Artist Raises Money for Bilingual, Father and Son Children’s Book

Artist Raises Money for Bilingual, Father and Son Children's Book

There’s a massive diversity gap in children’s literature. Long a unique concern among educators and parents of color, the problem bubbled to the surface of national conversation earlier this year when Walter Dean Myers wrote about it in the Sunday Edition of the New York Times. According to those researchers at the University of Wisconsin, of 3,200 children’s books published last year, only 93 were about black people.

Robert “Tres” Trujillo is trying to change that dismal reality. The San Francisco-based illustrator has launched a Kickstater campaign to raise $10,000 for his first children’s book “Furquan’s First Flat Top,” a bilingual Spanish and English story about a young boy’s first trip the barber shop with his father. Trujillo writes about his inspiration on fundraiser page:

I want to reflect some of the children and families I see; I love children’s books and think diverse stories like this one need to be seen. As a parent, I understand the importance of encouraging reading at an early age, and this book will be in both Spanish and English, as I know the positive impact it can have when children are exposed to more than one language. Lastly I think it is important to show a loving relationship between a father and his son.

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Video: If Asians Said the Stuff White People Say

Video: If Asians Said the Stuff White People Say Play

Because sometimes white privilege is just so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh.


Marvin Gaye, Producer? New Mashup With Yasiin Bey Reveals Gems

Marvin Gaye, Producer? New Mashup With Yasiin Bey Reveals Gems

Producer Amerigo Gazaway dropped the second installment of his popular Marvin Gaye and Yasiin Bey mashup late on Friday. In a chat that I had with him last month, the 26-year-old from Nashville noted that this part of the series would double down on the political messages of both artists. It’s available for free at Bandcamp

Over at Revolt, Gazaway said that he also wanted to lift up Marvin Gaye’s overlooked accomplishments as a producer. 

I wanted to build this side from more of Marvin’s original production work. He was doing a lot of what we do now, in terms of looping and pulling samples from other pre-recorded sessions decades before hip-hop made it common practice to do so. This also gave me the room to feature other artists—such as Chuck Berry, The Temptations, Talib, etc., and re-present those classic Mos Def verses in new context.

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Coverage of R. Kelly’s Transgender Son Exposes Media Blindspots

Coverage of R. Kelly's Transgender Son Exposes Media Blindspots

R. Kelly’s teenage son Jay has been outed as trans, and some folks in the media don’t know how to handle it. Jay, who’s 14 years old, looks to have been outed by bloggers who picked up the news from his Facebook page. According to Atlanta Daily News, Jay’s mother, Andrea, has been supportive of his transition, but R. Kelly has yet to speak publicly on the matter. 

Let’s put the side, for a moment, the efficacy of stalking a teenager’s Facebook page and focus on the way the news has been reported in the media. In short, it’s been horrible. Kat Callahan wrote up a pretty good summary over at Jezebel about the whole situation and takes aim at Naturally Moi, a site that’s ostensibly aimed at women of color but seems to not get trans issues at all, whose coverage typifies how Jay’s gender identity has been covered by the media.

In an article titled “R. Kelly’s Daughter is Now a Boy,” the site lays out Jay’s transition this way:

Now, Jaya has reportedly decided that she just wants to be known as Jay. The child also doesn’t want to be pretty anymore, she would prefer to be handsome. She is part of the latest trend in the “Transguy” culture, where young people are choosing to claim whatever gender they identify with the most.

As Callahan writes over at Jezebel:

I’m also not fond of the verb used here “choosing” nor the implication that “transguy culture” is some kind of youth trend. If Jay is a trans boy, he probably didn’t choose to be (oh, he might have, that’s part of that more genderfluid narrative), but unless you have a quote from Jay saying so, this is a really dangerous narrative to reinforce. For the vast majority of transgender individuals, especially those who identify as strictly binary, there is no choice involved. Gender identity develops and it simply is. There may be a period of slow recognition (or there may not, plenty of us knew when we knew, and we were small children at the time), or there may be a period of internal struggle to be open about who we are, but the narrative of “choosing” and “trend” really trivialises the fundamental nature of gender identity.

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The Sewage-Filled Jail on ‘Orange is the New Black’ is Real

The Sewage-Filled Jail on 'Orange is the New Black' is Real

If you’re still looking for a way to connect the second season of “Orange is the New Black” to the real world, here’s your chance. The show was filmed at Riverhead correctional facility in Suffolk County, NY, where, true to a plot-line in the show, there’s an actual sewage back up.

That’s just one of the reasons why the New York Civil Liberties Union has launched a campaign called #HumanityistheNewBlack. “While the women in OITNB face miserable conditions and abuse, it’s nothing compared to what real people experience in the jail where they film as well as other jails in Suffolk County, New York,” the group wrote in a press release

Ruth Margalit wrote at the New Yorker that the show doesn’t stray too far from reality when it comes to the disgusting conditions in which incarcerated women are housed:

As I reviewed about a dozen of the inmates’ handwritten grievances, provided to me by the N.Y.C.L.U., a pattern quickly emerged: the water is undrinkable, the inmates write; the stench rising up from the sewers is revolting; they feel sick. Many refer to what they call the “Ping-Pong bathrooms”—a term that is explained in a complaint filed in 2011 by a fifty-year-old man: “The next cell backs up into mine, when I wake up throughout the night there’s feces and urine in my toilet.” He adds, “I’ve complained to officers number of times.” Another inmate writes, “I am constantly being exposed to other inmates human bodily waste I am in cell #9.” A third inmate states, “I have been drinking the water here and came to realize it’s the problems I having with throat, stomach and lung.” Another complains of “rashes and hard skin on my back and feet from the water in the shower.” His complaint ends with a request: “I wish to seek help from medical please as soon as possible.”

Read more at the New Yorker. 


Audra McDonald Thanks Lena Horne, Maya Angelou and Billie Holiday in Tony Speech

Audra McDonald Thanks Lena Horne, Maya Angelou and Billie Holiday in Tony Speech Play

Audra McDonald won her sixth Tony Award on Sunday for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” and gave the night’s most moving acceptance speech. In it, she said thats she’s standing on the shoulders of many brave and courageous women including Lena Horne, Maya Angelou and, of course, Billie Holiday. 

Why Are There So Few Mainstream Asian-American Rappers?

Why Are There So Few Mainstream Asian-American Rappers?

Why are there so few mainstream Asian American rappers? Director Salima Koroma and producer Jaeki Cho are trying to find out in their new indy documentary “Bad Rap.” 

From Okayplayer:

The film features L.A.’s Dumfounded crew, Queens MC’s Awkwafina and Rekstizzy and Virginia’s Lyricks. Digging into the history of Asian-Americans in hip-hop, Koroma and Cho travel through the heyday of Jin and Philly’sMountain Brothers, then bring things forward to examine the recent success of Far East Movement and k-pop star PSY. They also spend a fair amount of time dissecting the roles that gender and racial politics play in the struggle these rappers face in their attempts to break through.

The filmmakers have also started a fundraising campaign at Indiegogo

Pharrell’s Native Blood Doesn’t Excuse That Headdress

Pharrell's Native Blood Doesn't Excuse That Headdress

Does the fact that Pharrell claims Native blood excuse his decision to wear a headdress on the cover of Elle UK? No, according to an editorial published by Indian Country.

A lot of people who don’t self-identify as American Indian have some American Indian heritage. Many of them don’t even know it. Others have a vague idea of Native heritage—there can be a grain of truth to family lore or even the “my grandmother was a Cherokee princess” cliché. But having an American Indian ancestor or relative isn’t a license to use that relative’s culture spontaneously and without context. Here’s another way of looking at it: Many of the people who are appalled by this image are deeply connected to their Native culture and live it every day. Iftheysay the picture is hurtful, it’s hurtful, and a Cherokee grandmother doesn’t change that.

Read more at Indian Country.

Black Faculty, Academic Cheating, and Big Time College Sports

Black Faculty, Academic Cheating, and Big Time College Sports

What responsibility do black faculty members on college campuses have when their schools’ sports teams become embroiled in academic cheating scandals? That’s one of the questions currently at the heart of an investigation into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where star athletes on the school’s men’s basketball and football teams took so-called “paper classes” in the African-American studies department that required little effort, work or attendance.

Rashad McCants, a star of the school’s 2005 championship-winning men’s basketball team, recently gave an interview with ESPN’s Outside the Lines to say that even though he seldom went to class, tutors wrote his papers to help keep him academically eligible to play basketball. The segment also included an appearance by Phillip Jackson, executive director of the Chicago-based Black Star Project, who argued that black faculty members on college campuses across America need to take more responsibility for the success — and failures — of black students on their campuses.

“Black faculty at these colleges are quiet,” Jackson said about academic cheating scandals. “But it’s even more than that…UCLA has 109 championships in the NCAA, but they’ve only got 96 black male students on campus. And I hear nothing from the black faculties at these schools.”

But black faculty members on these college campuses have complicated Jackson’s argument, namely by pointing out that they are but a small and often powerless fraction of a college bureaucracy that is increasingly controlled by billion-dollar sports interests. And, as Deborah L. Stroman argued on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, cheating scandals such as the one currently plaguing the Tar Heels unfairly vilify African-American Studies departments and black students on their campuses.

“There is a racial analysis that is required,” Stroman argued, citing the fact that the NCAA’s top revenue generating sports — football and men’s basketball — have rosters filled with black student athletes who earn very little of the money that they bring into their schools. “Responsibility starts with administrators, faculty, staff, coaches and athletes,” she said. 

Anika Noni Rose on ‘A Raisin in the Sun’: ‘You Have to be Able to Trust’ on Stage

Anika Noni Rose on 'A Raisin in the Sun': 'You Have to be Able to Trust' on Stage

Anika Noni Rose, one of Broadway’s biggest names, caught up with NPR’s Michel Martin to talk about her revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” that’s earned five nominations for this weekend’s Tony Awards. She talked about the unique pressures associated with performing live on stage:

I think we are lucky to have a cast full of generous people who are there to tell the story and enjoy each other. And because of that, we are able to trust each other on stage. And I think that’s the most important thing that you should have in a stage show. You have to be able to trust each other because it’s live, because anything could happen, because we are the only safety nets that the other person has.

Last month, Rose sat down to talk with Kate Couric about the show’s recent success and stressed the fact that she and the rest of the cast, including Denzel Washington, are  having a blast. 

Rose won a Tony Award in 2006 for her role in “Caroline, or Change,” which focuses on the American Civil Rights movement. 

Watch Black Curator Sarah Lewis Explain How Art Can Change Society

Watch Black Curator Sarah Lewis Explain How Art Can Change Society Play

With all of the recent talk about Kara Walker’s sugar sphinx exhibit at Brooklyn’s Domino sugar factory, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the broader impact of art in society. Curator Sarah Lewis, author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery. Here’s part of what she says: 

Frederick Douglas, during the Civil War, surprised his audience when he spoke about this idea. His idea was that it wouldn’t be combat that would get America to have a new vision of itself, but pictures…the thought pictures create in the mind are the way that we can kind of slip through the back door of our rational thought and see the world differently. I love that. His speech was called “Pictures and Progress” and he retitled it “Life Pictures.” When I came across this speech I thought, “this is why I do what I do.” How many movements have begun in the world when one person’s work — one song, one impactful aesthetic experience — shifted things entirely for a leader, for a group of people?

(New Black Man)

TAGS: Art video

Bruce Lee Biopic ‘Birth of a Dragon’ Has a Director

Bruce Lee Biopic 'Birth of a Dragon' Has a Director

George Nolfi, whose past credits include directing “The Adjustment Bureau,” has signed on to lead a new Bruce Lee biopic called “Birth of a Dragon.”

The project is inspired by the true story of Lee’s 1965 Oakland duel with kung fu master Wong Jack Man. The battle was a big part of what built up Lee’s reputation as one of the most popular martial artists in the world. The film has a pretty iffy storyline: It’s told from the perspective of a fictional young disciple named Steve Macklin who joins forces with Lee and Wong to battle a band of Chinatown gangsters.

The premise of this new film is questionable, according to Angry Asian Man:

Do we need another movie about the life of Bruce Lee? Sure. Why not? I’ll always have a soft spot for a little more Bruce hero worship. Though this one can barely be called a “biopic,” as it appears to be playing decidedly fast and loose with the details of Lee’s life — it wouldn’t be the first — particularly the part where two kung fu rivals team up to take down the evil Hong Kong Triads. Bruce Lee, crimefighter?


(Angry Asian Man)


On ‘Orange is the New Black’ and Pregnancy in Prison

On 'Orange is the New Black' and Pregnancy in Prison

One of the more intriguing storylines of “Orange is the New Black” is Daya’s pregnancy. Lauren Kirchner at Pacific Standard sheds some light on the larger issue of giving birth behind bars:

This is a soapy plotline, on a fictional show, but it does hint at the complicated and harsh realities that women face when they become pregnant while incarcerated. And there are a lot of them; according to The Sentencing Project, one in 25 women in state prisons and one in 33 in federal prisons are pregnant when admitted to prison. As of 2010, there were approximately 200,000 women in prison and jail in the U.S. (PDF).

Read more over at Pacific Standard

THEESatisfaction: ‘We’re Proud to be an Option’

THEESatisfaction: 'We're Proud to be an Option' Play

Throughout June, I’ll be chatting with queer and trans artists of color about their work and their inspirations. Some are well known, others aren’t. But they’ve all got something to say about how the path toward liberation starts in the creative mind. 

When Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White don’t hear the kind of music that they like, they make it. Together, they form THEESatisfaction, a rap and funk duo that makes music inspired by black psychedelic sci-fi feminism.

But what, exactly, does that sound like? Sort of like one of their musical sheroes, Erykah Badu, whose body of work influenced the 2013 EP “THEESatisfaction Loves Erykah Badu.” Turns out she loves them right back; they occasionally perform together. 

It’s been a wild ride for the Washington State natives who met at the University of Washington and have been making music together since about 2006. Their debut full-length on Sub Pop Records, “awE naturalE” (posted below) dropped in 2012 and since then the duo’s been busy building fans and community across their country with the help of their Black Weirdo party, a gathering place for blissfully different social and cultural misfits.

I caught up with them over the phone to talk about the inspiration behind their music. 

When did you each start making music?

Catherine: As a group, as TheeSatisfaction, it was 2008. But even before that, we’d been making music since 2006 together. For me, personally, I’ve been writing songs since I was 9 or 10.

Stasia: I think that we were in search of hearing something that we didn’t hear. There were a lot of artists that we’re inspired by, but  we weren’t hearing any queer black female voices doing hip-hop and R&B music from our perspective.

What’s the hardest thing about your craft?

Catherine: The hardest thing for me is to stay on one song or one project. We’re constantly making music. I don’t know if that’s a problem, but it could be because we’re already onto the next project before the one we’re working on is even released.

Stasia: We have an abundance of stuff that we’re always working on, so it’s [a challenge] to pace ourselves and not try to put out everything all at once. It’s just really hard to hold onto all the music. [Laughs]

What makes you proud?

Catherine: I’m proud of my lineage, I’m proud of my people — whatever aspect they come in.  I’m proud of the ability to travel like we do. I think that’s really important. Having the opportunity to be openly queer women and being able to travel the world is really powerful to me. I’m proud that we can go to places like Australia. There are still a lot of places that are unsafe for us, but I’m proud of the folks that are open-minded enough to be like, “Yeah, these are black queer women that are rapping and singing and doing stuff I’ve never heard of.” They’re proud to have us and we’re proud to be there, proud to be an option.

Stasia: I love being able to go and connect with other queer black women. Everywhere we’ve been there’s been fam and people that support us. I’m very proud that we get the support that we do.

If you could meet a queer icon from the past, who would it be and why?

Catherine: I’ve been a really big fan of Bessie Smith for a long time. I would want to meet her because she was wild and seemed very adventurous. You can hear it in her singing and her song styling. I just think we would have a good time on the town and make some really interesting songs.

Stasia: I think it would be cool to kick it with both Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. Their minds were incredible. I’d like to hear their words and their activism and their time in Europe and New York. It would be incredible. 


Pharrell Apologizes for Sporting a Native Headdress

Pharrell Apologizes for Sporting a Native Headdress

Pharell is known for making questionable decisions when it comes to headgear, but this time he’s gone too far. The musician sports a Native headdress on the cover of the latest edition of Elle UK.

For what it’s worth, Pharrell issued an apology this week through one of his representatives. “I respect and honor every kind of race, background and culture. I am genuinely sorry.”
He also claims Native American ancestry, according to a 2010 profile in Oprah Magazine
The young man whose name is derivative of his father’s (Pharaoh) and who says he has Native American and Egyptian heritages, introduced a new generation to the condition by naming his third album Seeing Sounds. He’s open about his synaesthesia, raising public awareness and adding his glamour to the gift.
This isn’t his first forray into Native headgear. Back in 2010, he rocked a military helmet sporting three red, white and blue featuers on it.
Still, Twitter is decidedly unhappy. So much so that the hashtag #NOThappy, a riff off of his blockbuster hit song, is gaining steam. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates Talks About Why America’s Stuck in Segregation

Ta-Nehisi Coates Talks About Why America's Stuck in Segregation Play

Ta-Nehisi Coates spoke at the Schomberg Tuesday night in New York City with Farai Chideya, NYU’s Patrick Sharkey and Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute about his epic case for reparations over at The Atlantic. The talk, which was livestreamed, is posted above and gets started at about the 42-minute mark.

Asians Have Not Become White, No Matter What Google’s Diversity Data Says

Asians Have Not Become White, No Matter What Google's Diversity Data Says

Google released its diversity data last week. UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh argued in the Washington Post that despite the perception of Silicon Valley as a “white man’s world,” the fact that 30 percent of Google’s workforce is Asian shows that they’ve overcome “overwhelming odds” and proves the “essential fairness of the American capitalist system.” If that didn’t drive the point home, then the title of Volohh’s title did: How the Asians Became White.

And yes, “the Asians” is actually in the title, helping to drive home the fact that the argument is based on the idea of one monolithic Asian community.

Scot Nakagawa responded over at RaceFiles and took Volokh to task:

Talk about manipulative. Volokh’s long history of arguing that claims of racism in the U.S. are exaggerated to one aside, the last time I checked, most Asians don’t even identify as “Asian,” and instead identify by ethnicity, recognizing that the racial category “Asian,” as it is used by people like Volokh, lumps together ethnic groups that have very little in common in order to arrive at averages and medians that suggest we are heroes of a Horatio Alger-style myth of cross-racial mobility in America. In reality, not all Asians have made it, and even those of us who have done pretty well in the U.S. aren’t doing nearly as well as white people.

Nakagawa goes on to cite U.S. war refugees from countries like Cambodia and Vietnam who make up some of the poorest ethnic groups in the country, and then doubles down on the essential problem with the model minority myth: “Volokh dehumanizes Asians by turning us into a shield against racism in order to make what amount to racist arguments.” Read more at RaceFiles

Sam Greenlee’s Family Asks for Help With Memorial

Sam Greenlee's Family Asks for Help With Memorial

Sam Greenlee may be most remembered for penning the Black Power era classic “The Spook Who Sat by the Door.” But his family is asking for help to properly memorialize the writer and filmmaker, who passed away late last month at age 83.

The family has announced that a public memorial will be held on Friday, June 6 at Chicago’s DuSable Museum starting at 6:30pm. But they’re trying to raise $5,000 to help cover the costs of the service and help wrap up some of Greenlee’s unfinished work. Read more at their fundraising page

How Dr. Maya Angelou Earned Her Title

How Dr. Maya Angelou Earned Her Title

Dr. Maya Angelou was a lot of things: a literary heavyweight, a phenomenal woman, a former sex worker (and no, she wasn’t ashamed). She was also a doctor, a fact that Professor Britney Cooper reminds us of over at Salon this week after Mark Oppenheimer argued against what he called “title inflation” at New Republic and wrote that Angelou actually hadn’t earned her title. To that, Cooper responds with this:

Maya Angelou’s scores of honorary doctorates honor a life of work befitting the conferral of doctoral status, since doctorate signals the ultimate mastery of a field. And a master she undeniably was. But the title is also part of an attempt to signal via a title that Dr. Angelou is deserving of a certain level of respect and deference. That deference has never been automatically conferred to black women. It has always been contested ground.

As Cooper points out, there’s a sexist undertone to this conversation, too. Women, particularly black women who have more than mastered their fields, often have to fight harder to be recognized for their accomplishments than men. And the refusal of deference to black women goes back centuries. 

Read more over at Salon

TAGS: Maya Angelou

What Apple’s Acquisition of Beats Says About Black Cool

What Apple's Acquisition of Beats Says About Black Cool

While Apple is still riding high from the introduction of its new operating system at its Worldwide Developers Conference this week, its $3 billion acquisition of Beats by Dre is still causing shockwaves across the music and technology industries. So how do we make sense of it from a racial justice perspective? Kelsey McKinney caught up with former Colorlines editor Jeff Chang, author of “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation” to get some perspecitive.

Here’s Chang:

What we have now is marketing in which black cool reigns. So, if Lebron, and Dre, and Jay and Bey and everybody else say, “this is cool,” then that’s what white kids want as well, what Chicano kids want, what Native American kids want. That’s what all the kids want, and that’s what’s important today.

On the one hand, there’s obviously opportunities there for there to be cultural exchange. We can’t ignore that there’s something happening there that could be potentially positive. If you and I have no other way of connecting with each other than for the fact that we both have Beats by Dre headphones, and we both happen to be listening to Kendrick Lamar, then maybe there’s a connection that we’re having that could be potentially transformative of us both.

On the other hand, we also can’t ignore that just because you purchase something, doesn’t mean that a cultural exchange is happening. Just because I buy these headphones because all of these black artists are saying I should, doesn’t make me any more knowledgeable about black struggle or anti-blackness.

Read more over at Vox

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