Racism and Getting Eyelid Surgery

This week, CBS’ “The Talk” host Julie Chen revealed she had plastic surgery to “make her eyes look bigger” at age 25. In this extended version of her emotional revelation, she talks about how past employers, talent agents, and even some family members pressured her to have the procedure. She says

It took me back to when I was growing up in Queens, and would get on the school bus, and would hear people say “ching chong” and pull their eyes. And it felt like a weird grown-up version of racism in the workplace. But I couldn’t challenge him. He was my boss.

Chen admits that her career took off after she had the surgery, and while she doesn’t regret her decision she has often wondered if she “gave in to the man.”

NYPD Commissioner Sends Memo: Indians Are Asians, Not American Indians

NYPD Commissioner Sends Memo: Indians Are Asians, Not American Indians

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly issued a memo on Monday to address ‘incorrect racial identification’ used by the NYPD.  According to a report from the NYPD’s Quality Assurance Division, police officers mistakenly identified crime suspects and victims who are Indian as “American Indian” instead of Asian.  Sometimes a person was labeled as both Asian and American Indian, although apparently the error was not widespread. publisher Rinku Sen is quoted by the New York Daily News, saying she appreciates the efforts made by the NYPD.

“The memo might give police officers the chance to understand the difference between American Indians and Asian Indians,” she said.

In a city like New York, which has the largest population of Native Americans and Alaska Natives in the country, this move by the NYPD is a notable effort to correct inaccurate racial categorizations, and increase awareness in a police department notorious for racial profiling

(h/t New York Daily News)

What the NSA’s Spying Has to Do With Racial Justice

What the NSA's Spying Has to Do With Racial Justice

If you’re reading this, chances are you probably didn’t have too tough of a time logging onto the Internet. But if Verizon has its way with a federal lawsuit aimed at overturning the FCC’s 2010 open Internet regulations, that could change, and companies could be allowed to create fast and slow lanes in an effort to boost profits. 

Over at New America Media, Malkia Cyril, who’s the executive director at the Center for Media Justice, and Joseph Torres, who works as a senior external affairs director at Free Press, wrote an op-ed that links the broader fight for fairness in telecommunications with the fight for racial justice.

The FBI’s counterintelligence program, created in the 1950s, often wiretapped phones to discredit the civil rights and black power movements. And these strategies aren’t relics of the past: After the Sept. 11 attacks, the New York City Police Department created a secret surveillance program that targets the local Muslim community.

Our government’s decision to work closely with ISPs to spy on U.S. residents is troubling, and underscores the need for rules that protect free speech online. 

If Verizon wins in court, one has to wonder how hard the government will fight to protect free speech online, given that the same companies lobbying to gut open Internet protections are essential to our nation’s domestic spying apparatus. 

For more, visit Voices for Internet Freedom.

Sunday Marks the 50th Anniversary of the Birmingham Church Bombing

Sunday Marks the 50th Anniversary of the Birmingham Church Bombing

This Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Birmingham, Alabama’s 16th Street Baptist Church. Four Ku Klux Klan members planted a bomb at the church, which was long associated with the civil rights movement. When it detonated, it claimed the lives of 11-year-old Denise McNair, 14-year-old Addie Mae Collins, 14-year-old Carole Robertson, and 14-year-old Cynthia Wesley. More than two dozen people were also injured. 

One of the bombers, Robert Chambliss, was charged with possession of dynamite. He served a six-month sentence. The others weren’t prosecuted for decades. Fourteen years after the bombing, Chambliss was tried again and found guilty in connection with the bombing. He died in 1985. Thomas Blanton wasn’t tried until 2001, and is still serving a life sentence; Bobby Frank Cherry was convicted in 2002, and died two years later—that means it took nearly 40 years for most of the bombers to be brought to justice. The other bomber, Herman Cash, had died in 1994 and never faced charges.

The bombing took place at a time when the city faced so much anti-black violence that some in the civil rights movement dubbed it “Bombingham.” Medgar Evers had been killed in neighboring Mississippi just three months previously, and the March on Washington (during which time Dr. King shared his famous “I Have a Dream” speech) had taken place about two weeks previously.

In an op-ed published this week, Dale Long, who survived the bombing as a child, explains why he’s returning to Birmingham this weekend:

There had been church bombings before in Birmingham, but no loss of life. We quickly learned that to exist in Birmingham as an African-American child, understanding the subject of race and discrimination was critical to our survival.

You can read Long’s full post at The Dallas Morning News

Snoop Lion Joins Rappers Donating to Funeral for LA Girl

Snoop Lion Joins Rappers Donating to Funeral for LA Girl

Snoop Lion (the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg) gave an undisclosed contribution to the family of Tiana Ricks, a 6-year-old girl killed this week in suspected gang violence. She and her father, Tyrell Ricks, were shot on Monday in Moreno Valley, Los Angeles by two men who remain at large. Her father sustained injuries but survived the shooting. Snoop hopes to bring attention to ongoing gun violence nationwide, and told the LA Times

“From the mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown, to gang violence in the streets and murders in our own backyards, too many tears are being shed, too many young lives are being cut short. We need to come together to change this.”

He joins rapper The Game in donating to the girl’s funeral, both sending heartfelt condolences to the family. The Game gave a $10,000 donation as part of “The Robin Hood Project,” a personal initiative to donate $1 million to people in need this year.

(h/t LA Times)

Laverne Cox, Janet Mock Talk Stigma of Loving Transgender Women

Laverne Cox, Janet Mock Talk Stigma of Loving Transgender Women

Transgender activists Laverne Cox and Janet Mock joined scholar Mark Anthony Neal and The Nation’s Mychal Denzel Smith for a discussion on HuffPost Live about DJ Mister Cee’s latest scandal. The famous New York City DJ resigned from his post as host of Hot 97 after a blogger posted a video of an encounter he alleges to have had with Mister Cee in which the longtime radio personality solicited sex for money.

The HuffPost Live conversation was an interesting one because instead of talking about Mister Cee, the guests focused on how we’re talking about him. “There’s consistently an erasure of trans identity when we have these discussions,” said Cox, who’s skyrocketed to stardom because of her pioneering role on the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” “The reason I’m here,” Cox continued, “is because whenever we have these discussions, trans women’s voices are not included…. The extent to which men who date us or are attracted to us is so intense.”

Mock argued a similar point in a critical essay that she published on her blog:

The shame that society attaches to these men, specifically attacking their sexuality and shaming their attraction, directly affects trans women. It affects the way we look at ourselves. It amplifies our body-image issues, our self-esteem, our sense of possibility, of daring for greatness, of aiming for something or somewhere greater. 


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