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. 

Michelle Alexander on Mass Incarceration and MLK’s Dream

Michelle Alexander on Mass Incarceration and MLK's Dream

Ahead of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, here’s Michelle Alexander on the need to organize to end mass incarceration. Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow” traces how mass incarceration has deminished the political power of black Americans over the past several decades. 

(Via Brave New Foundation)

New Website Pokes Fun at Robin Thicke’s Summer Sex Anthem

New Website Pokes Fun at Robin Thicke's Summer Sex Anthem

Robin Thicke didn’t win too many fans over after it was announced that he was preemptively suing Marvin Gaye’s family because his summer hit song “Blurred Lines” sounds an awful lot like Gaye’s 1978 hit “Got to Give It Up.” In fact, the singer left himself wide open to jokes.

Introducing: What Rhymes With Hug Me?, a new website that spoofs the song’s most memorable lyric. Answers: “I am a yuppie”, “I love Kentucky”, “I want a puppy.” Check out the website, it’ll make a lot more sense.

Thanks Mustafa, Alex, and Turner.

Transgender Woman Beaten to Death in Harlem

Transgender Woman Beaten to Death in Harlem

Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old black transgender woman, was taken off of life support at Harlem Hospital after a savage beating left her brain dead. The attack happened last weekend by a man who reportedly shouted homophobic slurs at Nettles and her friends.

From DNAInfo:

Nettles was out with several other transgender women at 11 p.m. Saturday when she ran across a group of men near West 148th Street and Eighth Avenue, police said.

When the man realized that Nettles and her friends were transgender, they began throwing punches and yelling homophobic slurs, cops said.

Nettles, who also went by Vaughn Nettles and Alon Nettles, was taken to Harlem Hospital, but could not be revived, cops said.

A 20-year-old man, whose identity was not immediately released, was arrested in connection with the attack, police said. He was initially charged with misdemeanor assault, but cops said they expected to upgrade the charges on Friday.

According to her LinkedIn page, Nettles had dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Fashion became a definite decision for my life after my first show with my hand designed garments in high school at the 11th grade,” she wrote.

A Perspective on Raven-Symoné’s Quiet Coming Out

A Perspective on Raven-Symoné's Quiet Coming Out

Just in case you missed it, former Cosby Show child star Raven-Symoné quietly came out of the closet recently and it seems like the world just kinda shrugged its shoulders. The folks at Crunk Feminist Collective try to sort out if that’s a good or bad thing:

In a skype conversation with a former student we discussed the politics of coming out and whether or not we should celebrate or question the non-issue of Symoné’s disclosure.  On one hand I think it is heartening that someone who is somewhat iconic in the black community can self-identify as nonheterosexual and it not be a big deal.  On the other hand I wonder if there are not everyday blackgirls who are questioning or struggling with coming to terms with who they are that might not be empowered by the revelation and encouraged by the publicity.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

George Zimmerman is All Smiles and Shopping for Guns

George Zimmerman is All Smiles and Shopping for Guns

George Zimmerman was spotted at Florida gun manufacturing company Kel-Tec this week, according to TMZ. Apparently he’s in the market for a new shotgun. The fan photo above is with an employee inside the company’s assembly plant.

TAGS: Zimmerman

Colin Powell To N. Carolina Gov.: Your Voter ID Law Punishes Minorities

Colin Powell To N. Carolina Gov.: Your Voter ID Law Punishes Minorities

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell had choice words for North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory about the voter ID bill he recently signed, and on the governor’s own turf. At the 2013 NC CEO Forum in Raleigh, a gathering of over 400 corporate executives, Powell took the podium to deliver a keynote address, shortly after Gov. McCrory made remarks from the same stage, and attacked the voter ID law.

Powell’s comments, from John Frank at the News & Observer.

“I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote,” said Powell, a Republican, at the CEO Forum in Raleigh.

“It immediately turns off a voting block the Republican Party needs,” Powell continued. “These kinds of actions do not build on the base. It just turns people away.”

“You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud,” Powell said. “How can it be widespread and undetected?”

“What it really says to the minority voters is … ‘We really are sort-of punishing you.’” 

Frank said Powell’s comments represent “the most high-profile criticism of the Republican-crafted law that requires voters to show photo identification at the polls.”

A couple of weeks ago, though, another former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, also lambasted North Carolina’s voter ID law, which she said was “like the greatest hits of voter suppression,” when she spoke at the American Bar Association conference in San Francisco. 

Muslim Women Speak Out Against Lady Gaga’s ‘Burqa’ Fetish

Muslim Women Speak Out Against Lady Gaga's 'Burqa' Fetish

Lady Gaga’s leaked song “Burqa” is causing quite a bit of outrage.

“Critics are slamming Lady Gaga for appropriating, exoticizing, and sexualizing a garment that’s meant to maintain modesty,” said HuffPost Live host Dena Takruri*. In describing the song earlier this month, Jezebel said the track “sounds like what would happen if you took a series of ‘ethnic’ GarageBand samples and put them in a blender, and then took that blender to a torture dungeon run by Calvin Harris and rattled it around arrhythmically.” Some of the lyrics:

I’m not a wandering slave I am a woman of choice
My veil is protection for the gorgeousness of my face

Do you wanna see me naked, lover?
Do you wanna peak underneath the cover?


Enigma popstar is fun
She wear burqa for fashion
It’s not a statement as much as just a move of passion.

You can listen to the track on YouTube.

In a segment that aired on Thursday afternoon, Takruri spoke with Ilana Alazzeh, a Muslim activist based in Washington, DC; Eren Cervantes-Altamirano, a Muslim writer based in Canada; Hind Makki, a Chicago-based blogger at; and Keziah S. Ridgeway, a Philadelphia high school teacher. You can see their conversation in the video above.

*Post has been updated since publication to correct the spelling of Dena Takruri’s name. 

Meet Antoinette Tuff, Crisis Negotiator

Meet Antoinette Tuff, Crisis Negotiator

Antoinette Tuff talked a gunman armed with an AK-47 and other weapons out of committing the next Sandy Hook massacre. How did she do that? With love. 

Listen for yourself on this full 911 call, posted by CNN

America’s Workers Aren’t Paid Enough for Their Productivity

America's Workers Aren't Paid Enough for Their Productivity

Just days before the 50th anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington, a Wednesday report released by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) underscores the continued relevancy of the original 1963 gathering’s emphasis on economic justice.  

The EPI data shows that wages for the overwhelming majority of Americans during the past decade remained virtually flat.  In fact, according to the EPI, wage growth is down “regardless of occupation, gender race/ethnicity or education level.” 

But what the Washington-based think tank points out about a fundamental disparity at the heart of the nation’s economy is even more shocking. 

The EPI document shows that though American workers have produced more and generated more income for the overall economy in the last decade, they are benefiting relatively little from it.


In fact worker productivity—the output per worker—is up almost 25 percent but wages are up barely 2 percent or 10 times less.  As Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz points out, Americans’ incomes are not increasing from the wealth that they produce because almost 90 percent of the gains in recent years went to the top 1 percent of income earners. The few are benefitting from the work of the many.

So if you haven’t felt the benefits of the economic boom from 2003-2007 or anytime since the recovery was proclaimed in 2010, the EPI report shows why.  And set against the backdrop of the 1963 march’s call for basic economic fairness, it highlights just how much work remains.

Attorney General Holder Will Sue Texas Over Voter ID Law

Attorney General Holder Will Sue Texas Over Voter ID Law

Today, the Justice Department announced that they will use Section Two of the Voting Rights Act to sue Texas over a photo voter ID law that the federal government had once blocked under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. It was blocked because both a Justice Department review and a federal district court hearing revealed that it would discriminate against hundreds of thousands of Latino-, Asian- and African-Americans in accessing their ballots. Texas immediately reinstated the voter ID law after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Section Five in June.

But Attorney General Eric Holder said today that the Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t solve the racial discriminatory problems found when he first blocked it. The Justice Department is suing so that Texas doesn’t enforce the voter ID law, and is also seeking to bail Texas in to federal preclearance under Section Three of the Voting Rights Act. 

“We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights,” said Holder today. “The Department will take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs.  We will keep fighting aggressively to prevent voter disenfranchisement. We are determined to use all available authorities, including remaining sections of the Voting Rights Act, to guard against discrimination and, where appropriate, to ask federal courts to require preclearance of new voting changes. “

Just last month, Holder, who will be one of the speakers at the August 24 march commemorating the 1963 March on Washington, announced plans to sue Texas over its redistricting plans. A federal court found intentional discrimination against Latino- and African-Americans in those plans last year. The Justice Department officially filed that lawsuit today in addition to the voter ID suit. They are seeking Section Three “bail-in” in both cases. Which means if Holder is succesful, Texas will have to return to submitting any election changes to the federal government for review to ensure they won’t result in racial disenfranchisement. 

“The Department of Justice will use all the tools it has available to ensure that each citizen can cast a ballot free from impermissible discrimination,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The right to the franchise is one of the most fundamental promises of American democracy.”

It’s Been 24 Years Since Huey P. Newton Died in Oakland

It's Been 24 Years Since Huey P. Newton Died in Oakland

Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party of Self Defense, was shot and killed in Oakland, Calif. on August 22, 1989. As a testament to his life’s work, here’s an early interview that Newton conducted from jail.

J. Cole Talks About Colorism in Hip-Hop and the White House

J. Cole Talks About Colorism in Hip-Hop and the White House

North Carolina native J. Cole recently sat down for an interview with BET and admitted he might not be as successful in hip-hop if he were dark-skinned:

You’ve talked about including dark-skinned women in your music videos versus all light-skinned women. The light-skinned, dark-skinned issue certainly affects women in hip hop; does it affect men in hip hop?

I can’t say it for sure but I just think we’re still in America. We’re still Black Americans. Those mental chains are still in us. That brainwashing that tells us that light skin is better, it’s subconsciously in us, whether we know it or not… still pursuing light skin women. There are some women out there that are like, “I don’t even like light skin men” and that’s fine. But Barack Obama would not be President if he were dark skin. You know what I mean? That’s just the truth.  I might not be as successful as I am now if I was dark skin. I’m not saying that for sure, I’m still as talented as I am and Obama is still as smart as he is, but it’s just a sad truth… I don’t even know if this is going to translate well into text and people not hearing what I’m saying, but it’s a sad reality. So I can only naturally assume it’s probably easier for a light skin male rapper than it might be for a dark skin male rapper. It’s all subconscious s***, nobody’s aware — I think that s*** still subconsciously affects us.

Read the entire interview over at BET. It’s not the first time that Cole has spoken publicly about race. Back in a 2011 interview with XXL, the rapper talked about being biracial (his mother is white):

I can identify with White people, because I know my mother, her side of the family, who I love. I’ve had White friends. I know people from high school that I might not have hung out with outside of high school, but I think I got to know them pretty well, so I know they sense of humor. But at the end of the day, I never felt White. I don’t know what that feels like. I can identify. But never have I felt like I’m one of them. Not that I wanted to, or tried to, but it just was what it was. I identify more with what I look like, because that’s how I got treated. Not necessarily in a negative way. But when you get pulled over by the police, I can’t pull out my half-White card. Or if I just meet you on the street, you’re not gonna be like, This guy seems half-White.

Meet Abby White, the Worst Interracial Relationship Counselor Ever

Meet Abby White, the Worst Interracial Relationship Counselor Ever

Because some racism is just so bad that you’ve gotta laugh, here’s a short piece of satire directed by Doan La. Also, check out this interview with the filmmaker.

(Via Angry Asian Man)

An App That Lets You Design Your Own Self-Guided Civil Rights Tour

An App That Lets You Design Your Own Self-Guided Civil Rights Tour

This weekend’s 50th anniversary of the March on Washington is as good a time as ever to revisit the history of the Civil Rights Movement. If a group of a web developers have their way, accessing that history is about to get a lot easier with Freedom Lifted, a smartphone app that lets users map out their own self-guided tours of museums, monuments, cemeteries, and unmarked spots that were pivotal in the formation of the movement’s history.

“I believe the app can open up a new world for people who want to know more about history, but don’t have access to it or were turned off by it in school,” says Mia Henry, the project’s founder and owner-operator. “This is a way that history can really come alive for people.”

Henry has taken to crowdsourcing in an effort to raise $10,000 to develop the app.

She added: “By giving as little as $5, you will be part of a new endeavor to really give everyone access to their history in order to inform activism in the future.”

The Moment Macklemore Saw His Own Merch in the Thrift Shop

The Moment Macklemore Saw His Own Merch in the Thrift Shop

We all know that Macklemore loves the thrift shop. But when his own merchandise ends up there? Awkward.

MacklemoreThriftShop.jpg(Via Instagram)

TAGS: Macklemore

Kendrick Lamar’s ‘good kid, m.A.A.D city’ Goes Platinum

Kendrick Lamar's 'good kid, m.A.A.D city' Goes Platinum

Kendrick Lamar may have spoken his success into existence when he anointed himself the king of hip-hop. A couple of weeks ago, his debut album “good kid, m.A.A.d city” was no.52 on the Billboard charts. But the rapper’s highly touted verse was released as part of Big Sean’s “Control”, the album shot up to no. 40. Even though Interscope presented Lamar with a platinum plaque back in June, the album officially went platinum last week, thanks in no small part to his battle rap.

(Via VIBE)

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