A new school year is underway, and at San Francisco’s Leadership High School, that’s a very good thing. In this goofy video, teachers and students turn Chris Brown’s problematic summer hit “These Hoes Ain’t Loyal” into a catchy, empowerment-driven theme song called “Royal,” which gives props to teachers’ long hours and students’ hard work.
After facing mounting pressure to change its team name, Coachella Valley High School has decided to change its mascot from the “Arabs” to the “Mighty Arabs.”
See what they did there? No? Here’s a brief explanation from Phillip J. Victor at Al Jazeera:
The Coachella Valley High School Arabs will now be known as the Mighty Arabs, after the school district’s board of trustees voted 5-0 on Tuesday to amend the school’s team name. They also agreed to change CVHS’ Arab mascot to look less barbaric and more distinguished.
The changes followed 10 months of collaboration with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), a civil rights group based in Washington, D.C.
ADC had lobbied officials at Coachella Valley Unified School District since November 2013 to amend the school’s team name and drop its mascot — a grimacing face that many Arab-Americans said promoted negative stereotypes.
The new mascot is supposed to be an improvement. Not only did the school’s previous mascot feature all of the worst caricatures of Arabs and Muslims, the school’s representation of Arab culture was equally, if not more, problematic. So-called “Harem girls” marched in band parades and belly dancers performed at halftime during team games. “The mascot is basically an angry ‘Arab’ head — hooknose, long beard, headscarf and all,” Abed Ayoub, ADC’s legal and policy director, said in November when Al Jazeera broke news of the group’s campaign.
The new mascot, according to Ayoub, was chosen with input from the local Arab-American community and was designed by Jesus Olivares and Sergio Espinosa, two of the school’s alums who own nearby INKA Printing and Embroidery. “I saw it as a way to turn something into a positive. Also, because I was an alumni and went to school there, I felt like I had to give it a positive look instead of the image they had before,” Olivares said.
The new image is meant to be a dignified representation of Arab culture. “This process has been a learning experience for everyone involved,” said ADC President Samer Khalaf. “We have had an opportunity to teach those in Coachella Valley about Arab culture and heritage. At the same time, we have had the opportunity to learn about the history of Coachella Valley and its strong connection to the Arab world.”
Everyone involved took pains to mention that the original mascot wasn’t “intentionally” racist, but that intention doesn’t negate impact, and the choice of a another caricature of Arab culture — particularly at a time when Arab-American activists are being attacked and threatened with beheading in Brooklyn — is questionable to me.
(h/t Al Jazeera America)
Ai-jen Poo, the dynamic organizer and leader of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, is among this year’s 21 MacArthur Genius Grant fellows. She’s just one of a handful of people of color on the list, which also includes poets Khaled Mattawa and Terrance Hayes, social psychologist Jennifer L. Eberhardt, public artist Rick Lowe and jazz composer Steve Coleman. Each winner earned a suprise grant of $625,00 from the MacArthur Foundation, which they’re free to use in service of their craft.
Here’s more about some of them:
Jennifer L. Eberhardt:
Michele Martin, the host of the recently canceled NPR show “Tell Me More,” is getting her own live show, according to a press release sent out on Monday. “Rather than having the subjects of her stories come to her, she’ll be going to them. In a series of live events across the country,” NPR says on its site. She’ll tackle today’s hotly contested racial justice issues, including reproductive justice and voting rights:
NPR’s Michel Martin is taking the studio to the story, she’s going where the nation’s most important conversations are happening. Martin will be telling these stories from their epicenter and in partnership with NPR Member Stations, giving local stories national resonance. NPR Presents Michel Martin, a series of live events across the country, launches Friday Sept. 19 in New York City.
In October, Martin will join WFAE in Charlotte to examine The Voting Rights Divide and in December, Women and Leadership in Washington DC. In January 2015 she will be in Dallas with KERA, tackling Football and Ethics, and Miami in February to explore Children and Immigration with WLRN. Each event topic, dynamic and execution will be specific to the city’s character and flavor. The events will carry through to related stories on NPR’s news magazines and the conversation will continue on social media.
Rather than radio playing out on stage, NPR Presents Michel Martin will hold fresh, dynamic conversations with a live audience and people around the world joining on social media, to explore issues through their narratives and personal experiences. Guests with different perspectives and histories will be connected in civil discourse to share ideas, hopes, frustrations and solutions. The public can take part in the conversation by following @NPRMichel on Twitter and on Facebook at Facebook.com/NPRMichel.
Seems like a dynamic new direction for NPR’s 27 million listeners. The live events begin this fall. Go to NPR to read more.
It’s banned book week and Indian Country Today caught up with Sherman Alexie to talk about censorship in America.
(h/t Indian Country Today)
There’s a new literary journal that’s looking for aspiring Gloria Anzaldúas, Cherríe Moragas, Essex Hemphills and Audre Lordes:
Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color is an intentional community space. Our mission is to nurture, celebrate, and preserve diversity within the queer poetry community. Through this journal, we are attempting to center the lives and experiences of QPOC in contemporary America. Thus, we view the journal (and our reading series) as part of a whole artistic project and not individual fragments of work. We believe that (here) the high lyric must encounter colloquial narrative. Here, we must provide space to celebrate both our similarities and our differences. We are one community with an array of experiences; we write in different formats, in different tones, of different circumstances. Nepantla is not the sort of journal that can project a singular voice (not if we want to reflect the various realities of our community). Nepantla is a journal of multiplicity, of continual reinvention.
The new journal is supported by the Lambda Literary Foundation. You can read the inaugural issue here.
In the aftermath of 9/11, noted Latino essayist Richard Rodriguez became fascinated by how people’s spiritual relationships turn deadly. Last year he published “Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography,” a book that explores his own complex relationship with religion. And last week, on the 13th anniversary of 9/11, he spoke with Sandy Close, New America Media’s executive editor, about hope, politics and immigration in America.
If there’s a new American Dream, how does it differ from the traditional one?
The immigrant Dream, the foreign Dream, is as gaudy, as magnificent and as romantic and impractical as it always was: “I will go to America and become a millionaire, and marry a blonde woman, and have children who are six feet tall.” That Dream is still alive.
Those who were born in America, including children and grandchildren of immigrants, have diminished our Dream. Some of us have become stuck. We work two jobs, we rent an apartment, we don’t have a car, we see no movement in our lives. What’s the American Dream to us?
Some Americans downgrade our vision of the Dream out of good motives. We don’t want a big car that guzzles gas, we want a small car, an electric car. We don’t want a huge American Dream because we realize how much it costs [n]ature. We’re downgrading our version of the American Dream and we resent those who come to America with their gaudy ambition.
Viola Davis is ready to stand in the spotlight on her own terms. The actress was profiled by New York Times Magazine on Friday ahead of the debut of her new ABC series “How to Get Away With Murder.” In it, Davis talks candidly about her experiences as a black actress in Hollywood, noting that this starring role is her first big opportunity to be more than a marginalized character. That includes her starring role in “The Help,” which earned her an Academy Award nomination in 2011.
“I have been given a lot of roles that are downtrodden, mammy-ish,” Davis told the Times. “A lot of lawyers or doctors who have names but absolutely no lives. You’re going to get your three or four scenes, you’re not going to be able to show what you can do. You’re going to get your little bitty paycheck, and then you’re going to be hungry for your next role, which is going to be absolutely the same. That’s the truth.”
Davis will star in the new series as Annalise Keating, an attorney and law professor with lots savvy and sex appeal. “I don’t see anyone on TV like me in a role like this. And you can’t even mention Halle Berry or Kerry Washington,” she told me, referring to two African-American stars with notably lighter skin.”
Read the whole profile in New York Times Magazine.
Actress Marsha Stephanie Blake will play Litchfield’s new corrections officer in the third season of “Orange is the New Black.”
From The Hollywood Reporter:
Details on Blake’s character are being kept under lock and key, but she will recur as a new corrections officer on the third season of the Taylor Schilling starrer.
Blake, whose credits include Django Unchained and Girls, joins a cast of fellow commanding officers including Pornstache (Pablo Schreiber), Bennett (Matt McGorry), Caputo (Nick Sandow), Fischer (Lauren Lapkus) and Fig (Alysia Reiner), among others. The latter two were seemingly written out during season two.
The new season’s premiere date hasn’t been announced.
Producer, poet and musician L’Orange just released a new video with Blu for the track “Need You” from her album “The Orchid Days,” which dropped a while back. It’s gorgeous and dreary and perfect for a song about love.
It wasn’t long ago that Rihanna was the most high-profile victim of domestic violence in America. That fact wasn’t lost on CBS, which aired Thursday night’s NFL matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, or the millions of fans who tuned in. The network decided against broadcasting the singer’s pre-recorded performance before Baltimore’s first game since video emerged showing former Ravens running back Ray Rice brutally punch his now-wife, Janay.
CBS also dropped a comedy segment that was set to air, replacing it with a report about Rice from “CBS This Morning” anchor Norah O’Donnell. “It’s important to realize we are not overacting to this story, but it is as big a story as has faced the NFL,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus told Sports Illustrated. “We thought journalistically and from a tone standpoint, we needed to have the appropriate tone and coverage. A lot of the production elements we wanted in the show are being eliminated because of time or tone.”
Stephen Bruner, the musician better known as Thundercat, is back with a new video for the track “Tron Song.” The experimental bassist’s clip is super weird. But it’s Friday, so why not?
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum has become one of New York City’s most sought-after tourist spots since it opened last May. At the center of it is an exhibit that was spearheaded by Puerto Rican artist and New Yorker Ricardo Mulero, who led a team of artists, architects and engineers in arranging the artifacts of that fateful day in history.
Mulero previously worked at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and at Freedom Park in Pretoria, South Africa, but this project was unique. “Unlike any other history project that I have worked on, it was something that I had been part of,” Mulero told NBC News. “That became kind of interesting.”
It’s been 13 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but South Asian-Americans are still under suspicion and under attack, according to a report released this week by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).
The report argues that xenophobic political rhetoric and hate violence against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern and Arab communities has continued since the harrowing days following the attacks. Researchers collecting almost 160 examples and pointed to previous data that showed:
- More than 80 percent of the instances of hate violence researchers uncovered were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.
- In 2012, half of Americans reported discomfort with women in burqas, mosques in their neighborhoods, or Muslims praying in airports.
- More than 90 percent of xenophobic political comments were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.
But there’s hope. The report juxtaposes these facts with the reality that populations of people of color generally, and South Asian-Americans specifically, are growing. That’s become a crucial component in building an infrastructure to help deal with critical moments like the Oak Creek tragedy and the Boston Marathon bombing. “There are also numerous examples of “better practices” from government and community leaders, organizations, and media who played an essential role to shift the narrative in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing to allow for an effective investigation and reduce backlash,” researchers wrote.
There have been plenty of celebrities who’ve said cringeworthy things about domestic violence in light of the Ray Rice video that surfaced this week, but actor Terry Crews isn’t one of them. The start of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” opened up to “Entertainment Tonight” about growing up in a household where his father regularly beat his mother:
When I saw the video, I was immediately taken back to my childhood,” he said. “This is the way I grew up. I used to watch this happen over and over again. It was a post-traumatic-stress experience for me. I used to watch my father hit my mother in the face and watch her go down and there was some things that just affected me more than I don’t think anyone could realize.
Crews also called out the NFL’s culture of violence.
I mean it’s weird because you think of how this cult pact works and there are always ways to get back in—especially in the NFL. I’ve seen major transgressions done and people still play. The NFL culture, the sports culture, has decided that they are more valuable than women.
I’ve heard people laugh about keeping their pimp-hand strong and keeping her in control so that she knows her place. But think about how evil that is for one man to think that he’s actually more valuable than a woman, because as a human being your worth is immeasurable.
Read more at The Root.
Stevie Wonder is angry, and he’s taking his passion out on the road. The singer and songwriter announced a new fall North American tour that will highlight his Grammy-winning 1976 album “Songs in the Key of Life” and a new album, “Through the Eyes of Wonder.” But during the announcement, he also blasted the political leadership in Ferguson, Missouri:
“I don’t know if the mayor has blinders on,” Wonder said in an interview Wednesday. “But to say that he didn’t know that there was a racial or cultural problem in the city is unfortunate.”
As Zo points out at Okayplayer, Wonder’s words are significant given the five decades he’s spent composing a soundtrack to life in black America. “Whether it be in Ferguson or [Vietnam], on police brutality or environmental crimes, Mr. Wonderlove has always managed to spread the implicit virtues of his name (wonder and love, of course) through his brilliant display of musicianship and a voice that should be cryogenically frozen so that future generations can bear witness to its clarity and tenderness.”
Academy Award winner Viola Davis is preparing for the series premiere of her new ABC show “How to Get Away With Murder” and spoke to BuzzFeed about making the transition from film to television. In the new show by network darling Shonda Rimes, Davis stars as criminal law professor Annalise Keating, and it’s exactly the type of role the actress was looking to play. “After a while you get tired of being the third girl from the left,” she told BuzzFeed:
You feel like you want a role that’s going to be worthy of your talent,” she said. “And that’s why, when [How to Get Away With Murder] came along, I’m like, ‘OK, I want those types of roles. I want the flashy roles. I want to be No. 1 on the call sheet.’ I feel that I’ve worked long enough and hard enough that I deserve that. Yes, in film, you do get a lot of supporting roles, as an actor of color. You do. And I feel like, now, I want the flash!”
The new show premieres on September 25th.
Long before Aziz Ansari earned acclaim as a comedian, he was just another college student who admired the likes of DJ Q-Bert, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist. He even tried his hand at DJing. He recently chatted with Nardwuar about his short-lived career.
Thanks to some good reporting by Yahoo! News’s Adrian Wojnaroski, we now know that Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson’s black-fans-are-bad-for-business e-mail surfaced as part of an internal investigation into racist comments made by several members of the team’s front office. The more upsetting comments came from Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, who said that NBA All-Star and South Sudanese player Luol Deng had “a little African in him” in reference to his not being perfect
“Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out the back,” Ferry said.
Deng issued a public statement on Tuesday to say that he doesn’t just have “a little African in him.” He has a lot, and he’s damn proud of it:
“HE HAS A LITTLE AFRICAN IN HIM”
These words were recently used to describe me. It would ordinarily make any African parent proud to hear their child recognized for their heritage.
I’m proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just “a little”. For my entire life, my identity has been a source of pride and strength. Among my family and friends, in my country of South Sudan and across the broader continent of Africa, I can think of no greater privilege than to do what I love for a living while also representing my heritage on the highest stage. Unfortunately, the comment about my heritage was not made with the same respect and appreciation.
Concerning my free agency, the focus should purely have been on my professionalism and my ability as an athlete. Every person should have the right to be treated with respect and evaluated as an individual, rather than be reduced to a stereotype. I am saddened and disappointed that this way of thinking still exists today. I am even more disturbed that it was shared so freely in a business setting.
However, there is comfort in knowing that there are people who aren’t comfortable with it and have the courage to speak up. In the same way a generalization should not define a group of people, the attitude of a few should not define a whole organization or league.
Ultimately, I’m thankful to be with an organization that appreciates me for who I am and has gone out of its way to make me feel welcome.