For Everyone Who’s Tired of Hearing ‘Not to be Racist, But…’

For Everyone Who's Tired of Hearing 'Not to be Racist, But...' Play

From the good folks with the upcoming film “Dear White People” comes this short PSA to anyone who’s ever tried to explain away their racism. 

(h/t The Huffington Post)

Laverne Cox Makes Emmy History

Laverne Cox Makes Emmy History

Add this to the list of reasons why Laverne Cox will go down in the history books: She’s the first transgender actress ever to be nominated for an Emmy Award. Cox’s nomination was one of 17 earned by the cast of “Orange is the New Black,” (OITNB) the Netflix original series that takes place inside of a women’s prison. 

It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for Cox, who has risen to international stardom thanks to her role as Sophia on OITNB. In addition to her role on the show, Cox was also featured on the cover of Time magazine and anointed grand marshall of this year’s New York City Pride Parade. Matthew Breen wrote over at The Advocate about Cox’s rising cultural importance: 

She’s not an activist or a policy wonk, and yet her experiences and upbringing have aligned with this moment in American culture so precisely that to think of the unique struggles of the trans community, and its successes despite longstanding institutional and cultural barriers, it’s no surprise she’s the first name on many lips. She’s never called herself a leader and even demurs from the term role model, preferring possibility modelinstead. But she’s here, and she’s talking, and we’re listening like we never have before.

In Cox we’re witnessing the anointing of an icon.

Cox was one of a handful of actors of color to earn Emmy nominations, along with her castmate Uzo Aduba, Kerry Washington, Don Cheadle, Cicely Tyson and Angela Bassett.

See the full list of Emmy nominations here

New Doc Looks at Vietnamese Workers in the Nail Industry

New Doc Looks at Vietnamese Workers in the Nail Industry

Here’s a little known fact: A chance encounter between 20 Vietnamese refugee women and actress Tippi Hedren in 1975 triggered the onset of the ubiquitous Vietnamese nail shop across America. A new documentary called “Nailed It” is out to tell the story of incredible growth and impact a small community of people have on today’s $8 billion nail trade, according to its Indiegogo campaign.

Nail industry work has, until recently, been mostly ignored by the media. In 2007, journalist Momo Chang reported at Hyphen Magazine on the range of health problems facing nail industry workers:

In 2007, Time magazine named nail salon work as one of the worst jobs in the United States because of the toxic products used in most shops. Nevertheless, the industry has tripled in size during the last two decades and rakes in $6 billion annually. About 42 percent of the 349,370 manicurists in the United States are Asian or Pacific Islander, and 96 percent are women, according to Nails Magazine, a nail industry publication. In California, 60 to 80 percent of nail salon workers are Vietnamese American. These workers are exposed to a constant dose of toxins, every hour, for eight or more hours a day. 

For this new documentary, the filmmakers are looking to raise money for production and post-production costs totaling $15,000. They’re calling it “the definitive story of Vietnamese-Americans and their impact on American culture and the nail industry.” Read more.

Comedian Aamer Rahman Calls His Australian Home a ‘Nazi Beach Resort’

Comedian Aamer Rahman Calls His Australian Home a 'Nazi Beach Resort'

You might already be familiar with Aamer Rahman as part of the comedy duo “Fear of a Brown Planet.” He’s been performing in London these days and told the Guardian about what it was like to grow up in Australia. From the Guardian:

What’s exciting is how Rahman seems neither to exaggerate nor soft-soap the perspective of a brown-skinned man from a country he calls “a sunny Nazi beach resort, a white-power Disneyland in the ocean”. This is just how it is, and the laughs come ruefully from the indignities Rahman suffers along the way - and from the comical disparity between how white western culture sees itself and how it’s experienced by others.

Read more

Rahman’s bit about so-called “reverse racism” went viral last year. Here it is again, just in case you haven’t already seen it:

TAGS: comedy

Take a Trip Through Nigeria’s Breakdancing Scene

Take a Trip Through Nigeria's Breakdancing Scene Play

It’s long been said that hip-hop is a global phenomenon, and here’s more proof: a short documentary on Nigerian B-Boy dancer Victor “Vikbone” Kalejaiye. The film, “Portrait of a Lagos B-Boy,” takes viewers to Lagos’ vibrant breakdancing scene as Kalejaiye struggles to make a name for himself as a dancer.

(h/t Shadow and Act)

How a Latina Journalist Started the New York Times’ Race Beat

How a Latina Journalist Started the New York Times' Race Beat Play

Here’s Tanzina Vega of the New York Times on her newly created beat about race and ethnicity in America:

[The beat] really grew out of the work that I did on my old beat covering digital media and advertising. After the 2010 census showed that the Latino population had grown to 50 million, media companies and advertisers put more emphasis on the Hispanic market. So I started expanding my coverage to include ethnic media including Univision, Telemundo and the other companies that were focusing on that growing demographic.

I also wrote about Hispanic stereotypes in network television, colorism in Hollywood with the casting of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone — which was criticized because she is lighter skinned than Simone was — and I profiled Eva Longoria, who was lauded for casting five Latina leads in her new television show but criticized because they were all maids.

In media, we were hardly living in a post-racial United States.

Vega, a native New Yorker, has done really important work on the beat, including stories on infertility rates among black women and gun owners of color.

Read more over at the New York Times

A few years ago, CUNY Journalism School caught up with Vega, who’s an alum, to talk about life at the most influential paper in the country.

Here’s a List of the Muslim-American Leaders Under FBI and NSA Watch

Here's a List of the Muslim-American Leaders Under FBI and NSA Watch

Over at The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain have compiled a list of Muslim-American leaders who’ve been under FBI and NSA surveillance. The list includes mostly civil rights lawyers and academics who seem to have wound up in the crosshairs simply because they say that Muslims in America are entitled to the same rights of citizenship as everyone else. On the list are:

• Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush;

• Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases;

• Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University;

• Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;

• Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.

Awad, the co-founder and executive director of CAIR who’s interviewed in the video above, isn’t happy about the revelations. A Palestinian born in Jordan who has been an American citizen for two decades, Awad once served as Vice President Al Gore’s Civil Liberties Advisory Panel to the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. He’s rubbed elbows with some of the Washington’s most powerful elites. “I’m outraged as an American citizen that my government, after decades of civil rights struggle, still spies on political activists and civil right activists and leaders,” says Awad. “I’m really angry that despite all the work that we have been doing in our communities to serve the nation, we are treated with suspicion.”

Read more at The Intercept.

Lights, Camera, Music: A Midsummer Film Preview

Lights, Camera, Music: A Midsummer Film Preview

The music of black men will be front and center on this summer’s movie screens as Hollywood turns its lens on some of the most iconic musicians of the 20th century. The life stories of James Brown, Fela Kuti and Jimi Hendrix will all get feature film treatment as Hollywood shifts its gaze from slavery (“12 Years a Slave”, “Lincoln,” “Belle”) in 2013 to the varying strains of political thought that emerged in black popular music during the 1960s. From the diasporic political consciousness in Kuti’s music to James Brown’s “I’m Black and I’m Proud” rallying cry to the eclectic mystery of Jimi Hendrix, black men’s stories are commanding more attention. We’ll also get to see the directorial debut of Native American model and actor Jason Momoa. Here, five films to look out for:

“Road to Paloma”

Theatrical release: July 11, 2014. Jason Momoa’s directorial debut follows two Native American bikers traveling across the American southwest. They’re fleeing the FBI while searching for redemption.

“Finding Fela”

Theatrical release: August 1, 2014. Not to be confused with the documentary “Finding Fela,” this film follows the cast and crew of the hit Broadway musical “Fela,” which is based on the life and music of the Afrobeat pioneer and postcolonial political activist. 

“Get On Up”

Theatrical release: August 1, 2014. Featuring a who’s-who of black Hollywood, this film stars Chadwick Boseman as James Brown, the hardest working man in show business. He appears alongside Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis and Jill Scott. 

 ”Life of Crime”

Theatrical release: August 29, 2014. This prequel to Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown,” starring Yasiin Bey, tells the backstory of two pivitol characters before Jackie Brown hit the scene. Tarantino isn’t involved with the project, but he’s given it his blessing. 

 “All Is by My Side”

In select theaters nationwide. Theatrical release: September 26, 2014. After years of pre-and post-production chatter, this highly anticipated look at Jimi Hendrix at the height of his fame, starring Andre “3000” Benjamin, is finally hitting theaters. It’s already screened to positive reviews in select theaters across the country.

Troy Davis’ Nephew is Raising Money for Second Year at Morehouse

Troy Davis' Nephew is Raising Money for Second Year at Morehouse

Before Troy Davis was executed by the state of Georgia in 2011, his case galvanized the nation. Among his strongest supporters were his family, who, as Jen Marlowe reported for Colorlines before the execution, made it their mission to bring what they saw as the injustice of Davis’ case into the national spotlight.

Davis left behind a teenage nephew, De’Juan, who grew up visiting his uncle in prison. The boy’s strength was put to the test after Davis’ execution when, months later, his mother — Davis’ sister, Martina Davis-Correia — died of breast cancer. But De’Juan’s managed to perservere and last year enrolled as a freshman at Morehouse College. He made the dean’s list his first semester while majoring in engineering, and is now on a mission to raise enough money to stay in school. See details at his Indiegogo campaign

Lauryn Hill is Touring the U.S. and Europe This Summer

Lauryn Hill is Touring the U.S. and Europe This Summer

Lauryn Hill is kicking off a late summer tour later this month at Brooklyn Bowl. Starting on July 27th, the elusive singer will tour cities along the Eastern Seaboard, Europe, and a quick stop in Southern California. Check out the dates below:

Jul 27 Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY
Jul 28 Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY
Jul 31 House Of Blues, Boston, MA
Aug 02 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
Aug 09 Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank, NJ
Aug 22 Couvre-Feu festival Corsept, France
Aug 23 Rototom Sunsplash Festival Valencia, Spain
Aug 31 Pozo Saloon (Lookout Music Festival), Santa Margarita, CA
Sep 03 Roman Amphitheatre (Outlook Festival), Pula, Croatia
Sep 07 Mitsubishi Electric Halle, Dusseldorf, Germany
Sep 09 Stadtpark, Hamburg, Germany
Sep 11 Goranson Arena, Sandviken, Sweden
Sep 13 Zenith, Paris, France
Sep 17 Tap1, Copenhagen, Denmark
Sep 20 O2 Academy, Brixton London, United Kingdom
Sep 21 O2 Academy, Brixton London, United Kingdom
Sep 23 O2 Academy Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Sep 25 Manchester O2 Apollo, Longsight, United Kingdom

(h/t Okayplayer)

Urban Outfitters Is Making Money Off of a Hindu Deity

Urban Outfitters Is Making Money Off of a Hindu Deity

It’s summertime, which means Urban Outfitters is financially and culturally obligated to piss off an entire religious community.

For the second time in as many years, the Hindu community is outraged over the retailer’s attempt to profit off of Lord Ganesha, a Hindu deity. Back in 2013, the store sold an awful-looking pair of Lord Ganesha socks for $8, inciting the wrath of Hindu community leaders. Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, said: “Lord Ganesh was highly revered in Hinduism and was meant to be worshipped in temples and home shrines and not be wrapped around one’s feet.”

So if not the feet, then maybe the entire body? The store’s now selling a duvet cover featuring an illustration of Lord Ganesha by artist Valentina Ramos that costs between $129 and $169. Here’s Zed once again, in a statement to Bustle, insisting that the deity is meant to be worshipped and “not slept upon.”

Bustle’s Erin Myer summed up folks’ worst fears nicely by writing, “I shudder to think of all the 20-somethings dying to get their hipster racism on by flaunting this duvet in the middle of their Bushwick loft decorated with votive candles.”

Comedians Use South Asian Slang to Poke Fun at Entitled Hipsters

Comedians Use South Asian Slang to Poke Fun at Entitled Hipsters Play

From Arti Patel at the Huffington Post:

In a hilarious music video by Canadian YouTube comedian Superwoman (Lilly Singh) and Canadian rapper Humble the Poet (Kanwar Singh), the duo use the phrase (which basically means disapproval or “pfft” in Punjabi and other South Asian slang) to sum up the reality (and ridiculousness) of many young people today.

TAGS: comedy video

Watch This Hilarious Spoof of Bay Area Activism

Watch This Hilarious Spoof of Bay Area Activism

Who’s the greenest man in America? It’s not Al Gore. In this hilarious satire from Movement Generation, comedian Josh Healey pokes fun at Bay Area enviornmentalists while also highlighting some of the great work that’s long been happening in communities of color.

TAGS: Bay Area humor

Get Ready for the ‘Blackest Star Wars Installment Ever’

Get Ready for the 'Blackest Star Wars Installment Ever'

At least that’s according to Tambay A. Obenson over at Shadow and Act, who over the weekend reported that a fourth black person, Crystal Clark, has joined the cast of “Star Wars Episode VII.”

Clarke hails from New Jersey but is currently studying in the U.K., and she’ll be making her feature debut alongside Pierce Brosnan in 2015’s “The Moon and the Sun,” an action movie based on Louis XIV’s quest for immortality.

Star Wars could be Clarke’s breakout role.

“The Star Wars universe has always been about discovering and nurturing young talent and in casting Episode VII we wanted to remain absolutely faithful to this tradition. We are delighted that so many travelled to see us at the open casting calls and that we have been able to make Crystal and Pip a part of the film,” said producer and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.

Clarke will join John Boyega, Lupita Nyong’o, and David Oyelowo, who’s rumored to be involved.  

TAGS: Star Wars

Vietnamese-American Filmmaker Turns Lens on NYC’s ‘DIY Generation’

Vietnamese-American Filmmaker Turns Lens on NYC's 'DIY Generation' Play

Sahra Vang Nguyen is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees. She used her parents’ story to fuel a new look at entrepreneurs in New York City. Growing up, Nguyen’s parents worked at a laundromat in Boston, a fact that she was embarrassed about until she recognized how hard it must have been for two immigrant to start their own business in a new country.

Nguyen, 27, is now using her parents’ story as inspiration in for her own look at entrepreneurs of color in New York City. From NBC News:

While a 2009 UCLA study on the “State of Asian-American Businesses” found that many second-generation, Asian Americans were hesitant to pursue entrepreneurship because of their parents’ hardships, Maker’s Lane shows a contrasting narrative. Inspired by her ambitious, driven, and motivated peers, Nguyen captures the spirit of the “DIY Generation,” whose innovative use of resources has allowed a new breed of entrepreneurs to succeed. The first five episodes feature Asian-American entrepreneurs in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Despite Nguyen’s effort to raise the profile of these business pioneers, studies show they remain the exceptions to the rule. Minority entrepreneurs, according to recent reports, are not well represented in the business landscape. Only 8.5% of people pitching to investors in early 2013 were minorities, and they were also less likely to receive investment (only 15% were funded). On the other side of the table, minorities represent only 4.5% of angel investors.

“Because many investors are not from a minority background, they don’t fund projects that they don’t relate to,” Nguyen told NBC News. “Investing in minorities is a social responsibility that not everyone prioritizes. But I see my work as a media producer as parallel to that of an investor.”

Remembering Walter Dean Myers’ Last Crusade

Remembering Walter Dean Myers' Last Crusade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Los Angeles Times)

Raphael Saadiq Pays Tribute to Bobby Womack With New Song

Raphael Saadiq Pays Tribute to Bobby Womack With New Song Play

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

From Okayplayer:

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

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

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

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

Man Explains Why He Yelled at the Kara Walker Exhibit

Man Explains Why He Yelled at the Kara Walker Exhibit

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

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

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

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

Read more at the Indypendent.

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


Black Student Body President Stripped of Office After Mocking White Classmates

Black Student Body President Stripped of Office After Mocking White Classmates

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buzzfeed’s Kate J.M. Baker has more:

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

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

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

 Read more

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

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