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:

Macklemore Gets His Own Signature Jordan Sneaker

Macklemore Gets His Own Signature Jordan Sneaker

What do Kanye, Drake and Macklemore all have in common? Well, yes, they’re all Grammy-winning rappers. But they’ve also got their own siganture sneakers.

Like Drake, Macklemore teamed up with the Jordan brand to release his own custom-designed shoe.  He made the announcement on Instagram:

“I’m proud to announce the unveiling of my “Northwest King Salmon” Melo’s. Courtesy of @jumpman23 and myself. Never dreamed I’d have an opportunity like this. Huge shout out to @pdxreg and the whole fam.#sharkfacegang”

A non-signature pair of the Jordan Melo’s costs about $160 at Foot Locker, so these peobably cost about $200.

TAGS: Macklemore

‘Mad Men’s’ First Black Character Finally Gets a Storyline

'Mad Men's' First Black Character Finally Gets a Storyline

Warning: Spoiler alert.

It only took a couple seasons, but “Mad Men” is finally rolling out a storyline for its first significant black character. From NPR:

Sunday night, however, both Dawn and Shirley — a recently added black secretary who, unlike Dawn, rocks very short dresses and natural hair — got their very own conversation, just the two of them, that subtly realigned the show’s consideration of race from one that was primarily about the experiences of white people to one that was at least curious about, if not yet diving deeply into, the experiences of black people, and specifically black women.

While the show has been the target of criticism over the years for its lack of black characters (see: The Root’s Mad Men black-people counter), others, like author Tanner Colby, have argued that the show has actually done a decent job of handling race in the era of 1960’s social upheavel. As Colby wrote at Slate back in 2012:

Mad Men isn’t cowardly for avoiding race. Quite the opposite. It’s brave for being honest about Madison Avenue’s cowardice. While Don Draper and Sterling Cooper may seem woefully behind the times, that just means Matthew Wiener is right on schedule, historically speaking. And if Mad Men’s schedule stays on the course it’s been following, it’s a safe bet that the season now beginning will finally bring us to the point when black consumers stand up and refuse to sit at the back of the advertising bus.

Read more.

Poll: Laverne Cox is More Influential Than Justin Bieber

Poll: Laverne Cox is More Influential Than Justin Bieber

Who are the most influential people in the world? That’s what Time Magazine is asking its readers to vote on in an annual reader poll. Currently, Indian politician Arvind Kejriwal sits in the top spot, while Laverne Cox just booted Justin Beiber from the fifth spot and Lupita Nyong’o is in ninth place. Voting closes on April 22, and yes, yours counts!

(h/t Jezebel)

Here’s the ‘Orange is the New Black’ Season 2 Trailer

On June 6, Netflix will unleash the second season of its wildly popular series “Orange is the New Black.” Here’s a sneak peek that features lead character Piper in solitary and Crazy Eyes doing electrical work: 

Muslims Push to Add Holidays to New York City School Calendar

Muslims Push to Add Holidays to New York City School Calendar

Muslim students at New York City’s public schools are calling for the district to recognize Islamic holidays. Estimates of the city’s Muslim population range from 600,000 to 1 million, according to The New York Times. A Columbia University study found that about 10 percent of students in the city’s public schools are Muslim and that 95 percent of Muslim children in the city attend public school.

From The New York Times:

The issue might seem of modest importance alongside deeper concerns among many Muslims in the city, including the Police Department’s monitoring of their community since the Sept. 11 attacks. But the rally, held recently in a public school auditorium in Queens and organized in barely a week’s time, was a testament to how the city’s Muslim community is gaining a measure of political confidence.


Debbie Almontaser, who was forced out of her job as principal of the city’s first Arabic language school, in Brooklyn, in 2007 after The New York Post inaccurately portrayed her as sympathizing with Muslim extremists, now works at the Benjamin Banneker Academy, another public high school in Brooklyn. She sees many of her Muslim students grappling with how to express their identity.

“There is so much negativity out there, and including the Muslim holidays is simply a stamp of saying, We accept and embrace you, and this is your city as it is my city,” she said.

The group behind the most recet protests is the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays, which describes itself on Facebook as a collection of “faith-based, civil rights, community, labor and grassroots” organizers. More from the group:

Every year, on their most sacred high holidays, 1 out of every 8 public school children is forced to make an unfair choice between their education and their faith (that’s about 12 percent of the public school population!) The Coalition for Muslim School Holidays is dedicated to organizing to incorporate Eid Ul Fitr and Eid Ul Adha in the NYC public school calendar.

Mayor Bill De Blasio has previously voiced his support for the effort. “It is complicated in terms of logistics and school calendar and budget,” he told WNYC host Brian Lehrer last February. “But it’s something I want to get done in a reasonable time frame.”


Watch Shonda Rhimes Talk About ‘Scandal’s’ Season Finale

Watch Shonda Rhimes Talk About 'Scandal's' Season Finale Play

Still reeling from Thursday night’s “Scandal” Season 3 finale? Watch creator Shonda Rhimes explain on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

Outtakes from the Hollywood Reporter:

1. The pace: Rhimes said the rapid pace of the show is intentional, and she wants the show to feel “like you can’t do other things.” It’s basically the anti-multitasking show (though live tweeting is likely OK).

2. On Olivia leaving: “There’s possibilities,” Rhimes said when asked if Olivia (Kerry Washington) was certain she wanted to leave D.C. with Jake (Scott Foley). The showrunner confessed that the look on Olivia’s face made it clear that “she’s not so sure” about the decision to quit OPA and leave to stand in the sun with Jake.

3. The biggest debate in the writers’ room: The midseason finale when Jake was selected as B613 Command. They shot scenes with both Jake being named Fitz’s running mate and what aired. Rhimes ultimately watched both and said, “Vice president feels stupid,” and Jake was crowned head of B613.

The highly anticipated finale has already been called the show’s “best episode yet.

Grandmother of Girl Who Covered Edward Sharpe’s ‘Home’ Faces Deportation

Grandmother of Girl Who Covered Edward Sharpe's 'Home' Faces Deportation Play

Remember Jorge Narvaez and his young daughter, Alexa? Their 2010 videotaped cover of Edward Sharpe’s “Home” eventually garnered 27 million view on YouTube and led to appearances on “Ellen” and “America’s Got Talent.” But, as Jorge Rivas writes at Fusion, the occasion wasn’t exactly a family affair:

In March, Narvaez’s mother [Esther Alvarado] was one of 78 adult individuals who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to turn themselves over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and seek asylum from the countries where they were born.

In March, Narvaez released an updated version of the video to bring attention to his mother’s case.  

Read more over at Fusion

Nas Premieres ‘Time is Illmatic’ With Live Performance at Tribeca

Nas Premieres 'Time is Illmatic' With Live Performance at Tribeca Play

The beautifully written and shot documentary “Time is Illmatic” made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival this week. The film, written by Erik Parker and directed by One9, chronicles the making of Nas’s historic debut album just in time for its 20th anniversary, and we’ll have more on the film soon. For now, take a look at this live performance and listen to a streaming version of the album in its entirety. 

(h/t Okayplayer)

Kanye West, Common Team Up With Chicago Urban League to Create Youth Jobs

Kanye West, Common Team Up With Chicago Urban League to Create Youth Jobs

Windy City natives Kanye West and Common are teaming up with the Chicago Urban League for an initiative that they say will create 20,000 jobs for young people in the city.

Chicago’s gun violence epidemic has been national news in recent years. Nearly half of the city’s 2,389 homicide victims between 2008 and 2012 were younger than 25, and more than 2,300 young people survived shootings last year, as my colleague Carla Murphy noted earlier this week when gun violence began in the city began to increase once again. Illinois also became the latest state to pass a law permitting registered gun owners to carry concealed firearms after a bitter fight that had victims of gun violence at its center. 

From the Chicago Defender:

Common recently announced during a press conference that his Common Ground Foundation will be working with Kanye West’s Donda’s House, Inc. and the Chicago Urban League in an initiative to bring employment opportunities through The Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative. 92 percent of the Black youth in Chicago are unemployed, which means that many of these kids are on the streets. And we’ve all read the gruesome headlines about Chicago’s cruel streets. But what’s worse is Chicago has become the center of the national gun debate, and the city’s youth has taken the hardest hit from gun violence.

While the move has been celebrated by local and hip-hop news outlets, it’s unclear what these jobs will actually look like and how much they’ll pay. The Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative focuses on finding year-round employment for young people between the ages of 16 and 24, and also provides mentoring and support services. Read more at the Urban League.

Los Rakas Shows Horrors of U.S. Immigration Policy in New Video

Los Rakas Shows Horrors of U.S. Immigration Policy in New Video Play

Oakland-based hip-hop group Los Rakas released a new album this week called, “El Negrito Dun Dun & Ricardo.” It’s the fifth album for the bilingual duo, and perhaps their most political work yet. This video for the single “Sueño Americano” takes direct aim at America’s broken immigration system. The lyrics are in Spanish, but you can read a translation after the jump.

Watch British Muslims Dance to Pharrell’s ‘Happy’

Watch British Muslims Dance to Pharrell's 'Happy' Play

Happiness has now gone viral thanks to Pharrell’s hit song.

The Maya Rudolph Show Already Looks Amazing

The Maya Rudolph Show Already Looks Amazing Play

NBC has set a date to run the pilot for “The Maya Rudolph Show:” May 19 at 10pm EST. The variety show will feature a guest performance by Janelle Monáe, and Raphael Saadiq will serve as bandleader.

Rudolph, the daughter of late soul singer Minnie Ripperton, was one of the most popular cast members of “Saturday Night Live” of the past decade thanks to her memorable impersonations of Beyoncé, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and Barbra Streisand.

If you’re not already excited about the show, here’s classic Maya Rudolph during a 2011 appearance on “The Ellen Show:”

Vijay Seshadri Becomes First South Asian to Win the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

Vijay Seshadri Becomes First South Asian to Win the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

This week, poet Vijay Seshadri became the first South Asian to win the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, winning the distinction with his collection “3 Sections.” Born in Bangalore* in 1954, Seshadri said in an interview in 2004 that he began writing poetry at 16:

I was in college. I had become interested in poetry and that first January I heard Galway Kinnell read from The Book of Nightmares, which as yet was unpublished. I loved that reading. I remember it clearly; it made me want to go home and start writing. I was never one of those writers who knew from the age of six that they were writers, who lisped in numbers. In my early twenties I wrote, or tried to write, a novel that was much too ambitious for me. I’d been influenced by the French new novel, and by Pynchon, and John Hawkes. They were radical novelists and I felt I had to write a novel like theirs. I probably had a novel in me, but it was much more a conventional novel that a person in their early twenties would write, a coming-of-age story; but I had modernist and postmodernist models. Around the time I was also reading Beckett’s trilogy and thought that’s what novels had to be. An impossible model, really. In my mid-twenties I went back to poetry.

“3 Sections” is his third collection of poetry, all published by Graywolf Press, which congratulated Seshadri on its website and posted three of his poems, including this one:

Three Persons


That slow person you left behind when, finally,

you mastered the world, and scaled the heights you now command,

where is he while you

walk around the shaved lawn in your plus fours,

organizing with an electric clipboard

your big push to tomorrow?

Oh, I’ve come across him, yes I have, more than once,

coaxing his battered grocery cart down the freeway meridian.

Others see in you sundry mythic types distinguished

not just in themselves but by the stories

we put them in, with beginnings, ends, surprises:

the baby Oedipus on the hillside with his broken feet

or the dog whose barking saves the grandmother

flailing in the millpond beyond the weir,

dragged down by her woolen skirt.

He doesn’t see you as a story, though.

He feels you as his atmosphere. When your sun shines,

he chortles. When your barometric pressure drops

and the thunderheads gather,

he huddles under the overpass and writes me long letters with

the stubby little pencils he steals from the public library.

He asks me to look out for you.

(h/t The Aerogram)

* Post has been updated.

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Drops Transphobic Segment

'RuPaul's Drag Race' Drops Transphobic Segment

Logo’s hit series “RuPaul’s Drag Race” recently found itself in hot water for its repeated use of transphobic slurs.

From the Huffington Post:

During a mini-challenge on the show titled “Female or She-male,” contestants were asked to identify whether a photo showed a cisgender (non trans) woman or a former “Drag Race” contestant after viewing a cropped portion of the photo. Some transgender people claimed that the segment was transphobic, as “she-male” is considered by many to be a violent word used against trans bodies and lives.

The show released a statement on the matter:

We wanted to thank the community for sharing their concerns around a recent segment and the use of the term ‘she-mail’ on Drag Race. 

Logo has pulled the episode from all of our platforms and that challenge will not appear again. 

Furthermore, we are removing the ‘You’ve got she-mail’ intro from new episodes of the series.

We did not intend to cause any offense, but in retrospect we realize that it was insensitive. We sincerely apologize.

Trans model and former Drag Race contestant Carmen Carrera issued a statement on her Facebook page taking the show to task for misusing its potential. “Drag Race should be a little smarter about the terms they use and comprehend the fight for respect trans people are facing every minute of today. They should use their platform to educate their viewers truthfully on all facets of drag performance art.” Another former contestant and trans woman told HuffPo that the show’s use of the slurs was “not cute at all.”

GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis reiterated the importance of the show’s decision. “Logo has sent a powerful and affirming message to transgender women during a pivotal moment of visibility for the entire transgender community,” she told The Advocate. “GLAAD is committed to continuing to shape the narrative about the lives of transgender people with fair and accurate media images.”

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