Brandeis Takes Heat for Revoking Honorary Degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Brandeis Takes Heat for Revoking Honorary Degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali

When Brandeis University announced that it had reversed its decision to bestow an honorary degree on Ayaan Hirsi Ali at its commencement ceremony on May 18, many Muslim advocates applauded. Ali has made a name for herself as a feminist writer and fierce critic of Islam, who once described it as a religion that’s “not interested in peace.”

When the decision to give the honorary degree to Ali became public, critics spoke out. “She is one of the worst of the worst of the Islam haters in America, not only in America but worldwide,” Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told the New York Times. “I don’t assign any ill will to Brandeis. I think they just kind of got fooled a little bit.”

The university now says that Ali “is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue,” according to a statement released by the school.

Meanwhile, Ali has spoken out about the university’s decision. Predictably, she’s not happy with it. “What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles.”

Ali was born in Somalia and was a member of the Dutch Parliament from 2003-2006. Her 2007 memoir, “Infidel: My Life”, was widely criticized for its negative portrayal of Islam. 

Does Bollywood Drop the Ball on Mental Health?

Does Bollywood Drop the Ball on Mental Health? Play

That’s the question that the folks over at the Aerogram are grappling with in a recent story. Farah Naz Khan writes that Bollywood, a multi-billion dollar industry, continues to perpetuate the stigma associated with mental illness despite the struggles of millions of Indians.

Here’s more:

In a country with a population of 1.2 billion citizens, there are a mere 4,000 psychiatrists — compared to the roughly 50,000 psychiatrists in America. In 2012, The Lancet published a nationally representative survey of India that demonstrated suicide as the second leading cause of death among Indians between the ages of 15 and 29. Unfortunately, the country’s largest film industry’s portrayal of mental health issues usually leaves much to be desired. Let’s take a look at some examples from the past decade to get a better idea of the Bollywood’s subpar treatment of mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities and autism (major spoiler warning — while discussing some of these movies, I’ll essentially be giving away the story).

Head on over to the Aerogram to see their pretty exhaustive list of films that miss the mark in dealing with mental illness. 

Date Night for the Obamas: Denzel Washington in ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ on Broadway

Date Night for the Obamas: Denzel Washington in 'A Raisin in the Sun' on Broadway

President Obama and First Lady Michelle are scheduled to attend Friday night’s performance of “A Raisin in the Sun” on Broadway, according to Deadline

The revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play, directed by Kenny Leon, stars Denzel Washington in a role that was praised by “New Yorker” theater critic Hilton Als.”The stage revitalizes Washington,” Als wrote in the latest issue of the “New Yorker.” “What can get too set in film — his bad boy swagger, the questioning eyes that soemtimes cut themselves off from his characters’ vulnerability — is dislodged by the moment-to-moment vicissitudes of theatre.”

Washington plays the role of Walter Younger, a frustrated 35-year-old husband and father who lives in a small two-bedroom Chicago apartment and is struggling with his family’s eventual move from the South Side to the predominately white Woodlawn neighborhood. The play was the first written by a black woman to debut on Broadway, and has since beomce a staple of African-American literature. 


‘Fake Drake’ Steals the Show on Late Night TV

'Fake Drake' Steals the Show on Late Night TV Play

Everyone’s got an opinion about Drake. And who better to listen to those opinions than the man himself? The Canadian rapper joined Jimmy Kimmel on a segment called “Lie Witness News” in which Drake wears a disguise and asks passersby on Hollywood Boulevard what they think about him. What follows is pretty hilarious. So no matter what you think about Drake’s music, at least he’s got a good sense of humor. 

(h/t Jezebel)

Navajo Nation Votes Against NFL Team’s Racist Name

Navajo Nation Votes Against NFL Team's Racist Name

The Navajo Nation Council has voted to oppose the use of the Washington Redskins name. On Thursday, the council voted 9-2 in favor of a measure sponsored by lawmaker Joshua Lavar Butler, who says that the slur can have negative psychological impacts on American Indians.

The council’s statement also applies to other professional sports franchises, but does not include high school mascots. The final authority for the measure rests with the committee of the whole, according to ESPN.

Here’s more:

The president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association had urged lawmakers not to approve the measure. Peter MacDonald says the NFL team’s name honors American Indians.

On Friday, a United Nations human rights expert said the name of the team was a “hurtful reminder” of the mistreatment of Native Americans, but stopped short of joining in calls for the team’s owner to change the name.

Washington, DC NFL team owner Daniel Snyder has repeatedly defended his organization’s use of the name, and he recently launched the “Original Americans Foundation” that he says is tasked with helping disadvantaged Native tribes. However, the foundation’s name and leader have come under intense scrutiny. 

Derrick Gordon Becomes First Openly Gay Men’s Big Time College Basketball Player

Derrick Gordon, a guard for the University of Massachusetts’ basketball team, became the first openly gay Division I men’s basketball player in NCAA history when he came out of the closet this week. 

Gordon made the announcement on Wednesday, just days after coming out to his family to mixed reactions, according to USA Today.

ESPN’s Kate Fagan broke the story, in which Gordon said that it was an “indescribable feeling” to come out. “Honestly didn’t feel like I was going to feel this way for three, four years.” Gordon came out to his teammates before telling the media with the help of his coach Derek Kellog.

More from ESPN:

He had closely watched the news around NBA veteran Jason Collins and NFL prospect Michael Sam, both of whom are active players and have publicly acknowledged being gay. About a year ago, Gordon befriended former NFL player Wade Davis, who is now the executive director of You Can Play. Davis introduced Gordon to Anthony Nicodemo, the boys’ basketball coach at Saunders High School in Yonkers, N.Y., who came out as gay last year. Davis and Nicodemo, along with several others, including Collins, mentored Gordon behind the scenes.

Gordon says that when the Minutemen returned home from their round-of-64 loss in the NCAA tournament, he began seriously considering coming forward publicly. He had accepted his sexuality during his freshman year in college, and in recent months had started checking OutSports to see who would be the first Division I men’s basketball player to step forward.

“I was thinking about summer plans and just being around my teammates and how it was going to be,” Gordon said. “I just thought, ‘Why not now? Why not do it in the offseason when it’s the perfect time to let my teammates know and everybody know my sexuality?’ “

Gordon is one of several athletes to come out as gay over the past year, including the WNBA’s Britney Griner, the NBA’s Jason Collins, and NFL prospect Michael Sam. 


Eddie Murphy’s Daughter May Play Aaliyah in Upcoming Biopic

Eddie Murphy's Daughter May Play Aaliyah in Upcoming Biopic

Casting for the long-anticipated film commemorating the late singer Aaliyah has reportedly begun, and Eddie Murphy’s daughter Bria reportedly has a good shot at playing the ’90s R&B star. From Vibe:

Casting director, Lamont Pete, also said in an interview with Sister2Sister magazine that producers prefer a new kid on the block. “There were so many rumors about Ciara or Solange Knowles [playing Aaliyah], but this is one of those situations where we are going to see someone who we have never seen before,” Pete said.

Other names that’ve been thrown around include actress Drew Sidora, and 106 & Park co-host, Keshia Chante.

The 22-year-old singer died tragically in a plane crash back in 2001.

TAGS: Aaliyah Film

CeCe McDonald: ‘Prisons Don’t Keep Us Safe’

CeCe McDonald: 'Prisons Don't Keep Us Safe' Play

CeCe McDonald, the transgender woman who spent 41 months in prison for defending herself against an attacker, recently sat down to talk about safety. She was in conversation with legal scholar Dean Spade and organizer Reina Gossett shortly after she was released from prison, and a clip of that conversation was just released on Vimeo. 

The three will continue the conversation on April 21 at the New School. You can register here

Here’s the Official Video for That Yasiin Gaye ‘Ms. Fat Booty’ Mash-Up

Here's the Official Video for That Yasiin Gaye 'Ms. Fat Booty' Mash-Up Play

Amerigo Gazaway delighted the Internet recently when he dropped a brilliant Yasiin Bey and Marvin Gaye mixtape. Sadly, the project was take down because of copyright concerns, but the Memphis-based producer just released the video for one of the project’s standout tracks, “Ms. Fat Booty.” Enjoy.

(h/t Okayplayer)

Twitter Mocks Air France’s Racist Geisha Ads

Remember when Katy Perry dressed up in a racist geisha costume at the American Music Awards? Apprently, Air France thought that was a good idea, because the airline’s new ad campaign features a white model dressed up in yellowface. 

Criticism surrounding the ad lead to the #FixedItUAF hashtag on Twitter, kicked off by Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Yang. The hashtag invites users to make their own mock ads, and some of them are brilliant. Take a look. 




(h/t Angry Asian Man via Reappropriate)

This Video of Babies Eating Lemons Is Adorable

This Video of Babies Eating Lemons Is Adorable Play

How much do babies dislike lemons? A whole lot, it turns out. Check out this video, “Pucker,” put together by photographers David Wile and April Maciborka. It’s the cutest thing ever.

(h/t Popsugar)

TAGS: Babies video

LSU Gymnast Absolutely Kills Hip-Hop Floor Routine

LSU Gymnast Absolutely Kills Hip-Hop Floor Routine Play

Louisiana State University gymnast Lloimincia Hall is, as Dodai Stewart writes over at Jezebel, literally a 10. Here’s why:

As seen above, in a January competition vs. Alabama, Hall is amazingly strong, incredibly quick, and makes complicated tumbling passes look like a cinch. Her dancing is energetic, her enthusiasm contagious. So cool. She scored a perfect 10 with that floor exercise, and the LSU gymnastics team beat Alabama 197.650-196.825. It was her 3rd perfect 10, at the time.

Head on over to Jezebel to see more video of Hall’s spectacular performances. 

Watch Nas and Q-Tip Celebrate 20 Years of ‘Illmatic’ on Jimmy Fallon

Watch Nas and Q-Tip Celebrate 20 Years of 'Illmatic' on Jimmy Fallon Play

Take a deep breath. Ready? Okay. It’s been 20 years since Nas released his iconic debut album “Illmatic.” Crazy, right?

To celebrate that milestone, Nas joined Q-Tip and The Roots on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” on Monday to perform some of his hit singles from the album. Here’s “The World Is Yours.”

WNBA’s Brittney Griner Releases New Book, Mobile App Campign to Tackle Bullying

grinerbook_040814.jpgWNBA star Brittney Griner has a new book that hit shelves on Tuesday called “In My Skin,” which chronicles the bullying she faced as a child and the hardships she encountered while starring at her private Baptist university.

Griner, 23, is entering her second year in the WNBA and burst onto the nation’s cultural scene after being drafted first overall by the Phoenix Mercury and quickly telling the world that she was an out and proud lesbian. 

The book’s launch coincides with the Griner’s new anti-bullying initiative, called “BG: BU.” Griner is trying to raise $10,000 for a mobile app with updated resources and tools to help young people cope with bullying.

Northwestern Football Players Face Steep Climb to Union

Northwestern Football Players Face Steep Climb to Union

Northwestern University’s football is in a position to make history. The team recently won the right to vote on April 25 whether to form a union, a first in big time college football. But it’s clear that the university, and the world of Division 1 college football in general, is definitely not on their side.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Northwestern’s football coach Pat Fitzgerald told the media over the weekend that he doesn’t believe that his players should unionize.

“I believe it’s in their best interests to vote no,” Fitzgerald told CNN over the weekend. “With the research that I’ve done, I’m going to stick to the facts and I’m going to do everything in my power to educate our guys. Our university is going to do that, to give them all the resources that they need to get the facts.”

News reports over the weekend said that the team is split 50/50 on the decision to unionize.

Things aren’t looking great for the unionizing effort. That led Kevin Trahan over at SB Nation to wonder what would happen if the players don’t vote for the union. Would the effort to unionize college football players die if it fails at Northwestern?

Probably not. It might be dead at Northwestern, because the players would have to wait a full year to try to unionize again. However, [Northwestern football player] Ramogi Huma said he has been contacted by players at other schools who are interested in unionizing, and players at schools such as Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Miami have showed support along the way, so it’s going to happen somewhere.

The fact that unionizing college football players is being discussed at all is a victory of sorts, but it’s worth recognizing the tremendous odds that are stacked up against these players.

UConn Wins National Championship, Star Player ‘Goes To Bed Starving’

UConn Wins National Championship, Star Player 'Goes To Bed Starving'

On Monday night the University of Connecticut men’s basketball won the NCAA men’s national basketball championship thanks in part to the stellar play of guard Shabazz Napier, a senior who’s stuck with the program through lengthy NCAA punishments. He plays for a program that’s one of the most celebrated in college basketball and brings in millions of dollars in revenue each year. But Napier apparently still goes to bed hungry.

Napier made his admission on before UConn’s big game on Monday when asked about his thoughts on the Northwestern football team’s attempts to form a union. From CNN:

In a recent interview with reporters, Napier called the Northwestern union ruling “kind of great” and said that while he appreciates his basketball scholarship, it doesn’t cover all of his expenses.

“I don’t feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving,” he said.

His comments come amid news that Northwestern’s football players face a steep uphill battle in their efforts to unionize and may, in fact, not have all of the votes they need on April 25, when the team will cast ballots with the National Labor Relations Board. It’s widely anticipated that even if Northwestern’s players decide against a union, other athletes at different colleges are ready to take up their own battles. 

Napier’s comments are also significant given the history of UConn’s program. Back in 2009, former Huskies coach Jim Calhoun’s $1.6 million annual salary was criticized for making him the highest paid public employee in a state whose economy was still in shock from the Great Recession. Calhoun responded to the criticism by arguing that his program brought in at least $12 million in revenue to the school, very little of which goes to the actual players whose labor put the school on the map. 

Pharrell Finally Found His Room Without a Roof, And He’s Happy

Pharrell Finally Found His Room Without a Roof, And He's Happy Play

Pharrell Williams made an appearance on “Good Morning America” on Monday to perform his hit song, “Happy.” It was a gloomy morning in New York City, but leave it to Pharrell to brighten things up.

(h/t Hypetrak)

Poet Saul Williams to Star in Broadway Musical Inspired by 2pac

Poet Saul Williams to Star in Broadway Musical Inspired by 2pac

The late rapper Tupac Shakur is getting a lot of play in theater and film these days. There’s a stage biopic in the works and a feature film directed by John Singletary. There’s also a musical called “Holler If You Hear Me” that’s being directed by Kenny Leon and is inspired by ‘Pac’s lyrics, which has just cast Saul Williams in the lead.

Williams is a renowed spoken word artist who rose to fame in the 1998 film, “Slam.”

The show will begin previews May 29 at the Palace Theater and officially opens on June 19.

(h/t Shadow and Act)

The Moment a Clueless Cleveland Baseball Fan Met a Native Man

The Moment a Clueless Cleveland Baseball Fan Met a Native Man

Cleveland’s professional baseball team is one of the many American sports franchises still hopelessly clinging to a racist team name, the Cleveland Indians. The team’s fans sometimes sport head dresses and face paint in an effort to celebrate the team’s mascot. Which leads to awkward enounters like the one above.

(h/t Cleveland Frowns)

Watch Maya Angelou Dance and Sing Calypso in 1957

Watch Maya Angelou Dance and Sing Calypso in 1957 Play

It’s Maya Angelou’s 86th birthday, and while today provides a great opportunity to talk about her work as a celebrated black poet, it’s also worth remembering the scope of her lifelong work as a singer and dancer. In this video (at about the 1: 02 mark), you can see Angelou in the 1957 film “Calypso Heat Wave.”

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