Remembering Walter Dean Myers’ Last Crusade

Remembering Walter Dean Myers' Last Crusade

Before he died on Wednesday at the age of 76, Walter Dean Myers built a lifetime and a career writing books about the hardships of black youth.

Before President Obama’s controversial initiative targeting young black men there was Myers, with works like “Monster,” “Fallen Angels” and “Hoops.” “Monster,” which was published in 1999, was a heartbreaking drama centered on a young black man standing trial for murder in New York City. Myers “often wrote books about the most difficult time in his own life — his teenage years — for the reader he once was; these were the books that he wished were available when he was that age,” according to HarperCollins.

In describing his love of reading, Myers said, “Reading pushed me to discover worlds beyond my landscape, especially during dark times when my uncle was murdered and my family became dysfunctional with alcohol and grief.”

But if Myers blazed a path in storytelling about black youth, it was was a lonely one. Last March, he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times’ Sunday Review of Books lamenting the lack of people of color in children’s books:

I’ve reached an age at which I find myself not only examining and weighing my life’s work, but thinking about how I will pass the baton so that those things I find important will continue. In 1969, when I first entered the world of writing children’s literature, the field was nearly empty. Children of color were not represented, nor were children from the lower economic classes. Today, when about 40 percent of public school students nationwide are black and Latino, the disparity of representation is even more egregious. In the middle of the night I ask myself if anyone really cares.

Myers’ observation was backed up by statistics. According to researchers at the University of Wisconsin, of 3,200 children’s books published last year, only 93 were about black people. Myers did pass the baton to his son Christopher, who illustrates children’s books and wrote in a follow-up op-ed at the Times about the salient impact of so few books that reflect the realities facing black children, calling it “the apartheid of children’s literature:”

One [effect] is a gap in the much-written-about sense of self-love that comes from recognizing oneself in a text, from the understanding that your life and lives of people like you are worthy of being told, thought about, discussed and even celebrated. Academics and educators talk about self-esteem and self-worth when they think of books in this way, as mirrors that affirm readers’ own identities. I believe that this is important, but I wonder if this idea is too adult and self-concerned, imagining young readers as legions of wicked queens asking magic mirrors to affirm that they are indeed “the fairest of them all.”

Today, there are artists whose work is undoubtedly influenced by Myers. “Myers inspired generations of readers, including a 12-year-old me when I read ‘Fallen Angels,’ and then a 22-year-old me when I read ‘Monster,’” John Green, author of the bestselling “The Fault in Our Stars,” wrote on Twitter. “It’s hard to imagine YA literature without him.”

As for what’s ahead, Myers wrote in the Times: “There is work to be done.”

(Los Angeles Times)

Raphael Saadiq Pays Tribute to Bobby Womack With New Song

Raphael Saadiq Pays Tribute to Bobby Womack With New Song Play

Singer and producer Raphael Saadiq joined a chorus of folks in the hip-hop community by paying tribute to Bobby Womack in song. The pioneering soul singer passed away last week at the age of 70.

From Okayplayer:

Raphael Saadiq puts his musical flame up for the incomparable pioneer of soul Bobby Womack with the heartfelt one-off “Gonna Miss U.” The nostalgic soul-chop gets introduced by none other than Snoop Dogg and rocks like a classic ballad with twangy sitar-ish guitar licks — in the same vein as Jackson 5’s “All I Do Is Think Of You” — paying a proper tribute to our fallen great.

Jimmy Kimmel Proves Americans Don’t Know Much About the World Cup

Jimmy Kimmel Proves Americans Don't Know Much About the World Cup

Jimmy Kimmel decided to hit the streets and ask American soccer fans how they thought Landon Donovan was doing so far at this year’s World Cup. The joke, of course, is that Donovan wasn’t selected for this year’s team. What followed was a sad example of just how disconnected many Americans are from the world’s favorite pastime. 

Man Explains Why He Yelled at the Kara Walker Exhibit

Man Explains Why He Yelled at the Kara Walker Exhibit

Nicholas Powers, a professor of black literature at SUNY Westbury, explains why he yelled, “You are recreating the very racism this art is supposed to critique!” at the Kara Walker exhibit recently:

Anger shot up my body like a hot thermometer. Face flushed, I walked to the Mammy sphinx. Couples posed in front of it, smiling as others took their photos. So here it was, an artwork about how Black people’s pain was transformed into money was a tourist attraction for them. A few weeks ago, I had gone to the 9/11 museum and no one, absolutely no one, posed for smiling pictures in front of the wreckage.

I caught the eye of the few people of color, we talked and shook our heads at the jokey antics of white visitors. We felt invisible, and our history was too. It stung us and we wanted to leave. I forced myself to go the backside of the statue and saw there what I expected to see, white visitors making obscene poses in front of the ass and vulva of the “Subtlety.” A heavy sigh fell out me. “Don’t they see that this is about rape?” I muttered as another visitor stuck out his tongue. 

What is the responsibility of the artist? Is it different for a Black artist who creates in the midst of political struggle? I first saw Walker’s work more than a decade ago in Boston and remembered studying her panorama of black silhouettes. Violent sex, violent lashings, prancing slave owners and mutilated black bodies wrapped the room. The spark of her art came from taking the form of 19th century visual vocabulary, quaint history book illustration, and using it to represent the actual brutality occurring at the time. Standing there, I admired her technical ability and also, her vision, to force us to read the suppression of real violence under an epoch’s ideology. And yet, I wondered even then, if exposing the details of Black victimization was truly freeing if it simply triggered the pain of people of color, and in the precarious atmosphere of the nearly all-white art world at that.

Read more at the Indypendent.

I was there at the exhibit when Powers made his declaration and talked to him afterward. “What a lot of people of color in this room are feeling but just haven’t said out loud is that they don’t like how folks pose in front of this statue dedicated to the violence of slavery,” Powers said. “It’s actually a collective feeling,” he said at the time. 


Black Student Body President Stripped of Office After Mocking White Classmates

Black Student Body President Stripped of Office After Mocking White Classmates

Lawrenceville School Student Body President Maya Peterson has a sense of humor, so one day last March she donned a Yale sweater, L.L. Bean boots and a hockey stick and posted a picture on Instgram mocking her wealthy white male Republican classmates.

Peterson made the gesture after she and 10 black friends were ridiculed for posing for a senior picture with their fists raised in a Black Power salute. For her own mock photo she added the hashtags #Romney2016 and #peakedinhighschool.

But when the image went viral, the rest of Lawrenceville’s student body wasn’t laughing. “You’re the student body president, and you’re mocking and blatantly insulting a large group of the school’s male population,” one student commented on the photo.

“Yes, I am making a mockery of the right-wing, confederate-flag hanging, openly misogynistic Lawrentians,” Peterson responded. “If that’s a large portion of the school’s male population, then I think the issue is not with my bringing attention to it in a lighthearted way, but rather why no one has brought attention to it before…”

Three weeks later, according to Buzzfeed, Lawrenceville’s administration stepped in and demanded that Peterson resign from her post as student body president. It’s worth noting that Lawrenceville is among the country’s most expensive boarding schools and Peterson is an out lesbian who says she’s faced discrimination at the school.

Overall, her experience speaks to the racial tensions that exist at some of the nation’s elite prep schools. 

Buzzfeed’s Kate J.M. Baker has more:

Students at prestigious boarding schools have long been more resistant to integration than their administrations. In an 1883 account called “Familiar Sketches of the Phillips Exeter Academy and Surroundings,” Frank H. Cunningham wrote of four indignant white students who told the principal they would leave if he allowed a black student to enroll at the school. “‘The colored student will stay, you can do as you please,” the principal allegedly said.

“During the troubles of the rebellion, a worthy colored student was a member of the Academy,” Cunningham wrote. “Exeter knew no color line.”

In more modern times, the difficulties of being a minority student at a prestigious private school have been documented in films like The Prep School Negro, and novels like Black Boy White School and The Fall of Rome. “The majority tends to have one perspective, and you feel on the other side all the time,” Prep School Negro director Andre Robert Lee toldThe Patriot-News.

 Read more

Peterson ultimately graduated, but news of the incident has sparked renewed conversation about how to create truly multiracial enviornments in the privileged spaces of mostly white elite prep schools. The saga reminds of my colleague Carla Murphy’s essay on her experiences at New York City’s Dalton School. “Why would a black parent expect care and love for their whole child from a historically white, elite institution? Why not?”

The NBA Just Signed Its First Player of Indian Descent

The NBA Just Signed Its First Player of Indian Descent

Sim Bhullar is a big guy. A really big guy. He’s listed at 7’5” and 360 pounds, and while he wasn’t drafted out of New Mexico State University by any NBA team, he just signed a contract with the Sacramento Kings. 

The 21-year-old was born in Canada but moved to Pennsylvania for high school before heading to the Southwest to play college ball. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bhullar told CBC News of the draft process. “Not everybody gets to do it… so it’s an honor and a blessing and I just thank God every day for putting me in this situation.”

There’s no guarantee that Bhullar will suit up for the Kings this season, but his contract is still noteworthy. Also of note is the fact that his new NBA franchise is owned by the Indian-born Vivek Ranadive who’s spoken openly about wanting to expand the league’s reach in his native country. 

Here’s a look at Bhullar during one of his NBA pre-draft workouts. You can tell from the footage that his skills are still pretty raw, but he’s got lots of potential. 

(Angry Asian Man)

Yes, There’s a ‘Selfie Generator’ for Kara Walker’s Sugar Exhibit

Yes, There's a 'Selfie Generator' for Kara Walker's Sugar Exhibit

One of the more controversial parts of Kara Walker’s new exhibit at the old Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn has been all the mindless selfies that people have taken in front of the giant sphinx centerpiece. Now there’s a website called that pokes fun at the phenomenon by allowing users who can’t make it to the exhibit in person the ability to take their own offensive virtual selfies.

Let’s see how many actually get the joke.


TAGS: Kara Walker

Twitter Asked Robin Thicke Why He’s Such a Sketchy Misogynist

Twitter Asked Robin Thicke Why He's Such a Sketchy Misogynist

Someone in Robin Thicke’s world thought it would be a good idea for him to do a Twitter Q&A with VH1 to help prompte his new album, “Paula,” dedicated to his estranged ex-wife Paula Patton. VH1 tweeted, “Have a burning question for @robinthicke? Submit your ?s for tomorrow’s Twitter Q+A using #AskThicke!” 

As Callie Beusman pointed out over at Jezebel, people had plenty of questions about all of the sexist and misogynist drama that’s embroiled the singer’s career over the past year. One hilarious example, “On a scale of R. Kelly to Phil Spector, how do you intend to ‘Get Her Back?’ #AskThicke

Check out Jezbel and Buzzfeed for more.

TAGS: Robin Thicke

Angie Martinez on Leaving Hot 97: ‘I’m Curious About What My Value is in the Market’

Angie Martinez on Leaving Hot 97: 'I'm Curious About What My Value is in the Market'

Angie Martinez sent shockwaves throughout the hip-hop industry recently when she was stepping down as a longtime host of pioneering station Hot 97 and moving on to rival station Power 105.1. As a signature industry radio personality, Martinez has interviewed everyone from 2pac to Barack Obama and become arguably one of the most powerful women in hip-hop. 

In a profile by Jon Coscarelli for New York Magazine, Martinez sheds some light about questions she had about her own earning potential as one of hip-hop’s signature female voices:

Still, “nobody saw it coming. I didn’t see it coming,” she explains as scattering assistants set the table with fish tacos for the next shot, a family meal including her 11-year-old son, Niko. “I just got to a point where I thought to myself, I’m curious about what my value is in the market, and let me just see what’s out there,” she says. Like professional wrestlers (or rap crews), the stations trade taunts and play up their bad blood for entertainment and ratings, but Martinez insists she’s received nothing but support from her co-workers, past and future. “We’re not gangs. Nobody’s gonna hurt each other. That’s never gonna happen,” she says. “We’re all competitive people.” After the big announcement, Ebro Darden, Hot 97’s former program director turned on-air talent, tweeted, “Angie, I love you and gave my life to protect you. This is a great opportunity to extend your brand!! Get that $$.”

Martinez’s move shows that even at the top, women still have to fight for what they’re worth in the entertainment industry. Read more


Prince Celebrated the 30th Anniversary of ‘Purple Rain’ With a Special Guest

Prince Celebrated the 30th Anniversary of 'Purple Rain' With a Special Guest Play

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of his signature “Purple Rain,” Prince threw a surprise concert at his Paisley Park mansion in Minneapolis. And he had a very special guest on hand: Appollonia Kotero, the co-star of the 1984 film. Watch their performance.


TAGS: Prince video

Meet the Group That’s Been Called the British Version of the Fugees

For those of us still waiting on this Fugees reunion, we may have something to help hold us over in the mean time. Hawk House is a London-based hip-hop and soul trio whose makeup (two male rappers and a female who’s a beast on the mic and can sing) has drawn comparisons to the Fugees. Here’s Zo from Okayplayer:

The group comprises two low-key but powerful MCs in Sam and Eman, and one fluttering vocalist in Demae. “Round We Go” and A Little More Elbow Room (the mixtape what bore it) are laden with the type of sample-heavy, sloppy (in a good way) drums and supper-subby bass licks that allude to serious influence by the one and only J Dilla.

You can download the group’s 2013 free mixtape “A Little Bit More Elbow Room” on their website. Their new EP, “A Handshake to the Brain,” just dropped and is availble on iTunes. You can listen below. 

Lupita Nyong’o Talks About the Beauty of Braiding Hair

Lupita Nyong'o Talks About the Beauty of Braiding Hair Play

When Lupita Nyong’o announced plans to star in and produce a film adaptation of Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah,” she said the book felt intimately familiar to her. Among other things, the book dealt with braiding hair, a subject that the Oscar-winning actress is also passionate about. In this video for Vogue, Nyong’o talks about developing her passion for braiding.

Watch Erykah Badu Photobomb a Reporter on Live TV

Watch Erykah Badu Photobomb a Reporter on Live TV

Pix 11 reporter Mario Diaz got quite a surprise on Friday when he was out reporting on actor Shia LeBeof’s recent arrest. Erykah Badu photobombed Diaz with a series of silly antics before leaning in to kiss him and being pushed away.

Over at Vulture, E. Alex Jung captured the friendly aftermath that followed.

TAGS: Erykah Badu

Laverne Cox Pays Tribute to Slain Black Trans Woman at NYC Pride

Laverne Cox Pays Tribute to Slain Black Trans Woman at NYC Pride

Laverne Cox was one of three grand marshals at this year’s Pride parade in New York City along with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Rea Carey and “Frozen” star Jonathan Goff. Cox made her ride through Manhattan’s West Village memorable by sharing it with with the Dolores Nettles, mother of Islan Nettles, the 21-year-old transgender woman who was beaten to death in Harlem last year. The elder Nettles rode next to Cox and waved to the crowd while holding a photo of her daughter.

Cox’s celebrity has skyrocketed since the debut of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” and she’s long used her high profile to bring attention to Nettles’ case. Nettles, a fashion student, was viciously beaten while walking with friends in her Harlem neighborhood on August 17, 2013. She died days later at Harlem Hospital. Her murder remains unsolved. 

While Pride parades in the United States have become billion-dollar affairs, transgender people of color still face deadly realities. As Tim Murphy wrote at about Nettles’ death:

According to a report last year from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which tracks and fights attacks on LGBTQ people, half of all fatal hate crimes committed in the United States in 2012 against LGBTQ people were against transgender women, and 73% of all homicides were of people of color. The same report found that transgender women of color were dramatically more likely to experience police violence or discrimination. According to the group Transgender Day of Remembrance, there have been 85 murders of transgender people in the United States between 2008 and 2013. And those are just the reported cases.

Read more of Murphy’s account

New Film Probes the West’s Very Old Obsession With ‘Saving’ Africa

New Film Probes the West's Very Old Obsession With 'Saving' Africa

Remember the viral outrage surrounding the KONY 2012 campaign? It was part of a long, troubling history of the West’s obsession with “saving Africa.” The new film “Framed” looks at the dynamic and asks a simple question: Who exactly are we trying to save Africa from

Cassandra Herman and Kathryn Mathers recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to finish the film. “Why is it that we never see images of African professionals and change-makers in pop culture and the media?,” they asked in a press release. “It’s time to take a second look at the framing of Africa in crisis, to listen to African perspectives and revisit the intention to help in Africa, which, while sincere, might be compounding the inequalities we hope to erase.”

(Africa is a Country)

Watch Questlove and Black Thought Talk About Their High School Antics

Watch Questlove and Black Thought Talk About Their High School Antics Play

It’s a charming part of The Roots’ creation story: how a dorky Questlove met a rebellious Black Thought while both were attending a performing arts high school in Philly. In the aftermath of releasing their 11th studio album, “…and then you shoot your cousin,” the longtime bandmates joined Marc Lamont Hill to talk about what inspires them and reminisce about their high school days.


Muslim Basketball Player Can’t Play Overseas Because She Wears Hijab

Muslim Basketball Player Can't Play Overseas Because She Wears Hijab

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir is used to lighting things up on the basketball court. She did it as the all-time leading scorer in Massachussetts state history and then as a college athlete at Memphis and Indiana State. But she’s having trouble getting her professional career started overseas thanks to rules preventing her from wearing hijab.

“As of right now I’m really in a holding pattern because of FIBA,” the Muslim-American athlete told MassLive. “I think in many ways the key word in FIBA is international. I think that’s what upsets me most.”

FIBA — the international basketball federation — has rules that prevent women from wearing hijab because it says it wants the game to remain “religiously neutral.”

But Abdul-Qaadir isn’t buying it. “International means everyone, and FIBA isn’t inclusive because of its ban on wearing my hajib,” Abdul-Qaadir said. “People have this impression of Muslims like they’re afraid of us. What some people in the Muslim religion are doing has nothing to do with the rest of us. We’re not all the same, just like any religion isn’t the same. FIBA says it wants to remain religiously neutral but this is discriminatory.”

Back in 2009, Anna North wrote over at Jezebel about the controversey surrounding a Sports Illustrated feature on Abdul-Qaadir. “It is unfortunate that the only way a girl can get “primo real estate in SI” is by being perceived as unusual — and that coverage of Abdul-Qaadir must focus on how she’s different rather than how she’s impressive.”

Here’s an interview from 2009 where the basketball star talks about her dreams for the future. It’s a shame that those dreams are now being put on hold.


TAGS: Hijab Muslim

Yasiin Bey is Working on a Prequel to a Classic Quentin Tarantino Film

Yasiin Bey is Working on a Prequel to a Classic Quentin Tarantino Film Play

There’s a prequel in the works to the 1991 classic “Jackie Brown.” It focuses on the relationship between Ordell and Gara, played by Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro in the original (Quentin Tarantino isn’t involved with the project but gave it his blessing). The new film stars Yasiin Bey, and Shadow and Act has details:

Titled “Life of Crime,” based on Elmore Leonard’s novel “The Switch” (the original 1997 film, “Jackie Brown,” which starred Pam Grier, was also based on an Elmore Leonard novel, titled “Rum Punch”), the dark caper comedy follows the kidnapping of the wife (Aniston) of a corrupt real estate developer (Robbins) by two common criminals (Bey and Hawkes), who intend to extort the husband with inside information about his crooked business and off-shore accounts. But, their plan takes an unexpected turn when the husband decides he’d actually rather not pay the ransom to get back his wife, setting off a sequence of double crosses and plot twists that one would expect from an Elmore Leonard original.

“Life of Crime” will be in theaters on August 19, 2014.

Spike Lee’s Throwing a Bed-Stuy Block Party to Celebrate ‘Do the Right Thing’

Spike Lee's Throwing a Bed-Stuy Block Party to Celebrate 'Do the Right Thing'

Brooklyn, stand up!

For the past several weeks, the Brooklyn Academy of Music has been hosting a Spike Lee restrospective, and now the man himself is getting into a celebratory mood. He’s hosting a block party to mark the anniversary of his 1989 classic, “Do the Right Thing.” It runs from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday on Stuyvesant Avenue between Lexington and Quincy avenues. Producer-writer-director Lee will MC the event.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams is also expected to make Saturday “Do the Right Thing Day.”

(Pix 11)

Chicana Artist Yolanda Lopez to Host ‘Eviction Garage Sale’

Chicana Artist Yolanda Lopez to Host 'Eviction Garage Sale'

Feminist Artist Yolanda M. Lopez, whose 1978 Guadalupe Series offered a modern take on Chicana feminity, is facing eviction in San Francisco. The artist and her family have publicized their fight in an effort to bring attention to the thousands of Ellis Act evictions that are permanently shifting the city’s demographics. Now, the 71-year-old is hosting a second “eviction garage sale” featuring accessories that she’ll have to part with when she moves from her Mission District home of 40 years:

Like many seniors, López survives on Social Security - which, she says, is too little to be eligible for low-income housing. She will be evicted July 12 and, as yet, has nowhere to go. Ideally, she would like to stay in the Mission District.

Recently an area near her home was designated a “cultural corridor.” Ani Rivera, executive director of Galería de la Raza, where López held her first eviction garage sale, says. “There was a whole generation behind making this area what it is today. Where is the city making its investment in the people who made this area a commodity? The mayor needs to consider these artists in redevelopment plans. Additional money to support artists and create affordable housing needs to be raised.”

Read more at the San Francisco Chronicle. The garage sale will take place on June 29 at Red Poppy Art House

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28