Racial Diversity Among America’s Working Artists Virtually Non-Existent

Racial Diversity Among America's Working Artists Virtually Non-Existent

It’s hard to make a living off of your art, but that’s especially true for artists of color, according to the Roberto A. Ferdman at Wonkblog:

Nearly four out of every five people who make a living in the arts in this country are white, according to an analysis of 2012 Census Bureau data by BFAMFAPhD, a collective of artists dedicated to understanding the rising cost of artistry. The study, which surveyed more than 1.4 million people whose primary earnings come from working as an artist, represents a broad population of creative types in the country, and reveals a number of troubling truths.

The study digs a bit deeper, finding that 80 percent of people with art school degrees are white. That’s important when you’re talking about gaining access to the institutional structures — faculty connections, business direction — that are often pre-requisites for a successful professional career. So as the country grows more diverse, its crop of working professional artists remains stubbornly white. Read more at Wonkblog

Smart People Listen to Radiohead, Dumb People Listen to Beyoncé, Says Racist Study

Smart People Listen to Radiohead, Dumb People Listen to Beyoncé, Says Racist Study

Software developer Virgil Griffith set out to see if there is a correlation between the type of music people listen to (based on the most “liked” performers on Facebook at more than 1,300 American colleges) and their SAT scores. The study’s been making the rounds, on and off, for the past five years, but it popped up again recently because Griffith posted a new chart. And, as Emma Silvers points out at SF Weekly, the findings aren’t just unscientific; they’re racist.

Let’s see, T.I., Lil Wayne, and the entire history of gospel, hip-hop, and reggae are all the province of morons? Whereas people who listen to Sufjan Stevens, Radiohead, and Guster are the folks you should want in the operating room should you ever need brain surgery? Nope, definitely not a giant, racially loaded can of classist assumptions and privilege-worms to open here. Absolutely no correlation between the dominant ethnic makeup of America’s most exclusive private schools and the fact that apparent hordes of the country’s most promising minds — actual young people, presumably — have listed Counting Crows as one of their favorite bands on Facebook. 

Here’s Griffith’s latest chart:


Did ‘Dear White People’ Miss the Mark on Casual Racism?

Did 'Dear White People' Miss the Mark on Casual Racism?

Justin Simien’s debut film “Dear White People” has won over plenty of fans with its satirical approach to race, an approach that depends heavily on showcasing outrageously racist acts. But what about the subtle microaggressions that happen every day? Carimah Townes writes at Think Progress that it’s a major oversight of the film:

The film would’ve been more interesting if microaggression carried the same weight as explicit racism, given the nation’s ongoing discussion of race relations. Many argue that we live in a post-racial America, and that argument is largely predicated on what racism looked like in the country’s past. No, slavery doesn’t exist any more, and Jim Crow laws no longer keep black people from occupying public spaces. But to say that racist attitudes no longer color American society, a microaggression in and of itself, ignores casual acts of racism that occur every day. The purpose of the film was to highlight the experiences of a lot of black people, but aggressive, in-your-face racism overshadowed — and minimized — the profound effects that microaggressions have on them.

Dee Rees Talks About What Inspired Her Bessie Smith Biopic

Dee Rees Talks About What Inspired Her Bessie Smith Biopic

It’s been three years since Dee Rees debuted her critically acclaimed film “Pariah” at the Sundance Film Festival. In the years since, she’s been busy working on a TV biopic of American blues legend Bessie Smith. Queen Latifah will play Smith in the film, which is slated for an early 2015 release.

Lisa Schwarzbaum from the Directors Guild of America spoke with the young director about how she prepared for the project, and Rees talked about her grandparents:

To convey her vision, to HBO executives as well as to her cast and crew, Rees created collaged inspiration boards full of photos (particularly from the 1930s South Carolina portraiture work of Richard Samuel Roberts and from the photo book Juke Joint by contemporary Mississippi photographer Birney Imes) and color swatches to create a visual style she articulates precisely. “The first act is grays, blacks, browns, the color of insecurity,” she explains. “In the second act, it’s metallic colors, colors that are almost not from nature, oranges you wouldn’t believe. And then in the third act, the colors are more from nature, like peach, greens, earth tones. I wanted a lot of conflicting textures, looking through things.” In fact, Rees can whip out a smartphone showing her combinations. She also kept beautiful old photos of her grandparents and great-grandparents “on my ‘shrine’ during production.”

Read more.

Little League Star Mo’ne Davis Stars in World Series Ad

Little League Star Mo'ne Davis Stars in World Series Ad

It’s already been one helluva ride for Mo’ne Davis, the 13-year-old girl whose 70 mph fastball caught the country’s attention during last summer’s Little League World Series. She’s gotten tons of attention, especially from some of today’s biggest sports stars. During last night’s opening Major League World Series game between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals, Davis appeared in a commercial for Chevy, and it’s got a lot of folks talking:

Should a 13-year-old already be starring in a corporate commercials touting her athletic ability? The NCAA thinks it’s okay. Davis has already spoken publicly about wanting to pursue a college sports career, and UConn’s legendary coach, Geno Auriemma, even got in trouble for congratulating her earlier this year. 

Dear White People’s Naomi Ko: ‘People Don’t Think Asian-Americans Are Capable of Protest’

Dear White People's Naomi Ko: 'People Don't Think Asian-Americans Are Capable of Protest'

Naomi Ko, the Korean-American actress who’s gaining attention for her supporting role in Justin Simien’s “Dear White People,” spoke with Kylee McIntyre of the Visibility Project about her frustration with the model minority myth and what she hopes people will see in the critically acclaimed film. Ko’s part was pretty small, but it was pivotal: Her character, Sungmi, encourages black students on campus to unite with other groups of color to protest a racist frat party.

“People don’t think Asian Americans are capable of assembly and protesting […] that’s part of the whole model minority stereotype: Asians do really well and assimilate and become doctors and pay taxes and vote Republican,” Ko says. She rolls her eyes a little and hits me with a no-nonsense look. “That’s not what we do.”

“What Dear White People’ made me [realize] was not necessarily what it meant to be a woman, Korean-American, person of color. I’m already confident in that,” says Ko, who remembers being brought up in the “first wave” of Asian American identity. “Like, figuring out what it means to be Korean or American or Korean-American? That annoys me.”

Read more at the Visibility Project

The NBA’s Official Anthem This Season is by Kendrick Lamar

The NBA's Official Anthem This Season is by Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar got a huge endorsement this week when the NBA announced that his song “i” will be the official anthem of the 2014-2015 season. From Hypetrak:

The song can already be heard in the new NBA On TNT spot, and will be featured in the league’s commercials throughout the year. On top of that, K. Dot will headline a special fan fest/viewing party outside The Q for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ opening game against the Knicks on October 30. “i” has previously been featured in the trailer for Chris Rock’s Top Five movie, which was co-produced by Rock, JAY Z and Kanye West.

Lamar’s major-label debut, “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” won tons of critical acclaim after it was released in 2012. His next album is due out later this fall.


Leslie Jones on SNL Promotion: ‘Get Ready’

Leslie Jones on SNL Promotion: 'Get Ready' Play

Earlier this week, “Saturday Night Live” announced that it added comedian Leslie Jones to its regular cast. Jones, a former college basketball star who got her big break touring with Katt Williams, took to Twitter to tell fans about her excitement:

Jones’ new role is a big deal in light of all the flack “Saturday Night Live” has gotten in recent years for not having any black female cast members. Sasheer Zamata, a young black female comedian, joined the cast last year. Jones joined the show as a writer and appeared in two episodes. Now you can expect to see a lot more of her. 

Oscar De La Renta: ‘I Feel Very Lucky That I’ve Had a Wonderful Life’

Oscar De La Renta: 'I Feel Very Lucky That I've Had a Wonderful Life'

Oscar de la Renta died on Monday. The 82-year-old designer, who was born in the Dominican Republic, was an icon of global fashion, holding an especially special place in American fashion.



In this video from the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, de la Renta talks about dressing Hillary Clinton and playing an instrumental role in helping her land her first Vogue cover. 

Hari Kondabolu Knows How to Fix the Most Racist Team Name in the NFL

Hari Kondabolu Knows How to Fix the Most Racist Team Name in the NFL Play

Funny man Hari Kondabolu took on the R-word controversy with a new satirical video. He swaps out the logo of Washington, D.C.’s pro football team from an indigenous man’s head to a severely burned white person. Kondabolu even asked for submissions from the internet and posted them on Tumblr. In an email, he told Colorlines: “My logic is that if human decency won’t lead to them to changing it, then perhaps some creative public mockery will, at least, devalue the brand!”

Premiere: Alsarah & The Nubatones on ‘Songs of Return’

Premiere: Alsarah & The Nubatones on 'Songs of Return' Play

Sudanese-born, Brooklyn-based singer Alsarah and her band The Nubatones have already gained a good amount of critical acclaim in the United States. Alsarah’s previous album “Aljawal” with French producer Débruit earned a spot on NPR’s list of 10 Favorite World Music Albums of 2013 with a sound that’s been described as “East African retro pop.“ 

But it’s impossible to talk about East African music without touching on the violence that’s torn the region apart for decades. Earlier this year, Alsarah & The Nubatones released ”Silt,” an album has its musical roots in the Nubian “Songs of Return” after mass displacement and resettlement due to political conflicts and flooding. Now, they’re releasing “Silt Remixed” on October 21. Here’s the world debut of the video for the track “Habibi Taal.” 

In an email to Colorlines, Alsarah had this to say about the new version of the song:

This is a traditional song from Central Sudan that is a part of the women’s musical tradition, Aghani Albanat, performed at weddings and other social gatherings. Traditionally these songs are written and performed by women and are one of the few spaces that allow women to publicly express their feelings towards a romantic interest. And so, they have a tendency to be very simple flirty love songs with the sole purpose of making you dance. I think its very important to honor the simplicity of these lyrics and these songs because they express an important section of Sudanese society that is often ignored by practitioners of ‘high brow art’ (which tends to be arab, male, and muslim-centered) deeming it artistically lacking.

The release is out on October 21 and will be available for purchase on Bandcamp.

Translation of the lyrics:

My love come lets be one
so long as love has mixed in with the blood,
where is the fault, how could they blame me
oh my love
my love is like mangos and apples,
my love is honey, all else are bland
my love is honey, all else are bland
I would migrate just to be with you
oh my love
I will wait for you by the sea
where the birds have migrated and traveled to
that place where the birds have migrated and traveled to
are you from here, or from Saturn
oh my love
my love come lets quench our longing
and live up high in the sky-towers of london
lets live up high in the sky-towers of london
for the sake of love and decorum
oh my love
I’ll wait for you on Elgash road
my love is gold, the others are copper
my love is gold, the others are copper
love should be like this or not at all
love should be like this or not at all
love should be like this or not at all
love should be like this or not at all

Misty Upham’s Family Says Cops Taunted Actress About Mental Illness

Misty Upham's Family Says Cops Taunted Actress About Mental Illness

It’s been less than a week since Misty Upham’s body was found at the bottom of a steep cliff in Washington state. The 32-year-old actress, who was Native American and a member of the Blackfeet Nation, was known for her recent roles in popular films like “August: Osage County” and “Django Unchained,” but also made her mark in memorable performances in “Frozen River” and “Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian.”

Upham’s family reported her missing on October 6 and at first feared that she had committed suicide after a change in her medication for anxiety and bipolar disorder. After her body was found on October 16 by a search party made up of family and friends, those closest to the actress said publicly that they believe that she died accidently while trying to hide from police, who didn’t do enough when alerted that she was missing and was possibly in danger due to her illness. According to them, she had good reason to hide. In a statement posted on Facebook last Friday, family members recounted disturbing details about a previous run-in with local cops:

Misty was afraid of the Auburn PD officiers [sic] with good reason. In an incident prior to her disappearance, the Auburn PD came to pick up Misty on an involuntary transport to the ER. She was cuffed and placed in a police car. Some of the officiers [sic] began to taunt and tease her while she was in the car. Because it was dark they couldn’t see that we, her family, were outside our apartment just across the street witnessing this behavior. They were tapping on the window making faces at her. Misty was crying and she told them
you can’t treat me like this I’m a movie actress and I will use my connections to expose you. Then another officer walked up to her asked “are you a movie star?, then why don’t complain to George Clooney!” After Misty arrived at the ER we went to see her and she has a swollen jaw, black eye and scratches and bruises on her shoulder. I asked the ER staff what happened and they said Misty was brought in like that. Misty said she couldn’t remember what happened but thats why she feared the police.

Family friend and spokesperson Tracy Rector told the Washington Post that tension has been especially high between local police officers and Native Americans near where Upham’s body was found, on tribal land near Aubrun, Washington that’s interspersed with areas under the jurisdiction of local authorities.

“The family pleaded for the police department to look for her; they pleaded for dogs,” Rector said in an interview with The Post on Friday. Long-standing tensions between police and Native Americans on the Muckleshoot Reservation might have played a role, Rector said.

“Unfortunately, it feels like 1950′s racism in many ways,” said Rector, a Seattle-based filmmaker. “The family is concerned that Misty was considered just another Native person and treated as such. Even that is unacceptable. Native lives matter. It doesn’t matter what her skin color was.”

It’s a shocking and mysterious end to a remarkable young life. Just after her critically acclaimed  performance alongside Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in “August: Osage County” earned her a Screen Actor’s Guild Award Nomination, Upham wrote about the day she got the role that would change her life in an essay for The Daily Beast.

At the time when I received that life-changing phone call, I was paying my bills as a housecleaner…That’s what I hoped to convey when I landed the role of Johnna in August: Osage County, a young Native American woman who answers an ad for a housekeeper and caregiver for Violet Weston, a troubled matriarch played by Meryl Streep. I wanted to bring the humanity and dignity of this woman to the big screen.

In the interview below, Upham talks about being on set of the film and getting to “believe in the magic.”

Her family has set up a crowdsourcing page to help raise funds for her memorial. 

‘Dear White People’ Courts Younger Audience, Has Big Box Office Weekend

'Dear White People' Courts Younger Audience, Has Big Box Office Weekend

“Dear White People” grossed $344,136 at the box office this weekend. Amid all the chatter about the film’s national debut at 11 theaters around the country, there’s this interesting tidbit from Indiewire:

“We created an event with ‘Dear White People’ via continuous social media engagement, complemented with traditional PR and college outreach that attracted a young and diverse audience to theaters,” Roadside’s Howard Cohen said. “Exit polls showed 77% of the audience was in the 21 to 39 age range, with 29% between the ages of 21 to 24 — younger than the typical specialty-film audience.”

The film is based on the experience of college students and has a plot that’s literally ripped from any number of race-fueled campus headlines in recent years, so the fact that it attracted younger viewers is no surprise. It expands to 350 theaters in the top 75 markets on October 24th. Stay tuned for more. 

(h/t Indiewire)

Watch ‘Dear White People’ Director Justin Simien on Colbert

Justin Simien, the director of “Dear White People,” stopped by to chat with Stephen Colbert this week to talk about his debut film, which is in theaters nationwide this month. It’s a fun segment — Simien talks about the premise of his film and is noticeably unimpressed by Colbert’s black friends.

Erykah Badu Performs in Times Square, Earns Less than $4

Erykah Badu Performs in Times Square, Earns Less than $4 Play

Erykah Badu, who’s known for doing silly things in public, performed incognito last Friday in Times Square. It wasn’t quite silly, according to the artist. “I kinda always wanted to see what it would be like to sing for money on the streets,” she said in the self-made iPhone video.

She wound up taking home $3.40. New York City just ain’t right.

‘Kalinda’ Has the Best Possible Reason for Leaving ‘The Good Wife’

'Kalinda' Has the Best Possible Reason for Leaving 'The Good Wife'

Archie Panjabi, the actress who plays the gun-toting, ass-kicking investigator Kalinda Sharma in the CBS drama “The Good Wife,” has signed on to headline a new pilot with 20th Century Fox TV. From Deadline:

Panjabi had been thinking about moving on from the show for a while. “Archie is an amazing actress who helped build Kalinda from the ground up as an enigmatic, powerful, and sexy character,” The Good Wife creators Robert and Michelle King said in a statement. “It’s been a pleasure to write for her, and we’ll be sad to see her go; but we still have her for the rest of Season 6, so let’s not exhaust our good-byes yet. We look forward to meeting all the wonderful new characters Archie brings to the screen. But either way, we’re keeping the boots.”

Panjabi won a 2010 Emmy for her role on the show, becoming one of the most recognizable actress of South Asian descent in Hollywood. The new pilot is tentatively set for the spring or fall of 2015.

Actress Elizabeth Peña’s Nephew: ‘She Was Our Star’

Actress Elizabeth Peña's Nephew: 'She Was Our Star'

Elizabeth Peña, the Cuban-American actress who starred in several treasured films and on the hit show “Modern Family,” died on Wednesday in Los Angeles of natural causes. She was only 55 years old.

Before “Modern Family,” Peña was known for her memorable roles in “La Bamba,” “Tortilla Soup,” and as a voice actress in “The Incredibles.” In a moving memorial at Latino Review, Peña’s nephew, the writer and director Mario-Francisco Robles, remembered his aunt’s accomplishments:

I didn’t call her Elizabeth, or Liz, or Leechy. She wasn’t Aunt, Auntie, Tia, or Titi. To me…she was Ñaña. That was the name I assigned my aunt when I was just a baby, and it’s the name I continued to refer to her as when I visited her in Los Angeles last week. She was our star. She was my star. We celebrated her triumphs. We sweated through her struggles. As a family, even when we didn’t always talk, we would all do whatever we could for one another. When I got married 3 years ago, despite their being some logistical hurdles, she flew herself, her husband, and both her kids to attend my special night in New York’s Hudson River Valley. Dancing with her, my uncle, and my cousins under the stars that night is a memory I’ve always cherished, and it’s now one that I’ll have to hold onto for the rest of my life.

My Ñaña is gone. 

Read more at Latino Review


Watch Michelle Obama Turn Up for Turnips

Watch Michelle Obama Turn Up for Turnips Play

This Vine is by far the most hilarious thing Michelle Obama’s ever done to push her campaign against childhood obesity. Watch and laugh!

Here’s What to Read for in the National Book Awards

Here's What to Read for in the National Book Awards

The finalists for this year’s National Book Awards were announced Wednesday morning and a handful of writers of color — and books about issues important to communities of color — made the list. Here are six to watch out for, running the gamut from fiction and non-fiction to poetry and young-adult literature.


In fiction, Rabih Alameddine’s “An Unnecessary Woman” follows protagonist Aaliya Sohbi who lives in Beirut and is caught in a mid-life crisis. She’s unconventional — no husband, no kids and not particularly aligned with any religion — but she’s haunted by memories of the Lebanese Civil War. Author Alameddine, is a Lebanese-American writer who was born in Jordan and migrated to California in his teens. 


America is rife with war stories from Afghanistan, but reporter Anand Gopal’s debut book, “No Good Men Among the Living: America, The Taliban and the War Through Afghan Eyes,” provides an intimate account of the conflict from the Afghani perspective. Gopal previously served as an Afghanistan correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and The Christian Science Monitor and is currently a fellow at the New America Foundation. 

poetry_rankine_citizen_f.jpgIn “Citizen: An American Lyric,” Jamaica-born poet Claudia Rankine recounts everyday microaggressions to document the stress of being black in America. Rankine is currently an English professor at Pomona College and she’s previously won fellowships from the Academy of American Poetry and the National Endowment for the Arts.


In his latest collection of poetry, Fred Moten tries to umpack the the musicality of James Brown and William Parker. Currently a professor of English at the University of California at Riverside, Moten is also the co-founder of a small press called Three Count Pour.


Steve Sheinkin’s “The Port Chiago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights” revisits the 1944 case of 244 mostly black sailors who protested unsafe working conditions and the 50 who were later charged with mutiny. The men had good reason to take a stand: On July 17 of that year, more than 300 sailors at the segregated Navy base of Port Chicago, California, were killed in a massive explosion. 


With “Brown Girl Dreaming,” a series of childhood poems, author Jacqueline Woodson offers up a searing take on growing up in South Carolina in the 1960s and 70s. Woodson has also won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults and the Coretta Scott King Award. She lives in Brooklyn.

The awards will be announced on November 19 in New York City. You can also listen to NPR’s announcement of the finalists here:

NFL Player Arian Foster Wears T-Shirt to Support Mike Brown

NFL Player Arian Foster Wears T-Shirt to Support Mike Brown

Houston running back Arian Foster decided to make a statement before Thursday night’s matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. During pre-game warm-ups, Foster wore a T-shirt that read “Stand Strong St. Louis” on the front and “RIP Mike Brown” on the back. 

It was one of the few on-field statements made by NFL players in the aftermath of Brown’s killing and protests in Ferguson. During the NFL’s pre-season, members of Washington, D.C.’s NFL team made the “hands up” gesture that’s become synonymous with protests in the St. Louis suburb. 

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