Of Course Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber’s New Song is Called ‘Twerk’

Of Course Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber's New Song is Called 'Twerk'

It just won’t stop.

(h/t Buzzfeed)

Today Also Marks the Anniversary of Emmett Till’s Murder

Today Also Marks the Anniversary of Emmett Till's Murder

On August 28, 1955—eight years before the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—Emmett Till was murdered in Money, Miss. for allegedly flirting with a white store clerk, Carolyn Bryant.

Bryant’s husband, Roy, and his half brother J. W.  Milam kidnapped the 14-year-old Chicagoan from his great uncle’s home and beat him, shot him in the head, tied his body to a large metal cotton gin fan with barbed wire and dropped him into the Tallahatchie River. Three days later the teenager’s bloated, mutilated body was pulled from the river.  

Till’s mother, Mamie, insisted on an open-casket funeral for her only son so that the world might see the brutality he suffered. Two black publications, Jet and The Chicago Defender, ran pictures of Till’s casket. 

Despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt, the two white men who killed Emmett Till were acquitted by an all-white jury. They went on to sell the story of murdering the teenager to Look magazine for $4,000.

The horrific death of Emmett Till is largely credited with intensifying the push for black voter registration in Mississippi and serving as a catalyst for the civil rights movement in general. 

TAGS: Emmett Till

There’s an Apartment for Rent, But Black People Need Not Apply

There's an Apartment for Rent, But Black People Need Not Apply

Managers of an apartment building in suburban New York have routinely discriminated against prospective African-American renters, according to a lawsuit filed this week in federal district court. The lawsuit was brought by the group ERASE Racism and the Fair Housing Justice Center.

Both groups jointly funded a 2012 investigation that included sending several teams of comparably qualified African-American and white testers posing as prospecrtive renters to inquire about apartments at the 74-unit Town House Apartments in the Village of Mineola, a predominately white community in Nassau County. The lawsuit alleges that an “Apartment for Rent” sign appeared at the building’s entrance, but the building superintendent discouraged black renters from applying by not showing available apartments, quoting higher rents, or suggesting that black applicants would have to be added to a non-existent waiting list.

Sound illegal? That’s exactly the point. The suit alleges that the apartment building’s actions constitute racial discrimination, and that’s in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.

“This lawsuit is about more than just people being kept out of a suburban apartment building,” says Kimiki Hibson, executtive director of the Fair Housing Justice Center.” It is about African Americans being shut out of a community with high-performing schools, good jobs, and many other amenities.  It’s an injustice that serves as a painful reminder, on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, that much work must still be done to ensure equal treatment and fair housing.”    

For more, visit ERASE’s website.

NYPD Covertly Labels Mosques as Terrorism Organizations

NYPD Covertly Labels Mosques as Terrorism Organizations

Since 2001 the New York Police Department has been secretly designating entire mosques as terrorism sites, enabling them to monitor both religious leaders and average people attending services. These revelations come from Associated Press reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman who will publish their findings in the upcoming book “Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America.”

Based on previously unpublished CIA, FBI, and NYPD files and interviews, these investigative reporters found evidence of a vast network of undercover NYPD “mosque crawlers” who gathered extensive information about people’s personal lives and political and religious beliefs. 

The AP reports that the NYPD has opened dozens of “terrorism enterprise investigations” or TEI’s, which often went on for many years without any criminal charges filed.

This news comes as a federal judge ruled that another NYPD surveillance and racial profiling tool, Stop-and-Frisk, violates people’s civil rights and requires major changes. The NYPD recently requested the judge’s ruling be held pending appeal, and could have the ruling frozen by a higher court. 

TLC and VH1 Release Trailer for ‘CrazySexyCool’ Film

TLC and VH1 Release Trailer for 'CrazySexyCool' Film

Ready to feel really old?

It’s been 21 years since TLC’s debut album “Ooooooohhh…on the TLC Tip” was released.

But now there will be somewhere to properly place your nostalgia. The group’s surviving members, T-Boz and Chilli, are working with VH1 to release a new film that chronicles their turbulent rise to fame in the early 1990’s. It’s due out in October, but you can watch the trailer now.

Vigil Held For Islan Nettles, Transgender Woman Killed in Harlem

Vigil Held For Islan Nettles, Transgender Woman Killed in Harlem

Mourners gathered in Harlem on Thursday night to remember Islan Nettles, the 21-year-old transgender woman who was beaten to death last week. Nettles was walking with friends on August 17 when she was confronted by a group of men. Once the men realized that Nettles and her friends were transgender, they verbally and physically assaulted them. The attack happened one block away from a local police station.

Nettles died days later at Harlem Hospital after she was declared brain dead.

Thursday’s vigil was organized by Nettles’ mother, Delores Nettles, and several New York City LGBT organizations, including Harlem Pride, Gay Men of African Descent, and NYC Black Pride. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and several City Councilmen were also involved. Some of the city’s mayoral candidates, including Christine Quinn, Anthony Weinger, and Bill de Blasio, also attended.

“My baby can’t come back, my baby can’t go to school or to work like she wanted to, and it’s not fair,” Delores Nettles told the crowd. See images from Thursday’s vigil after the jump.

ABC News and Its Twerking ‘Expert’

ABC News and Its Twerking 'Expert'

ABC News seems pretty obsessed with twerking—or what passes for twerking. In a rather bizarre attempt to explain twerking to its audience today, ABC didn’t reach out to experts like Big Freedia, but to a white doctor in Montgomery, Alabama:

Twerking is such a complex, technical subject, only a Ph.D. researcher can explain how the body does what it does to make it happen.

Twerking is a combination movement involving a deep squat and a pelvic tilt, Michelle Olson, a professor of exercise science and a certified strength and conditioning coach at Auburn University in Montgomery, Ala., explained.

“You take a wide stance with your legs turned out at 10 and 2 so your hips are externally rotated,” she said. “Then you pulse up and down as you thrust the pelvis bone forward and back.” 

Dr. Olson concluded that people over the age of 25 shouldn’t twerk. (Yes, really.) 

Here’s 15 Smart Women of Color on Twitter

Here's 15 Smart Women of Color on Twitter

The online business magazine Fast Company released a monochromatic list yesterday of the 25 Smartest Women to follow on Twitter. While the list offers a sprinkling of women of color, it largely features white women. Salon posted the exact same list a short while later. 

While we don’t want to disavow the smartness of any women tweeters, the team came up with a more diverse grouping. Got more for us? Tell us who you follow!

Kimberly Bryant, Biotech Engineer and Founder of Black Girls Code.  

Laverne Cox, star of Orange is the New Black and transgender rights activist. 

Maria Hinojosa, multimedia journalist and founder of the Futuro Media Group. 

Mariame Kaba, violence and prison reform advocate, writer, and founder of Project NIA. 

Carolyn Edgar, ‘lawyer, writer, and single mom.’

Lauren Chief Elk, activist for violence against Native American women, co-founder of Save Wiyabi Project. 

Favianna Rodriguez, artist, social justice activist, and community organizer.

Tayari Jones, author of “Silver Sparrow,” “Leaving Atlanta,” and “The Untelling.” 

Goldie Taylor, author,  journalist, and “marathon running grandmother.” 

Prerna Lal, DREAMer, writer, and immigration and queer rights activist. 

Anthea Butler, author, professor at University of Pennsylvania, and media commentator. 

Michele Norris, author, host and correspondent for NPR. 

Trudy Hamilton, writer, culture critic, and “blackademic.” 

Melissa Harris-Perry, Tulane professor, host of the Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC and columnist for The Nation. 

Carlita Peligrosa, feminist and “Talk Like Sex” columnist for  

Jackie Robinson Actor to Star in James Brown Biopic

Jackie Robinson Actor to Star in James Brown Biopic

Chadwick Boseman is known to many as the star of last year’s contrversial hit him “42”, which chronicled Jackie Robinson’s first year integrating Major League Baseball. Now the actor is working on a new project of another black icon: James Brown.

The film will reportedly focus on Brown’s path from an impoverished childhood in Georgia to his rise as The Godfather of Soul.

Brown’s story is far from simple, as Sean Flynn brilliantly detailed in his 2008 GQ piece. Here’s the short version: “When James Brown died on Christmas Day 2006, he left behind a fortune worth tens, maybe hundreds, of millions of dollars. The problem is, he also left behind fourteen children, sixteen grandchildren, eight mothers of his children, several mistresses, thirty lawyers, a former manager, an aging dancer, a longtime valet, and a sister who’s really not a sister but calls herself the Godsister of Soul anyway. All of whom want a piece of his legacy.”

(Via The Grio)

Watch the New Trailer for HBO’s ‘Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight’

Watch the New Trailer for HBO's 'Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight'

HBO’s new Muhammad Ali film screened successfully at Cannes this year, and will be making its U.S. debut on October 58/7c. Check out the trailer below. The film takes place in 1967, the year the boxer refused to report for military duty in Vietnam, and chronicles Ali’s biggest opponent: the U.S. government.

(h/t Shadow and Act)

The Cutest Sneakerhead Marriage Proposal You’ll Ever See

The Cutest Sneakerhead Marriage Proposal You'll Ever See

Paul was a sneakerhead who was in love with a woman, Hazel. So what better way to do a marriage proposal than with a pair of shoes?

(h/t Angry Asian Man)

An Animated Look at Martin Luther King, Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

An Animated Look at Martin Luther King, Jr's 'I Have a Dream' Speech

Despite this week’s events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, it’s really difficult to find video from the march’s most memorable event: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. As Dustin Volz pointed out at The Atlantic, it’s nearly impossible to find the speech online.

But a new project hopes to keep the speech’s legacy alive. “Freedom’s Ring” is an animated look at King’s dream. According to creator Evan Bissell, “It highlights a lot of the context of the time, attempting to create a new way to engage with a more complex version of that speech than is usually taught or remembered.”

Watch and listen to the animated version of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech at Freedom’s Ring.

Gay Rapper to Macklemore: ‘Gay People Don’t Care About Your Video About Gay People’

Gay Rapper to Macklemore: 'Gay People Don't Care About Your Video About Gay People'

Le1F (aka Khalif Diouf) is an openly gay rapper/producer based in New York City. After Macklemore took home the VMA awards for Best Hip-Hop Video and Best Video With a Social Message, Le1F took to Twitter to accuse the Seattle rapper of not only stealing their song, but profiting off of the struggles of queer communities.

The Official ‘Linsanity: The Jeremy Lin Story’ Trailer is Out

The Official 'Linsanity: The Jeremy Lin Story' Trailer is Out

Linsanity isn’t really a thing anymore, but Jeremy Lin’s story is still captivating nonetheless. The Houston Rockets point guard is leading one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA’s Western Conference, and a new film traces his explosion onto the international stage.

Watch Twerk Queen Big Freedia Take Over Brooklyn’s AfroPunk

Watch Twerk Queen Big Freedia Take Over Brooklyn's AfroPunk

Whatever, Miley Cyrus. Here’s a look at Big Freedia, the real queen of New Orleans Bounce, taking over Brooklyn’s AfroPunk festival:

And a while back, she gave celebrity blogger Perez Hilton a twerking tutorial:

Why Were the 2013 VMAs So White?

Why Were the 2013 VMAs So White?

Miley Cyrus stole the show while performing with Robin Thicke. Macklemore won the award for best hip-hop video. ‘N Sync reunited and Justin Timberlake and won the Michael Jackson Vanguard Achievement Award. This year’s MTV Video Music Awards seemed really, really white, especially when it came to categories — hip-hop and R&B — that have been traditionally black.

Colin Powell Talks Race, March on Washington and Voter ID

Colin Powell Talks Race, March on Washington and Voter ID

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was on “Face the Nation” yesterday, and just as he did last week in North Carolina, he read the Republican Party on their recent questionable policy decisions. Asked by news host Bob Schieffer what he thought of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, Powell curiously said he “could see why” they arrived at their ruling, but his bigger issue was with voter ID laws. Said Powell:

The concern I have now is many states are putting in place procedures and new legislation that in some ways makes it a little bit harder to vote. You need a photo ID. Well, you didn’t need a photo ID for decades before, so is it really necessary now?

Powell’s query mirrored a similar statement from Al Sharpton at Saturday’s “Realize the Dream” rally where Sharpton said, “We didn’t need ID to vote for John F. Kennedy. We didn’t need it to vote for Lyndon B. Johnson. … But suddenly we need it after we voted for Barack Obama.”

Powell talked about the original March on Washington 50 years ago, an event he wasn’t aware of at the time because he was in Vietnam as a soldier. He didn’t learn about the march until later that year when he returned from the war. It was then that he realized it was “time for us to understand that segregation and Jim Crow-ism, and these awful laws are not just a burden for African-Americans, they are a burden for all Americans,” he told Schieffer. 

Speaking on race relations and the Trayvon Martin case, Powell said that it was appropriate for President Barack Obama to address it and that he’d “like to see [Obama] be more passionate about race questions.” Schieffer asked Powell if Obama should be doing more on race as the first African-American president. Said Powell:

I think he should speak out on these issues, not just because he’s the first black president but because he is the president of the United States. And this is a problem that affects all of America, not just black Americans. It is something that is still a residual effect of our history, the racism that existed by law, segregation, slavery, and I think we’re slowly, surely moving away from this.

Watch the rest of Powell’s discussion on race and the Republican Party:

Talib Kweli: ‘There Needs to be a Gay Rapper Who’s Better Than Everybody’

Talib Kweli: 'There Needs to be a Gay Rapper Who's Better Than Everybody'

Talib Kweli recently sat down for an interview with Mother Jones and talked about everything from Stop-and-Frisk to the Dream Defenders. But some of his most interesting comments were about homosexuality in hip-hop and the chances that an openly gay rapper could break through as a mainstream artist.

MJ: Switching gears, can you reflect on hip-hop’s general attitude toward homosexuality and equality?

TK: Homosexuality in hip-hop is an extension of homosexuality in the black community. The black community is very, very conservative when it comes to homosexuality, and I don’t mean conservative in the good way, like we’re saving money. I mean very intolerant. That’s how it’s always been. I do see a new generation, partly because of the internet and technology, embracing it. I see young black boys, young black women in the hood embracing homosexuality in ways they never would’ve when I was younger. When I was a teenager, the way some of these kids out here be actively gay, it would have been ridiculed in the hood. And now the hood is a bit more accepting. Begrudgingly accepting, but definitely more accepting than 20 years ago when I was a little kid.

That doesn’t mean that anybody should stop fighting for equality just because people are begrudgingly a little more accepting. Now people won’t beat you up; they might just talk behind your back.

But as far as hip-hop, it’s real simple. There just needs to be a gay rapper—he doesn’t have to be flamboyant, just a rapper who identifies as gay—who’s better than everybody. Unfortunately hip-hop is so competitive that in order for fringe groups to get in, you gotta be better than whoever’s the best. So before Eminem, the idea that there would be a white rapper that anybody would really check for was fantastic or amazing or impossible. You had people like 3rd Bass and other people came through, and people respected them for their dedication to hip-hop. But people didn’t really take white rappers seriously until Eminem, because he was better than everybody. Like female emcees, you need to be like Lauryn Hill or Nicki Minaj or killing everything before somebody takes you seriously.

I think that there are a growing number of talented queer artists in hip-hop, including Angel Haze and Azaelia Banks. Let’s hear what you think.

Smith Family Denies Shocked Reaction at VMA’s Was Directed Toward Miley Cyrus

Smith Family Denies Shocked Reaction at VMA's Was Directed Toward Miley Cyrus

UPDATE: 8/26/13, 1:22pm ET: The Smith family has issued a press release saying that the photo was not in reaction to Miley Cyrus’s performance.


Miley Cyrus became the talk of this year’s MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night. Her performance of a new song, “We Can’t Stop”, was a lesson in rachetry: lots and lots of tongue, a provocatively placed foam finger, and twerking all up on Robin Thicke. The performance left many viewers speechless — including Will Smith and his family:

willsmithwmas082613.jpgCritics have accused Cyrus of blatantly appropriating black culture. Even VICE thinks the 20-year-old performer needs to take an African-American studies class.

Necessary Tension Around Obama at March on Washington 50th Anniversary

Necessary Tension Around Obama at March on Washington 50th Anniversary

The announcement that President Barack Obama will deliver the keynote address on August 28 at the same hour and place Martin Luther King presented the “I Have a Dream” speech 50 years ago has  opened a debate about whether Obama is deserving of that honor. Given the subversive context of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom, which President John F. Kennedy initially discouraged thinking it would dissuade Congress on civil rights legislation, some find it questionable that President Obama would be involved in next week’s commemoration. Obama is the first black president—made possible, no doubt, by the civil rights gains from the 1963 march—but he’s also largely responsible for current policies that many civil rights activists consider violations of the spirit of that march. 

“The moral arc of the universe is long, and it bends toward irony,” wrote Jelani Cobb in his The New Yorker article “Obama, Surveillance, and the Legacy of the March on Washington.”

From Cobb’s article:

“The aggregated moral will of the civil-rights movement is responsible for the election of an African-American President of the United States—a President who, on Wednesday, will speak at an event at the Lincoln Memorial commemorating the march, and whose tenure coincides with the most expansive capacity for government surveillance this country has ever known.”

Human rights activist Ajamu Baraka, the founder and former executive director of the U. S. Human Rights Network, shares this sentiment. On his blog, Baraka wrote that Obama should not be welcomed at the 50th commemoration of the March on Washington next week, and even made the case for a boycott of the event. 

“The fact that Barack Obama will be standing in the shadow of Dr. King, his presence conveying the impression that he somehow represents the values and self-sacrificing lives of Dr. King, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, Rosa Parks and many of the thousands gathered that afternoon on the national mall, should be taken as an insult by everyone who has struggled and continues to struggle for human rights, peace and social justice,” wrote Baraka. 

When I spoke with Baraka earlier this week, he said that Obama’s involvement means that the civil rights movement has now been “turned over to the government.” 

If the civil rights movement still belonged to grassroots civil rights organizers and the people they serve, then it would be “a space where we could define for ourselves where we are as a movement and as a people, and where we could articulate our vision for how to go forward,” said Baraka. “That’s the only way for us to maintain the autonomy and integrity of our movment. But by inviting the government, you set yourself up for the message to divert our attention away from [Obama administration] policies that are responsible for creating the conditions that we face today.”

Baraka lists Obama’s record-setting immigrant deportations, the assignment of human rights activist Assata Shakur to the FBI’s most wanted list, military drone surveillance and drone strikes among those policies.

In Cobb’s article, he notes how the data-trolling and privacy invasions of the National Security Agency ring too similar to federal government intrusions into the lives of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King—“the sustained contempt and suspicion from J. Edgar Hoover and the bureaucratic overreach of his counterintelligence efforts to stall” the momentum of the civil rights movement.” 

Attorney General Eric Holder will speak at the march tomorrow, which will be led in part by King’s family. While Holder has culpability for many of the problems identified by Baraka and Cobb, he has also led the defense and enforcement of the civil rights laws that sprang from the demands of the 1963 march. He blocked voting laws in Texas, South Carolina and Florida that ran afoul of civil rights policies last year. Just yesterday, he filed lawsuits against Texas after the state reinstated discriminatory election laws that were previously found violations of the Voting Rights Act. 

Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who was largely instrumental  in helping Congress reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in 2006, told Holder to halt his legal march against Texas because it would make a  congressional fix of the Act “much more difficult” — much like Kennedy told civil rights leaders 50 years ago. 

Holder has also come out strong lately against policies that have led to the mass incarceration of African Americans. This all doesn’t absolve him of Justice Department policies that muddy citizens’ civil liberties, nor does it make him King. But what we’ll see during the 50th anniversary festivities is a complicated, heavily pixelated vision of the civil rights connections between the 1963 march and the U.S. government leaders it has produced — the blurred lines between King and Obama. 

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