Gene Luen Yang on Diversity in Comics: ‘We Have to Make Mistakes’

Gene Luen Yang on Diversity in Comics: 'We Have to Make Mistakes'

Gene Luen Yang delivered a moving speech at the 14th annual National Book Festival’s award gala in Washington, DC last weekend. In it, the comic behind “American Born Chinese,” “Boxers and Saints,” and “The Shadow Hero” talked about the fear that keeps writers from exploring characters of different ethnicities:

We have to allow ourselves the freedom to make mistakes, including cultural mistakes, in our first drafts. I believe it’s okay to get cultural details wrong in your first draft. It’s okay if stereotypes emerge. It just means that your experience is limited, that you’re human.

Just make sure you iron them out before the final draft. Make sure you do your homework. Make sure your early readers include people who are a part of the culture you’re writing about. Make sure your editor has the insider knowledge to help you out. If they don’t, consider hiring a freelance editor who does.

Also, it’s okay if stereotypes emerge in the first drafts of your colleagues. Correct them - definitely correct them - but do so in a spirit of generosity. Remember how soul-wrenching the act of writing is, how much courage it took for that writer to put words down on a page.

And let’s say you do your best. You put in all the effort you can. But then when your book comes out, the Internet gets angry. You slowly realize that, for once, the Internet might be right. You made a cultural misstep. If this happens, take comfort in the fact that even flawed characters can inspire. Apologize if necessary, resolve do better, and move on.

Let your fear drive you to do your homework. But no matter what, don’t ever let your fear stop you.

Read the whole thing over at the Washington Post.

(h/t Angry Asian Man

Listen: Kendrick Lamar Featured on New Flying Lotus’s ‘Never Catch Me’

Flying Lotus has a new album called “You’re Dead!” dropping on October 7 and he just released a new track featuring Kendrick Lamar called “Never Catch Me.” Listen:

(h/t Pitchfork)

CeeLo Green’s TV Show ‘The Good Life’ Canceled Amid Rape Comments

CeeLo Green's TV Show 'The Good Life' Canceled Amid Rape Comments

CeeLo can say goodbye to “The Good Life.”

The singer’s reality TV show has been canceled, according to Entertainment Weekly:

A network insider said the show was canceled was due to poor ratings. Before news of the cancellation came out, however, a petition from women’s rights group UltraViolet had called for TBS to get rid of the show in light of Green’s tweets.

The Good Life had a short run earlier this summer and focused on Green’s reunion with his hip-hop group Goodie Mob. The TBS webpage for the show has been replaced by an error message.

The cancellation comes amid backlash after the singer tried to defend rape. Last week, he pleaded guilty to giving a woman ecstasy that she claims led her to black out for hours before waking up naked in CeeLo’s bed. There wasn’t enough evidence to bring rape charges, but the singer foolishly tried to argue on Twitter over the weekend that an unconscious woman can’t be raped.

TAGS: Cee-Lo Rape

Mary J. Blige and Black America’s London Connection

Mary J. Blige and Black America's London Connection

Mary J. Blige is gearing up for the release of her new LP “The London Sessions” later this fall, and in a widely circulated interview with The Guardian, the reigning queen of hip-hop R&B opened up about working with new-kid-on-the-block Sam Smith, paying homage to Amy Winehouse, and the differences between making music in London versus the United States:

The sound in London at the moment is house music. That is what the majority of people are producing their songs like. But the ones that get truly successful are the ones using proper songwriting. Rudimental for example - they write proper songs and then produce them like dance music. And that is exactly what we’re trying to do, along with a few other people. But that applies to any genre, not just dance music. You could take the songs off Sam Smith’s album, produce them in a completely different way and they would still be a huge success - you could produce them like acid jazz and I still feel like they’d get somewhere.

Of course, Blige isn’t the first black American artist to find success over the pond. There’s a long history to it that includes Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix and dates back to the 1950s when African-American artists escaped the segregated South’s chitlin’ circuit and made money in the United Kingdom. What Blige’s move suggests is that the legacy of artistic freedom is still very much alive in London.

(h/t Pigeons and Planes)

Biggie, Nas, Outkast: A Visual Guide to 1994’s Best Hip-Hop Albums

Biggie, Nas, Outkast: A Visual Guide to 1994's Best Hip-Hop Albums

1994 was a big year for hip-hop. Nas dropped “Illmatic,” Biggie released “Ready to Die” and Outkast burst onto the scene with “Southernplayalistic.” But, two decades later, how do you judge that year’s best albums? Grantland’s Shea Serrano put together this handy matrix:


CeeLo Green: It’s Not Rape If the Victim Is Unconscious

CeeLo Green: It's Not Rape If the Victim Is Unconscious

CeeLo Green decided to make a bad situation worse on Sunday when he took to Twitter to talk about his rape case. The singer pled no contest to supplying a woman with ecstacy; the victim claims that she doesn’t remember anything about her date with the singer except going out to dinner and then waking up naked in his bed. His lawyer insisted that the two had consensual sex, and rape charges weren’t filed due to lack of evidence. 

But on Sunday night, the singer tried and failed to make his case with the public. His tweets:

If someone is passed out they’re not even WITH you consciously! so WITH Implies consent”.

“When someone brakes on a home there is broken glass where is your plausible proof that anyone was raped.”

He later apologized to his followers: “I sincerely apologize for my comments being taken so far out of context … I’d never condone the harm of any women.”

But the damage was done. The singer has since deleted his account. 

(h/t BuzzFeed)

Kinda Racist? Try Diet Racism [Video]

Kinda Racist? Try Diet Racism [Video]

Still hungover from yesterday’s Labor Day barbeque? Try this. 

TAGS: Humor Video

The DJ Behind L.A.’s Low End Theory Talks Avant-Garde Hip-Hop

The DJ Behind L.A.'s Low End Theory Talks Avant-Garde Hip-Hop Play

Chris Walker at L.A. Weekly takes a look at Daddy Kev, a co-founder of Los Angeles’ popular Low End Theory. The party is a weekly that served a proving ground for acts like Flying Lotus, who’s signed to Kev’s Alpha Pup Records:

In a way, Low End is as much talent incubator as performance space. It has paid big dividends for Alpha Pup, whose roster includes noisemakers (literal and figurative) Nosaj Thing, Free the Robots, Dibiase, and Jonwayne. 


…Kev himself is 40, and his “Daddy” nickname is fitting considering his reputation as a mentor, drawing upon his decades of experience navigating the industry. That has included a corporate stint at Sony, as well as running late 1990’s indie label Celestial. He admits he made some rookie mistakes. “On our first record advance, we blew through a cool ten grand at Guitar Center in a day, and then spent the rest on rent, weed, Pizza Hut, and a lot of beer. We had a keg going for about six months straight…which was awesome, but I learned from that.”

Read more


Beyond Frida Kahlo: Latin American Art in the U.S. (Listen)

Beyond Frida Kahlo: Latin American Art in the U.S. (Listen)

Award-winning writer Daniel Alarcón talked with art critic Carolina Miranda for Radio Ambulante about the dilemma’s facing Latino artists in the United States. From PRI:

Although Carolina covers a myriad of topics -from Islamic Art exhibitions to video game documentaries-  she is also playing a major role in helping put a spotlight on Latino and Latin American art. For example, in one of her first articles for [Los Angeles Times blog] ‘Culture: High & Low’ she discusses the work of photographer Ricardo Valverde, arguing that he should be considered “a critical part of the L.A. artistic canon.” In another article for the blog, Carolina writes about what the 9/11 museum can learn from two memorials in South America.

Read more and listen to the interview here. 

Yuri Kochiyama, Tupac Shakur and Liberation

Yuri Kochiyama, Tupac Shakur and Liberation

Yuri Kochiyama, who recently passed away, inspired generations of activists, including a young Tupac Shakur. Hyphen Magazine has the story:

One of my favorite stories about Yuri is also about Tupac. In an event curated by the late Fred Ho in celebration of Diane Fujino’s 2005 book release of the biography Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama, Laura Whitehorn spoke of the activist harbor that was the Kochiyama house. Dubbed “Grand Central Station” or the “Revolutionary Salon,” this Harlem apartment and Kochiyama family residence was a hub for activists, artists, students and other community members for much of the last four decades of the 20th century. Whitehorn recalled a then 11-year-old Tupac Shakur speaking eloquently and passionately about the need to free political prisoners at a meeting in the Harlem State office building. This 11-year-old Tupac was, of course, not just talking about abstract historical figures, but members of his own family — his stepfather Mutulu Shakur, his godfather Geronimo Pratt, Sundiata Acoli, Sekou Odinga, and others.

Read more at Hyphen

‘Souls of Mischief’ Welcomes You to ’90s Oakland on New Album (Full Stream)

There are things to know about Oakland in the 1990s: the Ebonics debates, the crack-era violence, 2pac’s emergence, the Raiders’ homecoming. Souls of Mischief, one of the city’s stalwart hip-hop groups, made the classic “‘93 Till Infinity,” a song whose rhythm and cadence perfectly encapsulates the era. Now they’re back with a concept album called “There Is Only Now,” that looks back at the decade to make sense of the present. 

It’s the group’s fifth studio album and boasts some of the decade’s most influential artists, including A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg and 70’s legend William Hart of The Delfonics.

Tajai Massey, one of the group’s four members, told San Francisco Weekly that the new record is meant to celebrate the city’s head-scratching contradictions, which include high crime rates and some of the country’s most distinctive multicultural communities. “We’re not walking around saying we are from big bad Oakland,” he told Gary Moskowitz. “People condemn the violence, they make it too much of a topic, but it’s part of living here. It’s not a constant daily thing for us in the band, thankfully, but for some people here, it is. And dealing with violence is traumatic.”

The record was recorded over the course of three months in Los Angeles with producer Adrian Younge. You can stream it below. 

How Addiction, Mental Illness Inspired a Journalist to Make a Rock Album

How Addiction, Mental Illness Inspired a Journalist to Make a Rock Album

For years, Benjamin Booker thought of himself as someone who did interviews, not someone who gave them. The 25-year-old Virginia native spent his college years in Florida training to become a journalist, performing occasionally and recording songs in his spare time. When an AmeriCorps job brought him out to New Orleans to work at a local non-profit, he knew his heart wasn’t in journalism, so he took it to the stage. “I was doing both,” he told Consequence of Sound about his first year in the Bayou. “Playing shows around town and working for the non-profit. I stayed there for a little bit, and then I went back to Florida and got Max [Norton] who plays drums and then brought him back to New Orleans.”

The storied home of black American jazz and blues became fertile ground for Booker to build a base. Now, on the heels of the release of his self-titled debut LP and after heightened buzz following a performance at Brooklyn’s AfroPunk festival, he’s got more fans than ever interested in the raspy voice and guitar riffs that have become his signature sound in detailing life in contemporary black America.

Like most good art, Booker’s album was influenced by pain. He’s got a history of addiction and mental illness in his family, he told VICE’s Kyle Kramer, which has undoubtedly left its mark on his songwriting: 

Well, I first started writing the album when I was living with that girl that I was talking about who was like addicted—this was at the point where I had been like high for basically four years of my life like 24 hours a day and drinking and not taking care of myself. And she was worse than that. I have a history of schizophrenia in my family, and I was afraid that—I don’t know, that’s like the age that that stuff happens. II was afraid that I was like losing my mind because there was a couple of nights that I had some crazy visual hallucinations, and I wasn’t even—I thought I was insane. It was just like a getting my shit together time. Just like ‘I can’t be a kid anymore and getting fucked up all the time.’ And I guess also [I was] just ready to accept certain things about myself. My parents were super religious and conservative and not the type of people that you could go to and talk about things. So I think it’s just communicating the things that I hadn’t been able to say for my whole life. All the pent up things that you want talk about to people but you don’t know how to say it.

That girl, there’s a song called “I Thought I Heard You Screaming” on the record. This was around the time that I thought I was losing my mind, and I was like constantly worried about her all the time. And one night I was in my room, and I heard this blood-curdling scream, and I thought it was her. And I walked in, and she was fine. Like all the worrying manifested into this crazy hallucinating thing. That kind of stuff. Just, like, the people around me, there was so much happening. I was seeing this girl whose father had been murdered in a home invasion, and that was going on at the same time. It was just like a lot of shit happening. And I guess it was me just trying to make sense of that all happening.

Read more

You can also listen to a full album stream on NPR

CeCe McDonald Talks About the Bullying That Pushed Her Out of School

CeCe McDonald Talks About the Bullying That Pushed Her Out of School

Around fourth grade, CeCe McDonald realized that she was trans. “There was this fierce little diva inside me and she wanted to be free,” McDonald recently told a crowd at the Gay-Straight Alliance Network’s (GSA) national gathering.

But that diva had to fight for her freedom.

McDonald detailed the intense bullying and harrassment that drove her away from the classroom. “I felt like I was robbed of my education by other people’s ignorance.”

She shared her story in order to bring attention to the need for more inclusive school settings for queer and transgender children. “We must keep stories like CeCe’s at the heart of our work in GSAs. We must keep working for justice. Commit your GSA to working against criminalization this school year,” wrote Mustafa Sullivan, director of national programs at GSA Network.

Last year, The Atlantic’s Nanette Fondas reported on the harsh reality facing LGBT students of color:

In one study, more than half of LGBT students who are African American, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander and multiracial said they had been verbally harassed at school in the past year. Another reports nearly half (48 percent) of LGBT students of color experienced verbal harassment from both their sexual orientation and race or ethnicity, and 15 percent had been physically harassed or assaulted. The physical, emotional, and mental health impacts of a hostile climate at school easily encourage avoidance behavior, and students often skip class or stay home. This has deleterious effects on their school performance and college entrance prospects. Serious long term effects of harassment at school emerged in one study: 32 percent of transgender people who were physically assaulted at school reported a history of work in the underground economy, including drug dealing and sex work, compared with 14 percent who had not experienced violence at school. In a different survey, a staggering 51 percent of LGBT people who reported being harassed or bullied at school also said they had attempted suicide.

Read more

Lifetime Fails Its Awful Mission to Bring Out the ‘Strong Black Woman’ in White Women

Lifetime Fails Its Awful Mission to Bring Out the 'Strong Black Woman' in White Women

Because black women make great accessories for folks basking in too much white privilege, Lifetime has announced a new show called “Girlfriend Intervention.” From the looks of it, the show — featuring four stereotypically “strong” black women (Tracy Balan on beauty, Nikki Chu on “home and sanctuary,” Tiffiny Dixon on fashion and  reality star Tanisha Thomas) — will bring out the “girlfriend” in timid white women.

From NPR’s Monkey See:

Like so much of makeover television, this is shaming dressed up as encouragement (they actually call the segment where the makeover candidate shows them how she currently dresses the “catwalk of shame”). It’s conformity dressed up as individuality, and it’s submission to the expectations of others dressed up as self-confidence.

Only now, with obnoxious racial politics slathered all over the entire thing!

It is not like those politics need to be introduced by the viewer, either: They are the premise of the show, and they are repeated over and over. Black women, we are told in so many words, are unerringly confident, gorgeous, stylish, unflappable, and — ah, yes — better at pleasing men, especially black men. 


The show’s already one episode in and the reviews are terrible. Take this scathing piece from TV columnist Brian Lowry at Variety: “Loud, brash and filled with stereotypes, it’s hard to know what’s most irritating — the sweeping declarations about black women as if they were monolithic, or the forced remodeling of women who are perfectly comfortable with their looks and style, after subjecting them to a ‘Catwalk of Shame.’ If indeed there’s cause for shame here, the producers should start with a mirror.”

Celebrity Chef Roy Choi to Open Healthy Fast Food Chain in California

Celebrity Chef Roy Choi to Open Healthy Fast Food Chain in California

It looks like Roy Choi is using his star power to bring healthy food to communities that need it the most. The celebrity chef recently announced plans to open Loco’l, a chain of healthy fast food restauraunts, in Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

“We want to go toe to toe with fast food chains and offer the community a choice,” Choi told the Inside Scoop SF.  “I’m in the streets with communities and the youth everyday. The food options are ridiculously bad.”

Choi and his business partner San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson are known for opening restauraunts in trendy parts of town, but they’ve stressed that this new chain will be in areas where communities don’t have access to affordable, healthy food options:

“Don’t tell me we don’t want great delicious cheap fast food,” Choi told the Inside Scoop SF. “It’s only because we haven’t been given the choice to choose, and we destroy our youth and our neighborhoods with corporations that serve addictive poison that we convince ourselves otherwise.”

It’s a move that’s long overdue. In South Central L.A., which is a predominately working class community of color, healthy food is scarce. Take a look at this infographic from the Community Coalition in Los Angeles:


(h/t Los Angeles Times)

This Is What Happens When Your ‘Punk-Funk Communist Revolution Band’ Goes to Cleveland

This Is What Happens When Your 'Punk-Funk Communist Revolution Band' Goes to Cleveland

Boots Riley is the outspoken frontman for The Coup, a hip-hop funk band from Oakland that’s been around for the better part of two decades. The band’s known for, among other things, songs with titles like “5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO,” “Fat Cats and Bigga Fish” and “Ghetto Manifesto.” It’s decidedly political work, because being black in Oakland is a decidedly political thing. 

All of this was apparently lost on the host and producers of a local Cleveland FOX affiliate who interviewed Riley ahead of the Lakewood Music Fest. They were shocked when Riley described his band as “a punk-funk Communist revolution band” that wants to “make everyone dance while we’re telling them about how we need to get rid of the system” and that “exploitation is the primary contradiction in capitalism.”

Riley appeared alongside festival organizer Kelly Flamos, who wound up getting a strongly worded email from the station about his “political rant.”

Here’s the email:


Meanwhile, Riley was pleased:

(h/t Spin)

Listen: Ms. Lauryn Hill’s ‘Black Rage’ Responds to Ferguson

Listen: Ms. Lauryn Hill's 'Black Rage' Responds to Ferguson

Ms. Lauryn Hill posted a new track called “Black Rage.” Hill says she recorded the track in her living room:

Hauntingly set to the show tune “My favorite things,” here are the lyrics:

Black rage is founded on two-thirds a person

Rapings and beatings and suffering that worsens,

Black human packages tied up with strings,

Black rage can come from all these kinds of things.

Black rage is founded on blatant denial

Squeezed economics, subsistence survival,

Deafening silence and social control.

Black rage is founded on wounds in the soul!


When the dogs bite, when the beatings,

When I’m feeling sad

I simply remember all these kinds of things and then I don’t fear so bad!


Black rage is founded: who fed us self hatred

Lies and abuse while we waited and waited?

Spiritual treason, this grid and its cages

Black rage was founded on these kinds of things.

Black rage is founded on draining and draining,

Threatening your freedom to stop your complaining.

Poisoning your water while they say it’s raining,

Then call you mad for complaining, complaining

Old time bureaucracy drugging the youth,

Black rage is founded on blocking the truth!

Murder and crime, compromise and distortion,

Sacrifice, sacrifice, who makes this fortune?

Greed, falsely called progress,

Such human contortion,

Black rage is founded on these kinds of things


So when the dog bites

And the ceilings

And I’m feeling mad,

I simply remember all these kinds of things and then I don’t fear so bad!


Free enterprise, is it myth or illusion?

Forcing you back into purposed confusion.

Black human trafficking or blood transfusion?

Black rage is founded on these kinds of things.

Victims of violence both psyche and body

Life out of context is living ungodly.

Politics, politics

Greed falsely called wealth

Black rage is founded on denying of self!

Black human packages tied and subsistence

Having to justify very existence

Try if you must but you can’t have my soul

Black rage is founded on ungodly control

So when the dog bites

And the beatings

And I’m feeling so sad

I simply remember all these kinds of things and then I don’t feel so bad!

Protesters Gather at CNN’s Atlanta Headquarters

Protesters Gather at CNN's Atlanta Headquarters

So remember when CNN suggested that police in Ferguson should use water cannons on protesters? It was just one of the more infuriating moments in the network’s coverage of the escalating violence that’s happened in the St. Louis suburbs since Michael Brown’s death on August 9.

On Monday night, at least 250 protesters showed up to the network’s headquarters in Atlanta to protest holding signs that read “How good must we look to be considered innocent?” The message was in response to CNN’s coverage late last week and over the weekend that focused on what Brown did to make himself a suspect.

So far, the network hasn’t reported anything about the protests happening on their front lawn. 

Ferguson Hires All-White PR Firm to Help Deal With Black Uprising

Ferguson Hires All-White PR Firm to Help Deal With Black Uprising

It’s pretty safe to say that the city of Ferguson is in the middle of a complete public relations meltdown. Waging a nationally televised war on your black residents tends to do that sort of thing. Now, because the city’s leaders still don’t seem to get it, they’ve hired Common Ground Public Relations, an all-white PR firm, to help manage their official response.

From Talking Points Memo:

Common Ground is “assisting the city of Ferguson’s media relations department with the large volume of media queries,” Common Ground’s Nina Kult told TPM. “We’re just assisting in handling the large volume of queries.”

The “Meet The Team” page on Common Ground’s website seemed to only display Caucasian employees. When asked how the apparent lack of diversity on their team might factor into Common Ground’s work for Ferguson, given the heightened racial tensions there over the death of 18-year old Michael Brown, Kult declined to comment directly on that aspect of their work.

Stop-and-Frisk Chief Ray Kelly Thinks Ferguson Cops Went Too Far

Stop-and-Frisk Chief Ray Kelly Thinks Ferguson Cops Went Too Far

Ray Kelly was known to support and condone harsh police tactics during his tenure as commissioner of the New York Police Department. Under his watch, the NYPD violently clashed with protestors at the 2004 RNC convention, dismantled Occupy Wall Street, shot and killed several unarmed black men including Sean Bell, and ratcheted up stop-and-frisk. But even he thinks that police have gone too far in Ferguson.

From Gawker:

The toothpaste is out of the tube here,” Kelly told Bloomberg News, which interviewed several high-profile police commissioners about the way law enforcement has handled the unrest following Michael Brown’s death. “There’s lots of things that should have been done differently, and you have to live with them.”

Kelly said that it is “mind-boggling” that 50 of Ferguson’s 53 police officers are white, while the area’s population is 70 percent black, and criticized police for closely guarding relevant information, rather than releasing it to the public: “[Information] certainly has the potential for quelling or lessening disturbances. You tell them what you know and tell them what you don’t know, rather than dribbling it out.

Yeah, it’s that bad. 

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