Here is the Okinawan Rapper Who Was Inspired by 2pac

During a 1994 interview with Vibe, 2pac famously uttered, “I’m not saying I’m gonna’ change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.” Twenty years later, the slain rapper’s influence is felt all over hip-hop, from Kendrick Lamar and Lil Wayne to lesser-known rappers far outside of America’s rap studios.

One of those rappers is 27-year-old Akiko Uraski, a native of Okinawa, a small island off the coast of Japan. Uraski raps under the name “Awich” and, in an interview with Vogue, she talked about how listening to 2pac helped shape her political understanding of Okinawa’s struggle for independence and resistance to U.S. military troops stationed on the island.

“Tupac was my textbook,” Awich told Vogue. “It was really fascinating to learn from him. What he says in his songs and interviews, turning negativity into strength, I felt a lot of positivity about that. I was obsessed with their struggle, and I think, I saw a similarity in the Okinawan people.”

Here’s the video for Awich’s song “In the Battle.”

Awich also told Vogue about the parallels she sees between traditional Okinawan music and black American music. “Okinawan songs are so hip-hop to me. They talk about struggle, they talk about the blues.” 

Report: Sunday Talk Shows Rarely Mention Asian-Americans

Report: Sunday Talk Shows Rarely Mention Asian-Americans

When Fox News panelist Jonathan Hoenig used Japanese-American internment during WWII to make the case for racially profiling American Muslims last weekend, he caused an uproar. And rightfully so. Hoenig’s comments were clearly meant to drum up even more racist hysteria aimed at Arab- and Muslim-Americans. But in another way, Hoenig’s comments also represented another sad reality of political weekend talk shows: They rarely talk about Asian-Americans, and when they do, the coverage is generally really bad.

According to a new report from ChangeLab, America’s Big Five Sunday shows — “Face the Nation,” “Fox News Sunday,” “Meet the Press,” “State of the Union” and “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” — are rarely talking about Asian-Americans, the country’s fastest growing racial group. Researchers examined over 130 episode transcripts from the Big Five shows between January and June of 2013 and found that Asian-Americans were mentioned just 13 times. 

“It’s about time that [Asian-American] stories get told, and not just to benefit [Asian-Americans],” researchers write in the report. “Until our stories are told, our understanding of the experiences and political behavior of every other racial group in America is incomplete.”

Read the full report here

Meet the Muslim NFL Player Who Was Penalized for Praying

Meet the Muslim NFL Player Who Was Penalized for Praying Play

Kansas City Chief safety Husain Abdullah did what most players do when they make an extraordinary play. Abdullah, a 29-year-old veteran, had just intercepted a pass from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and returned it for a touchdown. He then slid down on both knees in the end zone and put his head down in prayer. The move earned him a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Religious celebrations aren’t new to the NFL. They happen all the time. “Tebowing,” in which former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow got down in the end zone on one knee to thank God, is probably the best known such celebration — it’s even been trademarked.

In recent years, the league has tried to crack down on what it calls excessive celebrations, which usually relate to the elaborate end zone dances that were once popular in the league.

But Abdullah wasn’t dancing. He was praying. Tebow did it. Chicago Bears wideout Brandon Marshall’s done it, not to mention countless other players. The difference here is that Abdullah is Muslim, not Christian. Whether the game’s officiating crew wasn’t familiar with Muslim prayers or was intolerant of them is unclear. What is clear is that Abdullah earned a penalty (and, likely, a fine) for doing something that generally goes unpunished by the league.

Several observers noticed the discrepancy, including media commentator Arsalan Iftikhar.

Abdullah is a devout Muslim who grew one of 12 kids in Southern California. He starred at Pomona High School before going to Washington State. Even though he wasn’t drafted out of college, Abdullah earned a spot on the Minnesota Vikings roster before being signed by Kansas City. Like many Muslim athletes, he observes fasting for Ramadan during the season and even sat out a year to make Hajj, his pilgrimage to Mecca. 

“I’m putting nothing before God, nothing before my religion,” Abdullah told the Huffington Post about his fast in 2010 in a story about how his employer learned to accommodate his needs. “This is something I choose to do, not something I have to do. So I’m always going to fast.”

In preparation for his pilgrimage, Abdullah and his brother Hamza embarked on a “30 for 30 Abdullah Brothers Ramadan Tour” in 2012. Their first stop was the Islamic Institute of Orange County where they talked about faith and football. You can see video of the brothers’ talk below:

A Look at Williamsburg’s Puerto Rican Past and Present

A Look at Williamsburg's Puerto Rican Past and Present Play

Williamsburg may be known today as one of America’s white hipster capitols, but a new neighborhood storytelling project looks at how the neighborhood’s working-class Dominican and Puerto Rican residents live and thrive today.

It all started with a 1984 documentary called “Los Sures.” In a decade when economic disinvestment and rampant crime plaugued the area, many residents were at their wit’s end, but also hopeful that their community could push forward. “I swear, I don’t want to live here,” says one resident in the film. “I would like to get out of here.” The film, directed by Diego Echeverría, was re-released this month as part of this year’s New York Film Festival.

On Saturday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, it screened shortly after an updated version called “Living Los Sures,” a collaborative web documentary about today’s version of the Southside of Williamsburg. The powerful stories capture a diverse history of the neighborhood and you can listen to them here (grab a pair of headphones).

Here’s the trailer for the new project:

LIVING LOS SURES TRAILER from UnionDocs on Vimeo.

(h/t Remezcla)

Talib Kweli: Lauryn Hill Doesn’t Owe Us Anything

Talib Kweli: Lauryn Hill Doesn't Owe Us Anything

Lauryn Hill is one of the few artists who can still ignite passionate responses in fans. The woman who gave us two modern hip-hop classics in the Fugees’ second album, “The Score,” and her 1998 hit “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” has, in the more than 15 years since she backed away from the spotlight, become a lightening rod for criticism. The complaints are all over the place: She hasn’t released an album since 2002, is late to shows, dresses funny, has too many kids, doesn’t pay taxes and is homophobic (more on this later). 

The complaints aren’t new, but they resurfaced recently in a piece on Medium by white, male writer Stefan Schumacher called “It’s Finally Time to Stop Caring About Lauryn Hill.” In it, Schumacher writes about what he calls “Hill’s erratic behavior, paranoid, and overt religious fixation” and levels the pretty weighty claim that Hill’s dealing with “something more akin to mental illness.” Schumacher writes:

It occurred to me that, as great as Miseducation and The Fugees’ The Score are, they’re part of a distant past. Lauryn Hill was a great artist. She’s not anymore and it’s time we stop holding her in that regard, waiting for her to pay off on a promise that’s long since expired.

Talib Kweli doesn’t agree. In a response on Medium, the rapper makes the case the artists are not products and Lauryn Hill’s personal life is none of her fans’ business:

When you pay for a Lauryn Hill concert you are not paying for her to do what you want, you are paying for her to do what she wants. She is not an iPod nor is she a trained monkey. She doesn’t have to do her hits and she doesn’t have to do the songs the way you want to hear them. She doesn’t owe you that. The world does not revolve around you, and you ain’t gotta like it. Get over yourself. If you have a negative experience at her concert, go home, put on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and the next time she does come through your town, don’t go to her concert. Problem solved. Just because you had a negative experience at a Lauryn Hill show doesn’t mean her contribution to the world is invalid or deserves to be disrespected.

But even for those who agree wholeheartedly with Kweli’s points, not all of Hill’s critics are totally off base. For instance, take the anti-gay lyrics in one of her most recent songs from last summer, “Neurotic Society,” in which she compares “social transvestism,” “drag queens” and “girl men” to “pimps,” “pushers,” and “serial criminals.” In a written defense of the song, Hill wrote on her Tumblr: “Everyone has a right to their own beliefs,” she wrote. “Although I do not necessarily agree with what everyone says or does, I do believe in everyone’s right to protest.”

Those are words that more or less prove Kweli’s point: Hill is a person, not a product, and fans don’t have to agree with her — or listen. 

New York City Activists: ‘Anti-Muslim Ads Could Threaten Lives’

New York City Activists: 'Anti-Muslim Ads Could Threaten Lives'

In an op-ed for the New York Daily News, Rajdeep Singh, the director of law and policy at the Sikh Coalition, writes that Pamela Geller’s latest round of anti-Muslim subway ads aren’t just in bad taste. They’re could become deadly:

The First Amendment protects Geller’s right to be obnoxious, but she should be shamed for trying to combat anti-American extremists by publicly stereotyping entire groups of people and creating a climate of fear that could endanger the lives of innocent people.

There are fringe extremist groups in many religious communities throughout the world. ISIS, Al Qaeda and others are real threats to Americans. But they constitute a tiny fraction of the total population — which, in the case of Muslims, totals up to 1 million in New York City and more than 1 billion globally.

It’s also a point that educator and co-founder of MuslimARC Margari Hill drove home in an interview with Colorlines recently:

There’s also this kind of urgency as we’re dealing with Islamophobia. In New York, you have those [racist subway] ads [that imply] that Boko Haram is Al Qaeda, Hamas is Al Qaeda and CAIR is Al Qaeda. I know people who work for CAIR, and to be vilified as Al Qaeda is really horrible. You have elected officials calling for us to be interned. Our identities and status as Muslims in America is still precarious. I feel that being a vulnerable minority, it’s very important that Muslim-Americans build solidarity and alliances with other communities. In order to do that we have to tackle  racism in our own faith community, including racism against Latinos, blacks and Asians.”

As Singh writes at the Daily News, “By pandering to the lowest common denominator, Geller is failing to acknowledge the devout Muslims who are working full-time to combat extremism and promote secular, pluralistic democracies in Muslim-majority countries.” Read more.

People Magazine Marks Shondaland’s Big Night With Racist Tweets

People Magazine Marks Shondaland's Big Night With Racist Tweets

Like many publications, People Magazine livetweeted last night’s series premiere of “How to Get Away With Murder” and the season premieres of “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” It was a big night for ABC producer Shonda Rhimes, one of the creative minds behind all three shows. But instead of celebrating Rhimes’ skill or having feelings about Cyrus’ hair, People posted a series of racially offensive tweets

From Jezebel’s Rebecca Rose:


For those who don’t know, the quote references Davis’ Oscar-nominated role as Aibileen Clark, a maid in The Help. The reaction on Twitter was immediate, as many followers expressed not their outrage—because I don’t think it’s fair to portray this as just blind outrage—but their disappointment that this what a media company chooses to highlight.

And that was after this happened:


Rose points out that the problem goes beyond Twitter. People Magazine was recently sued for racial discrimination by a former editor, Tatsha Robertson, who was reportedly told, “You need to talk like everyone else here. You’re not at Essence anymore.” Read more at the Huffington Post

Azealia Banks Sings Label Woes on New Track ‘Chasing Time’

Azealia Banks Sings Label Woes on New Track 'Chasing Time'

Azealia Banks released a new track this week from her long-awaited debut LP “Broke With Expensive Taste,” and it’s fantastic. The track features Banks’ vocals over a killer house beat, one that Dee Lockett at Salon called her “best song in years.”

Banks also uses the track to talk freely about her highly-publicized label woes: “My attitude is bitchy but you already knew that/ And since we can’t get along, I think we should both move along,” she raps. After being released from Universal earlier this year, Banks said in an interview with the Guardian that she was fed up with being micromanaged by industry heads who knew nothing about her work. “I’m tired of having to consult a group of old white guys about my black girl craft. They don’t even know what they’re listening for or to.”

Looks like that black girl craft is as strong as ever.

(h/t Flavorwire)

Watch Graffiti Artist Jurne Create a Love Letter to Oakland

This video from photographer Lea Bruno perfectly captures Oakland’s vibrant spirit. 

(h/t Movoto)

PSA: George Takei Wants Straight People to Vote

It’s National Voter Registration Day, and George Takei is here to remind straight people to vote. Why? Because they’re likely raising the gay leaders of tomorrow. Watch. 

Is ‘Black-ish’ the Modern Day ‘Cosby Show?’

Is 'Black-ish' the Modern Day 'Cosby Show?'

ABC’s “Black-ish” is set to debut this week, which also happens to be the 30th anniversary of “The Cosby Show.” Karen Grisby Bates talked about the comparison over at NPR’s Code Switch:

The show stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross as two middle class black professionals who deal with the insidious racism of the American mainstream. The show premieres on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. EST.

John Cho Talks About Barriers Facing Asian-American Actors

John Cho Talks About Barriers Facing Asian-American Actors

Actor John Cho is starring in the new ABC primetime series “Selfie,” which premieres on September 30. Cho plays the role of Henry Higgins, a marketing expert who’s tasked with rebranding embattled personalities. He spoke with Momo Chang of the Center for Asian American Media about his long and successful career, which includes “American Pie,” “Harold and Kumar” films and “Star Trek.”

Just from a creative standpoint there are just entire genres that I’m locked out of, being Asian, because of historical reality. You know, like the cowboy picture (laughs). Basically you’re doing immigrants, smaller immigrant roles. And if you’re doing bigger roles, you’re doing modern tales. That is to say, contemporary stories. And you can do futuristic stories. So I guess I’ve done those.

What I’m locked out of is American history. There just aren’t roles written for Asians in stories that revolve around American history. So you’re dealing with that handicap off the bat.

You can read more at the Center for Asian American Media. Watch the pilot for “Selfie” below:

Listen: Kendrick Lamar Raps About Self Love in New Song

Kendrick Lamar released the first track called “i” off of his upcoming album. The project is slated for release later this fall. Here’s more from Ambrosia for Heads:

Based around a not-so-obscure Isley Brothers sample, the song follows Kendrick’s Flaunt magazine interview (as recently reported by Billboard) that the superstar had moved away from listening to Hip-Hop, and purchased the Isleys’ whole catalog for his listening pleasure. “i” arguably veers into Pop music more than anything from K-Dot’s previous releases. However, with its interesting cover art (look closer), specific opening monologue material, and the actual lyrics, it’s seemingly quite brilliant. Kendrick Lamar is still rapping for (and to) Compton (literally and figuratively), but he’s talking about the universal need to love one’s self.

NYC Transit Official on Anti-Islam Ads: ‘Our Hands Are Tied’

NYC Transit Official on Anti-Islam Ads: 'Our Hands Are Tied'

One day after a new batch of anti-Islam advertisements went up on New York City subways and buses, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) officials are responding to Arab and Muslim activists’ outrage, saying there isn’t much they can do about the matter. 

The ads are sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated an “active anti-Muslim group.”

MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz addressed the matter in an e-mail to Al Jazeera. “We review every viewpoint ad under the standards, but a series of court rulings have made clear that our hands are largely tied.”

AFDI says that the ads are protected under the First Amendment. But Hoda Elshishtawy, a national policy analyst at the Muslim Public Affairs Council hopes that the broader public will see the hate behind the messages. “They absolutely have the right to put up this hateful message because of the First Amendment,” she said. “It’s disgusting the way they choose to wrongfully represent a religion. Obviously the group is just out there to promote their own hate and their own twisted view of how they view Islam and Muslims,” Elishishtawy told Al Jazeera.

J. California Cooper: ‘I Was Not Afraid to Talk About God’

J. California Cooper: 'I Was Not Afraid to Talk About God'

African-American playwright and author J. California Cooper passed away this past weekend at the age of 82, according to EBONY. In the 2012 interview posted above, Cooper talks about her lifetime of work and she notes, “In my stories, I was not afraid of or ashamed to talk about God. I wasn’t trying to be too bold, it’s just that I love Him. And I know He said, ‘If you’re not afraid of me, I won’t be ashamed of you.’”

Spirituality was an important part of Cooper’s work as a storyteller. Her work includes the 1984 short story collection “A Piece of Mine” and the 1986 collection “Homeade Love.” 

The University of Minnesota has a more detailed biography and collection of interviews with Cooper. 

Angela Davis Connects Movement to Free Palestine to Black Feminism

Angela Davis Connects Movement to Free Palestine to Black Feminism

Angela Davis spoke with activist and author Frank Barat in a wide-ranging interview recently, portions of which were captured in The Nation. In the lengthier transcript, Davis makes the connection between the movement to free Palestine and the work of black feminists throughout the African diaspora:

FB: How would you define “black feminism”? And what role could this play in today’s societies?

AD: Black feminism emerged as a theoretical and practical effort demonstrating that race, gender, and class are inseparable in the social worlds we inhabit. At the time of its emergence, black women were frequently asked to choose whether the black movement or the women’s movement was most important. The response was that this was the wrong question. The more appropriate question was how to understand the intersections and interconnections between the two movements. We are still faced with the challenge of understanding the complex ways race, class, gender, sexuality, nation and ability are intertwined—but also how we move beyond these categories to understand the interrelationships of ideas and processes that seem to be separate and unrelated. Insisting on the connections between struggles and racism in the US and struggles against the Israeli repression of Palestinians, in this sense, is a feminist process. 

Read the full interview at Jadaaliyah

Listen to Michael Jackson’s Duet With Queen’s Freddie Mercury

Listen to Michael Jackson's Duet With Queen's Freddie Mercury

Before Freddie Mercury released the song, “There Must Be More to Life Than This” on his 1985 album “Mr. Bad Guy,” the Queen lead singer recorded a duet of the track with Michael Jackson. Producer William Orbit recently updated the track and released it to fans. Take a listen. 

(h/t Ambrosia for Heads)

NYT Editors ‘Deeply Regret’ That Readers Took Offense to Shonda Rhimes Article

NYT Editors 'Deeply Regret' That Readers Took Offense to Shonda Rhimes Article

Writing in the New York Times’ opinion pages, public editor Margaret Sullivan sheds more light on the internal reaction to Alessandra Stanley’s much-criticized article that called Shonda Rhimes an “angry black woman” and described Viola Davis as “less classically beautiful” than lighter-skinned black actresses. Sullivan quotes culture editor Danielle Mattoon:

“There was never any intent to offend anyone and I deeply regret that it did,” Ms. Mattoon said. “Alessandra used a rhetorical device to begin her essay, and because the piece was so largely positive, we as editors weren’t sensitive enough to the language being used.”

Ms. Mattoon called the article “a serious piece of criticism,” adding, “I do think there were interesting and important ideas raised that are being swamped” by the protests. She told me that multiple editors — at least three — read the article in advance but that none of them raised any objections or questioned the elements of the article that have been criticized.

“This is a signal to me that we have to constantly remind ourselves as editors of our blind spots, what we don’t know, and of how readers may react.”

Read more

Once Again, Anti-Islam Ads Go Up on New York City Transit

Once Again, Anti-Islam Ads Go Up on New York City Transit

Once again, a major American transit system has become a hotbed of racial hate. On Monday the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a far-right group based in Houston, Texas, that’s led by conservative activist Pamela Geller, launched an ad campaign that uses photos and images to denigrate Islam. Geller pulled a similar stunt earlier this year in Washington, D.C., but this time she’s upped the ante: the ads will include a photo from journalist James Foley’s gruesome beheading.


As Jack Jenkins points out at Think Progress, this isn’t the first time New York City’s subways have been a spectacle of Islamophobia. “In 2012, the group posted ads in Washington, D.C. and NYC that referred to enemies of Israel “savages,” and this summer it put posters on 20 buses in the U.S. capital that included an image of Adolf Hitler sitting next to Muslim leader Haj Amin al-Husseini underneath the caption, “Islamic Jew-hatred: It’s in the Quran.” Read more

NYT Critic Defends Racist Profile of Shonda Rhimes

NYT Critic Defends Racist Profile of Shonda Rhimes

Alessandra Stanley, the television critic for the New York Times, is standing by her profile of Shonda Rhimes even though it’s been soundly (and fairly) criticized for its racism. The profile was published online Thursday and will be in the paper’s Sunday print edition.

The article’s lede is this: “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called “How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.”

And it gets much, much worse.

Talking Points Memo’s Tom Kludt reached out to Stanley for a comment on the piece, and it looks like she’s sticking by it. “The whole point of the piece — once you read past the first 140 characters — is to praise Shonda Rhimes for pushing back so successfully on a tiresome but insidious stereotype.”

Meanwhile, Rhimes is over it:

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