‘Fruitvale Station’ Cracks the Top Ten in Weekend Box Office Numbers

'Fruitvale Station' Cracks the Top Ten in Weekend Box Office Numbers

Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station” opened in over 1,000 theaters across the country over the weekend and took in just over $4 million at the box office. The opening puts it in the top ten films in America; “The Wolverine” took the top spot.

New Orleans Pre-Schooler Joins World’s Oldest High IQ Society

New Orleans Pre-Schooler Joins World's Oldest High IQ Society

Anala Beevers is a 4-year-old genius. At four months, she learned the alphabet. By 18 months, she mastered numbers — in Spanish. And today, at only four years old, she knows the location and capital of every state in the country.

The girl was recently invited to join MENSA, an international organization for super-smart people, aka geniuses.  The organization’s members are mostly adults whose intelligence is in the top two percent of the populace; Anala’s is in the top one percent. 

(H/T Jezebel)

Dream Hampton to Direct Film About Slain Detroit Transgender Teen

Dream Hampton to Direct Film About Slain Detroit Transgender Teen

Shelly Hilliard was a 19-year-old transgender woman living in Detroit when she was brutally murdered. Now, a new team of storytellers is setting out to tell the story of her life and her family’s search for closure. “TransParent; A Story of Loss in a Community Misunderstood” is a new film written by Detroit poet and queer activist Natasha T. Miller and directed by hip-hop journalist dream hampton. 

The project recently raised more than $30,000 on Kickstarter.

As a longtime journalist, hampton is widely known for her profiles of hip-hop luminaries, including Snoop Dogg, 2pac and, more recently, her bestselling book with Jay Z called “Decoded.” She writes about the film:

TransParent is a film about the life of Shelley “Treasure” Hilliard, a Detroit 19-year-old girl, beloved by her family and friends. TransParent is a film about Shelley’s murder, about a hate crime that wasn’t prosecuted as one. TransParent is about the struggle to forgive. TransParent is about Detroit. TransParent is about projections and perceptions and communities misrepresented and misunderstood. TransParent is about incredible beauty and horrific violence. TransParent is about a grieving mother and her commitment to honor her daughter, Treasure.

Hilliard’s death made national news after it was revealed that she had been forced to work as an informant for the Madison Height’s police in suburban Detroit. Hilliard’s mother later sued the department, claiming that police revealed her identity to drug dealers who later killer her. You can read more about the case at AlterNet. 

Pete Rock and CL Smooth Reunite for Rock Steady’s Anniversary

Pete Rock and CL Smooth Reunite for Rock Steady's Anniversary

Pete Rock and CL Smooth reunited to perform at Rock Steady’s 36th anniversary in New York City’s Central Park over the weekend. Here’s the duo performing their legendary hit “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.).”

Raphael Saadiq to Produce Music for the New Spike Lee Joint

Raphael Saadiq to Produce Music for the New Spike Lee Joint

Spike Lee recently launched an ambitious Kickstarter campaign to help finance his new film, and the project just got a lot more intriguing: Grammy-winning recording artist Raphael Saadiq is reportedly on deck to produce music for the new project. 

Lee tweeted the news to his followers over the weekend. “Great News. My Man Raphael Saadiq Doing Music For Our New Spike Lee Joint. Y’Know Is Saadiq Is Gonna Bring It,” the director wrote. 

Still, the project itself remains shrouded in mystery. The name, plot, and cast information still hasn’t been released. The only information we’ve got so far is what’s been posted on Lee’s Kickstarter page: “Human beings who are addicted to blood. Funny, sexy and bloody (and it’s not ‘Blacula”)…”

(H/T Shadow & Act)

Jay Z to Harry Belafonte: ‘My Presence is Charity’

Jay Z to Harry Belafonte: 'My Presence is Charity'

Jay Z had this to say in response to Harry Belafone’s recent criticism that today’s celebrities ignore social responsibility. (Skip ahead to 6:58 in the video above.)

I’m offended by that because first of all, and this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity. Just who I am. Just like Obama’s is. Obama provides hope. Whether he does anything, the hope that he provides for a nation, and outside of America is enough. Just being who he is. You’re the first black president. If he speaks on any issue or anything he should be left alone…I felt Belafonte he just went about it wrong. Like the way he did it in the media, and then he big’d up Bruce Springsteen or somebody. And it was like, “whoa,” you just sent the wrong message all the way around…Bruce Springsteen is a great guy. You’re this Civil Rights activist and you just big’d up the white guy against me in the white media. And I’m not saying that in a racial way. I’m just saying what it is. The fact of what it was. And that was just the wrong way to go about it.

Jay Z made his comments during a wide-ranging and really interesting interview with Rap Radar’s Elliot Wilson.

(H/T Life + Times)


‘American Idol’ Hit With $250 Million Racial Discrimination Suit

'American Idol' Hit With $250 Million Racial Discrimination Suit

Ten black former “American Idol” are suing the show claiming that they were intentonally forced off in an effort to boost ratings. Specifically, the former contestants claim that their arrest records were illegally dug up and scrutinized in a way that white contestants’ never were. According to their attorney, only black contestants were questioned about their arrests. And, notably, none of the ten plaintiffs’ arrests led to criminal convictions.

From Shadow & Act:

New York City based lawyer James Freeman who is representing that contestants - Corey Clark  Jaered Andrews, Jacob John Smalley (Season 2), Donnie Williams (Season 3), Terrell Brittenum  Derrell Brittenum (Season 5), Thomas Daniels  Akron Watson (Season 6), Ju’Not Joyner (Season 8), and Chris Golightly (Season 9) - charges that AI producers “illegally dug up arrest histories of the contestants and used them to humiliate the singers, but never attempted to dig up similar dirt about white contestants”.

Black contestants have been important to the show’s success. Roughly 30 percent of the show’s finalists have been black, including last season’s winner, Candice Glover.

Trayvon Martin’s Family Devastated by Juror B29’s Comments

Trayvon Martin's Family Devastated by Juror B29's Comments

Shortly after Juror B29 (aka Maddy) came forward on Thursday to admit publicly that she thinks George Zimmeman got away with murder, Trayvon Martin’s family responded to the news.

Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton released the following statement.

It is devastating for my family to hear the comments from juror B29, comments which we already knew in our hearts to be true. That George Zimmerman literally got away with murder.

This new information challenges our nation once again to do everything we can to make sure that this never happens to another child. That’s why Tracy and I have launched The Trayvon Martin Foundation to try and take something very painful and negative and turn it into something positive as a legacy to our son.

The juror’s full interview with “Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts is set to air Friday morning.

Are Representative King’s Racist Anti-Immigrant Remarks Anything New?

Are Representative King's Racist Anti-Immigrant Remarks Anything New?

Representative Steve King (R-Ia.) made some pretty disparaging remarks last week about moving forward on immigration reform. When talking about youth who could be eligible for status adjustment because of their unique circumstance, King said: 

“For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds—and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

But as jarring as King’s remarks are, they’re hardly a historical anomaly. Yale Professor Stephen Pitti makes that clear today:

“Americans who know their history will recognize that these comments, like King’s blanket statements about immigrant criminality, remind us of the virulent racism that we more readily associate with the 19th century United States. And those who have their eyes on today’s immigration debates know that elected officials who resurrect such old thinking do so to promote increased border militarization and block any pathway to citizenship for undocumented residents.”

Read more about King’s statements—and Pitti’s response about the way that youth like the Dream 9 “broaden our nation’s horizons—” over at HuffPo

Lone Juror of Color: Zimmerman ‘Got Away With Murder’

Lone Juror of Color: Zimmerman 'Got Away With Murder'

The lone woman of color on the Florida jury that acquitted George Zimmerman is speaking out. The woman — who is only identifying herself by her first name, Maddy — made an appearance on “Good Morning America” with Robin Roberts this morning. 

“You can’t put the man in jail even though in our hearts we felt he was guilty,” Maddy, who is a 36-year-old Puerto Rican, told Roberts. “But we had to grab our hearts and put it aside and look at the evidence.”

Later, Maddy added: “George Zimmerman got away with murder, but you can’t get away from God. And at the end of the day, he’s going to have a lot of questions and answers he has to deal with,” Maddy said. “[But] the law couldn’t prove it.”

Grad Student Refuses to Perform Racist American Lit, Risks Diploma

Grad Student Refuses to Perform Racist American Lit, Risks Diploma

Celebrated American poet Walt Whitman is a regular staple of classroom currricula in schools and universities across the country. What’s often left unsaid is the unabashed racism that Whitman displayed in his later years when he called black people “baboons” and intoned that America is “for the whites.” Whitman once stated“The nigger, like the Injun, will be eliminated.”

Timothy L. McNair is a 25-year-old aspiring opera singer who’s studying at Northwestern University. McNair is also black, and took obvious offense to performing Whitman’s “Song for Democracy” as part of his master’s degree requirement at the university’s Bienan School of Music.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

The university has backed the professor who failed Mr. McNair and says that it expects students to complete the work assigned to them. Students have had mixed reactions, with some demonstrating support for Mr. McNair and others defending the professor, Donald Nally.

Scholars at Northwestern and elsewhere suggest that Mr. Nally could have offered his student another assignment instead of failing him.

The controversy over Mr. McNair’s protest raises larger questions: What rights should students have to refuse an assignment when they feel it disrespects them or violates their principles? How accommodating should professors be when students raise those concerns? And what campus policies might help resolve such sensitive situations?

McNair has filed a complaint with the Evanston/North Shore branch of the NAACP.



There’s a Morning-After HIV Pill That Many People Don’t Know About

There's a Morning-After HIV Pill That Many People Don't Know About

Over at New York Magazine, Tim Murphy recounts a recent action by ACT UP outside of a city hospital for the confusion surrounding a pill that could dramatically reduce the rate of HIV infection after exposure. 

Well, what is PEP? Short for “post-exposure prophylaxis,” it is the practice of starting a month-long course of HIV meds within 72 hours of possible exposure to the virus to prevent permanent infection. In 2005, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued evidence of PEP’s effectiveness plus guidelines for PEP usage, and the New York State health department did the same in 2008 - and again as recently as this year - for ERs throughout the state, requiring them to administer PEP to medically qualified patients who request it.


But perhaps a bigger question is: Eight years into the CDC putting its stamp of approval on PEP as a measure to block HIV infection, why do so few people — especially gay men, who continue to make up the city’s highest rate of HIV infections — know what it is or where to get it? Especially in a city that ranks with L.A. and Miami as having the highest HIV rates in the country. Not to mention a city whose health department obviously cares about preventing HIV and has put considerable money and effort into widely distributing its ownbranded condoms.
A 2011 study done in gay bathhouses found that, while 63 percent of the men reported unprotected sex in the past 90 days, only 36 percent knew about PEP or PrEP (which is the practice of taking an HIV med all the time in order to block HIV infection, a bit like the Pill; the FDA approved a drug for PrEP last year).

Murphy also points out that the bathhouse study comes at a time when HIV rates hve rissen 22 percent among young gay and bisexual men of color, even though rates nationally have leveled out.


Colin Kaepernick Is Arguably the NFL’s Biggest Sneakerhead

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick showed off his sneaker collection to ESPN recently. Sneakerheads around the world are jealous.

Here’s a Photo of Andre 3000 in the New Jimi Hendrix Biopic

Here's a Photo of Andre 3000 in the New Jimi Hendrix Biopic

The Toronto International Film Festival posted a new photo from Andre 3000’s portrayal of Jimi Hendrix in the upcoming biopic “All Is By My Side.” It’s set to premiere in Toronto in September.

Below, check out an interview with Andre in which he reveals just a little about what it was like to prepare for the role, including his lifelong battle to grow facial hair.

DOJ To Sue Texas Under Voting Rights Act ‘Bail-In’ Provision

DOJ To Sue Texas Under Voting Rights Act 'Bail-In' Provision

As we reported shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act’s Section Five, Texas could still face “preclearance” — federal review of election changes to ensure disenfranchisement won’t result —  under the Section Three “bail-in” provision. Both the voter ID and the redistricting laws Texas passed in 2011 were found by the Justice Department to have racially discriminatory effects, particularly on Latino-Americans. For the redistricting law, a federal court found discriminatory intent. 

The experts at Texas Redistricting & Election Law blog were the first to bring this to the public’s attention. But today U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is confirming before the Urban League National Conference in Philadelphia that the Justice Department will, in fact, follow through with suing Texas under Section Three to bring it back into preclearance supervision for its redistricting law.

From Holder’s prepared remarks for the Urban League:

In fact, just last year, a federal court noted the “vital function” the Voting Rights Act played in protecting African American voters who would have been disproportionately impacted by a photo ID law in South Carolina. It prompted the state to change the way its new voting statute will be implemented in future elections to eliminate what would have been a dramatic discriminatory effect. Another court cited the Voting Rights Act in blocking a Texas congressional redistricting map that would have discriminated against Latino voters. And in that ruling, the court noted that the parties “provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need, to address here.” …

And today I am announcing that the Justice Department will ask a federal court in Texas to subject the State of Texas to a preclearance regime similar to the one required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This request to “bail in” the state - and require it to obtain “pre-approval” from either the Department or a federal court before implementing future voting changes - is available under the Voting Rights Act when intentional voting discrimination is found.  Based on the evidence of intentional racial discrimination that was presented last year in the redistricting case, Texas v. Holder - as well as the history of pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities that the Supreme Court itself has recognized - we believe that the State of Texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices.

Read his full remarks here

Over at The Washington Post, former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that the Justice Department could also do the same  in North Carolina if they pass their photo voter ID law, which right now is being cast as having some of the worst restrictions in the nation. 

Holder said the lawsuit against Texas is the Justice Department’s “first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision,” but that using provisions like Section Three “are no substitute for legislation that must fill the void left by the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Texas Redistricting & Election Law blog explains what bailing in means as:

The statutory text of section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act says a court can order bail-in in a “proceeding instituted by the [United States] Attorney General or an aggrieved person” if it finds “that violations of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment justifying equitable relief have occurred within the territory of such State or political subdivision.” (emphasis added)

The Fourteenth Amendment gives all Americans equal protection under the law regardless of race, while the Fifteenth said African Americans could vote free of any race-based voting obstructions. The questions a federal court may ask to see if Texas’ redistricting laws violate those constitutional protections may be (again from Texas Redistricting & Election Law Blog):

Have the violations been persistent and repeated? Are they recent or distant in time? Are they the kinds of violations that likely would be prevented, in the future, by preclearance? Have they already been remedied by judicial decree or otherwise? How likely are they to reoccur? Do political developments, independent of this litigation, make reoccurence more or less likely?

As we reported last July, Texas’s Voting Rights Act violations have been persistent and repeated since they were brought under preclearance in the 1970s. A report from MALDEF found that, “Texas had far more Section 5 withdrawals, following the DOJ’s request for information to clarify the impact of a proposed voting change, than any other jurisdiction during the 1982-2005 time period. These withdrawals include at least 54 instances in which the state eliminated discriminatory voting changes after it became evident they would not be precleared by the DOJ.”

The redistricting law that Texas passed in 2011 was blocked by federal courts after racially discriminatory intent was found, but Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he was going to reinstate it immediately after the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision was handed down. 

But the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), along with the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus and the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, sued the State of Texas to block the redistricting law’s reinstatement because the new congressional lines diluted black and Latino votes. Holder had until tomorrow to decide if those plaintiffs had a case for bailing in Texas under Section Three. Today’s announcement shows he agrees, and that a new chapter in voting rights protection has begun, albeit compromised.   

Our Economy Needs More Action, Fewer Words From Obama

Our Economy Needs More Action, Fewer Words From Obama

Today in his home state of Illinois, President Obama returned to the topic that is Americans’ number one priority but where he’s struggled to make progress: the economy. With Black and Latino joblessness in double-digits and wealth for these communities at the lowest level ever, the President’s renewed attention to the nations’s economic health is welcome news for people of color.

In the Knox College address Obama laid out the challenges facing working families, echoing many of the same themes he put forth during the campaign. The talk centered on “four cornerstones for a strong middle class” namely infrastructure, education including college affordability, home ownership, and retirement savings. Specific details on each of these is available at the White House official website

But Obama’s challenge is not in framing what’s at stake for the American people. This is something he has long excelled at and has two election victories to prove it.  Rather it’s in dealing with a recalcitrant Congress which believes that their obstinacy will bend him to their will at every turn.   When it comes to the economy the Republicans continue to have their way.

The GOP successfully fought for sequestration which has held down job and economic growth this year.  The Republican Congress has preserved tax cuts for the rich and blocked the president’s proposals on transportation and education.  Moreover, the House GOP has vowed to cut back even more on Obama’s priority areas laid out today in 2014.

Today’s speech is the first in a series that Obama will give on the economy over the next couple of months. But these talks will collide with hard deadlines this fall.  On October 1, the US government will need a new budget or face a possible shutdown. In mid-November the country’s borrowing authority will run out and government operations could quickly grind to a halt.

The bottom line is that today’s speech was a heartfelt reiteration of the ideas that catapulted Obama to victory last year. But what the country still needs is in effective plan and political strategy to bring them about.

Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan in Talks for ‘Rocky’ Spin-Off

Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan in Talks for 'Rocky' Spin-Off

July has been an important month for director Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan. Their film, “Fruitvale Station,” made its nationwide debut to rave reviews. Now, riding the success of a first film together, the pair is reportedly in talks to direct and star in “Creed,” a spin-off of Sylvestor Stallone’s breakout hit “Rocky.”

From Deadline:

MGM is setting Ryan Coogler to direct Creed, and the studio is in early talks with Coogler’sFruitvale Station star Michael B. Jordan to play the grandson of Apollo Creed in a continuation of theRocky saga that Coogler is going to write with Aaron Covington. Sylvester Stallone will reprise Rocky Balboa as a retired fighter-turned-trainer. This comes in the wake of a strong summer platform opening for Fruitvale Station, the film that won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Awards at Sundance, and captured Prize Of The Future at the Cannes Film Festival, where Coogler and Jordan were the toast of the Croisette. Coogler intends for this to be his directorial follow-up to Fruitvale Station so the intention is to make it happen quickly.

The intention is for Jordan to play the grandson of Apollo Creed (played in the early movies by Carl Weathers). Raised in an upper-crust home thanks to the ring riches earned by his grandfather, the young man doesn’t have to box and his family doesn’t want him to. Yet, he has the natural instinct and gifts and potential that made his grandfather the heavyweight champion until Rocky Balboa took his crown in 1979′s Rocky II. Creed’s grandson needs a mentor and turns to Balboa, who is out of boxing completely and not eager to return.

Coogler reportedly intends to dive deep into the mythology of the first three “Rocky” films and move the story forward from there.

This Infographic Shows One Reason Why California’s Community Colleges Are in Trouble

This Infographic Shows One Reason Why California's Community Colleges Are in Trouble

City College of San Francisco, one of the nation’s largest community colleges, is on the brink of closure. And, according to an infographic from California Watch, tightened budgets across the state could cost thousands more low-income and students of color their chance to break into the middle class. 

Watch the Trailer for the Film Adaptation of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’

Watch the Trailer for the Film Adaptation of 'Half of a Yellow Sun'

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s award-winning novel “Half of a Yellow” sun is headed to the big screen. So far, it’s being described as an epic love story of four people caught up in the tumult of war in Nigeria. The film’s stars include Thandi Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and the director is Nigerian novelist and playwright Biyi Bandele. It looks fantastic. 

New York City’s Anti-Ice Cream Truck Exists For A Very Good Reason

New York City's Anti-Ice Cream Truck Exists For A Very Good Reason

But what they hate even more? Skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity.

Sydney Brownstone explains at Fast Company:

In 2007, Ohio State University and Indiana University researchers analyzed 5,380 elementary schoolkids’ body mass indexes across the country and found that BMI grew more than twice as rapidly over the summer months. Public health experts have hypothesized that summer vacation means kids spend more time in front of the TV with more snacks than they would consume in school, and low-income communities without access to safe parks and healthier foods are especially at risk.

With these inequalities in mind, the Food Bank for New York City has dispatched an “anti-ice cream” truck targeted at teens in the summer months. Their “Change One Thing” outreach campaign will be popping up at parks, pools, and sports fields in Harlem, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, encouraging teens to change just one habit—even if it means swapping one soda for a bottle of water.

It’s important to point out that black children are at greater risk than others to develop health problems because of obesity. 

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