PBS Documentary Explores the Life and Death of Ruben Salazar

PBS Documentary Explores the Life and Death of Ruben Salazar

Ruben Salazar wasn’t what you might consider an average pioneer of the Chicano movement. He was solidly middle class, a man who spent the majority of his career as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times trying to avoid stories that had much to do with Mexican-Americans.

But, as Phillip Rodriguez shows in his new documentary “Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle,” Salazar had a change in political consciousness that put him at the forefront of the burgeoning Chicano Movement. On August 29, 1970, Salazar was shot and killed by the LAPD while covering the Chicano Moratorium, and his death became a catalyst for even more activism. 

Rodrieguez’s documentary will premiere on PBS on Tuesday, April 29 at 9pm. Check your local listings for details

Blood Orange Scores New Film From James Franco and Gia Copolla

Blood Orange Scores New Film From James Franco and Gia Copolla

Blood Orange, a 27-year-old London-raised, New York-based producer, has been tapped to score a new film called “Palo Alto” from James Franco and Gia Copolla. Up until now, Blood Orange has been known mostly for his work with Solange he but made a big splash in indie scenes this year with his second solo album “Cupid Deluxe.” In many ways, he’s a perfect match for the film, which focuses on the promiscuous pastimes of a group of wealthy and bored teenagers in a plush suburb. Blood Orange’s songwriting and production is an electronic ode to heartache. The film will be released on May 9.

TAGS: Music

Donald Sterling Harassed, Tried to Evict Elderly Black Tenant

Donald Sterling Harassed, Tried to Evict Elderly Black Tenant

Back in 2009, ESPN the Magazine ran a profile of now-embattled NBA owner Donald Sterling. In it, reporter Peter Keating dug up depositions from two lawsuits filed against Sterling back in 2005 for housing discrimination and sexual harrassment. They give even more damning details about Sterling’s racism:

So according to the testimony of tenants, Sterling employees made life difficult for residents in some of his new buildings. They refused rent checks, then accused renters of nonpayment. They refused to do repairs for black tenants and harassed them with surprise inspections, threatening residents with eviction for alleged violations of building rules.

When Sterling first bought the Ardmore, he remarked on its odor to [property supervisor Sumner] Davenport. “That’s because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they’re not clean,” he said, according to Davenport’s testimony. “And it’s because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day.” He added: “So we have to get them out of here.” Shortly after, construction work caused a serious leak at the complex. When Davenport surveyed the damage, she found an elderly woman, Kandynce Jones, wading through several inches of water in Apartment 121. Jones was paralyzed on the right side and legally blind. She took medication for high blood pressure and to thin a clot in her leg. Still, she was remarkably cheerful, showing Davenport pictures of her children, even as some of her belongings floated around her.

Jones had repeatedly walked to the apartment manager’s office to plead for assistance, according to sworn testimony given by her daughter Ebony Jones in the Housing Rights Center case. Kandynce Jones’ refrigerator dripped, her dishwasher was broken, and her apartment was always cold. Now it had flooded. Davenport reported what she saw to Sterling, and according to her testimony, he asked: “Is she one of those black people that stink?” When Davenport told Sterling that Jones wanted to be reimbursed for the water damage and compensated for her ruined property, he replied: “I am not going to do that. Just evict the bitch.”

Read the profile over at ESPN.

Donald Sterling’s Words Shed Light on Years of Racist Practices

Donald Sterling's Words Shed Light on Years of Racist Practices

Donald Sterling has managed to blow the lid off one one of the worst kept secrets in professional sports and out himself as a racist.

Over the weekend, TMZ unearthed recordings of the Los Angeles Clippers owner going on a bizarre rant to his black and Mexican then-girlfriend V. Stiviano about taking photos with black people (in this case, Magic Johnson) and posting them on Instagram. The recordings, some of which Deadspin released in full on Sunday, are an example of an 80-year-old man who can’t seem to reconcile the fact that not wanting to be seen in public with black people is, in fact, a form of racism. But even worse has been the public discourse that’s followed — the pundits, the protests — that seem to make being called a racist worse than actually engaging in racist practices.

It’s a distinction that Jay Smooth nailed in a new video on the matter. “Why do racist words bring more accountability than racist practices?”

Sterling has long been a hated man in Southern California’s communities of color, but not just because of his NBA team’s mostly losing records. In 2009, Sterling, who also owns a slew of apartment buildings in the Los Angeles area,  agreed to pay $2.725 million settlement — the largest monetary payment ever obtained by the Department of Justice — to settle a housing discrimination suit. According to a press release from the DOJ:

The lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department in August 2006, alleged that the defendants, Donald T. Sterling, his wife Rochelle Sterling and the Sterling Family Trust, engaged in discriminatory rental practices on the basis of race, national origin and familial status (having children under 18) at various apartment buildings that they own and manage in Los Angeles. Among other things, the suit alleged that the defendants discriminated against non-Korean tenants and prospective tenants at buildings the defendants owned in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles.

In court filings, for example, the United States presented evidence that the defendants’ employees prepared internal reports that identified the race of tenants at properties the defendants purchased in Koreatown. Additionally, the defendants made statements to employees at Koreatown buildings indicating that African-Americans and Hispanics were not desirable tenants. The United States also presented expert analysis in court filings showing that the defendants rented to far fewer Hispanics and African-Americans in Koreatown which than would be expected based on income and other demographic characteristics.

The defendants, who manage their apartments under the name Beverly Hills Properties, own and manage approximately 119 apartment buildings comprising over 5,000 apartments in Los Angeles County. The settlement would also resolve two related lawsuits filed by former tenants at one of the properties. The two families, an African-American family and an interracial married couple with bi-racial children, alleged that the defendants demolished the private yards that had been part of their apartment and took other actions against them because of their race.

Sterlings actions aren’t new. But maybe now that public pressure is mountaing for him to sell his team, Sterling is finally about to feel the consequences. 

How To Tell Black People Apart by David Alan Grier

How To Tell Black People Apart by David Alan Grier

David Alan Grier made an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” this week to help keep white poeple from doing this.

TAGS: Jimmy Kimmel

Watch Chuck D Narrate This Film on Hip-Hop’s Founding Fathers

Watch Chuck D Narrate This Film on Hip-Hop's Founding Fathers Play

The story of hip-hop often begins in the 1970’s with DJ Kool Herc in the South Bronx, but a documentary called “Founding Fathers” that was just made available on YouTube goes further back in time to spotlight the culture’s heroes. The film takes a look at all the pioneering DJ’s who inspired Herc.

TAGS: hip-hop video

Big Freedia Drops New Single, Announces Album ‘Just Be Free’

Big Freedia Drops New Single, Announces Album 'Just Be Free'

Big Freedia, one of the pioneers of New Orleans bounce who put twerking on the map, just released a new single called “Explode.” It’s the first track off of his new upcoming album, “Just Be Free,” which is set to be released on June 17.

Freedia talked to Rolling Stone about what inspired the song. “The idea behind ‘Explode’ is that it was the way I was feeling, like I’m going to explode,” Freedia told the magazine. “Being on the road, being in a relationship, I have a lot of stress and I feel like I’m about to explode. Also, when I’m on stage, I feel like I’m going to explode. That’s why I say ‘release your wiggle.’ This made sense for it to be the first single because I want people to know that I’m coming out with a bang ;)”

The inspiration for the album, Freedia says, is similar. “Being ‘free to be who you’ is one,” says the singer. “We live in a society where we have a lot of liberties. It’s just not like this everywhere in the world. This album is my first studio recorded album where I came up with concepts beforehand. So much of my music is appreciated live, but I think these tracks are one you can listen to at a late night twerk party or an afternoon barbecue and enjoy!”

“Just Be Free” tracklist:

1. Turn Da Beat Up
2. Dangerous
3. N.O. Bounce
4. Jump On It
5. Lift Dat Leg Up
6. Ol’ Lady
7. Where My Queens At
8. Explode
9. Y’Tootsay

(Rolling Stone)

Kristina Wong Takes on Asian Fetishes in ‘I’m Asian-American And…’

Kristina Wong Takes on Asian Fetishes in 'I'm Asian-American And...' Play

Comedian Kristina Wong takes Asian fetishes to task in this sneak peek of her new series “I’m Asian-American And…” The full episode premiered Wednesday night on Myx.TV.

(h/t Reappropriate)

Watch a Bunch of News Anchors Butcher Lupita Nyong’o’s Name

Watch a Bunch of News Anchors Butcher Lupita Nyong'o's Name

I guess even when you’re an Oscar winner and one of the most famous black women in Hollywood, people still won’t take the time to learn how to pronounce your name.

(h/t Gawker)

Beyoncé, Jason Collins Land Covers for Time’s Most Influential People

All hail Queen Bey and pioneering NBA center Jason Collins. They’ve been named among this year’s 100 most influential people by Time Magazine. “She’s the boss,” writes Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg in the accompanying profile, while Collins gets plenty of praise from Chelsea Clinton

Also on this year’s list: Steve McQueen, Kerry Washington, Pharrell, Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Kenyan activist Ory Okolloh. See the full list. 



The FCC May Change How the Internet Works, Which Sucks For You

The FCC May Change How the Internet Works, Which Sucks For You

At the moment, your Internet generally works like this: You pay a company — AT&T, or Comcast, or Verizon, or Time Warner — for monthly online access. Once you’re connected, you can go to whatever legally permissible website your heart desires and, whether it’s the New York Times or Netflix, it takes you the same amount of time no matter where you’re trying to go. Access is equal; that’s the principle of “net neutrality,” the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally.

But the Federal Communications Commission is on its way to dismantling that concept entirely. The Commission, which has spent the better part of the past decade trying to define “fairness” on the Internet, said on Wednesday that it would propose new rules that would allow companies like Disney, Google and Netflix to pay Internet service providers for faster lanes to send video and other content to consumers.

From the New York Times:

Tom Wheeler, the F.C.C. chairman, defended the agency’s plans late Wednesday, saying speculation that the F.C.C. was “gutting the open Internet rule” is “flat out wrong.” Rather, he said, the new rules will provide for net neutrality along the lines of the appeals court’s decision.

Still, the regulations could radically reshape how Internet content is delivered to consumers. For example, if a gaming company cannot afford the fast track to players, customers could lose interest and its product could fail.

The rules are also likely to eventually raise prices as the likes of Disney and Netflix pass on to customers whatever they pay for the speedier lanes, which are the digital equivalent of an uncongested car pool lane on a busy freeway.

Interestingly, Netflix made news this week by publicly denouncing Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner, the country’s largest cable provider. In a letter to investors, the online streaming company argued that the deal would give Comcast unprecedented control over Internet access in the U.S. They also had the evidence to prove it: Two months ago Netflix agreed to pay Comcast for faster Internet access for its consumers, a deal that will ultimately lead to the company passing the buck to subscribers, who would have to pay higher monthly fees.

What’s already happening with Netflix and Comcast is a nightmare scenerio for those who’ve been fighting for the open Internet, particularly for artists and people of color for which the Internet has been a democratizing platform. As Jay Cassano and Michael Brooks wrote recently at In These Times:

When it comes to accessing the Internet, mobile-phone networks are of particular importance to marginalized communities, including people of color and those with lower incomes. A recent Pew surveyfound that a full 21 percent of cell phone owners in the United States mostly use their phones to access the Internet, as opposed to a desktop or a laptop. The elimination of net neutrality for cell phones could make conducting essential activities, such as applying for jobs or furthering one’s education, much harder if service providers chose to block access to those necessary sites.

The Pew study also found that “young adults, non-whites, and those with relatively low income and education levels are particularly likely to be cell-mostly Internet users”—and ­it’s people in those demographic groups who will therefore be stuck at the lowest tier of access. Advocacy groups also worry that ISPs will use their powers of prioritization to silence activists working toward social justice, particularly in communities of color.

The FCC’s move signals a shift away from how we’ve expected the Internet to work.

A free market based on competition and entrepreneurship depends on the ability for anyone to bring the next great product, idea or innovation to the marketplace,” Casey Rae, the interim executive director of the Future of Music Coalition said in a press release. “A society that respects its creators must not place access to culture in the hands of just few massive companies. These proposed rules not only don’t go far enough to safeguard consumers, they actively marginalize smaller and independent voices.”

The proposed rules will be released on Thursday and will be available for public comment until May 15. The Commission is likely to vote on the rules by the end of this year. 

Pharrell Puts a Dark-Skinned Woman on New Single Cover

Pharrell released the new video for the second single off of his new album, “G I R L.” The cover art for the track, called “Marilyn Monroe,” features a dark-skinned dancer named Khadijah Shari, which seems to be the artist’s response to critics who bashed the album cover for featuring only lighter skinned women. 


Lupita Nyong’o Named to People Magazine’s ‘Most Beautiful’

Lupita Nyong'o Named to People Magazine's 'Most Beautiful'

Things just keep getting better for Lupita Nyong’o. The breakout star of “12 Years a Slave” was just named one of People Magazine’s 50 most beautiful, and she’s on the cover. 

“It was exciting and just a major, major compliment,” the 31-year-old says of gracing this year’s cover. And especially, “I was happy for all the girls who would see me on [it] and feel a little more seen.” 


The Most Telling Photos From the NYPD’s Epic Twitter Fail

The Most Telling Photos From the NYPD's Epic Twitter Fail

This week the New York City Police Department decided that it would be a good idea to ask its Twitter followers to send in photos of their interactions with its officers using the hashtag #myNYPD. They probably expected a bunch of photos with smiling tourists. Instead, what they got were photos of officers brutally manhandling residents.

TAGS: NYPD Twitter

Puerto Rico’s Transgender Community Hits the Big Screen at Tribeca

Puerto Rico's Transgender Community Hits the Big Screen at Tribeca Play

If you’re in New York City this week it’s worth stopping by the Tribeca Film Festival, where a new film about Puerto Rico’s transgender community is making waves. “Mala Mala” is directed by Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini and features several people from the island’s transgender and drag communities, including former “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant and activist Ivana Fred. Here’s more from Queerty:

Mala Mala was three years in the making, and brings together very different stories — from Sandy, an unapologetic sex worker in San Juan’s rough La 15 neighborhood, to Paxx, a brave young trans man with no apparent local support system. At turns tender, funny, raw and gorgeous, the film also covers a profound moment in local LGBT history: last year’s passage of Senate Bill 238, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The bill really just came up during the last eight months of production,” Sickles said. “We got a call from Ivana one day saying like, ‘Oh hey, we’re going to the senate to fight for our rights.’ We’re like, ‘What? Okay, so we need to be there.’ So we were lucky enough to follow it along, and to see it passed into law was golden for us.”

The film premiered at Tribeca on April 14 and will play four screenings throughout New York City. Tickets are available at

Questlove: ‘Hip-Hop Has Taken Over Black Music’

Questlove: 'Hip-Hop Has Taken Over Black Music'

In the lead up to The Roots’ new album “…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin,” (due out on May 13) drummer Questlove has taken to New York Magazine for a six-piece series on black music. His first topic: the trouble with all of black music being categorized as hip-hop. He writes:

I want to start with a statement: Hip-hop has taken over black music. At some level, this is a complex argument, with many outer rings, but it has a simple, indisputable core. Look at the music charts, or think of as many pop artists as you can, and see how many of the black ones aren’t part of hip-hop. There aren’t many hip-hop performers at the top of the charts lately: You have perennial winners like Jay Z, Kanye West, and Drake, along with newcomers like Kendrick Lamar, and that’s about it. Among women, it’s a little bit more complicated, but only a little bit. The two biggest stars, Beyoncé and Rihanna, are considered pop (or is that pop-soul), but what does that mean anymore? In their case, it means that they’re offering a variation on hip-hop that’s reinforced by their associations with the genre’s biggest stars: Beyoncé with Jay Z, of course, and Rihanna with everyone from Drake to A$AP Rocky to Eminem.


And that’s what it’s become: an entire cultural movement, packed into one hyphenated adjective. These days, nearly anything fashioned or put forth by black people gets referred to as “hip-hop,” even when the description is a poor or pointless fit. “Hip-hop fashion” makes a little sense, but even that is confusing: Does it refer to fashions popularized by hip-hop musicians, like my Lego heart pin, or to fashions that participate in the same vague cool that defines hip-hop music? Others make a whole lot of nonsense: “Hip-hop food”? “Hip-hop politics”? “Hip-hop intellectual”? And there’s even “hip-hop architecture.” What the hell is that? A house you build with a Hammer?

Read more over at New York Magazine. 

Watch Dave Liang Talk About Shanghai Restoration Project

Producer Dave Liang sat down with NBC’s “Last Call With Carson Daly” to talk about Shanghai Restoration Project, a New York City-based electronic music group that fuses traditional Chinese instrumentation with modern hip-hop and electronica. You can watch the video above, and check out more from the group below.

The Breakdance of Yao, feat. Brittany Hass and Lily Henley, a re-make of a well-known Chinese folk song called “Dance of Yao.”

The group’s latest album is called “The Classics” and features singer Zhang Le doing contemporary remakes of popular 1930s and 1940s Shanghai jazz songs.

(h/t Angry Asian Man)

Brian Williams Raps Snoop Dogg’s ‘Gin and Juice’

Brian Williams Raps Snoop Dogg's 'Gin and Juice' Play

First it was “Rapper’s Delight,” and now it’s Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice.” Editors at “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon did it again.

Transgender Activist’s Death Introduces New Political Opponent: Funeral Homes

Filmmaker and activist Christopher Lee tragically committed suicide in 2012. That, in itself, is news. Among many other things, Lee was a co-founder of San Francisco’s Transgender Film Festival. But after a lifelong struggle to assert his right to his own gender identity, Lee’s death shed some light on just how long that battle can drag on. 

Scott-Chung and her husband made their way to the office of California Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, from Lee’s hometown of San Diego. Atkins recently introduced a bill that would establish protocols for filling out death certificates for transgender people.

“There’s no statutory or regulatory guidance on whether sex should be listed according to the deceased’s gender identity or the anatomy,” Atkins said at a hearing in Sacramento last month.

She explained that only a fraction of transgender people have sex reassignment surgery. It’s very expensive, and most insurance plans won’t cover it. Some people just don’t want it.

“It’s not uncommon for a transgender person to retain some physical characteristics of the gender assigned to them at birth even though they have transitioned to a new gender identity,” Atkins said.

That can leave coroners in a quandary. Christopher Lee was taking testosterone when he died. The Alameda County medical examiner described the body at the autopsy: A short mustache and beard. A receding hairline consistent with male balding. And, female genitalia. That’s why the “F” ended up on the death certificate.

“We don’t have a lot of leeway in that,” says Lt. Riddic Bowers of the Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau. He says a driver’s license is not enough to override anatomy. An updated birth certificate would work, but that requires a court order. And until 2012 getting a court order meant getting surgery.

The bill that Atkins has introduced would require coroners and funeral directors to record a person’s gender identity instead of their anatomical sex and, if there’s a dispute, allow a driver’s license of passport to be sufficient legal documentation to prove someone’s gender identity.

Here more about the bill. And you can listen to Lee’s story below:

(h/t The California Report)

30 Years After ‘Purple Rain,’ Prince Makes Big Announcement

30 Years After 'Purple Rain,' Prince Makes Big Announcement

In a major move, Prince has regained control of his musical catalogue from Warner Bros after a bitter separation from the label back in 1996. As part of the deal, Prince will re-release his classic “Purple Rain” album in time for its 30th anniversary. The artist also announced plans for a new album, though it’s unclear if that new project is also part of the deal.

As Billboard explains, the fight over Prince’s catalogue is as important one:

As 2013 loomed, record label executives and artists managers said that they were unsure how copyright terminations and ownership reversions would play out as they expected a precedent-setting court case to decide whether the “work-for-hire” clause in standard recording contracts could successfully be challenged by artists. Works created under work-for-hire contracts are not eligible for copyright reversion. But privately some label executives have also said that in some instances the wiser course might be to negotiate the reversions and retain control of issuing artists’ catalog eligible for copyright terminations.

In cutting what appears to be a landmark deal, Prince has chosen to remain with the label that was the subject of his ire back in the 1990’s avoiding a risky and costly legal battle and still regains ownership of his catalog.

Financial terms and length of the licensing deal were not disclosed; nor does the announcement make clear on whether the artist is gaining ownership of his catalog all at once; or more likely as each album becomes eligible for copyright termination.

Read more from Billboard

And, because Prince is Prince and can basically do no wrong, he also dropped a new song:

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